Transform: A Shape Changing Desk

You may have seen videos of this adaptive tech straight out of MIT earlier, showing it manipulating a ball. Check out this video latest video for Transform, utilizing the same tech in an adaptive shape changing desk.

‘I think there’s a lot of space for designers to expand beyond the producer/client model and become knowledge makers, cultural disruptors and gatekeepers between pure economic gain and the well-being of humanity,’

says graduate student and researcher at MIT Media Lab Viirj Kan.

Taking the idea behind inFORM one step further, the MIT team has created a responsive table containing three highly inventive dynamic shape displays.  The arrangement consists of more than a thousand mobile pins that are sensitive to changes in kinetic energy of the surroundings.

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Typewriter Inspired Keyboard

Ugnh I need this. Qwerkytoys has made this typewriter inspired mechanical keyboard called the Qwerkywriter. It’s wireless and has its own macro return bar.

At the moment you can preorder it through their site, though the price is nothing to sneeze at, being $329. The Qwerkywriter will ship November 2015.

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Japanese Designers Create Nameless Paints To Change The Way Kids Learn Colors

Ima Moteki, a design duo in Japan, has just created a set of Nameless Paints that aim to completely change the way children learn and think about color. Instead of using color names, each white tube of paint is labelled with an “equation” showing which CMYK colors, and in what proportions, were used to make the color inside.

The “Nameless Paint” designers, Yusuke Imai and Ayami Moteki, believe that color labels are problematic. “By not assigning names to the colors we want to expand the definition of what a color can be, and the various shades they can create by mixing them,” said Imai.

In addition to rejecting labels, the paints also teach color theory. The equations on the paint tubes help children understand some of the basic concepts behind color theory and how to mix and create new colors.

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Seaboard’s Rise: MIDI Controller Keyboard Hybrid

I haven’t posted in a really long while so this gadget is for those electronic music lovers and makers. Seaboard’s Roli brought some genuine innovation to electronic keyboards (not just another Rick Astley remix demo mode) with soft touch-sensitive keys giving musicians new ways to play. And now there’s a compact version called the Rise.

The Rise plays just like a piano does, but those touch-sensitive keys also respond to finger gestures. Sliding a finger up and down each key can increase or decrease its volume, while wiggling a finger back and forth while pressed can let a musician bend or modulate notes. And how those gestures work is completely configurable.

The Rise comes with a software synthesizer, Equator, that wirelessly interfaces with the keyboard using MIDI over Bluetooth, and its rechargeable with a built-in battery so there’s no cables to deal with whatsoever. Priced at $800, the Rise is now available for pre-order and is expected to ship sometime in October for musicians who love to jam, but don’t have room to jam another instrument into their tiny studio.

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Zuta – Mini Robot Printer

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After raising almost $600,000 on Kickstarter, Zuta Labs is ready to start production on the printer and is accepting pre-orders from non-Kickstarter backers.

The pre-order price — which Zuta Labs says will be lower than the cost at launch — is $199.99. The printer is available in white and black. It comes with a print cartridge that is good for at least 100 pages. Additional cartridges are available for pre-order.

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The wireless printer works for about an hour and is rechargeable via micro USB. Users can print on all sizes of paper and it works without drivers and can print from Macs, PCs iOS and Android.

Since its Kickstarter period, Zuta Labs says it has managed to make the printer smaller and faster than it originally anticipated.

The size — just 10.2 centimeters in diameter — is a big selling point for the product. It is aimed at users who only need a printer infrequently and in places where traditional access — think a coffee shop or at a hotel — is not always applicable. The fact that it also works with smartphones and tablets is a big deal, too. More often than not, I wind up needing to print documents from my phone more than my laptop.

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Zuta Labs is aiming to have the Zuta Pocket Printer shipped by September 2015. The company is at CES 2015 showing off demos of the device and taking meetings with potential partners.

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Loopwheels by Sam Pearce

Pearce is an inventor and design consultant. He’s worked on non-invasive surgery equipment, early handheld PCs of the Palm Pilot era, 3-D folding mechanisms, and motorbikes. It’s always something new, and in 2007, it was baby strollers. Around that time Pearce was sitting in an airport in the Netherlands, waiting for his flight. He noticed a woman pushing a stroller. “As the woman got to a curb, she didn’t lift the front wheels and the baby was shot forward,” he says. “If the wheel hits the curb at the wrong angle it’s useless. So I just wondered, why can’t you put the suspension into the wheel?”

Baby strollers make for a great case study in how wheels interact with impact, which is to say, not very well at all. A stroller has shock absorbers underneath the seat, which helps reduce bounciness, but it doesn’t keep the wheels from bouncing backwards when they hit a curb head on. In a matter of about five seconds, Pearce had a new idea. He began envisioning a system that incorporated shock absorption directly into the wheels, making them capable of flexibly rolling over bumps instead of just rebounding. He drew a sketch, and then put it aside for two years. At the time, “it wasn’t relevant,” he says. “I couldn’t really see how I could make one, but I have lots of ideas, and this one kept coming back to me.”

After some 70 iterations, Pearce and the team of bow-makers hit on the right recipe. It’s proprietary, but Pearce describes it as a “carbon composite construction.” Loopwheels first debuted on bikes—mountain bikes are next—before a wheelchair manufacturer caught wind of the new wheels and started sourcing them from Pearce. “We say it’s triple-smooth,” Pearce says. The suspension in the wheels smooths out any traveling over bumps, and “gets rid of all the road buzz.” That’s crucial to wheelchair users, whose bodies are in full contact with the vehicle, meaning they often absorb road shock right along with the chair. Equally important to users? Cost. Pearce says he more or less arrived at an ideal design two years ago, but has since worked on refining manufacturing techniques, in part by adopting processes from the auto industry, to get the price down from $2,000 a wheel, to a few hundred dollars (depending on the model). “There’s only so much people will pay for new technology,” Pearce says. That’s true for wheelchairs, and it’s true for mountain bikes, which Pearce says is next in line for Loopwheels.

Their Kickstarter just recently succeeded to fund with over £20,000

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Triangle Notebook by Tan Mavitan

I’ve been posting a lot about 3D printing recently so I decided to share something a little more analogue today. This is the Triangle Notebook created by Tan Mavitan. It was being sold as a part of “Destination Istanbul” Exhibiton in MoMA Design Stores, but not sure if it still is. Pretty neat notebook and I hope to acquire one someday.

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Amazon’s Echo

Amazon is soon to be coming out with a new device called Echo, which is essentially Siri but for your home.

Amazon Echo is designed around your voice. It’s always on—just ask for information, music, news, weather, and more. Echo begins working as soon as it detects the wake word. You can pick any name as your wake word (I just want to name it TARS or Baymax now). Echo is also an expertly tuned speaker that can fill any room with immersive sound.

Tucked under Echo’s light ring is an array of seven microphones. These sensors use beam-forming technology to hear you from any direction. With enhanced noise cancellation, Echo can hear you ask a question even while it’s playing music. Echo uses on-device keyword spotting to detect the wake word. When Echo detects the wake word, it lights up and streams audio to the cloud, where we leverage the power of Amazon Web Services to recognize and respond to your request. Learn more about Echo’s voice recognition.

You can use Echo for a ton of things, just by asking including:

  • News, weather, and information: Hear up-to-the-minute weather and news from a variety of sources, including local radio stations, NPR, and ESPN from TuneIn.
  • Music: Listen to your Amazon Music Library, Prime Music, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio.
  • Alarms, timers, and lists: Stay on time and organized with voice-controlled alarms, timers, shopping, and to-do lists.
  • Questions and answers: Get information from Wikipedia, definitions, answers to common questions, and more.
  • More coming soon: Echo automatically updates through the cloud with new services and features.

A pretty neat piece of tech by Amazon, which will be priced at $199 although those with Amazon Prime will be able to get it for $99.

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Sapling Aluminum Wallet

I haven’t written about wallets in quite a while, but I always love a simple slim wallet designed with the minimalist in mind. The Sapling Aluminum Series wallet was designed by John McConnell. The slim design of the wallets allow you to carry it in your front pocket which makes your wallet more comfortable and secure.

The wallet features a unibody design machined from a solid block of 6061 aluminum which is an RFID blocking material.This means that your cards are more secure against card skimming, an increasingly more common method of card theft. The wallets are anodized to add a look that will hold up over time and will also allow us to add a custom name engraving with a laser engraver.

The design includes an elastic band which allows the wallet to expand to meet your needs, holding 1-8 cards.The height of the card slot is the equivalent to the width of 5 cards but because of the elastic band design, the wallet is capable of holding more and is still fully functional if you decide to add more cards.

The elastic band also stretches lengthwise across the back of the wallet allowing you to store cash or cards on the inside or outside of the wallet, much like a money clip would. The slotted design allows for fast and easy access to all of your cards.The elastic band is also conveniently placed so that the numbers on your card are concealed from view when the wallet is being removed from your pocket.

There are only a couple days left on his Kickstarter here, so support it soon if you’d like a wallet of your own!

 

Thermal Power: Use Your Body Heat to Power Wearable Tech

There’ll soon be no need to ever take off wearable technology as your body heat will be able to run a generator to keep it powered-up.

Thanks to a new invention by scientists in Korea heat that escapes the body can be converted into energy using the generator that can be curved along with the shape of the body.

The researchers developed the glass fabric-based thermoelectric generator to be light and flexible which could help to further commercialise wearable technology.

Byung Kin Cho, who led the team in creating the generator, said that with more development the technology could be used on a large-scale to stop heat energy not being used.

At present wearable technology, such as the activity tracking Fitbit Flex wrist band, is developed with long-lasting battery life – the Flex has a battery life which can last up to five days.

However the latest technology would remove the need to ever take wearable technology off, which can cause some users to stop using their gadgets.

It also comes with the benefit that using thermal energy to power and recharge wearables would not need to use any energy created by non-renewable forms.

The small generator was created and tested on small bracelet and it is said it can be able to provide power in a stable and reliable way.

Cho further described how the generator could be used, he said: “Our technology presents an easy and simple way of fabricating an extremely flexible, light, and high-performance TE generator.

We expect that this technology will find further applications in scale-up systems such as automobiles, factories, aircrafts, and vessels where we see abundant thermal energy being wasted.

So far only two types of thermal energy generators have been developed, these have been based on either organic or inorganic materials.

Until now the organic generators have been able to work with human skin but have not been able to generate enough power to be put to practical use.

While those made of inorganic materials have been able to generate enough power but have been too bulky to be able to be used with wearable technology.

Cho came up with the a concept and design technique to build a flexible TE generator that minimizes thermal energy loss but maximizes power output.

The new concept uses liquid like pastes of thermal electronic materials printed on to a glass fabric.

When using the generator, with a size of 10cm by 10cm, for a wearable wristband device, it will produce around 40 mW electric power based on the temperature difference of 31 °F between human skin and the surrounding air.

Images 2 and 3 courtesy of KAIST

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