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Messages - eureka

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These days, we are so reliant on computers that many of us rarely pick up an actual pen or pencil and rely on auto-correct to fix our spelling mistakes. But Falk Wolsky and Daniel Kaesmacher think there's still a place in this modern world for good penmanship and correct spelling and have taken to Kickstarter to get their Lernstift (German for "learning pen"), which vibrates to indicate when the writer makes spelling mistakes or exhibits poor penmanship, into production.

In February 2013 the company revealed an early prototype and began seeking investors. After the press attention the idea received at that time, the company raised US$200,000 from a mix of individual and corporate backers. It has now turned to Kickstarter to raise an additional £120,000 (US$180,000).

The idea for Lernstift was hatched when Wolsky's wife was helping their son do his homework and discovered he was making mistakes without her noticing. After she had expressed her wish for "a pen that points out errors right when he makes them," Wolsky decided to create such a device. The result is a digital pen that gently vibrates when it detects that a mistake has been made.

On the outside, it's a bulky pen that's designed to be ergonomic for the hands of children, but on the inside it boasts a mini-computer. Using an embedded Linux system, the board contains a motion sensor, processor, memory, vibration module, and Wi-Fi module. Lernstift allows for exchangeable writing tips, meaning kids can choose between using a pencil, a fountain pen, and a ballpoint pen.

Lernstift has two primary functions: Orthography Mode, which recognizes spelling mistakes; and Calligraphy Mode, which recognizes flaws in form or legibility. To begin with, Lernstift will only be able to spell check single words, but future software updates are planned that would allow grammar-checking of whole sentences.

Although it is being mainly aimed at kids aged between five and eight years old, anyone who is learning to write, or trying to improve their writing skills, can conceivably benefit from using the device. The digital pen will initially be capable of correcting just two languages – English and German (though which form of English isn't clear) – but there are plans to add many more languages, including Russian, Spanish, French, and Italian, after launch.

Thanks to its built-in Wi-Fi, Lernstift can connect to other internet-connected devices. This means apps will play an integral part in the experience, with plans for software intended both for individuals and schools. An open API will also allow developers to build software for use with Lernstift.

The retail price of a single Lernstift is being set at $190, but early backers of the Kickstarter campaign can get one for between $135 and $150.

Source: Lernstift, Kickstarter

2
High-Tech / The End Of The Smartphone Era Is Coming
« on: January 09, 2013, 12:36:10 AM »
You've heard that Google is working on computerized glasses. They're called Google Glass, and developers can already buy them.

It turns out Microsoft is working on something similar. It filed some patents on the project.

There's a big difference between what Microsoft is working on and Google Glass, though.

The most recent word out of Google is that Google Glass isn't going to use "augmented reality" – where data and illustrations overlay the actual world around you.

Google Glass is actually just a tiny screen you have to look up and to the left to see.

Microsoft's glasses seem to utilize augmented reality. In the embedded patent illustration you can see that the glasses put data on top of a live action concert and a ballgame.

Both gadget concepts are very interesting.

Lots of people may disagree with me, but I think something like Google Glass or whatever Microsoft is working on could end up replacing the smartphone as the dominant way people access the Internet and connect to each other.

First off: something has to. Disruption is inevitable.

Secondly: The trend is obvious.

Computers have been getting smaller and closer to our faces since their very beginning.

First they were in big rooms, then they sat on desktops, then they sat on our laps, and now they're in our palms. Next they'll be on our faces.

(Eventually they'll be in our brains.)

By the way, you can bet that if Microsoft and Google are working on computerized glasses, so is Apple and Jony Ive.

And that's pretty exciting.

3
High-Tech / DreamVendor 3D printer vending machine turns ideas into reality
« on: November 22, 2012, 01:13:23 AM »
While the explosion in the popularity of consumer 3D printers has been enabled by cheaper and cheaper devices, they’re still beyond the reach of the average university student. But students at Virginia Tech need not worry about such monetary concerns when looking to turn their ideas into a physical reality thanks to the DreamVendor 3D printer vending machine located in Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering. (And no, the machine doesn't vend 3D printers.)

The creation of Virginia Tech’s DREAMS Lab, the DreamVendor is an interactive 3D printing station powered by four Makerbot Thing-O-Matic 3D printers that is described as “a vending machine with an infinite inventory.” After students load their designs in the Makerbot .s3g toolpath file format onto the machine via an SD card, they select their desired model using the machine’s control panel and the selected design will then be printed and dispensed into the bin for retrieval.

Thanks to support from Virgina Tech’s Student Engineers’ Council and Department of Mechanical Engineering, the DreamVendor is free for students to use and has understandably proven extremely popular since beginning operation earlier this year.

But given the ever-increasing interest in 3D printers, we wouldn’t be surprised to see, if not Virginia Tech, then some other enterprising go-getters rolling out pay-to-use 3D printer vending machines in the not too distant future. Such an approach offers more flexibility than the "kiosk" model being examined by Fujifilm that would offer only a number of predetermined models

The video below shows how the DreamVendor operates.

Source: Virginia Tech via Fabbaloo


4
Household & Consumables / Rocking-Knit chair knits hats as it rocks
« on: November 09, 2012, 12:45:58 AM »
If the idea of knitting your own hat has always appealed in theory, but you don’t know your double pointed needles from your garter stitch, then you may wish to take a look at the Rocking-Knit chair.

The Rocking-Knit is the brainchild of students Damien Ludi and Colin Peillex, based at Ecole cantonale d'art de Lausanne (ECAL), Switzerland. It allows a person to sit back, relax, and enjoy the gentle rocking motion of the chair, while a woolen hat is automatically knitted and eventually appears overhead, ready to wear.

This is achieved by an ingenious use of simple gears, which draw upon the regular back-and-forth movement of the rocking chair in order to drive the automatic knitting mechanism forward.

The Rocking-Knit was exhibited at ECAL’s Low-Tech Factory exposition, as part of the Designers' Saturday event held at Langenthal, Switzerland.

Source: ECAL via Inhabitat


5
Toys, Games & Kids / Tease Your Brain With a Brain-Shaped Rubik’s Cube
« on: October 16, 2012, 07:56:33 AM »
When you think of a Rubik’s cube, you think of a cube that has many different colored squares that need to be synchronized according to their colors. The object of the Brain Cube is to line up the wrinkles and creases in the grey matter. It seems like fun and a quite unique twist to an otherwise traditional puzzle. You have to admit that it does look weird though.

6
Toys, Games & Kids / Potty Putter: Mini-Golfing On The Toilet
« on: October 10, 2012, 02:22:27 AM »
The Potty Putter is for the avid golfer who can’t put his clubs down long enough to drop the kids off at the pool. How disgusting. The toilet mini-golf kit includes a putting green that fits around your commode, 2 golf balls (just in case you hit one into a water hazard), a putter, flag stick, and “Do Not Disturb” sign. You know, so no one bothers you while you’re putting on the pot. But who’s gonna slow clap for you when you make a hole in one?

The Potty Putter sells for around $20

7
Toys, Games & Kids / Pre-Chewed Pencils
« on: October 06, 2012, 09:32:57 AM »
An interesting new way to try to get your kids to keep their pencils out of their mouth and on their pages… Pre-chewed pencils intend to make your kids focused. But you really have to wonder, are some teeth marks really going to keep them from sticking their pencils where they don’t belong? When I asked a 9 year old youth expert she said, “Gross. No one would pay for that.” My thoughts exactly.

Pre-chewed pencils sell for around $3

8
Toys, Games & Kids / Barbie Exposed… Even More Than Usual
« on: October 04, 2012, 01:43:00 AM »
It’s no secret what’s going on underneath Barbie’s clothes, but have you ever wondered what’s underneath her fake plastic skin? If you have an older brother you may not have had to wonder. Short answer: she’s hollow… and she melts easily. But Jason Freeny, apparently deciding that there should be more to her than that, created an anatomical model of Barbie. Unfortunately the doll itself isn’t for sale :(, but Freeny is selling signed prints of the piece over at Moist Production. You know, it’s not fair that even with her skin peeled off, she still looks perfect. It’s not realistic! Young girls everywhere are going feel bad about themselves for not having hot pink insides like Barbie!

9
Toys, Games & Kids / Food Chain Friends Plush Toy
« on: October 04, 2012, 01:18:46 AM »
When the family cat, Mr Fluffypants, gets eaten by the neighbor’s pet python, it can be difficult to explain it to your child. Luckily Food Chain Friends help ease the pain by teaching your kids that sometimes things get eaten by bigger things. That’s just how the food chain works. Hopefully they’ll have so much fun playing with the new toy that they’ll forget about Mr. Whateverface.

Food Chain Friends sell for around $50

10
Toys, Games & Kids / BinkyBob Bad Teeth Pacifier
« on: October 03, 2012, 02:01:34 AM »
This is the ultimate binky for for the ultimate baby. Let your child show the world their sense of humor before he or she can talk!

You might be a redneck if this is the nicest set of teeth your baby will ever have. Seriously you might think this is hilarious but one day your kid is going to hate you for the Binky Bob Bad Teeth Pacifier… and for showing the pictures to all of his girlfriends.

Classic BinkyBob sells for around $5.99

11
Toys, Games & Kids / Batman Water Gun
« on: September 29, 2012, 05:19:50 AM »
This vintage Batman toy is a total blast. It’s a 1966 Batman plastic toy water gun, released the same year that Adam West debuted in Batman’s cape and cowl on television and also hit theaters with the tie-in film.

This item was created in a way more innocent time and I bet they never gave any thought at all about where they had placed the trigger for this toy. For that matter, they probably didn’t even care about where the water plug was either.

As you can imagine, Batman collectors really love this item for its kitsch appeal and because it’s really funny.

12
Transportation / Personal climate control seats for airlines
« on: September 04, 2012, 05:26:24 AM »
These days, jet air travel is less of a glamorous Don Draper adventure and often more of a tedious ordeal. The cabin air doesn’t help as passengers suffer sinus troubles and can’t stay warm or cool enough for comfort. At the ILA Berlin Air Show running September 11 - 16, the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics (IBP) will reveal to the public a new airline seat that provides air passengers with individual climate control that may make even traveling coach a bit more pleasant.

Commercial airliners operate at about 35,000 feet (10,000 m). At that altitude, the plane’s cabin needs to be pressurized not just to keep the passengers comfortable, but to keep them alive. This is done by bleeding compressed air from the jet engines, cooling it and then feeding it into the cabin. It works, but because the fuselage of a passenger plane isn’t very strong, the pressure is kept at the equivalent of an altitude of about 8,000 feet (2,400 m). Although the newest airliners have pressure equivalent to 6,000 feet (1,800 m).

This does the job and the quality of the air is very good, but its not very pleasant. Aside from having less oxygen than normal, passengers often feel too warm or too cold. Part of the reason for this is the very low humidity in the cabin. A proper humidity setting is not only important to feel generally comfortable, it also helps to keep mucous membranes moist, so a plane trip is like a quick trip to the Andes for the susceptible. Passengers often experience symptoms such as slight headaches, dry sinuses, lightheadedness. sore throats, chapped lips, dry or watery eyes and, in some people, the unpleasantness can last for days after the flight.

The airlines aren’t being cruel. The low humidity is necessary to prevent condensation, which can cause mold and is very bad for the aluminum structures in planes. Water collecting in odd spots here and there can result in expensive repairs or dangerous weaknesses.

The only recourse that passengers currently have in making the air more comfortable are simple blowers, but these aren’t much use and they’re switched off a lot of the time.

Since adjusting cabin temperature and humidity for the entire cabin isn’t feasible, IBP, working with a consortium of nine companies, is developing an airline seat with individual seat heating and ventilation, and an adjustable air supply.

According to Dr. Gunnar Grün, head of department “indoor climate” at IBP, “You need various components that we engineered within the consortium. Humidifier units deliver greater humidity, air purifier technologies filter unwanted substances from the air, optimized vents allow fresh air to flow in, and the passengers can set their own personal comfort temperatures through the seat heaters, just like the ones we find in cars today. And there is seat ventilation that draws in heat and moisture between body and seat, thus keeping the seat comfortably cool.”

The IBP seats use seat heaters and air inlets integrated into armrests and backrests. First class passengers have inlets in their gooseneck reading lamps as well. In developing the seat, researchers simulated the airstreams for different air inlet configurations, airflow, optimum exchange rate of air, humidity and what level of control over the settings the passengers should have.

The system was tested with the front end of an Airbus A310 inside a 30 meter (98.42 ft) tube. This could be depressurized, cooled and dehumidified to the equivalent of up to about 13,000 meters (43,000 ft). Fifty test subjects then “flew” in the plane with the cabin pressurized to about 2,100 m (7,000 ft). During the “flight,” the subjects could test the systems and determine which ones gave them the best personal climate setting.

Visitors to the ILA Berlin Air Show will be able to try the seat for themselves. IBP says that the seats will not be available commercially for a few years.

Source: Fraunhofer

13
Abandoned Ideas / Abandoned Screenplay Ideas
« on: August 08, 2012, 12:08:57 PM »
This post contains some screenplay ideas I found that were abandoned for some reason or another. You decide whether these movies should have been made or not. Please post your comments.

"Centurion"

Based on and named after the drinking game "Centurion", in which you drink one shot of beer per minute for 100 minutes. This movie takes place in real time and focuses on a group of university students who gather together in somebody's room to play the game. Each is drinking a different beverage.

The movie would be talking heads, driven by compelling Tarantino-style dialogue between interesting characters with a year or two of shared history behind them. The dialogue would probably eventually have to stop being about nothing in particular and start moving forward with some sort of actual story. Perhaps terrible revelations occur or the whole dynamic of the friends changes at this pivotal moment in some way. The drinking does not stop - some succeed in the game, some become weary or ill and drop out. The minute-by-minute pace of drinking provides a background, a rhythm, perhaps breaking up the whole movie into one hundred 60-second skits.

"100 Minutes"

In the movie "Deep Impact", the asteroid was discovered about three years before it was actually due to hit. In the movie "Armageddon", they had three weeks.

In "100 Minutes", they have one hour and forty minutes.

They still make it.

This, like "Centurion", is a real-time movie. This movie would have a running time of precisely 100 minutes. The title card, "100 minutes" would appear for exactly one frame at the beginning of the movie before instantly beginning to count down: "99 minutes 59.97 seconds" and so on.

There are two parts to the setup. Firstly, we have to establish a fictional universe in which it is both technologically feasible but still watchably challenging to actually prevent an asteroid impact, from a standing start, in less than two hours. To do this we set the movie - according to the caption - "Twenty-Five Years From Now", in a future where nanotechnology has been completely perfected. It is a historic day, the day when, according to the news, everybody in the world has been raised above the poverty line. There are still problems, sure, but everybody has unlimited free access to food, water, electricity, medicine and education, because nanotechnology can give you all of this stuff basically for free. Nanotech is used to lay cables and build buildings and repair roads and construct vehicles. All you need is a blueprint for what you want to create. Of course, creating sound blueprints is much more difficult and time-consuming, but it's no big deal.

Now, what's to prevent people from just manufacturing bombs, bullets and knives? Well, that's revealed later in the movie, but the answer is in fact that a sentient AI - which, as usual, shall be called "Tyro" - which is part of the global nanotechnology service has a clear picture of what constitutes a bomb, a bullet or a knife and deliberately steps in to prevent that from happening. Nanotechnology is an incredibly dangerous genie, and the only way to make it safe is for there to be a benevolent genie keeping it in check.

Space travel is still a thing in this future, but it's still very difficult and very dangerous. Our male protagonist - whom, for the sake of argument, shall be called "Ed" - works for NASA.

Secondly, we have the female astronomer, Ed's ex-something (haven't worked out why they split as yet or what either of them did afterwards). Call her Jen, for argument's sake. It is Jen who discovers the asteroid and computes its trajectory. She does this about an hour before the movie opens. Realizing that the world is going to end, she re-evaluates her life, realizes who it is that she wants to spend her last moments with, and drives to Ed's house in order to reconcile.

As the movie begins, Jen arrives at Ed's house and explains that the asteroid is going to kill them all in about 99 minutes' time. She goes on to explain the rest of the above, but Ed isn't listening. He is doing mental arithmetic. He decides that even with 98 minutes left on the clock, the disaster can indeed be averted, and he sets out to actually do it, with Jen in tow.

What follows isn't so clear. They travel to NASA or something? Early on, Ed deduces the existence of Tyro and secures its assistance. Once they have this incredibly powerful AI on their side, Ed has Tyro build some incredibly cool huge humanoid mechanoid robots. Since Tyro can solve incredibly advanced (previously unsolved) physics problems from scratch in relatively short time, Ed has Tyro invent some sort of instantaneous-transit hyperdrive and send some mechs to rendezvous and match velocities with the asteroid to get a good look at it and come up with further plans. (Remember, an asteroid moving that fast is essentially impossible to catch by normal means.) At this point it's discovered that the asteroid has engines built on it - it has been pushed towards Earth as a deliberate attack. But the engines are human-built! Aliens aren't involved. The asteroid defends itself; some mech ends up using up part of its pilot as reaction mass; the situation gets more desperate; various measures fail. Ed is angry that today, the day when humanity finally made it, is the day it might be exterminated. They come up with an "inverse tractor beam" thing which involves building huge green lasers as big as aircraft carries in countries all over the hemisphere facing the asteroid - even with these cranked up to maximum, the thing keeps falling at the same rate. They even come up with a "momentum cannon" which should be able to stop the asteroid dead, but it doesn't work! As time passes, a continuous score becomes more intense and increases in pace, racking up the tension and the heart rate. The clock is almost always visible in shot, and mentioned very frequently in dialogue. The clock creates a rhythm to the movie.

Eventually, with about fifteen minutes to go, Ed runs out of options. He orders Tyro to go to plan B (or C, or F): "Begin the evacuation of Earth." Every human being on Earth is swallowed up inside some kind of bubble and the cities are swallowed up in bigger bubbles and the whole population starts lifting off into space. This is the last resort. The humans will survive; the planet won't. Ed insists on staying behind to the last moment and Jen stays behind with him.

The action is deliberately left incomplete and the clock is deliberately left still running down while the credits roll. Just to keep you in your seat and drive you crazy and also to make sure the running time works out to exactly 100 minutes including the credits. Ed and Jen end up on a mountain, facing the asteroid down with a baseball bat. Oho!

It has not been worked out what they say to one another in the last moments when Jen finally has Ed's attention. The idea, which isn't very good, is this: it turns out that the asteroid was launched at Earth specifically to make Jen go and reconcile with Ed by some third party, either Tyro or somebody who gained control of Tyro. In the very last split second before the asteroid hits, they do in fact reconcile properly. Then-- if you understand what was happening-- with the reason for the asteroid to fall gone, the asteroid stops falling and just hangs there, suspended by whatever technology was previously aimed at it. Either the final frame has the asteroid stopped, or the movie cuts out at the frame before impact and you have to guess what happened next.

"One Hour Fight Scene"

This is a movie with the special effects budget of Transformers but with all of the story removed, for approximately half the running time.

As in, completely removed. This movie is a single gigantic continuous action set piece. Any dialogue (minimal) occurs during the action. Any story (minimal) is advanced directly through the action.

Basically, an unnamed hero character is dropped off by some sort of nondescript van or Jeep on the outskirts of the suburbs of a gigantic totalitarian futuristic city state. He then fights his way through all of it. This guy beats up literally a million people one at a time. The battle escalates from hand-to-hand combat to fighting infantry to slightly prolonged battles against skilled one-off opponents. Knives and swords to guns and rifles and rocket launchers. As time goes on the guy gathers powers somehow and becomes able to do insane martial arts moves and kick holes in tanks. He deflects shells, he throws people through walls. He catches and defuses incoming nukes in mid-air.

The action is constant and insane and constantly increasing in ridiculousness and scale. He takes on a hundred thousand guys in a sports stadium. He wrecks trains, downs aircraft, topples buildings, redirects rivers. Land and air vehicles, robots the size of aircraft carriers. It is fun to watch at first and exhilarating, but inexplicable. Long before 15 minutes have passed, it becomes harrowing. After 30 minutes you are going out of your mind. You have had enough. You want it to end but it won't. By the end of the movie you are baffled, incredulous, exhausted, shocked, maddened and delirious at what has transpired on the screen. The only reason it's a one hour fight scene is because the budget probably wouldn't stretch to two solid hours.

Eventually he reaches, penetrates and scales a colossal citadel at the center of a city and fights a big bad guy in a climactic showdown which shatters continents or something. He wins, the end.

The purpose of this movie is to give you too much action. This is intended to represent the logical extreme of that action movie concept, the maximum amount of action in a single movie. It abandons all pretense of plot in order to show you why plot is necessary. The desired reaction is for you to stand up and walk out early, having had enough.

Hitch-Hiker movie concept

A serial killer who picks up hitch-hikers and kills them inadvertently picks up a serial killer who hitches rides with people and kills them.

This is a dark romantic comedy driven by coincidence. The characters in question are known to different jurisdictions of the US - the first serial killer is perhaps driving to a neighboring state in order to evade local law enforcement or something. Both killers happen to be known as "the Hitch-Hiker Killer", leading to confusion. A hilarious cat-and-mouse sort of slapstick scene plays out at a motel when both killers are attempting to get the drop on the other and somehow not realizing what is actually going on. Then they fall in love. Coincidentally, one of the cops leading the investigation has the same name as one of the killers, and gets caught by the other jurisdiction's police force in a case of mistaken identity. The two killers fall in love, and bond over killing and breakfast. They compare notes, and finish each other's sentences (kills). Et cetera.

"Nerf"

The toy license. James Bond/Spy Kids sort of plot. All of the weapons are Nerf-based; nobody ever comments on this. Like the splurge guns in Bugsy Malone, anybody hit with a Nerf pellet or whatever is dead, even though they are blatantly alive. Probably all the characters would be adults, though, in a kid-appealing Star Wars sort of way.

The doomsday weapon is an intercontinental ballistic Nerf gun, firing a column of sponge the size of a 747's fuselage across 10,000 miles. Everything is okay because it eventually bounces harmlessly off Washington, DC.

"FTL"

This would be essentially the movie "Apollo 13", but set in the future instead of the past. It would be a detailed, hard science fiction movie (except for the FTL drive bit). The ship would not be magical and fancy, it would be a working piece of equipment.

The first scene is a man at a whiteboard scribbling equations, which eventually lead to a "> c" terms at the very bottom right. As the camera pushes slowly in on this term, more people gather around and the term is reproduced on screens and projectors and televisions as it comes under greater and greater scrutiny until it's finally accepted that FTL travel has just been proven possible. Then you get the title card.

This movie would fall into a category that could be called Big Project movies, where everybody in the cast has to work together in order to make a single thing work properly. Most heist movies fall into this category, as do Apollo 13, Contact, Back To The Future Parts I and III, and any episode of Thunderbirds.

Conflict would be driven by mechanical failure, not character clashes. Conflict would be resolved through smart engineering and detailed, intelligent problem solving. In the end, they may or may not actually make it to Alpha Centauri; or they may make it, but not make it back.

"Rocket Launcher Squad"

Essentially a police procedural focusing on the exploits of a special division of the New York police department whose members exclusively carry rocket launchers instead of hand guns. Loose cannons, 48 hours before you're off the case, turn in your badge and sidearm (<clatter>, <KER-CLANGG>), et cetera, with lots more explosions.

14
Existing / On The Market / Hair Brush For Bald Men
« on: July 12, 2012, 01:26:34 AM »

Even though it is usually thought of as impossible to sell any combs to bald men, somebody still comes up with this piece that can polish their bald heads. So it’s not a comb, but instead a head polisher!

Selling Price: $11.98

Buy it here

15
Household & Consumables / Weird Cat’s Eyes For Your Ears
« on: July 10, 2012, 01:49:23 AM »

Just have a look at these studs resembling cat’s eyes. They will most certainly give the wearer a lot of attention. This takes "eye-catching" to a whole new level.

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