Top 10 Tech This Week [PICS]
By Charlie White, Mashable, 8 April 2012.
It was an exciting week for tech, especially for those of us who can’t wait for the future to get here. Get this: A flying car arrived at a big auto show, there was a breakthrough in solar cells, we caught a glimpse of the coolest electric car yet, and we found a smart watch that’s as bright as it is beautiful.
Some of the developments seemed straight out of science fiction, while others will make life easier for us in the present day. Yes, it was a blockbuster week for tech, giving us fertile ground to narrow it all down to the Top 10 Tech This Week.
1. Sony SmartWatch
How smart is this Sony SmartWatch? Well, if you're an iPhone user it's as dumb as a fencepost, but if you're using an Android smartphone, it interacts via Bluetooth and lets you check your Facebook and Twitter feeds, read texts and email messages, take pictures with your smartphone's camera and check your calendar.
It's not half bad-looking either - look for it by the end of this month for US$149.
2. Terrafugia Transition
"Dude, where's my flying car?," you may be asking. Here's your answer: The Terrafugia Transition, a flying car we've been talking and raving about for the past few years, has finally rolled out (landed?) at the New York International Auto Show.
This is not just a showy model - it was flown to New York for the car convention, and is due for 75 test flights before it hits the streets and the wild blue yonder for consumers before too long. Can you have one? Not yet, but if you can wait until 2013 and save up US$279,000 by then, you will indeed have your flying car, dude.
3. Swivl Personal Cameraman
We saw this clever Swivl robotic cameraman at CES 2012, and now we've had a chance to spend more time with it. First, you install it special iPhone app, then place your iPhone in its gentle clamp, press its On button and that of its key-fob-sized companion, and you're good to go.
Hang that little controller around your neck, and it serves as a beacon for this Swivl controller, as well as a wireless microphone. The US$179 system works equally well on video recordings and FaceTime conversations, following you most accurately when your iPhone or camera is in a vertical orientation.
There's something thrilling about seeing this thing following you around, as if it were aware of your presence. This little sucker does an excellent job, but it's a little tricky when you want to tilt your camera up or down, which must be done with a button push. Even so, it's a magical and wonderful little device.
4. Angry Birds Helicopter
Angry Birds are becoming even more pervasive in our culture - so much so that now you might see some flying around in the real world. Get out of the way, piggies, because here comes the Angry Birds helicopter. Sure, it's a toy, and a US$49.95 toy at that, but it gave us a chuckle.
5. Smart Sand
Imagine the notion of "smart sand." These tiny cubes communicate with each other, and as a swarm can combine in predetermined shapes and sizes. Hey, didn't we see this in a Spider-Man movie?
The eggheads at MIT's Distributed Robotics Laboratory are starting to create these pieces of smart sand, albeit a whole lot bigger than the minuscule grains that we associate with sandy substances. At this point, they're more like communicating cubes, but the researchers hope to drastically reduce their size as they perfect the technique.
Where's this going? Use your imagination. Let's just hope they don't create a runaway replicating nano-scale substance that envelops the entire world in "gray goo."
6. Plantronics BackBeat Go
These wireless ear buds still have a wire connecting each one, but they're oh-so-tiny, you might forget you're wearing them. Plantronics BackBeat Go ear buds connect via Bluetooth, doubling as devices for listening to music while fulfilling that traditional role of letting you act like a Bluetooth tool by shouting into thin air on a cellphone conversation. Please don't do that.
The company even says that cable is tangle-free, but we'd like to try that out for ourselves just to be sure. That US$100 price seems a little steep, but I'd gladly pay that if there were no wires at all.
Now here's a tangle-free cable. It's a practical idea we've been eagerly awaiting for years: CordCruncher, an elastic sleeve that fits over those automatically tangling headphone cables, rendering them inert.
So now you can completely dominate that crazy characteristic of super-thin cables, which seem to be all-too-eager to twist themselves into knots. Heck, I understand there are even complicated mathematical formulas explaining how that happens, but it's way beyond my comprehension.
Anyway, this handy attachment is adjustable from 16 inches to 3.5 feet, and it will be available if its Kickstarter funding reaches its US$20,000 goal. We wish its inventors well, because this is an excellent idea that's long overdue.
8. Google Project Glass
Leave it to the deep pockets of Google to introduce these Borg-like glasses as part of a project it calls "Project Glass." Someday soon, we'll be wearing these augmented reality specs, giving us a heads-up display with which to see the output of our Android smartphones. Or so says Google. On the gorgeous models Google presented, these weirdo glasses don't look half bad.
This all seems quite futuristic, but might I interject a quick question? Does this mean we can't ever get away from screens, eschewing actual interaction - and the real world - for an environment where image overlays are important, or even necessary?
9. Ultrathin Solar Cells
Here's a solar cell breakthrough: solar panels that are so thin and flexible, they can be used on wearable solar textiles, synthetic skin and robotics. The best news is, even though this solar film is less than 2 microns thick - 10 times thinner than any other solar cell on the planet - it still offers the same power-conversion efficiency as ordinary silicon cells.
Its power conversion is still not that great - just 4.2% of the sunlight is turned into energy. But the Austrian and Japanese researchers who created this gee-whiz tech say these flexi-panels will be a whole lot more efficient when they find their way out of the lab and into the real world five years from now.
10. Fisker Atlantic
Fisker electric cars are the epitome of electro-coolness, but there's one sticking point: The hybrid Fisker Karma costs in excess of US$100,000. Enter the Fisker Atlantic, which according to its maker Henrik Fisker will be "more affordable" - and about two-thirds the size of its big brother.
Rolled out as a concept vehicle this week, its technology is similar to the Karma and the Chevy Volt, where a gasoline engine powers an electric generator, which then charges lithium-ion batteries that drive an electric motor.
Could this be the ideal electric sports car? Well, just look at it, for one thing. It's beautiful.
And the tech seems practical as well. Will it be built? The fact that Fisker just received a US$392 million cash injection from a spirited round of fundraising might give you an idea.
[Source: Mashable. Edited. Top image added.]