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Meet SLIDE, a real life hoverboard

Posted by Kirstin Moline

Geeks of the world rejoice. Lexus announced they've made a real life hoverboard, called SLIDE. SLIDE is part of the Lexus "Amazing in Motion" series, and according to the site uses “magnetic levitation” with “liquid nitrogen cooled superconductors and permanent magnets” to make the magic happen. Oh and it has a pretty slick design. You've got my attention, Lexus.

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Why Leaders Eat Last

Posted by Stephen Kreiger

In this in-depth talk, ethnographer and leadership expert Simon Sinek reveals the hidden dynamics that inspire leadership and trust. In biological terms, leaders get the first pick of food and other spoils, but at a cost. When danger is present, the group expects the leader to mitigate all threats even at the expense of their personal well-being. Understanding this deep-seated expectation is the key difference between someone who is just an "authority" versus a true "leader."

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Light Phone: When you need a screen...

Posted by Kirstin Moline

Our smartphones, for better or worse, keep us connected at all times. And sometimes, you just need a break. The Light Phone aims not to replace your smartphone, but work with it. You can leave your smartphone at home, take the Light Phone with you, and all "important" calls will be forwarded. That's it. That's all it does. Recieve calls. Not texts. Calls. I'd personally take one of these over a smartwatch anyday. 

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NASA Unveils Latest Technology Road...

Posted by Charles Manry

NASA has released the agency’s 2015 technology roadmaps laying out the promising new technologies that will help NASA achieve its aeronautics, science and human exploration missions for the next 20 years, including the agency’s journey to Mars.

The promising new technology candidates that will help NASA achieve its extraordinary missions are identified in the draft 2015 NASA Technology Roadmaps. The roadmaps are a foundational element of the Strategic Technology Investment Plan (STIP), an actionable plan that lays out the strategy for developing technologies essential to the pursuit of NASA’s mission and achievement of National goals. The STIP prioritizes the technology candidates within the roadmaps and provides guiding principles for technology investment. The recommendations provided by the National Research Council heavily influence NASA’s technology prioritization.

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The World’s First Self-Driving Semi...

Posted by Jake Sprouse

The road (pun intended) to the national automated highway system will be travelled in small steps...

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World's Largest Swarm of Minia...

Posted by Charles Manry

Forty one tiny robot submarines is a lot of tiny robot submarines. It’s so many, in fact, that controlling them individually doesn’t make sense, and the only way to go is to give them levels of swarm intelligence, so that each individual robot can take care of itself while the swarm as a whole completes an objective.

The CoCoRo (Collective Cognitive Robotics) Project, sponsored by the European Commission, has been working with a heterogeneous swarm of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) since 2011.  Each of these submarines is capable of operating on its own, and small groups share data between themselves, and then the entire swarm makes decisions based on the collective data. The advantages here are the same as with any robot swarm: it’s versatile, adaptable, and very robust to failures of each individual robot. 

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Challenge: Find 500,000 Near-Earth...

Posted by Charles Manry

A privately funded space telescope will hunt for objects on a collision course with Earth

Humankind lives in a cosmic shooting gallery. For evidence of that, we need look no further than the events of 15 February 2013. On that day, a medium-size asteroid was set to pass some 28,000 kilometers from Earth, unusually close and well within the orbits of geosynchronous satellites. Dubbed 2012 DA14, the rock was first spotted the previous year. Since then, astronomers had been eagerly anticipating the opportunity to take a closer look and measure such vitals as size, shape, and composition.

But just as they were readying their telescopes, another asteroid took them completely by surprise. In the early morning hours of the 15th, a previously unknown piece of space flotsam entered Earth’s atmosphere and streaked across the sky, breaking up over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk. Briefly exceeding the sun in brightness, the rock exploded with the equivalent of 500 kilotons of TNT. 

A team of former astronauts and scientists at the B612 Foundation, a nonprofit planetary-defense group, as well as engineers at Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., have devised a space mission, called Sentinel, that could go a long way toward finding asteroids on collision courses before they pose a danger to Earth.

 

 

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Pay with your heartbeat

Posted by Charles Manry

More and more consumers are now opting for mobile payments instead of the conventional methods of payment while in store. You might have already heard of mobile payments with fingerprint scanning. But paying for things you buy will become much easier than ever before. Now a wearable is being developed which will use your heartbeat to make the payments. The Nymi Band is a wearable biometric identity gadget which uses your heart’s unique heartbeat to verify and confirm your identity.

It works by using your electrocardiogram, or ECG, the wristband authenticates your identity. The ECG acts as a unique biometric. The band’s algorithm studies the shape of the ECG waveform and takes out unique and steady features of your physiology.You don’t have to go through the hassles of remembering your passwords or pin numbers any more with this band.

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Hubble 25th Anniversary Series – Th...

Posted by Charles Manry

With about a million observations under its belt during its 25 years of service, some of the Hubble Space Telescope's most memorable images have been of the vastness of space and the early days of the universe. These "deep-field" images actually improved over the years because shuttle astronauts were able to upgrade the observatory. This episode, entitled "The Incredible Time Machine" shows us how Hubble has been able to give us a glimpse of a cosmos in its formative years.

 

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Meet Robo-Chef

Posted by Charles Manry

Just sit back and enjoy dinner. The entire job will be done by a robotic chef that will chop, sauté, stir and serve. Moley, the company behind therobotic chef used two robotic arms from Shadow Robot, a company which specializes in building robots and accessories. 

The robot chef is controlled remotely with the smartphone app. You can tell it to start cooking before you leave for office. They are programmed to replicate recipes. But they are not completely automatic yet. To replicate the dishes, the ingredients have to be placed in a certain manner.  The robot however can place the dirty dishes in the sink for you.

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50 Years of Moore's Law

Posted by Charles Manry

Fifty years ago this month, Gordon Moore forecast a bright future for electronics. His ideas were later distilled into a single organizing principle—Moore’s Law—that has driven technology forward at a staggering clip. We have all benefited from this miraculous development, which has forcefully shaped our modern world.  

 IEEE Spectrum as a special report on the anniversary:  “The glorious history and inevitable decline of one of technology’s greatest winning streaks.”

 

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007 Robocar: Stirring, Not Shaken

Posted by Charles Manry

In the 1997 James Bond movie “Tomorrow Never Dies,” Pierce Brosnan’s 007 summons his BMW with a command from his mobile phone—a mere trick of remote control. To top that feat some future Bond car will have to drive itself whenever its hero is, ahem, otherwise occupied.

The movie makers had better roll the idea out soon, before futuristic dreams turn quotidian. The upcoming Bond movie, to be called “Spectre,” will include a DB10 by Aston Martin, the quintessentially Bond-ish (and very British) car maker. And Aston Martin has just announced that it may incorporate self-driving technology in its showroom cars, via its technical partnership with Mercedes. 

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Espresso Hotness from SCAA'15

Posted by Jake Sprouse

I got the chance to swing through the Specialty Coffee Association of America's 2015 convention last week and check out the latest in high-end espresso machines.  These things are especially inspirational for product engineers like us Synapsters, who can only see high design melded with fun problems in mechanical, electrical, and firmware engineering—essentially, electro-mechanical control systems that produce delicious coffee.  This blog post [sprudge.com] highlights the niftiest, including new tech from our Seattle-based friends at @synesso and @lamarzocco.

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The World’s First Wearable Metronom...

Posted by Charles Manry

The metronome is a vital tool for musicians, whether you are just starting or are a seasoned professional.  A metronome strapped to the side of a drummer would look funny. However, it is essential for every musician to maintain the beat. 

The founder and CEO of Soundbrenner, Florian Simmendinger said that there hasn’t been any change in metronome for over 200 years. But now, this is going to change with Pulse, a wearable device.  Now with this wearable, musicians will be able to wear it and at the same time use it as a digital metronome.

 

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Li-Fi 100 Gigabits per Second

Posted by Charles Manry

Struggling with spotty Wi-Fi? Li-Fi might be the answer. The technology uses LED-based room lighting instead of radio waves to transmit data. But one of the leading Li-Fi proponents is already looking beyond LEDs to laser-based lighting, which could bring a tenfold increase in data rates.

 

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High-performance radar suitable for...

Posted by Charles Manry

Echodyne, a secretive Seattle-area startup company backed by investors including Bill Gates and Paul Allen, is developing a novel, high-performance radar suitable for drones, robots, and self-driving cars. The technology could potentially allow such vehicles to operate independently in a range of conditions.

Echodyne thinks it can dramatically improve upon current radar systems in terms of cost, size, weight, and performance, by using metamaterials, which Echodyne co-founder and chief technology officer Tom Driscoll describes as “sub-wave length geometric configurations of metal and circuit board.” 

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Exoskeleton boot helps you walk

Posted by Charles Manry

Walking will become easier and more efficient now, thanks to a battery-less device which was developed by engineers. The prototype exoskeleton boot, when worn, has the capability to reduce the energy that is required to walk, by 7 percent. It runs from the ankle up to the knee. As the energy is reduced, you will burn a lot less calorie. This wearable can be the perfect solution for those who have difficulty walking. 

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Musk wants to power your car, your...

Posted by Kirstin Moline

The folks over at TESLA announced their new battery that would not only power your home, but potentially the grid as well. More efficient energy? Yes please.

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Working Star Trek Tricorder

Posted by Charles Manry

There is a $10 million XPrize for developing a a sci-fi medical scanner worthy of Star Trek. Each device must be able to diagnose 15 different medical conditions and monitor vital signs for 72 hours.  Cloud DX has shown off their entry recently at SXSW. 

 

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Self-Driving Car Aims for First Cro...

Posted by Charles Manry

A self-driving car aims to test that idea by making the 5600-km drive from San Francisco to New York City with a few human passengers tagging along for the ride.

The latest robotic car demonstration doesn’t come from Google or one of the many car manufacturers working on self-driving cars. Instead, it’s the brainchild of Delphi Automotive, a company that develops technologies for automotive components. Delphi transformed a 2014 Audi SQ5 luxury SUV that uses four short-range radars, three vision-based cameras, and six lidars, among other systems. The vehicle will set out on its eight-day journey starting on 22 March.

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FAA Approves Drone Delivery Test Fl...

Posted by Charles Manry

Jeff Bezos’s dream of one day seeing Prime Air delivery drones buzzing out of Amazon distribution centers edged a little closer on Thursday as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gave the company the green light to conduct outdoor test flights of its unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

The FAA said it’d issued the company with an “experimental airworthiness certificate” that allows Amazon to operate its UAV “for research and development and crew training.”

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2015 CES Innovation Awards

Posted by Kirstin Moline

Each year CES plays host to thousands of people who descend upon Las Vegas to learn what the year holds in consumer technology. The aptly named CES Innovation Awards honors top innovations for "outstanding design and engineering in consumer technology products." Several Synapse clients were honored with this prestigious award at the 2015 show, two of which were awarded top honors with the Best In Innovation category: Edyn and Sproutling. Congratulations to all the honorees. As always, we leave CES inspired and ready to create. 

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Holiday Gift Guide for the Geek in...

Posted by Kirstin Moline

Engadget has released their annual Holiday Gift Guide, full of gifts for the geeks in your life. I spy some Synapse client's on the list... as well as some other sweet gizmos to drool over. 

Check it out at http://engt.co/1BgSCpd

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GenerationCode

Posted by Kirstin Moline

We had the great pleasure of welcoming GenerationCode to our offices Friday, Nov 7, where they met with a panel of Sr. Engineers to ask development questions about their project, a game that teaches young people to code. 

Our engineers were floored with the amount of talent, ambition. and poise Semira and Fiona (co-founders) posses. They already won UW Startup Weekend, and we can't wait to see what they do next!

Read more about GenerationCode and their UW Startup Weekend win: http://www.geekwire.com/2014/sixth-graders-win-startup-weekend-event-gam...

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Next step in home automation

Posted by Kirstin Moline

Nest now integrating with several home automation partners, including Synapse client SNUPI Technologies' WallyHome. 

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Glacier Calving

Posted by Bonni McNaughton

Largest glacial calving event ever caught on tape. Ice the size of Manhatten breaks away into the ocean. This video is unreal and so worth the watch! 

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The world's most complicated w...

Posted by Jackie Johanson

See the most complex watch come to life. Warning: the images in the video may cause mechanical engineers to wet themselves with excitement. 

Video here: http://sploid.gizmodo.com/seeing-the-worlds-most-complicated-watch-get-b...

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Could hoverboards be in our future?

Posted by Kirstin Moline

We've dreamt of hoverboards since Marty McFly in Back to the Future II back in 1989... How close are we to bringing these dream machines to reality? 

 

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Alaska Air + Biometrics

Posted by Kirstin Moline

Alaska Airlines considering replacing tickets/ID/payments with biometrics to improve customer experience. Yes please! 

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Quadrocopter Ball Juggling

Posted by Trevor Wilcox

"The Flying Machine Arena (FMA) is a portable space devoted to autonomous flight. Measuring up to 10 x 10 x 10 meters, it consists of a high-precision motion capture system, a wireless communication network, and custom software executing sophisticated algorithms for estimation and control.

The motion capture system can locate multiple objects in the space at rates exceeding 200 frames per second. While this may seem extremely fast, the objects in the space can move at speeds in excess of 10 m/s, resulting in displacements of over 5 cm between successive snapshots. This information is fused with other data and models of the system dynamics to predict the state of the objects into the future.

The system uses this knowledge to determine what commands the vehicles should execute next to achieve their desired behavior, such as performing high-speed flips, balancing objects, building structures, or engaging in a game of paddle-ball. Then, via wireless links, the system sends the commands to the vehicles, which execute them with the aid of on-board computers and sensors such as rate gyros and accelerometers.

Although various objects can fly in the FMA, the machine of choice is the quadrocopter due to its agility, its mechanical simplicity and robustness, and its ability to hover. Furthermore, the quadrocopter is a great platform for research in adaptation and learning: it has well understood, low order first-principle models near hover, but is difficult to characterize when performing high-speed maneuvers due to complex aerodynamic effects. We cope with the difficult to model effects with algorithms that use first-principle models to roughly determine what a vehicle should do to perform a given task, and then learn and adapt based on flight data." -http://flyingmachinearena.org/

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Death Valley Sailing Stones

Posted by Larry Kulesa

After more than seventy years of attempts to solve the mystery of Death Valley’s sailing stones, U.S. researchers led by Dr Brian Jackson of Boise State University have finally caught the stones in action.

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Acoustical Physics is Art

Posted by John Davis

The periodic arrangement of the metal rods comprising this sculpture can strongly attenuate certain sonic frequencies, creating phononic band gaps. In other words, some frequencies pass through the sculpture while others don't. It's a lot like how a semiconductor attenuates electrons at certain bands of frequency. Pretty cool right? What if they made headphones with phononic crystals to block sound...

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The Future of Airplanes Could Be a...

Posted by Jacques Lincoln

Designers from Technicon Design have used flexible screens to cover the walls and ceiling of a passenger business jet to provide panoramic views of the exterior. Combined with panoramic wing and fuselage mounted cameras, passengers are treated to real-time views of their surroundings. Alternatively, any video footage or imagery can be loaded and displayed on the screens. This is how it must have felt to fly in Wonder Woman's invisible jet!

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Wearable Tech: Eastside Leadership...

Posted by

Missed out on the 10th Annual Eastside Leadership Conference? No problem! We've got our VP of Sales and Marketing's presentation on wearable tech enablers and trends right here:  http://www.slideshare.net/SynapsePD/wearable-tech-trends

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One Tesla for Testing, Please

Posted by Kirstin Moline

Today Elon Musk announced via the Tesla blog that the company would "not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone, who in good faith, wants to use [the companies] technology." Citing annual vehicle production of close to 100 million and a global fleet of 2 billion cars, Musk contends that companies will benefit from a "common, rapidly evolving technology platform" and in fact need one in order to battle the grossly enormous amount of emissions and carbon crisis we fight today. Right on, Musk, right on. 

You can read the full release on the Tesla blog: http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/all-our-patent-are-belong-you 

In the meantime, I'll be out securing one of these puppies for Synapsters to test on. All in the name of science. 

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Foldscope

Posted by Bret Richmond

Some graduate bioengineers at Stanford have designed some great low-cost microscopes (~$0.50) that are assembled by origami folding techniques.  They can reach magnifications of 2000X, and will likely be used to detect diseases and pathogens in the developing world.

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Kano - Computer Kit

Posted by Bret Richmond

These kinds of things have existed for awhile, but this looks like it's well-designed, and may reach a larger, younger market segment.  Looks like fun.

Thanks to Rex St. John over at the Mashery for passing it along!

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National Day of Civic Hacking

Posted by Bret Richmond

Intel is sponsoring this nationwide event for the second year, and Code for Seattle is hosting it locally at Seattle City Hall.  Check out some great local grassroots projects that people in the community are tackling to increase transparency and take advantage of data that local through federal government agencies are releasing.

http://hackforchange.org/

http://codeforseattle.org/

I expect Richard Schilling of Synapse will be taking part.  Rex St. John of Intel's Mashery will likely be there with their Galileo development platform, which is a competitor to Arduino.  Should be fun for the HW Hacker set, as at least one HW challenge is in play at this event.

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Leveraging Social Media to 3D Model...

Posted by Michael Ciuffo

After two users of the social sharing site Reddit coincidentally caught a lightning bolt from two angles, a mathematics hobbyist used open-source software ImageJ and Blender to analyze the images and re-create the bolt in 3D.  The result is ...shocking.

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Cloud-Based Home Security with Zero...

Posted by Zachary Williams

Check out this cool home security product at igg.me/at/Korner - costs less than $100 and installs in under 2 minutes.  

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Magnetically Actuated Micro-Robots

Posted by Trevor Wilcox

"Imagine being able to harness the power of an army of ants to assemble large-scale products quickly and precisely from heterogeneous materials in today’s manufacturing environments. SRI’s patented Diamagnetic Micro Manipulation (DM3) technology uses printed circuit boards (PCBs) to drive and control micro-robots built from simple, low-cost magnets that are propelled electromagnetically. This could enable cost-effective production of large numbers of micro-robots that can reliably handle a wide variety of solid and liquid materials—including electronics." -SRI International

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DragonFly plane...Robot...

Posted by Ray Nicoli

These guys continue to build really cool devices. 

With the BionicOpter, Festo has technically mastered the highly complex flight characteristics of the dragonfly. Just like its model in nature, this ultralight flying object can fly in all directions, hover in mid-air and glide without beating its wings.

Thirteen degrees of freedom for unique flight manoeuvres
In addition to control of the shared flapping frequency and twisting of the individual wings, each of the four wings also features an amplitude controller. The tilt of the wings determines the direction of thrust. Amplitude control allows the intensity of the thrust to be regulated. When combined, the remote-controlled dragonfly can assume almost any position in space.

Highly integrated lightweight design
This unique way of flying is made possible by the lightweight construction and the integration of functions: components such as sensors, actuators and mechanical components as well as open- and closed-loop control systems are installed in a very tight space and adapted to one another.

With the remote-controlled dragonfly, Festo demonstrates wireless real-time communication, a continuous exchange of information, as well as the ability to combine different sensor evaluations and identify complex events and critical states.

http://www.festo.com/cms/en_corp/13165.htm

https://www.youtube.com/user/FestoHQ

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Sampling fallacies and misconceptio...

Posted by Torin Jacobson

Sampling theory is often unintuitive without a signal processing background. It's not surprising most people, even brilliant PhDs in other fields, routinely misunderstand it. It's also not surprising many people don't even realize they have it wrong.

Continuing the "firehose" tradition of maximum information density, Xiph.Org's second video on digital media explores multiple facets of digital audio signals and how they really behave in the real world.

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Bionic arm gives man ability to dru...

Posted by Brent Bones

I'm a drummer, have been for almost 25 years. Some days, I can barely use my real arms to play. Jason Barnes found a way to keep playing after losing one arm. Kudos, Jason!!

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Nike using 3D-printing technology f...

Posted by Brent Bones

The use of 3D printers has allowed Nike's designers to prototype and test new footwear designs with a remarkably quick turnaround. And the latest shoe born from that new process is the Vapor HyperAgility cleat featuring re-engineered studs that Nike claims will give football players the necessary grip to explode off the line, but also stop and turn on a dime to evade an opponent.

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Smartglasses that Help Surgeons See...

Posted by Laura Kussman

A Washington University doctor used smartglasses that help surgeons see cancerous cells for the first time ever on February 10th. It will make a great companion to that smart knife that sniffs out cancer as you cut that's already being used in the UK.

Dr. Zoltan?

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Beanbag Robot Hand

Posted by Larry Kulesa

The “jamming gripper” embodies the latest in robotics theory, but is essentially a lime green balloon filled with industrial-grade granules. The green blob presses itself against an object and deforms around it. A pump then sucks the air out of the balloon which locks the granules in position and clamps down on the object. Within a tenth of a second it can seize anything from tiny Lego bricks to shards of broken glass and can easily handle objects that weigh up to 20 pounds.entially a lime green balloon filled with industrial-grade granules. The green blob presses itself against an object and deforms around it. A pump then sucks the air out of the balloon which locks the granules in position and clamps down on the object. Within a tenth of a second it can seize anything from tiny Lego bricks to shards of broken glass and can easily handle objects that weigh up to 20 pounds.

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Cool local T-Shirts

Posted by Larry Kulesa

This site has lots of T-Shirts from local places.  Places like The S.L.U.T, Snorting Elk Cellar (At Crystal Mt.), and Fremont's High Dive.  

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Play with Virtual Legos

Posted by Stephen Kreiger

Google has teamed up with Lego to launch “Build with Chrome,” a new Chrome experiment launched on Tuesday that lets users play with the biggest box of Legos imaginable. Caution: addictive!

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Concrete 3D Printer Can Build Homes...

Posted by Jacques Lincoln

Applications for 3D printing are becoming increasingly elaborate and exceedingly large.

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Flexible Muscle-Based Locomotion fo...

Posted by Torin Jacobson

"We present a muscle-based control method for simulated bipeds in which both the muscle routing and control parameters are optimized. This yields a generic locomotion control method that supports a variety of bipedal creatures. All actuation forces are the result of 3D simulated muscles, and a model of neural delay is included for all feedback paths. As a result, our controllers generate torque patterns that incorporate biomechanical constraints. The synthesized controllers find different gaits based on target speed, can cope with uneven terrain and external perturbations, and can steer to target directions."

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Sorting Machine - Skittles and M...

Posted by Kevin Rivers

This machine sorts candy by color. It separates different colored Skittles and M&Ms pieces and puts them into individual cups.

RGB Color Sensor, IR Distance Sensor, Continuos Rotation Servo, 360 degree Servo, Arduino and 3D Printed parts.

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The Cubli

Posted by Barron Barnett

Meet Cubli, a cube that can jump, blanace, and even walk.

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Motorola Interactive Print Ad

Posted by Mohammadali Parsian

Moto Maker gets an interactive print ad in Wired magazine. Check the video.

Making things more interactive is definitely the new thing.

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Centrifuge Flight Motion Simulator

Posted by Laura Kussman

Now available on Ebay - the Centrifuge Flight Motion Simulator is perfect for all you space training, pilots in interactive, virtual reality training out there! Just a measly $6.8 million for your very own!

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Shotgun shells full of seed redefin...

Posted by Michael Ciuffo

Normal shotgun shells kill; the Flower Shell gives life.  Filled with cornflower, daisy, poppy, and many other flower varieties instead of the normal lead or tungsten, these 12 gauge rounds are the perfect tool for any hardcore horticulturalist.

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Nvidia GeForce GTX 690 Built with L...

Posted by Brian Eng

A man in China used LEGO Digital Designer software and about $1640 of bricks to build a 6ft x 2ft Lego model of a graphics card with a working fan.

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Google to Launch Skynet?

Posted by Scott Bright

Will future historans note 2013 as "The Year Google Became Skynet"?  The NY times reports Google just bought another robot company. This week’s acquisition of Boston Dynamics, maker of “mobile research robots” like BigDog for the Pentagon, marks their eighth in only 6 months.

 

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xNT Implantable NFC Chip from Seatt...

Posted by Mark Giles

The xNT chip is currently seeking crowdfunding via IndiGogo. The goal: Produce the worlds first NFC compliant RFID implant, together! Near Field Communication--or NFC--specifications contain a set of standards which are applied to a specific set of RFID technologies, and it's taking the world by storm in the form of devices like mobile phones and tablets. They've successfully prototyped and tested the world's first implantable NFC technology, called xNT. Use xNT to launch URLs, share contact details, unlock phones, unlock doors, start cars, log into computers, or do anything else the community behind it is able to dream up and develop!

http://dangerousthings.com/

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One COIN to Rule Them All

Posted by Scott Bright

San Francisco startup Coin (OnlyCoin.com) announced a crazy-cool first product this week — a credit card-sized connected device that stores your other credit cards and allows you to select which to emulate. 

 

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Sony Playstation 4 Teardown

Posted by Adrian Fox

Inside Sony headquarters, at the heart of Tokyo’s Shinagawa district, Yasuhiro Ootori is about to reveal something that almost no one outside the Japanese tech giant has ever seen: the inside of a PlayStation 4.

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Revolutionizing Commuter Cycling

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Laura Kussman

The innovative and popular FlyKly Smart Wheel (<-- click) may not be beautiful, but it sure is brilliant.  In a commuter community here at Synapse, and with traffic in this city reaching record vexation levels, this might just have to be my next purchase (is $550 too much?)

Essentially, it’s an electronic rear wheel with speeds of up to 20 miles per hour that can last for up to 30 miles on a single charge.

It fits into almost any bike, meaning to have an electric bike you don’t have to splash out on one; you can simply buy a new wheel and slot it into your existing mount.

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Apple's mesmerizing Mac Pro ma...

Posted by Jackie Johanson

Apple's new Mac Pro is assembled in the US, as its Making Of video proves. The video tracks the the creation of a Mac Pro as the machine's cylindrical case is carved, polished, and fit around its internal components. It's mesmerizing to watch, but hard to fully appreciate in just two minutes of footage. That's where product designer Greg Koenig can help. Koenig walks through the Mac Pro's manufacturing process on Atomic Delights, explaining how an aluminum ingot is turned into Apple's new high-end computer, identifying Kuka robotic arms, bead blast cabinets, and anodizing acid baths as he goes. http://www.theverge.com/design/2013/10/24/5023196/apple-mac-pro-manufacturing-process-explained-by-product-designer

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Why Kickstarter projects are always...

Posted by Keith Kemp

Zach Supalla, Founder and CEO at Spark, uses his experience on the highly successful Spark Core Kickstarter project to answer the question: "Why Kickstarter projects are always delayed?"

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Asthmapolis now Propeller Health

Posted by Kirstin Moline

Synapse partner, Asthmapolis, relaunches as Propeller Health:

From CNBC: The Propeller platform is designed to help patients and their physicians better understand and control respiratory disease to reduce preventable emergency room visits, hospitalizations and unnecessary suffering...Propeller Health will now offer providers and payers expanded mobile apps for asthma, COPD and other respiratory disease, as well as new sensors for additional inhaled medications pending regulatory clearance.

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Exercise while you work?

Posted by Kirstin Moline

At Synapse we've been transitioning from our beloved bean desks (think: giant desk shaped and colored like a kidney bean) to sit/stand desks. Afterall, we've heard that sitting is the new smoking (source: http://www.ted.com/talks/nilofer_merchant_got_a_meeting_take_a_walk). While I may not be totally sold on the idea of my chair trying to killing me, I can't deny how much better I feel after standing while I work compared to sitting. Oh and I suppose all those studies out there (seriously, google: sitting is the new smoking. Mayo doctors agree!) help in persuading my transition. 

I notice around the office more heads peeking above the rest. But what's the next step (we're always thinking of the next iteration here!)? I'm thinking it's the treadmill desk. Now only if we could make a cycling desk...I think Synapsters would really be into that. I smell a pet project coming on. 

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Engineering Eye Candy: Disney bring...

Posted by Kirstin Moline

Okay. These mechanical puppets are seriously cool. I suggest fwd'ing the video to 4:25 to check out the T-rex (though the whole video is really worth the watch). 

Disney researchers have created a system to create geared figures that look incredibly life-like. Even better: this system allows for pupetteers, lego lovers, and clockwork enthusiasts to build geared robots using 3D printings and metal rods.

What would you bring to life? I have a sneaky suspicion our engineers could brainstorm, tool, and give Disney a run for their money. (Just kidding. Maybe.)

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Elon Musk's Future of Design

Posted by Mark Giles

SpaceX is exploring methods for engineers to accelerate their workflow by designing more directly in 3D. We are integrating breakthroughs in sensor and visualization technologies to view and modify designs more naturally and efficiently than we could using purely 2D tools. We are just beginning, but eventually hope to build the fastest route between the idea of a rocket and the reality of the factory floor. Special thanks to Leap Motion, Siemens and Oculus VR, as well as NVIDIA, Projection Design, Provision, and to everyone enabling and challenging the world to interact with technology in exciting new ways.

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Scientists Grow A Brain in a Dish

Posted by Kirstin Moline

From Popular Science:

Researchers from the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna, Austria, have grown a three-dimensional, self-organizing model of a developing human brain in the lab using stem cells. Besides just being cool (brains in petri dishes!), the system could be used to model neurological diseases in an actual human brain, rather than in an animal model that may not develop in exactly the same way.

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The London Tube in Fuel Points

Posted by Kirstin Moline

Why hop on a train when you can earn Nike+ Fuel instead? 

Nike recently created a map of the London Tube system, but in addition to putting distances between each station, Nike put how many Fuel points a person could earn by walking rather than riding. 

If only Seattle had a Fuel map...

 

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3D-Printable Fossils

Posted by Jacqui Adams

Say you're an paleoanthropologist, and you want to replicate some other scientist's findings about the so-called Missing Link. Could you easily do so? Nope--because the data you'd use for your tests is a unique bone fragment. It's located far, far away from you. Its ownership is indeterminate. And it's highly vulnerable to temperature and touch. You're not getting your hands on that thing. 

Cue 3D-printing technology changing everything. The British Geological Survey is compiling a database of fossils using 3D scanners. These 3D image files will be downloadable to the public for 3D printing, and searchable by time period, location, and species.

Guys! This means that you can have that life-sized Triceratops skull you always wanted!

It also means that a whole bunch of scientific fields are about to get way less objective and way more, well, scientific, as findings become more easily corroborated. And you thought 3D printing was just hot pink yoda heads!

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Elon Musk's Holographic UI

Posted by Jacqui Adams

Elon Musk, you crazy diamond. You revolutionized online payments. You created a viable electric car company, and gave us the safest car ever. You gave us a rocket that hops. You're bringing us to Mars. You're making coast-to-coast travel in less than an hour an actual thing. Now, you want to make the holographic design interface from Iron Man real? 

WHAT IS THIS MAGIC?

From Musk's Twitter: 

We figured out how to design rocket parts just w/ hand movements in the air (seriously). Now need a high frame rate holograph generator.

Elon Musk, I believe in you. Your magic is real. When I finally get my Tony Stark lair, I'm designing you a giant bouquet of adamantium flowers. 

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The Briggo Coffee Haus

Posted by Jacqui Adams

The Briggo Coffee Haus is a coffee lover's dream.

Inside its retro-fabulous, wood-paneled exterior, The Coffee Haus is pure future. It takes your order remotely, via mobile app. It already knows what you want, since it saved your order from last time to the cloud. And there's no standing around: when your drink is ready, it texts you to let you know. 

Best of all, the Coffee Haus lets you see, hear, and smell what's going on inside of it, from grinding to brewing. So even though your coffee's fast, it doesn't lose its soul.

Briggo doesn't intend to disrupt the coffee shop market, but rather to improve the automated coffee space. That means that where you used to find only vending machines that dispensed bitter, black liquid-formerly-known-as-coffee (like airports) you might now find a Coffee Haus to give you delicious, freshly-ground and brewed future-coffee. Delicious. 

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A 3D Printer in Every High School

Posted by Jacqui Adams

BotObjects might just be the coolest 3D printing company around. Their ProDesk3D, with its slick steel and plexiglass skin, looks like it would belong on Tony Stark's kitchen counter, and it can print in full-color, including gradients and stripes. 

But apparently, such a high concentration of awesome-sauce isn't enough for BotObjects: They're stepping up their cool beans factor by bringing 3D printing to public education.

The company plans to give away between 150 and 200 3D printers to high schools. After that, it will reduce the price of its printers--for high schools only--by 65%. 

Schools can apply to get a free 3D printer on the BotObjects website in August. Way to be rad, BotObjects!

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Legos Go Back to Basics

Posted by Jacqui Adams

Legos used to be really awesome toys for young makers. You bought them in a kit to make a castle or a battleship, sure. But once you got that kit home, it looked like the picture on the box for about nine seconds. Then you could take it apart, combine it with the rest of your collection, and make vehicles, buildings, and robots that the Lego marketing team would never even dream of.

Those halcyon days have become increasingly nostalgic in recent years, as Lego has released more kits with customized parts that don't adapt well to mixing and matching.

But Lego gets back to basics with its Architecture Studio line. These all-white legos come in a 1200-piece kit designed to teach the basic principles of building. When you're done learning what they want you to know, you can break the pieces down and build whatever your imagination can create. 

It's interesting that Lego is marketing this set for teens and adults, when identical sets--albeit in primary colors--used to be the literal building blocks of every tiny kid's playroom. I don't know about you guys, but I would totally give this to my seven year-old. You can watch me eat my words when I step on a pile of them in the middle of the floor, perfectly camouflaged with all my grown-up furniture.

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Vote Synapse for SXSW 2014

Posted by Jacqui Adams

Want to change the course of creativity? Here's your chance: Synapse is up to go to SXSW--and YOU get to join the SXSW creative community and vote us in! 

Vote for Synapse here: http://bit.ly/16Xd0s1 And here: http://bit.ly/170eFPx

We've proposed two talks on the future of tech to be featured at SXSWi 2014. Make it happen and become an innovation influencer by voting TODAY!

Voting closes September 6, so make your voice heard quick!

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Flying Solar Cities

Posted by Jacqui Adams

Architect Tomas Saraceno has re-designed Alexander Graham Bell's 1899, beautifully geometric flying machine to prototype the imaginary floating solar city of the future.

From Gizmodo:

Each sail is made out of a paper-thin solar cell. And the framework itself is fabricated from carbon fiber, making it even lighter than Bell's. Unlike it, though, it's not designed to go anywhere (in fact, it's anchored to the ground), since Saraceno says it's a demonstration of how future buildings and cities could float, stationary, above the earth. That's a fairly wild concept, but that's sort of Saraceno's MO as an artist.

"Play is one of the learning processes in life," he says about the Solar Bell. "It is cultivating what we do not think is possible, namely to float."

Impossible concept spawns kick-ass invention? We like your style, fella! 

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Sledge hammer fun

Posted by Skooks Pong

Laurie having some fun demolishing a 70's style hearth. 

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Elon Musk Releases Hyperloop Plans

Posted by Jacqui Adams

Can I just have a moment to jump up and down and be SO EXCITED to be living in the future? Okay...moment taken. Everybody: The Hyperloop.

The Hyperloop is a transportation system that could get you from New York to Los Angeles in 45 minutes. It's Elon Musk's latest pet project, and today, he released a giant PDF of the plans. The future is now, folks. Elon Musk has invented a monorail that goes 700 miles per hour, and as far as I'm concerned, that's at least as good as a flying car. 

 

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The Great Thing About San Francisco

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Chris Massot

The following message was not paid for by the good people of our San Francisco office…although I’m sure they endorse it.

I thought I’d take some time to submit a few words in support of the Bay Area, as it is Synapse’s second home.

I should start by pointing out that I have been in technology for almost 20 years (yikes!). In all that time, I have never lived in the Bay Area, but I have always lived in the shadow of it. That’s because EVERYBODY in technology lives in the shadow of the Bay Area.

My visits to the Bay Area are probably only eclipsed by my visits to the bathroom. And it’s closer than you may think.

San Jose is the center of Silicon Valley. And the Bay Area is the self-proclaimed center of the technology universe. And you know what? They’re right. In 2013, ~30% of the US VC money went to Bay Area companies (second place had ~11%).

It’s a somewhat parochial, very savvy, smart, and self-confident region. When it comes to technology, they believe that if you can’t make it (as in create it) there, you can’t make it anywhere. If you’re going to be successful in technology—especially selling tech services—you’re going to have to deal with the Bay Area.

Apple, of course, is there. As is Cisco, and Facebook, and Google, and Intel, and HP, and transplants like Xbox, and Lab 126, and BWM. Many innovative new CE companies get legs there, like Lytro, Square, Nest, and Pebble. You read in the news that the “hardware revolution is happening in the Bay Area” and technology hardware startups are “sweeping San Francisco and the Bay Area”.

The world of technology doesn’t begin and end in the Bay Area. But it certainly takes a very long pit stop there, which is why we call it our second home!

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2,000 Ping Pong Balls in Zero-G

Posted by Jacqui Adams

YouTube has decided it's Geek Week, which means we get to enjoy this awesome video of a bunch of science teachers releasing 2,000 orange ping pong balls in a simulated zero-gravity environment. With classical music. A happy Geek Week right backatcha, YouTube!

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How to Be a Kickstarter Success

Posted by Jacqui Adams

This year has seen a rash of rad Kickstarter projects that meet their funding goals and do a victory dance--only to run into fatal problems later in their product development process. As an entrepreneur with a cool idea, what can you do to make sure your revolutionary product doesn't turn into vaporware? 

Hickies, a shoelace startup based in NYC, might have some clues. The startup was funded at just $165k last year, and has since used that modest amount to relocate its headquarters, secure global distribution, deliver over 500,000 shipments, and develop a second generation product with a promising pipeline. 

Although Hickies isn't exactly high-tech, the company's ability to balance funding and fulfillment offers a lesson in the art of the start that more gadgety Kickstarters could probably use. Read more about Hickies' secrets to success on TechCrunch here. 

 

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Take a Walk on Mars

Posted by Jacqui Adams

What do you get when you combine an Oculus Rift headset, a Virtuix Omni virtual reality treadmill, and some stereoscopic footage taken by the Curiosity rover?

You get a walk on Mars, that's what. No intergalactic passport required. 

Kudos to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for making this awesomeness happen!

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Poppy at Synapse!

Posted by Jacqui Adams

Synapse hosted a HackThings meetup last week, and the very cool Joe Heitzeberg, fellow Seattleite and co-creator of Poppy 3D iPhone attachment, was there.

An iPhone with the Poppy on it got passed around for Synapsters and HackThingers to try out, and it proved to be just as cool as it looked on the Kickstarter. The thrill of looking through a high-tech View-Master was pretty great. Even better was the realization that I could, with the Poppy, take a 3D video of a project I was working on, a car I was thinking of buying, a giant squash from my garden, whatever I wanted--and that image would be rendered more accurate and more real than a 2D iPhone picture. Best: the Poppy was engineered so efficiently, it costs less than $80. Making is fun! 

Thanks for showing the Poppy around, Joe! And thanks for coming, HackThings--being your friend is awesome. 

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Designing for the exception

Posted by Skooks Pong

Short piece on why sometimes you have to design for the exception need verses the average.

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An Invisible Smartphone

Posted by Jacqui Adams

Just kidding, it's not an invisible smartphone!

It's better: it's the Hot Watch, the first smartwatch that lets you make private calls.

The best part? You enable the private call functionality by cupping your hand to your ear. Kick-ass tech is what lets you--and only you--hear your incoming call. But to everyone else, it just looks like your smartphone is so future-style, it doesn't even exist in the corporeal world.

The Hot Watch has 35 days left in its Kickstarter campaign, and it's already $50k past its funding goal. Get in on the party by checking it out now. 

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iOS vs Android fragmentation

Posted by Skooks Pong

Interesting differences between an open operating system and one that is very tightly controlled. If you were a developer for Android what platform would you support?

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Mobile Wallet infographics

Posted by Skooks Pong

Some interesting statistics presented well. Looking forward to the day I don't have to carry a pocket full of cards.

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Exploding Glass at 130,000 FPS

Posted by Stephen Kreiger

Stunning high speed videography explaining the science behind the surprising behavior of Prince Rupert's drop

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Yikes! A Phlebotobot!

Posted by Jacqui Adams

What's worse: human error, or a needle-wielding robot?

All I can think of when I look at this blood-drawing robot is the scene in Star Wars: A New Hope when Darth Vader threatens Princess Leia with the IT-O Interrogator droid. Get that thing away from me!

However, this robot--called the Veebot--could do away with some of the peskier aspects of getting your blood drawn by a human. The robot uses a blood pressure cuff-type device, instead of a tourniquet--so no pinching. It uses infrared light, a camera, ultrasound imaging, and image-analysis software to select a vein, confirm that it has adequate blood pressure, line up the needle, and insert it at the correct depth. Then it draws your blood, with no chance of its hand slipping and delivering a fatal air bubble to your bloodstream. The whole thing takes about a minute.

A human chooses the right vein about 83% of the time, and currently, so does the Veebot. But its creators say they'll get its accuracy rate to 90% before they even start clinical trials. 

So, a robot that pokes you with a needle might not be such a bad thing. Seriously, who knew the future would be so different than Star Wars?

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This Patch Could End Malaria

Posted by Jacqui Adams

Where mosquitoes proliferate, so does malaria. That's a big problem: malaria is the leading cause of death for over half the world's population, and pregnant women and children are especially susceptible to infection.

The Kite could change that. It's a non-toxic sticker that foils a mosquito's prey-finding system by blocking its Co2 receptors, making its wearer effectively invisible to the blood-sucking insects. Pretty cool, right? 

The Kite patch has already doubled its funding goal on Indiegogo, and will next go through a testing phase in Uganda before being scaled for affordability and deployed to the rest of the world.  

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One Ring to Unlock Them All

Posted by Jacqui Adams

You know how phone companies were trying to get people to bump their phones together a while back? Yeah, that was awkward. 

This NFC Ring makes that technology a little bit cooler. 

The ring is worn on your finger and contains two different NFC inlays. The first faces out, on your knuckle, and contains info that you want to share with others, like your email address. The second faces in, on your palm, and contains info that's private, like your passwords. You can use the ring to unlock your phone, your tablet, or your door with a waving gesture, or to exchange contact info with a new friend via fist bump.

Still a little dorky, sure. But you get to make a Lord of the Rings joke every time you use it, so you might as well just go full geek and enjoy yourself.

At $38 per ring, it's not too dear to try out. And if you're feeling makeresque, you can buy CAD plans to 3D-print your own for just $12. These guys know their market. 

Fist bump!

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"Phantom" human-machine i...

Posted by Riyadth Al-Kazily

Disney has developed a device which enhances an immersive, computer generated experience, by allowing the user to "feel" things in the virtual world.

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From smartwatches to smart bras

Posted by Kirstin Moline

The Breast Tissue Screening Bra in the works by First Warning Systems is non-invasive, painless, and may even be more accurate than 3D mammography in early detection of breast cancer. 

As wearable technology grows, I'd like to see the conversation move away from smartwatches and rumored smartwatches (Come on people, the iWatch isn't here. Didn't your mother tell you a watched pot never boils? Let's give it a rest for a bit!) to a wearable that provides some serious value for more than half of the world's population. 

Using 16 sensors, the bra monitors heat patterns and breast shape to track changes in blood vessels. Think of it as a highly effective screening tool - First Warning Systems proclaims they have up to 90% detection accuracy, though they are first to say it is not a diagnostic tool, "You can think of it as a smoke alarm,” said Matt Bernardis from First Warning Systems.

Currently in their fourth and final clinical trial, the company hopes to have the bra FDA approved and on the market within a year. I know I’ll be excitedly tracking the progress of this wearable. 

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Neural Dust

Posted by Jacqui Adams

Anyone who's ever tried to text while driving can attest to the fact that the annoying thing about smart devices is that you have to look at them. No matter how intuitive a device is, no matter how great the UX/UI, it's still a big plastic blob standing between you and your info. 

The next stage of interface design is biointegration, which goes a step beyond the hands-free convenience of wearables and integrates smart devices with the human body. Regina Dugan of Motorola Mobility recently wowed us all by bringing ingestible sensors and authentication tattoos to AllThingsD; now, neural dust looks to be the next step in devices that live in your body instead of in your pocket.

Neural dust is essentially dust particle-sized sensors that can be inhaled into the brain. These sensors can then communicate with other devices, gathering and analyzing multiple forms of data about what's happening in your brain.

The convenience of a device such as neural dust versus its obvious health and security risks is worth a discussion. But for now, it's just pretty rad to marvel at how far smart devices have come and think about how such devices could change lives for the better.

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Wearables for Dogs

Posted by Jacqui Adams

The FIDO (Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations) system will allow dogs to communicate with their humans through biting, pulling or otherwise manipulating a device that will respond by making meaning-specific tones. Such a device could have applications for seeing eye dogs, bomb-sniffing dogs, and rescue dogs.  

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Mad Bike Skillz

Posted by Brian Piquette

Unbelievably impressed and astounded by Mr. MacAskill's skills.

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One is Enough

Posted by Ray Nicoli

The future of cycling? A one wheel motor cycle is in the works. 

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5 Rules of Communication

Posted by Chris Massot

George Bernard Shaw is quoted to have said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Nothing could be more true! I have found in my 20+ years in communications-related fields that people think of “communication” like they do breathing—everybody does it and you hardly have to think about it—but at the same time I find it comical how few people truly know how to communicate effectively.

Communication is a soft skill. It’s not something that is obvious, static, or textbook. Communication is about feel, environment, nuance, and understanding. In other words: it’s a lot of work. What makes it even harder is that although communication is a difficult skill to understand, let alone master, everyone is expected to do it every day, many times a day.

I should pause here to mention that I don't believe in telling people what to say. There is a profession—acting—that is dedicated to that. I am a big believer in freedom of style and expression. Nonetheless, I do believe it's important to have guidelines around how you communicate; to help you be consistent, considerate, and thoughtful when you interact with others.

But communication is an area where everyone can improve, no exceptions. And if you think this doesn't apply to you, I ask you to think again. Every interaction you have with another person impacts the company you represent; and more importantly, impacts the person with whom you are interacting. Every time you talk to a friend, vendor, partner, coworker, or anyone it promotes your company, and represents who the company is, how it works, and how it treats people.

Just for fun, I’ve created five “communication tips”, of what I believe are just generally good ideas.

Rule Number One: Keep internal messages internal

This rule, of course, begs the question: what messages are internal and what are external? Having a defined way to speak about your brand will help how your company is perceived externally. For example the description, “Engineering Product Development and Realization,” or the Wall of Cool on our website, are things that Synapse shares outside the company.

But there are some things that are clearly for internal use only. These are things that contribute to your secret sauce, and quite frankly, not anybody's damn business.

Bottom line: it’s important not to confuse your internal and external messages.

Rule Number Two: Know your audience

One of the biggest mistakes people make is trying to communicate with everyone in the same way. In a world with so many different styles and personalities, why would you think everyone takes input the same way?

Before reaching out to someone, ask yourself questions like:

To whom am I talking? Where are they from? What are their likes and dislikes? What is their emotional involvement in this conversation? What is their communication style? How do they like to be approached? Are they better on the phone, email, text, or in person? What is their position in the company? What are their expectations? Is this a time for a quick response or a thorough one?

This might seem like a lot of work, but it stands to reason that if communication is critical to the success of a relationship, then you should spend as much time on it as you would for anything else. Maybe even more!

Rule Number Three: Don't assume anything

I think I was about eight years old when I first learned from Felix Unger what happens when you assume.

I also remember getting a refresher about 20 years later, when I was the General Manager for Sterling Electronics’ Houston branch. I asked one of the sales guys by email (paraphrased), “About how much do you think we'll do with this customer this year, understanding their business has recently changed?"

Not really knowing what I was asking for, he spent all weekend working on a beautiful 15 page presentation that described the customer’s business needs, showed a ton of research, and defined an appropriate answer in painstaking detail. To add insult to injury, he told my Sales Manager that he was really stressed out, fearing he would be held accountable for the new number.

Admittedly I was a bit impressed. But I also felt really bad because all I wanted was a ballpark figure; such as, “about $5 million” or “somewhere between $4 and $6 million”.

I assumed he understood the intent of my message ... and now you know, thanks to Tony Randall's classic character, what happens when you ASS-U-ME.

Rules one, two and three  are fundamentals that should be part of your approach to interacting with others.

Rules four and five are more tactical. When’s the last time you re-read an email you sent previously and said “oops, that’s not what I meant to say”? Or how about when you unintentionally started a long, painful email thread?

These last two rules should be handy to help you stay out of trouble.

Rule Number Four: Proofread everything

My best example of this has happened at least twice in recent memory, once recently at Synapse, and once outside. In both cases, someone had changed their schedule so they could meet with me when they previously thought they could not. But, unfortunately their message to me contained a typo.

They wrote, “I can not meet with you,” instead of, “I can now meet with you.” Talk about changing the content of the message!
Use spell check, but don’t expect it to catch everything. Proofread everything before it goes out the door. And also remember rule number four’s sister rule which applies to presentations: rehearse everything!

Rule Number Five: When in doubt, don't email

I get it. I have teenage kids. I totally understand that the way we communicate has changed dramatically over the last few years. When I look at my kids’ phones, there are hardly any phone calls and about a million texts. None of these texts are more than five words long, and most of the words are abbreviated in a way that no one can really understand.

That said, in your professional life, things need to be crystal-clear. Therefore, when you're not 100% sure what somebody is saying—or even if you are 100% sure of what they're saying—it's always a good idea to pick up the phone or walk over to them (if they're in the same building as you) and have a conversation. Understand their expectations before sending a two-dimensional email.

And for god’s sake, if you are going to email, don’t “reply all” if you don’t know everyone on the distribution list very well.

One of the coolest things about communication is that it’s important no matter who you are or what you do.  Paulo Coelho wrote “Every day I try to be in communication with the universe in an unconscious way.”  Jack Welch said “Number one, cash is king...number two, communicate...number three, buy or bury the competition.”

I’m not sure you could find two people more different than Paulo Coelho and Jack Welch, yet they each have communication as an essential part of their lives.

Please don't take it for granted.

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Human Powered Helicopter

Posted by Scott Bright

More than 30 years after AHS International created the Igor Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition, the Canadian team AeroVelo has claimed the prize. Their Atlas quadcopeter design hovered in place for more than 60 seconds on June 13, 2013.  With four 67-foot diameter rotors, the whole machine weighs a mere 115lbs.  

 

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Maker Camp 2013

Posted by Jacqui Adams

Ah, summer camp. Those halcyon days of imagining every creepy nighttime sound is a hungry, angry bear. Starting today, Google and Make (the brains behind Maker Faire) are launching a different kind of summer extravaganza with Maker Camp, a free six-week program open to Google+ users between the ages of 13 and 18. The online camp will offer daily DIY activities -- like a bike-powered phone charger -- with a live Google+ Hangout to discuss the project with expert makers. Additionally, campers will go on virtual field trips every Friday to places they otherwise might never see, like NASA's Ames Research Center. This year, Maker Camp will also include affiliate campsites at local libraries and youth centers, stocked with nifty gadgets like soldering kits, LEDs, Raspberry Pi boards and Arduino microcontrollers. For more info, check out the video after the break or register by following Make on Google+. Hungry, angry bears need not apply.

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Skooks Named as Leader in $10-50B W...

Posted by Mark Giles

WearableTechWorld.com has estimated the market for wearable technology to be between 10 and 50 billion dollars over the next decade. They list Skooks Pong, our VP of Technology, among others, stating, "These folks, among many other very important WT and augmented reality (AR) pioneers and leaders, are the real names now driving the WT industry from the grass roots into the mainstream - and they are all participating in our upcoming conference." You can catch Skooks speaking at their Wearable Tech Expo in NY on July 24th!

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Skooks Pong on Smartwatches

Posted by Jacqui Adams

It’s no secret that while smartphone adoption in the U.S. continues to rise – now accounting for 57 percent of the mobile market according to comScore – rollout of in-store mobile payments has been slow and fragmented. Some experts attribute it to infrastructure challenges or hesitancy on behalf of consumers due to security risks. Others suspect the market just isn’t ready.

Despite these challenges, experts still predict that mobile payment adoption is set to take off. According to research from Javelin, the total amount of mobile payments at the point of sale will increase from $398 million last year to $5.4 billion by 2018. But it begs the question: What’s going to drive the drastic shift in consumer behavior that would lead to this market growth? The answer: wearable technology.

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Google To Enter Game Console Rivalr...

Posted by Taylor Saunders

Google recently revealed that they are in development of their next generation gaming console running on their Android Operating System. Google also revealed their new line of Android products that are expected to combat Apple and their future products. As Android games become more popular, Google plans on expanding their software to more than just phones and gaming consoles. Would you buy a Google game console?

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Cancer Cure?

Posted by Jon Manning

Who would dare to pit one fatal disease against another... inside the body of an six-year-old patient?

The results will shatter all expectations.

A team of doctors may have found a way to cure cancer using a modified HIV virus. 

Still in the testing phase it shows great promise!

 

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FoxConn's iOS Smartwatch

Posted by Jacqui Adams

In May, Synapse's VP of Tech Skooks Pong predicted that a company such as Apple, armed with years of experience and relevant proprietary tech, was best poised to dominate the smartwatch market.

Now, Apple's key supplier has beaten Apple to the smartwatch punch. Foxconn's smartwatch will be compatible with the iPhone and will use NFC to wirelessly sync up with incoming calls, emails, and Facebook posts. It will also be bioometrically-enabled, a la the Nike FuelBand, and enabled with fingerprint authentication. 

It's fun to watch smartwatches out-do each other's tech developments as they come to market. But my real question is, when can I get one on my wrist?  

 

 

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Poppy: Turn Your iPhone into a 3D C...

Posted by Scott Bright

Poppy turns any iPhone into a 3D camera. Capture, view and share 3D video clips and photos, all in one inexpensive device.

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Neuro-Knitting

Posted by Jacqui Adams

Someone hacked a knitting machine so that it knits your brainwaves! 

From the FastCo.Exist article:

NeuroKnitting is an experiment that uses an EEG headset to record how the brain reacts to music. It then translates that data into a pattern that can be realized in yarn via a hacked knitting machine. Each participant listens to a section of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” while wearing a headset which measures relaxation, excitement, and cognitive load. Those features are then turned in a knitting pattern that’s sent to a knitting machine and turned into a scarf.

Okay, pretty rad. But for my scarf, can I listen to some Queen?

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Big Data Saves the World

Posted by Jacqui Adams

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. Traffickers use technology to find, transport, and control their victims. So how might we use technology to stop them?

Organizations that try to prevent human trafficking have been gathering data on the movements of traffickers and their victims for years. But it isn't until now that Big Data processing networks have made it possible for all that scattered information to form a cohesive picture. The findings--that traffickers move predictably according to season and region--make it harder for human trafficking to slip under the radar.

By identifying the patterns of human trafficking, we make it much easier to anticipate it, respond to it, and stop it--for good. 

How else might Big Data do big things?

 

 

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Cool Bike Storage

Posted by Brian Piquette

We need on of these in the office.

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Plant Link by Oso Technologies

Posted by Roy Ruiz

Take a look at this neat product by Oso Technologies.  They've taken gardening to another level by empowering smart gardening.  They use low power sensing and cloud computing to give flowers the ability to "text" their owners when they are feeling thirsty! This project was initially funded by kickstarter and the team have now revolutionized the way we think about gardening.  Huge rave to the Plant Link team!

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KITE POWER!

Posted by Stephen Hess

In this brief talk, Saul Griffith unveils the invention his new company Makani Power has been working on: giant kite turbines that create surprising amounts of clean, renewable energy

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The Great Tesla Battery Swap

Posted by Jacqui Adams

For many reasons, electric cars are awesome in theory, and sucky in reality. On Thursday, Tesla motors will publicly demo a technology that will bring electric cars one step closer to their amazing potential. That technology is called battery swapping.

It's pretty simple: electric cars can currently only go a few hundred miles without a charge. With battery swapping technology, you could drive your electric car that few hundred miles--then just open up the chassis, switch out your dead battery for a new one, and drive on. Like changing the batteries in a flashlight. Except it's your car.

Battery swapping technology has been unsuccessfully attempted before. Let's hope Tesla keeps up the problem-solving until the awesome potential of electric cars displaces the not-so-awesome reality. 

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Synapse Gets a Space Selfie

Posted by Jacqui Adams

Bellevue-based asteroid mining company Planetary Resources is poised to launch the first crowd-funded, publicly-accessible orbiting telescope into space, and Synapse is proud to join the ranks of their supporters.

Planetary Resources wanted to build a publicly-accessible orbiting space telescope called the ARKYD "to make space exploration accessible to everyone". So they launched a Kickstarter project to help them reach their goal.

SInce Synapse loves innovation, our community, and making it happen, we're now a proud backer of the ARKYD Kickstarter project!

We're looking forward to our pledge reward, a totally rad "Space Selfie" that will feature our company image with Earth in the background.

You can check out the ARKYD Kickstarter page HERE. Thanks for being awesome, neighbors! We wish you success!

 

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Nike Expands Its #BeTrue Gay Pride...

Posted by Selena Sullivan

Around this time last year, to commemorate and as an example our society's progress on sexuality, Nike unveiled a limited "Be True" line of gay pride sneakers sold in gay friendly U.S. cities like New York City, San Francisco, and Portland. This year, they're expanding that rainbow-hued line online, and will continue to donate proceeds from the sales to the LGBT Sports Coalition, a non-profit that hopes to end discrimination in all sports, Esquire reports.

The magazine also points out that Jason Collins, the pro NBA baller who recently came out, was recently snapped in a "Be True" T-shirt, which could very well mean that Collins is set to become the Nike "Be True" spokesman. He was already aligned with the company before he came out, and a Nike spokesperson recently confirmed, “Jason is a Nike athlete. We are a company committed to diversity and inclusion.”

And to think, there was a time when players like Collins stayed in the closet to get closer to a major company like Nike.

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The ARKYD Takes Off

Posted by Jacqui Adams

Bellevue-based asteroid mining company Planetary Resources is poised to launch the first crowd-funded, publicly-accessible orbiting telescope into space. The ARKYD, a cute brass cylinder that looks like the lovechild of R2-D2 and C3PO, would capture gorgeous shots of space stuff both within and without our solar system. It would also hunt for mineable asteroids and, if its Kickstarter funding reaches $2M, search for extrasolar planets. 

With 17 days to go, the ARKYD has already garnered $890,000 in Kickstarter funds. Nearly ten percent of that sum was brought in by the ARKYD team's promise that a $25 pledge would buy the backer a "space selfie", an image of the backer beamed to a screen on the ARKYD's hull and photographed with Earth in the background. 

The fact that Planetary Resources is crowdfunding this is almost as awesome as the fact that they're making it happen. Big congrats, neighbors!

 

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Apple Unveils New Pro Desktop

Posted by Mark Giles

Apple has finally pulled the curtain off their new Pro desktop.

Some basic specs:

Up to 12-core Intel Xeon E5 Dual AMD FirePro GPUs PCIe Flash Storage 6 Thunderbolt 2 ports 4 USB 3 ports Supports up to 3 4k displays

Coming later this year!

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My Morning Commute

Posted by Scott Bright

Martine asked me recently, "so... what are you caked-up about lately?" (whatever that means...)  

After thinking about it, I thought I'd share this morning's ride in to the office...

 

 

 

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Designing wearables outside the box

Posted by Jacqui Adams

Wearables are happening, but they don't have to make their users look like Borg. Regina Dugan, SVP for advanced technology and projects at Motorola, showed off some gadgets at D11 last week that went beyond the frame of wearable tech to downright biointegrated: an ingestible user authentication device activated by stomach acids, and a tattoo sensor that actually looks pretty bad-ass.

"Electronics are boxy and rigid," Dugan says, "[but] humans are curvy and soft. That's a mechanical mismatch problem."

Mechanical mismatches notwithstanding, such devices address Tim Cook's concern that wearables such as smartwatches aren't relevant or appealing to a watchless generation. My only question is, when do we get skull guns? 

 

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Wearables are popping up everywhere

Posted by Jacqui Adams

The Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital Conference that wrapped up on Thursday focused on the trends of wearable technology and ubiquitous sensors.

It started on the first night when Apple CEO Tim Cook, who was wearing a Nike+ Fuelband on stage, said that he thinks that wearables “could be a profound area for technology.”

Even Disney and the San Francisco 49ers are big on wearable technology. Tom Staggs who runs Disney’s theme parks, showed off Disney’s MagicBand, a wrist-strap that serves as your admissions ticket, electronic wallet and park ID. You can use it to arrange an experience within the park or — as an option — to let a Disney character automatically know your child’s name.

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Using UI to Gamify Cyberwarfare

Posted by Jacqui Adams

The target computer is picked. The order to strike has been given. All it takes is a finger swipe and a few taps of the touchscreen, and the cyberattack is prepped to begin.

For the last year, the Pentagon’s top technologists have been working on a program that will make cyberwarfare relatively easy. It’s called Plan X. And if this demo looks like a videogame or sci-fi movie or a sleek Silicon Valley production, that’s no accident. It was built by the designers behind some of Apple’s most famous computers — with assistance from the illustrators who helped bring Transformers to the silver screen.

“Say you’re playing World of Warcraft, and you’ve got this type of sword, +5 or whatever. You don’t necessarily know what spells were used to create that sword, right? You just know it has these attributes and it helps you in this way. It’s the same type of concept. You don’t need the technical details,” says Dan Roelker, the cybersecurity specialist who helped develop some of the world’s most widely-used intrusion detection software, came up with the idea for Plan X, and joined Darpa to make it happen.

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More Time Please!

Posted by Jonathan Kling

Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarden!

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Do we need watches to tell us more...

Posted by Mark Giles

Big companies have been trying hard to make the long-awaited smartwatch "revolution" happen, so tick tock, what's taking so long?

Smartwatches are just not very smart when left to their own devices - they need to be connected to a smartphone for full functionality.

While the industry is growing quickly, nearly all still need a smartphone's Bluetooth connection to tell you much more than just telling the time.

Apple's smartwatch is rumoured to exist already... or not exist at all. Or exist sometime soon
What a smartwatch could potentially do, at least to thousands of children in the 80s, was typified by the wristwatch David Hasselhoff's character used in Knight Rider to control his car.

But the industry is still so new there are many different approaches.

"Smartwatches can already be split into three or four categories," says senior analyst Josh Flood, of ABI Research.

"There are notification watches - the really basic ones which just link to the phone, voice-capable smart watches which is a really cool idea and health and fitness smartwatches for heart rate and running."

Others see even greater potential.

"Through NFC [near field communication], could you transfer travel cards to the watch?" says Skooks Pong, vice president of Synapse, a company working with Nike to develop its FuelBand activity tracker/watch hybrid.

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California teen invents device that...

Posted by Mark Giles

Now here’s the invention that we’ve all been waiting for: A device that instantly charges our cell phones.

A gadget like this might soon be on its way thanks to a bright 18-year-old from Saratoga, Calif., who was recently honored at an international science fair.

Eesha Khare is the mind behind a super-powerful and tiny gizmo that packs more energy into a small space, delivers a charge more quickly, and holds that charge longer than the typical battery. Khare showed off her so-called super-capacitor last week at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Ariz. In her demonstration, she showed it powering a light-emitting diode, or LED light, but the itty-bitty device could fit inside cell phone batteries, delivering a full charge in 20-30 seconds. It takes several hours for the average cell phone to fully charge.

Khare also pointed out that the super-capacitor “can last for 10,000 charge cycles compared to batteries which are good for only 1,000 cycles.”

Khare’s invention is flexible and could be used in roll-up devices and might even have applications for car batteries.

The judges at the science fare were wowed by Khare’s brilliant invention and the senior at Lynbrook High School in San Jose received the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award and $50,000.

“With this money I will be able to pay for my college and also work on making scientific advancements,” Khare told a cheering audience after receiving the prize money.

I’m sure her parents are proud and thrilled!

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USA Today Covers RAIL by Viableware

Posted by Mark Giles

SEATTLE – A new touchscreen payment system – designed to frustrate data thieves -- should start appearing in hundreds of restaurants across the nation over the next few months.

The system, called RAIL, introduces a novel way for restaurant patrons to pay for a meal using a proprietary mobile device designed expressly to frustrate data thieves.

"RAIL allows you to self-swipe your card, which is really important for security, and, just as importantly, the system encrypts each transaction so the restaurant never sees or stores your credit card number," says Joe Snell, co-founder and CEO of Viableware, the Seattle start-up that raised $6 million in funding to develop this new technology over the past 2 years.

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Apple And Samsung Are Best Poised F...

Posted by Skooks Pong

Almost every major tech company is making a bet on smartwatches.

We've heard rumors of an Apple iWatch for a while now. We have knowledge of Google working on a smartwatch. Executives at Microsoft's suppliers in Asia told Bloomberg last month that the company asked them to ship displays for touch-enabled watch devices. LG is reportedly working on a smartwatch, and so is Samsung.

But if any company is going to succeed in the market, it sounds like it's going to be Samsung or Apple, or maybe even both.

"Samsung and Apple are traditional hardware companies and have spent nearly the last decade combining powerful technologies into the smartphone," Skooks Pong, VP of technology at Synapse, tells Business Insider.

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The Future of Wearable Technology

Posted by Skooks Pong

With companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung all reportedly working on smartwatches and other wearable technologies, some people have said that it marks the end of the smartphone.

But smartphones are going to be around for quite a while, Synapse VP of Technology Skooks Pong tells Business Insider.

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Global Health Ambassador, Cookie Mo...

Posted by Scott Bright

Cookie Monster's Interview with Impatient Optimists (The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Blog) about his new gig with Sesame Workshop promoting health and sanitation in Bangladesh, India, and Nigeria.

"Me cookie eating reputation precedes me. Of course me have ritual! First me wash hands. This part very important because it help keep me healthy. Me not sure exactly how long me wash, but me sing the ABCs slowly and when me get to Z, it time to rinse and then look out, om nom nom nom nom. Me also like to share me cookies with Elmo and Big Bird. Little known secret, a birdseed cookie is delicious."

 

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"Crystal" Lego Chandelier

Posted by Kirstin Moline

For all those nerds out there who still love to play with Legos: Tobias Tøstesen's amazing floor to ceiling chandelier made from 8,000 clear Lego window pieces is a stunning feat. 

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3D-Printed LED Speakers

Posted by Mark Giles

The speakers are one-of-a-kind, 3-D printed on an Objet Connex 500 at Autodesk and endowed with an audioreactive LED system by LumiGeek, a new company that makes Arduino-compatible microcontrollers for an LED development kit. Built by LumiGeek founder John “Parts” Taylor and Autodesk applied innovation engineer Evan Atherton, the speakers are both a drool-worthy experiment and an example of what 3-D printing can do now.

With about $2,200 worth of 3-D printed material, the cost is nearly prohibitive. Made possible by the ultra-high-end Connex, which can print two different materials in seamless integration — and thus a nearly continuous spectrum of materials by mixing the two — the speaker housings incorporate a web of flexible black material with hard translucent plastic interspersed on the grid. The result is two cantaloupe-sized hollow balls that look a little like futuristic blooming onions, and sound pretty darn good too.

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Skooks & Ziv in EEWeb

Posted by Mark Giles

Skooks Pong, Senior VP of Technology, stole the cover of EEWeb's Pulse Magazine. Inside is an insightful interview and article detailing Synapse's skill and work ethic. Also featured in this issue is Ziv Magoz, Electrical Engineer, explaining our partnership with Viableware, and the product we developed for them: Rail.

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"Smell-o-Vision"

Posted by Kirstin Moline

A team from the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology created a "smelling screen" with a display capable of producing localized smells. 

-Darren Quick, Gizmag

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Bicycle You Assemble From Big Sheet...

Posted by Carrie Krueger

Anybody who's ever built a model airplane will likely get a nerd thrill from this unique bike from The Netherlands, which comes as a bunch of prefabricated parts attached together in punch-out sheets.

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FIRST Robotics Competition

Posted by Mark Giles

FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) is a unique varsity sport of the mind designed to help high-school-aged young people discover how interesting and rewarding the life of engineers and researchers can be.

The FIRST Robotics Competition challenges teams of young people and their mentors to solve a common problem in a six-week timeframe using a standard "kit of parts" and a common set of rules. Teams build robots from the parts and enter them in competitions designed by Dean Kamen, Dr. Woodie Flowers, and a committee of engineers and other professionals.

FIRST redefines winning for these students because they are rewarded for excellence in design, demonstrated team spirit, gracious professionalism and maturity, and the ability to overcome obstacles. Scoring the most points is a secondary goal. Winning means building partnerships that last.

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Ziv's E-Bike

Posted by Ziv Magoz

After deciding to go green, I ordered a kit from China to convert my Trek 950 MTB into an eBike. After unboxing, and 30 minutes or so, I had something that runs the eBike at good standards, but not up to Ziv's standards! :-) It had 6 problems: 1. The sensor equipped brake levers are weak. 2. The throttle hurt my wrist on long rides. 3. The battery is too heavy. 4. The charger is too slow. 5. The whole thing is wobbly. 6. The range is only 10 to 15 miles. To solve the wrist pain and weak brakes, I installed a "Pedal-tech"--a sensor that delivers power to the motor according to how fast you pedal. That solved problem # 2, (throttle), and allowed me to put back the original brake levers that which fixes problem # 1, (weak brakes).

In order to fix problem # 5, (wobbly), I moved the controller outside the battery bag pocket and secured it to the luggage rack. I also used two bungee cords to secure the battery case to the rack. Now The major problems left: Problems 6 and 4, (range and weight), can be solved with more advanced battery, i.e. Lithium Ion battery. So I ordered 10 cells from China to test the concept. These batteries give an impressive 42.2V which can take the bike over 30 MPH (I limit the speed electronically to 20 MPH to save battery though). The first test worked well, so I ordered 80 more cells, totaling 90.

Next, the battery enclosure. I decided to go with fiberglass because it’s lightweight and strong. I built the mold for the battery box from cardboard and tape, then covered the mold with two layers of resin and fiberglass cloth. I also made a small mold for the charging port and ignition switch circuitry, then put it inside the box and added more resin and fiberglass cloth. Next I made a little groove at the bottom to fit the bike down pipe and added an aluminum frame to attach it with the fiberglass mat. Then added a layer of Bondo and painted it blue.

In the mean time, the rest of the batteries came from China. Each cell is 3.7V and 3000mAH. When I put 9 cells in parallel to create the basic cell and 10 of those in serial I got 37V battery with 27 AH capacity!.. But like most cheap stuff from China, I knew the cells would not be 3000mAH, but 1500mAH at most, so I'd get about 13 AH of battery, which should hold for 25 to 30 miles. After assembling the basic cell with hot glue, I equalized each cell separately, and then equalized the whole battery over night. There are only 8 cells in each battery cell because some of the cells came dead from China.

I connected the cells to the BMS board, and made sure nothing would explode when chargeing it in less than 3 hours. Bolt it to the bike, and "voila" problem 3 (battery is too heavy), and problem 6 (short range), are solved. Then, in order to increase range and convenience, I added two buttons underneath the handlebar: The button on the right will take the bike 16 - 17 MPH--and with moderate pedaling it will go 19 to 20 MPH; the button on the left is full throttle for those hot days.. :-)

Next was problem # 4 (slow charger). As always, I used an old computer power supply, and removed the power transformer. Added some more copper wires for a quick and dirty solution. But as with every quick and dirty solution it didn’t work well, and at around 40W it would cut off. So I went with the more aggressive approach of reverse engineering the power supply controller. Then I removed the old controller and stripped down all the unnecessary components, and also rewired the power transformer again for a single 42V output. But power supplies need a controller, so I designed a simple controller to tell the power supply to act as a 23 to 42V, 4A smart charger built at zero cost from old parts I had in my electronics box. Connected it to the power supply and loaded it with 30W--checked the voltage: 42V!! Wrapped it up, and tested it with no load: 42.2V--perfect! Then I took it to the garage for real world testing 3.92A! That’s 160W--quite an improvement from the old 27W charger that came with the kit. Put on a grommet and proper cable, then tested it with the battery: It takes 3 hours to charge a complete dead battery!

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Hardware's Indie Market

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Skooks Pong

 

In a recent Fast Company article, writer Kevin Purdy described his experience of owning a Pebble smartwatch; a device he says was “all it promised to be.”

And then, after one week of wearing it, his Pebble watch stopped working.

When he consulted the Pebble support forums, he saw a long list of complaints about delays and other bugs. Rather than getting angry at having invested in an imperfect product, he felt sympathy for the tiny Pebble team. Here was a young company “trying to sell a disruptive piece of near-future tech in an early-stage form, to customers who want both a revolution and a reliable product.”

Functionality flaws and design imperfections were almost inevitable considering the limited resources that would have been devoted to engineering and preparing Pebble for production. Despite increased access to production resources, hardware is still a tough market. What’s most intriguing is Purdy’s passive reaction to having spent money on something that broke after a week. It’s hard to imagine anyone letting Apple off so easily.

The world of commerce has no shortage of David vs. Goliath stories—craft brewers vs. Anheuser-Busch, organic co-ops vs. Whole Foods, independent bookstores vs. Amazon. Regardless of the industry, there is always a customer base willing to forgive inefficiencies and put up with moderate dissatisfaction simply because they believe in the product and admire the company for trying to establishing itself in a market towering with giants. The things people buy speak volumes about who they are and what their values are. In other words, as soon as someone figures out a way to enter a market with an alternative from the mainstream, there is a customer base eager to get its hands on something new, something different.

However, alternatives from the mainstream are not always an option for consumers. Consider the barriers a boutique automobile manufacturer would face in today’s market. And what about the airline industry? When someone as powerful as Richard Branson struggles to put more Virgin planes in the sky, you know that’s a tough market.

When it comes to hardware, Apple was—and mostly still is—the alternative, regardless of its size and profitability. Thanks to its marketing machine, most consumers don’t feel like they are buying a commodity, instead they are buying a work of passion. It can make you feel like you’re part of something important. This same sentiment is rooted in Purdy’s feelings toward Pebble. “I felt like part of a small, clever team,” he says.

Crowdfunding, if done right, has the potential to create a thriving market for indie hardware. Customers will take pride in wearing beta-versions, putting up with all of their flaws and bugs, just because they feel like their part of something unique. You might be the only person you know wearing a Pebble watch, but then you see somebody at a bar or on the bus wearing one and feel cool, knowing someone else in the world has the same values as you.

This could pose challenges to a company like Apple and their marketing deptartment at some point. But Apple never had any illusions about not being a huge, market-dominating company, which, in turn, poses a bigger challenge to younger hardware companies like Pebble. When the scrappy smallness of your company factors heavily into inspiring brand loyalty, how do you grow and compete without losing sight of what made people fall in love with your products in the first place?

What Purdy’s article points to is a sympathetic consumerism that is unique to burgeoning indie markets. Ultimately, there is enough room in the market for both cutting edge indie hardware and masterfully produced consumer devices. “The good news for Pebble,” says Purdy, “Is that it has shown that there’s a real market for a decidedly minimal black-and-white, uni-tasking watch, and it will have time to work out its issues and update before an iWatch or S-Watch arrives.”

Regardless of the size of the company, it’s all about end-user. In the indie marketplace, this is something that companies easily lose sight of in light of the countless other obstacles they face. Pebble has a great opportunity to set a standard and do what all-great companies do—keep customers happy and engaged.

As for me, I just placed an order for a Pebble watch over the weekend. I’m eager to check it out and see what the experience is like. Of course, there have been plenty of complaints of long wait-times, but Pebble says my watch “will ship in April-May 2013”. I’ll definitely share my thoughts on the device when it arrives.

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Dinner Dialogues: EP. 2 Part 4

Posted by Mark Giles

“Disruptive innovation” is more than a catchphrase. It is the oncoming force that will shake up the status quo. With more connectivity, power and information than ever before, how will we adapt to change and where should we be looking? Listen in to technology insiders as they discuss the how technology is shifting the social and economic paradigms across the globe.

Guests Include: Shauna Causey, Stefan Weitz, Chris Pirillo, Skooks Pong, and Bill Baxter.

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SXSW Interactive: What's Next

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Aren Kaser

A little over a week ago I returned from SXSW, the massive interactive, film, and music festival that the city of Austin graciously tolerates every year. The Interactive portion—Synapse’s motivation for attending—was an amazing five days of conference sessions, keynotes, technology porn, parties, and advertising and marketing overload.  Through all of this, there emerged some very interesting trends that are sure to be keynote topics at next year’s festival.

Hardware, hardware, hardware 

Much has already been written about the democratization of hardware development via 3D printing and its role in allowing greater access to prototyping and iteration.

However, despite this increased accessibility to development-tools, successful hardware devices cannot be made in a vacuum or quickly prototyped and shipped off to production. Building on the renewed interest in hardware, the stage is now set to discuss how to bring innovators, inventors, designers, developers, and engineers together to bring full technology product ecosystems from idea to reality. SXSW Interactive can be the forum where the whole user-experience conversation includes how to leverage multiple like-minded partners and focus on a singular outcome to create breakthrough devices.

Self-Tracking

The impact of self-tracking technology on healthcare or “Health 3.0” will be massive, especially when devices can either be small enough to be unobtrusive or allow for greater comfort it can be incorporated into your clothing in a subtle way that doesn’t make you look like Tron when you wear it.

Some of the best healthcare-ish concepts and devices discussed at SXSW included:

Clothing with built in sensors, allowing for continuous breast cancer screening or loss of cell and tissue function. Public health tracking like the Asthmapolis asthma GPS device, as well as behavior mapping through location data, and video games for the elderly that help with focus and brain stimulation. Location biometrics

Probably the most interesting part of the growing culture of self-tracking is the amount of data on individuals that could be leveraged by governments, businesses, hospitals, employers, and theme parks to weave together a behavioral picture of a person, family, or group of like-minded customers.

Devices like smart phones send out location data every time they search for a signal. This information doesn’t just tell others where we go and what we do, it can also be used to identify us since our location and pattern is as unique or more so than our fingerprints, irises, or DNA. The same thing cannot be in two places at the same time, therefore location allows for accurate and reliable data. All of this data stays constant overtime and will lead to a collective intelligence, which will identify what we need to know before we ask by determining where we are located and telling us what to do next.

Experience driven design

Returning to the topic of hardware, this year’s SXSW included many discussions around user experience in the design of devices as well as software. Successful experience design and engineering relies on iteration instead of relying on a "recipe." Hardware and software engineers and developers will be pushed to better collaborate on projects that first define an experience and then design a system through feeling and action.

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Bezos Expeditions Recovers Apollo-1...

Posted by Scott Bright

Wow!  Congratulaitons to Bezos Expeditions!

March 28, 2012
"I'm excited to report that, using state-of-the-art deep sea sonar, the team has found the Apollo 11 engines lying 14,000 feet below the surface, and we're making plans to attempt to raise one or more of them from the ocean floor."

March 20, 2013
"We’re bringing home enough major components to fashion displays of two flown F-1 engines. The upcoming restoration will stabilize the hardware and prevent further corrosion. We want the hardware to tell its true story, including its 5,000 mile per hour re-entry and subsequent impact with the ocean surface. We’re excited to get this hardware on display where just maybe it will inspire something amazing."

 

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Levitating Computer Mouse

Posted by Mark Giles

KIBARDIN presents a new product: levitating wireless computer mouse. The Bat is a set that consists of a base - mouse pad and floating mouse with magnet ring. One of the goals of this product is to prevent and treat the contemporary disease Carpal tunnel syndrome (Median nerve dysfunction / entrapment). Мany active computer users can be prone to this ailment. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which there is pressure on the median nerve - the nerve in the wrist that supplies feeling and movement to parts of the hand. It can lead to numbness, tingling, weakness, or muscle damage in the hand and fingers.

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Pledge Your NikeFuel for March Madn...

Posted by Mark Giles

INTENSITY #COUNTS
Use your Nike+ products to turn your NikeFuel into a pledge of team pride.

Pledge here: http://www.nike.com/us/en_us/c/basketball/fuel-your-team

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Next Generation Gesture Control

Posted by Jon Manning

An amazing new technology that allows you to control numerous electronic devices with the signals used to control the muscles in your arm!

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Palm-Reading Pay System

Posted by Mark Giles

Italian bank UniCredit formally unveiled a new palm reader-based commercial payments system this week. The palm reading POS system, called Papillon, was displayed to the public at the CeBit 2013 conference and is based on Fujitsu's PalmSecure technology. UniCredit has been testing Papillon since December 2012 in branches of the Italian Kiko makeup chain.

Papillon replaces conventional credit/debit card readers at the point of sale; instead of swiping a card, customers place their palm on a biometric reader for several seconds. UniCredit is also marketing the product as a mobile payment solution for non-brick and mortar retailers. Brazil's Banco Bradesco unveiled biometric ATMs last year as well.

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First Nike FuelBand Prototype

Posted by Mark Giles

In 2010, when Nike first began developing the FuelBand, a small, secret team of thirteen would run around the company’s campus testing early prototypes. "We actually created fabric covers that we could just pull over them," recalls Stefan Olander, Nike’s VP of digital sport, with a smile. "No one lost [them] at any bars either, so that was a good thing."

Olander’s team had been working on a number of related ideas for months, but it’d be years before the product would actually hit the market. Back in 2010, the FuelBand, the electronic wristband that enables users to track their activity, was far from the sleek, elegant product it is today. Then, as Olander relates to me in his office, it was nothing more than a colorful Velcro bracelet, inspired by the sweatbands athletes often wear on the field or court. "In 50 years, no one had done anything with the sweatband--with that real estate of the wrist," Olander says. "There must be something there."

Indeed, the release of the FuelBand is the culmination of Nike’s transformation into a digital powerhouse. "Nike has broken out of apparel and into tech, data, and services, which is so hard for any company to do," says Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps. During my reporting for Fast Company's recent profile of Nike, which we just named the world’s Most Innovative Company, I learned the true story of the FuelBand’s creation. It’s a complicated tale, involving a number of players and partner companies. But the origins of the FuelBand--and some of its most memorable features--can be traced back to the first prototype Olander and his team showed CEO Mark Parker in 2010. Rarely do we gain access to such a specific, creative moment in corporate history.

In the course of my reporting, I saw a number of early FuelBand prototypes, from concepts designed for the leg or upper arm to ones with e-ink displays that resembled an Amazon Kindle screen. There were hundreds of prototypes imagined throughout the process, but two early and very basic mock-ups foreshadowed where the product was heading: one, which Olander showed me in his office, was a white leathery Velcro bracelet marked with green calculator-like numbers; the other, pictured above, is a black and bright green band that shows the product’s emphasis on stark color contrast.

"We had been talking for years about the wrist and the power of performance color--it’s actually a thing that Mark had been talking about for a long time," Olander recalls. "We thought, 'Wouldn’t it be cool if we could just go red to green?' This was like the first meeting we had with Mark, so we had these [prototypes] whipped up. We just went down to the lab, and we did some designs. We had them in red, yellow, and green, and we put them on under our shirts."

Then came their first pitch to Parker. "We pulled up [our sleeves] and revealed this," Olander says.

Parker’s reaction? He instantly saw it as a "smart" version of the already popular Livestrong bracelet. "The comparison I used was to that yellow band, which is incredibly simple. It’s about as simple as you can get," Parker recalls. "It’s essentially shaped like the FuelBand. I liked the simplicity: [It was] minimal, clean, intuitive as possible."

Adds Olander, "Mark is so consumer-driven that instinctively he said, 'Go do this now.' His first question was, 'How fast can you build this?'"

As we explained in our profile of Nike, the tale is a bit simplified if not straight up romanticized. But it was one of the first moments in the FuelBand’s development process, long before even the concept of NikeFuel was fully realized. (Back then, Nike was considering calling it "Nike Power," "Game Fuel," or "Power Fuel," according to Olander.) And just because Parker might’ve then approved a Velcro product, it was a long way from being built. "The head of engineering said, 'First of all, there are no color displays that are flexible; second, you would have to run around with a backpack with a car battery,'" Olander recalls. "When we sat down with our engineers and industrial designers, they gasped."

It was a start though. And the exploration of the concept led to 12 prototypes, which were culled down to roughly half that number before Nike got its outside partners involved, which included industrial design firm Astro Studios, interactive agency R/GA, and engineering companies Synapse and Whipsaw.

So when a three-person Nike team first flew to San Francisco, the basic idea of the FuelBand--especially its all-important color scheme--was more or less realized, though still very bare bones.

As Astro design EVP Kyle Swen recalls, "They had this concept of a tennis sweatband with an electronic watch--a real crude prototype." Not that his team or the other partners involved had it any easier trying to evolve the product. "Certainly when the engineers saw this, they were like, 'No fucking way,'" Swen says.

Says Olander, "It’s been so amazing to see this path of a crazy vision just resonating from this simplest idea."

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Hindenburg Mystery Solved 76 Years...

Posted by Mark Giles

The mystery of the Hindenburg disaster has finally been solved 76 years after the in-flight exposition occurred.

The cause of the May 6, 1937, incident that killed 35 of the 100 passengers and crew members on board was static electricity, says a team of experts who have been looking into the real trigger.

They say that after the ship flew into a thunderstorm a build up of hydrogen led to the explosion.

The iconic airship had reportedly become charged with static as a result of the electrical storm and broken wire or a sticking gas valve leaked the hydrogen into the ventilation shafts.

When ground crew members ran to take the landing ropes they effectively "earthed" the airship causing a spark.

The fire is believed to have started on the tail of the airship, igniting the leaking hydrogen.

Jem Stansfield, a British aeronautical engineer, and his team of researchers based at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, blew up and set fire to scale models of blimps more than 24m long to prove the real cause.

In a documentary that will be broadcast on Channel 4 in Britain on Thursday, Stanfield and other experts explain the sequence of events that triggered the explosion.

The researchers say their reason for conducting the experiments was to rule out theories ranging from a bomb planted by a terrorist to explosive properties in the paint used to coat the Hindenburg, the Independent reports.

The 245m German airship was preparing to land at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in Manchester Township, New Jersey, when it caught fire and quickly became engulfed in flames in front horrified onlookers.

Investigations conducted after the disaster deemed that a sudden spark had ignited leaking hydrogen gas in the airship.

However, investigators could not come to an agreement on what caused the spark, or the leaking gas.

Conspiracy theories began to spread that the Hindenburg had been wiped out by a bomb or that someone had shot down the airship from below.

Stansfield and his team were able to dispel those rumors after they recreated different scenarios with mini-replicas, studied archive footage of the disaster and collected eyewitness accounts.

‘I think you had massive distribution of hydrogen throughout the aft half of the ship; you had an ignition source pull down into the ship, and that whole back portion of the ship went up almost at once,’ said airship historian Dan Grossman.

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Skooks on GeekWire Podcast

Posted by Mark Giles

This week on the GeekWire radio show, we wrap ourselves in the world of wearable computing, talking about the current state of the art and where we’re headed from here.

Our guest in the studio is Skooks Pong, senior vice president of technology at Synapse, a product development and engineering firm in Seattle that has worked on wearable computing projects including the Nike FuelBand.

We also talk about the rumored Apple iWatch, and the privacy implications of having all these sensors in our lives, as highlighted recently by the 5 Point bar’s decision to ban Google Glasses even before they’re widely available to the public.

See this recent post by Pong on the topic of wearable computing. He writes, “The hardware resurgence, combined with an unprecedented interest in quantified self data, makes the market ripe for wearables. We now have the hardware and software technology to produce high-quality wearables that present our data in a convenient, easily digestible format, and this technology will continue to advance.”

For more background on wearable computing, see this recent post by our colleague Taylor Soper, featuring Artefact wearable technology designer Jennifer Darmour.

The wearable computing conversation starts in the second segment, at the 8:00 mark in the audio player above. We kick off the show with our weekly news roundup, including a discussion of Google’s expansion in the Seattle region, the discontinuation of Google Reader, and the debut of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and its advanced eye-tracking features.

Here are details on the Comcast Xfinity Watchathon, which we discuss in the third segment.

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Oreo Separating Machine Removes The...

Posted by Brent Bones

If you’re going to do something, do it right. This machine uses a CNC router bed, and Arduino RBBB, servo-powered grippers and a Dremel tool to completely decimate the cream of the Oreos cookie.

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Dinner Dialogues: EP. 2 Part 3

Posted by Mark Giles

Technology connects us to each other and attaches us to devices. What is the most important part of that relationship? Is it about power, access or something else that’s intangible? Listen in on the conversation of technology insiders as they discuss the dynamics of our bonds with technology.

Guests Include: Shauna Causey, Stefan Weitz, Chris Pirillo, Skooks Pong, and Bill Baxter.

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