African City Replaces Traffic Lights with Intimidating Robots

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The intersection of Boulevard Triomphal and Huileries Avenue in Kinshasa, Congo, has two new additions – robot traffic policemen. These large robocops have replaced human police officers and traffic lights, and, believe it or not, they’re actually doing a great job.

At first glance, the robocops don’t look like much. They appear to be rudimentary tin boxes with attached tin hands. I’d say they have a scarecrow-like effect. But commuters have responded surprisingly well to the latest technology.

Demouto Motumbo, a resident of Kinshasa, said: “As a motorcyclist I’m very happy with the robot’s work. Because when traffic police control the cars here there’s still a lot of traffic. But since the robot arrived, we see truly that the commuters are respectful.”

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The European Space Agency Has a Sound System So Powerful It Can Kill You

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For those of you who like your music loud, here’s a fun fact: sound can kill! Only if it’s greater than 135 decibels, that is. You’re not likely to get such high-power sound waves on your iPod, but there does exist a sound system that could kill you – the European Space Agency’s monster sound horn.

The horn is the most powerful of its kind in Europe. When turned to maximum volume, there’s absolutely no chance of survival. It is a part of ESA’s Large European Acoustic Facility (LEAF), a test chamber used to perform acoustic noise tests on spacecrafts to make sure no damage occurs during rocket launches.

The sound test chamber is 16.4 m tall, 11 m wide and 9 m deep; one of its walls houses the massive horn. When nitrogen is shot through the horn, it can produce incredibly powerful sound – over 154 decibels. The effect is something like standing close to multiple jets taking off at once – enough to permanently deafen a human.

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Thai Tech Company Turns Motorcycle Wheels into Cool LED Screens

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‘Wheelies’ are the latest accessories for motorcycles, developed by World Moto, a Bangkok-based tech company. Their invention allows bikers to convert a bike’s front wheels into full color LED screens – displaying mobile billboards, videos, animation or text of their choice. What’s great about Wheelies is that the display is stationary even when the wheels are in motion.

According to Paul Giles, CEO of World Moto, “The technology has the potential to turn essentially any wheel in the world into a brilliant, full-color billboard or video screen.” He said that the idea could appeal to motorcyclists who want to put a face on their wheels. “It gives their bike a face, sort of like an avatar.”

The ad for the product is amusing – it shows a gang of ‘hot’ girls choosing a geek on a motorcycle with Wheelies, over a cool biker dude. Wheelies are fun and quirky, and can show 30 seconds of video on a loop, managed by a web application. But they’re still in development stage. World Moto hopes to evolve the product to be able to stream video and play full length movies. Very practical. Not.

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High-Tech Sweater Displays Wearer’s Emotions via Integrated LED Lights

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If you’ve always struggled to express your emotions, then you should seriously consider getting the Mood Sweater to do it for you. Sensoree, a San Francisco-based company, has created a new line of high-tech sweaters that display the wearer’s moods.

Along with the sweater, you need to wear a sensor on your hand. Information about your emotions are transmitted to the collar, embedded with LED lights that glow in a variety of colors. The wide turtleneck is white when unused, but glows in various colors, according to the wearer’s mood, when worn.

The emotive display is color coded: green for tranquil, Zen; blue for calm, relaxed; purple for ruffled, aroused or excited; red for nervous, in love; yellow for nirvana, ecstatic, blissful. The technology in the sweater is similar to that used in some lie detectors – it gathers information from the wearer’s sweat glands.

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Israeli Restaurant Offers 50% Discount to Patrons Who Turn Off Their Phones

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Restaurant owner Jawdat Ibrahim is making his patrons an offer they cannot refuse – switch off your mobile, reduce your bill by half.

Ibrahim thinks smartphones have completely destroyed the dining experience. “Technology is very good. But just when you eat, just especially when you are with your family and your friends, you can wait for half-an-hour and enjoy the food and the company,” he says. “A lot of people, they sit down and they don’t enjoy their food.”

I must admit he does have a point there. These days, almost everyone looks more at their phones than the people beside them. Ibrahim is dismayed when he sees married couples or friends sitting in silence, staring at their screens and finally asking for their food to be reheated.

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240-Year-Old Writer Automaton is the Ancestor of Today’s Computers

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“The Writer” is a clockwork automaton created in the 1770s by the Swiss-born famous watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz. The mechanism, designed to write words and sentences of up to 40 characters, still works perfectly after almost 240 years, baffling everyone with its complexity. The very concept of a machine that could mechanically reproduce the human act of writing was well ahead of its time. Moreover, it must have taken a lot of time, patience and resourcefulness not only to put the idea into practice and build the mechanism, but also to give the machine the look of a boy.

The Writer uses cam technology: as the cams move, the cam followers interpret their trajectory and move the boy’s arm accordingly. The cams play an important part in the mechanism because they control not just the strokes of the pen, but also its pressure on the paper. Indeed, as Professor Simon Schaffer states in BBC Four’s documentary “Mechanical Marvels: Clockwork Dreams”, The Writer is “one of the most remarkable realizations of cam technology”. Another fascinating detail regarding the mechanism of the automaton is that it can write any word (and, therefore, any sentence) and follow the text with its eyes. What makes this possible is the fact that the wheel controlling the cams is composed of signs and letters that can easily be re-arranged in any order to form various combinations. Actually, the fact that it is “programmable” makes The Writer the ancestor of modern computers.

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The Danbocchi – A $600 Cardboard Box for People Who Value Their Privacy

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You know those moments when you’re surrounded by a sea of people and all you can think about is being alone in a tiny room? Ok, maybe that’s just me, but he point is now you can isolate yourself from the world pretty much anywhere and anytime, thanks to the Danbocchi. This ordinary-looking cardboard box is is soundproofed up to 30 decibels, so as long as you do it in a low voice, you can talk to yourself, scream, or sing without worrying about people hearing you.

The Danbocchi might seem like the perfect accessory for hikikomori, Japan’s reclusive youth, but in fact, it was designed for ordinary people who want to sing karaoke or play video games at high volume without disturbing their neighbors. If you live in an apartment with really thin walls, you probably know how annoying loud neighbors are, particularly at night, but thanks to the Danbocchi sound-dampening box, noise is no longer a problem. Just step inside, close the door, and be as loud as you can. According to the Danbocchi official site, if someone is singing karaoke at 90 decibels inside the box, it only sounds like 60 decibels to people outside of it, which is about a normal speaking volume.

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The Final Countdown – Creepy Death Watch Counts Down to Your Death

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If you’re 30 and still living with your mom, unmotivated to go out and get a job or a girlfriend, here’s a quirky but effective way to encourage you to go out and live your life while you still can – The Tikker, or “death watch” counts down how much time you have left until you kick the bucket. Remember the website that did the exact same thing? Well, this is the 2.0 portable version.

Calling it “The Happiness Watch”, its inventor Fredrik Colting explains that he wanted to find a way to determine people “to cherish the time and the life that we have been given, to honor it, suck the marrow from it, seize the day and follow our hearts. And the best way to do this is to realize that seconds, days and years are passing never to come again.” Here’s how the watch works. To set up the Tikker, you first need to fill out a questionnaire with information about your medical history, weight, lifestyle details such as if you drink or smoke and how often you exercise. You are also asked to give information about any diseases that may run in your family. All these are factored in and you are given a score representing your entire lifespan including the years you have already lived. After your current age is deducted from this score, the countdown begins.

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Software Developer Teaches Homeless Man How to Code and Build an App

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One day, Patrick McConlogue announced that he was going to teach a homeless man JavaScript and help him code his own app. Patrick, a 23-year-old software programmer, passed a certain homeless man every day while on his way to work and decided to run the idea by him to see if he was going to be the one.

“The idea is simple,” Patrick wrote on his website. Without disrespecting him, I will offer two options:

1. I will come back tomorrow and give you $100 in cash.

2. I will come back tomorrow and give you three JavaScript books, (beginner-advanced-expert) and a super cheap basic laptop. I will then come an hour early from work each day-when he feels prepared-and teach him to code.”

Sure enough, the ambitious homeless man, named Leo,  decided he wanted to learn how to code,  thinking that the money could be easily spent in a week while the knowledge would be a great asset to him in the future. “He told me I could have a laptop and learn how to do something and I figured it could turn into something more,” Leo said. “It’s not like I don’t have the time to learn to do it.” Leo has been homeless for two years after he lost his job as a life insurance agent and came home only to find out that his rent went up as a consequence of luxury condominiums being built near his apartment. Despite his bad luck, Leo cared to mention that he was not unhappy or desperate when Patrick offered to teach him. Even though he believed “coding was something that went over like, a dessert” most likely thinking it meant “coating”, the man wanted to diversify his abilities so that he could once more be able to sustain himself financially.

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The Pavlov Poke – A Shocking Way to Cure Facebook Addiction

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Frustrated by the amount of time they spent on Facebook during workdays, two MIT doctoral candidates have created the Pavlov Poke, a keyboard palm rest that sends electric shocks whenever the user spends too much time on “email, social networking, or other online distractions”.

Robert R. Morris and Dan McDuff are both Ph.D. candidates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but like millions of other internet users out there, they are also social media addicts. After estimating they waste a combined 50 hours a week on Facebook, the two decided to take a new approach to fighting social media addiction by using electroshock therapy to keep users from wasting most of their days on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Named after the well-known Russian psychologist who performed behavioral experiments on dogs, the Pavlov Poke is a keyboard accessory programmed to send electrical shocks into users whenever they spend too much time scrolling through their Facebook news feed or browsing on distracting websites. The shocks are strong enough to make you react, but while they are unpleasant they are not dangerous.

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ECO-Cycle – Tokyo’s Amazing Underground Bicycle Storage System

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Tokyo is such a crowded place that even finding a place to park your bicycle can be a daunting task. But leave it to the Japanese to find a genius solution to this growing space problem. The ECO-Cycle Park is an automated bicycle storage system buried 11 meters under the city streets that can hold up to 200 bikes.

Although Japan is one of the world’s leading car manufacturers and its public transportation system is probably the most advanced on the planet, the bicycle is still a very popular means of getting around in the busy traffic. Unfortunately parking spaces are at a premium, and owners are often forced to leave them on the sidewalk where they become obstacles for pedestrians. To solve this problem, Japanese company Giken Seisakusho, which specializes in tidal and flood protection systems, created ECO-Cycle, a series of five underground storage bicycle storage facilities where owners can safely “park” their bikes in just 8 seconds. The buried cylindrical structures are only seven meters wide, but deep enough to safely store up to 200 two-wheel vehicles each.

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The Fake TV – A Simple and Ingenious Burglar Deterrent

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According to statistics, most break-ins take place in unoccupied houses. The Fake TV, a simple device that uses LED lights to give the impression someone is watching television inside promises to keep burglars away.

Leaving the TV on to make it look like someone is at home when you step out for the evening is a simple and effective way of tricking burglars, but what happens when you’re away for a long period of time or if the power runs out while you’re away? Blaine C. Readler, an engineer and award-winning novelist from Rancho Bernardo, California, has created a simple and effective device that mimics the alternating colors and vibrancy common in television shows, news programs and commercials, and runs on a timer programmed to turn on at dusk and run for four or seven hours. “I was stepping out for dinner and as my routine, was leaving the TV on to indicate somebody was home,” Readler told Pomerado News. “I turned to see if there was a visible signal flickering on the blinds and it came to me that you do not see the TV, just the light shining on the blinds.” He started experimenting with LEDs and watching hundreds of hours of television programs to see if he could replicate the images without a steady blink or flicker. After a long trial and error period, he manged to get the Fake TV to render scene changes, camera fade effects and the natural dynamic effects of television programming.

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Get Served by a Robot Bartender at Germany’s Robots Bar & Lounge

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Some bars use intriguing names just to attract clients, but the Robots Bar & Lounge in Ilmenau, Germany really lives up to its name. This unique venue not only has a technology-inspired decor, but also a humanoid robot bartender that mixes drinks and makes small talk with patrons.

The Robots Bar & Lounge just opened late last month, but it’s already hugely popular in the town of Ilmenau thanks to Carl, an unusual bartender who fits right in the techie atmosphere of the place. Carl is a humanoid robot built by mechatronics engineer Ben Schaefer out of parts from disused industrial robots. Schaefer says that although progress has been made in the field of robotics artificial intelligence is still in its infancy, but by placing a robot in an environment where it can observe and interact with real humans it’s much easier to test the programming and make necessary improvements than it would be in a closed laboratory. Apart from evolution, Carl’s secondary goal is to bring humans and robots closer together, and prove that “scenes from science-fiction movies are quite possible”. So far, the likable bartender is doing a great job, entertaining clients with his drink-mixing skills and the occasional small-talk. Unfortunately, his speech recognition skills and ability to interact are very limited at the moment, but like all bartenders he is a very good listener. To make sure he doesn’t bump into things and spill the drinks on his clients, Scahefer equipped Carl with a belt of sensors.

 

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Venezuelan Man Builds His Own Prosthetic Arm

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Angel Sanguino, an electronics technician from Caracas, Venezuela, who last year lost his left arm in a motorcycle accident, has recently been awarded a Prize for Science, Technology and Innovation, after he manged to build an ingenious robotic arm that allows him to perform a series of useful tasks.

33-year-old Angel Sanguino was riding his motorcycle when he was hit by a speeding car engaged in illegal street racing. He was taken to the emergency room, and doctors were forced to amputate his left arm from the shoulder. It was a devastating blow for the talented electronics technician who worked for a prestigious computer part manufacturer, as he could no longer do his job with just one arm. The orthopedist told Angel he should accept his disability and move on with his life, but he had other plans. While in intensive care recovering from the surgery, severe internal organ damage and fractured legs, Sanguino learned he was going to become a father soon, and that gave him the strength to fight for his life and make sure he was able to provide for his family. Three months after his accident, the young Venezuelan used his experience as a cartoonist to design a prosthetic arm that would allow him to repair electronic components just like before.

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Swedes Create Machine That Turns Sweat into Drinking Water

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To highlight the seriousness of potable water shortage in some parts of Africa and Asia a group of tech-savvy Swedes have created a machine that turns perspiration into drinking water. Aptly named the “Sweat Machine” was inspired by technology used by NASA to recycle everything from human sweat to urine.

Developed by a team of engineers led by Andreas Hammar, the Sweat Machine works by extracting the perspiration, which is 99% water, out of people’s clothes. Sweaty garments are tossed into a dryer, where they are spun and squeezed for every last drop of liquid. The gathered sweat then gets heated, exposed to ultra-violet light and passed through a series of high-tech filters to remove the salt and bacteria. During the final stage of the purification process, the sweat goes through a coffee filter that retains any textile fibers left over from the clothes. The result is perfectly drinkable distilled water. Although the exact capacity of the dryer is yet unknown, the inventors say it takes a full load of sweaty shirts and shorts to produce a pint of potable water. Drinking your own and other people’s sweat sounds disgusting, but according to one brave sommelier, it actually has nice sweet taste.

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