Category Archives: Technology

Star Wars with Unconventional Sound Effects

For as long as there has been Star Wars, there have been people who have tried to duplicate the sound effects with their mouths. The problem is, some sounds are harder than others to replicate, such as that of the lightsaber or the blaster. Go ahead – give it your best shot. But just because the sounds that come from our mouths usually sound nothing like the sounds from the screen, that doesn’t make them any less hilarious. And usually, we’re just making the sounds to entertain ourselves, our children, or our friends; we’re not usually recording them for the whole world to hear. At least most people aren’t, anyway.

Star Wars with Unconventional Sound Effects

But there are some who release their sound effects to the world, such as the video below. And the result is pretty funny. In the video, the regular character voices are left intact, but most everything else is replaced with sounds made from the human mouth. Have a look for yourself. And while you’re watching, ask yourself: what is it about Star Wars sounds that makes them so fun to imitate?

What do you think? Could you make better sound effects with your mouth? While the original sounds could never really be outdone, it is fun to try.

   

Build Your Own Iron Man Suit!

Two friends have worked together to create a replica of the Iron Man suit, complete with moving parts. Greg Hatter built the actual suit, while Jerome Kelty got some of the parts moving.

The suit, which has been made from molded fiberglass, has been designed so that the helmet, forearm missile, hip pods and the back flaps can all be moved. Complete with the illuminated arc reactor on the chest, the suit also has boots that play a sound effect when you move around.

Build Your Own Iron Man Suit!

To get these parts moving, Jerome used an Arduino Pro and three Arduino Pro Minis. To make it easier to remove, the helmet can be controlled wirelessly via an Xbee radio. By attaching RFID tags and an RFID reader on to the gloves, all the moving parts can be triggered.

Iron Man suit

If you want to build your own animatronic Iron Man suit, then head over to Hack A Day or Instructables where Jerome Kelty has posted detailed logs as well as the code you’ll need for the task.

Iron Man Glove

Could Sugar Power Cell Phones Of The Future?

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Researchers are charged up about biobatteries, devices able to harness common biological processes to generate electricity. Most biobatteries are unable to generate large amounts of power, but researchers recently developed a prototype version that has the potential to be lighter and more powerful than the batteries typically found in today’s portable electronic devices, including smartphones.

In the body, sugar is converted into energy in a process called metabolism, which decomposes sugar into carbon dioxide and water while releasing electrons. Biobatteries produce energy though the same conversion process by capturing the electrons that are generated in the decomposition of sugar with the same tools that the body uses. Because biobatteries use materials that are biologically based, they are renewable and non-toxic, making them an attractive alternative to traditional batteries that need metals and chemicals to operate.

Percival Zhang and Zhiguang Zhu, researchers at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, designed a new biobattery with a greater output per weight than the typical lithium-ion batteries used in most electronics. They described the research online last month in the journal Nature Communications.

The new biobattery fully converts sugar to energy, which means more power output than previous biobatteries, and a greater battery charge than common lithium-ion batteries.

“By using the lithium-ion battery, for example, your phone can only last for one day, but in the future it will use sugar as the fuel…then the phone could last 10 days,” said Zhu.

The new biobattery gets its efficiency by using a novel system of enzymes, which are proteins that help the reaction to take place. The system uses two active enzymes that liberate two pairs of electrons from the sugar, while 10 other enzymes help to reset the reaction inside the biobattery. Once the reaction is reset, the active enzymes release another quartet of electrons. After six cycles, the biobattery extracts all of the energy bound in the sugar molecule, along with carbon dioxide and water.

Previous biobatteries could only extract one-sixth the energy of the new biobattery, because they didn’t use the non-active enzymes for recycling. By extracting more electrons per weight of sugar, the effective “energy density” of the sugar has increased.

One of the major advantages of this biobattery is that, while the cycle can fully convert sugar to energy, it uses fewer enzymes than the body, making it more robust.

Shelley Minteer, a biobattery expert from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City who was not involved with the work, likes that the team was able to develop an enzyme cycle, also known as an enzyme pathway, which uses fewer enzymes than the body.

“It’s really important to get all the electrons out, but not just to get all of the electrons out,” said Minteer. She added that it’s important to extract all of the electrons using the fewest enzymes.

With their new recycling enzyme system, Zhang and his team have done just that. “I think it’s a great [enzyme] pathway,” noted Minteer.

While the new enzyme system marks a major step forward for biobatteries, the technology still has some hurdles to surmount before it is market-ready.

“So far there are two more challenges in front of us,” Zhu explained.

He said that, in the current, non-optimized form of the battery, the power output is still too low for many devices and the lifetime of the cell is still too short, as it cannot yet be recharged.

However, as Minteer noted, these challenges are more “on the engineering side of things.” Zhu and Zhang agree and expect to solve these problems at Zhang’s startup company, Cell-Free Bioinnovations.

New Hyundai Vehicle Fueled By Poo

Poo power is ready to hit the streets. Hyundai recently announced plans to begin leasing a new vehicle this spring, and the fuel in the tank will come from processed sewage.

Last fall, Tesla’s Elon Musk was calling hydrogen fuel cell technology for vehicles “bullsh*t.” He meant that as an insult, saying it’s a dangerous gas more suitable for rockets than for cars. But it’s almost literally true. In several weeks Hyundai will begin leasing a new Tucson Fuel Cell crossover vehicle that runs on hydrogen gas derived from excrement. Hat tip AutoblogGreen.dnews-hyundai-poo-fuel

The complex process to convert waste from toilets and sinks in Southern California into hydrogen comes from scientists at UC Irvine’s National Fuel Cell Research Center, Bloomberg’s Alan Ohnsman reported. Essentially the solids are separated from water and fed to microbes that turn it into methane and CO2. Some methane gets filtered and piped into a special device, and then voilà: hydrogen gas.

That hydrogen then goes directly into a public pump for refueling vehicles. Hyundai says the Tucson’s three-year lease — about $3,000 down and then nearly $500 a month – will include maintenance and unlimited hydrogen refueling at a dozen pumps around California. Its tank takes about three minutes to fill and is good for about 300 miles, Ohnsman explained.

Hyundai has been emphasizing the Tucson’s advantages, notably that it can achieve a better range and refuel faster than battery electric vehicles.

Mash-Up Puts Cars On Maglev Tracks

A staggering 90,000 people expressed interest in leasing the vehicle. Not surprising given the zero emissions, great range, rapid fueling and gas derived from toilet water. At the same time, I can’t disregard Musk’s admonitions. We’ll have to see if, down the road, this smells like success or something else.

This story was provided by Discovery News.

Leaked Images Point To HTC’s M8 Having A Dual-Lens Camera

Images of HTC’s upcoming M8 smartphone have been leaked and it looks as though the handset will feature a dual-lens camera. But what does that mean? Well let’s look at some of the benefits of having one camera with two seperate lenses.

The start-up company Corephotonics has developed its own dual-lens camera and hopes that smartphone companies will adopt the idea for use in new handsets. Looking at the way it works will give us a better idea of what HTC has in mind.

dual lens camera

The two lenses have two different focus lengths, one being a wide-angle and the other set at 3x zoom. Practically this means that you can magnify subjects in the distance without having to use digital zoom. When tested next to a traditional smartphone camera, the Corephotonics dual-lens camera outputted a sharp 13-megapixel image at both 1x zoom and 3x zoom.

The Corephotonics system also produces smooth zooms thanks to a mix of digital zoom and len-switching, which is a big plus during video recording.

Another benefit to having two lenses is that images are of good quality even in low-light conditions. The software matches each pixel from one lens with the corresponding pixel from the other lens, all in real time. It is able to detect which of the pixels is likely the most accurate by using scene analysis, resulting in a sharper picture and reduced noise.

Two lenses also allows an amount of depth analysis, which means gaining more control over images. So for example, it is possible to automatically blur out backgrounds in portrait photos and autofocus more quickly.

Corephotonics has admitted that it is not behind the dual-lens camera that HTC are planning to use in the M8, suggesting that the camera is coming either from another source or even from HTC itself. The technology is certainly interesting and will likely add another dimension to the smartphone camera.

Is Microsoft Making A Free Version Of Windows 8.1?

The word is that Microsoft is “experimenting” with a “new” version of Windows 8.1; new because it is supposed to be free. Obviously, if this is true, and Microsoft actually comes out with a free version of Windows 8.1, the chances are that the adoption rate of the operating system will go up considerably.

The Verge reported that they have sources who share that Microsoft is looking at a product called “Windows 8.1 with Bing”. This is supposed to be the free version of Windows 8.1, and it will come with essential apps and services – all Microsoft, of course. The same report states that a leaked version does not show significant differences from the current version of the OS, but of course, it’s a leaked version and it’s probably not even halfway to completion.

Windows-8.1-Bing-Smart-Search

As enticing as the news of a free version of Windows 8.1 is, the report also highlights the fact that nothing is written in stone. One, they are supposed to be experimenting with this version. Two, it may or may not be free.

If Windows 8.1 turns out to be free, then all is great for Windows users. However, there is the other option that it will just be sold at a lower cost, perhaps in conjunction with the decision to slash Windows 8.1 prices by 70 percent, at least for devices which are cheaper than $250.

An important detail here is that IF Windows 8.1 is offered for free, the option will be applicable to users who are already using Windows 7 and want to upgrade to the newer operating system.

Another point worth repeating – and I know I am beginning to sound like a broken record here – is that news about “lower prices” and “free versions” really do work to support the talk that Windows 8.1 is not selling as well as it should, and all the flack it has been receiving.

Microsoft Wants Better Security than Passwords

Security is the biggest issue for technology users today. From online passwords to passwords and/or passcodes for devices – we there are always people on the lookout for a flaw so that they can take advantage of unauthorized access. And Microsoft is dead serious about finding something better than passwords to keep users secure.

According to Dustin Ingalls, group program manager for Windows security and identity, “We have to solve this, ideally in a standard way across industry because the ecosystem will be better off if we can solve it for all devices and services users come across daily.” (Source)

passwords

I think we can all agree that the issue has to be solved, and that if a standard can be found that satisfies the entire industry, that would be great. Of course, ideal doesn’t always happen in real life!

Microsoft, however, is trying really hard and has joined up with the Fast IDentity Online (Fido) Alliance. Fido is a group that is working toward coming up with a standard that will give users strong, but simple, authentication. Microsoft is not the sole big name in the alliance, though, with the likes of Google, PayPal, Lenovo, and Mastercard joining the ranks.

So what else is Microsoft doing to do away with passwords and strengthen security?

Enter Windows 8.1 (remember: upgrade to Windows 8.1 and ditch Windows XP!). Ingalls says that Windows 8.1 is designed to incorporate security measures that will not rely on the faulty password system. This is due to a key element of the operating system, which is to provide “a single, easy enrolment experience for users regardless of what biometric device is being used.”

This also means that developers for the operating system will have an easier time of it, with Windows 8.1 doing all the work.

On the user side, we probably will just enjoy the experience of having a more secure system without having to keep track of all the passwords that we need.