16 Mar 2012

Felix Baumgarter took a practice jump at 13.6 miles (around 71,580 feet) above New Mexico from his pressurized capsule which was carried by hot air balloon.  He is more than halfway towards his goal of setting the world record highest jump, aiming for 23 miles this summer.  The current record is held by Joe Kittinger who jumped from 19.5 miles in 1960.  See below for the video. 

15 Mar 2012

Disappointed with the Phantom Menace 3D?  Don't sweat it, take a look at this video showing amateur footage combined with some Star Wars graphics and you get instant fun and no Jar Jar Binks either.  You have to love computers and technology right?

In the video we see the Death Star looming overhead in Denmark at Copenhagen in this ad for Toys R' Us.

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15 Mar 2012

Dish Network fans can hop like a kangaroo, as Dish has made the Hopper (XiP813) and Joey (XiP110) boxes available today.  They first revealed this multiroom kangaroo themed setup at CES 2012 in January.  These units have an interface that is similar to the 922 boxes along with some new features and tile navigation. 

The Hopper has a 2TB hard drive which goes nicely with PrimeTime Anytime.  PrimeTime Anytime will record three hours of network shows every night, through only one of the three tuners, storing them for eight days.

The Joey extender allows you to watch the video in other areas of your home and can utilize existing coax through MoCA technology. 

The cost remains at $10 per month (DVR fee) for the Hopper and $7 per month for the Joey.  If you subscribe to the America's Top 200 plan you can get a free install with three extenders.

Source:  Dish Network

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14 Mar 2012

It can be quite difficult to get into space and low Earth orbit (LEO) for us humans.  As of 2012, the cost of a kilogram or 2.2 lb cargo with the aid of a rocket is about USD $10,000.  For humans, manned missions are around $100,000 per kg of person.  So we continue to look for alternative means of reaching Earth orbit, such as the space elevator, which is still off into the future, but what about a magnetic levitation (maglev) train?

Dr. George Maise has invented something called the Startram orbital launch system, in conjunction with Dr. James Powell, one of the inventors of the maglev.  Dr. Powell won the 2002 Franklin Medal in engineering.  The Startram would magnetically levitate the train to prevent friction while at the same time accelerating the train to orbital velocities at around 9 km/sec (5.6 mph).  Regular maglev passenger trains have hit 600 kilometers per hour (373 mph), so this would need to be around 50 times faster.  

13 Mar 2012

A Scientific American article shows how you can add a drop of water on the lens of the iPhone camera and create a magnifying lens / microscope.

Just place a drop of water on the lens and turn the phone over.  The suspended drop will act like a magnifying glass.  The larger droplet will lead to higher magnification and the liquid will be highly sensitive to vibrations.  It will be hard to hold the phone stead with your hands to take a picture.

iPhone Magnification (Image Credit: Scientific American)

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12 Mar 2012

Microsoft showed a demo of new software at TechFest 2012 that can basically create an avatar of yourself and speak on the fly, using your own voice.  It does so by only using a few minutes worth of actual spoken text from the user.  These are called real-time multilingual vocal translations.  Monolingual TTS (text to speech) can currently handle 26 languages but isn't instant.

This software demoed by Microsoft can even add foreign language pronunciation of place names with directions using your native speech.  There is a 3D image of your head to go with it, along with animation of your lips to foreign languages that you may not even know how to properly speak in real life.

This video, eh hem, speaks volumes to how the software works:

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09 Mar 2012

The military has another robotic device to add to its resume.  In this case its a mechanical firefighter.  It can climb ladders and interact with humans.  This robot was developed by the Naval Research Laboratory and is called the Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR).  Its primary purpose is to extinguish fires on ships and subs.

SAFFiR is to be tested in 18 months.  SAFFiR can walk through cramped areas and climb ladders just like a human.  It uses sensors that provide real time feedback with titanium springs that behave like "joints".  SAFFiR can respond to human gestures, to such a point that robot and human can work together as a team.  SAFFiR is programmed to track a person's line of sight, so in the event of a fire to one direction, the robot will see both the human and the fire at the same time.  The robot's batteries run out after 30 minutes.

Source:  io9.com

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07 Mar 2012

Apple has released details of the new iPad, which they are just calling "the new iPad".  The new device has the Retina display, with four times the pixels of the original iPad and iPad 2 at 2048 x 1536 instead of 1024 x 768 on the 9.7" screen.  This doesn't mean more pixels in the same space, but higher-definition pixels with four sub-pixels (approaching what the human eye sees as a continuous tone).

The new iPad gets the same 5-megapixel rear camera as the iPhone 4S, which can shoot HD video as well.

The processing power has been boosted, now with the faster Apple A5X CPU with a quad core graphics engine to handle the increase in pixels.  The unit is thicker, by 0.03 inches than the iPad 2, which has a 0.34 inch thickness.  The model with cellular (now with 4G LTE ability) is heavier:  1.5 pounds compared to 1.4 pounds with the iPad2.  Apple claims the 4G will not diminish the battery life which is 9 to 11 hours.  The iPad can now act as a hotspot just like the iPad with the catch of paying the hotspot data plan fee.

The new iPad does not have Siri, but did gain voice dictation capabilities throughout, similar to Android.

The new iPad will be available for purchase on March 16 in the United States with a few countries as well.  The rest of the world will get it on March 23rd.  It will be the same price as the iPad 2 at $499 for the Wi-Fi only model with a choice of black and white.  The current price on the iPad 2 is at $399.  The wireless 4G models start at $629.

During this same event Apple did announce updated Apple TV models with support for 1080p video with a more iOS-styled UI.  The pricing on Apple TV is $99 and ships next week.

Source:  Foxnews.com

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