This Crazy Gadget Helps You “Talk” To Your Computer Without Words

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Hey you! Ever wish your technology was more invasive? You love voice-to-text, but it’s just too public?

Some researchers at MIT Media Lab have come up with the perfect gadget for you. And it looks like a Bane mask crossed with a squid. Or, if you prefer: like a horror movie monster slowly encompassing your jaw before crawling into your mouth.

The researchers presented their work at the International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces (yes such a thing exists) in March in Tokyo.

Whenever you think of words, they’re silently, imperceptibly, transmitted to your mouth. More specifically, signals arrive at the muscles that control your mouth. And those signals aren’t imperceptible to a highly sensitive computer.

The researchers call this device the AlterEgo. It’s got seven electrodes positioned around the mouth to pick up these signals. The data that the electrodes pick up goes through several rounds of processing before being transmitted wirelessly to a device awaiting instruction nearby. Oh, and it’s got bone-conduction headphones so that devices can respond.

AlterEgo in use. Kapur et al, 2018

The scientists tested their prototype on a few people who trained the software to recognize the data that corresponded to different commands (“call,” “reply,” “add,”), then on a few more to see how accurate it was. The results were promising, though it’s not exactly ready to go into mass production.

The closest comparison to this system is a device you can address in your normal speech, like Siri or Alexa. But, terrifyingly, this is not scientists’ first attempt at creating a more direct way to transmit our thoughts to computers. Most earlier versions have relied directly on brain signals (from devices laid over or implanted in the brain. No thank you).

AlterEgo has the following advantages, according to the researchers:

  • It’s not invasive (seems like kind of a low bar but ok)
  • It’s 92 percent accurate (probably marginally better than your average autocorrect, about the same as Siri or Alexa)
  • It’s portable (and about as sexy as one of those Bluetooth earpieces)
  • Unlike direct brain readings, it can’t read your private thoughts (except for the ones you quietly mouth to yourself)

I admit, in some situations a device like this might be useful. Particular movements could tell your phone to turn on music, or use a calculator, or text your friend. It could control your “smart home,” turning off the oven or starting the coffeepot with a mere twitch. Heck, in 10 years, I could be thinking this article into existence. This goes double for people with disabilities or vision problems that might make controlling a digital device challenging otherwise.

BUT. But. There are a few things that might make AlterEgo less than ideal. The electrodes can’t shift when a person is using them, for example, or the reading will get all messed up. It’s hard to imagine that people would be comfortable hanging out with a device covering half their mouths. And there’s no telling how the system would do in real-world settings — that’s what the researchers have to test out next. And, of course, there’s the issue of crossed signals, like when Alexa thought random sounds were telling it to laugh. And — just thinking big for a second — if it were hacked, could the hacker use the electrodes to physically control your mouth?

Might we have a future in which our faces butt-dial for us? Who’s to say. But you can bet all the people in my nightmares of a dystopian future are equipped with one of these bad boys.

The post This Crazy Gadget Helps You “Talk” To Your Computer Without Words appeared first on Futurism.

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The Oregon Trail handheld game is a really fun nostalgia gadget

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In late February, Target quietly began selling a portable version of The Oregon Trail for $ 24.99. Now, I’ve spent $ 25 on much dumber things than this in my time. You probably have, too. So I went right out to my local store and bought the handheld game once it was in stock. (Initially it was only available in stores, but now you can order on the web.) Target is the exclusive retailer, and it also sells a card game, though can’t imagine that would scratch my nostalgia itch to the same satisfying degree as this miniature Apple II gadget.

Target and Big Fun, the actual manufacturer of this handheld, definitely get points for presentation. The beige unit is chunky but light and comfortable to hold. And for something that costs $ 24.99, the…

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Handy gadget gives you a grip on your iPad

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At first glance, the TabStrap looks like a bandage on the hand of a wounded iPad user. It’s not, yet the person who uses an iPad as their main source of personal computing might find it just as much of a lifesaver. The thick, adjustable wool strap connects to a base that suctions to the […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)

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Gadget Ogling: Smart Phones, Simple Phones, and Sparkling Water on Tap

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Oh, look, it’s a new flagship smartphone duo from Samsung. Shockingly enough, they’re called the “Galaxy S9” and “Galaxy S9+.” They have a similar appearance to the previous year’s models, but there are also a few differences, such as a new camera and stereo speakers. There’s a 960-frames-per-second slow motion mode, and there’s the option to add music to clips or turn them into GIFs. An adjustable aperture accounts for how much light there is in the field of view and can be adjusted accordingly for sharper photos.
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BreadBot is an insanely over-engineered gadget just for baking loaves of bread

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A machine baked me bread today, and it was delicious. BreadBot attempts to automate bread-making in order to bring fresh loaves to massive grocers, like Walmart and Kroger. The team behind it, Wilkinson Baking Company, has worked on developing a prototype for 10 years, and now, finally, it’s debuting the device at SXSW in Austin, Texas this week.

The bot mixes, kneads, rolls out, and bakes fresh loaves of bread. One loaf takes about 90 minutes from start to finish and the machine rolls out fresh bread throughout the day with the help of loads of sensors. BreadBot can create most breads, except for sticky ones, like cinnamon buns and raisin breads. The company is still working on figuring out sourdough, too. But let me tell you about…

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4 Things to Know About the Gadget That Will Charge Devices in Seconds

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Supercapacitors

When your phone’s battery reaches that critically low point, recharging it seems to take eons. If it’s your electric car’s battery that’s low on juice, then having to wait for a charge might be more than an inconvenience if you’ve found yourself stuck somewhere miles from a charging station.

What if you didn’t have to wait hardly at all for your phone to be back in working order? Or to get your car back on the road? What if you only had to wait a few seconds to go from dead battery to that glorious 100 percent charged feeling?

Donald Highgate, director of research at Superdielectrics Ltd. and his team have set out to make that vision a reality. Highgate’s team has created a material that amps up the potential of supercapacitors – devices that can both charge up and release their energy rapidly.  Their capacitance for storing energy is “super” because it’s both electrostatic and electromechanical. Therefore, supercapacitors (also called “ultracapacitors”) are kind of like a mashup of normal capacitors and a normal battery.

Highgate has teamed up with researchers from Bristol University and Surrey University to create a supercapacitor that’s not just better than traditional batteries, but that could one day be superior to lithium-ion batteries. So how do they plan to do it? Here are four things to know.

Eye On / Ion

The material Highgate’s team is using actually got its start as the basis for high-tech contact lenses. The soft, flexible material turned out to be really good at holding an electrostatic field — which was just what they needed, as that’s how supercapacitors produce their energy.

Not Your Standard Charger

Supercapacitors don’t create electricity in the traditional way though: they create electrostatic fields. They also only store comparatively small amounts of power; good for jump-starting batteries in devices like your phone, a car, or a train, but “jumping” a battery is not quite the same as providing a steady supply of power. They’re also quite costly and therefore aren’t likely to be a consumer’s first choice.

Super-Charged

Other than cost, one of the prohibitive limitations of supercapacitors compared to lithium ion batteries is that they have poor energy denisity: they can’t hold very much energy, and they can’t hold it for a very long time. That’s why supercapacitors in their current form wouldn’t be great for keeping electric cars charged — you’d have to re-up every couple of miles.

Highgate and other researchers working on similar projects are extending the power and range of supercapacitors with materials that enhance these abilities. They don’t necessarily have to be special or rare materials, either: Materials like the soft polymers originally meant for contact lenses that Highgate’s team is using or the graphene-based materials that can super-charge a supercapacitor’s energy-storing power are fairly accessible.

Working With Lithium-ion

While the long term goal may be for amped-up supercapacitors to surpass lithium-ion batteries as the go-to power source for devices, cars, and assembly lines, in the short term it’s more likely that they’ll be used together. When working in tandem, the two create a very strong, reliable power supply — which is especially good news for electric vehicles.

Highgate’s polymer and the other souped-up supercapacitors are very much still emerging solutions that may not be available for years yet. But as the world strives to move toward renewable energy, we’ll need a broad range of sustainable, affordable, alternatives to our traditional energy networks. And faster phone chargers would be cool, too.

The post 4 Things to Know About the Gadget That Will Charge Devices in Seconds appeared first on Futurism.

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Gadget Ogling: A Different Sort of Activity Tracker and a Smartwatch for Kids

More often than I’d care to admit, I feel the seconds, minutes, and hours of a day slip into the ether before I realize it’s happening. When it’s time for bed and I try to take stock of my day, it’s difficult to recall exactly how I spent my time. As someone who would like to be more efficient and productive, I think Timeflip seems like a terrific way to keep track of where all that precious time goes. It’s a 10-sided, die-like device that you simply turn to log the activity you’re engaged in at a given time.
TechNewsWorld

HomePod Diary: The best party gadget ever, and the difference between ‘really good’ and ‘great’

Friday morning, my HomePod arrived; Friday evening, we had a small party. And the belle of the ball was the HomePod.

We had a group of friends round for drinks and pizza. That seemed a good opportunity to put HomePod to the test – both to see what others thought of it as a speaker, and to allow friends to try Siri control …

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9to5Mac

Review: The $129 DJI Osmo Mobile 2 is the best-value iPhone gadget available right now [Video]

If you’ve got any recent model iPhone, you’ve got a great camera – both for still photos and for video. So good, in fact, that many independent filmmakers use it to shoot both shorts and full-length movies.

But such reports can give a somewhat misleading impression. Very often, the iPhone is the capture device, but it’s coupled to far more expensive supplementary kit like professional lenses, and gimbals to smooth footage.

What DJI has done with its latest gimbal is to bring smooth mobile shooting – and more – down to a price level that makes it extremely affordable. So much so that, when you consider all the things it can do, I’d say it qualifies as the best-value iPhone accessory on the market at the moment …

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9to5Mac

Gadget Ogling: CES Edition

Roader’s Time Machine Camera is designed to hang around your neck and, for up to seven hours of battery life, constantly capture what it sees. When you hit a button, it saves the last 10 seconds of footage and the following 10. You can send a low-resolution version of that 20-second clip to your smartphone immediately, and if you’d like to save a high-resolution version, you can grab that too. It could be a great solution for people who always find themselves just missing an important or interesting moment occurring right in front of them.
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