Be your own CSI with GelSight

The guys at GelSight are on to something big – or at least, magnified.

Their specially designed rubber lens lets one see details as small as two microns thick, through their patent-pending and newly perfected approach. This video demonstrates how it all works:

And this video shows off the extent of GelSight’s sensitivity:

The stuff looks really cheap to produce, but with a wide range of applications, especially for ballistics or engineering. Personally, I’d buy some just to use as a desk toy, alongside my Intelligent Putty and other cool shit.

It’s the simple combination of rubber and reflective paint that makes GelSight’s patent so valuable, albeit so simple. Yet it took two MIT alumni to spot the gap and to productize. Goes to show what other great combinations are still out there waiting to be discovered!

Experience a Glimpse of 3D Web Browsing

Coming Soon: 3D computing. Well, it makes sense, doesn’t it?

3D Windows XP Icons
image credit: http://goo.gl/98PXI

My claim is that 3D is the next step in object-oriented user interface (OOUI), which is the way most of us interact with computers after someone (at Apple, I think) had idea that we’d store ‘documents’ in ‘folders’ rather than access them via a command line. Ever since, we’ve  been using ‘object-oriented’ analogies to interact with our machines.

Now is the age of 3D screen technologies, with Hollywood fighting back from piracy with a new golden age for cinema, Samsung outperforming Sony to becoming the number one manufacturer of 3D TVs, and the Nintendo 3DS making use of prismatic 3D in it’s menus, and of course in-game (think I might be buying Ocarina again soon). Not to mention Microsoft’s Kinect, which changes the way we interact in the three dimensions of physical, as opposed to virtual space.

But before all of this, there were innovators trying to make 3D compliant with everyday use, such as TATMobile who, without the power to print prismatic screens, force a behaviour change through the use of 3D glasses, or sell expensive stereoscopic 3D projectors, had come up with a pretty cool lo-fi solution:

The video above demonstrates the use of a front-facing camera on one’s mobile phone to track the location of your eyes, augmenting what’s onscreen, allowing you to see ‘behind’ icons or onto different screens by peering around. Hopefully you can imagine how a 3D screen might alter the way you interact with your device, so it’s no wonder they were bought by RIM and are now developing UI for BlackBerry.

While we’re at it, also check out the work of Bumptop (sadly now defunct), Johnny Lee‘s Wii hacks, and even YouTube‘s foray into 3D video.

Another lo-fi solution to making 3D useful comes from Mozilla, outlined in this fascinating article. Their technology, called Tilt, is not a way to physically see in 3D (it’s just software at this point), but certainly nods towards the future 3D stereoscopy web content. You can test Mozilla’s Tilt plugin in Firefox with their beta plugin at that link, but here’s a demo:

All we need now is for computer, laptop, tablet & mobile screens to become 3D-enabled, and for vast swathes of web designers to optimise their sites for WebGL, and suddenly those social buttons become a bit more clickable.

Gameboy Emulator for Android

You know how I love my phone like it was a sexy robot from the future? Well check this shit out. It’s also a full-blown GBA emulator, which with its massive AMOLED screen, and dual core processing, makes my Samsung way more awesome than I could possibly have conceived.

This is a screenshot from Tiger GBA running Advance Wars 2, on it’s original resolution (you can upscale but I like to kick it oldshool). The app integrates with a ROM downloader, where one can select ‘backups’ of the games they already own in order to play.

Legal note: it is against the law to download and play ROM backups of games you do not own. So play safe!

The Ultimate Android Homescreen

I recently upgraded to a brand new phone, the Samsung Galaxy S2, and let me tell you, her beauty is a thing to behold.

This is my second Android device, my first being an HTC Hero, whom I loved like a little brother. But I love my Galaxy like she’s a sexy robot from the future, trained to be awesome.

Given I’ll be spending the next couple of years with her, it’s important that I maximise all that awesomeness. For me, that boils down to the following areas:

  • She needs to look attractive
  • She needs to let me do my thing
  • She needs to last ’til at least midnight
  • She needs to be constantly surprising
  • She needs to feel like she’s all mine

It’s quite possible to achieve these things from your Android device: it just requires a bit of time to work out your priorities, and sometimes the advice of a few well respected sources. Ultimately, it’s experience that leads to a happy relationship. By the way, yes, I’m still talking about mobile phones.

With all of this in mind, I think I’ve found my ultimate Android setup, the perfect relationship, if you will. So without further ado, I present to you my Ultimate Android Homescreen, a perfectly-tuned combination of sexiness, usefulness, battery life and entertainment.

At just three screens, she’s the most efficient I could conceive of – the product of several hours hard thinking!

  1. The ‘Immediacy’ Screen – stuff you need right now
  2. The ‘Entertainment’ Screen – stuff to feed your head
  3. The ‘Productivity’ Screen – stuff to get shit done

A couple of things glue this all together: Tasker, and LauncherPro. I also advise JuiceDefender, but like all of the apps listed below, it’s not an essential. After all, this is more a ‘what worked for me could work for you’ article (like this one).

(click the graphic to view in fullscreen)

Whether you follow this exact recipe, or you choose to develop your own ultimate Android homescreen, I hope you’ll be very happy together, and I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Mobile Sketching App from Autodesk

My new Samsung Galaxy S2 is awesome. Seriously awesome.

Though I have a full blog post detailing my Android setup (composed for immediacy, productivity and entertainment) in the works, I thought I’d share details of one of my favourite apps: Autodesk’s SketchBook Mobile.

With it, and my trusty BoxWave Capacitive Stylus, I’ve turned my handset into a mobile sketchpad. Here are the results:

Me, taken with the front-facing camera
Me, traced via SketchBook Mobile

So it’s pretty effective, right? I’m no Picasso, that’s for sure, but the app is a very handy addition to my mobile armory, and it’s one I’d recommend to anyone with a powerful enough device. Here’s their full product demo:

Oh yes, almost forgot to mention – this whole post, except for formatting and adding links, was completed on my handset itself via the official WordPress app. Suck on that, Apple fanboys!

Everyday Coolness on the App Store

As much as I hate Apple (despite having an iPad… long story) you’ve got to hand it to them that they’ve really nailed their app ecosystem, haven’t they?

But that’s a redundant idea.

Of course they’ve developed a clever app ecosystem: a perfect storm of mutual reward for all stakeholders. Everyone knows that. But the app I’m about to showcase has highlighted, at least to me, that there’s another killer feature of the App Store that I’d not yet considered – it’s cool.
And you know what? Coolness attracts coolness.

For what other reason would Everyday for iPhone exist in the world?
I mean, just look at this fucking hip promo video:

Nice, huh? A simple idea, executed well. And I believe it could only exist because Apple has cornered the market in providing a place for cool apps like this to flourish. You don’t see this sort of shit on an Android (Androidify is probably their coolest though) or on BlackBerry, do you?

And what’s really cool is that Noah Kalina, the guy behind this famous video felt he could enter the market with no prior experience, purely on the perceived strength of his one cool idea. Where one or two interesting product features or a single USP would struggle to attract a buying audience in the real world, on the App Store it’s all that really counts. Apple have democratised the adoption of these cool little tweaks, and have created a playing field for all sorts of single-serving software and one-trick ponies.

Basically I’m saying that because of the App Store, the world has more cool stuff – which is just one more reason to love hate Apple.