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JUST for Geeks

The Wake Up Call of Cold, Hard Reality

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The Wake Up Call of Cold, Hard Reality

Fig proposes a means of waking one up using the power of cold, hard reality-- the ALARMclock, a retro-style alarm clock promising to "efficiently end dreaming" through the use of personal information.

Following the maxim that "nothing gets you up in the morning like the things that keep you up at night," the ALARMclock connects to a web-based UI via wifi and mobile devices, and gathers user statistics on personal finances, friend numbers and life expectancy. Once sleeping time is over, it provides the coldest of mental cold showers around by instilling fears of financial instability, social insecurity and, ultimately, death.

The actual device amounts to a Raspberry Pi micro-PC packed inside a nice-looking bamboo box. A smoked glass mirror faceplate frames an 8x32 2-bit LED array showing the time and simple (if charming) motivational animations, all in the name of starting the day "unencumbered by fantasy or wishful thinking."

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Augmented Reality via Glasses and Clip-on

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Augmented Reality via Glasses and Clip-on

Inventor Jeri Ellsworth and programmer Rick Johnson present a novel means of augmenting boring old reality-- the castAR, a pair of goggles with a clip-on accessory promising a full virtual reality experience.

Initially a project at Valve (of Half Life and Steam Box fame) before Ellsworth and Johnson left the company to form Technical Illusions, the castAR consists of a relatively slim and lightweight (100g) 3D glasses-style frames packing 2 tiny LCD projectors, a camera module and active shutter lenses. The projectors beam images (at 720p resolution and 120Hz refresh rate) on a special retroreflective surface, with the camera tracking the position infrared LED markers so the system adjusts images accordingly.

The result? A "holographic" 3D image one can interact with using a special wand peripheral. Users wanting to play virtual Dungeons & Dragons can also get an RFID tracking grid for the tracking of figurines and the like.

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The Internet of Things... Kettle

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The Internet of Things... Kettle

Not even the humble kettle is safe from the advances brought about by the Internet of Things-- customers can soon get the iKettle, a wifi-connected kettle one can control via iOS or Android app.

Described as "the world's first wifi kettle," the iKettle does exactly what it says on the box. It boils water, with the magic of app control allowing functionality such as remote control and a Wake mode (switches the kettle on together with a morning alarm).

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3D Control for the Augmented Reality Era

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3D Control for the Augmented Reality Era

As the likes of the Oculus Rift reignite interest in augmented and virtual reality headsets, companies start thinking of controllers complementing such equipment-- such as Singapore-based Intellect Motion with the iMotion device.

Reminiscent of the control gloves donned by Tom Cruise in science fiction film Minority Report (an unsurprising inspiration for the 9-strong team), the iMotion controllers allow for what Intellect Motion claims is "pinpoint-accurate 3D motion control" complete with haptic feedback, creating what amounts to a virtual touchscreen (or "giant motion sensitive space") in front of the user.

The system itself consists of a pair of mouse-sized devices users straps to their palms via velcro. Each device establishes user hand position within 3D space via combination of gyroscope, accelerometer and 3 LED lights feeding x, y and z coordinates to a regular webcam.

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Wearables Contender Ups the Ante

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Wearables Contender Ups the Ante

Omate believes it is on the cusp of ushering the "smartwatch 2.0" era of wearable electronics with the TrueSmart-- a smartwatch able to operate independently without need of a smartphone via microSIM slot.

The microSIM slot hopefully lets the TrueSmart to fulfill the Dick Tracy promise, allowing users to make calls and send text messages directly from the device without need for tethering to a mobile device.

It is not the first smartwatch with standalone call-making capabilities, mind. The Burg 17 features a SIM card slot, as does the Neptune Pine.

However the TrueSmart hopes to impress further in the internals department-- running on Android 4.2, the device promises a 1.54-inch multitouch display, dual-core 1.3GHz Cortex A7 CPU, GPS, Bluetooth, audio speaker and microphone, 600mAh battery, 512MB RAM, 4GB internal storage and a 5MP camera.

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Preorders Open for Gaming Treadmill

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Preorders Open for Gaming Treadmill

Gamers unable to decide between play and getting some ever-so-healthy exercise might not need to choose any more-- with the Virtuix Omni one can control games by simply running on the spot!

Designed primarily for use with the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset (even if it still works with "any [PC] game or app that uses keyboard input"), the Omni is a bit of a beast. It is 1.2m tall, weighs 50kg and allows for 360-degree movement complete with walking, running, jumping and crouching through special motion-tracking shoes.

The package also includes a harness, no doubt for safety reasons. After all, the last thing one wants while running and gunning is to trip over!

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Wifi's New Superpower... X-Ray Vision?

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Wifi's New Superpower... X-Ray Vision?

Researchers at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory use the power of wifi to gain one of Superman's many powers-- using the wifi-based "Wi-Vi" to detect movement through walls.

In concept Wi-Vi is similar to radar and sonar imaging, only using low-power wifi signals to track movement in closed rooms or behind a wall. The system requires 2 transmit antennas and 1 receiver, with one transmitter sending out a signal that is the inverse of the signal from the other.

Due to nulling effect, the signals from the two antennas cancel each other out when "bouncing" back after hitting static objects-- but not when reflecting off moving objects. The receiver tracks the time it takes for signals to reflect back from a moving object (such as a person in a room) and calculates where it is at any time, producing a "sort of" X-ray effect.

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Mad Catz Intros M.O.J.O. Android Console

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Mad Catz Intros M.O.J.O. Android Console

The Xbox One and Playstation 4 giants might have overshadowed E3 2013, but such details did not stop peripheral maker Mad Catz to announce a console of its very own-- the M.O.J.O., an interesting looking Android-powered "micro console."

While making part of a perhaps over-crowded market, the MOJO has a few features MadCatz hopes separate it from the likes of the OUYA or Nvidia SHIELD. First off, the palm-sized device runs on stock Android, allowing it to handle all games available on the Google Play app store without need for developer modification.

It also registers on existing Google Play accounts, meaning customers can transfer apps from Android smartphones or tablets to the device.

The M.O.J.O. demo unit seen at E3 2013 carries an Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, but Mad Catz promises the retail unit will ship with a more powerful chipset (namely the Tegra 4).

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Gesture Detection via Wifi

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Gesture Detection via Wifi

University of Washington researchers propose a novel gesture detection technology-- WiSee, a system using regular wifi signals instead of cameras or sensors to detect control gestures, without need for line-of-sight.

The technology measures the so-called "Doppler frequency shift" caused in wireless signal frequency by body movements. Such frequency changes are very small (several hertz compared to 5GHz wifi signals), yet UW says the technology identifies up to 9 different whole-body gestures through a clever algorithm measuring these slight shifts.

“This is repurposing wireless signals that already exist in new ways,” UW lead researcher Shyam Gollakota says. “You can actually use wireless for gesture recognition without needing to deploy more sensors.”

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