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Innovation

  • New smartphone device aims to prevent blindness

    Just when you thought the features and apps available to smartphones have reached their creative peak, a group of engineers, researchers, and software developers come out of nowhere to surprise us again. A recently launched IndieGoGo campaign is hoping to raise money for a revolutionary camera app and attachment combo that turns an ordinary smartphone into a portable eye examination device. Peek Retina is the official name of the endeavor, and is the result of a collaborative effort among eye doctors, engineers and software developers. Peek Retina is a clip-on camera adapter that combines “a traditional ophthalmoscope and a retinal camera in...

  • The PR2 robot can fetch beer, play pool and fold your laundry

    The benefits to be had from automating household tasks is the dream of, well, everyone. After a long week of work, wasting your precious few days of sweet, glorious freedom on doing laundry, vacuuming the carpet and scrubbing your toilet among other domesticated horrors is a burdensome reality most of us endure with great reluctance and plenty of groaning. Fortunately, a team of engineering experts who founded the company Willow Garage have developed an open source and open platform personal robot that can be programmed to fulfill almost any task. For a mere US$280 000, the Personal Robot 2 (PR2) can...

  • Humanoid robots will someday fly our planes

    Pibot is the first ever humanoid robot designed to fly a plane autonomously. Researchers at South Korea’s Advanced Institute of Science and Technology responsible for developing Pibot hope their robot will offer several advantages over drones when it comes to dangerous missions that require the control of larger rescue aircraft. Although autonomous drones are good at providing surveillance and air support during warfare, lead researcher Shim Hyung-Chul explains that robots are needed to fly a variety of existing aircraft specific to any number of dangerous situations, the most notable being the Fukushima tragedy in Japan: “When Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant got damaged...

  • Amazon Echo crams a voice assistant into a $199 Bluetooth speaker

    After the Fire Phone became this year's biggest hardware gaffe, Amazon felt it necessary to follow it up with the Echo -- a speaker with a tiny voice assistant trapped inside. No one saw this one coming. The Amazon Echo is basically a Google Now or Siri clone encased in the mould of a Bluetooth speaker. You ask it a question, it spits out an answer (except it's slightly cooler than that). For some reason, "Alexa" is the keyword that allows users to request music from Spotify, iTunes and Pandora, weather information, news, and other commands like adding events to a calendar...

  • Google X plans to take over you bloodstream with disease-detecting nanotechnology

    Remember Osmosis Jones -- the movie in which Chris Rock plays an animated white blood cell hunting down a germ within Bill Murray's body? It sounds gross, but it was pretty awesome. Google X, the Mountain View giant's mad scientist division, clearly gained some inspiration from this flick, because it is now developing blood-borne nanotechnology that will seek out some of the most destructive diseases known to human beings, before the diseases have time to cause major damage. Google X isn't exactly a stranger to sci-fi advances in the medical field either. Remember the glucose-monitoring contact lenses that were developed a...

  • Raspberry Pi founder teases official 7″ touchscreen, updated A+ board

    It's not too difficult to understand why, but Raspberry Pi micro-computing boards are still selling like chocolate eclairs at a school cake sale. By now, most new devices fade into the background to some degree, but here they are, as fresh as ever. And they're about to get even fresher. Showcased at TechCrunch's Disrupt in London this week, Eben Upton -- the Pi's founder and spirit animal -- unveiled a new touchscreen display for the company's three boards and announced an upcoming, updated A+ board. We're excited. Why? Well, because people can now build Raspberry Pi-based tablets for funsies. They won't...

  • Ebola-combatting robots under consideration for West African deployment

    The world's current Ebola outbreak is quickly turning into the planet's worst nightmare, and a realization of some of Hollywood's scariest post-apocalyptic movies, but an equally futuristic solution might be on the cards if robotics experts get their way. According to Computerworld, scientists are developing a new breed of robot that could act as "rolling interpreters, autonomous vehicles that could deliver food and medicine" and even specialised ones tasked with cleansing equipment and burying those who succumbed. This will remove the human element from the treatment and containment of the virus, which may lead to a more effective solution. Taking into...

  • Firefox Hello brings accountless video chat to browsers, future smartphones

    Firefox doesn't get too much love here at Gearburn, even though it's my favourite piece of software by a country mile. It's especially sad considering that the Mozilla-built browser flaunts many bleeding-edge technologies, sometimes weeks before any other browser. Take it's latest innovation, Firefox Hello, for example. It is essentially, a cross-platform HTML5-based WebRTC (an existing web video technology) calling feature, available in Firefox Beta builds from today. But how and why is this relevant? Unlike Skype, FaceTime or Hangouts, users needn't sign up for an account to use the feature. Although Mozilla notes that to improve its ease of use...

  • DIY’er invents machine gun that folds and fires paper airplanes

    An anonymous inventor who looks like Walter Sobchak from The Big Lebowski recently posted a YouTube video in which he demonstrates a self-made machine gun that folds and fires paper airplanes that would make any grade schooler froth with jealousy. Flaring his eyes behind wire rimmed glasses, this DIY’er shows off his impressive invention constructed of 3D printed materials and an assortment of parts collected from several specialty hardware stores. He also states quite proudly that he "use a cordless screwdriver from China for driving ." The anonymous Walter Sobchak look-alike DIY’er calls his invention the Paper Airplane Machine Gun...

  • Samsung’s 60Ghz WiFi ‘removes the gap between theoretical and actual’, has 4.6Gbps transmission speeds

    WiFi speeds are a bone of contention in my home. They just never reach the speeds I expect of them, especially when I wander outside of the living-room WiFi zone range. Samsung wants to change that though, with its new 60Ghz WiFi technology, which should allow speeds of up to a theoretical 4.6Gbps, or 575MB per second according to the makers of mobile phones and washing machines. The current and possible maximum WiFi speeds are 866Mbps, or 108MB per second. These speeds are five times better than what we're used to: the 2.4Ghz  and 5Ghz WiFi standard will be cast aside for...