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Innovation

  • DARPA creates first ever self-guiding bullets

    Camouflaged snipers are some of the most feared soldiers on any battlefield. From great distances and behind unseen barriers, sniper units can take their time targeting and picking off soldiers, delivering not only death but also an enormous psychological toll on the well-being of soldiers who can never be too careful on the ground. Unfortunately, the job of advancing infantry just got worse. Thanks to DARPA‘s Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program, snipers will soon have the benefit of using self-guiding bullets, adding even greater accuracy to their intended targets. After a series of successful tests conducted this year, the EXACTO program is...

  • Hemingwrite is the typewriter for the modern age

    The Hemingwrite is a portable typewriter that features a large e-ink display and the ability to upload your work to the cloud via WiFi. It’s also a unique device whose Kickstarter campaign has been getting considerable buzz. And here’s why. The Hemingwrite’s aluminum body, retro mechanical navigation switches and big red power button will certainly grab your attention, and suggest a “futuristic” typewriter imagined by a 1950s science fiction writer. There is no paper to feed and no ink ribbon required. Think of it as a paperless word processor. The 6" e-ink display includes a front light to help illuminate the screen when...

  • 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...