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Technology

Talk to the World Through Ubi -- and Use Gestures, Too (Video) 38

'The Ubi is an always-on voice-activated computer ready to help. Just plug it in, talk to it and it'll help you connect with your world.' That Kickstarter project description back in 2012 helped UBI raise $229,594 even though they only hoped for $36,000. So now they sell Ubis for $299, as you can see for yourself by clicking the "BUY NOW" button in the upper right corner of www.TheUbi.com, their site's main page. A cynic might say that a decent Android phone can perform most Ubi functions, including a growing number of home automation control tasks, and that Android voice recognition gets better with each new release. But Ubi is cute, and round, and "you can talk through it to the ones you love."

That's great, but Android phones can do that, too. What a smartphone can't do is compete with Ubi Interactive, which may finally give us gesture-based computer input that is not only exciting in a Star Trek way, but is also practical for home and business use. This, along with Kinect, looks like a product that has a solid future ahead of it. (Alternate Video Link)
Input Devices

Video Type 225 Words per Minute with a Stenographic Keyboard (Video) 109

Joshua Lifton says you can learn to type at 225 words per minute with his Stenosaurus, an open source stenography keyboard that has a not-there-yet website with nothing but the words, "Stenography is about to evolve," on it as of this writing. If you've heard of Joshua it's probably because he's part of the team behind Crowd Supply, which claims, "Our projects raise an average of $43,600, over twice as much as Kickstarter." A brave boast, but there's plenty of brainpower behind the company. Joshua, himself. has a PhD from MIT, which according to his company bio means, "he's devoted a significant amount of his time learning how to make things that blink." But the steno machine is his own project, independent of Crowd Supply.

Stenotype machines are usually most visible when court reporters are using them. They've been around since the 1800s, when their output was holes in paper tape. Today's versions are essentially chorded keyboards that act as computer input devices. (Douglas Engelbart famously showed off a chorded keyboard during his 1968 Mother of All Demos.) Today you have The Open Steno Project, and Stenosaurus is a member. And while Joshua's project may not have an actual website quite yet, it has an active blog. And the 225 WPM claim? Totally possible. The world record for English language stenography is 360 WPM. And you thought the Dvorak Keyboard was fast. Hah! (Alternate Video Link)
Cloud

Video Sigsense is Making Interchangeable, Modular Sensors (Video) 21

Their main claim: "Sigsense Sensors are field-switchable sensing modules which replace the current generation of single purpose instruments. All Sigsense Sensors connect to the Sigsense Wireless Dock through a common interface. This portability and convenience allows workers to always carry the right instrument for the job." In other words, a technician in a food manufacturing plant doesn't need to carry a humidity-measuring tool, a multimeter, a signal strength meter, and four or five other measuring tools, to the point where he's got a backpack full of instrumentation or a rolling a cart full of measuring devices. That technician can now (in theory) carry a single, wireless sensor body, and put the sensors he needs on it as easily as you change heads on an electric hair trimmer. Check their blurb on AngelList for more about what this company is up to, and note that they are going way beyond making one measurement at a time. They're talking about collecting instrument data, along with tracking technicians, and sending all this data to the cloud, where you can do with it as you wish. But not today. The website says they will have products available "soon." (Alternate Video Link)
Technology

Video CES 2014: 3-D Scanners are a Logical Next Step After 3-D Printers 87

A number of companies are either selling or preparing to sell 3-D scanners. Aside from fun (but interesting) uses, like duplicating chess pieces or possibly reproducing a miniature of Rodin's famous sculpture, Fallen Caryatid Carrying Her Stone, Matterform anticipates archeologists reproducing artifacts so that students can study them without handling the precious originals. This video is an interview with Matterform co-founder Drew Cox, who was exhibiting Matterform's scanner at CES 2014. MakerBot is also selling a scanner, as are a growing number of others. In fact, even though Matterform talks about being a low-cost (pre-order price $579) scanner for home use, as opposed to a commercial one that costs thousands. There are also several interesting hand-held scanners out there. Sense sells theirs for $399. Structure has one for $349 that's essentially a peripheral for an iPad. And this is just a random selection from a brief Google search. Use "3-D Scanner" as your search term and you'll find multiple Google pages full of 3-D scanners and information about them -- including software being developed at ETH zurich that turns your smartphone into a 3-D scanner.
Graphics

Video The Leap Motion Controller is Sort of Like a Super Kinect (Video) 108

What the Leap Motion product (they only have one right now) does is allow you to control your computer with gestures. We're not talking about just jumping around, but "painting" on the screen with your fingers (or even chopsticks) with fine enough control that Autodesk and other drawing-orientd software vendors are working to make applications compatible with the Leap Motion Controller. And game developers? You bet! Lots of them -- and this is for a device that's not even supposed to start shipping until May 13. But, says CEO Michael Buckwald, they already have "hundreds of thousands of pre-orders," so it looks like they are developing a large market for developers (over 12,000 are in the Leap Motion developer program -- out of 50,000 who applied) so it's possible that Leap Motion could become a pretty big deal. (You can see the Leap Motion Controller in action at the end of the video.)
Music

Video Direct-to-Vinyl Recording Makes a Comeback (Video) 166

For many decades, gramophone records (the black vinyl discs in Grandma's attic) were made by cutting grooves directly into an acetate disc, then making a mold from that "master" and "pressing records." Nowadays, of course, we use digital recording software on our computers or even on our mobile phones. Vinyl? Strictly for fogies and maybe a few audiophiles who think analog recordings have a depth and warmth that CDs and MP3s lack. Naturally, SXSW is a haven for these folks, and among them Tim Lord found Wesley Wolfe and two German compatriots from vinylrecording.com, busily demonstrating their vinyl recording system, which is sort of the gramophone record equivalent of print on demand. Lots of background music in the video makes the voices a bit hard to hear; some might prefer the transcription -- although those who do will lose out on watching the vinyl recording machine in action. Either way. Or both. Up to you.
Hardware

Video CES: Automatic Plant Monitoring Through Your Computer or iPhone (Video) Screenshot-sm 44

Timothy Lord starts this video with these words: "Sensors are a big deal at CES this year. They are small devices that track everything from the location of your pets to how many steps you have taken today." And so he chatted with Phillip Bolliger, founder of Swiss company Koubachi AG, which makes Wi-Fi sensors that help you give your plants the right amount of water and light and to keep them at the right temperature. As of this writing, the prices on their online store are in Euros, not dollars, but the sensors are now available through Amazon with U.S. pricing. Koubachi also has a free app for your iOS device, and a Facebook app for your computer or Android device, that will help you give your plants the right amount of fertilizer and other love even if you don't buy a Koubachi sensor.
Hardware

Video CES: Another Chording Keyboard Hits the Market (Video) 101

Wayne Rasanen's Decatxt chording keyboard may be new and exciting to him, and he says has a patent on it so apparently the USPTO found it novel and original, but it's not the first chording keyboard by many long shots. The idea has been around (at least) since 1968. And let's not forget Braille chording keyboards, as described in a 1992 IEEE paper. And if you have an iPhone and want to experiment with a virtual Braille chording keyboard, there's an app for that. Maybe we're just jaded. Or maybe we've known a lot of blind people who used one-handed Braille chording keyboards to type as fast with one hand as a sighted person using a QWERTY keyboard and two hands. So it's hard for us to get excited about a chording keyboard. Be that as it may, we wish Wayne Rasanen all the luck in the world as he brings his invention to market.
Hardware

The Awesome Button 80

An anonymous reader writes "An awesome hardware hack which demonstrates how easily USB-based human interface devices (eg, Keyboards and Mice) can be created using the Arduino software environment." A very nice little project based on the Teensy USB Development Board. Reminds me of the breadboard electronics projects my Dad used to work on with me many years ago. "Great fun for young and old," you might say.

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