Edge

TECHNOLOGY IN THE NEW AGE

I admit that I am not the most tech-savvy of students – my computer frustrates me and my iPod is always on the fritz. But these revolutionary and intriguing wonders will fill you with awe and wonderment, and they may be necessary to survive in Miami.

PILEUS

Have you ever been walking in the rain and thought: “I wish I could be surfing the Net right now.” Your prayers have been answered. Thanks to graduate students Matsumoto Takashi and Hashimoto Sho at Keio University of Japan, rain coverage and surfing the Internet can be enjoyed simultaneously. The students have developed the first Internet umbrella, known as Pileus.

So what is it? It’s an umbrella that has a projector in the handle that beams images on the underside of the canopy. To be simple, the umbrella has two functions: a global positioning device, provided by Google Earth, which shows where you are in the city. There is also a camera with service provided by the popular photo Web site Flickr.com.

With a simple wrist-swivel of the Pileus you will be able to access the internet using a wireless or Wi-Fi connection, as well as browse and take pictures using the miniature camera in the handle.

Unfortunately, the Pileus is only in the prototype stage at the moment. The only way to access the internet with the device is through a laptop and a cell-phone network (it may be too hard to walk with your laptop, cell phone and umbrella at the same time) and there are no predicted release dates yet. For more information on the Pileus visit www.pileus.net.

THE REACTABLE

Besides rain, Miami is known for its music and club scene with all that entrancing house and electronic music. Technology has another gadget up its sleeve. Known as “the reactable,” it is basically a digital musical instrument in table form. The first prototype was presented in May 2005 and it has been displayed in dozens of countries at numerous festivals since then.

The reactable works through a combination of manual and digital manipulation; when the user places specific programmed blocks, called tangibles, on the backlit surface of the reactable it creates particular sounds, rhythms and harmonies. When the tangibles touch the surface it operates a virtual modular synthesizer which enables users to control the sound through physical movements: moving the blocks around, spinning them and shifting or dragging them. These tangibles interact with one another and can be placed on specific parts of the device to create unique and customized electronic sounds. It’s nearly impossible for me to explain this without a visual so I suggest anyone who is interested to visit YouTube where there are many demonstrations and video clips. You can also visit the reactable website itself at http://mtg.upf.es/reactable/.

Icelandic singer Bjork, world famous for her complex and disturbing music as well as her swan dress, has incorporated the reactable into her new album “Volta,” as well as her upcoming tour. Unfortunately, the reactable is not yet available for purchase, so Miami is just going to have to wait.

i-SOBOT

Although the reactable isn’t ready yet, i-SOBOT, the coveted World’s smallest humanoid robot is. On Oct. 25, the 16.5 centimeter- (6.5 in.) tall 350-gram (.77 lbs.) robot was made available to the public through the Japanese manufacturer Tomy Company. For $300 you can own a loveable little humanoid fully equipped with twin joysticks, programmable buttons and an LCD screen.

The i-SOBOT has four separate modes for controlling the robot’s actions (Remote Control Mode, Programming Mode, Special Action Mode and Voice Control Mode). With these you can access 182 commands for the robot which can be combined and customized. Some of which include walking – up to 240 steps – hula dancing, air drumming, push-ups, kicks and punches, with sound effects of course. It can also recognize and speak over 200 words, phrases and play music – so no one has to be lonely ever again.

For those Al Gore fans concerned with everything green, i-SOBOT is eco-friendly. It is powered with rechargeable AAA batteries.

It may seem like a kid’s toy but if you have $300 lying around, as most do, you might as well spoil yourself with a talking air-drumming humanoid. (I put one on my Christmas list).

Although most gadgets are not yet available for purchase, take a look at where technology is leading us. And if nothing else, at least you can be on your toes for when the market embraces the future of gadgets.

Tim Novak may be contacted at t.novak1@umiami.edu.

November 19, 2007

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The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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