Tag » technology

Insect flight control

New Scientist writes about a robotic helicopter inspired by insects:

This allowed the tethered micro-copter to take off gracefully, maintain altitude over varying terrain and land, all without any means of directly measuring its speed or height.

Read more about optical flow.

iPhone roundup

iPhone roundup

The reason I haven’t posted this week is that I was lucky enough to attend Steve Jobs’ keynote at MacWorld on Tuesday. My entire group camped out the night before (we we’re second in line!)… and of course I ended up sleeping for 12 hours straight last night. While the iPhone has already been extensively dissected on the web, I wanted to post some thoughts and a round-up of relevant links.

Being at the keynote was an incredible experience. Jobs is an amazing salesman, and you could just see the sparkle in his eyes as he revealed his new baby. His demo was perfectly polished, with a strong consistent message (“5 years ahead of any other phone”) and lots of nice one-liners (“and boy have we patented it”). He had phone conversations with Jonathan Ive and Phil Schiller in the audience. Eric Schmidt made a guest appearance (we all clapped extra hard), as did Jerry Yang from Yahoo and Stan Sigman, the CEO of Cingular (whose speech was awful). It all concluded with a live performance by John Mayer.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the product itself is fantastic. As a designer, I’m most intrigued by the touch screen user interface, which has tremendous potential for novel interactions. Something as simple as unlocking the phone becomes a slick swipe, and don’t even get me started on the zooming gesture. The industrial design is beautiful as well, with a huge high-resolution 3.5 inch touchscreen and only one button on the front face (one too many, if you ask me). It’s not tiny, but it’s very thin. All in all, a very very nice object.

Now of course it isn’t perfect. Here are my gripes:

  • No tactile feedback I’m very worried that the keyboard will be hard to use. The early reviews say that the error correction software helps, but I could still see it being clumsy. My only hope is that Jonathan Ive put enough work into it as to make it useable.
  • No proper Gmail integration I don’t think I can live without the fantastic Gmail mobile client. While they’ll hopefully get it working on the iPhone in time for the release, I’ll be torn between seamless Gmail integration and seamless OS integration (including fancy touchscreen interactions).
  • No third-party apps Apparently, the software is locked down. I’m hoping this isn’t the case.
  • No wireless sync Apparently, it won’t sync wirelessly with your computer. I have to believe this will change in time for the launch.
  • No detachable battery Given the roughly 1 day of battery life, it would have been nice to be able to pop in a spare battery. I know I’ve done it on my blackberry before.
  • No flash The only cameraphones that produce even remotely useable pictures at night are those with an LED flash. While we’re at it, 2 megapixels is going to be pretty standard by the time it launches.
  • A couple of unfair complaints I’d like to say that 8GB isn’t enough if you expect to store videos, pictures, music, etc… but I’d feel a bit snide given that it’s a lot more memory than any other phone, and anything bigger would have made it bulkier, more expensive and more power hungry. I’d also have liked a GPS, which would have enabled even more innovative applications.
  • Price point By the way he led up to it, I expected Jobs to announce a price point lower than current smartphones, something like $399 for the 4GB version. It has a lot of features, but $600 is still a lot of money for a phone. I also wonder how much it will cost without a new contract (I’m already with Cingular).
  • June?? WTF? Despite all of the above, I would definitely have bought one if they’d been available. I guess the FCC made that impossible, but still disappointing.

If you haven’t overdosed on the iPhone coverage yet, below is a list of links to give you a good overview of the product.

The design of the Wii

Nintendo’s site has a series of good interviews with the designers of the Wii. There’s a lot of material there, and of course a fair amount of self-complimenting, but the first two volumes (hardware and remote) are well worth reading. In other news, I still really want a Wii.

UPS package delivery

UPS is leveraging some clever technology to shave seconds from each delivery, and saving hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. I love the fact that they consciously avoid left-hand turns:

Not only does Alles’ handheld computer contain his route sequence – with as few time- and fuel-wasting left-hand turns as possible – …


James Surowiecki from The New Yorker comments on how Nintendo may be winning the console wars by taking third place. Also of interest, an article about the design of the Wii and an interview with the designers. I never, ever, play video games… and yet I have a strange urge to buy one of these.

The internal combustion engine

Video about how an internal combustion works. The wonders of technology!

How to make foil

How to make foil, an interesting video.

2D drawings in 3D

A seemingly very intuitive interface for drawing 3D models in 2D.

Clever design solution from Firefox

I don’t usually post geeky stuff, but this article details how Firefox cleverly circumvented a security hazard. Great design!

Renewable energy

MIT has a really ambitious research underway for renewable energies. Speaking of which, these solar towers look really promising. Of course, all of this could be a moot point if these guys are legit.