Monthly Archive for February, 2008

The Next Generation of the Tree House?

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The childhood fascination of sitting, climbing, and even living among the trees has clearly not been laid to rest for some! It turns out that around the world there are many examples of modern, well-designed, and luxurious tree houses.

The houses range from simple, do-it-yourself constructions to sophisticated, expensive "tree mansions." Some of them are the traditional block-like structures that we remember from our youth, while some take the form of a sphere. Several manufacturers specialize in these designs, including Baumraum, Free Spirit Spheres, and Lukasz Kos.

Rope ladder? Maybe. 360-degree panoramic view? Often! Sometimes, the intention of the tree house is to live in harmony with the environment. Sometimes, it’s a tradition that has been carried on within ethnic groups for centuries. And sometimes, it’s just for spunk.

But no matter the purpose, all of these creative houses are architecturally inspiring…and go to show that childhood fascinations can sometimes turn into economically viable adult pastimes!

See more of these modern tree houses at .

Nokia has a new finger on the traffic pulse

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One of the perks of the internet for commuters is the availability of real-time traffic information. Not only can these updates tell you where accidents have occurred, they can tell you the average speed of cars on a given stretch of road.

Right now, this information is obtained via roadside sensors that measure the speeds of passing cars and trucks. But Nokia has come up with a new way to relay your car speed — by using your cell phone.

The idea is that an enabled cell phone could periodically tell a receiver where it is and how fast it’s going. When put together with the information from thousands of other cell phone, this could draw out an inexpensive, thorough, and accurate traffic map.

Nokia recently conducted a small-scale experiment starting with 100 Berkeley students. The study was conducted in partnership with CalTrans and Berkeley’s Department of Engineering.

Pen and Paper Enter the Digital Age

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You’re not one of those old-fashioned folks who still writes down notes by hand, are you?

If so, rest assured that you won’t have to give up your pen and paper anytime soon. You can, however, make your pen a little smarter than it used to be.

The just-released Pulse Smartpen from Livescribe is a huge advance in note-taking ability. Sure, digital pens that use handwriting recognition software to transcribe your writing into digital form are nothing new. But the Smartpen is even smarter: it records audio while you write and syncs it to the words you’ve written on the special, dedicated paper. Want to play back the recording? Just tap that spot in your notes and get a playback of the audio heard at that particular time.

The device is marketed mainly for journalists and businesspeople. But at $150 it could even find a niche among college students. Many students record their lectures, but the task of hunting through the audio to find a particular point makes these recordings of little use. The Smartpen could change this. Now if they could only program it to take exams, too…

The Next-Gen iPhone

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Get ready for another reason to buy an iPhone. A new version of the popular phone/music player/web browsing device will be released in the next year. This one will be compatible with third-generation (3G) wireless broadband service.

The lack of support for 3G broadband has been a major critique of the iPhone. Steve Jobs claimed last fall that Apple had not yet developed a 3G compatible iPhone with a reasonable battery life. These issues appear to be clearing up, however, and a new edition will likely be released within the year.

Coordinating with the newest iPhone is the expansion of AT&T’s 3G wireless network. AT&T plans to add 80 cities to its 3G network, upgrading these locations from its slower ATT&T Edge wireless network. Download times for the 3G network are about three times faster than those on the ATT&T Edge network.

Adding Another Dimension to Your Monitor

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You’ve been staring at those computer and TV screens for ages. Isn’t it about time they started looking back at you?

As soon as the wiimote changed the view of game interfacing, more changes were bound to follow. Now, the wiimote can be used to perform a function called "head tracking.

Basically, the wiimote uses infrared signals to follow the motion of your head. The screen then adjusts to give you a new perspective of the scene you were looking at. The result? A real three-dimensional interface to the gaming system.

In order for this technology to be made use of, the software on your computer or game system needs further development. But expect to see this technology take off soon as more software developers get on board. Once this ball gets rolling, it will be a short time before all best-selling games use a 3D interface.