An Android in Your Pocket


With the shear volume of cell phone manufacturers and wireless telephone service providers, the market is becoming very fragmented. It’s a little like the days of the railroads before everybody decided on a specific track gauge to use.

The problem? Most cell phone components use proprietary software that will not work with components and services from other brands. You’re probably familiar with this if you’ve switched cell networks and been told that you had to purchase a new phone (or else come up with a dubious way to "unlock" your old one).

Google’s Android technology is meant to solve this issue by providing a general framework for cell phone devices that is easy to modify for specific components. The best part? It’s an open development platform, allowing software designers much more freedom in the applications they offer.

The new Android prototype premiered at the SGMA’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. So far, there is no word on when the technology will reach the consumer market.

Get the most from your laptop battery


In this world of revolutionary wireless technology, there is one thing still keeping you wired to the wall, and that’s your power cord.

Widespread access to wireless networks means that you can take your laptop with you and work most anywhere. But the lithium battery in your laptop only lasts a few hours. This means that you will inevitably find yourself searching your surroundings for a power outlet.

Recently, researchers at Stanford University have found a way to make a silicon lithium battery that will last 10 times as long as conventional laptop batteries. The secret is the use of silicon nanowires — small strands that are smaller than a human hair.

These silicon nanowires have the ability to soak up a great deal of lithium ions, meaning that you can store much more energy than in conventional lithium batteries. So far, the result has only been seen in the laboratory, but this new technology should find its way to the consumer market (and your laptop) before long.

IPS picks up where GPS leaves off


Lost in the woods? If you have a GPS device with you, you can easily recover your path. But if you’re indoors, you’re out of luck. GPS signals cannot penetrate solid obstacles, making them useless inside most buildings. Here’s where local wireless networks may come to the rescue. An IPS, or indoor positioning system, uses ultrasound, infrared, or radio waves to obtain the position of an IPS device. This means you could strap on an IPS wristband, and your movements could be tracked, even inside buildings!

Cause for privacy concern? Certainly. If you were forced to wear a wristband, anyone with access to the network could track your movements. But just as GPS systems have helped to rescue stranded hikers in the wilderness, IPS systems could help firefighters navigate a burning building to find trapped victims. Hospitals are already using a similar ultrasound-based technology to help patients recognize the myriads of doctors, nurses, and other workers who attend to their needs.

A Step Towards the Bionic Eyeball


A few decades ago, the idea of fixing your vision by putting a thin lens on your eyeball was the stuff of sci-fi movies. Today, contact lenses help millions of people to see with near-perfect vision.

The next horizon of contact lens technology might also seem like an episode of the Bionic Woman: scientists have created contact lenses with small integrated electrical circuits and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

What’s the purpose? Eventually, developers want to use LEDs to project artificial images onto the view of your surroundings. This could, in principle, overlay words, pictures, or even a web browser-like interface onto your normal vision.

The technology, created at the University of Washington, is just a small step toward creating a revolutionary new visual interface. The contacts are completely clear despite containing circuits with nanometer-sized components. The one thing the lenses don’t do is correct vision. But eventually, engineers hope to integrate prescription lenses with the LED display capabilities.

Walk On Water? Why Not Drive?


What do you buy for the person who has everything? They have their sports car, they have their speedboat. But do they have everything in one?

Last year Rinspeed Designs introduced their newest vehicle, called the Splash. The name is appropriate since that’s exactly what this vehicle does. Hydrofoil technology allows the sports car to convert into a water vehicle at the push of the button.

It goes something like this: a panel on the back of the car flips up to reveal the vehicle’s propellers. The hydraulic system lifts the front of the car to turn it into a speedboat. The hydrofoils can even be used to lift the entire car slightly off the water!

The Splash’s speed isn’t striking on either terrain. It can reach 125 mph on the road and 45 knots (52 mph) on the water. But how many vehicles do you know that are able to quote both these statistics?

See the Rinspeed Splash cross the English Channel.