Millennials have discovered antennas will give them free TV channels

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that millennials have learned how to get free TV with a simple antenna, for a one-time cost of about $20. Us old-schoolers have known of this ancient wisdom since, well, forever but have neglected to pass down to the young'uns.

But the crazy thing is that it's not just young folks, the Journal consulted an industry group who estimate about a third of all Americans don't realize that local channels are free:

Let’s hear a round of applause for TV antennas, often called “rabbit ears,” a technology invented roughly seven decades ago, long before there was even a cord to be cut, which had been consigned to the technology trash can along with cassette tapes and VCRs.

The antenna is mounting a quiet comeback, propelled by a generation that never knew life before cable television, and who primarily watch Netflix , Hulu and HBO via the internet. Antenna sales in the U.S. are projected to rise 7% in 2017 to nearly 8 million units, according to the Consumer Technology Association, a trade group.

There is typically no need to climb on a rooftop. While some indoor antennas still look like old-fashioned rabbit ears, many modern antennas are thin sheets that can be hidden behind a flat TV or hung like a picture frame.

And, these modern ones are paintable... (?!)

Of course, if the commercials are getting to you, there's always this alternative:

Thanks, Laura!

Rabbit ear image via Amazon, smashed TV gif via Giphy Read the rest

A quick and handy guide to audio file formats

The fine folks at Techquickie put together a quick overview that takes the mystery out of the dizzying array of audio file formats, including when to use what and brief histories of the most common types. Read the rest

Dr. Octopus getting real with this robotic contraption

MetaLimbs is a robotic system that provides the wearer with an extra pair of arms. The mechanical arms are controlled by the user's legs, feet, and toes. The researchers from Keio University and the University of Tokyo will present their work at next month's SIGGRAPH 2017 conference in Los Angeles.

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Watch how maple syrup harvesting has gone high-tech

Buckets hanging on maple trees may have worked great 200 years ago, but modern producers use a system like the internet: a series of tubes! Read the rest

New ultra-high resolution printer makes colors from nanostructures

Researchers from the Technical University of Denmark demonstrated a new nanotechnology-based printing technique that produces long-lasting color images on plastic at resolutions up to 127,000 dots per inch, many times more detailed than traditional laser printers. The system uses a laser to alter the structure of nanoscale structures on the plastic material. (A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter; a human hair is around 60,000 nanometers in diameter.) The nanoprinting technique could also lead to new kinds of 3D displays or invisible watermarks. From New Scientist:

The surface of the plastic is shaped so that it has lots of tiny pillars, one roughly every 200 nanometers. A thin film of the element germanium is then spread over the plastic. Heat from a laser melts the germanium on each pillar, morphing its shape and thickness. As a result, it reflects a specific color. The coating protects the shapes of the newly carved nanostructures.

Resonant laser printing of structural colors on high-index dielectric metasurfaces (ScienceAdvances) Read the rest

How iPhones helped Elon Musk crush Detroit

Way back in 2011, major American automakers were slow to realize that "companies in Silicon Valley have for some time been looking at cars just like another mobile device or app." When the disruption, hit, it hit hard, writes Nick Bilton: Read the rest

NASA's new "space fabric"

This is NASA's new "space fabric" in development at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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Research principles from the legendary Xerox PARC

Founded in 1970 as Xerox's R&D division, PARC was a dream factory that brought the world laser printing, Ethernet, the graphical user interface that led to Windows and the Macintosh, ubiquitous computing, and many other technologies that we now take for granted. Why made the place so damn special? Alan Kay, who pioneered networked computing while at Parc, lays out a few of the principles of the research community of which Parc was a hub:

1. Visions not goals

2. Fund people not projects — the scientists find the problems not the funders. So, for many reasons, you have to have the best researchers.

3. Problem Finding — not just Problem Solving

4. Milestones not deadlines

5. It’s “baseball” not “golf” — batting .350 is very good in a high aspiration high risk area. Not getting a hit is not failure but the overhead for getting hits. (As in baseball, an “error” is failing to pull off something that is technically feasible.)

6. It’s about shaping “computer stuff” to human ends per the vision. Much of the time this required the researchers to design and build pretty much everything, including much of the hardware — including a variety of mainframes — and virtually all of the software needed (including OSs and programming languages, etc.). Many of the ARPA researchers were quite fluent in both HW and SW (though usually better at one than the other). This made for a pretty homogeneous computing culture and great synergy in most projects.

7. The above goes against the commonsense idea that “computer people should not try to make their own tools (because of the infinite Turing Tarpit that results)”.

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How to teach robots teamwork

For robots to make our lives easier, they'll need to work together. But how do we teach them teamwork? University of Southern California engineer Nora Ayanian studies how groups of robots, including flying drones, can be better collaborators and what the machines can teach humans about collaboration. Mark Frauenfelder and I interviewed Nora about robot collaboration in this episode of For Future Reference, a new podcast from Institute for the Future:

Please subscribe to For Future Reference: iTunes, RSS, Soundcloud Read the rest

Kim Dotcom says he's launching a Bitcoin startup that will pay you for content

Kim Dotcom says he's launching a Bitcoin payments system for users to sell content uploads, or charge for streaming live video.

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Computing in your fingernails and other weird wearables

Computers in your fingernails. Temporary tattoos laden with sensors. These are some of the new wearable technologies that UC Berkeley engineer and artist Eric Paulos is developing with his colleagues in the Hybrid Ecologies Laboratory. Mark Frauenfelder and I interviewed Eric about Cosmetic Computing in this episode of For Future Reference, a new podcast from Institute for the Future:

Please subscribe to For Future Reference: iTunes, RSS, Soundcloud

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New podcast about the future from Mark Frauenfelder and David Pescovitz

Mark Frauenfelder and I are researchers at the non-profit Institute for the Future. During the course of our work, we frequently meet fascinating scientists, engineers, and big thinkers who are shaping the future through their groundbreaking work in the present. For Future Reference is IFTF's new podcast where we share those conversations about the expanding horizons of science, technology, and culture over the next decade. Listen below and please subscribe now: iTunes, RSS, Soundcloud

We hope you enjoy it!

Episode 1: Teaching Robots Teamwork

Institute for the Future researchers Mark Frauenfelder and David Pescovitz talk with University of Southern California roboticist Nora Ayanian about what robots can learn from humans working together, and vice versa.

Episode 2: Alien Hunting

Institute for the Future researchers Mark Frauenfelder and David Pescovitz talk with Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

Episode 3: Hacking Your Biology

Institute for the Future researchers Mark Frauenfelder and David Pescovitz talk with rogue biophysicist Josiah Zayner about affordable tools for DIY genetic engineering and how to hack your biome.

Episode 4: Fueling Greener Fuels

Institute for the Future researchers Mark Frauenfelder and David Pescovitz talk with chemist Kendra Kuhl, CEO of Opus 12, about her technology for recycling carbon dioxide into useful fuels and chemicals.

Episode 5: Mind Melding

Institute for the Future researchers Mark Frauenfelder and David Pescovitz talk with neuroscientist and IFTF fellow Melina Uncapher, CEO and co-founder of the Institute for Applied Neuroscience that brings scientific research about our brains to critical social issues. Read the rest

DJI proposing "electronic license plates" for drones

Drone manufacturer DJI published a white paper proposing a kind of license plate for drones in the form of a wireless identifier that the buzzing UAVs would be required to broadcast. The paper describes a possible way to balance the privacy of drone operators with perceived public concern about whose controlling the bots buzzing overhead. You can read the full paper as a PDF here. From David Schneider's column in IEEE Spectrum:

As the company points out in its whitepaper, drone operators might want to maintain anonymity even if there were people around to witness their flights. Suppose, for example, that a company were surveying land in anticipation of purchasing and developing it. That company might not want to clue in competitors. Or perhaps the drone is being flown for the purposes of investigative journalism, in which case the journalists involved might not want others to know about their investigations.

DJI proposes that drones be required to broadcast an identifying code by radio . . . That code would not include the name and address of the owner, but authorities would be able to use it to look that information up in a non-public database—a kind of electronic license plates for drones.

At the same time, it’s easy to understand why law-enforcement or regulatory authorities would sometimes want to identify the owner or operator of a drone, say, if somebody felt the drone were invading their privacy or if a drone were being flown close to a nuclear power plant.

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How new emojis are born, a comic

Over at The Nib, excellent historical cartoonist Andy Warner, author of the wonderful Brief Histories of Everyday Objects, tells the story of how the Unicode Consortium brings new emoji into our online lives. From The Nib:

Read the full comic: "Want a New Emoji? Good Luck." Read the rest

Anti-theft toilet paper dispenser with facial recognition technology

The public bathroom at Beijing's Temple of Heaven Park now has a toilet paper dispenser outfitted with a camera and facial recognition technology to prevent toilet paper theft. From the New York Times:

Before entering restrooms in the park, visitors must now stare into a computer mounted on the wall for three seconds before a machine dispenses a sheet of toilet paper, precisely two feet in length. If visitors require more, they are out of luck. The machine will not dispense a second roll to the same person for nine minutes.

At the Temple of Heaven Park, one of Beijing’s busiest tourist sites, many people said on Monday they were pleased by the new machines.

“The people who steal toilet paper are greedy,” said He Zhiqiang, 19, a customer service worker from the northwestern region of Ningxia. “Toilet paper is a public resource. We need to prevent waste...”

I agree with park visitor Wang Jianquan, 63: “The sheets are too short."

"China’s High-Tech Tool to Fight Toilet Paper Bandits" (NYT) Read the rest

Flexible, printable circuits inspired by goldbug beetle

Poking a golden tortoise beetle ("goldbug") triggers the insect's color to change from gold to a red-orange. Inspired by the natural system underlying that insectoid superpower, MIT researchers have developed flexible sensors circuits that can be 3-D printed. Eventually, the technology could lead to sensor-laden skin for robots. From MIT News:

“In nature, networks of sensors and interconnects are called sensorimotor pathways,” says Subramanian Sundaram, an MIT graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science (EECS), who led the project. “We were trying to see whether we could replicate sensorimotor pathways inside a 3-D-printed object. So we considered the simplest organism we could find...."

The MIT researchers’ new device is approximately T-shaped, but with a wide, squat base and an elongated crossbar. The crossbar is made from an elastic plastic, with a strip of silver running its length; in the researchers’ experiments, electrodes were connected to the crossbar’s ends. The base of the T is made from a more rigid plastic. It includes two printed transistors and what the researchers call a “pixel,” a circle of semiconducting polymer whose color changes when the crossbars stretch, modifying the electrical resistance of the silver strip.

In fact, the transistors and the pixel are made from the same material; the transistors also change color slightly when the crossbars stretch. The effect is more dramatic in the pixel, however, because the transistors amplify the electrical signal from the crossbar. Demonstrating working transistors was essential, Sundaram says, because large, dense sensor arrays require some capacity for onboard signal processing.

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Clock presents the time as math problems

MNTNT's Albert Clock is a clock that presents the hours and minutes as simple math problems. Is it annoying or engaging? Or.... both!

In standard mode, the queries change every minute. They are completely random, so even the query for the hours change, even if the result stays the same.

You can speed up this challenge so the queries change in the fastest mode every 10 seconds.

You can also download the Albert Clock as a free mobile app.

(via Uncrate) Read the rest

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