Who’d have thought the Power Mac G5 made a good bench?

Like it or loathe it, you have to admit that the design of the Power Mac G5 was a very clever way of getting around the system’s legendary thermal issues. It was no surprise that the ol’ cheesegrater was kept around for the Mac Pro, at least until last year’s solid-state revolution. But what of the numerous G5 chassis that are now lingering in attics, skips and warehouses? If you don’t want to gut one to use for your own high-end PC, then Klaus Geiger is more than happy to turn them into furniture. As part of his Benchma[®]c project, two G5 cases and a plank of Walnut is all you need to make a pretty nifty park bench. There’s more images down at the source, but you’ll have to excuse us, as we’re just off to put our collection of Rodrigo Alonso furniture on eBay.

http://www.engadget.com/2014/10/25/cheesegrater-bench/?ncid=rss_truncated

Sony wants to show you how PS4′s online game-sharing works

When next Tuesday’s 2.0 update hits for the PlayStation 4, Sony will finally turn one of the most ambitious promises it made when the console was first announced a reality. We’re talking about Share Play, of course. We know: the ability to virtually hand a controller off to a pal via the internet and have them work through a game’s tricky section for you sounds kinda like magic — the type that only Disney is capable of. But, in theory it sounds pretty simple, and the catch-up king has recently released a video that walks through the process step by step. From the looks of it, the new feature is added as an option from the DualShock 4′s Share button. Naturally. How well it all works in the wild, however, remains to be seen.

The rub of it is that every function other than screen sharing (meaning, controller passing and a virtual second player controller hand-off) requires a PlayStation Plus subscription. What’s more, these virtual sharing sessions are limited to an hour apiece. After all, Sony’s in the business of selling games — letting you stream a pal’s indefinitely probably isn’t good for the bottom line.

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    PlayStation Plus: when will the other shoe drop?


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    Destiny is coming!


    Destiny is coming!

Article source: http://www.engadget.com/2014/10/25/ps4-game-sharing-explainer/?ncid=rss_truncated

Investigating the science in Christopher Nolan’s ‘Interstellar’

Even the most well respected filmmakers have been known to bend the truth a bit when it comes to depicting science on the silver screen, throwing accuracy to the wind in favor of trivialities like “plot” and “drama.” We kid, of course. But how does this fall’s sci-fi epic Interstellar from director Christopher Nolan hold up under a microscope (no pun intended)? The folks at Popular Science have taken the Dark Knight helmsman’s latest to task, exploring the feasibility of traveling through wormholes, the type of spaceship we’d need for humanity to travel ’round the stars and a few other concepts explored in the film.

The research was based off of existing trailers, and more to the point, PopSci says that Interstellar‘s real-world theoretical physicist flat-out refused to speak with its writers. So, if you’re on total media blackout for fear of spoilers, this might not ruin aspects of the flick for you. Are you lucky enough to live somewhere close to a 70mm IMAX screening of the movie in a few weeks? What about a cineplex with an Oculus setup? Let us know in the comments.

http://www.engadget.com/2014/10/25/interstellar-science/?ncid=rss_truncated

IRL: Keeping a journal with Day One

Trying to keep a journal has always been difficult for me. Before the age of smartphones, I tried to rely on text files or a physical notepad. If I wasn’t forgetting to write down my thoughts, I was losing the file or my handwriting was so bad it would make a doctor jealous. I did the LiveJournal thing, too, except it fostered too many passive-aggressive entries. Finally, while browsing the App Store I come across an interesting-looking piece of software called Day One. The features, design and presentation prompted me to give journaling another go. And I’m glad I did.

If you’ve never heard of Day One, here’s a quick rundown: It’s a journaling app with an emphasis on ease of use. MultiMarkdown text allows for cleaner, faster writing, and you can import location, activity, music and weather data from the apps. More recently, the app added a Publish feature that allows you to share entries with Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. Think of it as having a personal blog without every entry being public.

With the latest version, Day One made some tweaks to take advantage of some of the new features introduced in iOS 8. Previously, I would have had to go into the app to attach a link or photo. I can now share directly from any application where developers have taken advantage of Apple’s new “extensibility” feature. I can now use Touch ID to unlock my journal. Entering a PIN isn’t hard, of course, but using a fingerprint feels more secure over the standard four digits. Apple also added a widget option, allowing you to view two random picture entries as well as journaling stats for the last 50 days, all from the iOS Notification Center. For the most part, these aren’t the kind of changes that make or break the product. Instead, they’re the type of updates that help round out an already good experience.

When I first tried Day One, I had trouble making everything work. At the time I was using an Android phone, but unfortunately, the app is iOS-only. This proved to be an issue because I had no way of capturing thoughts or photos on the go. Sure, I could have taken a picture of that awesome graffiti I saw on the street and write about it when I got home, but without fail I would end up forgetting. The desktop client offers a notification option, but it’s too easy to dismiss by telling myself “I’ll do it later.” Getting an iPhone is what really made using Day One a more regular part of my routine.

Creating new entries is an easy experience. Whether I’m writing an entry or snapping a picture, the app makes it effortless. One feature I didn’t think I’d fully appreciate is MultiMarkdown. This style of text input allows me to write new entries with detailed formatting — without HTML messing up the flow. Simply wrapping a word in an asterisk can italicize it, or if I want to create a link, I can use brackets and parentheses instead of writing a full HREF statement. The app even has a swipeable bar to quickly input different Markdown tags so I’ll never forget how to bullet a list or insert a link. It seems silly to spend time discussing writing syntax, but it makes for more efficient writing.

Tagging — a pretty standard feature in any archiving service — is also present in Day One. This has always been beneficial with bookmarks, but I’m getting a lot of utility out of it with journaling, too. I use it for tracking potential medical issues as well as my hobbies. For example, I have one called “Invisalign” where I’ve been writing once a week about my experience with this alternative to traditional braces. Before my next visit, I can pull up the tag to quickly remind myself of any issues I ran into. I’m also a huge coffee fan. I enjoy trying out different roasters, but tracking the various bags can be time consuming. Using a modified Launch Center Pro action, I can quickly create an entry with pre-filled fields. Triggering the actions brings me to a series of boxes asking for roaster, origin, method, rating and tasting notes. All of this gets formatted into a clean-looking table, then auto-tagged for easy reference later.

With the help of If This Then That (IFTTT) and Launch Center Pro I can also automate some of my entries to make life a little easier. Using the two services, I can notify my phone of any photo I post to Instagram with the tag #dayone. Interacting with the alert will pre-populate a new post with the image and the text from the tagged ‘gram. I also combine them with Strava to auto-create entries for any new activities I complete. This allows me to stay on top of my training log, something I’ve tried to do numerous times over the years to little or no effect.

The downsides to Day One? As I mentioned, there’s no Android app — it’s currently only available for iOS and OS X. Unfortunately, Windows and Linux users are out of luck, too, though the team does link to a few tools for generating entries. As for Android, I’ve seen a few apps offering import/export abilities, but I personally haven’t used them so I can’t report on how well they work. Additionally, you may be turned off by the prices: $4.99 for the iOS app and $9.99 for the desktop client, or $15 total. That’s something I questioned at first since there are cheaper journal solutions, but after using Day One for a while, I’m convinced the cost is more than justified.

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    Apple finally introduces the Apple Watch, and the iPhones get bigger. What do you think?


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    Apple iPhone 6


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Bitcoin 2.0: Sidechains And Ethereum And Zerocash, Oh My!


Strange, interesting, and wildly ambitious things are afoot in the world of Bitcoin and blockchains. I give you Zerocash, a completely anonymous currency; Ethereum, an blockchain platform designed to decentralize much of the Internet; and sidechains, a proposal to accelerate the evolution of Bitcoin itself. Any one of these could conceivably become a very big deal. All three? Prick up your ears.

Of Bitcoins And Blockchains

If you’re not au fait with blockchains, your head may already be swimming. Some background: Bitcoin, the infamous cryptocurrency, is built on a new kind of distributed-consensus technology called a blockchain, which allows transactions to be securely stored and verified without any centralized authority at all, because (to oversimplify) they are validated by the entire network.

Its success has spawned scores of variant cryptocurrencies, known as “altcoins,” the most famous of which is Dogecoin. But Bitcoin remains, by far, the big dog.

If you control more than half of the computations that power any cryptocurrency, then you can spend the same money more than once: a “51% attack.” Altcoins are especially vulnerable. But the stunning amount of computing power being poured into the Bitcoin network renders it (probably) effectively immune to such an attack, as per this mindboggling graph from blockchain.info–

BTChashrate

The Bitcoin mining network is currently performing some three hundred quadrillion hash computations per second to secure and verify Bitcoin transactions. (If you think that’s environmentally wasteful, compare it to gold mining.) Meanwhile, despite its much-publicized decline of late, Bitcoin still has a collective market capitalization of nearly $5 billion, twice what it was a year ago.

Why You Should Care

Bitcoin is only mildly interesting as a store of value; there are many good alternatives. It’s more interesting as a means to transfer money to anywhere and anyone, with greater speed and lower transaction fees than most alternatives, with no ID requirements.

But it’s really interesting because it’s the world’s first form of programmable money.

Many people don’t appreciate that Bitcoin supports a simple scripting language which can orchestrate transactions. (In fact all transactions actually run as scripts.) This language already supports cases such as: deposits that automatically revert after a period of time, escrow transactions, transactions which rely on some external condition (albeit in a complex way that requires a third-party “oracle”), and more.

What are all of the potential applications of fully programmable money? Especially if the capabilities of that scripting language are expanded? I don’t know, and neither do you. It’s the proverbial whole new ball game.

But progress is tricky. Bitcoin is the only cryptocurrency powered and secured by a truly gargantuan mining network, but because it’s worth so much, and its network is so widespread, changes to Bitcoin itself are necessarily promulgated very slowly, and experimentation is done with extreme tentative caution. So we can try out new kinds of blockchains and cryptocurrencies (like Ethereum and Zerocash), or we can rely on the value, scarcity and (technical) stability of Bitcoin, but we can’t do both. Right?

…Wrong, says Adam Back.

Sidechains: Back, Hill, and Blockstream

The “three hundred quadrillion hashes” mentioned up above refer to attempts to satisfy the Hashcash proof-of-work function that Adam Back invented way back in 1997, used today to verify Bitcoin transactions. Now Back is back with a new proposal: sidechains, which would allow Bitcoins (and other blockchain assets) to be transferred between blockchains.

Back and co. are not exactly acting out of pure technical benevolence. He and a group of co-founders, including several core Bitcoin developers, headed by former Zero-Knowledge Systems CEO Austin Hill, have a launched a startup called Blockstream. According to Coindesk, they have already raised $15 million in an ongoing funding round, and added Reid Hoffman to their board. Their exact business remains mysterious, but is built around sidechains. (The sidechain code itself will apparently be open-source. See Blockstream’s recent Reddit AMA.)

To quote the sidechains white paper (PDF):

The creation of independent but essentially similar systems is problematic … the most visible projects may be the least technically sound … discourages technical innovation while at the same time encouraging market games … We desire a world in which interoperable altchains can be easily created and used, but without unnecessarily fragmenting markets and development. In this paper, we argue that it is possible to simultaneously achieve these seemingly contradictory goals … participants do not need to be as concerned that their holdings are locked in a single experimental altchain, since sidechain coins can be redeemed

To quote, er, myself: “You could in principle have thousands of sidechains “pegged” to Bitcoin, all with different characteristics and purposes … and all of them taking advantage of the scarcity and resilience guaranteed by the main Bitcoin blockchain, which in turn could iterate to implement experimental sidechain features once they have been tried and tested.”

Blockstream has many other influential fans, including Vinod Khosla and Gavin Andresen, chief scientist of the Bitcoin Foundation, who also recently did an AMA):

There are critics, although the most visible, from Peter Todd, still stresses that “90% of the ideas in sidechains are good ideas.” His chief complaint is that either sidechains will still be vulnerable to 51% attacks, or Bitcoin miners will become more centralized, more powerful, and more dangerous. (There is also some rather more histrionic criticism.)

It’s worth noting that while one form of sidechain — a so-called “federated peg” — can be created today, for sidechains which require no external trust beyond the blockchain, some form of change to the core Bitcoin protocol will be required. At this point, though, such a change seems (to me) an inevitability.

Ethereum and Zerocash

Sidechains are far from the only “Bitcoin 2.0″ project, although they do have the unusual feature that, as far as I know, all other such projects could be built atop sidechains. The two which interest me most are Ethereum and Zerocash. (And not just me: to quote Back in the AMA, “i’m waiting for the zerocash sidechain :) “.)

Bitcoin is not anonymous. Every transaction’s sender, receiver, and amount are recorded in the blockchain’s public record. The “sender” and “receiver” are Bitcoin addresses, not names, but if anyone connects your identity to an address, its entire Bitcoin history will be apparent to everyone. (There are workarounds, but they’re flawed.) Zerocash, authored by a group of cryptographic academics, is a blockchain protocol wherein senders, receivers, and amounts are all kept entirely anonymous. In a world where privacy is withering away like ice in summer, a little more anonymity would be a welcome development.

Ethereum is another separate project scheduled to launch its “genesis block” this winter. You have to admire its creators’ ambition: its blockchain supports a full Turing-compete programming language intended to power not just programmable money but also financial derivatives, voting systems, identity registries, reputation systems, decentralized file storage, decentralized autonomous operations(!), and more. They recently raised 30,000 bitcoins, or some $14 million at current prices, by selling their own currency, “ether,” and its blockchain’s “genesis block” is due to launch this winter.

Ethereum already supports sidechains, too, out of the box. But also–you could take a Bitcoin sidechain and clone Ethereum on it! Sorry if this all hurts your head.

Warnings and Conclusions

If you’re thinking: wait, the Ethereum people sold their own made-up digital currency for someone else’s made-up digital currency, which will now be pegged against more new made-up currencies? And people trade cold hard US dollars for these? This is snake-oil nonsense! let me assure you: it’s possible that you may ultimately be proved right. But I don’t think so. Blockchains, and the new monetary applications that blockchains make possible, seem to me to be a sufficiently powerful and interesting innovation that cryptocurrencies–as a class–do in fact have inherent value, not least because you can do things with them that you can’t with traditional fiat currency.

This is highly anecdotal, but at a Blockstream event this week, I spoke to multiple people working at startups with transaction-based business models, whose companies are already up and running using traditional currency … who are now beginning to move towards Bitcoin’s blockchain as a substrate for their transactions. Not because they’re True Bitcoin Believers, but because it just makes practical and technical sense. I strongly suspect that the number of such people will begin to grow rather large as we move through the next iterations of blockchain technology.

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/pZJSLEA_BL8/

U.K. Startup Swytch Is Building An App To Open Up The ‘Burner’ Phone Number Market


The telco industry has resisted change for years. That anti-innovation attitude, coupled with the rise of smartphones and fast data networks, provided ample opportunities for over-the-top startups to circumvent moribund and expensive telco offerings with VoIP and messaging apps that were both less expensive and more feature rich.

No surprise, then, that OTT messaging apps have blown up. And things are only going to get more moveable on the phone front as telcos start to wake up to the need to sanction their own disruption where they would previously have dug their heels in. Really they’re playing catch up now.

Case in point, U.K. startup Swytch — founded in April this year — is bootstrapping a cloud based mobile network and dialer app that will let you use multiple phone numbers on a single SIM, so doing away with the hassle of juggling multiple physical SIM cards. (Which in turn has led to phone makers offering devices with dual SIM slots to make SIM switching easier — albeit, that’s only good for two numbers. And is mainly a feature of lower cost devices targeting emerging markets.)

The Swytch app will support the use of different phone numbers on the same SIM so the user can have what amounts to multiple phone lines for incoming and outgoing calls on a single device. It will also — at a later date next year — offer additional call management features such as call forwarding or blocking for individual numbers.

“Swytch provides you with additional numbers on your existing phone. So you don’t change your phone, you don’t change your SIM card, you don’t change your network operator, we can add lots of numbers on top of that that you can make and receive calls on, and texts. And they’re all live at the same time,” says co-founder Chris Michael.

“The big use case, obviously, is business people, so breaking out business and personal communications,” he added. “But because of the nature of not having a contract or a commitment with your number we’re opening up the temporary number market.”

Another target here is offering international customers the ability to buy U.K. numbers they can use in their home country to circumvent roaming fees.

The startup was showing off its as yet unreleased app at TechCrunch Disrupt Europe’s startup alley last week. They’re working to a launch date of the end January at the moment. The service will be piggybacking on the mobile network of an existing U.K. carrier, much like an MVNO, although they’re not disclosing which network will be their partner at this point (but obviously the service will work across all networks).

“We will work on iOS and Android. And it will also work on tablets as well so, in effect, you can take an iPad and turn it into an iPhone because the only difference between an iPhone and an iPad is that you can make and receive calls and text messages… on the phone. And we can do that now on an iPad as well,” Michael added.

“The vision is that you have one app, where you have any number, from anywhere in the world — as many as you like — on a short term basis. Because, our U.K. numbers, there’s no contract on them at all.”

So, in other words, if you’re — say — in the process of trying to buy a house and need to register a phone number with lots of estate agents you could use a ‘burner’ number for the weeks/months of your search. And then stop taking any calls on it once you’re done. Which sounds like bliss.

Swytch is using recycled numbers to power the service — which are also used for the pay-as-you-go mobile market. In the same way as happens with PAYG Michael explained it will quarantine numbers to check they’re not getting calls and texts before putting them back into circulation (albeit, some PAYG numbers clearly aren’t very well quarantined so it will be interesting to see how effective that quarantining process is).

Usage of Swytch numbers will then come out of the user’s bundled minutes and texts, i.e. with their existing carrier. Although there’s also a small added cost (see below) to using their numbers.

Swytch is looking to replicate its service with numbers abroad and Michael said it’s currently speaking with network operators in the U.S. and Europe who are interested in giving it numbers to expand the service scope — so, for example, a U.K. Swytch user could buy a U.S. number.

“There’s a very big pain point here for people. They get it very, very, very quickly. Even if they’re not a business user,” he said.

“If you frequent eBay, Gumtree, Craigslist, Match.com, anywhere where you have a transaction with somebody you really don’t know very well and you don’t want to give them something that’s so personal as your mobile number you can switch on a temporary number for a week, give it to them and when you’ve finished that you can switch it off as well.”

Obviously that ability cuts both ways. So people being given a mobile number thinking they now have a permanent line in to someone else’s mobile device may well get a nasty shock when they find the number wasn’t so permanent after all. Although that can happen anyway if someone is using a secondary SIM that they discard.

Another interesting potential security consequence from making temporarily mobile numbers more accessible is that increasingly mobile apps and digital services are using mobile phone numbers to authenticate the identity of someone signing up to their service — but if a burner number can be used, that arguably makes it easier for people to create fake accounts to spam or scam others.

Michael said to sign up to Swytch someone has to register a “legitimate mobile number”, as well as provide an email address. He also points to the fact it’s a paid service as a factor that will be off-putting to scammers.

“There’s a payment mechanism involved. Our numbers aren’t free so there’s even more anonymity in a pay as you go phone because I can buy a SIM card and buy scratch vouchers and top up without giving any network any details about myself. Whereas with us we’re using iOS for in-app billing, and we’re using a credit card provider for Android billing. There is a number of tracking [measures],” he noted.

There are some services which already offer multiple phone numbers per SIM in the U.S. but the U.K. market has not yet been opened up in this way. Michael, who has worked in the mobile industry for the past 12 years, said it’s been a pretty long road to getting telcos to buy in to the idea.

“I was banging on doors for two and a half years trying to get numbers,” he said. “It wasn’t until I spoke with the right network operator but also the right person that really understood that the market’s going OTT. Whether they like it or not.”

“They did the same with Skype when Skype first came out and then they embraced it. The same with WhatsApp and then they embraced it. We’ve been very careful to make sure the relationship we’ve got with our network operator, they’re very clear on what they want from it. That we can achieve something that’s beneficial for them, as well as for us,” he added.

The big advantage Swytch is offering domestic carriers is the opening up of the temporary market number — ergo, expanding their potential customer base to overseas mobile users, for example.

Average voice call revenue per user has been declining for years so anything which appears to offer a route to rekindle voice growth domestically — and indeed expand the pie by opening up to overseas users — is going to look attractive to an open-minded carrier.

“Where we really open up the market for a network operator is this temporary number market where they don’t have a solution for that,” said Michael. “Pay as you go is still very, very expensive for these solutions. But also we are able to sell a U.K. mobile to anybody anywhere in the world.

“So if I’m a Spanish manufacturer and I have distributors in the U.K. I can give my sales staff a U.K. mobile number in Spain which they can distribute and then people calling them don’t even know they’re abroad necessarily, don’t pay any roaming charges, and vice versa. When my staff call or text out they’re not paying any roaming charges either.”

In terms of pricing, he said Swytch will be free for a week for one number with £1 worth of credit so a user can trial the service. After that the cost per number will be around £1 per week per number. Swytch will also charge for outgoing calls, layering on top of your existing operator services. The pricing for U.K. calls will be around 1.5p per minute for a landline call, 3.5p for a mobile, 4p for a text — on top of whatever you’re paying your carrier.

“Internationally it’s going to be just as competitive as Skype,” he added. “We can scale what we do here in the U.S. and any other country so we are actively seeking network operators for these countries. And building out the features and the functions further down the line to really differentiate ourselves from any network operator anywhere in the world.

“We are already talking with manufacturers, especially Android manufacturers, about pre-loading our app on their devices. It differentiates their offering to others.”

Android’s customizability would allow for Swytch to be used as default dialer on the phone. Whereas on iOS the user has to fire up the app in order to make outgoing Swytch line calls.

On both platforms the dialer app integrates with the user’s phone book so it can correctly identify any saved contacts to ID who’s calling and so on.

Some screenshots of the forthcoming app are shown below:

  1. swytch-lines

  2. swytch-messages

  3. swytch-call-log

  4. swytch-numbers

  5. swytch

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/xsQi6F2Snow/

Google’s New Skybox For Good Program Gives Real-Time Satellite Imagery To Non-Profits


On the heels of acquiring satellite startup Skybox in August, Google and Skybox have announced the Skybox for Good program, which will provide real-time satellite imagery to organizations and programs that save lives, protect the environment, promote education, and positively impact humanity, according to the official blog post.

The program launches today in beta with a small group of partners. The images provided to these organizations will be publicly available under a Creative Commons license, and you can check out the beginning of that work on this map here.

This will allow organizations like Sky Truth and Appalachian Voices to keep an eye on “mountain-top removal mining”, which threatens to devastate the forests of the Appalachian mountains in West Virginia. Another example given in the announcement was images of a Northern Sri Lanka village called Nagarkovil, which were given to HALO to help them verify that the area was safe, after previously removing land mines.

The initiative comes from the Google Earth Outreach team, the main goal being to give extra knowledge and resources to non-profit organizations who need help in telling their story or achieving their intended missions.

While the program will undoubtedly benefit its non-profit partners in their quest for a safer, happier, healthier world, it’s also an interesting juxtaposition that puts surveillance (at least at the satellite level) in a positive light. That’s a problematic proposition, considering the revelations the past couple of years have brought us with respect to privacy.

In any case, you can check out all of the currently available images from the program on this map.

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/zxXyQ9BN-l0/

Gillmor Gang: Room to Grow

The Gillmor Gang — John Borthwick, Robert Scoble, Dan Farber, John Taschek, Keith Teare, and Steve Gillmor. Recorded live Friday, October 24, 2014. A heavy news week crescendoed with Facebook’s release of its Rooms iOS app, topping Twitter’s Fabric platform , Google’s InBox, a big Microsoft quarter, and the refactoring of the TV business.

The mechanics of Room’s camera roll authentication may be less than intuitive, but the ease with which an @borthwick tweet turned into viral on boarding turned us into believers — of what we’re not sure. Instagram for Adults, UberNotifications, or Room Service Plus?

@stevegillmor, @scobleizer, @borthwick, @dbfarber, @jtaschek, @kteare

Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor

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Our sister show

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/qvSfWJiADk4/

Amazon has made its Appstore for Android obsolete

Since its creation, the Amazon Appstore stood apart, banned from being offered in the official store for Android apps, Google Play, until now… sort of. When Amazon recently updated its main Android app, it got a new “Apps Games” department that duplicates the content found in the standalone Appstore app — effectively making it both unnecessary and obsolete. Naturally, because Amazon’s still delivering apps outside the confines of Google Play, you need to change your device’s security settings to accept downloads from unknown sources to install them. The change is a welcome one — reducing app clutter’s a good thing — and the convenience factor afforded by this consolidation should have Amazon selling more apps. Still, we’re pretty sure that’s not enough to make up for the Fire phone’s hit to the company’s bottom line.

http://www.engadget.com/2014/10/25/amazon-has-made-its-appstore-for-android-obsolete/?ncid=rss_truncated

Robotic hand uses the power of static electricity to pick up objects

A cheap robotic hand developed by a company called Grabit offers something most of the other mechanical limbs we’ve seen before don’t: the ability to pick up objects using electrostatic attraction. Even if you’re not familiar with term, you’ve likely encountered the phenomenon at least once. Ever rubbed a balloon on your hair for fun, so you can stick it to the wall? How about getting plastic of bits of styrofoam stuck on your hand while handling a package? Yep, that’s all thanks to attraction caused by static electricity. Grabit’s mechanical hand takes it step further by using powered electrodes to sustain the phenomenon, as the charge naturally disappears over time. It also has the technology to prevent dust from clinging onto the fingers.

This robotic limb wasn’t made to be used by amputees, though — it’s meant for the manufacturing industry as a replacement for robots that use suction cups or other means to pick up objects. In fact, Grabit made its fingers out of flexible materials that have electrostatic properties, so it can manipulate objects of different shapes and sizes. The limb can also distribute weight more evenly than other manufacturing robots, allowing it to handle delicate materials such the components needed to assemble solar cells. Grabit presented its technology last week at the RoboBusiness conference in Boston, but if you weren’t there, you can always watch how the hand works in the videos below.

http://www.engadget.com/2014/10/25/robotic-hand-electrostatic-attraction/?ncid=rss_truncated