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Tech remorse: the worst gadgets we ever bought As much as we love technology, it can also be a downer. With every bad gadget purchase, however infrequent, we're reminded that chip-based life forms are cold and indifferent. A touchscreen insists you tapped a full inch to the left from the icon you meant to hit; a laptop spins up its fan as the hard drive refuses to yield a Word document; a voice recorder drains its 4 AAs, dabs the corners of its lips, and dies for the third time today. Gadgets that stubbornly refuse to operate the way the manual, advertisements, packaging, or marginally competent salespeople said they would should not be suffered in silence. The 3Com Ergo Audrey, by Sean Gallagher About the same time 3Com was preparing itself for the scrapheap of history by spinning off its Palm division, the company decided to get into the Internet "appliance" business. Fortunately, I got mine back in the box to 3Com before they euthanized the whole line just seven months after launch. IBM Thinkpad, by Matthew Lasar How did it fail?

The Gates-Funded Toilet Of The Future Today is World Toilet Day. That’s not as silly as it sounds. Two and a half billion people around the world don’t have access to clean toilets, which means they are at risk for a number of diseases--diarrhoeal diseases, in fact, kill someone every 20 seconds. More people die from poor sanitation than measles, malaria, and HIV/AIDS combined. There is some hope. The seeds of Caltech’s toilet design were planted 17 years ago when Caltech engineer (and toilet team leader) Michael Hoffmann patented a design for "multilayered nanostructures doing electrochemical degradation," according to team member Asghar Aryanfar. The toilet features a solar panel that powers an electrochemical reactor, which in turn breaks down waste into sanitized solids (a useful fertilizer) and hydrogen that can be stored in fuel cells to power the reactor on cloudy days.

Aeromobil flying car prototype gets off the ground for the first time There is a saying in flying: “If it looks good, it will fly well.” Stefan Klein, a designer from the Slovak Republic, has announced the first flight of his Aeromobil Version 2.5, a flying car prototype he has been developing over the last 20 years. This vehicle is a strikingly beautiful design with folding wings and a propeller in the tail. View all The Aeromobil V2.5 is a propeller-driven aircraft that also functions as an automobile – or you can think of it it a car with lofty aspirations. This project is not the only flying car around. When the Automobil is a car, the wings are folded straight back along the fuselage and the engine drives the front wheels, while the small back wheels support the tail. As shown in the video below, when the Aeromobil gets to the airport, the driver/pilot pushes a button and the wings fold out for a wingspan of 8.2 m (27 ft), which is comparable to other light sport aircraft of similar weight and power. Source: AVWEB, AEROMOBIL, AUTOSME.sk

Myo gesture-control armband uses muscle power | Crave From "Minority Report" to the Kinect, we've been on a tech quest for touchless gesture control that frees us from the shackles of mice and old-style controllers. We want to get in on the action and use movement to command our digital devices. Myo from Thalmic Labs takes that gesture-control desire and builds it into an armband you wear on your forearm. The Myo uses a combination of motion sensors and muscle activity sensors to track gestures. When you snap your fingers, wave your hand, or point your finger, it translates that movement into a gesture based on the muscles used. The Myo team suggests using the armband to "unleash your inner Jedi," an enormously appealing idea. The armband will work from the get-go with Mac and PC computers, enabling control of popular activities like Web browsing, media content, and watching videos. The Myo can be preordered for $149 and is expected to ship in late 2013. (Via Reddit)

World's smallest windmills to power cell phones While commercial wind turbines have been trending toward larger sizes, from 300 kW capacity in 1990 to 7.5 MW in 2011, sometimes it is worth bucking the trend. Professor J.C. Chiao and his postdoc Dr. Smitha Rao of the University of Texas at Arlington have taken this contrarian philosophy to the extreme. They have developed a MEMS-based nickel alloy windmill so small that 10 could be mounted on a single grain of rice. Aimed at very-small-scale energy harvesting applications, these windmills could recharge batteries for smartphones, and directly power ultra-low-power electronic devices. The micro-windmills (technically called horizontal axis wind turbines) have a three-bladed rotor 1.8 mm in diameter mounted on a tower about 2 mm tall. Despite their size, the micro-windmills can endure strong winds, owing to being constructed of a tough nickel alloy (rather than the silicon and silicon oxide layers typical of MEMS designs) and smart aerodynamic design. Let's get to the meat.

Scientists turn table salt into forbidden compounds that violate textbook rules In the field of exotic new materials, we've examined one of the strongest ones and another declared to be impossible; scientists now report creating "forbidden" materials out of ordinary table salt that violate classical rules of chemistry. Not only does the development challenge the theoretical foundation of chemistry, but it is also expected to lead to the discovery of new exotic chemical compounds with practical uses and shed light on the deep interiors of planets. The international team of researchers led by Artem R. Oganov, a Professor of Crystallography at Stony Brook University, predicted that taking table salt and subjecting it to high pressure in the presence of an excess of one of its constituents (either chlorine or sodium) would lead to the formation of totally unexpected compounds. Most of what we know about textbook chemistry only applies to ambient conditions, or the default conditions that one normally finds on the surface of the Earth, says the team.

Sweden joins race for self-driving cars A hundred self-driving Volvo cars will roll onto public roads in and around the Swedish city of Gothenburg in 2017, the Chinese-owned car maker said Monday. The pilot initiative, called "Drive Me", has a 500 million kronor (56.3 million euros, $76.2 million) budget and is a joint venture between the manufacturer and several public institutions, such as the Swedish Transport Administration and the city of Gothenburg. "We aren't the world's biggest country, we aren't the world's largest car maker, but we make up for that by being smarter and working together in a simpler way," Volvo Cars chief executive Haakan Samuelsson said at a news conference in Stockholm promoting the public-private partnership. The first driver-less cars will have a maximum speed of 70 kilometres per hour (43.5 miles per hour) on some 50 kilometres of selected roads including commuter routes with heavy traffic. The project will begin in 2014 with customer research and technology development.

Top 10 Innovations 2013 Despite formidable odds, this year was a good one for life science innovation. The double punch of the government-wide belt tightening, known as the sequester, and the two-week federal government shutdown deflated institutional budgets and sowed uncertainty among investors. But new and exciting products still made their way into the marketplace. And with more than 80 products submitted to this year’s Top 10 Innovations contest, our expert panel of judges had the tall task of whittling the crowded field down to the very best. The competition proved to be so tight that this year’s Top 10 is actually a Top 12, with two ties—for the second and tenth spots. A mini-microscope that can capture networks of brain neurons firing in real time as mice engage in behaviors and a 3-D upgrade to an imaging platform that made an appearance in our 2011 Top 10, are among the winning products that embody the spirit of innovation our competition seeks to capture. (left to right) nVista HD Inscopix EMD Millipore

10 important Twitter accounts for tech and startups in Asia Within the uber-hip technology scene, Twitter is a way of life. For its most active users, voices emanating from the little blue bird icon can pepper an entire workday with articles worth reading and opinions worth sharing. But getting acquainted with Twitter can be daunting for newbies. That’s why we’ve compiled a ‘starter list’ of the who’s-who of Twitter within the Asia tech world. For this list, we’ve focused on accounts of “non-traditional journalists,” as writers at legacy publications ought to warrant a follow by default (not to imply that scrappy bloggers like us can’t go neck-and-neck with them). 1. Aulia Masna, editor of The Daily Social, Indonesia’s leading tech blog, has two Twitter accounts – both of which are worth following. 2. Growth Engineer at WordPress by day, Ben Thompson came out of nowhere in 2013 to become one of the most well-respected writers on tech with his blog stratechery. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. (Editing by Terence Lee; image credit via Flickr user eldh)

The World-Changing Ideas Of 2014 Forecasting the future is never easy. We were, of course, supposed to have flying cars by now--and yet here we all are, still stuck in traffic on the ground. But lack of personal aerial-transportation options aside, we are living in a world in which the pace of innovation and scientific discovery makes reality seem more and more like science fiction. In the next year, those lines will get even more blurred: Think electronic pills that beam your vitals to your doctor, a drone swooping from the sky to save lives in a disaster, or even a fundamental rethinking of how businesses relate to society. We Will (Begin To) Destroy Malaria The malaria parasite still thrives in countries like Angola and Uganda, where treatment and prevention are tough to implement. A Drone Will Save a Life Police who responded to a Saskatchewan car accident last May had a dilemma--the victim was missing. As media theorist Douglas Rushkoff puts it, "Code is literacy in the 21st century." You Will Swallow A Sensor

Wello $200 iPhone case tracks a range of key health vitals Health monitoring start-up Azoi has announced the availability of a significant product in the form of the Wello, a lightweight smartphone case embedded with sensors that measures blood pressure, electrocardiography (ECG), heart rate, blood oxygen, temperature, and lung functions to a high level of accuracy. The US$199 Wello case will be initially available for iPhone 4S, 5 and 5S, but for those who don’t have one of those phones, the case will still work with any IOS or android device which has Bluetooth LE functionality – you just won’t be able to use the case on your phone. View all With such functionality, the Wello has the potential to become a disruptive technology, enabling people in developed countries to track all their key vital health data, and make more informed lifestyle choices. In developing countries where the healthcare system is poor or non-existent, it has the potential to facilitate much more. It seems quite easy to use. How have you financed the company to date?

In three weeks, Spacex could demonstrate the first reusable rocket booster and pave the way to radically cheaper spaceflight This Sunday, After sending cargo towards the International Space Station, the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket used for the flight will return nearly immediately after liftoff and return and fire its engines for the second time. The burn will allow the rocket to reenter the atmosphere in controlled flight, without breaking up and disintegrating on the way down as most booster rockets do. The launch was delayed to March 30th. The machine will settle over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of its Cape Canaveral launchpad, engines roaring, and four landing legs will unfold from the rocket’s sides. Future flights of the so-called F9R rocket will have it touching down on land. After recovering the rocket from the water on Sunday, SpaceX engineers and technicians will study it to determine what it would take to refurbish such a rocket for reuse. SpaceX is vying for so-called Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, or EELV, contracts to launch satellites for the U.S. Turnaround Time

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