Merry Christmas from 2030

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Fun materials

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To keep us amused during the holidays, Tom from the New Scientist Technology Blog has compiled a short list of fun materials - stuff that behaves a little bit outside the norm - with instructions to do it at home.

Here goes a short version of the original article:

  • Dilatants, also knows as Non-Newtonian fluids, so named because it's properties cannot be described in terms of the concepts of classical fluids. For instance, they get more solid when stressed;
  • Auxetic material - materials that get thicker when stretched. Pull them in one direction and they expand in another;
  • Superfluids - liquids that flow without friction. They can effortlessly flow through the tiniest of cracks and will even flow up the walls of a beaker and out the top;
  • Ferrofluids - magnetic fluids that can look spectacular. They're made from nanoscale magnetic particles suspended in a liquid;
  • Dry ice. Carbon dioxide freezes at -78.5 °C and it's fun and versatile stuff:

Skype users to get lie detectors

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After developing SAM (Skype Answer Machine), KishKish has developed the first lie detector for Skype. You can get it here.

It analyses audio streams over a Skype call in real time and illustrates the stress levels of the other person. As well as operating in real time the KishKish device can also record calls for analysis later.

Net neutrality

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This is not my first post about Network Neutrality, neither the second, but since I crossed with this couple of videos in YouTube, I decided to take another try, and share them with you.

The first video is from one against Net Neutrality:

Which do you prefer?

Backseat games

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Backseat Games is a research project at the Mobility Studio at the Interactive Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. The project focuses on creating mobile augmented reality games to be used by children travelling on the back seat of cars. The aim, to terminate with the "Are we there yet?". How? This way:

The game turns churches, bridges and other roadside objects into a fantasy land filled with virtual creatures, treasures and adventure. By pointing the gaming device towards objects as they pass by, players can defend themselves against attacking creatures, pick up magic artifacts or collaborate with players in meeting traffic.

So far the project team has developed two prototypes and is working on a third one.

In Backseat Gaming, a Pocket PC is equipped with a digital compass and a GPS-receiver to connect the game to the surrounding world. The real world acts as the gaming space, and the game content has clear connections to the roadside objects seen outside the windows of the vehicle. The game consists of a framing story and a set of game locations where local stories are told. The player can catch attacking creatures and pick up virtual objects that exist in the vicinity of specific roadside-objects. Watch a video clip< from a user test.

The second prototype, Road Rager, is a multiplayer game, which uses wireless ad-hoc peer-to-peer networking technology to enable game-play between car passengers as they come within each others vicinity. Contingent traffic encounters such as rapid meetings, protracted overtaking or gatherings, i.e. traffic jams or red light accumulations constitute an essential part of the experience of travelling along a road. Road Rager focuses on using these contingent traffic encounters to create a fun and compelling mobile game. The game is developed on a WLAN equipped PDA and uses a Bluetooth GPS-receiver to locate the player’s geographical position. Watch a video clip from a user test.

The third and current running project, Backseat Playground, uses a GPS-receiver, a handheld computer, and headphones, all connected to a laptop in the trunk of the car to create an in-car gaming experience developed around an interactive game which corresponds to the vehicle’s real-world route. The game begins with a radio newsflash relayed by the handheld computer. This radio newsflash places the passenger at the start of a murder mystery or a werewolf thriller. As the car travels along its route, the player receives further phone calls and walkie-talkie messages from characters in the game. The overall purpose of the game is to create a gaming experience where narrative episodes and embedded gameplay combine with the experience of travelling through the road network. To learn more check out the video.