Bendable electronic color ‘paper’ invented

Chalmers’ e-paper contains gold, silver and PET plastic. The layer that produces the colors is less than a micrometer thin. (credit: Mats Tiborn)

Chalmers University of Technology researchers have developed the basic technology for a new kind of reflective electronic “paper” that is micrometer-thin and bendable. It can display all colors displayed on an LED display, but with ten times less energy than a Kindle tablet.


This Chalmers logotype shows how RGB pixels can reproduce color images. The magnification shows which pixels are activated to create elements of the image. (credit: Kunli Xiong)

The technology is based on electrically controllable optical absorption of a conducting polymer, which is used to modulate the reflected light from ultrathin nanostructured plasmonic metasurfaces. (KurzweilAI has covered a number of research projects using reflective plasmonic designs, such as this one and this one.)


The plasmonic metasurfaces. (a) Schematic of the plasmonic metasurface, which has three layers. A 150 nm silver film was first deposited on the substrate to provide a high base reflection. The next alumina spacer layer tuned the reflective color by Fabry–Pérot interference. (b) Then 150 nm nanoholes in a 20 nm gold film were prepared on alumina by colloidal self-assembly and tape stripping. (c) The color palette was created by varying the alumina thickness for the primary colors red, green, and blue, corresponding to an alumina thickness of 48, 93, and 83 nm respectively. (d) A photo of samples with the primary colors under ambient light. (credit: Kunli Xiong et al./Advanced Materials)

“The ‘paper’ is similar to the Kindle tablet,” says Chalmers researcher Andreas Dahlin. “It isn’t lit up like a standard display, but rather reflects the external light which illuminates it. Therefore it works very well where there is bright light, such as out in the sun, in contrast to standard LED displays that work best in darkness. At the same time it needs only a tenth of the energy that a Kindle tablet uses, which itself uses much less energy than a tablet LED display.”

The material is not yet ready for production. One obstacle is that there is gold and silver in the display, which makes the manufacturing expensive, Dahlin explains.

He says optimal applications for the displays will be well-lit places such as outside or in public places for displaying information. This could reduce the energy consumption and at the same time replace signs and information screens that aren’t currently electronic today with more flexible ones.


Abstract of Plasmonic Metasurfaces with Conjugated Polymers for Flexible Electronic Paper in Color

A flexible electronic paper in full color is realized by plasmonic metasurfaces with conjugated polymers. An ultrathin large-area electrochromic material is presented which provides high polarization-independent reflection, strong contrast, fast response time, and long-term stability. This technology opens up for new electronic readers and posters with ultralow power consumption.

October 21, 2016 / by / in , , , , , , , , , , ,
Your Dinner Is Ready To Be 3D Printed



Over the last few decades, a new wave of science has been infused into the world of food in the form of molecular gastronomy. By definition, food preparation and cooking involve physical and chemical changes, and molecular gastronomy simply uses scientific principles to take food in new technical and even artistic directions.

It’s also a great excuse to have some fun with liquid nitrogen.

Back in 2013, another big step in food science came with a successful crowdfunding campaign to make a true functional food replacement containing all the necessary nutrients to sustain life. With a clever name that provoked everyone to read the ingredient list twice for anything resembling people, Soylent tastes like pancake batter but doesn’t make good pancakes.

Today, all signs point to 3D printed food as the next big advance (sorry, synthetic meat…you’re still not ready for the limelight). Soylent may have stripped down sustenance to its bare essentials, but 3D printing will bring both function and design of food to the plate. And thanks to Professor Hod Lipson, who we recently heard speak on the biggest trends in robotics, the era of digital food is closer than ever.

The team built a prototype food printer able to 3D print food in various designs and hope to provide the ability to cook food by year’s end.



This food printer may not end up on your counter next to your Keurig machine, but the next generation of cutting-edge chefs are anxious to see what it can squeeze out for dinner. [Singularity Hub]

October 18, 2016 / by / in , , , , , , , , , ,
Robot babies from Japan raise all sorts of questions about how parents bond with AI



Driven by a declining population, a trend for developing robotic babies has emerged in Japan as a means of encouraging couples to become “parents”. The approaches taken vary widely and are driven by different philosophical approaches that also beg a number of questions, not least whether these robo-tots will achieve the aim of their creators.

To understand all of this it is worth exploring the reasons behind the need to promote population growth in Japan. The issue stems from the disproportionate number of older people. Predictions from the UN suggest that by 2050 there will be about double the number of people living in Japan in the 70-plus age range compared to those aged 15-30. This is blamed on a number of factors including so-called “parasite singles”, more unmarried women and a lack of immigration.

So, what are the different design approaches that are being taken to encourage more people to become parents? These have ranged from robots that mimic or represent the behaviour of a baby through to robots that look much more lifelike. Engineers at Toyota recently launched Kirobo Mini, for example, as a means of promoting an emotional response in humans. The robot does not look like a baby, but instead models “vulnerable” baby-like behaviours including recognising and responding to people in a high-pitched tone and being unstable in its movements.

At the other end of the spectrum is Yotaro, a robotic baby simulator that uses projection technology for its face so it can simulate emotions and expressions. The simulator also models reaction to touching, mood and even illness through an in-built runny nose.



Encouraging or off-putting?

Past evidence might suggest that giving couples robotic baby simulators would encourage population growth. Recent educational experiments with robotic babies and teenagers in the US and Australia, for example, found that although robotic babies were tested as a means of deterring teenage pregnancies actually increased among those groups that were allocated robotic babies compared to control groups.

However, it would be too simplistic to say that this might be the same result for all adopters of robotic babies. Ages and cultural differences would play a significant part in any outcome.

As well as aiming to promote a growth in population, researchers are also aiming to prepare young couples for the longer term needs of a child as it grows. Robots have been developed to represent children in a range of age groups, from “nine-month-old” Noby to “two-year-old” toddlers such as CB2 (although the latter is the output of research exploring the development of a biometric body).



While much focus has been on what goes into a baby robot, there are potential emotional issues for “parents”. There have been a number of studies that have examined the relationship between humans and robots. Researchers have discovered a high degree of bonding can form between the two, a bond that is strengthened when the device is a social robot which may have a human-like appearance or portray human-like behaviours.

There are some interesting caveats to this rule of thumb, such as the “uncanny valley” identified by Mashiro Mori, which suggests there is a range of realistic human qualities that humans find repulsive rather than appealing.

At present, development is very much a one-way relationship; one in which the human projects human qualities onto the robot. But there are currently a number of projects underway to develop robots that make use of Artificial Intelligence techniques so that they can form their own relationships with humans.

This then leads to the ethical implications of using robots. Embracing a number of areas of research, robot ethics considers whether the use of a device within a particular field is acceptable and also whether the device itself is behaving ethically. When it comes to robot babies there are already a number of issues that are apparent. Should “parents” be allowed to choose the features of their robot, for example? How might parents be counselled when returning their robot baby? And will that baby be used again in the same form?

These problems may persist throughout the lifespan of the “child”. If a point in time arrives when parents need to swap their robot baby for another due to defects or because they want an older “child”, for example, how might the emotional attachment to the first “child” migrate to the replacement given that this really should be the evolution of the same “person”? In practical terms, this may be possible through software updates similar to updates to apps on smartphones today – or even transplanting components to allow the evolved “child” to retain characteristics and memories, similar to replacing a hard disk drive in a computer.

Even taking Asimov’s “three laws” of robotics into account becomes problematic depending upon the interpretation of the laws. For example, the first law states that a robot should not harm a human being. What if harm can be considered as emotional or psychological? You could argue that a human may be emotionally harmed when bonding with a robot baby as a result of the robot’s actions.

The use of social robots in general raises many issues, both ethical and technical. The problem of declining birthrates is, however, a real and growing problem in a number of nations. Robot babies may not directly prove to be a solution, but it may lead to research that offers better understanding and insight into the problem of birthrate decline. [The Conversation]

October 18, 2016 / by / in , , , , , , , , , , , ,
LG’s new wireless charging pad powers your phone at lightning speeds



Wireless charging is a bit of a white-elephant technology. It’s nice to have, but not seen as something essential. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons for this is because it’s slower than a traditional wired connection. South Korean tech giant LG’s Innoteck division thinks it has the solution to this.

It just announced the world’s first ever 15 watt quick charging pad, which will be released later this month. This will charge devices up to three times faster than the current generation of 5 watt charging pads. According to LG, it will be able to charge a smartphone to 50 percent in just thirty minutes.



LG’s pad is compatible with the current stable of wireless-charging enabled devices. According to the company, it comes with technology that prevents the pad from overheating while charging. This, it says, reduces the risk of the phone’s battery becoming damaged, or even exploding.

Wireless charging is a growing market. According to market research firm TSR, sales of base units was $553 million in 2015, and will reach $2.2 billion by 2019.

LG’s high-power charging pads will go on sale in Australia, Europe, and North America around the middle of the month. Pricing is yet to be confirmed.

[The Next Web]

October 17, 2016 / by / in , , , , , , , ,
China is setting up a VR industry alliance


China has been at the forefront of the VR industry lately. Earlier reports ths year, indicated that the virtual reality market in China is expected to reach $860 million in 2016 and accelerate to $8.5 billion by 2020.

Today, China is making a significant step to realize these expectations.

The Industry of Virtual Reality Alliance (IVRA) is launched in Beijing as the only official, government-endorsed VR organization in China.

More than 170 enterprises and institutions will jointly promote the development of the VR ecosystem under the guidance of the Electronic Information Division of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

In an official press release Cher Wang, Chairwoman and CEO of HTC Corporation said, “We are honored to work with many excellent industry partners to promote the development of China’s VR ecosystem.”

“With the establishment of the IVRA, we will continue to play to our strengths, while actively assisting MIIT and other relevant departments, in formulating industry standards.” she added.

China is known to be promoting high-end technologies at a state level.

In May, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council issued the National Innovation-driven Development Strategy Outline, highlighting the need to develop a new generation information network technologies, enhance VR technology research and industrial development, strengthen the IT Infrastructure for economic and social development, promote the innovation of industrial technology system, and form new development advantages. The establishment of the IVRA is in line with the country’s VR and innovation-driven development strategy.

More than 170 enterprises and institutions have confirmed their partnership with the IVRA including HTC, Alibaba, Huawei, JD, Netease, Sohu, Perfect World, Enlight Media, Letv, iQiYi, Samsung, Nokia, AMD, Ubisoft, NVIDIA, ARM, Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, BEIHANG University, Beijing Institute of Technology, Beijing Normal University, Peking University, Zhejiang University, Shandong University, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Columbia University, Stanford University, and the University of Washington.

Local industrial parks and investment institutions such as Laoshan District of Qingdao, China Nanchang VR Industrial Base, Shanghai Jinqiao Economic and Technological Development Zone, VR Venture, and Makers Global also back the Alliance’s aims.


October 14, 2016 / by / in , , , , , , , , , , ,
The foldable, fully-enclosed Passport drone is yours for $549



It’s basically the ultimate selfie machine.


Foldability is all the hype in the drone world these days, as is the case with the GoPro Karma and the DJI Mavic. But before these two were announced, we already heard about Zero Zero Robotics’ Hover Camera 4K drone that is truly foldable and also fully enclosed — in the sense that you can grab hold it any way you want without getting cut by the propellers, plus you’re less likely to cause havoc in a room. That’s a rarity in today’s drone market. Today, we bring you the good news that this nifty little machine — under the new name “Passport” — is finally launching for $549.



For those who aren’t already familiar, the Passport is an ultra-lightweight and ultra-compact quadcopter powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Flight platform. It comes with a 13-megapixel still camera that can shoot 4K video, and there’s a foldable carbon-fiber enclosure for the propellers — the drone is about the size of a VHS cassette tape when folded, if you know what that is. Since the Passport only weighs 242 grams (it was originally aiming for 238 grams), it is not subject to the FAA’s Hobbyist Drone Registration.

There’s no controller; you’ll just be using your Android phone or iPhone to control it via WiFi — we’re told to expect a 20-meter range on a 5GHz connection, plus up to 10 minutes of hovering time per charge when there’s no wind. For the speed freaks, this machine can travel at up to 8 m/s or about 18 mph horizontally, but you’ll obviously want to keep a spare battery handy (the standard package comes with two batteries plus a dual-battery charger).



While $549 isn’t exactly cheap when compared to move conventional offerings, the Passport does come with some other handy features: It can automatically follow your face or body, orbit around a subject while filming it (similar to DJI’s Point Of Interest mode), and shoot a 360-degree panorama video. As before, the drone “takes off” by simply pressing the power button once while on standby, and then release it horizontally to let it hover right away; similarly, just grab it while it’s in mid-air and then point it downward to slow down the propellers, and then you can press the power button to stop it entirely. These are all made possible thanks to the Passport’s powerful processor, sonar, downward-facing camera plus other sensors.

For those who are willing to give the Passport a spin, you can place your order on the official website and take advantage of the $549 early-bird price; it’ll go up to $599 two weeks later. Meanwhile, stay tuned for our upcoming review.


October 13, 2016 / by / in , , , , , , ,
Future Apple Watches might use heart rate sensor to identify owner

An Apple invention published on Thursday reveals work on a next-generation Apple Watch model capable of identifying a user with its heart rate sensor, which if implemented would mark a major step forward in freeing the wearable from iPhone.



As published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple’s patent application for a “User identification system based on plethysmography” details a method by which a pulse oximeter is used to determine and identify biometric characteristics of a user’s vasculature. Similar in function to Touch ID on iPhone and iPad, the resulting data might then be used to verify a user’s identity, thereby allowing access to a previously locked device.

In some embodiments, the pulse oximeter is described in simple terms as two light emitter and light sensor pairs co-located on a mobile device. The system works by emitting light toward a user’s skin, blood and other body parts, then measuring how much of that light is absorbed and reflected back to the device. The amount of light collected at each sensor can be calculated to determine the amount of blood present in a user’s skin, a benefit for pulse readings.

Light gathered by the two photosensors is measured and in some cases applied to a scatterplot. This data is either compared against previously saved information to positively identify the user or stored for later use.

As with Touch ID, identifying users via vascular biometrics can be a seamless process. In some embodiments, the device monitors onboard motion sensors like accelerometers, gyroscopes and GPS radios to determine user motion. Certain gestures, for example raising the device from waist height to head height, trigger the authentication process.

Once identified, users have full access to device functions. In theory, the system might be applied in place of Touch ID for initial authentication and Apple Pay payments, further reducing Apple Watch’s reliance on iPhone.




Apple Watch already uses a two-emitter setup —for accuracy, each of the two sensor setups are tuned to emit and pickup different wavelengths of light —based on plethysmography technology, meaning today’s patent could theoretically be applied to existing hardware. Whether vascular variances at the wrist are diverse enough to create a secure biometric system is unclear, though veins in fingers have been used in such applications for years.

Apple’s vascular identification patent application was first filed for in May 2016 and credits Daniel J. Culbert as its inventor.


October 13, 2016 / by / in , , , , , , ,
Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Mesh antennas, portable AC, and more

At any given moment, there are approximately a zillion crowdfunding campaigns on the web. Take a stroll through Kickstarter or Indiegogo and you’ll find no shortage of weird, useless, and downright stupid projects out there, alongside some real gems. In this column, we cut through the worthless wearables and Oculus Rift ripoffs to round up the week’s most unusual, ambitious, and exciting projects. But don’t grab your wallet just yet. Keep in mind that even the most well-intentioned crowdfunded project can fail. Do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.



Smartphones have been a revolution in personal communications, but as advanced as they may be, they are still limited by the range and distribution of cell towers. If you are in an area with poor service (or even none whatsoever), you may as well try smoke signals to communicate. The team behind the goTenna Mesh hope to fix this problem with their device, which functions as a portable radio relay for phones.

Users connect their phone to the device using Bluetooth. When someone sends a message, the GoTenna Mesh broadcasts it through a UHF radio transmitter. The message will bounce to other nearby Mesh units until it reaches its destination; for the sake of privacy, the people functioning as relay points will not be able to see the messages. Of course, this system depends on people nearby having their own goTenna Mesh. As such, the company plans to sell them in pairs, so groups of friends traveling or going into the wild together will be able to connect.

Read more here.



Many people who have held a high-end camera, digital or otherwise, may have been perplexed by the many buttons and dials at their fingertips. Photography can be a dense hobby, and even as smartphones have made it more accessible, burgeoning shutterbugs may still fret over what filters or contrast levels to use in their photos. Lomography was developed to smash preconceptions about photography, encouraging users to take spontaneous photos with simple devices, focusing on the beauty of natural, everyday circumstances rather than carefully composed scenes.

The Croz digital lomo camera embraces this ethos, offering users a simple, two-button camera in a minimalist frame. Although digital, the camera uses a direct viewfinder, so there is no fiddling with distance; simply point and shoot. The camera itself is a work of art, available in cases made from various woods such as European ash and North American black walnut. The camera has a Micro USB port and can support 32GB SD cards.

Read more here.


SunnyBag Leaf+ — Hybrid solar system






Campers and hikers prone to long adventures in the wilderness may run into power shortages from time to time. Batteries may suffice for a flashlight, but what if you need to check your phone days into a trek? Depending on the weather, the SunnyBag Leaf+ may be the most convenient, environmentally-friendly option available.

Comprised of silicon solar cells, is lightweight (198g) and flexible, gathering charge as you carry it throughout the day. Equipped with Lightning and Mini USB ports (as well as USB Type-C, depending on stretch goals), the Leaf+ can charge a variety of popular devices. It is definitely a project to keep an eye on if you love the great outdoors.

Read more here.


Zero Breeze — Portable Air Conditioner






Sunny days are perfect for adventures, until the heat becomes sweltering. For those who want to enjoy a nice day outside without sweating out all their vital fluids, the Zero Breeze may be the coolest gadget around. The Zero Breeze is relatively lightweight (14 pounds) portable air conditioner you can use indoors and out, making even the hottest day bearable. The creators assert the the device can cool a 50 square foot room down to 44 degrees fahrenheit.

The battery last for an estimated five hours, and keeping you cool is not all the Zero Breeze does. It has two USB charging ports, so you can charge your phone or tablet, an LED light to illuminate room or tents at night, and a Bluetooth speaker. The Zero Breeze seems like an incredible tool for those who plan to do any hiking or camping in hot climates.

Read more here.


EarDial — Smart earplugs





Live music is thrilling, at least until you leave the concert after two hours and hear that ringing in your ears. While tinnitus does not always cause serious harm, that ringing can sometimes be a prelude to permanent hearing damage. Given how many concerts and clubs have music playing well above safe levels, earplugs are a necessity to prevent hearing loss, but many of them can be ugly, or make it difficult to hear the world around you.EarDials are a pair of smart earplugs, designed to fit comfortably and stealthily in your ears, filtering out harmful noise without blocking all sound. Made of transparent silicone, the earplugs blend in with the your skin, and are soft enough for extended use. The makers of EarDial claim that the plugs contain a high-fidelity noise filter that will keep out harmful levels of noise while letting you hear clearly. The device also comes with a companion app for smartphones that will give you a decibel rating for the noise around you.

Read more here.

October 10, 2016 / by / in , , , , , ,
Top 7 Most Essential Apple Watch Productivity Apps of 2016



When the 1st generation iPhone came out in the summer of 2007, it has changed the way people interacted with technology. Suddenly, everyone was connected online at all times of day, playing games, catching up on email, or researching where they want to go to lunch, all while walking down the street. While elements of the iPhone were, and in many ways still are, a distraction, iPhone apps streamline productivity and put greater capabilities at your fingertips too.

Wearables are the latest trend that wants to pervasively integrate technology into your daily routine. The average employee checks their phone every three minutes, for a total of 200 times a day. Some of those checks may be for a purpose, but many are simply habitual. The Apple Watch has the potential to bring your focus back to productive tasks through apps that funnel only important information right to your wrist!

Many of these apps have desktop counterparts, but to keep them functional on an interface as small as a watch, app designers have kept the psychology of wearables in mind and stripped the app down to its core, most basic function and streamline its processes for ease-of-use.

If you’re looking to boost your productivity in 2016, here are 7 essential Apple Watch apps that you should be using today:

1. Do Button

Created by IFTTT (If This, Then That) for the Apple Watch, Do Button allows you to set up “recipes” for communication between apps or devices in the simple setup of “if this happens, then that will happen” scenarios. The possibilities are nearly endless. Whether it’s automatically uploading new documents to Dropbox every time you use a task manager or connecting your smart home devices to your wrist, there are numerous ways Do Button can boost your productivity through the automation of simple tasks.

2. Evernote

Evernote’s app for Apple Watch is the easiest way for you to keep track of new information as you learn it. With the push of a button, you can dictate a message to the app, and Evernote will translate it to text and save it for later. You can also use voice search to find a specific note in the app, making navigation much more manageable despite the Apple Watch’s small screen. If you need a quick reminder of something later that day, you can schedule notes to be sent to your watch screen too.

3. Slack

Slack is known for its incredibly popular and colorful desktop app that serves as a chat platform for teams with a need for multiple communication channels. If your chat is very active, this app could very well distract you more than it aids you. However, for the Apple Watch, Slack pares down its functionality somewhat and limits access to messages, so users can keep their sanity. The app will only notify you of direct messages or mentions. This means that if someone needs to get ahold of you to ask a question or vice versa, they can, but you won’t be overwhelmed by group chatter either.

4. Swipes

The organizational tool Swipes utilizes an elegant interface to funnel your to-do list directly to you. The app sets itself apart from other task management apps by focusing on your priorities. Users can connect their tasks and assignments across different platforms and communication channels and send actionable tasks directly to their Apple Watch to make sure that they keep track of all their projects. Perhaps the most useful feature of Swipes is that users can customize snooze options and task types, so, for example, you could snooze any communications-related tasks during Tuesday afternoons to give you a chunk of time to work on personal projects without being distracted by other responsibilities.

5. Productive

Similar to a task management application, Productive lets you schedule your days around your priorities and can act as an aid to remind you of tasks that need completing. However, beyond task management, Productive is a habit tracker. Want to start waking up an hour earlier to build that side project you’ve been talking about? Productive will send a reminder to start the task to your Apple Watch, and if you’re ready to begin, you tap the message. To encourage increased productivity in the future, the app will show you how many days you’ve met your goal in a row, pushing users to meet the challenges they set themselves.

6. 1Password

Tired of entering the same passwords, again and again, every time you log on? 1Password can save you that hassle by keeping all of your log-in information in one place and then letting users sign into their accounts with just a single tap on your Apple Watch. The app utilizes a browser extension and many supported mobile apps to autofill user’s information into sign-in fields. You’ll never have to type again, just swipe and tap on the watch. While keeping all of your information in one app sounds risky, 1Password is encrypted and possesses strong security measures to make sure your treasure trove of private information isn’t discovered by anyone else.

7. CloudMagic

CloudMagic, an email app with over 4 million users, has made waves with both critics and users for its speed and minimal design. With its latest addition of an Apple Watch extension, the best email app for desktop and mobile brings its platform to your wrist. CloudMagic is faster, more efficient, and boasts a better interface than any other email tool out there. The app integrates with every main email platform too, and you can save your emails to a number of different apps. If you need to check email on a regular basis, you don’t have to look any farther than at the CloudMagic on your wrist.

Boosting your productivity through an Apple Watch is as much a matter of understanding your needs as it is using apps for efficiency. If you don’t need a to-do list or the ability to chat anytime with co-workers, then those apps will prove a distraction to you rather than help you become more productive. Explore different combinations of apps for the Apple Watch to find out what helps you stay productive most effectively, and use them to your advantage to respond faster, stay on top of your schedule, and get more done.


October 10, 2016 / by / in , , , , , , , ,
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