A uPrint 3D printer in action
What’s the News: Earlier this year, designer Ulrich Schwanitz, a Dutch designer, made a real model of an “impossible” object—the Penrose triangle—using a 3D printer; he then started selling these models, through a company that printed them, for $70 apiece. When another designer figured out how to make a 3D blueprint for the shape, and put it up on Thingiverse, an open-source site for printable objects, Schwanitz lodged a copyright complaint against Thingiverse.
Although Schwanitz soon rescinded the complaint, it was the first instance where 3D printing ran smack up against copyright law. ars technica has an excellent piece looking at intellectual property issues that are likely to arise as 3D printing becomes better, cheaper, and more widespread, letting consumers create all kinds of stuff at home.
I know the holidays are over and the long, dark winter months—which bring little to look forward to besides furry meteorologists and the pressure-packed atrociousness of Valentine’s Day—lie ahead. But take heart, America: Shiny new toys are coming. January means it’s time for the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which begins Thursday in Las Vegas. And gadget lust is already at peak volume, with product prognosticators predicting what will be unveiled in 2011.
Tablets. We mean it this time.
2010, certainly, was the year of the iPad—Apple has sold millions of the sleek devices since their April launch. 2011, gadget pros are predicting, will be the year everybody tries to catch up to Apple and the tablet computer market explodes.
While [Apple] is poised to introduce a new model in just a few weeks (barring some manufacturing hiccup), the likes of Microsoft, Blackberry’s RIM, Hewlett-Packard, and Google are gunning for them. A raft of consumer electronics companies, ranging from HDTV leader Vizio to Japanese heavyweight Toshiba to Palm OS owner HP, will introduce their own tablets. These will be in a variety of sizes and price ranges, in the hopes that the right balance will be struck to unseat Apple in the tablet space. [FoxNews.com]
Is 3D technology the next big wave in video? Or should we skip right ahead to holography? New research is developing ways to stream almost-live video to holographic display, providing a three-dimensional, realistic image without the need for those dorky plastic 3D glasses. And before you ask–yes, this does bring us one step closer to living in a Star Wars world, where holographic princesses deliver desperate pleas for help.
This is the first time researchers [have demonstrated] an optical material that can display “holographic video,” as oppose to static holograms found in credit cards and product packages. The prototype looks like a chunk of acrylic, but it’s actually an exotic material, called a photorefractive polymer, with remarkable holographic properties. [IEEE Spectrum]
The prototype, produced by Nasser Peyghambarian and colleagues at the University of Arizona and Nitto Denko Technical Corporation, displays a holographic image that can be updated every two seconds. This is much better than the four minutes between updates seen in the team’s last prototype, and it gives the audience an almost-real-time representation of what’s happening on the other end of the communication (be it in the other room or across the country). The team expects to continue improving their technology, enabling larger pictures and shorter refresh times.
Hit the break for more details and an additional video…
After entertaining the entire planet with the movie Avatar, director James Cameron is now taking his expertise to space–specifically to Mars. He’s helping NASA build a 3D camera for its next rover, Curiosity.
The space agency announced that Cameron is working with Malin Space Science Systems Inc. of San Diego to develop the camera, which will be the rover’s “science-imaging workhorse.” The rover, which was previously known as the Mars Science Laboratory, is scheduled for launch in 2011.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory had recently scaled back plans to mount a 3D camera on the rover, as the project was consistently over-budget and behind schedule. But Cameron lobbied NASA administrator Charles Bolden for inclusion of the 3-D camera during a January meeting, saying a rover with a better set of eyes will help the public connect with the mission [Associated Press]. Cameron, whose 3D spectacle Avatar earned more than $2 billion at box offices worldwide, had developed a special 3D digital camera system for the film, and felt the space agency could benefit from his expertise.
Launch up from your couch and voyage to the final frontier this weekend with Hubble 3D, a hi-tech piece of visual wizardry from Warner Bros, IMAX, and NASA. The movie tracks the efforts of the astronauts on board mission STS-125, who blasted off aboard space shuttle Atlantis last May to fix the Hubble Space Telescope. For this mission, as DISCOVER explained in a review of the movie, Atlantis carried not only its regular payload of new gear for the telescope, but also a 600-pound IMAX camera to record the orbital repair job in breathtaking detail.
Apart from replacing worn out equipment and upgrading the world’s largest telescope so that it could continue to send home breathtaking images of the universe, the astronauts also functioned as cinematographers, using only eight minutes of film to shoot the repair work. The film also takes viewers on a tour of the telescope’s most famous observations, and explains what the ‘scope has revealed about such wonders as the stellar nurseries of the Orion nebula and our closest galactic neighbor, Andromeda. Director Toni Meyers, whose credits include a 3-D documentary about the international space station, says: “I think there is a kind of innate curiosity in all of us and a thirst to travel to places that either we can’t go to or it’s extremely difficult to do so” [CNN].
Avatar‘s success at the box office has 3D technology on everybody’s minds these days. Now, television manufacturers are looking into bringing that same technology to your living room.
Top TV makers including Sony Corp, Panasonic Corp, LC Electronics Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd will feature 3D screen advances at the Consumer Electronics Show this week, hoping the new technology will be as big a boost for the industry as the transition to color TVs from black and white [Reuters]. A few 3D sets are already on the market and retail for around $1,000 for a 42-inch screen (a 42-inch high-definition LCD television costs around $600).