7 Halloween Costumes With High-Tech Appeal

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Nikon Costume

Halloween isn’t just for kids in knockoff Disney costumes. The holiday has become ground zero for geek-themed cosplay, and allows more DIY-oriented tech nerds to explore wardrobe hacking of the highest order. LEDs, iPads, green pigs and angry feathered fowl — they’re all present and accounted for in this year’s Halloween opus.

Here are a few of our favorite tech-themed costumes. If you’ve got some winners of your own, shoot me an e-mail or share in the comments section of this article.

Above is Tyler Card’s fully functioning Nikon DSLR costume, quite possibly the most impressive outfit of the bunch (but let’s be honest, it’s pretty much impossible to choose favorites).

Card mounted a DSLR on the inside of the costume’s lens using a small, modified tripod. The shutter is triggered using a remote shutter release that’s mounted under the shutter release button on the costume camera — so, when the costume button is pressed, it actually snaps a picture. Card used a hot-shoe flash extension to situate an external flash above his head as the “pop-up flash,” and a USB cable connects the camera to a laptop mounted inside the back of the costume. As photos are taken, they’re played as a slideshow on the laptop’s LCD screen, which he unscrewed and flipped backwards.

Card told Wired.com that the costume is primarily made of cardboard, duct tape and spray paint. The lens is made from a 5-gallon paint bucket, whose lid acts as the lens cap. The lens is made of Plexiglas, and the flash diffuser is Plexiglas covered with window-frosting spray. Excluding the cost of the actual camera and computer, the costume only cost about $35 to make — but it took about 40 hours to create.

The toughest part?

“Believe it or not, the most challenging part was cutting a circular piece of Plexiglas without having the proper tools,” Card says. “It was very tedious getting it to fit snug, without having to tape it up.” Another challenge: getting the costume on and off, which requires “a little help too.”

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Video: ‘Siri, Pour Me a Beer’

Beeri: ‘Pour’ a beer using Siri

The folks at RedPepper software might have scored more nerd points if they’d had Siri serve tea (Earl Grey, hot), but it’s hard to argue with a Rube Goldbergian machine that brings you a beer when you ask for it. Behold: Beeri.

Beeri is less of an app or device and more a convoluted process to bring beer to a lazy iPhone 4 owner. It works like this:

Tell Siri to “Text Tweet Beeri,” and include the word “pour” in the message body. This sends a text which is then turned into a tweet. Beeri, an Arduino based robot, sees the word “pour” and roars into action. A remote controlled truck with a can of beer pre-loaded speeds off down the table and rams into a spike at the far end, ripping open the can.

The freed beer pours through a hole in the table to a waiting glass beneath, from whence it can be supped.

It is ridiculous, messy and completely impractical. And it is also a sure indicator of many, many Siri-based projects to come.

Have Siri Pour You a Beer [RedPepper via ReadWriteWeb]

iPhone 4S Teardown Shows Siri’s Guts

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iPhone 4S Parts

You knew it’d be coming soon, and here it is: iFixit’s iPhone 4S teardown. All its glorious parts, laid out for your eyes to behold.

Thanks to iFixit’s director of technical communication Miroslav Djuric, we were given permission to repost their entire teardown, so here it is.

Unsurprisingly, taking it apart is a similar process to disassembling the iPhone 4, but the 4S features an improved battery, the same vibrator motor as in the Verizon iPhone 4 and an upgraded chipset.

Thanks Miroslav!

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Kinect-Based Software Lets You Pay Bills With Gestures, Gymnastics

SAN DIEGO — There’s no way around it: Banking sucks. And if you’re broke like me, opening up your browser to your online banking site only to continually find a zero balance sucks even more. Aside from getting a higher-paying job, there’s not much out there to boost your balance. But an interface makeover from a small software company could make the experience a little less painful.

Lithuanian software outfit Etronika created a new Kinect-based, motion-activated user interface for the company’s banking software, letting users manipulate and manage their accounts with a literal wave of the hand. Clapping your hands together selects an icon and brings up the appropriate screen selection, while swiping back and forth navigates the carousel of icons.

“A lot of banking software apps are filled with boring crap,” said Etronika CEO Kestutis Gardziulis in what may be the biggest understatement I’ve ever heard. “With our software, you could be on the couch at home, having a beer, all while dealing with your bank account and kicking back.”

In June, Microsoft released its Kinect software developer kit free for download, allowing third party developers to create Windows-based applications that interact with the low-cost Kinect hardware. Since the release (and even prior to it), thousands of hackers have created all sorts of applications that take advantage of Kinect’s camera and microphone-based input. We’ve seen dancing apps to fighting games and now, with Etronika’s entry, banking software.

And it won’t stop at motion interaction, apparently. “We’re digging into voice, facial recognition — all the possibilities that come with the SDK,” Gardziulis said. “Why not use this popular gaming UI for banking, too?”

However superfluous, it’s a fun hack for an otherwise mundane (and often depressing) practice. Check out the video here for a quick demo of the software.

Scientists Turn iPhone Into Microscope with $30 Mod

A gimp-like ball stretched over the lens of the iPhone’s camera turns it into a powerful microscope

If you ever peered closely at a drop of water, you’ll know that it can produce a tiny version of the world beyond. This ability to act as a lens can also turn a hole and a drip into a magnifying glass.

This is the principal used by researchers at UC Davis, headed by physicist Sebastian Wachsmann-Hogiu, to turn an iPhone into a microscope. Instead of a drop of water (which the team abandoned due to the drops drying), the team used 1mm-diameter (0.003 feet) ball lens embedded into a small sheet of rubber. This rubber was taped over the lens of an iPhone (any auto-focusing cellphone camera would do, but UC Davis also teaches iPhone development).

The lens gives the iPhone an extra 5x magnification, which is enough to spot diseased blood cells. The phone-cam works so well because the pixels squeezed onto its small sensor are so tiny, enabling it to resolve objects just 1.5 microns in size.

Good enough: The iPhone vs. a proper microscope (top), viewing pollen grains and plant stems

It’s nowhere near as good as a proper microscope, but at just $30-$40 (plus the cost of the phone) it doesn’t have to be. Scientists can spot problems in blood cells — sickle-cell anemia, iron deficiency — from the clear portion at the center of the images.

The low cost of this mod, along with ease of use and startlingly good results, means that doctors on the ground in developing countries could soon have an important new tool to fight disease.

Cell-Phone-Based Platform for Biomedical Device Development and Education Applications [PLOS One via PetaPixel]

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IR Jammer: TV-B-Gone-B-Gone

TV-B-Gone-B-Gone. Thwart pranksters and vandals alike with the IR Jammer

The most famous TV-B-Gone prank must surely be the one executed by Gizmodo at 2008’s CES. When MAKE magazine gave a bunch of gadget bloggers a widget that would cycle through IR codes and quickly shut off any TV in the vicinity, it must have known what would happen. The result: much bluster and moral outrage from people with no sense of humor, and the banning of Gizmodo writer Richard Blakeley from subsequent CES shows.

If only these humorless TV manufacturers had had the IR Jammer Kit, which also comes from the Maker Shed. This is a little like selling guns and bulletproof vests, or supplying an insecure desktop OS as well as anti-virus software.

The jammer interferes with IR signals by spraying out IR noise at six popular frequencies. The jammer comes as a kit, with everything you need to get going except a case (an Altoids tin would be traditional). You can adjust the balance between range and power consumption (it uses a 9v battery) by adjusting some resistors.

Why bother, unless you are exhibiting TVs at one of the few events Gizmodo hasn’t been banned from? To guard against football haters, of course. I have been watching my local team, FC Barcelona, in local bars and a few times the TV has flipped channels or switched off. As a cynical nerd, I immediately expected foul play. As a lazy, beer sipping spectator. I didn’t do anything about it. In the future, a quickly deployed jammer might do the trick. $19.

IR Jammer Kit aka TV-B-Gone-B-Gone [Maker Shed via BoingBoing]

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Fanboyism Taken to New Heights With Glass and Aluminum iPhone 5 Mockup

This is not a real iPhone 5. Repeat, not a real iPhone 5. Photo: Benm.at

And the “Biggest Apple Fanboy of the Week” award goes to (drum roll please) the guys who made this insane real-life, glass and aluminum mockup of an iPhone 5.

A team of Apple fans at Benm.at in Germany used CAD designs, leaked hints, case designs and realistic mockups to develop a 3-D computer model that was then used to build a true-to-life, true-to-scale iPhone 5 mockup.

The team says they used the same process to create their prototype that is used to create the iPad. The rear of the case was hewn from a solid block of aluminum, which was then treated with glass pearls to give it texture.

Their mockup measures in at 2.36 inches wide, which is just slightly larger than the iPhone 4, but is slightly squatter (4.33 inches compared to the current 4.5 inches) and thinner. They adopted the rumored teardrop shape of the device, so the top is about .04 inches thicker than the bottom of the device. They also opted for an oval-shaped capacitive touch home button, rather than a mechanical button.

The result is kind of amazing, based on their photographs. Here’s one more — how their iPhone 5 fits in with some of the iPhone family — for your viewing pleasure.

Photo: Benm.at

via Cult of Mac

Lego Robot iPad Tester Saves You Valuable Finger Energy

This robot is designed to test the iPad 2’s camera app in place of human fingers. Image: Pheromone Labs

There’s no better way to handle a boring, repetitive task than to let a robot do it for you.

Except, of course, if it’s a Lego robot. How much cooler can you get than that? (Answer: Not much.)

That’s exactly what Pheromone Labs did when they were tasked with manually testing the iPad 2’s camera app 10,000-15,000 times. They used a Lego Mindstorms kit to build what essentially boils down to an automated poking machine.

It works using a capacitive touch iPad stylus as a giant finger, driven by a set of motors. The finger pokes the iPad’s on-screen photo capture button over and over in what amounts to an infinite loop (so to speak). The robot setup uses a cardboard box placed on a desk with an iPad 2 secured inside, almost like a little photographic robo-cinema.

It’s a win-win situation. Developers get to work on less mundane tasks, while an unemployed robot gets put to work.

Thank goodness Pheromone Labs didn’t decide to just hire a poor intern to do this job.

The Robot (English version) from Pheromone Lab on Vimeo.

TUAW via TechCrunch

Awesome: Real-Life Electric Tron Lightcycle

What could possibly be cooler than this street-legal, 100mph Tron lightcycle?

Custom chopper builders Parker Brothers have managed to pull the Tron lightcycle out of its CGI home and into the real world. The amazing build is 100% electric, and can hit 100mph. It even has the glowing blue lights of the original, but sadly can’t turn 90-degrees instantaneously like the “real” thing.

The bike runs on li-ion batteries which keep it running for an hour and recharge in just 35 minutes. Both wheels are hubless, the handlebars run through the front wheel, and the riding position is the same ridiculous sprawled head-first position as in the movies.

Amazingly, the bike is street-legal. It is also frikkin’ awesome. If I ever downgraded from pushbikes to motorbikes, this would be the one I’d get.

New Full Scale Electric Tron Lightcycle [YouTube via Gizmag]

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Samsung Epic 4G Touch Reveals Repairable Guts

iFixit tears apart the Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch. Image: iFixit

It’s always a pleasure to find out what makes our favorite gadgets tick. And how difficult, and costly, it’ll be to repair them should they have an unfortunate run-in with a concrete driveway or a rambunctious, unintentionally destructive child*.

That’s why we love iFixit: They tear apart every new gadget they encounter.

iFixit’s latest teardown is of the Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch, Sprint’s CDMA/WiMAX sequel to the Samsung Galaxy S. So what sort of goodies are inside?

First and foremost, the Samsung-made glass display and AMOLED panel are fused together. So if you end up cracking your screen, a repair is going to cost you. However, the 1800 mAh Li-ion battery — which should provide 8.7 hours of talk time or over 10 days in standby mode — is easy to replace. All you have to do is pop off the back plate. Once you’ve done that, you’ll also find a microSD card slot which you can use to bump up the device’s internal memory specs if 16 GB isn’t enough for you.

The Epic 4G Touch is .04 inches thicker and .49 ounces heavier than its European counterpart, bringing it to a practically obese .38 inches and 4.52 ounces (blame the french fries). It also doesn’t support NFC like its fancy skinny Euro cousin (C’est la vie, Google Wallet).

The front-facing camera shares a ribbon cable with the LED and ambient light sensor, so if one of those craps out on you, repair will be a bit more expensive.

iFixit’s Miroslav Djuric said the Epic 4G “was not too challenging” to take apart — you can use pretty basic tools to disassemble the smartphone, like a Phillips #00 screwdriver. The iFixit team gave it a 7 out of 10 for repairability.

*Full disclosure: I once destroyed my dad’s watch by slamming it repeatedly on our driveway. You probably shouldn’t give electronics to babies.

Samsung Epic 4G Touch Teardown [iFixit]