The Ratcar is Awesome, Kinda Gross

Another genius/disgusting scientific breakthrough is careening your way: Scientists at the University of Tokyo have developed a motorized system they call “Ratcar,” which is controlled by electrodes in Master Splinter’s motor cortex that read his brain and respond accordingly.  Suck on that, PETA!

The researchers first implanted electrodes in the motor cortex of each rat’s brain, and then trained it to tow the contraption around while the motor was turned off. Next the rat was suspended beneath the car so that it could only lightly touch the ground, and couldn’t actually move the robo-car with its limbs. Then the car was switched to brain-reading mode and researchers watched to see if the rat could control the car’s movements with only the pulses from its motor cortex.

“We wanted to develop a brain-machine interface system aiming for future wheelchairs that paralyzed patients can control only with thought,” says Osamu Fukayama of the university’s Medical Engineering and Life Science Laboratory. “RatCar is a simplified prototype to develop better electrodes, devices, and algorithms for those systems.”

Discover Magazine

How could they possibly call it anything besides the “RatMobile”?? Is there no love for cheap puns anymore? Anyway, sounds like a solid cause, but c’mon, we Americans know what this thing will really be used for: Lazy fatasses like myself who tire of pushing the accelerator buttons on our Rascals.  I may have legs but YOU CAN’T FORCE ME TO USE ‘EM. And have we discovered which region of the brain is responsible for milkshake cravings? If you could hook that up to my blender, that would be great.  But maybe we should leave rats out of the testing phase for this one…

RIM Announces Playbook Tablet, Still Playing Defense

RIM has finally announced that its new tablet will go on sale in early 2011.  More importantly, the 7″ ‘PlayBook’ (formerly known as the ‘Blackpad’) will support Adobe Flash, finally giving me the hope that we’ll find out if Apple really keeps flash off of its devices for battery issues, or if Joaoaerbs just wants to keep web applets out of his iTunes/GameCenter ecosystem.

The initial version will have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections but will only be able to connect to cellular networks through a BlackBerry smartphone. RIM said it intends to offer 3G and 4G ready tablets “in the future.”

The PlayBook will run on an all-new operating system built by QNX Software Systems, which makes software used to run everything from cars to nuclear reactors. RIM bought QNX earlier this year, and has been working to adapt the software for mobile phones.

The move means RIM will have to juggle two distinct operating systems. The company announced its BlackBerry 6 operating system for smartphones in April, and rolled out the first handset running on it, the BlackBerry Torch, last month.

WSJ

Connectivity through your existing Blackberry phone sounds like a great idea from a data-consumer’s point of view, but they’re certainly not going to gain market share on Apple with a strategy that only appeals to current Blackberry users.  It should also be noted that, like most Blackberry products, the PlayBook seems to be geared specifically to enterprise.  They’re likely not trying pry loose Apple’s stranglehold over the consumer market just yet.  So despite demonstrations of video, photo, and e-reader uses, as well as its ‘play’ful name, I wouldn’t expect users to be loading it with games any time soon.

Although, if they so wish, and if the browser is strong enough, Blackberry fans could get their fill of gaming through the web since, again, the PlayBook will support flash.  The only difference is they’ll be getting that content for free, whereas Apple’s stonewalling of Adobe’s popular technology has afforded them the unique ability to charge up to $9.99 for games that we would have otherwise played free on the web.

The WSJ article also made no mention of the price point.  It’s certainly a tough question, and it’s entirely possible that RIM hasn’t decided where to position the device in terms of pricing.  To make an Apple comparison again, the iPad can easily be sold at a loss because of the implied revenue they expect to make by selling apps, much like Microsoft has done with their Xbox.  The money is in the software (games or otherwise).  But without a robust developer base, you can’t count on app sales as a revenue stream to keep the device afloat.  In that sense, and with an entirely new OS, the Blackberry faces the same uphill battle that Sony did when they launched the PS3.  The console is certainly a very capable device (as I’m sure the PlayBook will be), but it struggled to gain traction for quite a while because developers shied away from its largely unknown architecture.

Ray Sharma, founder of XMG Studios, a closely held Toronto firm that develops games for the iPhone and Android platforms, was encouraged by RIM’s announcements Monday, but said it’s too soon to say whether his firm will begin developing games for the BlackBerry platform or for the PlayBook.

Mr. Sharma said the QNX operating system, while highly touted, is an unknown. By contrast, the Android system is on version 2.2, while the Apple OS is in its fourth iteration, he said. Mr. Sharma is also monitoring the progress of Microsoft Corp.’s new Windows mobile operating system, which will integrate with the company’s X-Box videogame system, making it particularly attractive for game developers, he said.

WSJ

RIM will try to compete for developers’ attention by waiving developer fees and attempting to streamline the app-creation process with a new development platform, but they are taking a significant risk with PlayBook, because of the enormous first-mover advantage enjoyed in this kind of product.  The quantity and quality of software is what will sell the hardware, and hardware sales attract developers in-turn.  It’s a chicken-egg situation that either results in a snowball-cum-avalanche or complete gridlock.  RIM is attempting to move the PlayBook by adding more features than Apple’s iPad, but they are features that do not offer the company additional revenue streams.  Connectivity through your Blackberry phone’s existing data connection means no revenue through sales of additional data plans.  And as I’ve already said, Flash support means that apps can run on the web instead of being sold in RIM’s version of the App Store.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the PlayBook was actually more expensive than the iPad, offering more features and more free content once you pay the upfront cost, and I don’t see that strategy dethroning El Jobso.  So where’s their edge (and you can’t feed me the BBM mantra anymore!)?

The stock market doesn’t appear to see one, as RIMM shares are trading down about 3% today while the broader market hovers around neutral to slightly positive.

[Wall Street Journal]

How Many Jersey Shore Costumes Will You See This Halloween?

I have to say these Jersey monkeys are sure doing a good job of pushing that feeling of wannabe-relevance as far as they can.  Pauly D is making good money as a wannabe DJ.  Good for him.  JWoww’s negotiating a deal to appear in Playboy.  Good for us.  Banging Snickers was the best move Vinny could have ever made, as her favorable commentary has led to Playgirl offering $30,000 to make a mold of his manhood for mass production.  The Situation is actually the brightest star on Dancing with the Vaguely Recognizable (when did that show become The Surreal Life and precisely when did being a single teen mom make you a “star”?).  But here’s the kicker for my money: he and Snookie both have packaged halloween costumes available for purchase.  I’m impressed by that…because, sadly, I can imagine a lot of people actually buying them.

If there’s one thing I take great pride in doing myself it’s Halloween costumes.  I’m of the DIY mind whenever possible, and it’s very satisfying to show up to a party with a couple buddies in a group costume that you glue-gunned and bedazzled at home by yourself and then get a ton of laughs.  And this just the kind of costume that’s amazing if you threw it together yourself, but downright lame to buy in a store.  Think all the Jokers you saw last year.  Yea there were too many, but the fact that they were all homemade made it awesome.  Nobody went out to purchase a Bat-suit, they went clothes shopping at a thrift store, bought some green hairspray and boom. Three or four Jokers for you to choose from.  In fact, once the Situation’s ab pads and Snookie’s trashy-Elaine Benes hair even exists in a store, that should be the signal that the joke’s over.

When you’re at the costume store last minute, I know it can be tempting.  I’ve been there before, but you MUSTN’T DO IT.  There’s just way too big a chance you arrive someplace only to find a dozen other last-minute assholes fist pumping their way through the night in what you all thought would be a clever getup.  Ladies in particular should harbor great fear for finding out that someone’s wearing the same outfit as you.  So, while I have to respect the merchandising efforts from their side, I beg you: if you can’t think of something great, take the high road and go with something more generic/less topical please.  The last thing we need is a bunch of chicks dressed like hot garbage instead of the standard fare.  Go with what you know.  The rest of us will thank you.

TOTALLY STRAIGHT Guy is Really into Michael Jackson

Go ahead and read this craigslist post by a totally straight dude looking for J-O partner. Then come on back and we’ll talk.

Well, another day, another “profound spiritual act of consensual hetero awesomeness.”  I suppose I’m not really qualified to tell you whether you’re gay or not…but I am picking up something that I can’t quite put my junk on.  Maybe it’s the bedazzler but let’s get to the real meat of the story here –

YOU GAVE THAT JACKET BACK?! WTF man?! You get your hands on something like that, you don’t just give it back! You’re obviously a pretty creative guy, make something up for the love of god. Say you lost it, say you got robbed, you had to pawn it for drugs.  I don’t care if the whole Jackson family is on you to try and get it back.  Tell Joe you accidentally got some of your nutter-butter on it during one of your totally hetero “dagger” fights.  He won’t want it back.

Almost Genius: A Thing That’s Two Things

If there’s one thing I love, it’s multitasking.  And if there’s one thing I hate, it’s flushing stuff.  This Eco-Urinal concept is designed to appeal to both of those sensibilities.

To save water, Eco Urinal is designed to use the water that was used for washing hands to flush the urine. By this process, we don’t have to use water twice after using the urinal.
Moreover, it reduces the establishment expenses by optimizing the materials. Upper space of this urinal is made with glass, and it helps to secure a clear view for users. It also promotes people to keep their sanitation because people need to wash their hands to flush the urine after use.

Designer Yeong Woo Kim

Well he’s no Billy Mays, but Engrish aside, it’s nice idea.  Problem is I just don’t care all that much about washing my hands after using a urinal.  I mean maybe I’ll be more inclined to do it since it’s right there but if you really want to give it a double-use how about slapping a beer tap on there? As far as dual-purpose furniture it’s just  not nearly as useful as, say, a coffee table/foot rest or a toaster/mousetrap.  Show me what you can do in the desk chair/toilet/bidet department and maybe we’ll talk.

Speaking of bidets, is that the best we’re doing?  Maybe Kim can take a crack at a cure for the common wipe.  I expect a prototype by 2032 at the latest.

yeongwookim.com via Geekologie

Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Laces: Nike Patents BttF II Kicks

You’re officially living in the future, folks.  Apparently, we’ve been one step closer to hoverboards since 2009.  Sometime last year, Nike filed for a patent application for shoes (with lights!) that automatically lace themselves up, like the ones Marty Mc-Super-Fly introduced to the world way back in 2015 1989.   Pic below [Engadget] links to another with more detail.

Not to put a damper on the good news, but in this crazy-mixed-up world of cross promotions, I have to wonder if this design isn’t a signal that a new movie might be looming over us (you know kind of how the Transformers movie is a $300 million commercial for action figures?).  Sadly, if it were, it would be yet another horseshit remake of a classic that really doesn’t need to be redone.  In fact it NEEDS to NOT be redone.  BttF gets a free pass on cheesiness at this point because “Ayyyy, it’s the freakin’ 80s”.  If you try and redo it, you’re just bringing that cheese to a party where everyone is lactose intolerant, and it’ll fit in about as well as Martin Lawrence does in King Arthur’s Court.  And the result is sure to be only slightly better than that catastrophe.

Look out for a barrage of concept car designs attempting to revive gullwing doors and we’ll raise the alert level to yellow, but for now I’m onboard (motherfuckin’ hoverboard!).

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Look for Me in a Bufalino Near You

The Bufalino is a German-made RV with an Italian name designed by Cornelius Comanns.  It fits one person and features a reclining seat-back, sink, desk, and “cooking-zone.” And since the rent bill arrived today and the downward spiral that is my life seems to only be accelerating, get ready to see my Blogmobile double-parked outside of your local Starbucks sucking down WiFi faster than you can say “venti white mocha cappucino.”

A pantload of pics are available at designboom.com, since I’m going to have to pawn my camera for the Bufalino fund.