Transform Your Desk into Your Phone

The technology to project a smartphone’s screen onto a flat surface is nothing new. In fact, Sony revealed a clever piece of projector technology for Android phones called the Xperia Touch back in February. However, it was insanely expensive ($1700) and was shaped as a large, noticeable box. I like hiding how technologically savvy my house is. I want to give the illusion of rustic simplicity.

So the “Desktopography” prototype is right up my alley. Ph.D. student Robert Xiao detailed the prototype in a paper that will be presented at the Symposium on Engineering Interactive Computing Systems in Lisbon, Portugal. This device projects an Android’s smartphone interface onto any surface, and adapts to the user’s movements. You can snap the projection to an object, or place a coffee mug on it and watch it find a new blank space to occupy.

I like it because the prototype is small, and shaped so that it can be installed wherever a light bulb can. It hooks up to the wi-fi and draws power straight from the bulb socket. No noticeable gadget. No cords. Easy to access. That is a beautiful thing. I’ll take three.


A True Virtual Assistant

You probably know of, or even use, one of the virtual assistants. The three big ones are Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Microsoft’s Cortana. However, none of them hold a candle to the newest girl on the block: Gatebox’s Azuma Hikari.

She’s a virtual assistant that has an actual holographic body. She doesn’t sound like a robot and she interacts with her user like an actual human being. She can connect and interact with all of your smart devices, recognize your voice and face, dance with glee when you come home, pout when you won’t wake up, and even change into her pajamas and grab a chair and popcorn when you’re enjoying a movie. The future where every house has an interactive virtual intelligence helper is within our grasp.

She looks, dresses, and sounds like something ripped straight out of an anime. Currently, Hikari mostly hears her user via text messages and emails, but she’s growing smarter every day. Her designer, Taro Minoboshi, expects her to be able to recognize more complex speech and facial mannerisms soon, and then be able to regularly converse with her owner.

Hikari can understand both Japanese and English, but can only speak in Japanese. Additional languages (and additional avatars with different personalities) are expected to come soon. 300 Gatebox units, each selling for $2,600, were just up for preorder. They sold out in days. After seeing what people could do with Amazon Echo, I’m very curious to see what makers will one day accomplish with a virtual assistant as complex as Gatebox.


Yarn Bombing Trees

Lorna and Jill Watt have knit together some truly impressive projects. You may recognize their work, they are the ones that put eyes in trees at Maker Fair Bay Area. This past month, the two sisters put their talents to use in the Civic Center Commons in San Francisco. They yarn bombed trees in the Commons, and got the community to help them out.

Throughout this past month, Lorna and Jill oversaw knitting machine demos and knit sweaters for 100 trees. They asked the community for design suggestions. The yarn bombs are all still up if you want to stop by and see the colorful trees!


Flexible Furniture

Cornell University just added easy-to-move furniture to their dorm rooms’ common areas. They enlisted William Lim, Vincent Lim, and Elaine Lu, all alumni of Cornell, to create sturdy, but light, furniture that can be easily pulled, pushed, and overturn in different ways. There are 12 pieces in total, and each piece can be switched up in a variety of ways to make different types of furniture.


Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

The fidget spinner fad isn’t going away. It’s not, I’m sorry. It will just keep going on and on and on, just like this fidget spinner.

Tanner Tech is a YouTuber that builds and hacks stuff together. His most popular video is about a magnet studded fidget spinner that uses an electromagnetic accelerator to move on its own. It will never stop. It’s absolutely perfect for someone who’s too stressed or antsy to sit still long enough to actually spin a fidget spinner themselves.