Washing machine uses beads for clear savings

Everyone knows a washing machine requires water and detergent to clean your clothes.

So when you think about halving that amount of water and adding beads -- yes, imagine beads flinging around in the washing machine -- into the equation, it might sound a little off.

But that wasn't the case for University of Leeds' Stephen Burkinshaw, professor of textile chemistry, and his students.

They have developed a washing machine that uses nearly 1.5 million tiny polymer beads mixed with a small cup of water and detergent to thoroughly clean one load of laundry.… Read more

Wampa-head wall trophy shows off Jedi craft skills

Wampas are ill-tempered beasts. They enjoy hanging out in ice caves on Hoth and attempting to eat young Jedi. They can be defeated if you are quick on your feet (or while dangling upside-down) and have mastered at least the basic skills of using the Force. Once the wampa is overcome, its head can be used as a nice decoration above your fireplace.

Our Nerd Home, a site for nerdy home projects, put together a tutorial for a DIY wall-mounted wampa-head trophy using just $20 of material. Thankfully, it doesn't involve actually traveling to Hoth and dismembering a wampa.… Read more

Coat your walls with sound-absorbing 'dragon skin'

Stone Designs out of Spain has created a series of acoustic tiles modeled after ginkgo leaves. Made of felt, these tiles can be arranged on your wall in a variety of patterns to not only increase its aesthetic appeal, but to make your rooms less echoey.

While you can combine these leaf-shaped tiles into patterns resembling a cloudy sky as seen to the right, the much cooler option is to go with a pattern resembling dragon skin -- nice and soft dragon skin.

The tiles affix to the wall with velcro so you can easily rearrange them to make different … Read more

Snore-activated pillow gives loud snoozers a nudge

Anyone who has ever tried to sleep through the night next to a snorer knows how challenging it can be. It goes like this: Snooze. Snore! Nudge. "Hey, turn over." Snooze. And repeat. If that sounds familiar, maybe you're ready for a $150 pillow that handles the nudging duties for you.

The snore-activated nudging pillow comes (naturally) from weird-gadget purveyor Hammacher Schlemmer. It contains a microphone and air bladder. When the pillow detects sonic vibrations from snoring, it inflates an extra three inches, enough to encourage the noisemaker to shift positions.… Read more

Kohler offers lavatory landing lights

Kohler wants to guide you safely to your potty destination with its new Kohler Nightlight toilet seat with blue LED lights.

You get to choose from two styles: Cachet Q3 or Reveal Q3. Yes, those are real names for toilet seats.

Blue LED lights run on four AA batteries that power the seat for up to six months. This is good because nobody wants to have to plug a toilet seat into a wall outlet. It runs on a seven-hour cycle. After you install the seat, you push a button to tell it when to light up. After that, it turns on at the same time every night.… Read more

Smartphone-controlled motion alarm keeps stuff safe

You can't keep track of everything all the time. If you're worried about something of yours being tampered with while your attention is elsewhere, though, a new company called BleepBleeps has created a little gadget with a big personality. Aimed at parents, Sammy Screamer is a little motion sensor that you can attach to anything you want so you can be alerted if someone starts tampering with it.

Examples given are doors, fridges, cookie jars, your backpack -- even your stroller. Sammy Screamer attaches via a magnet or loop, and you set the sensitivity and volume levels using a free Android or iOS app. When your stuff gets moved, Sammy sounds an alarm and sends a push notification to your phone via Bluetooth up to a range of 50 meters (about 164 feet). A small coin cell battery powers the device. … Read more

Your next refrigerator may run on magnets

Your current refrigerator is running on some pretty old technology. The compressor system inside has been the standard cooling force for around 100 years. It's about time for a change, and that change may be coming in the form of magnets.

Researchers at GE labs are showing off a prototype machine that runs a water-based fluid through a series of magnets. It's a new innovation that harnesses an old idea known as the magnetocaloric effect. The magnetocaloric effect describes what happens when certain kinds of metal alloys get hot when near magnets, and cool when pulled away.… Read more

This flower pot is actually a clever bio air conditioner

We have these things in the desert Southwest known as "swamp coolers." Basically, they cool homes through evaporation of water and circulating air with a fan. That's pretty much the same theory behind designer Thibault Faverie's Cold Pot, a concept for cooling.

The terracotta container looks like it should have a spider plant growing out the top, but what it actually contains is an internal aluminum radiator system and a blower to circulate air.… Read more

Giant robot invades Blue Willow plates for geeky dinnerware

Few things are more classic and stately than a nice, sedate set of Blue Willow plates. They exude good taste and an appreciation for history. They're the sort of plates upon which you would serve an assortment of tea sandwiches. But the Blue Willow world is now under attack. By a giant robot. Run for your lives!

Artist Don Moyer's Calamityware dinner plate Kickstarter project is turning tradition on its head with a plate that changes out the usual Blue Willow scene of two lovers for a disaster scene involving a one-eyed robot.… Read more

Rockaroo turns the infant swing into a high-tech gadget

The infant swing is a simple concept. You suspend the little tyke from above, give the swing a little push, and let it sway the baby gently back and forth to calm the child. Now, let's apply a bit of robotics, multi-speed control, a speaker, and an MP3 player plug-in. You get the 4moms Rockaroo.

The other noticeable difference between the Rockaroo and a regular infant swing is that the motion comes from below, not with a couple of arms suspending the wee one. That makes it more like a high-tech rocking horse, or the tiny kid version of a mechanical bull, but with a mellow attitude.… Read more