Innovation and entrepreneurship

New concept turns pizza boxes, bananas into computers

Though you might be obsessing over the next MacBook Air or the latest and greatest Android smartphone, your future laptop or mobile device might already be lying around your house.

Researchers at the Ishikawa Oku Laboratory at the University of Tokyo have come up with a concept called "invoked computing" that turns everyday objects into computer interfaces and communication devices using a ubiquitous augmented-reality system.

The concept is based on the idea that technology should learn our behavior and respond to us, instead of the other way around. As such, with invoked computing, one would just need to mimic a certain task and the computer should recognize the gesture and turn any object into a usable electronic device. … Read more

Still plugging new nuclear power tech post-Fukushima

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--If you thought the Fukushima disaster derailed nuclear power worldwide, look again.

Evacuations and the havoc caused by meltdowns at four reactor cores at the Fukushima power plant earlier this year prompted Japan to shift away from nuclear power and recatalyzed a nuclear phase-out in Germany. But many countries remain enthusiastic about nuclear power, and interest in newer technologies has increased because they are safer, according to a panel of industry professionals here at the MIT Energy Finance Forum on Friday.

"Our investors have a very long time horizon and the reason they supported it is the … Read more

Secret to Facebook's green data center? Water misters

Facebook's state-of-the-art data center houses awesome amounts of computing power, but the biggest technical challenge has been the air handlers.

The company said today that its Prineville, Ore., data center received LEED gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The power usage effectiveness (PUE) rating varies between 1.06 and 1.1, making it a data center that consumes about half what a building simply built to code would use.

The significance of the Prineville center could go beyond lower energy bills and lower emissions for its owner, though. Facebook started the Open Compute consortium to share--and … Read more

Breakthrough material is barely more than air

Call them a bunch of intellectual lightweights.

Researchers at HRL Laboratories, the California Institute of Technology, and the University of California at Irvine have created what they say is the lowest-density material, a lattice of hollow tubes of the metal nickel.

Its volume is 99.99 percent air, and its density is 0.9 milligram per cubic centimeter--not including the air in or between its tubes. That density is less than one-thousandth that of water.

The metallic microlattice, as the researchers call it, could be useful for absorbing sound, vibration, and shock. Other possibilities, according to HRL: electrodes that could … Read more

Google X shows dogged determination for far-out research

There's a constant tension at Google between fast-moving, nimble, disruptive projects and the more plodding established business.

Sometimes the entrenched part of the business comes out ahead, as when Google canceled Google Labs. But attempts to nurture a start-up ethos within the company continue, this time with a project called Google X digging into advanced robotics and more.

Word of Google X had bubbled up in recent months, via MG Siegler, formerly of TechCrunch, and Nicholas Carlson at Business Insider. But New York Times' Clair Cain Miller and Nick Bilton have just delivered a lot more detail with a … Read more

Designing a better food label (video)

Food labels can be confusing, but graphic designer Renee Walker aims to change to that.

Walker says most food labels now are complicated and give people too much information. So she set out to create a design that is more visual and graphic, and one that focuses on ingredients. That could in turn lead to healthier eating habits, says Walker.

In this video, she shows SmartPlanet her designs that she's based on blocks of color, with bigger blocks indicating the major ingredients in the food and brighter colors signifying the ingredients that more natural.

This video first appeared at … Read more

As Facebook buys Strobe, Tilde embraces its Web tech

Facebook has acquired Strobe, a startup focused on the open-source SproutCore software--but CNET has learned that a new startup called Tilde looks to be picking up where Strobe is leaving off.

SproutCore is a package of prebuilt JavaScript code designed to ease the creation of Web sites and Web apps, including those that work on mobile devices. Charles Jolley has worked on SproutCore for years, including for a period of time at Apple where SproutCore was used in MobileMe services, before striking off on his own to form Strobe.

Several programmers left Strobe in October to begin a new start-up … Read more

Are you going to eat that? New app helps you eat better (video)

"If you are what you eat, then you are awesome" was the slogan printed on the bag sitting in front of us during lunch last week at a New Mexican burger chain. We felt pretty good about ourselves as we ate our green chile burger.

But what about an app that passes judgment on what you eat?

"The Eatery" is a new app from startup Massive Health that lets users snap a picture of their food and then starts analyzing eating habits over time. In the video above, SmartPlanet correspondent Sumi Das talks with co-founders Aza … Read more

Tech Awards: Water-cleaning device, solar in a suitcase

Technology projects that range from delivering clean drinking water to implementing a cheaper bank infrastructure in developing countries were honored last night at the Tech Awards in San Jose, Calif.

Five of the 15 projects honored also received $50,000 each for developing technology that benefits humanity and supports sustainability.

The Tech Awards, sponsored by The Tech Museum in San Jose, were established in 2001, to recognize 15 projects annually in five categories: environment, education, equality, health, and economic development.

"The tens of thousands of people who didn't have clean water to cook or bathe in Honduras now … Read more

Japanese man calculates pi to 10 trillion digits

TOKYO--Who knew that "1989" was near the 10-trillionth digit in the value of pi? No one until now.

Two years ago, I speculated that a computer in Kyoto or Osaka would calculate the value of pi to 10 trillion digits.

I was wrong. The computer that apparently just clinched that record is in Nagano, Japan. And unlike the T2K-Tsukuba System that charted the irrational number in 2009 to 2.5 trillion digits, the latest number-crunching champ isn't a supercomputer--it's a hacked-together PC.

Shigeru Kondo of Iida, Nagano Prefecture, worked with software designed by Northwestern University grad … Read more