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The MIT Media Lab team has manipulated the visual abilities of Xbox 360 Kinect to allow people to use it for business teleconferencing purposes. Media Lab has also altered the detecting depth of the video feed back to make the whole experience way more interactive. This will allow people to use Kinect for fun or business in a whole new way.

The Kinect is an innovative accessory for Xbox 360, which allows people to control video game elements through their body movements. Microsoft has spent years in development of Kinect and has implemented some of the most advanced technology in to it. Up until now, the Kinect has been strictly  used for gaming.

A technology team at MIT Media Lab has untapped some of the hidden resources from Kinect’s hardware. Since Kinect has human limb detection, it was easy for the team to switch it to object detection. This allowed to show movement and distance between presented objects. They were also able to blur people out of the video, so that the focus is only on the speaker. (See video)

This creates the effect of actually being there, since even the person on the other side can also rearrange objects to get real time feedback from the main screen.

Therefore more teleconferencing can be held across long distances and will cut down on travel time, expenses and more importantly green house emissions.

When considering all of the video chatting being used in business, this kind of technology will probably become main stream fairly quickly.



Photo credit: Getty Images / James Woodson

Going green in College dorms is easier than most people think. Minor adjustments to some daily routines can save money and reduce negative effect on the environment. The minor adjustment can be broken down into seven easy tips.

1.  Local Furnishings

Many students come from great distances, sometimes making several trips just to bring back heavy furniture. This can cost hundreds of dollars in gas.

This can be avoided by shopping locally for used or refurbished furniture.

2. Second Hand

Many students buy all new decorations and appliances for their dorms without realizing how many times they will have to move, then breaking them in the process.

Try shopping at eBay Local or Craigslist. Sometimes appliances like television sets, coffee makers, and lamps can be found at garage sales or flea markets for dirt cheap price.

3. Possible free stuff

Students graduate all the time, meaning they don’t want to drag anything extra back home.

Take advantage of free stuff.

4.  Air conditioning

Air conditioning uses large amounts of electricity. Cracking the window open and turning off AC at night will air out the room while reducing CO2 emissions. In warmer states consider buying Energy-Star AC units.

5. Cycling

Most collages campuses are set up for walking and cycling.

This means that cycling around campus is going to be the fastest way to get around. Also helps with daily exercise needs.

6. Paper as decoration.

Colored paper can be used from ambient lampshades to wall decorations. All it takes is some creative thinking. When the time comes to move out, just recycle it.

7. Lights

Using less light is always great way to stay green.

Many dorms have fixtures that contain two florescent light bulbs. Take one out to alleviate hospital like atmosphere, while using less electricity. Replacing old light bulbs with LED or CFL bulbs will also do the trick.

The 241st National Meeting of the American Chemical Society has introduced an artificial leaf. This “artificial leaf” could provide enough electricity to the entire household through mimicking photosynthesis. The leaf is an advanced solar cell made with silicon, electronics and catalysts. It can also split hydrogen and oxygen in bright sunlight to provide ten times the energy as organic leaf.

The artificial leaf technology has been in the works for ten years and could never be practical up until now. The major issue has been the high price of production, but now there is a cheaper way of using nickel and cobalt for manufacturing. This leaf might be cheap enough to provide electricity for homes in underdeveloped countries. So far the artificial leaf prototype has been tested to work efficiently for over 45 hours. The scientist are hoping to make it work efficiently for several years and possibly increasing the overall size of artificial leaf. Currently the leaf measures to be the size of a poker card, which makes it hard to work with.

It seems that turning sunlight into energy is the main focus of green technology today. The solar panel technology is being used on cars, houses, cell phones, back packs and roof tops. This is very exciting time for humanity to start implementing sustainable green technology into the mix.

The green movement is one of the highest considerations today. It can be hypothesized that the green technology is going to be the driving force of the world’s economy for next forty years.

Small Company called Wysips has created a transparent solar power screen for next generation cell phones. The transparent solar screen will be able to charge a cell phone in 6 hours, using only light. This technology will help cell phones to perform faster while making them smaller. Similar technology might be implemented on the future iPhones and iPads.


Charging cell phone with light.

Current cell phones are becoming the center point of world’s communication and entertainment. This means the cell phone companies are constantly on a rush to make their cell phones a complete package. The all-in-one goal has much strain on the battery life and the demand for more complicated applications is on the rise. It was just matter of time before someone implemented an alternative charging mechanism.


Let’s evaluate the details of Wysips new innovation.

The screen measures to be less than 100 microns deep and is made out of photovoltaic cells that lay down on top of the cell phone’s display screen. Afterwards, the precise layers of cylindrical lenticular lenses are deposited on top. This allows the light to pass through the screen and to charge the battery by focusing the solar energy onto the PV cells, where the electricity is generated.

It is still a prototype, but company’s president is promising major improvements for the next year. The main improvement is going to be charging speed, which will be an hour for 30 minutes of talk time. This will still depend on lighting intensity and the amount of IR and UV radiation in the light.

Although the green technology is the main focus here, the additional electricity input will be able to give cell phone makers the ability implement faster CPUs, while reducing the battery size.

The battery life increase is much needed in iPhones and iPads, due to their video gaming capabilities.

When this technology is adopted, it may be the next technological leap.


Honda Civic conversion

Carnegie Mellon University has been part of Electric Vehicle Conversion Project for quite some time now. Last year they showed off electric Honda Fit and this year they will unveil 2002 Civic Ex. Both vehicles are prime examples of gas to electric vehicle conversions. Researcher Illah Nourbakhsh will be hosting an open house on March 25th to show off the conversion process.

2002 civic ex

When it comes to car conversions there are always people who can do it better. In this case the Carnegie Mellon University has specifically concentrated on spending time and money to work on Honda vehicles. The process isn’t too complicated, but still has to be done right. At first the Civic’s conventional power train is replaced with 35-horsepower electric motor and the trunk is utilized as 33 lithium-iron-phosphate battery container. This will give the car a speed of 70 miles per hour and the ability to travel 40 miles in mixed driving environments. The charging will consist of 10 hours on standard 110 volt outlet.

Although this seems like an easy conversion, it isn’t cheap. The conversion costs $17,000 or more, depending on the model. Since this is the beginning stage of the conversion program, it will take some time before the price can be lowered. Until then it will be very hard to convince someone to spend this kind of money, considering other similar electric vehicles on the market.

The battery fills up spear tire compartment and then some.

On the other hand the gas prices have been climbing in the past few months. If this continues, the demand will grow and the price will drop. Therefore the upgrade will pay itself off within few years, and definitely will save money in the long run while saving the earth.;stories

A week ago Apple has unveiled the iPad 2, which brings some slight improvements over the original iPad. The original iPad has only been out for less than a year and many environmentalists are questioning such a short life span. On one side there is an iPad 2 that improves environmental and social impacts by using less material in production. On the other side there is the outdated iPad, when replaced, will be thrown into landfills. The question is “which is more sustainable?”

The iPad 2 is going to be 33% thinner and 15% lighter than the original iPad. This reduces the overall carbon footprint of original iPad by astonishing 58%. The battery is free of arsenic, BFRs, mercury and PVC, meaning it goes above and beyond Energy Star requirements. The original iPad is still one of the top greenest computers out there, but with the release of iPad 2, it may become most polluting product.

The main reason it’s going to be so pollutant is because there are 15 million original iPads out there and not everybody is going to recycle them. Even if they do, the original iPad cannot be fully recycled and all of the non-recycled parts are going to be piled up in the landfills.

Here are some interesting questions that arise.

1. Is Apple going to launch iPad 3 in eight to eleven months?

2. Are customers going to buy the new and slightly improved iPad again?

This debate has been controversial since the iPad 2 announcement and will be until Apple introduces better recycling methods.

Voltaic backpack is one of the most innovative products to enter the green market. This backpack has a resistant shell made out of recycled soda bottles and has built in solar panels for charging of any handhelds like MP3 players, cell phones and digital cameras. The Voltaic backpack also includes 11 adapters, DC car charger, AC travel charger and lithium-ion battery.

These days green marketing is what drives many smaller companies to success. Since the solar panel prices are dropping, more people have the ability to experiment with them. This helps with introduction of new and innovative concept like the Voltaic backpack. The concept of a backpack with solar panels seems simple, yet surprising that bigger companies like North Face and REI haven’t implemented this in their lineup. It only makes sense to create a back pack with rechargeable capabilities with today’s ever growing market of handheld gadgetry.

Voltaic does a good job of implementing solar panels without compromising backpack’s dimensions. The backpack has enough room to fit a 17-inch laptop and has plenty of pockets for cell phones, MP3 players and other gadgetry. The solar panels are on top of the backpack and can last up to 25 years under normal conditions. If damaged, each 4-ounce cell can be replaced for $30. This bag is ideal for camping, hiking, and bicycling trips, where there is plenty of sunlight to charge the lithium-ion battery. On average expect eight to ten hours to fully charge the battery. Popular handhelds like iPods and BlackBerries can be fully charged from the battery within five hours.

To some it might sound silly to spend $250 on a backpack. On the other hand consider life or death situation with cell phone beeping on low battery while talking to 911 emergency. The $250 will sound more reasonable then. Not everyone goes hiking deep in the woods, but having the security of fully charged electronics can make Voltaic backpack a worthy choice.;contentBody#reviewPage1

Japanese inventor Akinori Ito has made a machine that can convert plastic bags into fuel. This machine uses carbon negative process and can recycle two pounds of plastic in a single load. The machine doesn’t have a name yet, but is being sold by the inventor’s Blest Corporation.

From plastic to fuel in just few minutes.

One of the main concerns environmentalists have today is the overwhelming amount of plastic that goes into landfills. Most countries out there have banned plastic bag use and in places like England, it has become illegal not to recycle. Once again U.S.A is the last one to follow the suit. The gadgets that recycle plastic in a convenient way are more likely to attract U.S.A consumers. Blest could be one of those gadgets, since it works just like a recycle bin. Just throw the plastic in and it will start the process with a push of a button. Blest heats the plastic and traps the vapors inside the system’s pipes, vapors are then cooled and condensed into crude oil. Crude oil can be used in generators and stoves. With additional improvements Blest will be able to produce gasoline.

Currently Blest is more of a prototype and is only designed for households. The $10,000 price point is too much for an average household. When put into a major production, this cost will drop in an fairly quick.

Let’s just hope it does.

The Ion Desk Rocker USB studio monitors will put out an impressive sound with only 10 watts of power per channel. These studio monitors are one of the few to stay under $100 mark, making them ideal for people on the budget. The Desk Rockers can be used in many set up scenarios, ranging from audio recording to video gaming. If portability isn’t a concern, these might be a perfect pair to own.

Ion Desk Rocker speakers are much larger than traditional computer speakers, but reproduce an exceptional sound.

One of the most common mistakes made when shopping for computer speakers is the exclusion of studio monitor speakers. In the past studio monitors have been in a separate category and carried a price above $500 point. With technology today, companies like Ion have been crossing this barrier by implementing high quality components into basic computer speaker enclosures. At times this act can make speakers look cheap or aesthetically displeasing when compared to other computer speakers.

It is important to point out that speaker specification is what brings sound to life, not the chrome trim or the glossy finish. The Ion Desk Rocker speakers fall under the category of boxy and dull looking with impressive specifications for clean and balanced sound.

The Ion Desk Rockers have built in sound card which can be accessed via USB interface. This option should give you the best possible sound out of your Mac or PC. These speakers also have built in RCA input and 3.5 mm mini jack to cover most auxiliary sources out there. Any of these options will still create full dynamic sound that is sampled at 16-bit, 44.1kHz. For anyone who likes to hear the bottom end of the sound will appreciate the bass boost switch is located in the back of the main speaker. Since these speakers contain 1-inch tweeter and 3-inch woofer they will reproduce clean mid-bass sound, just don’t expect to hear booming bass. In close proximity living environments like the dorms or the apartments, it can be a beneficial thing. Another great aspect of these speakers are the dimensions, measuring 7.5 inches tall by 5 inches wide by 6 inches deep. These specifications don’t make them extremely portable, but are still less troublesome than 2.1 systems with large subwoofers.

In retrospect Ion Desk Rockers will outperform most speakers in their price range with extra electricity to spare. When considering the sound these little guys put out, most people will be hard pressed to find better sounding environmentally friendly speakers.

Honda has recently unveiled an all-electric Fit EV concept model. Fit EV will deliver a top speed of 90 mph with its 2.0 liter engine and will be able to go the distance of 100 miles. Just like the recent CR-Z hybrid, it will have three-mode electric drive system which will include Eco, Normal, and Sport Modes. Charging Fit EV only takes 12 hours through 120 volt outlet and 6 hours through 240 volt outlet.

Honda has been leading innovator in environmentally friendly technology for decades now. It is one of the few car manufacturers out there that hasn’t relied on green washing to get customer loyalty. With gas-electric CR-Z, hydrogen powered FCX and now all-electric Fit EV Honda will have most consumer niches filled.

Since Honda has been one of the first auto manufactures to launch environmentally friendly cars, its innovations has progressed extensively. The Fit EV is a good example of this innovation implementation. With all new display advisory system, the Fit will be able to suggest to shut down air conditioning and other accessories when are not needed to maximize battery life. Even the Navigational System is going to be linked to Honda’s satellite system for the ability of locating a charging station nearby. There is also a Smartphone and computer connectivity for viewing the state-of-charge, initiating a charge, and pre-conditioning of the vehicle.

So the big question is “when is it going to come out?” Well, actually fairly soon. Although the actual month hasn’t been mentioned, most people in Japan and U.S should be expecting it in 2012. It is still up to debate whether Honda will actually launch it by then. Even if does happen, don’t expect to see one within first six months. Anything that comes out from such a well known manufacture will probably be in extreme demand.

But until then, the hope of Fit EV being under twenty thousand dollars will still be in the back of everyone’s mind.

Either way get the pre-orders in now, this one is going to go quick.