Wi-Fi jammed? It won’t be a problem if you’re networking through your room lights. You heard right — scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications in Germany worked out a way to transmit data via normal LED light bulbs. Best of all, you can still use them for lighting, since the lights blink on and off too fast for the naked eye to see.
How fast? Quick enough to spew out 800 megabits per second (Mbps) — an impressive spec by home-networking standards. Only a few components are needed to upgrade a typical LED to become a networking illuminator (a term sure to be trademarked any second), which can reach an area of 10 square meters. One drawback: anyone walking between the light and your device will kill the connection.
Terminator Contact Lens
What if there was a way to get visual alerts without even having to look at a device? That’s the promise of a high-tech contact lens that’s also a heads-up display. Researchers at the University of Washington developed a lens that includes all the electronics for displaying visual information to the wearer and still remain completely safe to eye tissue. There’s literally just one limitation: it can only display a single pixel. The proof-of-concept could lead to more advanced systems, though, and someday soon you may be able to order your own pair of augmented-reality contacts, ready to display information from Google or Wikipedia on whatever you look at, or immerse you live-action gameplay.
Building Better Batteries
Several groups of researchers were working to help create a future where we don’t have to plug our gadgets in every night, and when we do, they won’t take long to charge. The Berkeley National Laboratory invented a new polymer so they could create a battery that holds 30% more charge than the lithium-ion batteries of today. Other lab coats at the University of Illinois developed a technique that might allow high-capacity batteries to charge and discharge within seconds. A grad student at Stanford is working on building batteries that could be recharged for decades without losing capacity. Other research at Stanford opens the door to transparent batteries that could be used in see-through gadgets. Put it all together and you have the high-capacity, instant-charging, long-life, transparent super battery of the future.
The PlayStation Holodeck
Star Trek‘s holodeck looks like a complete fantasy, but Sony created a convincing video that would make you think twice. Allegedly using no editing or post-production whatsoever, Sony Europe got a couple of London-based production companies to shoot a series of amazing videos that appear to create a holodeck-like experience. Is this the future of augmented reality?
Gadgets You Can Bend
One problem with today’s touchscreen-heavy tech is that it’s fairly fragile (just ask anyone with a cracked iPhone). That would change if the screen wasn’t just a rigid piece of glass, but a bendable display. Nokia and Samsung have hinted at bendable phones, and one inventor at in Canada has shown it can be done.
Full Duplexing: A Path to 5G
More spectrum, more spectrum, more spectrum — that’s the incessant cry of the wireless industry, and its solution to many problems it faces. The plea for more airwaves is valid, though the carriers could do a lot more with what they have now if they can make something of what Rice University researchers have built. The team managed to achieve full duplexing-effectively doubling the amount of data transmitted over a network-and they did it using current equipment. Although new wireless standards need to be developed to use the tech, it could be deployed quickly, with existing cell towers.
Could touch screens of the future be immune to fingerprints? That’s the promise of a new kind of screen coating that repels oil-based substances. The German scientists behind the discovery were trying to make a new kind of eyeglass, but it could also lead to iPads that stay spotless — assuming they can make the antismudge coating scratch-proof, too.
Social Cloud Computing
Cloud computing — using several computers over an open network to combine their power to attack difficult computing tasks, like the [email protected] project — has a lot of potential, but one big problem is if someone on the network is malicious, it can screw up the whole operation. It’s difficult to know who’s a bad guy, though, so information that’s even a little bit sensitive will never work on the model.
Or will it? Social networks like Facebook can provide a large group of like-minded parties, all of whom have a certain level of trust. After all, you’re already sharing the intimate moments of your life with these people — why not some processing power, too? That’s the essence of social cloud computing, an idea from researchers at the University of Montana. And you thought you were just hanging out.