cell phones

NASA Scientist Converts iPhone into Chemical Sniffer

A new plug-in iPhone device can detect airborne ammonia, chlorine gas and methane

Cell phones have increasingly become mobile labs and tech tools for researchers, and now NASA has gotten in on the act. A postage-stamp-sized chemical sensor allows iPhones to sniff out low airborne concentrations of chemicals such as ammonia, chlorine gas and methane.

A puff from a "sample jet" helps sense any airborne chemicals. That information gets processed by a silicon chip consisting of 16 nanosensors, and then passes on to another phone or computer through any Wi-Fi or telecom network.

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A Software-Powered Cell Phone Microscope That Doesn't Need Special Lenses

We know, we know: turning a cell phone camera into a microscope isn't exactly a technological breakthrough. In fact, our Best of What's New coverage last year included the CellScope, a cell phone add-on developed at UC Berkeley packing high-powered optics allowing users to transmit images to far-away health centers for diagnosis. But researchers at UCLA have upped the ante, creating a $10, off-the-shelf microscope addition for cell phones that dispenses with the microscope optics altogether.

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Resilient Space Internet Comes Down to Earth Gadgets with Android

A new Internet protocol designed for interplanetary transmissions is bringing its delay-tolerant magic to Earth

Google's Android does a lot more these days than just smart phones and nifty mobile gadgets. An Internet pioneer is using the platform to launch a interplanetary Internet protocol on Earth that could harden wireless networks against delays in data transmission.

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Verizon Droid by Motorola: The Five-Minute Review

Motorola Droid:  John Mahoney
We've talked about Android 2.0 and (virtually) walked through the new Google Maps. Now, it's for real, and it's here. Motorola's Droid has landed at PopSci HQ, and it's making good on its promises.

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Google's Turn-By-Turn Maps for Android 2.0 Kicks Pricey Nav Apps to the Curb

Hot on the heels of the Android 2.0 mobile OS release, Google's sweetening the deal: the Eclair-flavored refresh to their mapping app turns handsets into feature-rich GPS devices -- for free.

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Google Shows Off Android 2.0's Features On Video

The second version of Google's mobile OS (codenamed Eclair) borrows ideas from existing (and upcoming?) phones for an improved user experience

When we saw the Motorola Cliq and the way it married all your contacts simply in one place (a la the Palm Pre), we finally saw the light at the end of the Android tunnel. This morning, that light got even brighter with Android 2.0--the next iteration of Google's mobile software.

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Google's Android Allows Soldiers to Put Drones on Buddy List

Defense giant Raytheon has turned Google's mobile operating system into a military application

Google's Android operating system for cell phones could allow soldiers to track fellow squad members and even unmanned drones in real time on a map -- as long as the humans and robots are on their buddy list.

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Gallery: Far-Out New Tech from Japan

Thank Japan for sushi, Kobe beef, karaoke and the goods from the annual CEATEC showcase.

It's not all about singing robots in Tokyo this year. The annual CEATEC tech expo is loaded with the makings of your gadget-geek future.

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Faster than Flash, Meltable Phase-Change Device Memory Is Finally in Production

It's been 40 years in the making. This week Samsung finally announced they've kicked phase-change memory (PCM) into mass production. In a nutshell, PCM stores information by melting and freezing microscopic crystals. In gadgets like cell phones, its frozen-in-place nature means lightning-fast bootup times--instantaneous, even.

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Motorola's CLIQ Is the Android We're Looking For

The selling point of Google Android is its customizability, the ability to create a unique-looking interface that's compatible with a steady stream of apps. The trouble is, most of the Android-based handsets we've seen -- starting with T-Mobile's G1 -- have all pretty much felt the same. The just-announced Motorola CLIQ, though, is the best example (so far) of what Android is capable of.

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Smart Glove Turns Hand-Waving Into Text

Is that person gesticulating on the street corner insane? Or just an early adopter of the latest interface tech?

Neuroscientists have developed a fingerless glove that automatically translates hand motions into text by way of electrode sensors. Michael Linderman and his colleagues published the results of the first phase of their research project in last Wednesday's PLoS ONE. In this phase, six volunteers, using a digital pen, wrote the numerals 0 to 9 fifty times while wearing the prototype glove, which recorded the electrical activity of eight muscles in their hand and forearms.

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An Iowa 911 Call Center is the First to Accept Text Messages

hlp my hous on fir sav me

This may come as a surprise to some (myself included), but despite the current ubiquity of texting, there’s still at least one place that won’t accept your texts: your local 911 center. Unless you live in Black Hawk County in Waterloo, Iowa, that is. Starting this week, the county’s emergency call center will be the first 911 center in the country to accept text messages sent to 911 in lieu of a phone call.

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Islam Is Good

(This headline is helping to boost a Google-based counter-terrorism effort)

British government officials are planning to deploy search-engine optimization in their war on terror, working with certain Muslim groups to push "positive" depictions of Islam up in the Google rankings.

Also in today's links: watching your kids like a hawk, living like a pig, and more.

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Skype for iPhone: Does it Actually Work?

Is the promise of unlimited cell phone calls for free too good to be true?

Last week, Skype released a client for the iPhone, and the whole world -- or at least 50 million iPhone users -- can rejoice. With free calls to other Skype users, the new app (available free from the Apple app store or from Skype)is ground-breaking, because it means you can place Internet calls without having to use AT&T carrier service. And, iPod Touch users now have a reliable VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) tool that is a real game-changer. Essentially, Skype turns the iPod Touch into a cell phone, without any carrier service.

Does the client really work? I tested the service over the past week, and found that it is very reliable in specific conditions, for both local calls and international chats. Skype for iPhone does have a few hang-ups though, and not the kind you'd normally hope for from a phone.

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Robot Love

New machines respond to human heat, movement

"Socially interactive" robots are being developed that can interact naturally with people, such as turning toward a person to give the impression of paying attention. The goal is to have such machines perform assistive tasks from hugging to encouraging stroke victims to perform important exercises or children with autism to imitate behavior. Researchers designing what such robots will look like also have to avoid the "uncanny valley" -- a phrase based on the idea that people are most comfortable with robots that look either completely human, or identifiably not human.

Also in today's links: blaming quants, mapping science, imaging religion, and more.

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