The week in gadgets: Leap Motion hack, drone with 360 vision, and an Impossible fold-up bike

17 Nov 2014

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The Impossible bike, all folded up. Image by Impossible Technology via Kickstarter

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A look at gadget happenings, as Leap Motion makes every surface touch-sensitive and a Kickstarter project introduces an electric bike that can be carried in a backpack.

The impossibly tiny electric fold-up bike

Engineers based in Beijing, China have built a prototype electric bicycle that can fold up to fit in a backpack. Dubbed the Impossible bike, this carbon-fibre electric bicycle folds up to a mere 17 inches tall and weighs about 5kg.

Currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter, Impossible Technology is all set for a nice Christmas present for the project concluding on 25 December having already reached more than triple its funding target of CA$55,000 (about €39,000).

The carbon fibre-framed bicycle has no pedals or chain and, at the moment, can only support a cyclist’s weight up to 85kg, but the team is working on improving the latter.

None of that has deterred backers, either way, and all lower-priced models for early funders have sold out. With 38 days to go, backers can still sign up for a limited-edition Impossible for CA$530 (€375).

Impossible bike

Image by Impossible Technology via Kickstarter

The bikes are set to ship worldwide from August 2015.

Leap Motion hack makes any surface touch-sensitive

A Russian creative agency known as The Family has figured out a Leap Motion hack that makes any surface touch-sensitive.

Using a Leap Motion controller, which uses infrared technology for gesture-based control, The Family calibrated the device to interpret gestures on a variety of surfaces as part of its ‘TouchEverything Project’.

TouchEverything Project by The Family

GIF of The Family’s Leap Motion hack via prosthetic knowledge

The experiment is nothing more than a bit of fun combining Leap Motion and good code with an inquisitive mind, but that’s not to say the project couldn’t have practical uses with further development. Making a standard monitor into a touchscreen is the most obvious example, but who’s to say there isn’t a need somewhere for a wall of touch-enabled bear cans?

Transforming drone offers unhindered 360-degree views

DJI claims the Inspire 1 drone contains the company’s most advanced technology in an all-in-one flying platform.

The key selling point of the Inspire 1 is the unrestricted 360-degree view its camera is afforded by elevating the drone’s strong carbon-fibre arms out of sight.

DJI Inspire 1 drone

The built-in camera can then be used for 4K video capture or 12MP photos from all angles, while the ability for dual-operator control means users can share duties with one person controlling the flight path and the other on camera duty.

Once the filming is wrapped up, sensors inside the Inspire 1 drone determine its location and altitude and lower legs accordingly for landing.

Microsoft headset could help millions ‘see’ through 3D sound

Microsoft is currently developing a 3D Audio bone-conduction headset that can assist the visually impaired.

The Verge’s senior reporter and resident Microsoft expert, Tom Warren, recently tested the prototype in London. Warren went walking blindfolded with the aid of a white cane and described it as a fearful experience.

However, with the added assistance of the Microsoft headset, Warren was better able to find his way and felt more at ease on his impaired London stroll.

The way the headset works is that it first takes a scan of the user’s face using Microsoft’s Kinect sensor. This is used to provide greater accuracy and tailor its functionality to the user’s dimensions.

The headset, when worn, then transmits audio through the user’s jawbone, which means that their ears remain unobstructed – which is important as blind people often rely heavily on their hearing.

Paired with a smartphone, the headset can be used for GPS navigation and can even pick up nearby beacons to better guide users. The wearer positions themselves correctly by aligning their head towards a clicking sound and, once they’re facing in the right direction, they’ll hear a ping. This sound continues unless the user goes of track, in which case they can use the same process to realign themselves.

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Elaine Burke is managing editor of Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com