The week in gadgets: Sony hires sheep cameras, man builds his own Transformer

7 Jul 2014

The 'camerasheep' gets fitted with its equipment

A look at gadget happenings, as Sony uses sheep to film the Tour de France, a man builds his own life-size Transformer robot, and Oculus Rift lets you enter the world of South Park.

Sony sheep cam

Before we begin, no, we’re not trying to pull the wool over your eyes (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Sony is indeed looking to use the bleating farm animal to get a different angle for filming the Tour de France that will be taking place in the UK and France.

The five sheep are near Harrogate in North Yorkshire, England, and will be fitted with Sony’s brand of action cameras, the HDR-AS100VR/W, and with a modified dog harness. Farmer Ian Hammond will remotely operate the cameras, and he even showcased his equipment and ‘camerasheep’.

The tech savvy farmer, speaking to the Daily Mail, said he’s interested in seeing how the sheep manage to get on with their new role.

“Locally, we are really looking forward to the Tour de France coming through Yorkshire. The dales certainly are a good test for cyclists and I’m looking forward to seeing how my flock perform as Sony’s first-ever sheep cam.”

Real-life Transformer

While film critics remain baffled as to the continuing financial success of the Michael Bay Transformers series, one die-hard fan and engineer simply couldn’t wait until its latest incarnation is released so decided to do what any engineer would do: build his or her own.

George Edgren created the 23-feet tall red robot named Hardwire in the space of a month. In reality, Edgren isn’t actually a die-hard fan but wanted to try his hand at creating a Transformer.


Hardwire in all his glory

Speaking to the Verge, Edgren said it was more a case that his friend suggested the idea of building a Transformer. So Edgren he quickly began to use his metalworking skills to turn an Oldsmobile into a robot, with the front of the car as the chest and the doors making up the base of its feet.

Edgren doesn’t have any plans to give Hardwire any form of artificial intelligence, so don’t expect any Optimus Prime Autobots appearing in the inevitable next film in the series.

Oculus Rift meets South Park

For all the lovers of the cartoon South Park, you may soon be able to get your chance to walk around the Colorado town, now that a production company has developed a virtual-reality project using the Oculus Rift headset. The project will allow a person to walk around the town, explore the different locations in South Park, and see some of the familiar characters.

Tool, the production company behind the project, wanted to create their own world to walk around in and, being fans of the show, thought it would be the easiest and most familiar world for people to explore.

The team created the virtual world using a program called Unity, as well as Cinema 4D, Photoshop and SP-Studio, with the buildings and environmental objects being paper-textured 3D structures.

The project is available online to try out if you are one of the few to own an Oculus Rift.

YouTuber emart checks out the virtual-reality South Park

Ekocycle 3D printer

When singer isn’t adding his presence to the latest up-and-coming pop star’s track, he’s also developing 3D products for consumer use.

From his latest venture with 3DSystems comes the Ekocycle 3D printer, in collaboration with Coca-Cola, that will turn its plastic PET bottles into material to use to 3D print any object they can think of, within size limit of course.


The Ekocycle 3D printer

Users of the printer will also be able to access the Cubify app on iOS and Android that will allow them to use 3D printer designs or try to find inspiration for their own pieces.

Of course, being linked with Coca-Cola means the choice of colours is pretty limited to red and white, but there could be scope for further colours in the near future.

The Ekocycle is to be released on the market in the second half of this year, with a price tag of US$1,199 (€880).

Chumby smart alarm clock

Making its first proper return after eight years, the Chumby smart alarm clock is being relaunched after a first attempt to make a smarter alarm clock failed to foresee the growth of smartphones that replaced people’s alarm clocks, and the Chumby happened to offer less.

In 2013, it ceased its support altogether but is now coming back with a dedicated service that will see the alarm clock come with more than 1,000 supported apps, from travel, to news and lifestyle.

However, existing owners of the Chumby will need to pay a monthly subscription of US$3 to access the apps, otherwise they’ll be left with the basic clock setting and a music player.


The humble Chumby smart alarm clock

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic