SAN FRANCISCO--SPIE, an international society founded in 1955 to advance light-based research, gathered this week in San Francisco for SPIE Photonics West, a huge industry exhibition showcasing some of the newest developments in optics and photonic technology.
Companies exhibiting at the show, which ran from January 23-28, unveiled the lasers, fiber optics, lenses, medical optics, nano interfaces, and optoelectronics that are powering the next generation of consumer gadgets.
A stunning new image taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter creates an optical illusion. The image might look like rows of trees on the Martian surface. But in actuality, they are probably veins of basaltic sand along sand dunes, Candy Hansen, a member of the MRO team, told the Chicago Sun-Times.
This isn't the first time images from the Red Planet have piqued the public's interest. Images released last year appeared to show forests of trees; in 2008, NASA released an image that appeared to be a person sitting on a rock but turned out to be … Read more
Las Vegas--If you've ever watched the motion user interface scene from "Minority Report" and thought to yourself, "I WANT THAT," then check out Light Touch from Light Blue Optics, an interactive projector with a surprisingly accurate touch response.
At its core, the Light Touch is a simple handheld computer running Windows CE, but it uses holographic laser tracking to project a 10.1-inch virtual touch screen onto any flat surface. From there, you can control everything from scrolling through photos to selecting MP3s and dragging folders around the desktop. The laser also does double-duty by ensuring that the image stays in constant focus even across long distances.
We demoed the unit at the Light Blue Optics booth at CES 2010, and came away surprised at the accuracy of the laser. The projection only lights up to 15 lumens, which seemed dim compared to normal fluorescent viewing, and we're skeptical about its outdoor performance; however, we left with a skip in our step knowing that "Minority Report" might become a reality sooner than later.
Want your own demo? Check out the Light Blue Optics Web site for a video of the Light Touch in action.
More photos after the jump.… Read more
Apple's "remote disc" feature is implemented in the OS so computers that do not have optical drives (specifically, the MacBook Air) can access drives from Macs or PCs on the local network to install software. This is a convenient feature, but while sharing can be enabled on any Mac by clicking the box next to "DVD or CD Sharing" in the "Sharing" system preferences, Apple has limited its use to MacBook Air systems only. Despite this, you can easily get around this restriction and allow any Mac to view shared DVDs or CDs.… Read more
Read through the user reviews of point-and-shoot cameras on CNET and you'll come across a common question: where's the optical viewfinder? The answer is there aren't any. Well, almost any. Canon is basically the lone major manufacturer of compact cameras with optical viewfinders. And even its numbers are dwindling.
In Canon's current lineup of PowerShot Digital Elph and A-series models, there are just five models featuring the company's real image optical zoom viewfinder. If you want manual control over shutter speed and aperture, the only option is the 14.7-megapixel SD990 IS (and it's nearing the end of its life). (On the upside the SD990 can now be found for more than $100 less than its original $399.99 price, making it a much better purchase than when I originally reviewed it.)
Below is a listing of the five models that are still readily available at retail with links to their reviews. Generally, they're all very good cameras and at current prices I wouldn't hesitate to recommend any of them if you must have a viewfinder. If you want it to be powered by AA-size batteries, too, you're limited to the A-series models. Also, if you don't mind a larger, more advanced camera, Canon's PowerShot G11 and Nikon's Coolpix P6000 models both feature optical viewfinders. … Read more
Sometimes you may need to reinstall OS X on a computer, but the drive is broken, resulting in an obvious problem with reading the installation DVD. While broken drives can be easily fixed or replaced, it does take your computer out of commission for the time it takes the repairs to be done. Meanwhile, there are a few approaches to reinstalling OS X that may work.… Read more
In September, Intel showed off Light Peak as if it were the latest hot idea out of the labs. But the fiber-optic communication technology could well be coming to a computer near you next year, rather than in some distant sci-fi future.
A Taiwanese optical networking company, Foci Fiber Optic Communication, is well along the path of selling Light Peak cables and other fiber-optic components.
"We plan to have our pilot run ready by the end of November 2009, and ready to be in mass production in the beginning of year 2010," said Janpu Hou, the company's vice president of business development.
Foci is not some no-name manufacturer of commodity gear, either. The company supplied the optical networking components used in the Light Peak demonstrations at the Intel Developer Forum in September. … Read more
The 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded for "two revolutionary optical technologies."
Charles K. Kao, who discovered how to transmit light through fiber optics, and the team of Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith, who designed the first digital-imaging sensor, split the Nobel Prize, announced by the Nobel Foundation on Tuesday.
Born in Shanghai, Charles K. Kao made a discovery in 1966 that would lead to today's fiber optics. A man ahead of this time, Kao calculated how it would be possible to transmit light over 100 kilometers (62 miles), compared to only 20 … Read more