WONDROUS TIMES

3D confections printed with a Chef Jet Pro - image courtesy of Gizmag

3D confections printed with a Chef Jet Pro – image courtesy of Gizmag

We truly live in wondrous times. It wasn’t all that long ago that we read about or saw amazing, unthinkable things in science fiction and thought, “Well, maybe someday.” My friends, someday is here. 3D printers can now make anything from rocket and jet engine motor parts to confections. Sure, they need media to work with but, at the current rate of progress, I suspect that manipulation of matter at the molecular level is a whole lot closer than anyone thought it would be even 20 years ago.

LEGO Mindstorm lets 10 - 16+ year olds build any of 5 different functioning robots. - image courtesy Amazon.com

LEGO Mindstorm lets 10 – 16+ year olds build any of 5 different functioning robots. – image courtesy Amazon.com

And it’s not just at the practical end of the scale that things are happening. There’s a growing movement toward what we think of as ‘technological whimsy’. LEGO has a variety of kits from the Star Wars Deathstar to the Creator Rescue Robot that you can assemble from their blocks. But, for the truly forward looking, there is the LEGO Mindstorms series. These kits come complete with processors, servos, well, everything you need to make a functioning robot. If you need more, there is their Technic Power Function Accessory box which, for under $50 allows you to “add even more power to your LEGO creations”.

And they’re not the only ones out there. OWI has a range of lower priced robotics project toys for sale; from robotic arms and all terrain vehicles to a ‘14 in 1’ solar powered robot kit. Thames & Kosmos is another competitor which offers a kit for building infra red controlled vehicles from LEGO like components. Certainly a far cry from those blocks of wood cut into basic geometric shapes and covered in brightly colored paint. Which, come to think of it, was probably lead based but, that’s another story.

Electronic sticker art from Chibitronics - creativity takes a bold new leap. - image courtesy of Gizmag.com

Electronic sticker art from Chibitronics – creativity takes a bold new leap. – image courtesy of Gizmag.com

This week, we took another step into the ever expanding world of technowhimsy. GizMag featured two wonderful new ideas in their news letter on January 23, 2014. (for those of you unfamiliar with GizMag, it is geek candy that arrives daily. The newsletter talks about developments, both actual and coming, in various technology related fields. Topics range from luxury yachts to medical developments, to the latest electronic gadgets. It is THE way to start your day!)

Where was I? Shouldn’t wax wistfully like that! Ah, yes! Steps into technowhimsy. I refer to electronic component stickers (yes, stickers) which can be used to make delightful artwork. LEDs that glow, sensors, and even programmable stickers are on the threshold of being marketed. Imagine the delight of getting a homemade card that is interactive as well as expressive!  So cool! Our neighbors’ daughters would go nuts for this project. And, being really bright girls, would probably have some truly awesome hacks for the basic system inside of a month.

Smart Nixie tubes for all your digital display needs. - image courtesy of Gizmag.com

Nixie Smart tubes for all your digital display needs. – image courtesy of Gizmag.com

The other product is a new wrinkle on retro technology. The Nixie Tube is making a comeback. Cool retro stuff like this is really popular with those of us who love Steampunk or Dieselpunk. But the new tubes feature variable colors and are programmable to display pretty much any digital data you want. Stock quotes, temperature, time, sports scores – you name it, these tubes can do it. Plus, there’s now a Bluetooth module that can be added so you can go geek-wild, wirelessly!  So cool!!

Face it, the prospect of curing cancer with nanobots, external leg prostheses that mimic the function of human limbs, fighting drug resistant tuberculosis with stem cells, and life prolonging drugs are all well and good. But, while we’re waiting for these ‘just around the corner’ miracles, it’s good to know we can have a bit of fun along the way. We really think you’ll enjoy checking out the videos from Chibitronics for the electronic stickers and Nixie Smart for the Nixie tube revolution. They are wonderfully fun and will make you feel like a kid again, no matter how old you are.

SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION ALERT: For more information about developments in the fields of medicine and healthcare as well as help getting around the healthcare system, visit out Medical Self Help site, HealthGPS. It’s designed to help you make sense out of the healthcare system and get the best benefit for the dollars you spend for your care.

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