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Check your cupboards and drawers - as a loyal Tech Digest reader we're guessing you'll uncover at least one or two unloved gadgets or phones. Perhaps the device in question was relegated to the cupboard because of a fault, or an upgrade when one of the lesser gadget's components was no longer up to scratch.

But what if you didn't have to swap out the whole gadget or smartphone just because one or two components have passed their sell by date? That's the idea behind the Phoneblok smartphone concept.

It's based on a modular design, where each component can be added or removed, and works a little bit like LEGO. A base circuit board (with peg-like cutouts) connects each component, with little cubes containing, for instance, the battery or processor, clipping in and all working seamlessly together. Should a faster processor become available, you then simply purchase that part, and swap out the older cube.

It's looking specifically at a smartphone design at the moment, but there's no reason this concept couldn't be applied to other gadgets, such as tablets or laptops, too.

It's a novel idea, and certainly an ecologically and economically friendly approach to gadget design. Still very much in the concept stage, check out the video above for more info.

Apple's iPhone is pretty much the most lustworthy of all smartphone designs, bar maybe the HTC One. There's a premium feel to the build quality, and a tasteful design that makes it as much a fashion statement as functional gadget.

However, some are feeling Apple under Tim Cook aren't innovating at the same pace as they were under the late Steve Jobs, not least of all the investors breathing heavily down the latest CEO's neck.

What Tim Cook needs is a breakthrough iPhone design - something like these iPhone 6 wraparound screen concepts from Dribble artists Michael Shanks, Ali Rahmoun and Sebastian Scheer. While holding the phone (with software edge-housed buttons) may become problematic, the technology to pull this off is already in existence. And it'd make for one gorgeous smartphone.

pl-eink-front.JPGAfter stealing the show at CES 2013 with their flexible e-paper concepts, Plastic Logic have really captured the zeitgeist with their latest prototype, a smartwatch using a flexible colour e-paper display. Could this be what to expect from Samsung's upcoming smartwatch and the rumoured Apple iWatch? We went along to have a closer look at a press event earlier today.

Using an organic TFT active matrix backplane paired with E-Ink and toped off with a colour filter, the watch (made of a single Plastic Logic e-paper sheet) is flexible enough to wraparound a wrist and is paper-thin at under a staggering 900μm. Though no touch panel is implemented in the Plastic Logic prototype, one could be easily added for a marginal increase in thickness.

Showing off potential functions such as a timeface, heart-rate monitor and incoming caller information from a connected smartphone, colours remain vibrant despite the usual e-paper limitations. Plastic Logic achieve these intense colours by using positional colour filters surrounding the standard monochrome E Ink array, allowing them to send individual dynamic colour information to select regions of the display as required by an application.plastic-logic-watch-faces.jpg"Effectively unbreakable" according to Plastic Logic engineer Jim Watts (who had no qualms with throwing a separate flexible display sheet onto the ground), the technology is certainly robust enough to withstand the rigours of everyday use. With Plastic Logic prototyping displays with a 300ppi, the visual fidelity could potentially be superb too. Using bi-stable E Ink technology, power draw would be minimal too, with the watch requiring no extra juice to power once a static image has been produced onscreen.

A few issues would need to be considered for any manufacturer looking to employ one of the Plastic Logic displays in their smart watches however. Though the screen technology itself is startlingly thin, there's still a need to house the transistors and silicone chips (the jumble of wires and circuitry you can see in the image below). A clasp or rubberised band could do the job here, but that micro thinness would be lost. Likewise, a tiny battery would need to be installed somewhere, and though that would be fine if just simply refreshing the screen every once in a while, connecting to, say, a smartphone over Bluetooth could have a dramatic impact on a battery you would assume would be of a low capacity given the size. There's also the need for some sort of lighting unless the watch be completely useless in the dark, another battery drain.pl-eink-rear.JPGThough designed only as an example of the potential of the Plastic Logic technologies, and not destined yet for a commercial smart watch product, the device does offer a glimpse at what could be featured in similar products in the future. Alongside Apple's rumoured iWatch, Samsung also recently confirmed that they are working on a connected wrist watch.

Most tellingly, on-hand Plastic Logic reps revealed that they are currently in talks with a "leading sporting brand" with the possibility of developing the technology for a sports-orientated wristwatch. One could easily speculate as to who that could be - you need only glance at Nike or Adidas's shift in focus to connected accessories to see how Plastic Logic's innovations could tempt them.

Tardis in space.jpg
Ok, so it has been a slow news day, but this makes it all worth while. A barking mad bloke from Stourbridge is hoping to raise money for children's cancer charity Clic Sargent by sending a mini Tardis into space. He has already raised the money to fund the project using Kickstarter which paid for the weather balloon and the helium gas.

He has done it before too. On August 9th the original Tardis was launched from the Shropshire Hills. It travelled to a height in excess of 30,000 meters, touching 'The Edge of Space', before falling back to earth.

And you can see the footage below.

Now the intrepid team are hoping to send the Tardis up for a second time. This time if you donate £2.50 (or more) you can send a 'tweet' to The Edge of Space along with our Tardis.

Anyhow watch the video, check out the guy's Just Giving page and give all you can.

nikiski-1.jpgSince stealing the show at Intel's CES 2012 press conference, the Intel Nikiski has bowed out of the limelight. A concept laptop design unlikely to enter production any time soon, it remains one of the best-looking portable PCs we've seen in a very long time. At Intel's Triptych art installation in London last night, we once again got to ogle the machine. And we want it now more than ever.

The main draw of the Nikiski is its inventive exterior design. At first glance, it seems like a regular, clam-shell closing laptop, albeit with a touchscreen. However, the laptop also employs a gorgeous, transparent glass trackpad that's the length of the device. It looks great and feels very responsive, with the extra size seeming particularly well suited to elaborate gesture controls.
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It really comes into its own however when the laptop is shut. The underside of that trackpad then doubles up as a clear touchpad for a preview strip displayed on the laptop's screen underneath. Here you could get snippets from your email inbox, Twitter feed, calendar, RSS reader and more. While it's usage is niche, it looks great, and gives a little added functionality to a PC that would otherwise be in sleep mode.

Though the preview strip looks similar to the Windows 8 Metro interface, it's actually a custom built Windows 7 app. Were the Nikiski ever to come to market, it'd be easy to imagine a plethora of touch-friendly Windows 8 apps making use of the preview strip. However, with a smartphone almost certainly in the pockets of the majority of the Nikiski's target audience, it's quick-look, widget-style functionality may be lost on some.
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Intel are currently letting partners take a look at the Nikiski, in the hopes that the likes of Acer or HP will take the bait and bring the design to market. Even if its real-world usage is fairly limited, it's a beautiful, head-turning device that would stand apart from the growing glut of premium ultrabooks doing the rounds.

microsoft-st-martins.jpgMicrosoft have revealed the winner of its inaugural PC Hardware Design Project, in partnership with Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design.

Twenty four students studying MA Industrial Design were asked to create "a range of innovative hardware and user-experience devices which consumers could be using in the future."

Aiming to re-imagine the way we interact with technology, an eventual shortlist of twelve inventive concepts was whittled down to one, seeing Victor Johansson's "Keyflex" hailed the winner. It takes the humble keyboard and gives it added flexibility, with different twists and tangible gestures resulting in different, appropriate onscreen actions.

"It has been a fascinating experience to see students who hail from a diverse mix of backgrounds and nationalities developing fresh insights into the world of man/machine interaction," said Scott Smith, Principal User Experience Designer with the Microsoft Hardware User Experience Team and judge of the PC Hardware Design Project.

"I was particularly impressed with Victor Johansson's design as he successfully met the overall goal of the programme and really showcased a possible future trend which addressed a clear consumer need - a quality that is at the forefront of all Microsoft design thinking."

All the short-listed designs are innovative and a bit mad, just how we like them at Tech Digest, so we've collected them together in the gallery below, along with a brief description of how they each would work:


Tokyo Flash are back with another crazy watch idea to make your wrist-wear a talking piece as well as a time piece.

One for those who rightfully fear the dangers of drinking and driving, the watch comes equipped with a breathalyzer, relaying your blood alcohol levels on a touchscreen. Rather than using osmosis however, the watch has a fold out port to blow into which gauges how fit you are to drive.

It's just a concept for now so no word on when (or if, even) it will ever be released, but Tokyo Flash do have a good track record for turning their madcap designs into real-life products.

What they don't have a good track record for however is making watches that you can actually read the time on. Few people can ever make out the wacky watch faces, and God only knows who will be able to read one of them when they're pissed.

More info here.


Augmented realiy features are quickly becoming widespread in smartphone technology, and are now even making their way into games consoles with the launch of the Nintendo 3DS.

It's an exciting area of growth for the tech industry, and even car tech manufacturers are looking to grab a slice of the AR pie. We've already seen a demo product from Pioneer at CES earlier in the year
which projected a HUD onto the inside of your windscreen, and now windscreen repair experts Autoglass are throwing their thoughts into the mix too. They've produced a video of how they expect an AR-capable windscreen in the year 2020 will look.

Dr Chris Davies, head of technical research & innovation at Autoglass® said, "As well as accounting for up to 30% of a vehicle's structural strength, the windscreen has become an interactive tool for sharing information and improving the driver experience. Essentially the car is becoming more like a laptop and the windscreen will evolve into the virtual information screen."

Davies continued, "Augmented reality technology has been widely used in smartphones for more than 18 months. Manufacturers are already working on assistance technologies such as collision avoidance systems, lane departure systems and sign recognition. We believe that within 10 years car manufacturers will have completely revolutionised the function of the car windscreen."

"We're very in tune with technological innovation in the motoring industry, particularly around the role of the windscreen. Both glass and augmented reality technology are nearing a point where the windscreen can work harder to improve road safety, awareness and driving in general. The traditional dashboard will become obsolete," added Davies.

Click the video above to check out the Autoglass concept. We particularly like the plug near the end when the car windscreen is "compromised" and the intelligent motor rings Autoglass automatically!


Microsoft's Xbox 360 Kinect motion-sensing add-on may be perfectly kid friendly, but we're pretty sure this latest hardware hack would scare the bejeezus out of any little ones that may come across it.

Using a Pufferfish spherical projection display and the motion contoller, plus a fair bit of tech-y know how, these hackers have made a Lord of The Rings-style all-seeing eye using the gaming gear.

Here, the Kinect tracks people's movements around the room, with the information pumped to the projector, making it seem as if a giant eye is watching you.

Due to the limitations of using a single Kinect sensor, the eye can only track people within a 180-degree angle, but we're sure it wont be long until they hook a second sensor up to complete the nightmarish hack in all its 360-degree creepiness.

Check it out in the video above.

Via: Engadget


CeBIT may be more of an information and communications technologies showcase rather than a consumer focussed show, but that doesn't mean there aren't any wacky design concepts on show. Pick of the pile is the ASUS Iris gear.

They're calling Iris an "Adaptive Personal Device", and by that they mean it can transform into any number of forms. The concept video demo showed it working as a wristwatch, projector and tablet, with some sort of stretchable projection screen allowing the Iris to take many forms.

All very futuristic, and all very unlikely to ever make it into a real product. In our lifetimes at least.

STEREOO: 3D Concept Camera

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STEREOO

If we learnt one thing from CES this year, it is that 3D is here to stay. We have seen a number of products released over the last few years, but it seems as though many 3D products are now entering the mainstream market.

Paving the way for the 3D market has to be cameras, with everyone from Olympus to Sony releasing at least one 3D model this year. With this, we have also seen a number of concept cameras emerge and one of my favourites has to be the STEREOO. The simple yet effervescent design is in my opinion exactly what will get people excited about this new technology. Not only does the camera smile back at you, but the large display is capable of displaying 3D images and doubles as a touch interface. Hopefully this is one camera that comes to fruition.

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