New invention lets you control gadgets with face movements


Stick your finger in your ear. Now smile, or wink, or wrinkle your nose. Can you feel the inside of your ear move? That’s the idea behind a Japanese invention called the “Mimi Switch”.

The device looks like a pair of earbuds but instead of containing speakers, they contain tiny infrared sensors that measure the movements inside your ears that are generated by different facial expressions. Inventor Kazuhiro Taniguchi says:

“You will be able to turn on room lights or swing your washing machine into action with a quick twitch of your mouth. An iPod can start or stop music when the wearer sticks his tongue out, like in the famous Einstein picture. If he opens his eyes wide, the machine skips to the next tune. A wink with the right eye makes it go back.”

It could also monitor your mood – Taniguchi also suggests that someone who ‘isn’t smiling enough’ could be forced to listen to only happy music until they cheer the fuck up. Call me moody, but I can’t think of anything worse. There’s also health applications – one mounted on a hearing aid would be able to monitor a person’s breathing or how much they sneeze.

The device will apparently be available within “two to three years”. But that’s in Japan, which has technology that’s practically indistinguishable from magic. Expect it over here sometime next century then.

(via Physorg)

COLUMN: Facebook – will it still be around in five years?


Facebook’s now been around for five years, but will it still be around in five years’ time? There’s a long and a short answer to that question. The short answer is yes. A website, operating at, will still be going in five years. That, assuming the internet survives the next five years, is a given.

But will it still be the cultural force that it is today – 150 million users worldwide, twice the size of its nearest competitor, leading to academic misconduct, arrests, multiple lawsuits, house-trashings and viruses? I suspect the answer might be no. Click over the jump to find out why.

PayPal offers pocket money for the 21st Century


PayPal has long dominated the market for online payments, but the company has just announced a new initiative that it’s calling ‘PayPal Student Account’. It lets you add up to four sub-accounts to your PayPal account and allocate money to those accounts as you wish – in a single chunk or as a recurring transfer.

There are no fees to pay, and the parent can also give their kid a real-world debit card, linked to the account, which the kid can use to buy stuff in bricks-and-mortar shops. Parents can sign up for alerts for unwanted spending – asking them to approve any transaction over $100, for example. Also, if the kid needs cash unexpectedly, they can text PayPal, who’ll notify the parent and ask them to approve or deny the request.

At the moment, the feature is in an invite-only beta period, and there’s no word when it’ll open up wider. I suspect it might be a little while before we see it in the UK too, so for the moment, you’ll have to stick with the old ‘hand-them-cash’ approach. Sorry.

How much pocket money did you get as a kid? Let us know in the comments. I got £3.50 a week in the mid-90s. Paltry compared to my friends.

Paypal (via New York Times)

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Nokia dreams of the future: growing a mobile phone in a pot


You’d expect one of the world’s leading mobile phone companies to be constantly thinking of future innovations. In fact, over one-quarter of Nokia’s employees — around 30,000 people — work on research and development, and though a lot of their work is kept secret, a recent new article sheds some light on possible future products.

Leo Kaerkkaeinen, a chief visionary at the Nokia Research Centre, suggested that in the future, your mobile phone might be grown in a pot, or printed out…

Sir Arthur C. Clarke, renowned Sci-Fi author and futurist, dies aged 90

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Sir Arthur C. Clarke, author of almost 100 books including 2001: A Space Odyssey, passed away at his home in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Wednesday. He was 90.

“He had been taken to hospital in what we had hoped was one of the slings and arrows of being 90, but in this case it was his final visit,” Scott Chase, the secretary of the nonprofit Arthur C. Clarke Foundation, revealed in a statement on his official website