Five years in development, Walt Disney's new interactive tour guide Pal Mickey operates off of an infrared wireless network that transmits information in order to help it triangulate its location and speak the appropriate audio message. (The receiver is in Mickey's nose.) The choice of infrared may seem surprising, given the need for line of sight and difficulties coping with direct sunlight (think crowded theme park in the Sunshine State). But Leslie Hartog, project manager for Pal Mickey, says that the entertainment giant is using a new, patent-pending outdoor infrared technology developed by its own engineers. "Even in bright sunlight, the technology is powerful enough that the toy will pick up the signals," explains Hartog. "Also, they bounce off of things like concrete and clothing." She says that Disney engineers actually preferred to use infrared over radio because of the greater accuracy and short transmission distances. The signals consist of mainly simple codes, with Pal Mickey having most of the smarts. In fact, it's programmed to speak some 700 different messages. As for delivering customized messages or using Pal Mickey to perform true traffic control in the park, though, Product Developer Kyle Poor says that's not in the plans—just yet.
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
Sharon Glotzer and David Pine are hoping to create the first liquid hard drive with liquid nanoparticles that can store 1TB per teaspoon. They aren't the first to find potential data stores, as Harvard researchers have stored 700 TB inside a gram of DNA.
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