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New and Notable Product Design

New and Notable Product Design

TOGGLE KEYS WRIST PDA

Fossil Wrist PDA. When products get small, a convenient user interface is vital. To ensure this, Fossil designers and engineers side-mounted an ITT Industries, Cannon tactile 3-way navigation switch to its Wrist PDA, in addition to a stylus. Cannon Product Manager Vincent Strasser notes that engineers modified a standard production miniature switch to allow a larger, more stylish "boat-bottom shaped" PPT plastic actuation button to snap on. For aesthetics, they also repositioned the switch on the circuit board to eliminate any large gaps when the button is moved. The arrangement further accommodates the larger button's shape by allowing the button to wrap around the switch and circuit board within. Product Manager:Vincent Strasser, [email protected] (www.fossil.com/tech) Enter 626

HOW MUCH IS THAT DOGGY . . . ?

Sony AIBO Entertainment Robot. First introduced in 1999, Sony's AIBO has spawned a succession of robotic pets, from the AIBO Terminator (shown here) to the Mini-Dancer. Although the Terminator's $1,500 price tag gave us sticker shock, Sony engineers have clearly made an effort to keep their costs in check. With each new generation of AIBO, they have retained common hardware components wherever possible and exploited the capabilities of object-oriented programming tools (C++) to provide a unique set of hardware functions. By programming a modular event/decision tree for each desired response (i.e., tail wagging, head nodding) to various sensor inputs, engineers can easily assemble the software underlying the robot's operation. Just when and if AIBO will become truly affordable, however, is anyone's guess. A software development kit is available at http://openr.aibo.com. Senior Management Engineer:John DeCuir (www.us.aibo.com) Enter 627

LOW-COST USB DAQ HUB

Measurement Computing Personal Measurement Device (PMD). The USB form factor and interface technology make this diminutive (3.25 x 3.125 x 1 inch) data acquisition hub a cost-effective alternative to PCI board level buses. Those needing lower data rates, such as continuous sampling at 1,200 samples/sec, can use the $99 USB-powered PMD to trade functionality for cost savings. Contrast that to more capable (40 kHz) previous plug-in boards that cost $250 and still need connectors and cabling. Engineers based the PMD on the company's data logger technology and extensive software packages. The latter furnish test applications and installation, and allow programming in popular languages using high-level command syntax. VP:Bob Judd, [email protected] (www.measurementcomputing.com) Enter 628

CAMERA ZOOMS WITH BINOCULARS

Pentax DigiBino DB100. Fixed-focus cameras on binoculars lose their image sharpness below 30-50 ft distance, a limitation for activities such as bird watching, notes Product Specialist John Carlson. The DigiBino has a focusing camera that produces sharp images of objects down to 6 ft away thanks to a polycarbonate drive linkage. The mechanism provides quiet and smooth coordinated focusing between the camera and the binocular optics. And because the camera's progressive-scan CCD can dump its images in a pixel stream, no buffer is needed to accumulate images line by line-thus it rips off five shots per second. A user can review the images on the LCD. Product Specialist:John Carlson, [email protected] (www.pentaxusa.com) Enter 629

BEST (TV) SEAT IS IN THE HOUSE

W.A.V.E.S. Kangaroo.tv(TM). Now sports fans at events such as CART auto races can get up close using the hand-held Kangaroo.tv. World Audio Visual Entertainment Systems engineers use a standard UHF TV signal to allow simple and quick on-site system set-up. But these analog signal transmissions are susceptible to interference from the digital circuitry for the display and its graphics. To mitigate interference, design engineers isolated the digital components all within the screen section and shielded the analog tuner section, filtered the digital power supplies, and isolated circuits with photocouplers. Twin logic-processing Xilinx(R) Spartan(R) FPGAs control the display and graphics, while a Microchip Technologies flash-based microcontroller governs the user interface. Director of R&D:Francois Cournoyer, [email protected] (www.kangaroo.tv) Enter 630

WALL (AND CEILING) OF SOUND

Paradigm Electronics SA In-Wall/In Ceiling Speakers. The idea for in-wall speakers is simple-use internal wall space to hide the workings with only the grill showing to produce the sound. Only one hitch, vibrations and sound waves from such a concealed speaker, particularly a large woofer, are transmitted to the wall structure, destroying sound quality. To increase wall rigidity and damp out extraneous vibrations, Paradigm engineers devised a die-cast aluminum bracket that bolts to the cast aluminum speaker chassis, sandwiching the wall or ceiling in between. Larger speaker models use a foldable bracket that opens up inside the wall before clamping to the speaker. Head of R&D:Scott Bagby, [email protected] (www.paradigm.com) Enter 631

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