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New CNN Site Brings Video, Oprah, and Facebook to News Junkies


Since it first launched in 1995, CNN's Web site has always delivered a broad variety of news to a broad audience. The site's design -- generally jam-packed with dozens of headlines that might be catnip to news junkies, but can be overwhelming to more casual browsers -- has generally reflected that content stream. On Monday, however, CNN.com will launch a new design (its first since 2007) that incorporates a roomier, less crowded look with a bigger emphasis on pictures, video, citizen journalism, social networking, entertainment, and pop culture. Last night, CNN general manager KC Estenson gave reporters an early look at the new site.

The biggest change is the overall look of the site. CNN.com's current home page features a main story with a big picture and then a bunch of different sections with text-based story links (some videos offer thumbnail pictures to break up all that text, but not much). The new design places a big playable video right at the top and a second big picture to the left that links to a citizen-journalist 'iReport.' Below that is a set of clickable pictures and videos leading to stories underneath. Yes, there are still plenty of headlines, but the revamped site generally offers a greater balance between images and text than the current one, making for a pleasing browsing experience.

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VW Launches 2010 GTI Exclusively Via Mobile Phone Game


In an atmosphere of disappearing print magazines, increased TV viewing on the Web, and a tough market for both car buyers and dealers, one of the few successful car companies alive today needs to change the game a bit. So with the introduction of a niche-y hot hatch that isn't even that cheap, Volkswagen hits hard with quick and dirty campaign on everyone's favorite toy -- the iPhone. This morning, Volkswagen became the first auto manufacturer to launch (by launch, we mean advertise) a car solely on the Apple phone. No, it's not an app, but rather, an exclusive, playable, and independent level of iPhone racing game Firement Real Racing, which has already received 70-million downloads since launching back in June.

Available on the iTunes App Store for free, the 'Real Racing GTI' level lets you choose from six different 2010 GTIs and race them on a track laden with VW logos. Unfortunately, it doesn't integrate with the rest of the game, but it does have one killer feature: Players can compete to win one of six limited-edition black GTI MkVI cars, which have special stitching on the floor mats and head rests, carbon-fiber finishes on the doors and mirrors, red calipers on the wheels, and special logos on the front and on the steering wheel (see close-ups of the cars in the slideshow below). In addition, the 2010 GTI's sound system has been upgraded to include full iPod integration (so you can access your full music library on the car's dashboard versus a simple auxiliary connection).

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Up Close With New 'Nook' E-Reader From Barnes & Noble


Suddenly, here in the second half of 2009, it seems as though e-readers -- those portable digital devices that can hold thousands of books and use easy-on-the-eyes E-ink -- are finally going mainstream. Yesterday, Barnes & Noble threw its own hat into the ring by unveiling the Nook. This 6-inch digital reader boasts: a built-in, full-color, navigational touchscreen at the bottom; 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity for wireless, straight-to-device book downloading; and innovative ability to share entire books with other cell-phone-, computer-, or e-reader-wielding friends. The Nook joins the iRex DR 800SG and the Plastic Logic Que -- two other Barnes & Noble-compatible e-readers that will launch before the end of the year. (For a list of other new e-readers that have either recently or are soon to hit the market, check out this roundup.)

So what's different about the Nook? Well, mainly, it's that little LCD touchscreen at the bottom. As you can see from the pictures below, it lets you scroll through book covers and menu commands. In addition, it transforms into a touchscreen keyboard, perfect for book and author searches. The little color screen certainly looks cool and makes for a different kind of navigation, but we're wondering just what the power-sucking LCD technology is going to do to the Nook's battery life. In its product spec sheet, Barnes & Noble says the battery will last for "up to" 10 days with the wireless off. For our part, we're guessing that's a big "up to," seeing as our up-to-14-days-with-wireless-off Amazon Kindle only lasts about half that long. Also, though it looks cool from a distance, the recessed LCD seems to be clamped onto the bottom, afterthought-style, giving it a cheesy, gratuitous look, in our opinion. The proof will be in the pudding, however. In other words, just how smoothly and quickly will this touchscreen work? Will it offer as seamless an experience as the iPhone's?

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Nokia Gets Into the Computer Business With the Booklet 3G Netbook


Well, yesterday Dyson broke out of its vacuum cleaner shell by releasing its first fan, and today Nokia is doing the same thing by releasing its first laptop. Coming out in November for $299 (with a two-year AT&T contract and $60 per month data plan), the Nokia Booklet 3G is actually a Windows 7-enabled netbook that incorporates some of the cell phone giant's mobile know-how into its feature set.

The Booklet 3G resembles many another netbook in its use of a budget-mobile-optimized Intel Atom1.6 GHz processor and in its pint-sized dimensions and weight (less than 2.76 pounds). However, it adds a few extra features more often seen on mobile phones than on computers. These extras include 12-hour battery life (presumably offline rather than continuously online, though we couldn't get a clear answer from Nokia), built-in A-GPS (with Nokia maps software), 3G mobile broadband capability, and no fan (so it's quiet). It also has three USB ports, an HDMI port (for playing HD video on a bigger screen), and one port that serves as both a headphone and mic jack. Windows 7 (out October 22nd) is quick to start up, making it a perfect fit for this device, which is meant to be an always-on, always-connected kind of a laptop -- much like an enlarged smartphone.

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James Dyson Explains How New Bladeless 'Air Multiplier' Fan Works

A fan with no blades? Sounds impossible, but when coming from the innovating mind of James Dyson (of the nifty, newfangled vacuum cleaners and hand dryers), maybe it's not so impossible. Then again, maybe that's why Dyson is calling his newest creation the Dyson Air Multiplier instead of the Dyson fan.

Well, there is a fan of sorts in the base of the unit, but it's off limits to users because it's totally enclosed.

"There's a motor in the bottom that powers a turbo-charged impeller," Dyson told Switched, when asked to explain how his latest creation works. "It's essentially a 3-D fan that gives a good combination of flow and pressure." According to Dyson, the air this powerful little fan creates is pushed up into that round thing at the top -- also known as the 'loop amplifier' -- which splits the flow in two and pushes it through the loop and out a 1.3 millimeter (about .05 inches) slit, or annulus, all along the back (don't worry, we had to look annulus up, too). This process creates a jet stream that sucks in air from the back and sides, creating a very powerful and smooth flow of air to cool kids, dogs and rooms alike, with no danger of injury.

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Finger Piano Share: Play Real Pianos From Your iPhone, Remotely


The iPhone increasing lets you do many things, but playing a real piano in real time so far hasn't been one of them -- at least until this past week at CEATEC, the annual consumer electronics show held in Tokyo, Japan, which we were fortunate enough to attend. On display at the Yamaha booth was one of the more impressive iPhone apps we've seen to date: Called Finger Piano Share, since it lets up to 10 people remotely play a real piano from their iPhones via Wi-Fi (the piano must be of the MIDI-enabled Disklavier variety, of course).

You'll see a bit of what the app looks like in the above video. You tap a virtual key on your iPhone screen, and the real key plays on the piano. Finger Piano Share lets you play music of your own creation, improvise along with other folks simultaneously for some kind of abstract jam session, or play pre-programmed tunes by following onscreen prompts, a la 'Rock Band.'

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What's Big in Japan? Eyeball iPhone Remotes, 3-D TVs and Smart Cams


We've spent the past week here in Tokyo taking a look at some of the latest gadgets on display at CEATEC, the annual Japanese Consumer Electronics Show. It's a great place to see everything from cutting-edge TV technologies that'll end up stateside next year to stylish mobile phones that'll (sadly) never find their way out of Japan.

And then there's the oddball stuff that probably shouldn't be let out of the convention center, like the iPhone you control with your eyeball, which you'll see in the above video. Yes, it's weird, but it's one of the reasons we keep coming back every year, even braving killer typhoons to get to the convention center. Check out the clip to see what else blew us away this year.

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If the Nintendo DS and a Laptop Had a Kid, It Would Look Like This...


If the Nintendo DS and a random laptop hooked up, the Sharp Mebius would be their love child. The unique-looking netbook features two different LCD screens, the main one being 10.1-inches, and the second being 4-inches and doubling as a visually-enabled trackpad-cum-touchscreen. The 'trackpad' screen is the world's first optical sensor LCD, which essentially means it stays bright and can handle more than two fingers to perform functions (take that, iPhone!). This sensor-enabled trackpad can be used to control the laptop (zoom in on docs, for example), edit photos, play music, crunch numbers (with a touch-sensitive calculator), flip through e-books, and more.

The Mebius came out back in May in Japan, but we were so impressed with it in person here at Tokyo's annual CEATEC consumer electronics show that we had to take a closer look, which you'll see in the above video. By the way, the Mebius is available at Japanese import site Dynamism for $999, complete with English-language Windows (and free tech support).

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What Comes After iPhone? Mobiles Made of Wood and Stormtroopers.


The iPhone may be a failure in Japan, but the country sure loves its clamshell-style, flip phones, among other non-smartphone-styles, which is why the annual CEATEC show in Tokyo is often a treasure trove of innovative, stylish, and sometimes just plain way-out mobiles. Some are finished products that have just come to market, while others remain concepts that will eventually turn into a finished product.

Unfortunately, most of these distinctive handsets will never get to the U.S. -- they're just too quirky for the mass production needed in the world's largest domestic market -- but take a look at some of our favorites from this year's show anyway. From the Star-Wars-meets-Space-1999 'Prismoid' by renowned designer Naoto Fukasawa (whose donut-like plusminuszero humidifier is in the Museum of Modern Art), or the 'Touch Wood' concept made of surplus cypress wood (a joint project between NTT Docomo, Olympus, and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto's 'more trees' reforestation initiative), phones like these will make you long for the days before touchscreen iPhones became the norm (and maybe hope for a dumb-but-sexy-phone future). Take a look at the above video for a closer look.

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Nissan iPhone App Helps You Win the Grand Prix -- of Eco-Driving

nissan e1 grand prix ceatec

The iPhone may not be as big in Japan as it is in the States, but that hasn't stopped Nissan from developing an app that shows the residents of Yokohama City, Japan how to drive better.

The new program is part of a trial service called E1 Grand Prix. Here's how it works: The app connects to your car's On-Board Diagnostics (OBD), and extracts information in real-time to determine how efficiently you're driving (you know, from a saving fuel perspective). Step on the gas and then break too much, and you'll get a low score; accelerate just enough to coast to the corner before the light turns red, and you'll get high marks. The app connects to your OBD via in-car mobile Wi-Fi, and then spits back your results on your iPhone screen and via e-mail. The results are also uploaded to an online site, where you essentially compete with other folks to be the most 'eco-efficient' driver -- hence the 'Grand Prix' name).

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Why Your Next TV May Be in 3-D

Call us crazy, but we think increasing hype around 3-D movies and TV is ill-deserved -- didn't this goofy technology that requires users to put on special glasses die out in the 1950s? Sure, today's version is much improved -- and in HD, no less -- but it still reeks of gimmickry since you still have to put on those glasses to get the full effect. Well, whether you like it or not, 3-D HDTV... Read more »

Classic Computer Keyboards Revisited

Okay, this is our last post from that Vintage Computer Festival, we promise, but we thought there was something kind of beautiful about all those retro keyboards we saw, especially after seeing them through the lens of Matthew McMullen Smith's camera. Take a look at the gallery below and let us know if you agree. (We call first dibs on the all-turquoise and PET computer keyboards!) ... Read more »

Retro Logos From the Early Days of Computing

Last week, we showed you the biggest exhibitions we saw at the Vintage Computer Festival East 2009. Still, we also became mildly obsessed with all the logos we saw on those retro PCs. So, we asked our photographer, Matthew McMullen Smith, to shoot some close-ups of as many retro logos (and vintage fonts) as he could find on the various restored computers that were on display. If you're a... Read more »

Vintage Computers Get the 'Classic Car' Treatment at VCF East 6.0

We trekked down to the New Jersey shore a couple of weeks ago to attend the Vintage Computer Festival East 6.0, an annual gathering of serious computer enthusiasts who prepare and exhibit working, restored computers from '50s, '60s, '70s and very early '80s ("essentially nothing later than a 186," says festival organizer Evan Koblentz). The festival is run by the Mid-Atlantic Retro Computing... Read more »

Why Robots Make Better Prostate Surgeons (Video)

Dr. David Samadi may look like he's playing a video game when he's at work, but he's actually performing robotic prostate surgery. The Chief of the Division of Robotics and Minimally Invasive Surgery at New York's Mt. Sinai Medical Center is one of only a half-dozen or so United States surgeons who can perform robotic laparoscopic surgery, which uses a special 3-D control system to operate the... Read more »
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