For many, holiday time is the season of giving. While on this blog I more often talk about aspects of MIT that are freely offered to the world, I figured the holiday season would be as good a time as any to showcase some MIT-related products that are for sale. All of these are real products and can be ordered!
Clocky, the alarm clock that runs away
Invented by Media Lab student Gauri Nanda, Clocky received worldwide attention when it was introduced in 2005. It was featured on Good Morning America, the Today Show, Jay Leno, and even on Jeopardy.
What is Clocky? Nanda told the Boston Globe:
“I like my sleep,” said Nanda, a research associate at the MIT Media Laboratory in Cambridge. “I’ve been known to hit the snooze button for two hours, or even accidentally turn off the alarm.” So when she was asked to create a useful product for an industrial design course last fall, Nanda came up with “Clocky,” a runaway alarm clock that goads its bleary-eyed owners into leaving their beds. To turn Clocky off, you have to find it.
When the snooze alarm is pushed, Clocky rolls off the bedside table, tumbles to the floor and, thanks to shock-absorbing materials and rubber wheels, races away from the bed. It bumps into objects, repositions itself, and eventually comes to rest in a place far enough away from the bed that its owner will be forced to get up to find it when the alarm sounds a second time. A built-in microprocessor randomly programs the clock’s speed, distance, and routes, so that it won’t land in the same spot twice.
I know that I could use a Clocky many mornings =)
Transition, the flying car
The MIT Aero/Astro alumni-founded company Terrafugia, led by Carl Dietrich ’99, is building a flying car (or, more accurately, a “roadable aircraft”). And they’re taking orders for it now. Dietrich told the Lemelson-MIT Program:
“If you were taking a trip between 100 and 500 miles right now, chances are you’d probably drive unless you were going between two airport hubs,” Dietrich said. “Driving is fine, but it can take you half a day to reach your destination, and you are subject to unpredictable traffic. Commercial airlines are effective for trips over 500 miles, but… they don’t really attack the short-hop market very well. Personal Air Vehicles open up a lot of possibilities in freedom to get around. They offer convenience and flexibility to fit the traveler’s schedule.”
Dietrich’s Transition can be driven on any surface road and requires only a sport pilot’s license to fly. The SUV-sized vehicle can be stored in most home garages and has folding wings that enable it to operate both on the ground and in the air. It can carry two people with their bags up to 500 miles on a single tank of premium unleaded gasoline.
The Transition also offers modern safety features including an electronic center of gravity calculator (important for weight distribution in flying mode), GPS navigation unit, front and rear crumple zones, airbags, and patent-pending deformable aerodynamic bumpers. Since the driver’s visibility is impaired when the wings are folded up, a tiny camera system embedded in the vertical tails provides direct views of blind spots.
Check out this awesome animation of the Transition landing.
Bhutan: the world’s largest book
Michael Hawley of the Media Lab led a group of people from MIT and Friendly Planet on four expeditions to Bhutan, a small nation nestled between India and China in the Himalayas. After taking tens of thousands of photographs, their work was turned into the largest book ever published. It weighs in at a hefty 130 pounds and sizes up at 5 feet by 7 feet. You can even buy the book at Amazon.com! (For those not up for the big size, now there’s a “little big book” weighing in at just 5 pounds)
On the day of the book’s release, Hawley talked with the New York Times:
Beyond technology and philanthropy, the book project represents an expeditionary approach to education that Mr. Hawley says he wants to expand at M.I.T. The idea, he explains, is to take students to see new places, meet people from other cultures and use technology in the field. The Bhutan book is a byproduct of four such trips from 1988 to 2002, each involving a few M.I.T. students.
“What I’m pushing at M.I.T. is that the world is our lab, not just the campus,” Mr. Hawley said. “These kinds of trips can be life-altering for the people who take them. We learn from differences.”
Charles Darwin is Mr. Hawley’s favorite proof of the value of educational expeditions. At 22, Darwin seemed headed for the clergy after graduating from Cambridge University. But he balked, took a round-the-world voyage, and came back to present his theory of evolution in, “The Origin of Species.” Without the expeditionary adventure, Mr. Hawley said, “He would have ended up Pastor Charles Darwin, creationist.”
At the time of the publication of Bhutan, Hawley said the biggest book in the Library of Congress was Birds of America by John J. Audubon, coming in at a mere 2.5 feet by 3.5 feet.
Guitar Hero and Karaoke Revolution: Rock out with video games
Harmonix is a video game company started by MIT alumni, including CEO Alex Rigopulos ’92 (S.B. Music) and Eran Egozy ’95 (S.B. Electrical Engineering). Harmonix fuses music and engineering to make awesome music-based video games.
Harmonix’s first big hit was Karaoke Revolution, where the player sings karaoke with a special microphone. It’s a great party game. Harmonix has now developed five Karaoke Revolution games, including Karaoke Revolution Party and Karaoke Revolution Country.
And then came Guitar Hero, a tremendously popular game where players, using a specially designed “guitar,” play lead guitar on some rocking songs. It’s been popular with many real musicians as well as professional athletes, such as Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joel Zumaya, who sustained a Guitar Hero shoulder injury this season and missed three games in the American League Championship Series because of it.
Here are some Guitar Hero statistics from the project team:
Project size: 303,000 lines of code, 32,100 lines of script
Guitars broken during development: 97
Guitars set on fire during development: 1
A few months ago, MTV acquired Harmonix. I’ll be interested to see what their collaboration brings.
Those are just a few interesting products from MIT people…