MIT’s new sensor-loaded duct tape makes DIY electronics a snap

When it comes to the maker movement, anyone without hardcore DIY electronics knowledge or some basic programming skills is left in the dust. That’s why a team of researchers at the MIT Media Lab’s Responsive Environments group set out to create a simple way for regular people to incorporate basic circuitry into their daily lives. The team’s creation, called SensorTape, is like basically high-tech duct tape – it’s a roll of electrical circuits that you can cut, shape, and use to your heart’s desire, without any fancy tech skills.

SensorTape is simple to understand if you think of it as a repeating pattern of circuitry printed onto a roll of tape. There are clear lines printed onto the tape so that you know where it’s safe to make cuts (with basic house scissors) without damaging the circuitry. The directive lines allow for straight or diagonal cuts, so reassembly into new shapes is easier. Unfortunately, reassembling the separated pieces of SensorTape will require either conductive tape to continue the current, or some soldering skills to re-establish the node connections.

Each node in the electronic pattern communicates with its neighbor, so nodes along a length of activated SensorTape can form 3D models of the shape they take. With those 3D data models feeding into software applications, there’s no shortage of uses for SensorTape. Want to make your own DIY posture monitor that automatically pauses your streaming video when you slouch? What about creating a SensorTape doorframe so that when you enter a certain room in your house, your lights turn on automatically? With the right programming, SensorTape can totally make that happen

In the future, SensorTape’s creators think that their product could replace modern Hollywood motion capture techniques. Instead of trackable suits covered in tennis balls, SensorTape clothing could create seamless movement tracking. Of course, they also see many short-term uses for SensorTape, mostly in the hands of fixers and doers who like to get handy around the house but don’t have advanced technology skills to work with Arduino, for example.

The current SensorTape prototype was made by a Chinese manufacturing company, so it’s safe to assume mass production isn’t too far off. When it does hit the market, SensorTape’s creators expect the product to cost between $100 and $200 per meter. And instead of trying to bring down the price for the more wallet-friendly DIY range, the MIT engineers behind SensorTape want to ramp up its functionality. They envision computing units that could be as powerful as they are long, or even full textiles manufactured with SensorTape embedded in the fabric.

Emerging Tech

Yamaha’s new app lets you tune your motorcycle with a smartphone

It used to be that if you wanted to tune your motorcycle’s engine and tweak its performance, you needed specialized tools and even more specialized knowledge. Yamaha’s new Power Tuner app changes that.
Photography

Here are 8 GoPro tips to get the most out of your action cam

There's more to your GoPro camera than just mounting it to your skateboard. Whether it's finding the best accessories or understanding the settings more thoroughly, learn to shoot video like a pro with these simple GoPro tips and tricks.
Computing

Need a free alternative to Adobe Illustrator? Here are our favorites

Photoshop and other commercial tools can be expensive, but drawing software doesn't need to be. This list of the best free drawing software is just as powerful as some of the more expensive offerings.
Photography

This A.I.-powered camera follows the action to produce epic selfie videos

Want to capture more epic action selfies? The Obsbot Tail is a camera-gimbal combo that uses artificial intelligence to follow the action. Using a handful of different modes, the camera works to keep the action in the frame.
Emerging Tech

How long is a day on Saturn? Scientists finally have an answer

The length of Saturn's day has always been a challenge to calculate because of the planet's non-solid surface and magnetic field. But now scientists have tracked vibrations in the rings to pin down a final answer.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Google’s radar-sensing tech could make any object smart

Computer scientists have shown how Google’s Soli sensor can be used to make dumb objects smart. Here's why radar-powered computing could finally make the dream of smart homes a reality.
Emerging Tech

Tiny microbots fold like origami to travel through the human body

Tiny robots modeled after bacteria could be used to deliver drugs to hard to reach areas of the human body. Scientists have developed elastic microbots that can change their shape depending on their environment.
Emerging Tech

Dinosaurs never stood a chance after asteroid impacts doubled 290M years ago

The number of asteroids pummeling Earth jumped dramatically around 290 million years ago. By looking at Moon craters, scientists discovered that d the number of asteroid impacts on both Earth and the Moon increased by two to three times.
Emerging Tech

Saturn didn’t always have rings, according to new analysis of Cassini data

Saturn's rings are younger than previously believed, according to new data gathered from the Cassini mission. The rings are certainly less than 100 million years old and perhaps as young as 10 million years old.
Emerging Tech

Water-based fuel cell converts carbon emissions to electricity

Scientists from Korea's Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology have developed a system which can continuously produce electrical energy and hydrogen by dissolving carbon dioxide in an aqueous solution.
Emerging Tech

Scientists investigate how massive stars die in dramatic hypernova events

Our Sun will gradually fade before expanding into a red giant at the end of its life. But larger mass stars undergo extreme explosive events called hypernovas when they die which outshine their entire galaxies.
Emerging Tech

Pilotless planes are on their way, but would you fly in one?

Airbus says advancements in artificial intelligence can help it toward its goal of building a plane capable of fully autonomous flight, though whether passengers can be persuaded to travel in one is another matter entirely.
Emerging Tech

‘Tech vest’ prevents Amazon workers from colliding with robot co-workers

Amazon workers at its fulfillment centers are using "tech vests" to help protect them from collisions with their robot co-workers. The robots already have obstacle avoidance sensors, but the belt offers another layer of safety.