Instead Of Looking At A Map, Why Not Listen To One?

listen here How many times when traveling have you looked a map and wondered what a certain area of a city was really like. I don’t mean where the nearest bakery was or how many square-feet a certain park held, but the actual ambiance of a place.

Listen Here, a product developed by University of Dundee student Nicola Hume, uses microphones and audio feed to help you get a feeling of what a certain section of a city feels like before you go. The goal is to get people away from tourist traps to experience the real culture. Listen Here uses a concept map, allowing travelers to use a stethoscope-like device to listen to what certain parts of a city sound like. Points of interest are decided by locals, who place microphones in their favorite areas, secured by bike locks.

“Using sound alone to represent environments creates a sense of mystery and encourages exploration,” Hume explains on the Listen Here website.

Of course, the product has a few flaws. The most major concern, as Natt Garun of Digital Trends points out, is the potential problem of eavesdropping. This could make Listen Here illegal in certain American states. Because of certain concerns, the potential launch of the product is still being sorted.

Is Listen Here something you would use on your travels?

SkyMall Monday: Create a SkyMall product, earn a $1 million investment

gadling skymall monday edison nationHow often do you flip through the SkyMall catalog and think to yourself, “I could have created that”? If you’re like me, you do that every single time you read it. For all of the jokes we make at SkyMall’s expense, it is a lucrative business and many of those zany inventions have done quite well financially. It’s easy to think that you can create something just as good, if not better, than what’s currently in SkyMall, but what if you really had the chance to prove it? All I have to do is sit here in SkyMall Monday headquarters and pass judgment on all of these inane gadget. It’s much harder to be an entrepreneur and launch a successful product. Well, now’s your chance to get your idea off the ground and into the pages of SkyMall. Edison Nation, a company that helps retailers, As Seen on TV companies and manufacturers find new products and concepts has partnered with SkyMall to find the next great products for our favorite catalog. They’ll present the best ideas to SkyMall and invest up to $1 million in the concepts that are selected to launch their development. Do you have the perfect idea for the $1 Million Challenge?Of course, there will be some investment on your part. There is a $25 fee to submit an idea. That seems like a small price to pay to potentially see a seven figure investment in your invention.

The submission form is pretty straight forward but also quite thorough. After entering a detailed description of your idea, you are asked to explain why your product is innovative, what problem it addresses (remember, this is for SkyMall, so you can create the problem and then be the one to solve it), what the target audience is and who the current competitors are. Big ideas are great, but Edison Nation and SkyMall are looking for someone who understands the market and is truly filling a void.

I’ve got plenty of ideas that I’d like to see in SkyMall. For example, wouldn’t it be amazing if…wait, how do I know that you won’t steal my ideas? If anyone is going to have their name on combination toilet and deli slicer, it’s me! The Slusher (slice + flush) is going to be HUGE!

The submission deadline for the $1 Million Challenge is January 9, 2012. That’s plenty of time to come up with your own brilliant idea. Perhaps a bidet that is also a fondue pot? Or a remote controlled cat massager.

You can read all of the details and submit your ideas at the Edison Nation/SkyMall page. If your product makes it into SkyMall, I guarantee to review it in a future SkyMall Monday.

Good luck!

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

The Chinese bus that straddles traffic

China is suffering some growing pains. Its cities are booming and road builders are having trouble keeping up. After last month’s nine-day traffic jam that stretched for 62 miles, it’s become obvious that something needs to be done.

One company has come up with an innovative result–a large bus with a tunnel underneath to allow two lanes of traffic to pass below it. The so-called Straddling Bus will cruise along at 60 km/hr (37 mph) and can carry up to 1,400 passengers. It’s 6 meters (6.6 yards) wide and up to 4.5 meters (4.9 yards) high. Sensors will warn when cars are getting too close to the sides or if a truck is too tall to make it into the tunnel.

The Straddling Bus has already been approved for use in Beijing, with 186 km (115 miles) of lines earmarked for the new system. Construction will being at the end of the year.

The video shows how it works. Hopefully the safety measures will be built with someone who has a greater grasp of engineering than the translator has of the English language.

Exhibit highlights 1001 inventions of the Muslim world

A new exhibit at London’s Science Museum explores the often-forgotten contributions to science from Muslim scholars.

1001 Inventions: Discover the Muslim Heritage in our World follows the contributions of Muslim civilization from the 7th to the 17th centuries. After the disintegration of the Roman Empire, scientific study lapsed in Europe, but soon dynamic civilizations based in the Middle East took up the slack. From important centers such as Damascus and Baghdad came developments in medicine, mathematics, astronomy, geography, and a host of other studies. Muslim scholars were the first to build gliders, the first to create free public hospitals, and the first to use carrier pigeons s a means of quick, long distance communications.

The exhibition is divided into sections such as Home, Town, and Market, each highlighting different contributions to science and daily life. Also discussed is how civilizations in the Middle East preserved many ancient Greek and Latin books in Arabic translations when they were lost in Europe. Later they were translated back into Greek and Latin so Renaissance scholars could read them, thus bringing much of Europe’s heritage back to Europe.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is a replica of a 13th century clock by the Arab scholar Al-Jazari that stands more than twenty feet high and celebrates the diversity of knowledge by having an Indian elephant holding up an Egyptian phoenix, Arab figures, a Persian carpet, and Chinese dragons. The clock runs on moving water following a system invented by the Greeks.

In an interview with the BBC, Professor Salim Al-Hassani, one of the exhibition’s organizers, suggested that science lapsed in Islamic civilization after the twin blows of the Crusades and the destruction of Baghdad by the Mongols. Much of the Muslim world was taken over by the Ottomans, a bureaucratic state that stifled scientific initiative. Then the scientists of Renaissance Europe adopted their learning and progressed it further, much like the Muslim world took the learning of the Classical World and developed it.

1001 Inventions runs until April 25. Admission is free.

Rube Goldberg meets Japan: The bizarre Japanese art of Chindogu

“If you’re not thinking about Japan every day,” popular blogger Tyler Cowen likes to say, “you’ve yet to wake up.”

Today’s bizarrely fascinating cultural nugget from Japan: Chindogu. Literally translated as “weird tool,” Chindogu is the Japanese art of creating deliberately complex devices that solve simple everyday problems. It’s Rube Goldberg meets Japan.

And Chindogu, like just about everything else, has developed a cult following on the internet. There’s the International Chindogu Society, the Ten Tenets of Chindogu (Number Three: “Inherent in every Chindogu is the spirit of anarchy”), and scores of websites devoted to tracking the newest, and most ridiculous, Chindogu inventions.

Here are a few of the most creative examples of Chindogu…

The Solar-Powered Lighter (above)

Tired of running out of fluid in your lighter? Fed up with wet matches that won’t make a spark? Now there’s a better, greener way to light your cigarette– with the solar-powered Chindogu lighter. (Note: May not work at night, or on cloudy days, or at all.)

More examples below the fold…

The Dumbbell Phone

People cite “lack of time” as the number one reason they don’t work out more. With the dumbbell phone, that’s no longer an excuse. Great for bulking up at your otherwise worthless telemarketing job, this phone will have you shaped and sculpted in no time.

This phone also makes a great gift, especially to that parent, friend, or girlfriend who’s been known to talk your ear off on the phone. It’s subtle, but effective, especially for those with weak arms.

The Chopstick Fan

There’s nothing like a warm bowl of ramen to make all your problems disappear. But when the noodles and broth are scalding hot, you’re just asking for trouble. Fortunately, some of the most creative minds in Japan have come up with the solution:

The Grid-Backed Shirt

Finally, we all know how difficult it is to tell your partner exactly where your back itches. “A little to the left– no, too far. Wait, higher, no, lower…” Enough!

With the Grid-Backed Shirt, you’ll be able to tell your partner the precise location of even your most obstinate itches. Just imagine the efficiency of directing your significant other that you’d like “four scratches in D-7, please.”

Ahh, that feels good.

For more mostly useless but always hilarious Chindogu inventions, go here.

For more from Japan, dig into Gadling’s archives and check out Matt Firestone’s excellent series Big in Japan.