1. Invisible Car

To promote its new fuel cell vehicle, which has zero exhaust emissions, Mercedes pulled a stunt that showed off an “invisible” car with incredibly low environmental impact.

Although Mercedes says the hydrogen-powered drive system is “ready for series production,” it’s speculated to not be in comercialization until 2014.

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Everyone jokes about the flying cars and robot maids we’ve seen in movies and television, but it turns out the “future” we’ve dreamed of is well on its way.

The majority of these are just concepts, but all are definitely in effect, one way or another. In fact, you can technically purchase a flying car for the low, low price of $200,000. However, it will be a bit longer until we can purchase them as easily as a Honda Civic.

Every day we advance in technology, space exploration, medicine and more. From mind reading to in vitro meat, here are ten crazy peeks at what is coming for the future.

This May we’ll be exploring the future of digital at our signature conference, Mashable Connect. See below for all the details.


Event Information





Our annual destination conference, Mashable Connect, brings our community together for three days to connect offline in an intimate setting at the Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World®. It will take place in Orlando, Florida from Thursday, May 3 – Saturday, May 5. Registration is now open.

Register for Mashable Connect 2012 in Lake Buena Vista, FL on Eventbrite

Held in a unique location away from everyday distractions, Mashable Connect is a rare and valuable opportunity to be surrounded by digital leaders across industries. You’ll spend time with Mashable’s passionate and influential community, hear from top speakers who will provide insight into the the technologies and trends that are shaping the next era of digital innovation, and get to spend time with the Mashable team.

To keep Mashable Connect as intimate as possible, only a limited amount of tickets are available.



A Look Back at Last Year’s Mashable Connect


1. Mashable Connect Race Powered by Gowalla

Team members check in to a race location at Magic Kingdom during the Mashable Connect Race powered by Gowalla.

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Supporting Sponsor



Sponsorship Opportunities


A limited number of sponsor opportunities are available for Mashable Connect. This is an excellent opportunity to get in front of Mashable’s passionate and influential audience. Contact sponsorships@mashable.com for opportunities.

Image courtesy of Flickr, romainguy

More About: features, future, Gadgets, Science, Tech

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1. LEGO Stationery Art Carousel

Add a colorful dash of blocky fun to your desk with this organizer. It comes complete with LEGO crayons, pencils and erasers.

Cost: $28.29

Click here to view this gallery.

Spring has nearly sprung. If you plan to take advantage of the fresh start to get your workspace sorted, we have found 10 terrific accessories to help organize your office.

From cable management to tidying paperwork to writing implements, our stylish solutions will add some geek chic and a little bit of witty design to your workspace.

SEE ALSO: 10 Awesome Accessories Featuring the Vintage Apple Logo [RAINBOWS]
 

Take a look through our gallery of selections, fresh for spring. Let us know in the comments which items you like and why.

More About: accessories, design, features, Gadgets, gallery, geek, office

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1. Sony Crystal LED TVs




Sony announced its new Crystal LED TVs, which boast some of the brightest, crispest displays.

Click here to view this gallery.

Last week thousands of exhibitors, journalists, marketers and electronics aficionados hopped on planes to Las Vegas for the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show. Mashable‘s own team covered all the events leading up to and happening at the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Venetian Hotel.

While many agreed that CES didn’t hold a candle to the glory of previous years, there was still plenty to see and be impressed by this year. While one single gadget or announcement didn’t steal the spotlight, in general CES toys were bigger, faster, lighter and brighter. Images on brand-new OLED TVs from companies like Samsung, Sharp, LG and Sony seemed to pop out at you, and speaking of, 3D technology — both with goofy future glasses and without — became widely available. There were also gadgets that could detect motion, similar to Kinect, and some with face detection. TVs averaged 55 to 84 inches, sure to dominiate even the most opulent living room.

Even without Apple’s direct presence at CES, the company’s technology still made waves. Other companies hopped onto the two big bandwagons Apple pioneered: tablets and extremely thin, powerful laptops. Intel devoted a massive booth to Ultrabook technology, which included offerings from Acer, Dell, HP and convertible tablet-PC hybrids by Lenovo.

But CES was also home to concepts and innovations, including concept cars, iAccessories galore and toys for the young and old. Along with the devices on display, there were plenty of celebrities in attendance, as well as parties to attend. Mashable hosted its own MashBash on Jan. 11 at the 1OAK Nightclub in the Mirage Hotel and Casino. The event sold out several days before, in anticipation of dancing the night away with mashup DJs and enjoying plenty of digital distractions.

Click above to see our most important moments of CES in pictures.

More About: CES, CES 2012, features, Gadgets, MashBash



A company has found a way to incorporate smells into the Internet. Imagine, your significant other mentions you on Twitter and magically you smell his/her perfume. If someone tags you in a Facebook video, the scent of buttered popcorn or fruit fills the room. Olly makes an Internet with smell possible.

Olly — a web-connected smelly robot — created by London and New York-based company called Mint Foundry will give all your online notifications a scent. The creators figured since the web incorporates sight and sound, it’s time to experience it in a different way.

Olly would scent anything from a tweet on Twitter, Like on Instagram, to a photo tag on Facebook.

As seen in the video, Olly is a compact white box that has a removable space in the back that can be filled with any scent you desire. The company suggests essential oils, fruit, perfume, cologne or a drop of gin. They can be stacked, so you can give all your online accounts a different smell.

The process would involve downloading an application, signing in with a username and password into the Olly app and having the physical Olly reader.

Olly is not available for purchase yet. The company is working to garner backers for the project.

Would you want to experience the web with smell? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

More About: Facebook, Gadgets, mashable video, Robot, Social Media, Twitter

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The Tech Innovators Series is supported by Lenovo. Lenovo does not just manufacture technology. They make Do machines — super-powered creation engines designed to help the people who do, do more, do better, do in brand new ways.

The Sonos Hi-Fi system makes a bold promise — to “stream all the music on Earth wirelessly in any room.” Twenty years ago this would have been the stuff of sci-fi; today it’s a reality that can be bought for less than $350.

However, the Sonos concept has been around for longer than you might think — almost 10 years — making founder and CEO John MacFarlane quite the visionary.

We’ve taken a look at the Sonos system, the thoughts, development process and technology behind it with commentary from Fiede Schillmoeller, Sonos’ director of PR and culture, to find out more.


The Innovative Concept, in Context


In 2002, the second-gen iPod was only just getting Windows compatibility, the iTunes Music Store hadn’t yet launched, Napster had been shut down and Pandora had not debuted to the public. Digital sales were yet to be incorporated into Billboard’s music single charts and there were less than 16 million U.S. households with a high-speed broadband connection.

In context then, MacFarlane’s idea of a digital streaming music service that used your internet connection to bring you music from both your computer and the web, and send it all around your home — without wires — looks positively revolutionary.

“When the Sonos founders got together they saw two trends — digital music and wireless — and their vision in 2002 was that all music was going to go streaming,” Schillmoeller tells Mashable.

“That was pretty early to make that statement, and I think we’re still not there 100%, but it’s inevitable. That, combined with wireless, makes the Sonos product. When we started developing the product there were routers in many houses already — the vision was that there will be a router in every house over time.”

With more than 80 million U.S. households now hooked up with a fixed broadband subscription, a wealth of legal online music streaming services and apped-up mobile devices that are ready to play nice with hardware, the Sonos system’s evolution has matched the pace of the wider markets perfectly, now offering a tidy solution that makes the most of complimentary products and services.


The Sonos System


Having evolved from the earlier bulky and expensive “ZonePlayer” models, the Sonos system now has two all-in-one players. These are the Play:5, a five-driver Hi-Fi speaker system that costs $399 and the Play:3, a smaller three-driver Hi-Fi speaker system for $299.

Both boast an Ethernet port to hook up to your router, but if you want to place the speakers in different rooms than your router, you can buy the Sonos Bridge for $49. This connects to your router and wirelessly links multiple Sonos players around the house.

In addition, there’s the Connect and the Connect:Amp that let you hook up existing speakers or home theater set-ups to the Sonos system.

Finally, there’s the Sonos Controller, a touchscreen remote that costs $349. Sonos sells few of these however, as the company also offers alternative controllers. For free.

Rather than force the consumer into shelling out an additional 300-plus dollars to complete the system, Sonos actively promotes its Sonos apps for iOS and Android devices. These apps offer full-fledged functionality and can be downloaded at the relevant app marketplaces for absolutely nothing. It’s a move that raised eyebrows in the industry.

“A lot of people in the industry claimed that we had gone insane,” says Schillmoeller. “But we could see over time that this was the best decision for our company, as it made the Sonos system so much more accessible, so much easier for everyone to control their systems. Really, our business was to sell players, so this really paid off for us big time.”

In fact, Sonos was one of the earliest CE companies to launch an iPhone app. Its first Controller went live in the App Store in the fall of 2008 — just a few months after the store launched. This speed, explains, Schillmoeller, is because the company already had its eye on the Apple mobile.

“We had a vision that when the iPhone came out it was pretty clear that this was going to change everything. This was the time when there was no apps for it, no App Store, but it was clear that smartphones had hit a different level.”

Since 2008, Sonos has continually updated the iPhone app, launched an iPad app and catered to users of another popular mobile platform and its variants, Android. The latest release is an app for any Android tablet running 2.2 or higher, such as the Kindle Fire, the HTC Flyer and the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

“The apps have expanded to different platforms, we have just released an app for Android tablets, we have one for Android phones, a great one for the iPad. Those are the dominant controllers for the Sonos system, there’s still a piece of hardware that we sell, but the main controllers for people that buy a Sonos system are the apps, and that’s definitely the future for the company.”


How it Works


In an example set-up, the Sonos Bridge connects to your router with an Ethernet cable. The Play:5 speaker is in your living room. The Play:3 speaker is in your kitchen.

The two players connect to the Bridge and you can control the entire system from your computer or with your phone or tablet. You can stream music from your computer — your iTunes or Windows Media libraries — sign directly in to an online music streaming service, such as Spotify, Pandora, Last.fm, Rdio, an internet radio station and so on, and play tunes from that service, or access music stored on a NAS.

You can play different music on different speakers — so a Spotify playlist on the Play:3 in the kitchen and an album from your computer on the Play:5 in the lounge, or play the same tune, perfectly synced, on both players.

You can control the system from multiple devices. So, you could turn the volume up in the kitchen from your computer, down in the lounge from your iPhone and change the tracks or music source from an iPad. As far as sound quality goes, the speakers automatically adjust the EQ levels dependent on the track.

Sonos puts a big emphasis on ease of use. Initial set-up is a master class in out-of-the-box simplicity. Adding new players into the system is as easy as pressing a button, adding a controller the same and the user interface is intuitive.

“If you see really good consumer electronics — take some Apple examples — the hardware isn’t the big deal. It’s always the software and the interface that drives the success, and this is the model we have,” says Schillmoeller.

Most consumers who set up a Sonos system won’t think twice about the tech behind it. The system works so well they won’t have to, but it’s based on a wireless mesh network. The Bridge creates the network from the router’s Internet connection and is the only device that needs to be hard-wired into the router. The players and controllers are mesh “nodes.” All devices then communicate across this easily expandable network, through the separate nodes.

“We did not want to rely on the router that was already installed, that’s where the idea for our own wireless network came about,” Schillmoeller explains. “It’s called SonosNet.”

“It’s rock solid. You can stream multiple tracks in multiple rooms, you can stream the highest quality files and uncompressed audio to multiple rooms in your house.”


The Development Process and the Future


The Sonos difference is not just in the details, it’s in the product development process. Schillmoeller talks us through it.

“When we start developing new products, the user experience, the hardware, software and customer support teams are all around one table. They start building the first ideas, then prototypes, then they start testing and go back and say ‘This doesn’t work the way the customer expected it to work,’ they go back, they adjust. That way you develop products in a much more customer-centric way.”

In fact, Sonos doesn’t categorize itself in the way most technology companies do. “We don’t see ourselves as a hardware company or a software company, because we believe consumer electronics should be a great combination of good quality, smart hardware and intelligent, well-designed code that goes along with it,” says Schillmoeller.

Sonos wants to create the “ultimate listening experience.” While it’s taken almost 10 years for the Sonos product and wider music and mobile industries to catch up with MacFarlane’s innovative vision, right now the Sonos system is as close to that as you can buy for under $400. And as far as the future goes?

“We’ll continue to work with the best partners and the best technology to provide access to music through various streaming services,” says Schillmoeller. “We believe that the future is digital, and we are committed to delivering music to consumers wirelessly in high-fidelity audio.”


Series Supported by Lenovo


The Tech Innovators Series is supported by Lenovo. Lenovo makes machines specifically for the innovators. The creators. The people who move the world forward. Machines like the Lenovo ThinkPad and IdeaPad, meticulously engineered with visibly smart second-generation Intel® CoreTM processors to help the people who do, do what’s never been done.

 

More About: features, Gadgets, mashable, Music, sonos, Tech, Tech Innovators Series

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1. Pantone Christmas Baubles

Color-code your Christmas with these stunning Pantone baubles.

Cost: $14 each or $62 for a set of five

Click here to view this gallery.

Here at Mashable we love the holiday season. Decorating your home, cubicle and heck — even your car — is all part of the fun.

However, traditional decs just aren’t geeky enough for our tech-loving tastes. To this end we’ve scoured the web for festive ornaments with a geeky or social media twist.

From Angry Birds to LEGO via Santa-Bots, we think you’ll like our 10 cool Yule creations. Let us know in the comments which ones you’d stick on your tree.

More About: Christmas, features, Gadgets, gallery, geek, Holidays 2011, Tech

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1. Traxxas XO-1 RC Model Car

Who knew radio-controlled cars had gotten so sophisticated? The spectacular Traxxas XO-1‘s electric motor can zip this 27-inch-long pocket rocket from 0 to 100mph in 4.92 seconds. Its maker calls it “the world’s fastest ready-to-race radio-controlled supercar.” The $1,099.99 price might seem like a lot to the rest of us, but to RC car enthusiasts, it’s a pittance.

Click here to view this gallery.

The world of technology and gadgets continued its explosive pace of innovation this week, with astonishing inventions making their mark on offices, home theaters, battlefields and even on your feet. Buckle up, because we’ve narrowed the field down to the best, brightest, fastest and most futuristic collection of the Top 10 Tech This Week you’ve ever seen.

More About: Gadgets, Google, Top 10 Tech

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1. Traxxas XO-1 RC Model Car

Who knew radio-controlled cars had gotten so sophisticated? The spectacular Traxxas XO-1‘s electric motor can zip this 27-inch-long pocket rocket from 0 to 100mph in 4.92 seconds. Its maker calls it “the world’s fastest ready-to-race radio-controlled supercar.” The $1,099.99 price might seem like a lot to the rest of us, but to RC car enthusiasts, it’s a pittance.

Click here to view this gallery.

The world of technology and gadgets continued its explosive pace of innovation this week, with astonishing inventions making their mark on offices, home theaters, battlefields and even on your feet. Buckle up, because we’ve narrowed the field down to the best, brightest, fastest and most futuristic collection of the Top 10 Tech This Week you’ve ever seen.

More About: Gadgets, Google, Top 10 Tech

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inkling image

When we first heard about Wacom’s new Inkling device we got excited: Imagine picking up a pen and paper, drawing whatever you want, and having it magically show up on your computer in a variety of formats. Add to that the ability to create new pages and layers on the fly and we were sold on the idea.

The big question was whether Wacom, which has come out with a variety of sketch-to-digital products, could deliver on its promises. Does the Inkling actually work?

The answer is a resounding and glorious: “Mostly.”

The Inkling is a beautiful device that delivers a remarkably smooth pen-and-ink-sketch-to-computer delivery system. Not only is it a handsome piece of hardware but it’s incredibly well thought-out. Both the pen and reader fit into a small plastic carrying case which also doubles as a charging station and image loading dock. The pen is comfortable in-hand and the controls on the reader are intuitive and make sense.

Where the Inkling falters is in its companion software, which is a maze of strange design choices and ugly drop-downs.

How do we know all this? Wacom sent us an Inkling to review and the Mashable staff put it to the test. This is our story.


Drawing


inkling image

The Inkling starts as a compact package that includes the pen, matchbox-sized reader, charging case and even pen-tip replacements. Pop the pen out of the case and then the reader. The reader clips to the top of your drawing paper. Put it in the middle so it can read as much of the page as is possible.

A tap on one side of the reader pairs it with the pen (you know it’s working when the reader’s light shines green). Then you start drawing. Whatever you write on that piece of paper, the device will pick up. A tap on the right side of the receiver creates a new layer within your sketch–you can’t see it on paper, but you’ll be able to access those layers on your computer. The pen has a limited range, meaning most sketches will be limited to a standard A4 sheet of paper but it works like a dream within its functional range.

The device works by using ultrasonic, infrared and pressure sensitive metrics to keep track of where the pen is and how much pressure you use when you’re drawing. In fact, it’s entirely possible to still use the Inkling even if the pen runs out of ink. The receiver’s sensors, however, limit the Inkling’s versatility. Wacom warns against using the reader in direct light, which will hamper the IR sensors and any object blocking the reader will inhibit it from picking up the sensors contained in the pen’s tip. Plus, your hand has to be held high enough on the pen so that your fingers don’t slip down and block the sensors.

The fairly thick pen feels good in-hand. It uses a standard ball-point ink cartridge, which you’re stuck with using (no fountain tips or graphite, sorry).


Importing


Importing is where the Inkling slips up. The actual act of importing is easy enough. Plugging the reader into your computer will bring up a software install prompt. From then on, simply plugging in the device will automatically bring up the reader with all of your images. These images, though, are not persistent. If you open up the software when the device isn’t connected, your images won’t show up. This is because the sketches and information are all contained within the reader itself. The software is just a way of accessing the data in the hardware.

The images can be saved in a variety of formats including PNG, JPG, PDF, SVG and more. They can also be exported directly to Adobe Photoshop (although the latest version of Photoshop is required) or exported to Adobe Illustrator as vectors. The latter option lets you further manipulate the individual lines post-sketch.

The software lets you view your finished drawings or select specific layers (which can also be saved as individual images). There is also a neat video option which will replay your drawing as a time-lapse. While this feature may be more of a curiosity for the average user, it is an immensely helpful tool for professionals looking to either review their drawing process or share it with followers.

The software is fine but it’s at serious odds with the elegance and ease of use of the Inkling’s hardware. For example, images have to be moved by using scroll bars, there’s no click-and-drag functionality. This may seem like a quibble but it’s immediately frustrating if you’re trying to move an image diagonally. The omission of simple and expected gestures show a lack of forethought when compared to the well-thought-out hardware it accompanies.


Does It Work?


Yeah, pretty much. The Inkling did a good job picking up fast and slow pen strokes and could register the pressure of the pen press. We did run into some problems with dropped lines, especially if the pen had been dormant for a while. Conversely, some lines turned out far darker in the finished product than in the pen sketch. This is a result of the pressure sensor being independent of the ink cartridge: If the ink stops flowing, the pen still thinks you’re drawing. This is different from similar devices such as Livescribe‘s line of pen-to-computer gadgets. Livescribe pens actually photograph the ink as it hits the paper and plots that based on tiny dots contained on its special paper. Where Livescribe uses paper as a set of axis to plot your drawing, Inkling uses the pen’s distance and pressure (with or without ink) to register your drawing.

Another minor gripe with the Inkling is that it’s difficult to register different line weights and thickness. The ballpoint pen turns out pretty uniform lines so don’t expect any dramatic calligraphic flourishes. The fidelity is pretty darn close, though the ink is obviously more nuanced than its digital counterpart.


Is It Worth It?


Most of the staff that tried the device said they would like to own the Inkling. At $199, however, it’s considerably more expensive than pen and paper. Serious illustrators no doubt already have more advanced drawing tools, and many choose to draw directly on digital devices, like their computers, Wacom’s own digitizing tablets and the Apple iPad. The Inkling is not meant to replace these, but is instead geared toward amateur sketchers who want to record on the go or visual thinkers looking to digitize all their (stubbornly) hand-made meeting notes.


The Skinny


If you can get someone to buy it for you, the Inkling will absolutely not let you down. It is a solid, well-designed device that, if you have the cash, might just get you putting more pen to digital paper.

Sketch in Inkling’s Software

You can see the separate layers on the left. They can be turned on or off or highlighted with different colors for editing.

Click here to view this gallery.

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1. Pixelated Hands Sticky Note Pads

What better way to get someone’s attention than these sticky notes?

Cost: $4.99

Click here to view this gallery.

The ubiquitous hand-shaped pointer has been a part of the consumer computing experience since the early days, and is familiar to both PC and Mac users.

It’s this familiarity that has crossed it over into real life, with a variety of hand-shaped accessories — both pixelated and not — created in a homage to the iconic design.

SEE ALSO: A Brief History of the Emoticon

Take a look through our image gallery celebrating the hand-shaped pointer. Let us know in the comments which items you’d like to have at your fingertips.

More About: accessories, apple, features, Gadgets, gallery, microsoft, retro, Tech

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