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Fictional Gadgets Come To Life

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It takes a while for a great idea to go from imagination to actual use in the real world, but it happens a lot! Three fictional gadgets made real were in the news just this past week.

Terminator Vision

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The Terminator had a computer in his head, with a display readout he could read in his eyes. Several gadgets come close to doing this for humans, so far only while wearing glasses. The latest is the retinal imaging display (RID) from Brother Industries in Japan.

The new RID prototype attaches to a basic set of spectacles and works by focusing light onto the retina, moving it at high speeds to generate images that look like they exist right in front of the user. Too bad the source box is freaking enormous.

Brother plans to launch the product in 2010.

Wrist Communicator

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Dick Tracy spoke into a two-way wrist radio beginning in 1946. A TV was added later. Starting today, you can order the Van Der Led WM2, which is a wristwatch with the functions you'd expect -clock, calendar, alarm, calculator, plus a cellphone with a touchscreen display, bluetooth, USB data transmission, hands-free speaker, MP3 and MP4 storage, etc etc, and it works with all providers in countries all over the world. Dick Tracy never had those kinds of features! And with a wrist phone, you don't have to fumble through your purse or pockets for a ringing phone, or wonder where you last set it down. The cost: €300 or $471. It goes great with a yellow overcoat.

Suit of Strength

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Iron Man hits theaters on May 2nd. The character is super strong because of his suit of iron. You should also remember the exoskeleton used in Alien. The real-life version is the work of software engineer Rex Jameson and his robotics company Sarcos. The XOS Exoskeleton moves well and gives the wearer superhuman strength. Sensors in the suit transmit information to a computer and coordinates its moves, so the wearer experiences no lag and no fatigue. The XOS takes up somewhat more room than Iron Man's suit, but is a lot smaller than the contraption in Alien -with as much strength and more features. Jameson is now working under a $10 million US military grant. See a video of the XOS in action.

No word yet on that time machine.

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11 Camping Essentials to Get You Through the Summer
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If you're hitting the trails this summer, you'll want to make sure you've got everything you need to make your trip to the great outdoors the best it can be. Before you lose cell service, grab these 11 camping essentials.

1. ALITE MONARCH CHAIR; $55

Treat your butt to this comfy hammock chair, which is perfect for sitting around the campfire. The patented design only has two legs (you’ll need your own legs to balance it) but that means it can easily perch on uneven terrain where other camping chairs can’t go—not to mention you can use it as a rocking chair. When packed up, it’s just a foot long and weighs just a little over a pound, so it can go anywhere, whether that means the soccer field on Saturday morning or a long backpacking trip.

Get it: Amazon

2. SCRUBBA WASH BAG; $48

Wash your clothes on the go with this little bag, which has a textured washboard lining to give your clothes an actual scrubbing. Throw your clothes in, add water and soap, then slosh the bag around for a few minutes to get a high-quality wash for your sweaty, dirt-laden outdoor gear. Then empty out the soapy water, rinse, and hang your newly cleaned clothes to dry. Scrubba also makes a bag designed just for delicates, a travel clothesline, a camping towel to dry your clothes, and even a set of inflatable hangers.

Get it: Amazon

3. PACKTOWL; $10 - $50

This travel-ready towel dries 30 percent faster than the traditional cotton version, and despite its thin form, it can absorb up to five times its weight in water. It comes in multiple different styles, sizes, and colors from lightweight hand towels to deluxe beach blankets, the largest of which folds down to be about the size of a kid's lunchbox. The company touts its PackTowl Luxe as “the most luxurious fast-drying towel available”—and having used it as a very comfy desk blanket to ward off frigid office temperatures, we’d have to agree.

Get it: PackTowl

4. OTTERBOX VENTURE COOLER; $250 - $400

Otterbox’s Venture Coolers are just as indestructible as the company’s famous phone cases. They’re waterproof, drop-tested from every angle, and can be made certifiably bear-proof with a $30 lock set. You can add slide-on cupholders, a bottle opener, a cutting board, and other accessories as needed; you can even organize the interior into compartments to keep your fruit from getting squished by your soda, your bread from getting wet from your icy beer, etc. And the 2-inch foam insulation is designed to keep your ice solid for a full 14 days.

Get it: Otterbox

5. KICKER BLUETOOTH SPEAKER; $150

Kicker’s heavy-duty outdoor speaker is water-resistant, durable, and fits in a cupholder. But don’t let the small size fool you: It’s also capable of churning out “muscular bass” beats. It’s got 10 hours of playback, plus a built-in USB port that you can use to charge your phone.

Get it: Amazon

6. SEA TO SUMMIT X-SERIES COOKWARE; $105

When you’re carrying everything you need to survive for days, weight matters. So does size. These aluminum-base, silicone-walled dishes and pot are a little pricey, but they take up barely any room and weigh less than 1.5 pounds. The two-person cook set comes with a pot (and a lid with a built-in strainer), two bowls, and two mugs. They collapse almost flat and fit together like nesting dolls, saving you space in your pack or in your car. Note: You’ll need a camping stove, because an open fire will burn the silicone sides of the pot.

Get it: Amazon

7. KELTY SINE 35 SLEEPING BAG; $240 - $260

Even if it’s summer, you probably still need to prep for cold nights. This sleeping bag has easily customizable ventilation so you can adjust it for whatever the weather. Outside magazine calls the Kelty Sine 35 “a smart choice for almost everything.” The diagonal zips make it easy to get in and out of, and if you’re a feet-outside-the-covers person, there’s a vent down at the bottom of the bag for your tootsies.

Get it: Kelty

8. SUMMER MOON 2 TENT; $160

This squat tent is super simple to set up because it only uses two poles. At less than 4 pounds, it’s also the lightest tent on the market for less than $200, according to its manufacturer Sierra Designs. It’s designed to function in three seasons and also comes in a three-person size. It comes equipped with Sierra Designs’s Night Glow, an accessory that turns your headlamp into an overhead light.

Get it: Amazon

9. JETBOIL FLASH PERSONAL COOKING SYSTEM; $80

This handy system lights up with the push of a button and boils two cups of water at a time for coffee, instant oatmeal, dehydrated meals, and more. It’s essentially a combo stove/Thermos, which you can use both for cooking and as a drinking vessel. The Neoprene sleeve protects your hands while it’s hot—with a color-changing indicator to warn you when it is—and it comes with a lid you can use to drink straight out of the cup once everything is done boiling. When you’re done, the fuel, stove, and accessories all fit back into the cup for safe storage in your bag.

Get it: Amazon

10. RADIANT 300 RECHARGEABLE LANTERN; $39

Your campfire can only be your sole source of light for so long. This ultra-bright rechargeable lantern works for five hours at its brightest setting and 27 hours at its lowest, recharging in three-and-a-half hours. It’s water- and impact-resistant, so there’s no need to treat it with kid gloves. Just clip the carabiner handle to your pack and go. It can also be used as a power source for your phone or tablet.

Get it: Amazon

11. VASQUE BREEZE III GTX BOOT; $180

What kind of hiking boot you want will depend a lot on the type of trip you’re taking and the specific contours of your foot, but for all-around outdoor footwear, you could do worse than Vasque’s Breeze boots. The latest version is lighter, with better traction than its predecessors. It’s got great grip on rocky terrain, keeps your feet cool with mesh panels, and features a nice cushion that you’ll appreciate after hours on your feet. It comes in men’s and women’s sizes.

Get it: Amazon

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

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This $180 Hanger Will Deodorize Your Clothes
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Panasonic

Panasonic is looking to replace your dry cleaner with a high-tech hanger. According to Engadget, the company plans to release a clothes hanger that can deodorize outfits while they hang.

Think of it as part laundry method, part allergy prevention plan. The Nanoi X hanger has eight vents that emit a deodorizing vapor to cut down on both smells and pollen in clothes. Used inside a suit bag, it can effectively neutralize cigarette smoke and other strong odors, according to Panasonic.

The Nanoi X works using Panasonic’s “nanoe” particles, charged water particles designed to improve air quality. Essentially, the technology takes moisture from the air and applies an electric voltage. These particles can suppress viruses and bacteria, the company has found.

A diagram shows where the nanoparticles come out of the hanger.
Panasonic

It seems like a useful gadget for delicate, dry-clean-only clothing—as long as you don’t need to remove any stains or spills (which would require actually cleaning, not just deodorizing). You do, however, have to hang it up near a power outlet, so it might not work in your closet. It takes five hours to work (or seven hours on the heavy-cleaning setting), so it’s not a quick job. If you wake up in the middle of the night and realize you have to wear your smelly blazer before the dry cleaner opens, though, it might be worth it.

It will be released in Japan in September and, according to Kaden Watch, will cost about $180 (¥20,000). Surely Americans hate to do laundry enough to make this profitable in the U.S., too?

[h/t Engadget]

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