March 15, 2014

Marjan van Aubel’s table harvests electricity for mobile devices

Filed under: Design,Gadgets by Branko Collin @ 1:52 pm


Why not make your table top a solar cell? Add in a couple of USB ports and you’ve got a cell phone charger that you could eat off. And that is exactly what London-based Dutch designer Marjan van Aubel did.

Writes Dezeen:

Inside the glass panels is a dye-synthesised solar cell that uses the properties of colour to create an electrical current, in a similar way to how plants use green chlorophyll to convert sunlight into energy. [...] Charging times vary depending on the amount of sunlight present. “One cell needs about eight hours to fully charge a battery, and there are four cells for each USB port,” the designer said.

This reminds me of the bookcase with a memory by Ianus Keller and the table shaped case-mod by Marlies Romberg (story here).


(Link: Bright; photos: Marjan van Aubel)

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September 14, 2013

Phonebloks, a modular open mobile phone platform in search of manufacturers

Filed under: Design,Gadgets,Sustainability,Technology by Branko Collin @ 11:43 am

Eindhoven-based inventor and designer Dave Hakkens is a man of ideas and his latest idea, a mobile phone of which you can swap out parts when they break down or get too old, is getting a lot of attention on the Internet.

The idea behind Phonebloks is to commoditize the hardware behind the mobile phone in such a way that not manufacturers but consumers get to swap out parts—a sort of Lego for mobile phones. There would have to be a ‘Blok-store’ where you could order the parts you want (at a suitable mark-up of course) all the while feeling good about yourself for not throwing out your entire mobile phone when you get tired of parts of it.

Hakkens seems to have learned from a previous project, a power strip called Plugbook, which he ran on Kickstarter but which failed to reach its target. In order to show your interest in Phonebloks you do not have to pledge your own money. Instead you voice your support via Thunderclap in the hope that manufacturers and investors will sit up and take notice.

(Via my Facebook page where people were ‘liking’ the damn thing by the boatloads. Illustration: crop from Dave Hakkens’ video.)

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August 13, 2013

Shoplifter leaves with photos instead of tablet

Filed under: Gadgets,Photography by Branko Collin @ 1:05 pm

Since last week the Amsterdam police are looking for a shoplifter who changed his mind while robbing a Kruidvat drugstore located in the De Pijp district.

Initially the man tried to steal a tablet computer that was stored in a display case, but later changed his mind. He left the fancy gear behind and took off with somebody’s printed photos. The man took off on a bicycle.

The video below shows the man entering the store and taking the tablet from the display case.

My theory is the man came in to collect his photos, saw an opportunity to acquire a tablet he had no money for, then realised the bulge in his jacket would look suspicious at the register. OK, so it’s not a very good theory. What do you think was in those pictures?

The video doubles as a free instructional film on Dutch bicycle etiquette. The shoplifter first secures the rear wheel using his wheel lock, then does the same using a chain lock.

(Photo/video: (YouTube))

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December 17, 2012

DIY ‘Price Is Right’ game as gift box

Filed under: Design,Gadgets,Gaming,Technology by Branko Collin @ 2:20 pm

Richard Garsthagen made this ingenious gift box for his 15-year-old niece for Saint Nicholas’ Eve.

On Saint Nicholas’ Eve many grown ups and teenagers in the Netherlands give each other gifts. To keep things affordable a spending limit is determined and the name of each recipient is drawn from a hat. The gift is hidden somewhere in the house or wrapped in a difficult to unwrap package called the ‘surprise’, and the person giving it writes a poem on behalf of Saint Nicholas in which the good saint mockingly reviews the recipients’ past year.

Garsthagen’s niece did not seem to understand the concept of a spending limit and asked for gifts that were much more expensive than that, so he hid her gift in a The Price is Right game. In the video he explains how it works, and at Instructables he explains how you can create a game like this yourself.

(Photo: crop from a screenshot of the video by Richard Garsthagen)

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December 11, 2012

Two companies to offer 3D printing services early next year

Filed under: Gadgets,Technology by Branko Collin @ 2:03 pm

A company called 3DSVP will start offering 3D printing services on the premises of the Meneer Paprika store in Haarlem next January, reports.

The store expects to sell products mainly made of polyamide, but also jewellery made of silver and stainless steel. 3DSVP has been running a web shop since September, showcasing the type of products that you can have them print.

A similar service will be offered by Office Centre in the first quarter of 2013, the difference being that the Easy 3D printing service will use paper as its base material. Office Centre is a Dutch company (founded in 1993 as a merger) that is now owned by American office supplies company Staples. According to Engadget the service “will handle architectural designs, maps, medical models, replica weapons and anything else that can be made with fragments of paper arranged in 0.1mm layers up to a maximum height of six inches”.

Note that realistic replicas of guns are strictly forbidden in the Netherlands.

See also: Ultimaker, a lightning fast 3D printer.

(Link tip: Laurent Chambon. Photo of an Ultimaker-printed casing for a small video camera by HeatSync Labs, some rights reserved)

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December 9, 2012

Apple iPad is not a phone, Dutch judge says

Filed under: Gadgets,Technology by Branko Collin @ 2:09 pm

Why would you want to ask a court whether an Apple iPad is a phone or a general computer? Well, if computers given as a Christmas bonus are considered income and phones are not, you might have an incentive, especially if the back taxes amount to 323,687 euro.

Broadcaster RTL Nederland gave 664 of its employees an iPad in 2010, including a Vodaphone 3G subscription. The law says that something supplied by one’s employer does not count as income if this something is intended “to prevent costs, expenses or depreciations needed for a correct execution of one’s employment”, Arnoud Engelfriet reports.

The law also prescribes categories of devices that are applicable, including “phones, Internet and such communication devices, but not computers, nor similar devices or peripherals”.

RTL Nederland sued the Dutch tax office and the question before the court became whether these iPads were mainly computers or mainly communication devices. The court ruled on 30 November that “considering the format of the iPad (the version the claimants provided has a 9.7 inch screen diagonal) verbal communication should not be seen as the central function of the iPad.”

RTL Nederland will appeal the decision. “We are a media company,” a spokesperson told Webwereld. “We work with those iPads, they are part of our daily business.”

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November 30, 2012

Charge your gear on the go using your travel bag

Filed under: Design,Gadgets,Technology by Orangemaster @ 5:11 pm

Dutch prototype travel bag Phorce will not only help you carry your smartphones, tablets, laptops and many more devices, but it can also charge them up while you commute, travel or just leave them in your bag. The Phorce can charge an iPhone 5 more than eight times and provide a MacBook Air with seven more battery hours. And you can charge several devices at the same time, surely not all of them bought from Apple.

Marijn Berk and James Jeffrey are trying to get their project crowdfunded on Kickstarter, and with just 22 days to go, they’ve almost collected their USD 150,000 they need. It’s the first time that a Dutch project has collected so much money on Kickstarter, which apparently doesn’t accept Dutch bank accounts for the funds.

The cost of a Phorce will start at USD 199 dollar (152 euro). If you drop them some cash, you can even vote on the fourth colour they will bring the bag out in besides red, black and dark green. Phorce can be used as a messenger bag, backpack and briefcase. As a consumer, to me this the 2.0 level of a Timbuk2 or Crumpler bag.

(Play spot the filming locations: Waterlooplein metro stop, EYE Film Institute and Brug 34 Utrechtsestraat)

(Link:,, Screenshot Kickstarter)

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October 26, 2012

iPhone app helps against snoring

Filed under: Gadgets,Health by Orangemaster @ 1:04 pm

Pulmonologist Rob Janssen of Nijmegen’s Canisius-Wilhelmina hospital has developed an iPhone app called Snore Trainer available for 2.39 euro that helps train people to stop snoring.

Janssen explains that loud snoring is usually produced by people who sleep on their backs. The app works by securing an iPhone to one’s chest and it will vibrate when the snorer turns to sleep on their back. He also says it trains people to stop turning and eventually, they won’t need to use the smartphone anymore.

Unfortunately, it is not available for Android.

It’s easy to imagine why snoring causes problems for anyone within earshot, but I wonder if the vibrating phone doesn’t wake anybody up if the snorer doesn’t sleep alone or sleeps very lightly. Then again, if someone snores that loud, they are probably sleeping along regardless. And I am still wondering how one would fasten their iPhone to their chest without getting weird images in my head.

(Photo by Flickr user RelaxingMusic, some rights reserved. Links: De Gelderlander, Omroep Gelderland.)

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July 25, 2012

Bicycle with telephone, low-tech 1980s style

Filed under: Bicycles,Gadgets,Weird by Orangemaster @ 8:44 pm

The man on the bike, Chriet Titulaer, who people made fun of because he looked like a Mormon — I just think he looks way out there, him being an astronomer and all, explains to us that some people needed phones on their bikes back in the 1980s.

“People who want to cycle for sports or health reasons to their work, but are managers (men, right?) would need to be available.” Dude, what about people in their cars, in the train or on the bus at the time? You couldn’t reach any of them, either, managers or burger flippers.

It could be comedy. Is this comedy? I think it is.

Titulaer can’t even bike and answer the phone without toppling over. I can’t even imagine someone hanging up properly while cycling. It makes me almost want to try it.

“The phone can be charged with the alternator when the battery is running low.” How much dial time does that get me is all my 2012 brain can think about. You’d almost have to cycle to charge up your phone, hoping nobody calls you in the mean time. Hilarious.

He continues, as if he were talking sense:

“It’s not sure this will be come onto the market, but if it does, we’ll need 200 volunteers for six months who can use it for free”. And he asks people to send a letter if they’re interested – not call.

Lucky us, we get to see the prototype on this show De Wonder Wereld (The Wonder World).


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May 21, 2012

Two inventions—a charger in a safe, and a power strip in a book (and a bonus invention)

Filed under: Design,Dutch first,Gadgets by Branko Collin @ 11:58 am

Two recent products by young Dutch inventors are all about keeping your electronic gadgets well fed.

Bright reports about the Plugbook by Dave Hakkens, which is a power strip disguised as a book.

The Plugbook contains two outlets and two USB ports and is available in three colours. Dave is still looking for backers over at Kickstarter. He needs 45,000 USD in pledges before he can start manufacturing Plugbooks. Backers get to co-decide on a fourth colour. When the power-strip-meets-book hits the streets, it should retail at 30 USD.

Meanwhile, business news site Z24 reported on a cross between a safe and a charger, the ChargeCase.

Arif Yilmaz and Ersin Cumsit from Zaandam—the ingenuity of its townspeople already impressed Tsar Peter The Great of Russia in the 1700s—are aiming for traditional financing through banks, and will sell a closet with three safes and connectors for all current mobile phones for “a couple of hundred euro”. While the Plugbook is aimed at consumers, the ChargeCase seems to be a product for businesses.

Yilmaz explains: “I have worked in restaurants for years when I was a student. Customers asked every day if we had chargers for their phones, but we didn’t have them. I suggested that my boss would get some, but he didn’t know which type to get because there are many different phones and at that time every phone had its own unique charger.”

“We experimented with speed charging, but that turned out to be very bad for the phones. The ChargeCase does not charge the phone completely, but will let you get by for a couple of hours.”

Production of the ChargeCase in Turkey has commenced, albeit slowly (“it is a very bureaucratic country”), and the first shipment should arrive this week by truck.

If those inventions aren’t enough to get you through the day, check out the multiple bun slicer by YouTube user Idea Ed. The Internet is making fun of him and his inventions, calling them Dutch chindōgu, but I say that it’s better to have invented and built, than to have perfected and never built at all.

(Illustrations: Dave Hakkens and ChargeCase respectively. Video: Idea Ed.)

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