Welcome to yet another exciting edition of This Week in Technology for March 19th, 2013. While all eyes have been on North Korea, the stock market, and the Vatican last week for major news stories, the world of technology has quietly boasted about several exciting breakthrough inventions and innovations that will be talked about for decades to come. Of course, now that we’ve built up some hype, it wouldn’t seem fitting to talk about Northern blizzards or Popes so let’s get right to it. This Week in Technology takes a closer look at a few of the more impressive innovations that were unveiled at the SXSW Interactive Conference, the unrelenting war in the microchip industry, and DARPA’s plan to finally perfect the concept of a helicopter/airplane hybrid.

SXSW Interactive Conference Highlights

It seems like a lot of eyes were rightfully turned towards the South by Southwest® Interactive (SXSW) this past couple of weeks since so many new tech toys are highlighted. While the main attractions are usually things like smartphone apps and software titles, this year had an abundance of new gadgets that really made us smile.

One of our favorite discoveries at the SXSW Interactive was Leap Motion’s new controller that allows users to interact with their computers through hand motions alone. That’s right- feel free to throw away the mouse and the keyboard because this Wii-like innovation essentially puts your hands inside your flat screen monitor to do just about anything. Leap Motion had a tent set up where attendees could play the popular tablet game Fruit Ninja hands-free; the technology was definitely impressive (even though we couldn’t beat a rival 9 year olds high score).

Another sight to see at the SXSW was MakerBot’s Digitizer Desktop 3D scanner that works alongside a 3D printer to create just about anything. This device can hold any household or office item up to about eight inches in length and it automatically uploads the build schematics into the printer. Without understanding the first thing about computer modeling, users can simply hit “print” and have a plastic replicated item available in no time. If our theory is correct, Amadeus Consulting created the first ever replicated Tuna sandwich on Rye this week…but it definitely didn’t taste good in plastic (even with lots of Ranch!).

“It’s a natural progression for us to create a product that makes 3D printing even easier,” Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot, said in a statement in PC Magazine. “With the MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner, now everyone will be able to scan a physical item, digitize it, and print it in 3D – with little or no design experience.”

Overall, it was a great event that highlighted everything from GE’s Latte picture maker to Wi-Fi dimming switches to talking shoes from Google.

The Fallout from Chip Wars

In other news, CNN reports that the growing competition in the world of microchips may not equate to better functionality for end-users.Competition of microchips may be troublesome.While our smartphones are growing by leaps and bounds in terms of processing speed, many people outside the tech world probably don’t realize that all that healthy competition between Intel, ARM, Apple, Nvidia, and others can lead to numerous problems for budget-conscious developers that simply cannot afford to build their applications with dozens of different types of hardware.

 

Some would think that this is the classic “MAC vs. PC” battle all over again but the complexity has risen exponentially since most apps are designed to be light, stripped down versions with all the bling yet a fraction of the overall code. This could essentially mean that some of your favorite apps may run great on your tablet but not work at all on your smartphone or Kindle device. While it’s not likely to slow down the major developers, it will likely have a large impact on all the smaller, independent studios that give us so much variety within our favorite app stores.

DARPA’s Innovative Hovercraft Airplane

Defense A

Since our final story is normally reserved for the strange, futuristic, or just plain cool, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and their plans to build a new Aircraft/Helicopter hybrid seemed like the perfect story. POPSCI shares that this government research agency will spend $150 million to develop a fast, agile airplane that can take off and land in tight spaces like a helicopter. The new craft is being labeled the VTOL X-Plane and plans for it to be able to achieve speeds exceeding 300 knots, which is nearly twice as fast as modern helicopters today.

So what would the VTOL X-Plane be used for? Surprisingly, it is not being designed solely for combat. This light, nimble aircraft will compliment missions ranging from search and rescue to troop transport to Special Forces missions. In short, it will be one versatile bird that will change the game in military aviation.

That’s all we have for you this time in This Week in Technology but be sure to check back next week for our SXSW round-up and several other tech stories as they develop. Have a great weekend!