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Nintendo will revive the NES Classic and continue selling the SNES Classic in 2018

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Good news for old skool Nintendo enthusiasts — the company has said it will revive the NES Classic Edition next year, and it plans to continue selling the SNES Classic in 2018, too.

The company originally killed off the hit NES Classic Edition with an announcement in April and it had also said that the SNES version, which went up for pre-sale last month, would not live beyond this year. But an announcement made today — hat tip The Verge — reversed both stances.

The NES system was a surprise hit last year, but Nintendo confirmed that the SNES version has been even more popular — selling more on launch day in August than the NES sold in the whole of last year. As a result, more SNES Classics will be put up for sale this year.

That appetite for the retro systems is what has ultimately changed Nintendo’s mind, it seems.

“Fans have shown their unbridled enthusiasm for these Classic Edition systems, so Nintendo is working to put many more of them on store shelves,” the Japanese tech giant said.

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The Jammy is a steel string guitar that fits in a pocket

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As a fan of electronic guitars — as opposed to plain-old electrics — the Jammy seems like a very interesting piece of kit. Designed to be played like a regular guitar, you fret on the top part of the neck and strum the strings on the bottom half. Because it has only five frets you change the octave by pulling the neck out from 0 to the full length of 12 inches.

Design house RnD64 created the Jammy and will be shipping it later this year. There’s no pricing and the website features a vague promise of a special price if you leave your email address, which suggests this is a bit of a fishing expedition — that expandable neck is probably a bear to engineer. That said, I’m a sucker for wild music ideas, and this fits the bit.

“Direct audio output allows you to stream music straight into your earphones or amp, no smartphone or tablet needed,” wrote the creator Dmitry Shemet. “You can play in a stand-alone mode or jam along with a virtual backing band — Jammy’s onboard presets provide you with the bunch of unique guitar sounds — from classical nylon strings to heavily distorted metal tones.”

Like so many pieces of potential vaporware, let’s hope all of the weirdness gets knocked out of this product when and if it ships. Until then, we who are about to rock on normal guitars salute you.

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This tiny sensor could sleep for years between detection events

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It’s easy enough to put an always-on camera somewhere it can live off solar power or the grid, but deep in nature, underground, or in other unusual circumstances every drop of power is precious. Luckily, a new type of sensor developed for DARPA uses none at all until the thing it’s built to detect happens to show up. That means it can sit for years without so much as a battery top-up.

The idea is that you could put a few of these things in, say, the miles of tunnels underneath a decommissioned nuclear power plant or a mining complex, but not have to wire them all for electricity. But as soon as something appears, it’s seen and transmitted immediately. The power requirements would have to be almost nil, of course, which is why DARPA called the program Near Zero Power RF and Sensor Operation.

A difficult proposition, but engineers at Northeastern University were up to the task. They call their work a “plasmonically-enhanced micromechanical photoswitch,” which pretty much sums it up. I could end the article right here. But for those of you who slept in class the day we covered that topic, I guess I can explain.

The sensor is built to detect infrared light waves, invisible to our eyes but still abundant from heat sources like people, cars, fires, and so on. But as long as none are present, it is completely powered off.

But when a ray does appear, it strikes a surface is covered in tiny patches that magnify its effect. Plasmons are a sort of special behavior of conducting material, which in this case respond to the IR waves by heating up.

Here you can see the actual gap that gets closed by the heating of the element (lower left).

“The energy from the IR source heats the sensing elements which, in turn, causes physical movement of key sensor components,” wrote DARPA’s program manager, Troy Olsson, in a blog post. “These motions result in the mechanical closing of otherwise open circuit elements, thereby leading to signals that the target IR signature has been detected.”

Think of it like a paddle in a well. It can sit there for years without doing a thing, but as soon as someone drops a pebble into the well, it hits the paddle, which spins and turns a crank, which pulls a string, which raises a flag at the well-owner’s house. Except, as Olsson further explains, it’s a little more sophisticated.

“The technology features multiple sensing elements—each tuned to absorb a specific IR wavelength,” he wrote. “Together, these combine into complex logic circuits capable of analyzing IR spectrums, which opens the way for these sensors to not only detect IR energy in the environment but to specify if that energy derives from a fire, vehicle, person or some other IR source.”

The “unlimited duration of operation for unattended sensors deployed to detect infrequent but time-critical events,” as the researchers describe it, could have plenty of applications beyond security, of course: imagine popping a few of these all over the forests to monitor the movements of herds, or in space to catch rare cosmic events.

The tech is described in a paper published today in Nature Nanotechnology.

Featured Image: DARPA / Northeastern University

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