Look Inside..

by coelomic

The Apple Design Award.

The Apple Design Award is the ultimate encouragement for every mac developer, not only for the recognition that it brings but also because it gives them a chance to behold a masterpiece of Apple engineering. I came across the website of Mek & Tosj, who true to their scientific spirit took a look inside the Apple Design Award!

They are students at the Netherlands Cancer Institute and are involved in stuff such as the application of biophysical techniques to study cellular processes inside living cells, drug resistance and antigen presentation.

They are avowed mac users who have an interesting story behind their nick names namely Mek & Tosj. Here goes in their own words:

“In fact, one day while entering the seminar room, our own boss Sjaak said: “Hey, there you have Mek en Tosj” (the latter being the dutch pronunciation for Mac and Tosh). From that day one we decided to keep our new nicknames, even though today almost half the people on our floor are Mac users ;-)”

On June 29th they won the Apple Design Award in the category “Best Student Mac OS X Project” for their program 4Peaks. With the prize came a beautiful metal cube as trophy that glowed when it was touched!!. Curious to know how the cube glowed when it was touched they set out to answer the question in a typically scientific manner. To look inside and find how it worked. How did the cube notice that it was touched? Opening it up would be a simple solution of course, but they were afraid to break it. Still, curious as scientists can be, here is what they thought of doing:

“we thought of something more elegant to answer the burning questions. We contacted the people of the radiotherapy department in the hospital to see if they perhaps could take an X-ray of the cube and reveal its inner being, just like people had previously done with a Titanium PowerBook and iPod. Unfortunately they told us that they did not have an X-ray machine, we should contact the radio-diagnostic department for that. Instead however, they did have something else: a cone beam CT scan that would even allow 3D reconstruction!”

The Cube was placed in the hospitals CT scanner and scanned to come up with some really interesting results.Above is the reconstructed image from all the scanned slices! Taking the actual scan only required one 360° gantry rotation of the machine, and took no more than three minutes in which 600 X-ray images were recorded at a resolution of 512×512 pixels . Next, these images were used to reconstruct the cube in 3D with a resolution of about 1mm cubic voxel size. With help of OsiriX, the open source medical image package the data was processed to show what was inside Apple’s Design Award.

“The cube is again a classical example of true Apple design, with eye for detail and beautiful not only outside, but inside as well. Made out of one piece of solid metal, it is not difficult to see why the cube feels relatively heavy. The scan reveals a cylindrical cavity, drilled from below to just under the Apple logo. The bottom of the central cavity is separated from the battery compartment by a circuitry board containing surprisingly many electronic parts. Also from this logic board protrude to Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) that form the light source from the cube. The fact that these are placed relatively towards the bottom of the cube in combination with a plastic diffusion filter right below the Apple logo, gives the cube it distinct glow.”

The researchers were surprised to find that the Cube was actually powered by 4 alkaline batteries!

But what was most interesting was how it worked. As explained by Mek & Tosj :

“Finally, the question with which it all began, how does it work? The CT scan shows that the bottom plate is electronically isolated from the rest of the cube. The potential difference between the bottom and the sides of the cube is measured by a probe in the bottom plate that is wired to the logic board. The cube notices the touch of a hand by sensing an electric contact between its sides and the bottom plate via the person touching it, a loop closed by the earth.”

The Apple Design Award is an ode to the compay that strives to make great products through great industrial design. Congratulations Mek & Tosj!

See it all here.