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Soft 3D printed robotic fish will swim and collect data. (via MIT)


The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently revealed its autonomous soft robot – the fish, which is intended to eventually follow around schools of fish to collect data about the underwater world. (Not related to this fish, also used for study)

 

The fish was built by MIT graduate student Andrew Marchese, who used 3D printing technology to create the robot mold and silicone rubber body. Marchese claims the fish can change direction almost as fast as a real fish and because of its soft mold, does not pose a threat to unsuspecting swimmers. There are a few reasons for the soft design. For one thing, a soft robot is much less likely to cause serious damage to people or animals it runs into, compared to its tough, metal counterpart. With this, a soft robot can have a wide variety of different configurations due to its flexibility and Marchese believes the soft design of the fish is actually responsible for its striking similarities to the real thing.

 

The fish’s body houses electronics and a carbon dioxide tank, while the tail is based on a long, tight channel that moves in a wavelike fashion. As carbon dioxide is released from the canister, the tail moves back and forth, like a real fish. The fish also has two control parameters – one in the nozzle that releases gas and another that gauges how long the canister nozzle was left open.

 

The fish is able to change directions as sharp as 100 degrees, depending on the duration of inflation and the robot’s speed is dependent on the nozzle diameter, a decoupling behavior exhibited by real fish. MIT professor and one of the researchers who designed and built the fish Daniela Rus said that there’s an interesting relationship between bioengineering and nature and thinks developing these scientific mechanisms may reveal to us nature’s secrets.

 

The lifelike fish is powered by the carbon dioxide canister housed in its abdomen and can run between 20-30 escape maneuvers before needed to be refueled. The researchers are looking for a way to swap out carbon dioxide for a water pump system that could allow the fish to swim with schools for up to 30 minutes to gather data about their true behavior in the wild.

 

This promising soft robot follows a joint project developed between MIT, Harvard and Seoul National University researchers, who developed a soft autonomous robot similar to an earthworm that could crawl along surfaces by contracting its body and was durable enough to withstand being stepped on and smashed with a hammer.


Soft robotics is gaining popularity because of its durability and lifelike function. There is now a Soft Robotics journal and it seems this field will continue to expand and offer a new way to study the world as we know it.

 

Goldie doesn't like posers.

 

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Solid Art Labs’ King’s Assembly peripherals. (via kickstarter)


The debate is centuries old, ok maybe not that old but the rivalry between keyboard and mouse users and those that prefer handheld controllers when gaming has been raging for over two decades to say the least. Which one gives the greatest edge over their opponents? Which has the least input lag and (more importantly) which are more comfortable to use during long gaming sessions? These are just some of the few debate topics that can be found in the gaming community regarding their peripheral of choice, however what if all three could be utilized at the same time? Would the debate still rage or would it actually entice gamers to come together and embrace one another as equals (it’s a longshot but it could happen)?


One company is looking to crowd fund a new device that may quell those debates by combining all three peripherals together for the ultimate gaming input devices. Solid Art Labs has initiated a Kickstarter crowd-funding initiative to help get their King’s Assembly control system off the ground. The system itself is actually comprised of two ‘controllers’ of sorts that feature 30 keys separately for each hand, which are situated on a curved ergonomic plastic inlay for supposed easy access. User’s palms rest on a uniquely angled rest for comfort while typing or gaming, providing easy thumb access to the analog 2-axis joystick with its five keys positioned on the inside of both devices. The rest is fully adjustable to fit all hand styles as well and features a no-wobble mechanism so it does not shift while moving the device. It should be noted that the control system can be fully customizable with different program configurations depending on the task at hand.


This is where it either becomes cool or outright funky as each device houses a Pixart 9800 optical laser sensor, which effectively turns each device into a mouse as well, with each controlling the same cursor on screen. Ultimately, that could become confusing when gaming, however future programming goals would see the addition of a disabling key that would shut off one of the laser sensors as well as mapping one for slower movements (for sniping). The ‘mouse wheel’ is actually controlled by each analog joystick (increased confusion), which is used for scrolling and tilting with the speed increased by how far the joystick is pushed in the corresponding direction. Since Cherry MX switches are used in the system, the controllers do not come cheap, with pledges of $200 or more to get both devices (alternatively, you can get one for $120). While some may find that using the King’s Assembly may be too difficult to game with, others may find it advantageous, as the numbers seem to demonstrate as Solid Art Labs initial goal of $20,000 has reached over $100,000 in funding.

 

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Screenshots from Kohctpyktop... If you played this at work, it almost looks like a project. (via Zachtronics)


Ah, the Cold War. At no other time in history has humankind made such great strides in developing superior technology in an effort to go MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction)! Four years after the US dropped Little Boy and Fat Man on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the USSR detonated its first atomic bomb (the RDS-1) and the Nuclear Arms race began. During this time, integrated circuits were being incorporated into every facet of nuclear weapons manufacturing and implementation. They could be found in everything from oscillators to launch control systems, in guidance systems and communication relays as well as the calutrons used to enrich uranium isotopes.

 

So, what does any of this have to do with games? Zachary Barth of Zachtronics Industries has developed a series of games directed towards engineers (and engineers at heart) who would like to play games utilizing the vast knowledge of their chosen trade (or hobby). In one of his latest games, Kohctpyktop: Engineer of the People (or ‘Constructor’ of the People), players use their integrated circuit skills to progress through levels as a Cold War engineer for the USSR (albeit in an alternate universe). The game starts with players assuming the role of an engineer who goes to work for a semiconductor factory known as H3. The player’s ‘assigned’ job is to design microchips that use prescribed input/output rules using N and P-type doping for BJTs (Bipolar Junction Transistor) in order to create the correct logic circuit. As an example, the first level requires the player to create four NOT gates (inverters or outputting a high current from a low one). Once the gates are in place, players then create the wiring using the five VIA commands listed on the right of the play screen. Four +VCC squares continually supply power to the I/O connections (if done correctly) and designs can be verified with the corresponding ‘Verification’ tab in order to make sure the schematic is correct. If all is good, players can then advance to the next level. The circuit designs are then applied to new (or in this case old) Soviet warfare platforms such as a Radio Message Stream Decoder, Grenade Launcher Ammo Counter and a Gatling Cannon Fire Controller among other things. Suffice it to say a little story is integrated with each progression but to find out what happens at the end you will have to use your skills, as no spoiler will be printed. ‘Constructor’s’ creator Zach is noted for his simplistic (in terms of graphics) ‘block-style’ type games and is widely considered the forbearer to the block genre that includes Minecraft, FortressCraft and Total Miner. He also has some other notable engineering games out on the web, which includes The Codex Alchemical Engineering, Magnum Opus Challenge and Bureau of Steam Engineering to name a few and are equally fun playing even in their simplistic (and yet complicated) design.

 

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TERMES, the termite inspired worker bot (via Harvard)


Harvard computer scientists and engineers from Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and its Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering recently announced the development of a new technology – robots that can design basic structures independently.

 

The four-year project, called TERMES, is a collective system of robots that can build structures without supervision or instruction by working together as a unit and analyzing the environment in real-time. The network of robots, which was inspired by the termite, was presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s 2014 Annual Meeting and the project details were recently published in the February 14, 2014 issue of Science.

 

Radhika Nagpal, lead investigator of the study and Fred Kavli Professor of Computer Science at Harvard SEAS, said the team was inspired by the termites’ ability to build large structures without supervision by assessing an existing environment moment-to-moment and set out to design a technology that could duplicate this independent construction ability.

 

 

The TERMES robots can build complex structures, such as pyramids, using foam bricks. The bricks and robots were both designed by the engineering team at Harvard and were developed with the idea that the robors can be used to respond to national emergencies, such as floods.

 

 

The robots, like termites, base their construction skills on a style of inherent communication based on one’s surroundings, called stigmergy. The methodology allows for a team of TERMES robots, consisting of 10 to 10,000 bots, to work together on a single project, without the need for complex programming or supervision.

 

 

Each robot has building capabilities and the inherent ability to analyze the work the other robots have done and act accordingly. For example, if the robots are building a pyramid and the structure has just been completed, but a robot has already picked up a loose brick, it will analyze the progress of the pyramid, realize the brick its carrying is unnecessary and simply place it back in the pile of unused bricks. In a study, the robots successfully built the desired structures and reportedly adapted to unforeseen challenges.

 

 

While the robot colony is quite impressive in theory, in practice it leaves many questions unanswered. Lead author Justin Werfel of the Wyss Institute said he expects interesting, unpredictable behavior from the bots with larger-scale projects. Larger projects are also more difficult to control.

 

 

Nagpal said that although the system may not be viable on large scales in the real world, they’ve at least proven one extreme – that robots can independently operate and analyze basic information to build complex structures. Nagpal said, that alone, is a success.

 

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Sunsprite, tracks how much sun you are getting... let's you know to get out of  the depressing cubical (via Harvard & Indiegogo)

 

Time to get out of the cube and get some sun!

 

In a country where it seems seasonal affective disorder (SAD) depression is on the rise and the winter season may never end, Harvard University researchers are on a quest to help people help fight depression with the first ever solar-powered personal sun-exposure tracker.

 

The device, developed through Cambridge, MA startup GoodLux, is about the size of a stick of gum and attaches to its user via magnetic clip. It requires no batteries, as it is solar-powered, and features 10 illuminated dots to show the user if they received enough sunlight that day.

 

Studies have shown sunlight, which provides Vitamin D, to have positive implications on sleeping patterns, energy, mood, eyesight, focus and stress levels. Studies have also shown a positive correlation between sunlight and decreased levels of depression. GoodLux is rolling out its wearable technology just in time to fight the winter blues.

 

The technology is currently available for investment on indiegogo and has surpassed its $50,000 fundraising goal by $3,000, as of the second week in March. The campaign still has three weeks to go and early buyers can get their devices for $99, versus the in-store price of $149.

 

SunSprite tracks both the light a person’s eyes receive and ultraviolet light. The illuminated dots on the device will show a user if they received their target amount of sunlight that day in increments of ten percent and the device is expected to be paired with an Android app in the near future – the device already pairs with an iOS mobile app to help users track their Vitamin D exposure.

 

GoodLux expects the technology to change over time and said the changes will be based on consumer demands. It is expected to officially enter the market at the end of the second quarter this year.

 

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Where all our magnets are going! Hope they are recycling harddrives for them. MOSS DIY kit car (via Modular Robotics)


If you grew up watching the Jetsons or remember seeing Warner Bros.’ Artificial Intelligence, it seems like it’s only a matter of time until robots begin taking over our world. But rather than a vision of a distant future, recent developments in the world of robotics makes a world of human and robot co-inhabitance only a handful of years away.

 

At this year’s Toy Fair, Modular Robotics revealed its robot-building kit for dummies. The DIY robot, called MOSS, isn’t your average children’s toy. The MOSS kit allows for the simultaneous building and programming of a robot that features Bluetooth capabilities and broad functionality.

 

MOSS is similar to its predecessor, Cubelets, and features magnetic, color-coded cubes for easy assembly. The corners of each block are rounded and magnetic, but the cubes actually connect to one another through a steel ball bearing positioned on the center of each block.

 

Depending on how the cubes are connected, they can either create a secure and sturdy structure or a mobile structure. Placing steel balls in all four corners of a cube creates a sturdy base for your robot, while connecting only two balls results in a mobile hinge.

 

It’s important to note that the cubes can be connected incorrectly, because each cube serves a different purpose; some cubes even serve more than one purpose and are color coded accordingly. Everything begins with a green power cube and the user can interchange blue conductivity cubes, orange output cubes and brown input cubes to build the robot of their dreams. The construction possibilities are endless – the more blocks you have the larger the structure you can build.

 

The technology behind MOSS allows for the development of motion-sensor robots, automatic card shufflers, carousels and more. The kit also supports Bluetooth, which allows the user to connect their robot to an iOS or Android device. Modular Robotics is in the process of creating apps to support the innovative robots, but also want to give developers the freedom to create their own programs for truly unlimited possibilities.

 

The MOSS kit is recommended for persons 8 years of age and older. It is available in two packages, the basic, available on pre-order for $149.99 and the advanced, available for $399.99. The kit is expected to be released onto the market between April and May.

 

The robotic kit is not your average children’s DIY project, but it isn’t the only innovative robotic technology to have recently surfaced. British inventor Sir James Dyson (of vacuum cleaner fame) recently announced he is committed to the development of a robot that can help humans with everyday household chores.

 

Dyson announced that he will invest £5 million into Imperial College London’s new robotics laboratory to create a robot that can “think” about its environment and respond appropriately. The intent is to create a robot that can help with mindless chores around the house, such as folding laundry or prepping dinner.

 

The new developments in robotics show promise for a world where humans and robots co-exist in such a way that we can utilize our brainpower in the most effective way – which most likely does not involve the folding of laundry. 


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I'm new to the Industrial Automation World (I was recently hired as marketing manager of industrial electronics at Newark Element14, but my background is in manufacturing/marketing) so I asked the Linked In Automation & Control Engineering group to suggest some blogs/bloggers that would help give me a crash course in IAC.  So...here’s a  list of the Best Blogs and Bloggers for Industrial Automation and Control (as compiled from suggestions from the Linked In Group: Automation & Control Engineering  with over 56,ooo members!) - Thank You!

 

Best Blog/Bloggers For Industrial Automation & Control: 

Great Manufacturing Automation Blog by Gary Mintchell   http://themanufacturingconnection.com/


Good selection of product reviews and industry specific How To's here: http://cdluk.com/blog/


RTA Automation - Jonh Rinaldi's Blog  http://rtaautomation.com/blog/


Control design for machine builders - http://www.controldesign.com/


Automation.com - Articles  http://www.automation.com/automation-news/article


Control Engineering  http://www.controleng.com/blogs.html


Doug J. Cooper compiles a lot of knowledge about Process Control http://www.controlguru.com/


Walt Boyes, original Automation and Controls Blogger http://www.controlglobal.com/blogs/controlling-interests/


Insights in Automation by Plc specialists  http://www.insightsinautomation.com/


Blogging on Automation, Cyber Security, Network Convergence and and other applications of the Internet of Things in Industrial Applications at the Industrial IP Advantage with a very Brit sense of humour http://www.industrial-ip.org/en/community/blog


Invensys has a number of blogs covering a variety of automation, control, security, smart cities, etc. http://iom.invensys.com/EN/Pages/blogs.aspx


Advanced software applications including MES, EMI, Workflow, EAM, and topics of general industry interest:  http://invensysopsapplications.blogspot.com/


Info on safety & integration http://www.controleng.com/blogs/machine-safety.htmlhttp://www.controleng.com/blogs/automation-system-integration.html


Jim Cahill’s blog is at http://www.EmersonProcessXperts.com.


Greg McMillan has the Control Talk Blog- http://www.ControlGlobal.com/blogs/ControlTalkBlog and he contributes to the ISA Interchange blog, http://Automation.ISA.org/tag/McMillan.


Terry Blevins also has a great blog at: http://www.ModelingAndControl.com .


Best Bloggers For Electronic Design Engineers in Automation/Control: 

Jeri Elsworth http://www.youtube.com/user/jeriellsworth

Chris Gammel http://chrisgammell.com/blog/

Fran Blanche  http://www.frantone.com/designwritings/design_writings.html

Gerry Sweeney (http://www.gerrysweeney.com)

Milton J. Lorton (http://www.mjlorton.com)
Ben Heck 
http://www.element14.com/community/community/experts/benheck/

Dave Jones' blog at http://www.eevblog.com

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An ear, now the device install, and the actual chip created. Now if only the battery can be internal too... (via MIT)


Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Microsystems Technology Laboratory, in collaboration with physicians from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Harvard Medical School, recently announced the development of a wireless, energy-efficient, signal-processing chip that could lead to the development of a cochlear implant without external hardware.

 

Cochlear implants are electronic devices that electrically stimulate the auditory nerve to allow deaf persons the ability to hear. The device includes a circular transmitter that must be surgically fixed to the skull, a powered microphone that looks like a large hearing aid and a wire joining the two. The development of the new chip, however, allows for the possibility of deaf persons gaining hearing without the need for bulky equipment or a skull-based installation.

 

The device was revealed at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference by lead researcher Marcus Yip and colleagues Nathan Ickes and Rui Jin, all from MIT. At the conference, the research team showed a prototype charger for the device, which can be connected to a common cell phone and wirelessly recharges the signal-processing chip within approximately two minutes. The team developed the charger as a way to allow for the recharging of the device without the need for an electrical outlet. The researchers also announced that a Smart pillow charger may be in the works in the near future.

 

The new device works by relying on the natural microphone of the human middle ear, which is usually intact in cochlear-implant patients and eliminates the need for an external microphone. The device functions through converting electrical signals to electrodes in the cochlear through a low-power microchip implant which is surgically installed in the inner ear.

 

The new chip is between 20 and 30 percent more energy efficient than current cochlear implant sensor-processing chips because it uses a basic electrical signal encoded with acoustic information that effectively stimulates the auditory nerve. It is expected to function for up to eight hours at a time on a single charge.

 

A cochlear implant using the new technology would involve a more complex medical procedure than existing devices, but it would also offer patients more freedom. Since the new device has no external hardware, patients do not need to remove hardware before going swimming and do not have to worry about devices getting lost or stolen. Also, the new technology offers aesthetic benefits, as the implant will not be visible to the naked eye.

 

There has not been any word on when we can expect to see the internal implants in practical use, but small-scale clinical studies have been conducted and were reported to have been successful.

 

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Dennis Aabo Sorensen using the Lifehand 2 (via EPFL)


Researchers in the United Kingdom recently successfully conducted a clinical study with a prosthetic hand that allowed one amputee from Denmark to have a sense of touch for the first time in nine years.

 

Dennis Aabo Sorensen lost his left hand nine years ago during a fireworks accident. The Danish man, however, recently became the first amputee in the world to be able to experience the sensation of touch with a prosthetic apparatus.

 

The device, called the Lifehand 2, is a prosthetic hand with four sensor extensions that attach to the nerves in the upper arm of a patient. The attachments send electronic signals through the nerves, to the brain, allowing the brain to give the patient the sensation of touch, including the size, shape and texture of an object. Soft objects give the user a slight tingling sensation and the harder the user grips the object, the stronger the sensation becomes.

 

Sorensen underwent two operations to have the sensors installed into his upper arm. Approximately one month following the procedures he conducted the clinical study.

 

During the study, Sorensen was blindfolded and asked to wear headphones while trying to identify the object in the prosthetic hand. Sorensen accurately detected the shape, size and consistency of the objects, being able to identify the difference between an orange and a baseball. He was also able to feel the difference between different textures, including cotton, plastic glasses and wood, using only his sense of touch.

 

The researchers of the study, including study author and neurologist Dr. Paolo Rossini of the University Hospital Agostino Gemilli, Rome, said the hope is to allow the sensors of the prosthetic to work so well with the brain that patients are able to feel and detect objects with which they have never previously encountered.

 

Sorensen said he was happy to undergo the study, not only for himself, but for all the amputees in the world that so badly desire to have the sensation of touch again.

 

The Lifehand 2 will not be on the market for quite some time, but it is one step towards helping amputees lead normal lives.


 

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Robots are capable of doing much more than performing menial tasks such as vacuuming or spot welding car frames. Indeed, some have been launched into space on exploration expeditions while others are capable of performing complex surgeries. Some are on the road to becoming rock stars, like Kenjiro Matsuo’s Z-Machines robotic trio of musicians. The band was ‘assembled’ last year and has been gaining in popularity since then by performing numerous concerts to ever-growing audiences all over Japan. Kenjiro and his team created the robots with the aim of performing music the likes of which could not be achieved by humans. The band is comprised of three robotic members with Mach playing a ‘double’ guitar with no less than 78 fingers playing a wide range of notes, pianist Cosmos plays the keyboard as well as producing a laser-light show from its eyes and Ashura, who drums out fantastic beats using 22 arms. The robotic band has recently teamed-up with UK-based DJ Squarepusher for an upcoming EP entitled ‘Music for Robots’. Kenjiro originally sought help from Squarepusher in creating specialized music for the band, which turned into a five song collaboration that features such memorable tunes as ‘Sad Robot Goes Funny’ and ‘You Endless’. The EP is set to be released on April 8 of this year in North America and a day earlier for the rest of the world. There no word yet if there will be a collaborative tour, however if there is, they could include other robotic acts such as Compressorhead or New Zealand garage-band The Trons.


 

There is a common misnomer that robots are inherently evil in nature and are nothing but bloodthirsty killers bent on the destruction of the human race. Obviously, this is not true as how could they be bloodthirsty when they cannot convey emotions. Sure, the military employs robots on the battlefield in the form of miniaturized gun-wielding sentry drones, single-armed IED disposal units and DARPA-created pack mules designed to transport heavy loads over adverse terrain but they certainly aren’t bent on the destruction of the human race. Robots that fight one another in a combat ring on the other hand are a very different story when it comes to violence. Don’t worry, toy company TOMY and their miniature Battroborg robots will not hurt humans as they are programmed to engage their own kind in armed battle through remote control by their human counterparts. Think of it like the movie Real Steel but on a much smaller scale and with plastic robots rather than armored behemoths. The tiny Battroborg robots are controlled using a double-fisted IR-based controller, which is used for movement and weapon handling. It is almost like using a Wii controller, performing a punching motion with your left hand results in the robot swinging the weapon in its left arm and the same for the right. This movement also controls the robots direction of travel, meaning repeated punch movements of the left hand results in the robot moving to the left while swinging that arms weapon and vice-versa. To get the robot to travel straight ahead, users alternate punching motions from left to right. Scoring has been changed from the older version of the Battroborgs, instead of getting a series of hits on the robots facemask, users simply try to knock the opposing robot down. The chest area in the robot houses a red and green LED to signify when the robot has been knocked down, which is detected using an onboard g-sensor. The revamped Battroborgs should hit toy shelves in June of this year and retail for $70, which gets you two battle-bots, two controllers and the fighting ring and additional robots can be purchased for $30 as well.


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Team Kegbot’s Kegbot Android-based kegerator (via kegbot)


I think it is time I put Drinkmo on Kickstarter. This bot is already doing so well...


Like any sporting event, spectators gather together to watch their favorite teams and those spectators will surely become hungry and thirsty at some point, which is where a cold refreshing beer becomes a real crowd pleaser. Sometimes however, those sporting events are watched from home and as a result, kegerators are becoming increasingly popular. Kegerators are tiny refrigerators (like those found in most college dorm rooms) that hold a keg of beer and have a hole cut into the top that is fitted for a tap. Unfortunately, kegerators do not usually come with an attractive bartender to serve that frosty goodness and to monitor how many drinks you have had and how much beer is left in the keg. Until then, we will just have to use Team Kegbot’s Kegbot Android-powered kegerator, which is interesting to say the least.


Kegbot employs a tablet, which acts as the brains of the device as well as the user interface. A corresponding app monitors how many pints have been poured and estimates how much beer is left in the barrel so users know when they are getting close to having to switch out the keg. It also monitors who is using it and how many pints they have poured and saves all that information in a database that can be accessed from anywhere (so you know who’s chugging your brew while your away). The tablet interface also allows for assigned ‘drinker accounts’ that can be accessed by individuals using RFIDs or iButtons and will alert friends in social groups know when you’re ‘hitting the sauce’. The Kegbot functions by combining a flow sensor that is coupled with an Arduino-based micro-controller that are connected to the kegs tap hose to monitor the flow of beer. Both devices are then plugged into the tablet where the corresponding Kegbot app work’s its magic. While there are other kegbot-like systems floating around on the internet that make use of Arduino-based controller boards and shields, they can be both time consuming and expensive to put together. Team Kegbot’s Kegboard Pro Mini combines the controller and the shield into one small easy to connect package to get the suds flowing. To get their Kegbot off the ground for production, the team turned to Kickstarter to get their controller manufactured for the beer-swilling masses all over the globe. It must have struck a high-note with brew consumers as Team Kegbot surpassed their initial goal of $15,000 to over $46,000, which says a lot about the dedication of those consumers and their love for frothy goodness. Those who missed out on getting a Kegbot of their own through funding can head over to Team Kegbot’s website to get the plans to build your own, which costs about $75 to $100, assuming you already have the little kegerator fridge and the tablet.


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MIT’s nanoparticle infused display. This is what AR should be more like.. (via MIT)


Transparent displays or HUDs (Heads Up Displays) can be found almost anywhere in today’s world, including aircraft, vehicles, fashion wear (Google Glass) and even mounted on firearms (EO Tech holographic weapons system). However, anyone who has ever seen or used one knows that they are not static, meaning it does not stay in one spot when viewed from different angles instead of head on. In some cases, viewing the display from a different angle will make the information presented on the screen vanish, which is bad news, especially if you’re a combat pilot about to put lead on the ground in a strafing run. Another negative issue is that those screens don’t come cheap and some are rather bulky due to the technology housed in them.


The day may come when transparent displays resolve those issues and at a relatively low cost to manufacture, thanks to some researchers from MIT. In a recently released paper published by Nature Communications, the team describes how they developed their new system. Most of the HUDs currently in use, use a beam-splitter (or mirror) to project images onto a projection lens that gives the effect that the information is hovering in the air in front of the user’s face. In order to ‘see’ that information the user’s head needs to be positioned directly in front of the display to view the information. Other HUD types use LEDs for the display with transparent electronics to control them, however the ‘transparency’ is extremely limited and not very practical depending on what it’s being used for. MIT’s new system does away with the projection lens and transmits that information directly on the HUD’s screen, making it possible to see the information no matter what angle the user is looking at it. The secret to their display comes in the form of nano-particles, which are embedded into a thin transparent material (in this case plastic) that can be applied to glass. The tiny particles can be tuned to certain wavelengths of colors and lights that are allowed to pass through the material and become visible directly on the material’s surface, thereby allowing the user to view it at any angle. This allows the user to see everything behind the glass (both colors and objects) while the information is projected on the glass in a single color.


The researchers demonstrated their system using silver nano-particles (60 nano-meters across) to produce blue colored circles that danced around the screen while red and yellow coffee mugs were positioned behind the screen, which were clearly visible. The team say’s that the screen is capable of producing images in full color by blending the base colors of red, green and blue that could then be projected to the display. The technology clearly (pun intended) could be used for purposes other than in combat planes, such as store windows that could show new items on sale, embedded into vehicle windows to show hazards and other information or even into eyeglasses or contact lenses that have a better fashion statement than that of Google Glass. The possibilities are endless.


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As a quick FYI to the followers of this blog, it's National Engineers Week in the U.S.! To commemorate the week, we created an infographic showing several benefits a career in engineering provides. Check it out at the link below!

 

Engineering: A Road to Success

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(Left) The base Ototo kit (Right) Example of rocking out with an Ototo (via Kickstarter)


Have you wanted to turn an eggplant into an instrument? What about that roll of aluminum foil? Well, if Yuri Suzuki’s team at Dentaku reaches its crowdfunding goal on KickStarter this month, the Ototo kit will allow users to turn any object into the musical instrument of their dreams.

 

The Ototo kit is based on a small synthesizer, which allows the user to build a musical instrument using any material that can hold an electrical charge (including water, eggplants, metal and more). The synthesizer is functional all on its own, but connecting a conductive object or material to it makes that material respond musically to touch. It’s important to note that each material enables a unique musical experience, based on its texture, so have fun and test various materials.

 

The synthesizer comes equipped with a 12-key configuration that acts as one octave and includes four sensor inputs – two for texture, one for loudness and one for pitch. The device connects to an external object via crocodile clips and once connected, Ototo offers seven different sensors to customize the user experience, including sensors that change the musical note using sliders, rotation of the external object, amount of light, force, touch, breath and joystick motion. Changing any of the seven sensors creates a different musical element, which makes each interaction with Ototo unique.

For users that want a more professional experience, the Ototo synthesizer can be connected to a computer via USB and functions as a MIDI controller. The user can customize the synthesizer to control a range of different program functions and the device is compatible with Apple’s Garageband, Ableton Live and more.

 

The handheld device comes equipped with a 3.5mm headphone output, 128 Mbit Flash memory and is powered using 2 AA batteries or via micro USB. It can used as a synthesizer and sampler and is based on open source to allow for total customization.

 

The design team behind Ototo said it created the device to innovate user interaction with electronic music and design. The team sought to expand the user experience to allow for a faster, freer creation process. The project is currently on KickStarter and needs a £50,000 cumulative pledge to launch. The company has currently raised more than £16,000 with more than three weeks to go.

 

Prepare for a deluge of experimental music shows…

 

 

C

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olympics.jpg

I'm still a proud watcher of the Olympics... 2 years later.

 

The 2014 Winter Olympics officially began last Friday, but there are bigger concerns than who takes home the gold in this year’s games. Recent reports from homeland security and intelligence specialists speculate that this year’s icy events may come with terrorist threats. Let the games begin.

 

The winter Olympic games happen once every four years and bring together the top athletes in winter sports from across the globe to compete for the title of best in the world. This year’s games, hosted in Sochi, Russia, began on February 7 and will run through the 23rd, but fans and Olympians may have to watch their back regarding recent threats, the U.S. House of Representatives personnel warn.

 

Members of the House’s panel on Homeland Security and Intelligence recently announced that Islamist groups have threatened to commit an act of terror during this year’s games in Sochi. Experts say they believe the actual stadium will be safe, but are confident that an explosion will take place somewhere in Sochi during the games. Some 37,000 U.S. and Russian security personnel are guarding the security of the “ steel ring” surrounding the venues and intend to deter all potential threats, but further threats exist outside of the steel walls.

 

Another threat comes from the realm of cyberspace, says NBC News’ Richard Engel. For the record, his phone and computer were hacked within minutes of arriving at the Olympic park. Engle stated anyone traveling to Sochi should expect to have their privacy breached if they go online. While his claims have flared controversy from others who say the internet knows no location and hackers exist in every corner of the world, Engel stands by his statement and asks that travelers mind their personal information.

 

Some intelligence experts speculate that the security threats in Russia during the 2014 Winter Olympics have less to do with terrorizing the world’s best athletes are more to do with internationally embarrassing Russian President Vladimir Putin, but no one knows for sure. U.S. and Russian collaboration on security and intelligence definitely leaves room for improvement, but the U.S. is taking responsibility within the nation to temporarily ban all potentially suspicious substances on all flights between the U.S. and Russia until the games come to an end.

 

Hopefully this year’s winter games will only be known for which countries took home the gold.

 

C

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http://twitter.com/Cabe_Atwell

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