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Arched material mesh concept for the triboelectric nanogenerator, aka TENG (via NANO Letters)   As we walk about in dry months desperately avoiding static shocks, we may soon encourage this effect. Zhong Lin Wang, the same professor of materials science working on the pyroelectric nanogenerators, has been leading a team working with piezoelectric nanogenerators. Unlike, the pyroelectric effect, which uses temperature fluctuations to harvest energy, the piezoelectric effect works by using m ...
Flexible displays flexin' (via Samsung)   New information on Samsung’s flexible OLED displays, which were put on the back burner last year, has surfaced in a recent article of the Wall street Journal. According to the Journal, Samsung is currently in the last stage of development of their plastic displays which are slated for release sometime in 2013. The displays feature OLED’s (Organic Light Emitting Diodes) which are robust, super-thin and can be attached to almost anything s ...
(Left) the energy harvesting pyroelectric nanogenerator, aka PENG. (Center and Right) Powering and LCD for 60 seconds and an LED for much longer. (via NANO Letters)   Scientist from the Georgia Institute of Technology have used a lead zirconate titanate (PZT) film to improve the performance of a pyroelectric nanogenerator(PENG). Zhong Lin Wang one of the scientists leading the research has stated, “Wasted heat is a rich source of energy that can be harvested.” By improving upon ...
ProsthesisTrainer in action (via Interactive Media Systems)     A life as an amputee can be a difficult lifestyle to adjust to, and having to learn how to use a prosthetic limb can sometimes make the whole situation even more frustrating. OttoBock and researchers from Interactive Media Systems Group at the Vienna University of Technology have teamed up to help amputees cope with learning how to use prosthetic limbs. They have used virtual reality to create a training environment they ...
  The world's oldest original working digital computer has undergone a reboot and is now set to appear on display at The National Museum of Computing in Buckinghamshire, England. The machine, otherwise known as the Witch, has taken three years to be resorted to its original form, which saw it distinguished by flashing lights and incessant whirling sounds.   Unveiled in the 1950s, the computer was seen as a critical player in the UK's atomic energy research programme. Weighing 2.5 ton ...
    RePlay For Kids is a Cleveland, OH based charity that modifies mainstream toys for children with disabilities. Since many electronic toys utilize activation switches that require a level of dexterity that not all children have, Replay modifies the toy to add a more accessible switch in parallel.  This not only provides local organizations with toys for disabled kids at no cost, but the toys are not limited to the few that are specifically designed for special needs use.  ...
Ingress city map screen capture. Is it like a clear-the-dots game? Perhaps a real Pacman? (via Ingress)   The premise: Scientists discover a mysterious energy of unknown origin somewhere in Europe. The team suspects that this energy is altering how the general populace thinks and therefore has to gain control of it before it controls us all. As the mysterious energy gains momentum over the population, people slowly separate into two factions. One being ‘The Enlightened’ who want ...
  The innovative approach of engineers at Sheffield University has helped to radically improve the life of an elderly stroke victim who lost the ability to communicate with friends and family.   Bill Broad, 71, suffered a serious stroke in 2010, which stopped him from interacting with loved ones for around two years.   In the months following his stroke, Mr Broad was forced to spell out words on an alphabet chart when trying to communicate.   However, people in engineerin ...
Printing concept (via Laser Induced Forward Transfer of conducting polymers)   Printed polymer circuits have been adapted for use in a wide range of electronics, including smartphones, keyboards and thin solar films. While they are incredibly robust and provide many advantages (cheap to produce, flexibility and lightweight), the conductive polymer (plastic) has its drawbacks, most notably in the manufacturing techniques used to create them. Leading research may have a solution.   Typic ...
The company Everspin is tempting our entrance into the world of spintronics by the introduction of its first commercial spin torque magnotoresistive random access memory (ST-RAM) chip. While the tech is still quite new and will probably not be integrated to wide spread applications immediately, the company is selling 64 Mb DIMMS  to select manufacturers to explore. The DDR3 form factor of the samples shows how fast speeds and non-volatility can be best applied before its final production. ...
Many of you have seen the inspiring viral video about the 15-year-old self-taught engineer, Kelvin Doe, who lives in Sierra Leone and builds electronics from parts scavenged from the garbage.     This inspiring video made me think of where innovation comes from.  Here is a case of someone developing electronics from trash, showing innovation happening without investment.  On other hand, if electronics had not become so cheap, partly due to large investments in the pas ...
Open Chevy Volt battery pack. (via GM)   What happens to a 435 lb (197 kg) battery after it gets old?     GM and fellow Chevy Volt owners may soon get some residual value back from their electric vehicles. GM and Swizz company ABB have found a way to use 5 spent Chevy Volt batteries to create a community electric storage system.     When first installed, Volt lithium-ion batteries, composed of 288 cells making up 9 modules, are capable of 16 kWh and 111 kW of power. ...
Screenshot: Sensor identifies the type of touch input. (via Qeexo)   In an industry dominated by electrically capacitive interfaces, the Carnegie Mellon spin off company Qeexo, has developed a new touch interface that adds many other dimensions of use to touchscreen phones.     Most common interfaces consist of capacitance touch screens that are activated by the electric properties of fingers. But, in a paper released in 2011, Carnegie Mellon researchers explained that “hu ...
Over the last few months, various high-profile members of the UK have spoken of the need to support the engineering industry through educational reforms and investment. However, Dik Morling, chair of the admissions working group at the Engineering Professors' Council, warned that an insufficient amount is being done on a governmental level to safeguard the long-term future of the industry.   Professor Morling cited recent research showing that, despite the rise in vacancies across much of ...
(via http://www.ellipticlabs.com)   Elliptic Labs may have just released what will be the future way in which we interact with our digital devices. Their system is designed to have specific gesture controls, which allow users to interact more naturally with their computer. Designed specifically for the Windows 8 operating system, users can scroll, navigate, and surf the web on their tablets and PCs without ever having to slide their fingers across their screen. Not only does this system br ...
Dave Young

2012 BLUR conference

Posted by Dave Young Nov 20, 2012
The 2012 BLUR conference was held last week in Broomfield, CO to showcase developing technologies in Human Computer Interaction (HCI).  Far from a conference of people developing screens, keyboards, and mice, the topics centered on technology that reveals how much humans have been adapting to their input devices instead of the other way around.   Then most striking aspect to the conference was the focus on 3D printing.  The discussions opened up an entirely new way of thinking a ...
(Left) Armadillo Stig launch (Right) Stig rocket concepts for different payloads (via Armadillo Aerospace)   NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program is opening the door for private companies to win contracts with the agency to make reusable rockets that will fly up to 62 miles (100 km) up in the air and complete frequent missions. One of the front-runners for said contracts is Texas company Armadillo Aeronautics. In August 2010, the company won an experimental space vehicle contract wit ...
(via spaceviewnetwork)   Low-earth orbit, near-earth orbit and every place in between is action-packed with space garbage. According to NASA there’s roughly 500,000 pieces of potentially hazardous space debris that can damage satellites and other equipment and include rocket pieces (various stages of rocket boosters), fragments of satellites that were targets for military testing, nuts and bolts and even paint-chips (seriously!). All of this garbage threatens the more than 1,200 satel ...
  An astronaut at the International Space Station has used interplanetary internet in order to send specific commands to a robot on Earth. Known as Disruption-Tolerant Networking (DTN) protocol, the cutting-edge technology could become increasingly prominent over the next few years as it is now seen as a viable way to communicate with astronauts on Mars.   Under the current set-up, information can easily be lost when data is sent between the two planets. But experts at the European S ...
Charles Gervasi

Storm Chasers

Posted by Charles Gervasi Nov 19, 2012
Last week Dr. Robin Tanamachi of National Severe Storm Labs spoke to my local IEEE Section about scientific storm chasing.  Part of her job is to get near tornadoes and take scientific data on them, mostly using radar.    Storm Chasers Storm chasing has had a recent surge in hobbyist interest.  It’s not illegal, but there are informal rules of storm chasing safety and etiquette.  Because of the recent interest there are often long streams of cars on rural roads ...
Self repairs its mechanical and electrical properties in 15 seconds (via Benjamin Tee and Chao Wang)   Human skin is a remarkable organ. It protects our internal organs from debris, pathogens and other hazards while being sensitive enough to detect heat and pressure. It’s also extremely sufficient at repairing itself after receiving damage. Those are some of the relative qualities that Stanford scientists incorporated into their newly developed polymer facsimile. The scientists, led b ...
‘Moore’s Law is becoming irrelevant’, that’s the statement recently pontificated by ARM CEO Warren East during an interview with MIT Technology Review’s Tom Simonite. Moore’s Law (named after Intel co-founder Gordon Moore) states that the number of integrated circuits doubles about every 18 months which, in-turn, increases the speed (and therefore power consumption) of processors. According to some in the semiconductor field this trend looks to continue till 2 ...
Duro-Aina Adebola, Akindele Abiola, Faleke Oluwatoyin, and Bello Eniola, creators of the generator   There have been some ingenious inventions to come out of places you’d least expect, and Africa is no exception as Maker Faire Africa (Lagos, Nigeria) recently wrapped up their annual symposium for creative design in a multitude of areas. One of the more creative (ingenious really) inventions came from a group of teenage girls who created a generator that runs on hydrogen derived from ...
UK Prime Minister David Cameron is currently trialling a mobile app that is designed to assist in decision-making and regular government issues. Mr Cameron, who assumed his current role in May 2010, is using the app that follow live data concerning key parts of the UK's beleaguered economy, including the job market and the housing sector. Additionally, the app helps the Conservative Party leader to gauge his standing in opinion polls by keeping track of social media.   Boasting the working ...
Microsoft tanslation demonstration, screen cap. (via Microsoft)   Computer user interfaces have done exceptionally well using typed words and haptic gestures to interact, but the tech had lagged behind when it comes to voice interaction. In 1979, hidden Markov modeling gave way to a better method of matching waveforms of spoken words to recordings for speech-to-text recognition. Behind this method, the technology improved slowly but reached a plateau, at its best, giving errors in recognit ...
  The list of members supporting the Linux Foundation continues to grow. With over 150 corporate members, each assist in their own way to help advance the growth of Linux. Depending upon time, money, and commitment, the members are all divided into three groups. Silver, gold, and platinum make up these groups, and HP has just made the investment and commitment necessary to move from being a gold member to being a platinum member. (Hopefully, we will see Linux as the default OS on some futu ...
(via Gefen)   I can never have HDMI cables the length I need, especially when trying to connect devices from two separate rooms. Manufacturer, Gefen, thinks the same. The prominent cable/connection company has recently released their GefenToolBoX Extender series for HDMI connections that lengthens the cables from a paltry 25, 50 or even a 100ft to distances of up to an astounding 330ft! Gefen is able to achieve great distances, without signal degradation, by using the company’s ‘ ...
Laying a section of underground power cables (via  VSMC)   As we make moves towards stabilizing the east coast power woes, many say the federal government has not done enough to promote U.S. infrastructure projects. After hurricane Sandy struck the east coast, millions of people were left without power leading many, including Maryland senator Nathaniel McFadden, to suggest a long-term project that could significantly improve the electrical grid: burying it.     Of course th ...
Energy harvesting chip size comparison and closeup. The radio transmitter onboard is powered by a mammalian ear. (via MIT)     Living creatures are full of energy being converted and transferred continuously. Differences in potential or voltages, cause electrical signals to move from one place to the other within the body. Scientifically speaking, all living things are examples of power. MIT is taking advantage of at least one tiny power plant in the human body.     This b ...
(via TEDx)   The Fluxus movement - "anti-art" experiment in sound, composing from the random, conceptualized by John Cage and explored by George Maciunas in the 1960s. Fluxus us a do-it-yourself, artist-centralized, creative practice. Fluxus is an not a style. Often simple, fun, humorous, compelling. The artist can use sound, images, text, objects, whatever they see fit to create a new combinations in any category. Like reading a book by only the first word of each chapter, music composed ...
    Created within the Microsoft research labs in Cambridge, the Kinect Fusion technology is a program that constantly streams data from the real world using the Kinect sensor, to create an accurate 3D model of the environment and objects within it. After being flooded with requests to include the Kinect Fusion into the Windows SDK, Microsoft has announced the next “future release” of the SDK would incorporate the Kinect Fusion technology.   The constant streaming of ...
AliveCor concept (via alivecor.com)   Innovation and development with smartphones continues to amaze, there are many people out there with ambitious ideas as to how our portable devices could help us in unimaginable ways. From touch screens that detect bacteria and viruses, apps that tell us when we are stressed, even spectrometry, our little portables are doing more and more every year. Now, the company AliveCor is equipping your phone with a rudimentary ECG monitor, giving users the capa ...
I'm currently in the midst of a challenging design problem that is new in my career.  One of my clients contracts their electronics assemblies overseas.  Ideally I would design the product, it would go to the manufacturer for quote, tweaks will be made for manufacturability and price, and the design will be finalized.  This allows for the majority of the design cycle to occur close to the company here in the US while gaining the benefits from low cost manufacturing of foreign supp ...
  The UK government has confirmed that it is currently developing plans to implement a set of open technology standards that all IT projects must comply with going forward. Once the standards are properly implemented, IT professionals will be forced to work to a clearly defined framework, which will relate to formatting and software interloping issues.   The move to develop open standards comes after a four-month consultation exercise, while they also follow government-led efforts to ...
How the study was conducted at Rensselaer (via Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)   The daily life of many humans today involves looking at screen after screen throughout the day and night. At the same time, disorders like depression and insomnia are on the rise. In a study from 2010, researchers at Ohio State University found that dim lights at night cause dramatic changes to the hippocampus of mice, which leads to depression-like symptoms.     Now, researchers from the Lightin ...
PlaceRaider malware takes a picture after hijacking a phone. It found a check.. (via Naval Surface Warfare Center)   Spyware, computer viruses and other malware aim at stealing information, catching you off guard, using your system in whichever way the programmer desires. These Trojan programs are commonly thought to be limited to stealing purely digital information like keystrokes, saved passwords, usernames etc. But researchers at the Naval Surface Warfare Center and the University of In ...
(via Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments)   We discussed the hacker dichotomy that pits governments against them and companies to ask for their help. The role of the US government itself is also up for debate as it uses its own creations to prove its cyber capabilities. Governments want to prove they have technology to defend themselves by showing off their own cyber attacks. This means that governments play both sides of the fence, cyber defense as well as attack. Recently, mor ...
(Left) Four screens showing the same image on the fly (via Rocketnews24 in Japan) (Right) More examples (via Tokyo University)     The digital age seems to have driven us apart allowing, keeping us in our mobile OS screens, our little private universe. A new interface being developed by the Tokyo University is hoping to bring us closer by allowing screens of  iOS devices to work together showing portions of the same image or play face-to-face games.     The interface c ...
Crushed, porous silicon with pyrolyzed polyacrylonitrile anode material, able to handle 600 charge-discharge cycles. (via Rice University)   Working hard on a project only to find that it is not adequate for application would make you want to crush it. Well, that is what Rice University research scientist Madhury Thakur did, although she did it deliberately, not out of anger. But, in the process, she has found one of the most promising methods for producing batteries that last three times ...
Inside of a cell tower base communication shelter (via Pepro)     When it comes to energy savings, most tend to look at the gross inefficiencies of cars, homes or businesses. But surprisingly, much of our daily wasted energy comes from our handheld devices, specifically our cell phones - powering the towers that support them. Power amplifiers (PAs) are used to convert electrical currents into radio signals so they are used by our telecommunication devices as well as the base stations ...
AMP-Foot 2.0 (via Vrije Universiteit Brussel)   Transtibial prosthesis’ (below the knee) have gone through some significant changes over the last decade (most notably due in part from the war on terror) and are used by people all over the world. Most all of the ones on the market today, such as Freedom Innovations Renegade, CPO’s Proprio Foot and Ossur’s Cheetah prosthetics, all function relatively the same — by storing energy in an elastic element by the first movem ...
(Left) Intel CTO Justin Rattner holding a wafer of Intel 48 core chips (Right) Intel's 48 core processor   Though quantum computing, carbon nanotube transistors and small supercomputers get all the hoopla now-a-days, Intel is working on projects with a more concrete and shorter time frame than those other futuristic projects. In their Barcelona labs, Intel is using a multi-core chip in a server to figure out how it could make good use of a 48-core chip in mobile devices in the next 5 to 10 ...
  Philips has launched the world's most innovative lightbulb, which is connected to the internet and allows phone users to change the colour that it emits. Costing £179, the bulb comes with a pack that features connection equipment and an additional two bulbs, which use 20 per cent less energy than regular bulbs.   The most impressive part of the design, however, lies in the fact that iPhone users are able to turn the bulbs on and off irrespective of where they are in the world. ...
Center drawn "E" is replicated elsewhere on the photosensitive paper (via Diginfo)   Accessibility provided by the digital age is great. We can access digital files directly from the cloud from anywhere there is Internet. But, there is still something about holding a hard copy of a document that will likely never go out of style. Some will say that digitization is notable for saving trees and no one can deny that but soon, if the team from the Tokyo University spreads their idea successful ...
(Left) LEV-96 in the raw (Right) closer to production device (via MoogMusic)   Moog Music has been going strong since the early 50’s with products like theremin kits and Moog Modular synthesizer systems. Now they’re set to unveil the LEV-96 for acoustic guitars. According to Moog, the LEV-96 is a ‘sensoriactuator’ that is able to bring hidden harmonic/resonant frequencies (in this case from guitar strings) into the spectrum of human hearing from any ferromagnetic med ...
All carbon solar cell (via Stanford)   Solar cells come in many different flavors and are traditionally made with any number of silicon materials, such as monocrystalline silicon, polycrystalline silicon and amorphous silicon (to name a few), but now scientists from Stanford University have succeeded in adding a new material to the solar cell mix in the form of carbon. Most solar cells use rare-earth metals in their make-up for the cells electrodes such as ITO (indium tin oxide) and silver ...
How can you verify in software that a smartphone was at a particular location and interacted with a particular person?  For example, suppose a coffee shop has a rewards card that allows customers to get a free cup of coffee after ten visits.  You want to replace the physical punch card with a phone app, but how do you verify the user actually bought a cup of coffee?    Madison, WI based startup Snowshoe has come up with a hardware key, which they call a snow stamp, that can ...
  AMD has recently announced their partnership with ARM to bring ARM-based Opteron 64-bit multi-core processors for multiple markets. These will be released in 2014 for cloud and data-centers to start with as the new chips will be optimized for ‘dense, energy efficient servers.' Integrated into the chips will be AMD’s SeaMicro Freedom supercomputer fabric, which links the CPUs into clusters and reduces the power draw (CPU input/output virtualization) by eliminating 90% of the mo ...
  It’s happened to all of us at one time or another. You’ll be sitting in traffic or walking around town talking when all of a sudden the connection is lost and web-pages take forever to load. You remind yourself that you did purchase your mobile device with an ultra-fast 4G or Wi-Fi connection, but still to no avail it feels like your back in the 90s with a dial-up connection. The loss of connection or slow-down is usually the result of ‘net congestion’ or rather &# ...
OneShot prototype (via Cubic Corporation)   The military uses snipers as a deadly form of psychological warfare on the battlefield. These are highly trained precision marksmen that are able to ‘reach out and touch someone’ from greater distances through the use of high-powered rifles and long-range optics. They’re about to become even more deadly, as the Cubic Corporation (partnered with Trex Enterprises) has recently won a $6 million US contract from DARPA to design the n ...
I had been meaning to try the Raspberry Pi for a while, but I was occupied working on a Parallax Propeller project.  The task was to communicate with a keyboard, just to read what keys were pressed.  It was easy to do with a PS/2 keyboard.  USB keyboards are much more complicated.  We used an FDTI Vinculum chip to act as a host for the keyboard and ended up having to get into recompiling firmware running on the Vinculum chip to get it working.  That allowed us to get ...
Decelerator Helmet (via designboom)   If you loved those fish-bowl style sci-fi helmets from the 50s and 60s, then the Decelerator Helmet (is the head-gear of your dreams minus the antennae of course). Designed by German artist Loren Potthast, the helmet allows the wearer to perceive the world around them in slow-mo.   The ‘futuristic’ head-gear uses a camera mounted on the outer aluminum casing that feeds live video to a video display that’s situated in front of the ...

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