Monthly Archives: March 2010

From Observation to Vision: The promise of human-future interaction

A human’s ability to think about the future is still in beta.” ~ Jason Tester, IFTF

by David Sherwin, Design Mind (via The Institute For the Future)

Imagining a sustainable future is like observing a series of waves crashing upon a shore, imperceptibly eroding the sand away.

It isn’t clear whether we’re at high or low tide, so we can’t be sure how far to stand from the water. We try to judge, in the far distance, if there are large waves that may get our feet wet, or even worse, pull us out in the undertow. There are a fearless few out surfing the breakers, but most people are content to rest on their towels, sun themselves, and read a book or two. There is no clear understanding of how our actions on the shore will change the quality of the water, or what lives beneath the surface. Our influence on the known world is intangible. [Read on]

Nanosatellite to extract space debris

from BBC:

UK researchers have developed a device to drag space debris out of orbit. They plan to launch a demonstration of their “CubeSail” next year. It is a small satellite cube that deploys a thin, 25-sq-m plastic sheet.

“It would help make space a sustainable business. We want to be able to keep on launching satellites to provide new services; but unless we do something, the amount of junk up there is going to grow exponentially.”

“Wet computer” that mimics neurons to be created


The project “Wet computer” also known as Chemical or Molecular computing is a form of computational model that mimics the characteristics of the human cells, particularly the brain cells called neurons.

As described by Dr. Klaus-Peter Zauner, project collaborator of the University of Southampton, “wet computer” takes advantage of the lipid-forming characteristic of stable “cells” that forms a coating spontaneously and uses chemistry to establish interactions among these cells similar to that of human neurons.

Video: Touchscreen wall explores gigapixel photos

from Singularity Hub:

Students at the University of Tromso in Norway have built an amazing multitouch wall with a mind-blowing 7168×3072 resolution – 22 megapixels!

The WallScope has 28 projectors whose graphics are fueled by 31 nodes in a cluster. A series of 16 cameras on the floor create a 2D ‘multitouch plane’ so you can control the WallScope without making contact with the wall.

HP demos rollup flexible displays

from Physorg: <- Video at link

The Flexible Display Center, at Arizona State University, hopes to have flexible displays ready for test trials in approximately three years.

The displays can be mass produced by using a production method called Self-Aligned Imprint Lithography (SAIL). By manufacturing the displays in the form of rolls instead of sheets makes the production method more cost effective.

Video: Computer-controlled bacteria build a miniature pyramid

from PopSci:

By using a computer-controlled magnetic field, the researchers turned the bacteria into fully-compliant biological nanorobots.

The trick was using a type of microbe known as magnetotactic bacteria. These critters have little internal compasses, and will follow the pull of a magnetic field. By manipulating a magnetic field, the researchers tricked the bacteria into forming a giant, computer-controlled swarm.

EOT Report #1: “Fixing Cognitive Biases to Shape the Next Generation of Humans“

Edge of Tomorrow Report - 3.25.2010
an interview with João Fabiano (translated from Portuguese)
by Carlos R. B. Azevedo (@crbazevedo)

João Fabiano is a journalist, philosopher, specialist on cognitive bias, and the founding member of the Analytical Philosophy research group of Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil.

Click here for the interview and commentary.

New robots build prototype solar cells in 30 minutes, then evaluate their own work

from PopSci:

One squat multitasking robot can build semiconductors for solar cells on six-inch-square plates of glass, plastic or flexible metals in just over half an hour.

Six of these tireless mechanical workers, chugging away at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado, will allow private companies to come rapidly prototype and test their newest formulas for creating solar cells.

Tiny generators powered by random vibrations


Mini-generators could eventually produce enough electricity from random, ambient vibrations to power a wristwatch, pacemaker, or wireless sensor.

The energy-harvesting devices are highly efficient at providing renewable electrical power from arbitrary, non-periodic vibrations—a byproduct of traffic driving on bridges, machinery operating in factories, and humans moving their limbs, for example.

British military developing force fields


A space-age “force field” capable of protecting armoured vehicles and tanks by repelling incoming fire is being developed by British military scientists.

When a threat from incoming fire is detected by the vehicle, the energy stored in the supercapacitor can be rapidly dumped onto the metal plating on the outside of the vehicle, producing a strong electromagnetic field. Scientists behind the project claim this would produce a momentary “force field” capable of repelling the incoming rounds and projectiles.

Portable mind-reader lets users write with their thoughts

from TGDaily:

The Mind Speller, intended primarily for people with severe motor disabilities, is an EEG-based device that interprets brain waves to spell words and phrases.

The Mind Speller contains a proprietary ultra-low power eight-channel EEG chip developed by IMEC and Holst Centre to process the EEG signals. A commercially available low power microcontroller digitizes the EEG signals, and a low power 2.4GHz radio transmits the EEG signals wirelessly to a nearby PC.

New touch-screen technology to allow big displays to be used by multiple people

from The Montreal Gazette:

Robert Biddle is a professor of human computer interaction at Carleton University and one of the lead investigators on what is known as the Digital Surface Software Application Network (SurfNet), a project involving 12 elite researchers who believe the time is right to take touch-screen technology to a new level.

“Computers these days are really designed for one person. There is one keyboard, one mouse, one cursor on the screen and one focus of attention. You see people working ‘together’ and they are all just sitting there staring into their own computer,” Biddle said.

“New multi-touch technology will allow big displays to be used by more than one person at a time. People working around the conference table, sketching things and showing them to one another in parallel. We think this has a lot of potential.”

Bionic eye on the horizon

from Tel Aviv University (via Machines Like Us)

Prof. Yael Hanein of Tel Aviv University’s School of Electrical Engineering has foundational research that may give sight to blind eyes, merging retinal nerves with electrodes to stimulate cell growth.

She’s developed a spaghetti like mass of nano-sized (one-millionth of a millimetre) carbon tubes, and using an electric current has managed to coax living neurons from the brains of rats to grow on this man-made structure.

Text 2.0: Does this headline know you’re reading it?

from h+ Magazine:

Ralf Biedert and colleagues at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) are using eye-trackers from Tobii Technology of Sweden along with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to create a reading enhancement technology called Text 2.0.

This is not simply a case of using infrared light, a camera, and eye movement to move a cursor and click buttons: Text 2.0 infers user intentions and enhances the reading experience in far more complex ways.

Reading certain words, phrases, or names can trigger the appearance of footnotes, translations, definitions, biographies, even sound effects or animations. Ask how a word is pronounced and you get a verbal answer.

If you begin skimming the text, it fades out the less important words. If you glance away, a bookmark automatically appears, pointing to where you stopped reading.

Printed nano-based RFID tags to invisibly replace bar codes, store checkout lines

from Rice University:

Rice researchers, in collaboration with a team led by Gyou-jin Cho at Sunchon National University in Korea, have come up with an inexpensive, printable transmitter that can be invisibly embedded in packaging.

It would allow a customer to walk a cart full of groceries or other goods past a scanner on the way to the car; the scanner would read all items in the cart at once, total them up and charge the customer’s account while adjusting the store’s inventory.

Researchers create 3D invisibility cloak


Researchers at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology report they were able to cloak a tiny bump in a layer of gold, preventing its detection at nearly visible infrared frequencies.

(for illustrative purposes only – no one yet invisibly stalking you)

The cloak is a structure of crystals with air spaces in between, sort of like a woodpile, that bends light, hiding the bump in the gold later beneath, the researchers reported in Thursday’s online edition of the journal Science.

Photographic Memory coming soon in pill form

from Gizmondo:

Researchers have discovered that increasing production of a protein called RGS-14 could significantly boost visual memory.

Mice with the RGS-14 boost could remember objects they had seen for up to two months. Ordinarily the same mice would only be able to remember these objects for about an hour.

Video: Light-controlled mouse brain

from Singularity Hub:

What do you get when you combine microorganisms and fiber optics? Mind control over mice and rats.

A fiber optic cable is connected into a living mouse or rat with the spliced genes allowing scientists to expose different neurons to different lights.

Video: GM develops Augmented Reality windshield

from MIT’s Technology Review:

A new “enhanced vision system” from General Motors could help drivers by highlighting landmarks, obstacles and road edges on the windshield in real-time.

Such a system can point out to drivers potential hazards, such as a running animal, even in foggy or dark conditions, GM says.

Future bio-nanotechnology will use computer chips inside living cells

from nano werk:

With transistors the size of tens of nanometers, researchers have begun to explore the interface of biology and electronics by integrating nanoelectronic components and living cells.

If the current rate of miniaturization continues, by 2020 approximately 2,500 transistors – equivalent to microprocessors of the first generation of personal computers – could fit into the area of a typical living cell.