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A self-replicating, open-source home factory


Today we’re on the verge of a factory in every home thanks to the RepRap, an open hardware 3D printer that is designed to replicate itself. You can make a RepRap for yourself, then use it to make one for your neighbor.

The design files and software needed to build and operate the RepRap are free. You can make one for about $500 in parts. And with each new version of the machine, an increasing percentage of the parts can be produced by the RepRap itself.

Nanotech tea bag creates safe drinking water instantly, for less than a penny

from io9:

A new “tea bag” uses nano-fibers to suck contaminants and bacteria out of water, providing a desperately-needed, cheap solution for the billions of people without clean drinking water.

Researchers at South Africa’s Stellenbosch University made the device from the same material used for the bags of the country’s popular rooibos tea. Inside the sachets are two tiny destroyers of all things unsafe: ultra-thin nanoscale fibers, which filter harmful contaminants, and bacteria-killing grains of carbon.

Nano-generators can harvest electricity from your blood

from io9:

New nano-generators can turn mechanical energy – like that of flowing blood – into electricity needed to power nanobots.

The tiny generators are the brainchild of Dr. Yong Shi, a professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Stevens Institute of Technology. They make use of a technology known as piezoelectric nanofibers, which are minuscule wires that are able to harness nearby mechanical energy (basically the energy of motion) and turn it into electrical energy. Each wire measures half a millimeter long and just 60 billionths of a meter in diameter.

Researchers create “Smart Sheets” that can self-assemble into airplanes, boats

from PopSci:

Scientists at MIT and Harvard have invented self-folding smart fiberglass sheets that can crease themselves into origami airplanes and boats.

It’s a far cry from previous programmable matter research we’ve seen, which works at the nanoscale to create scaffolds and gears.

The fiberglass sheets are about a half-millimeter thick and made of half-inch-wide triangular tiles. They can be made at a larger scale, enabling machines that can fold, Transformer-like, into any number of objects.

Researchers create biodegradable self-assembling DNA nanodevices that move and change shape

from Harvard Medical School:

By emulating nature’s design principles, a team at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard Medical School and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has created nanodevices made of DNA that self-assemble and can be programmed to move and change shape on demand.

In contrast to existing nanotechnologies, these programmable nanodevices are highly suitable for medical applications because DNA is both biocompatible and biodegradable.

The work appears in the June 20 advance online Nature Nanotechnology.

Military-grade Augmented Reality could redefine modern warfare

from ReadWriteWeb:

Tanagram Partners is developing military-grade augmented reality technology that — if developed to the full potential of its prototypes — would completely change the face of military combat as we know it.

The company is developing a system of lightweight sensors and displays that collect and provide data from and to each individual soldier in the field. This includes a computer, a 360-degree camera, UV and infrared sensors, stereoscopic cameras and OLED translucent display goggles.

With this technology, soldiers will be able to communicate with a massive “home base” server that collects and renders 3D information onto the wearer’s goggles in real time. Various objects and people will be outlined in a specific color to warn soldiers of things like friendly forces, potential danger spots, impending air-raid locations, rendezvous points and much more.

PaperComp 2010: The Dawn of Paper Computing


Paper is not dead. Books, magazines and other printed materials can now be connected to the digital world, enriched with additional content and even transformed into interactive interfaces.

Conversely, some of the screen-based interfaces we currently use to interact with digital data could benefit from being paper-based or make use of specially designed material as light and flexible as paper.

In a near future, printed documents could become new ubiquitous interfaces for our everyday interactions with digital information. This is the dawn of paper computing.

1st International Workshop on Paper Computing
26-29 Sept 2010 / Copenhagen, Denmark

Plastic 3-D self-replicating printer

from Thingiverse: via Bruce Sterling (@bruces)

This is the next step in my attempt to make a Sarrus linkage based 3D printer. The idea is to have a cartesian mechanism without those long rods and bearings.

I built three of the Mark III and mounted them in a x-y arrangement as shown. They can move over a square about 105 mm wide, and someday may carry an extruder. They are driven by DC motors taken from inkjet printers. These motors are driven in a servo arrangement using quadrature optical encoders and optical strips removed from the same printers.

Shimizu’s Dream: Proposals to Benefit Future Generations

from SHIMIZU Corporation:

Shimizu continues to introduce our vision for the future.
We tackle new technological challenges and present wide-ranging proposals for the benefit of up-coming generations.

Sony unveils paper-thin OLED screen that rolls up while still playing video

from PopSci: ⇦ Video at source

The 80-microns-thick (that’s 80 millionths of a meter, or about as thick as a human hair) full-color display can be rolled up and unfurled repeatedly without degrading picture quality.

It was made possible by a breakthrough in OLED tech, in which Sony researchers created organic thin-film transistors with 8 times the performance of conventional OTFTs.

Researchers analyze performance of first updatable holographic 3D display


In 2008, researchers from the University of Arizona created a holographic 3D display that could write and erase images, making it the first updatable (or rewritable) holographic 3D display ever demonstrated.

Now, in a follow-up study, the researchers have reported the results of their analysis on the performance of the display, including how the polymer enables display enhancements and what more needs to be done before such displays can be widely used.

A feasibility analysis of neural interfaces and controllers

from h+ Magazine:

As human neural networks and electronic digital networks converge there is some debate over how to best move data from neural to digital formats.

Since the human brain is equipped with high-resolution sensory organs, there are many obvious routes for digital-to-neural input, but organic systems lack sufficient neural outputs for porting thoughts, memories, and dreams directly to digital memory.

First human ‘infected with computer virus’

from BBC:

A British scientist says he is the first man in the world to become infected with a computer virus. Dr Mark Gasson from the University of Reading contaminated a computer chip which was then inserted into his hand.

Dr Gasson admits that the test is a proof of principle but he thinks it has important implications for a future where medical devices such as pacemakers and cochlear implants become more sophisticated, and risk being contaminated by other human implants.

Gesture-based computing on the cheap

from MIT News:

With a single piece of inexpensive hardware — a multicolored glove — MIT researchers are making Minority Report-style interfaces more accessible.

“This actually gets the 3-D configuration of your hand and your fingers,” Wang says. “We get how your fingers are flexing.”

Virtual reality used to transfer men’s minds into a woman’s body


Scientists have transferred men’s minds into a virtual woman’s body in an experiment that could enlighten the prejudiced and shed light on how humans distinguish themselves from others.

In a study at Barcelona University, men donned a virtual reality (VR) headset that allowed them to see and hear the world as a female character. When they looked down they could even see their new body and clothes.

The “body-swapping” effect was so convincing that the men’s sense of self was transferred into the virtual woman, causing them to react reflexively to events in the virtual world in which they were immersed.

Men who took part in the experiment reported feeling as though they occupied the woman’s body and even gasped and flinched when she was slapped by another character in the virtual world.

DNA nanomachines could be produced inexpensively in almost limitless quantities

from EurekAlert:

DURHAM, N.C. – In a single day, a solitary grad student at a lab bench can produce more simple logic circuits than the world’s entire output of silicon chips in a month.

So says a Duke University engineer, who believes that the next generation of these logic circuits at the heart of computers will be produced inexpensively in almost limitless quantities. The secret is that instead of silicon chips serving as the platform for electric circuits, computer engineers will take advantage of the unique properties of DNA, that double-helix carrier of all life’s information.

“Like neurons in the brain”: A molecular computer that evolves

from h+ Magazine: (Previously covered here)

The press release from Michigan Tech asserts that it is “the first time a brain-like ‘evolutionary circuit’ has been realized.”

His new molecular computer uses an organic molecular layer and can evolve to solve complex problems, similar to neurons. Like the human brain — and unlike any existing computer — the tiny molecular computer heals itself if there is a defect.

Anirban Bandyopadhyay, from the Japanese National Institute for Materials Science, explains: “No existing man-made computer has this property, but our brain does. If a neuron dies, another neuron takes over its function.”

Toward a hydrogen economy: Clues from nature

from h+ Magazine: ⇦ Much more at source

Artificial photosynthesis may soon be a reality – splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. You only have to look as far as your garden to observe one of the most common chemical reactions in nature at work pulling apart water molecules (H2O) and splitting them into carbohydrates and oxygen (O2).

Nature provides the template for this process using the energy from sunlight to fuel the reaction.  Here’s a video showing the basic process:

Robots accidentally kill us all – THE STUDY

from BBC News:

A future in which robots help around the home could prove harmful to humans, suggests a study.

German researchers studied what happens in accidents involving robots using sharp tools alongside humans.

They used a robot arm holding a variety of bladed tools programmed to strike test substances that mimic soft tissue.

In some cases, the researchers found, the robots managed to accidentally inflict wounds that would prove “lethal”.