A solution for ill people: using eyes to communicate

July 28, 2010 Technology No Commenti

For those who, after suffering from a stroke or a degenerative disease, have lost the ability to speak and have serious difficulties in moving normally, among the several problems that they encounter to carry out even the simplest tasks of daily life, one of the hardest is often the one that involves communication with others.

Not being able to move is already hard and painful enough, but the inability to communicate one’s emotions and needs to the people around must be a further hard blow, especially from an emotional point of view.

To assist patients with this task, only apparently easy but as high as a mountain for those who can not move, a new device has just been introduced, which can solve the problem by using eye movement to communicate thanks to Morse language.

i-Mos, as it is called, is basically something like a pair of glasses, equipped with a sensor that detects eye movement. By moving them to the left or to the right, it is possible to “write” in Morse code, as the sensor would read the movement in either direction as a line or a dot.

Along with this, the glasses also feature a display which shows the letters that the patient has “written”, and thanks to the automatic fill function, the counterpart can already try to guess the word after a few letters, and suggest it, thus saving the i-Mos user time and effort.

Among those who could possibly benefit from using this device, which is only a concept now, but that we hope to see in production soon, there are for example patients suffering from ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or other degenerative diseases which hamper motion and communication abilities; thanks to i-Mos, their life could be a bit better, at least from an emotional point of view.

Panasonic to enter the mini camcorder market

July 28, 2010 Technology No Commenti

With a delay that it’s hard not to notice, finally Panasonic has decided to play its cards on the mini camcorders market, a market dominated by devices with an extremely small size, a generally affordable average price and a good quality (which of course may vary depending on the price, and vice versa).

To do so, it has just announced the launch of its mini digital video recorder, called HM-TA1, with an attractive price tag of just 170 US dollars.

In spite of its low price, it is one of the smallest pocket video recorders available, with a candybar design which is now the standard for this kind of devices, available in several colors and with pretty good technical features, such as a 3 megapixel sensor which, although its resolution may be a bit lower than many competitors, gains in terms of quality thanks to its backlight which allows for a good performance in conditions of low lighting.

The presence of many buttons, in a field that tends to me as minimalistic as possible, makes it not so easy to use, but certainly one of its strong points is the possibility to use HM-TA1 as a webcam, also using its built-in microphone, by simply connecting it to your computer via USB cable.

It will then be possible to use it not only for good quality video recordings, but also to achieve a higher flexibility during your Skype or VOIP calls. In fact, while other webcams are more difficult to move around (when they are not embedded in the laptop monitor), moving around during a video chat will be easier thanks to this model.

All this comes at a low price, with a weight of only 100 grams and very small size.

Organized crime wants your personal data

July 28, 2010 Technology No Commenti

According to a report recently published by Verizon, approximately 85 per cent of thefts of personal data and unauthorized access to restricted information (out of which, 38 per cent is represented by theft of usernames and passwords) can be directly or indirectly linked to organized crime.

Always according to this report, more than 70 per cent of these thefts is perpetrated by outside parties, while 50 per cent of attempts comes from insiders, such as for example collaborators, staff members or business partners, or from an improper use of access credentials, which gave staff the opportunity to take a sneak peek where they should not.

If on one hand, external intrusions exploit weak spots in computer systems, which at times may happen to inadvertently leave a backdoor open, which can be accessed by a hacker, on the other hand inside attacks are a breach of the trust relationship between boss and employees, or between partners.

For this reason, it is absolutely vital to adopt an efficient access control system or procedure, which can unequivocally define who has the right to access to certain data or information, and who doesn’t. For example, still according to Verizon’s report, by adopting simple precautions it is possible to thwart up to 96 per cent of data theft or unauthorized access attempts.

These precautions may range from data protection via encryption and encoding at different levels according to the importance of the data stored, to physical measures to limit access to certain rooms in your workplace and allow only authorized people to get through.

For more information on how to maintain security and privacy of information in your office and workplace, and on several data protection options, we advise that you visit the Endoacustica website.

Robotic tentacles to neutralize bombs and landmines

July 28, 2010 Technology No Commenti

As soldiers deployed in war zones know too well, danger may be waiting around the corner, behind a closed door or in the form of a homemade bomb (the so called IEDs, or Improvised Explosive Devices) which may explode at any time. Neutralizing these bombs is one of the hardest jobs for the troops, and one with the highest risk and casualty rate.

To improve soldiers’ safety in these situations, the US Army Research Laboratory, in cooperation wit Carnegie Mellon University, is developing the Robotic Tentacle Manipulator, an anti bomb robot made up of three coordinated robotic tentacles, mounted on a cylindrical bottom.

The system features a LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) functionality, as well as 3D imaging software, which allow it to scan a suspicious object, and an advanced manipulation system which allows it to open doors or inspect a bomb without setting it off.

Its tentacles can also be used to move the robot, allowing it to negotiate even the narrowest spaces, to walk on rough terrain or even to swim to reach its target.

The anti bomb robot is controlled remotely, thanks to a laptop to which it is connected by Bluetooth or WiFi. Each one of its tentacles is basically an individual robot, and a central control system would communicate with the individual motors placed on each tentacle.

The motors are used to provide movements on each tentacle, while the operator that controls the whole system from his laptop would control the whole movement. According to Army researchers, in the future it will be possible to create such robots in different sizes and with different features according to the job they will need to take care of.

A new generation of flying cars by Terrafugia

July 28, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Terrafugia, one of the most popular names in the world of flying cars has just presented the concept, integrated with computer graphic images and technical specification, of its next vehicle called Transition Roadable Aircraft (TRA).

It is a hybrid vehicle, whose characteristics might be summed up with the description give on the manufacturer’s website: land at the airport, fold your wings up and drive home. Of course, behind this simple concept there is a lot of work by Terrafugia, a work that results in a vehicle with an array of technology that adapts the typical features of a small plane to the needs of a car, for example with a cockpit that includes a rigid shock-absorbing safety cell which can withstand heavy impacts.

Other technological and security features include, along with a touchscreen interface to handle operational commands with ease, a ballistic parachute along with several airbags for driver and passenger’s protection. To turn the car into a plane and vice versa, the process has been simplified, and it is now possible to open or fold its wings by simply pressing a button on the inside of the flying car.

Once the wings are spread, its 100 hp engine allows for easy takeoff. The TRA concept has been recently approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, thus marking an important step towards production of a vehicle which in the future might be a common sight on our roads… and in our skies.

Of course, this is applicable only for those (and there are not too many) who can afford to pay a price which is expected to be around 190 thousand dollars. Price does not seem to be a problem, though, for those 80 folks who already booked their TRA, while cashing out a 10 thousand dollar advance payment.

Robot planes to deliver cargo

July 28, 2010 Technology No Commenti

The latest frontier in the development of pilotless planes or UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles)might be, in a not so far future, be crossed by Fedex.
The express courier giant, in fact, is willing to consider the possibility of employing robotic aircraft in its fleet.

The idea would be using them not only as transport planes to carry shipments from a central hub to a local handling station, but also to study the possibility of using them to carry out the delivery service to the end receiver. At the moment though, the rules governing drones’ flights are extremely restrictive as flight over inhabited areas is concerned, at least for a civilian use, while military rules in war zones are different.

For this reason, the US Army is studying the way to make them intelligent enough that they can recognize an airport’s flight paths, adapting their own trajectory in order to avoid any possible risk for commercial air traffic.

Furthermore, a team of Air Force researchers is at work to develop robots that might quickly handle the process of loading and unloading cargo on board. For now, this kind of operations would be carried out on military material, but in the future it might be adapted for civilian use, for example to load and unload the goods that Fedex would then deliver to its customers thanks to these robots, but without losing touch with the human factor.

In the future, we could see cargo planes, piloted by a human, being followed by a V-formation of unmanned aircraft, just like birds or acrobatic teams do. Does it look like science fiction? Maybe it’s not…

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