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A new exoskeleton version from Raytheon

settembre 28, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Raytheon has just announced that it has completed the final test runs on a new version of its exoskeleton Sarcos XOS , previously supplied to the U.S. military to allow soldiers who wear it to carry heavy loads without trouble or fatigue.

In its previous release, whose development lasted over 10 years, the Sarcos XOS, thanks to a series of servo motors, made it possible for its wearer to double his strength and carry out the work of two men, all without breaking a sweat.

In this latest version, which kept its predecessor’s name and was dubbed XOS 2, the designers focused was not so much on increasing strength, but rather on decreasing energy consumption, using hydraulic power more efficiently to enable a lower consumption of electricity. In this way, Raytheon was able to add other functionalities, without affecting the level of power used to run it.

Currently, these exoskeletons are powered by a good old electricity cable, which limits the movement range to the length of the cable itself. The ultimate goal of what might be called XOS 3, is to create exoskeletons powered by rechargeable batteries, which would allow its wearer not only to double or triple his strength, but also to move more freely and carry his loads around.

For example, a battery-powered exoskeleton could be used in combat zones, to rapidly evacuate wounded soldiers and bring them to safety in order to give them first aid; alternatively, it could be used to quickly bring supplies, heavy equipment, or other weapons to the troops engaged in a battle.

Flying Lift, a perfect view from above

settembre 28, 2010 Technology No Commenti

If you want to get the best out of your video camera, and add a vantage point of view from the top, you do not need to risk your life to climb on top of a mountain, you can just just mount your camera on a radio controlled quadrocopter, which will allow you to shoot breathtakig views while hovering in the air.

The Flying Lift model, weighing just 500 grams, easily foldable and transportable in a backpack, is designed to carry conventional digital cameras, and consists of a micro-helicopter with four rotors, a small receiver unit that can be comfortably tucked into your backpack, and a pair of glasses with a small display.

On this display, with one eye, you can see the what the camera on your Flying Lift is seeing at that time, while the other eye can follow the chopper’s route.

The control unit is equipped with two antennas, and the system can automatically switch between one or the other to achieve the best reception, for receiving images from above and to send operation commands to your camera. It is also equipped with a screen that displays the flight data and the battery level, to avoid losing that great view.

Thanks its four propellers, the Flying Lift is able to fly in a stable manner, providing clear images thanks to the simplicity and precision of the control unit, which controls the micro-helicopter just like a videogame console joystick.

The Flying Lift was presented at the recent Photokina, the largest international trade show of photography and video equipment. It is not yet available on the market, but it should be released later this year, with a not-exactly-cheap) 10,000 euro price tag.

Afghan people filed and identified thanks to a scanner

settembre 27, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Since a few months, the Afghan forces, in cooperation with US and NATO troops, are intensively using an eye scanner to identify and store profiles not only of prisoners but also of armed forces and police staff, to grant (or deny) access to certain areas using biometric identification.

The next step of this project is the creation of a database including a large chunk of the civilian population, and the issuance of more than 1.600.000 biometric identity cards (over a total population of about 29 million) by next May. The idea is to control groups of Talibans in the country, not only by verifying the identity of the person under scrutiny, but also their past, any crime history and, most importantly, the possible connections with enemy combatants.

In this way, the Afghan police intend to prevent any infiltration by the Taliban and their sympathizers, especially from abroad. The plan, which also provides some kind of census of the population, has met its share of obstacles and difficulties.

For example, the fact that in Afghanistan there are two similar biometric identification programs, one run by NATO forces (which already contains data from more than 400 thousand people) and one from the Afghan government, and the two systems used are not compatible and therefore not can communicate with each other, limiting their efficiency and reliability.

Therefore, a person who on the Afghan side is recognized as a friend, may not be stored in the NATO forces database, and even run the risk of being arrested for no reason.
The road to complete reliability of biometric identification is still long, and the communication between two different databases is only the first step.

Protecting anti-bomb robots from bombs: a good idea?

settembre 27, 2010 Technology No Commenti

The increasingly intensive use, in war zones, of expensive technological equipment to protect soldiers from possible threats, such as IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), leads to an interesting paradox. In fact, QinetiQ, manufacturer of a series of anti bomb robots used by the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, is planning to equip their Talon robot series with a jammer to prevent the use of any remote detonation systems.

Worldwide, there are over 2800 of these radio-controlled devices, which are used to collect and disable or detonate bombs, while the military personnel who control it are sitting at a safe distance. Many of these robots have been damaged or irretrievably destroyed by the same bombs that they were trying to neutralize, and Iraqi insurgents know well that launching rockets against the robots means depriving U.S. soldiers of a significant part of their technological advantage.

Therefore, protecting these robots certainly makes sense in terms of safety. However, one of the main reasons why “expendable” robots are used is their relatively low cost (approximately 100 thousand dollars) as well as their easy repair them in case of damage, and the fact that they do not carry any kind of secret technology that may be helpful for enemies.

Instead, providing them with additional technology could result in a switch of the rebels’ interest no longer (or not only) in harming enemy soldiers, but also in the capture of valuable technological equipment.
Even in Afghanistan, American soldiers found themselves more than once in situations where they had to fight to reclaim their drones, exposing themselves to danger just to save the technological equipment that was supposed to keep them away from danger.

According to QinetiQ, however, the use of jammers should protect not only their robots, but also the soldiers who follow them to verify that all bombs were neutralized.

Your mobile phone protects you from thieves

settembre 27, 2010 Technology 1 Commento

In the modern world, losing our electronic appliances might turn out as some sort of tragedy, especially if we have stored on them any sensitive information that could expose us to the risk of identity theft, unauthorized access to our bank accounts and so on.

Now, thanks to a convenient anti-theft system to be connected to our phone, it is possible to protect your valuables.
This alarm system is called Blue Watchdog and it is composed of a small transmitter, similar to a credit card in size, and weighing only 20 grams.

The transmitter can be connected via Bluetooth to your phone, and once connected, it can be left inside a bag which contains, for example, your home keys, your wallet with credit cards or even your laptop.

At this point, keeping your phone in your pocket, and having the Blue Watchdog connected, as soon as the distance between it and your phone exceeds a preset limit (between 1 and 30 meters), it will immediately notify you, either with an alert message on your phone or by sounding a siren at a volume of 100 decibels, loud enough to foil an attempted robbery.

The rechargeable battery provides operation for 5 days without interruption. The only problem would be the possible loss of Bluetooth connection between your phone and Blue Watchdog, which could trigger the alarm at the less suitable moment, or possible distractions, such as leaving the phone in your checked baggage when flying and keeping the sensor on you, which would result in its alarm going off in the middle of an airport.

Even worse, if you are the victim of a theft, while the stolen bag moves away from your sensor, the alarm goes off, and you have to explain to the police that no, YOU are not the thief…

Digital micro recorders, for secret agents and not only

settembre 26, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Until a few years ago, the common man could rightly think that miniature recorders were tools that could only be used by secret agents and spies, who were using them to collect evidence against their enemies or criminals; alternatively, they could be seen in the hands of journalists during an interview.

The increasing development of digital technology, the ever-smaller technological devices of the twenty-first century (from mobile phones to MP3 players,that have taken the place of the old Walkman, or to digital cameras and so on), and their increasingly accessible cost, are factors that have contributed heavily to large-scale deployment of tools that until a few years ago seemed to be only exclusive to an elite audience, or at least to those who had a certain financial reserve.

Nowadays, however, for a few hundred dollars or less, anyone can put their hands a technological device that would make James Bond envious, and gadgets that the main character of Ian Fleming novels boasted in his old movies. For example, the digital micro recorders are no longer to be seen only on the big screen, but they are now a common part of every day life, in many different situations that, until a few years ago, even the fervent imagination of a spy story writer could hardly have imagined.

There are various types, which may for example be hidden in everyday objects. So what at a casual first glance might look just like a normal key ring, a fountain pen, or a USB stick, could actually hide a tiny recording device with a sensitive microphone that can pick up hours and hours of conversations around it and record them in an equally small memory card, through which they can easily be downloaded to a computer via the USB port.

Thanks to its small size and extreme ease of use, modern day miniature recorders have become increasingly popular, and not only among private detectives or secret agents, but also with the general public, and with people who use them in different ways. For example, during an important meeting, if you take notes you may lose some detail along the way, while using a micro digital recorder you can comfortably listen to the content of the speech at a later stage, making sure that you do not miss even the slightest nuance.

Similarly, a student during a lesson could record his teachers and review the lesson at home, or someone who is stuck in the traffic, and must prepare a speech or presentation, can take audio notes on the go, then work on it easily after reaching the office.

Depending on your needs and intended use, there are digital micro recorders for all tastes and budgets, with different characteristics and looks, to be used secretly or visibly, with different capabilities that allow recording from a minimum of 3 hours to a maximum of 1200 hours of conversations, eavesdropping, notes and more.
Everyone can find the miniature recorder which allows them to use it according to their needs, and all this, why not, at a cost compatible with their budget.

For more information on various models of microrecorders available and their characteristics, as well as a series of articles for collection of information in a discreet way, we recommend that you visit the Endoacustica website, where you can contact our experts and receive advice on the best model to suit your needs.

New images of the Titanic wreck via an underwater robot

settembre 26, 2010 Technology No Commenti

A few days ago, a new photographic expedition has been completed on the site of the Titanic’s sinking. The expedition has resulted in a series of high-resolution pictures and three-dimensional image, better than any other available so far from the sunken ship.

To achieve this, the exploration group took advantage of several technological devices of the latest generation, such as a series of digital sonar scanning equipment mounted on an underwater robot, the Remora ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) manufactured by Phoenix International.

The data gathered by this sonar are combined with high-resolution optical images to create a three-dimensional image of the wreck. This image was then combined with the seabed profile, collected from a series of AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicles), that is, underwater drones that are able to move around in the water without human intervention, while collecting data collect data thanks to their detection equipment and acoustic transponders that keep them in touch with one another.

The imaging expedition, temporarily on hold due to hurricane Igor approaching, will resume as soon as possible to continue to collect data and information on the Titanic, in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the sinking, which will occur in 2012.

About the sinking, it is worth mentioning a new theory, according to which what caused the impact with the iceberg was the misinterpretation of a command to turn, to be performed with the rudder rather than the tiller. In fact, to perform the same maneuver using one of two systems, you must turn the wheel to the right, while with the other you must turn to the left.

Usage of a different system would therefore turn the Titanic in the wrong direction, straight against the iceberg that caused the sinking. Most likely the truth about that night will never be known, but in the meantime we can enjoy these new images.

Organic batteries for an unlimited power supply

settembre 26, 2010 Technology No Commenti

For those of us who would like to see the battery of their mobile phone last longer, especially if we are talking about smartphone owners, who know that this type of handset is known for the relatively short duration of a single charge of its battery, a solution might be coming from Texas.

In fact, a group of researchers at the University of Texas at Austin is working on a project to develop a series of organic batteries.
The project is currently only in its early stages, but the idea is to exploit a sort of artificial photosynthesis that could be the basis of an exchange of energy that can be basically unlimited.
According to an article published on the Science journal, researchers from Texas have found a way to artificially create an exchange of electrons at molecular level, which takes place in both directions between two molecules, and that, if exploited properly, could pave the way for historical innovations in the field of batteries, a field that historically has not seen many changes in the past decades.

Once the process is correctly developed and stabilized, the challenge will be to make it happen in a condensed environment, in a real organic battery that could become the power supply of the future, not just for phones, but also for a range of miniature electronic devices which could certainly benefit from it.

For example, even in the field of security and surveillance, the duration of information collection operations carried out by eavesdropping, could be be significantly extended using miniature recorders or bugs that can work for months in a row, without interruption.

This technology, however, could take years before being available on the market, so we will just have to wait and hope for new developments.

A CCTV system that works like the human eye

settembre 26, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Security operators are well aware that, when using closed circuit camera systems to monitor an environment with a high density of population, such as a stadium full of fans, it can be very difficult to identify suspicious movements that might endanger the safety of other viewers, such as the first signs of a fight or even a potential terrorist attack.

In order to improve efficiency in such situations, the German researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute are working on a system to be applied on CCTV cameras. This research project is part of a European program, called SEARISE (Smart Eyes: Attending and Recognizing Instances of Salient Events), aimed at maintaining security in such situations.

Smart Eyes is made up of a fixed camera, two mobile stereo cameras, and most of all, of a software based on visual analysis capabilities of the human brain. The system analyzes the average scope of movement for each pixel in the image taken by the fixed camera, and adds this analysis to a database that is used to establish typical patterns of movement, which also includes the waving of flags in a stadium.

At this point, Smart Eyes is able to notice any unusual movements of the pixels, and the system is notified when something out of the ordinary pattern is happening. Thus, the mobile cameras are immediately used to zoom in on the area of interest, and operators can determine whether or not to intervene.

The superiority of Smart Eyes towards the human eye lies in the fact that this system is able to monitor a wider area than we could possibly do, and of course, that the software is not subject to fatigue, distractions or temporary blinding caused by floodlights or sun.

A radio controlled jeep to lighten the soldiers’ load

settembre 26, 2010 Technology No Commenti

The news that DARPA, in collaboration with Virginia Tech University, is working on a radio-controlled vehicle capable of carrying heavy loads in areas with rough terrain is not new and dates back to a few months ago. The vehicle GUSS (Manned Ground Support Surrogate) is basically a small radio controlled jeep.

This jeep is equipped with a GPS positioning system, video cameras and several sensors that allow it to function both under human supervision via a remote control that resembles a video game console, and in a completely independent way: once you enter the destination and the path, GUSS activates its GPS navigator and its onboard sensors, and detects any obstacles on its path, thus avoiding them, and managing to bring its cargo of artillery or heavy equipment to the planned destination.

Now, however, the project seems to be at a temporary standstill, as GUSS has quite a few defects and drawbacks. For example, just raising a cloud of dust in front of his camera would result in it standing motionless, as GUSS does not seem to be able to tell the could from a wall, and tends to stop as if the road was blocked.

In places like Afghanistan, where not dusty roads are a very rare exception, this can be a serious problem for the efficiency of this vehicle. In any case, the problem occurs only when GUSS is operating in fully autonomous mode, while when controlled remotely by an operator, the human ability to analyze comes to the rescue and solves the problem immediately.

Researchers are still working to make GUSS tackle these occurrences also when working independently, to increase its reliability and efficiency.

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