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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.

Encrypted phones, the solution for your privacy

settembre 26, 2010 Technology No Commenti

In recent years, the profile of telephone communications has changed dramatically. Until 20 years ago, it was possible to be reached only if you were near a landline phone, while during a journey or when away from home, one could not be able to communicate with the outside world, except if he was using a now almost defunct payphone.

When mobile phones came into the picture, the ubiquity of telephone communications has increased exponentially, so that now it has become impossible to live without being reachable anywhere, at any moment of our day.

While the constant accessibility is an advantage for our work and personal relationships, on the other side, “being reachable” can be translated as “being traceable” or even “intercepted”.
The very nature of cellular communication, in fact, implies that the phone constantly sends its location to the network operator, so that the details of our position are always recorded.

Similarly, our communications are potentially at risk of interception, either by the telephone operators or the police, or from unauthorized listeners who, if equipped with the appropriate technology, can listen to our private or business conversations, with devices that allow them to intrude encrypted networks and crack the encryption keys, thus freely listening to any conversations without being noticed.

To protect us from this risk, it is certainly useful to add a further level of security, by using devices such as an encrypted phone. Encrypted mobile phones are ordinary smartphones on which a software is installed that can encrypt conversations, email and text messages sent over the phone, through algorithms which are currently considered the gold standard in terms of security: AES and Twofish.

Thanks to a 256-bit encryption key, the encrypted communications via the telephone are virtually unassailable. To maintain their conversations 100% secure, the user should simply send the encryption key to their partner, who in turn will install it on his mobile phone.

At this point, communication between the two phones is safe. In fact, any attempt at eavesdropping will still be able to intercept the call, but all that they will be able to listen to is an unintelligible noise, which may be turned to regular voice only by those in possession of the relevant encryption key.
Of course, those who buy a phone of this kind may be wondering if the equipment does not contain any secrets or backdoors, and if his phone calls are really safe from intrusions, even by those who sold him the equipment.

To dispel such doubts, GSM Crypto comes with an “open source” code, which any developer or programmer can analyze independently, to be reassured about its complete safety and reliability.
In this way, those purchasing a GSM Crypto can make sure not only that the phone works as required, but that no one else apart from those who are on the phone will be able to listen to their conversations.

By using an encoded cellphone, therefore, your interests and your personal life will be completely safe from any external access that can pose a threat.
For more details and information on how encrypted phones work, you may visit the Endoacustica website, where not only you can contact our experts for an advice tailored to your needs, but also find a series of articles for protection of your privacy and personal safety.

Solar power for soldiers in war zones

settembre 26, 2010 Technology No Commenti

When talking about the cost to wage a war, one thinks of weapons, planes, tanks and ammunition, but we often underestimate the impact on this cost represented by fuel used to move heavy and light vehicles, or to run the power generators that provide electricity to areas where soldiers are quartered.

In addition, the costs incurred to get the fuel to the war zones can be astronomical: it was calculated that every single American soldier in Afghanistan uses an average of 22 gallons of fuel per day, at a cost (including transport), which varies between 300 and 400 dollars per gallon. Try to multiply this by the number of soldiers and the duration of the war, and you have a vague idea of how much money is being spent.

To save on this cost, U.S. forces are conducting an experiment on a battalion that will soon be deployed to Afghanistan with a range of equipment powered entirely by solar energy, allowing fuel savings of up to 50 percent.

The system that provides this energy was christened GREENS (Ground Expeditionary Renewable Energy System) and is equipped with solar panels that collect the energy needed to run generators that provide an output of approximately 300 watts.

Another significant cost is represented by the transport of purified drinking water. So far, all attempts to purify water on site, thus saving on transportation, have failed. The department that deals with the research on solar panels is trying to find a way to use that power to purify the water available locally, thus being able to cut costs further.

Saudi Arabia: A license for bloggers

settembre 26, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Those who read the pages of this blog know our views about laws designed not only to impose limits on investigative activities of law enforcement , but also to freedom of information and expression, as was the case recently in Italy.

Now the news from Saudi Arabia makes it clear that, in many countries, blogs are perceived by governments as a real threat, and if a (theoretically) democratic country such as Italy is to develop measures against Internet-based circulation of information, it is not surprising that much more drastic measures are applied in a country that was the first to try to control, for example, the use of BlackBerry phones, by demanding access to its encrypted files.

In fact, according to a note from the Ministry of Culture of the Saudi kingdom, all the online media, such as online versions of newspapers, news sites, or simple blogs, will need to be registered officially with the government in order to undertake or continue their publishing activity.

According to an official statement of the Ministry spokesman, it is not a restriction on freedom of expression, but rather a useful measure to reduce cases of online libel and slander. Whether true or not, the move certainly is not surprising in a country like Saudi Arabia, where media are under strict government scrutiny, and where a journalist can be jailed if he publishes unauthorized news.

Even in the recent past there have been cases of bloggers being arrested or Twitter pages shut down or blocked, but this is the first attempt by the government to regulate (obviously in a restrictive manner) the entire landscape of online media. Of course, the Arab world of blogs is in turmoil and has certainly not taken the news lightheartedly.

Your glasses can record videos

settembre 22, 2010 Technology No Commenti

As we have seen yesterday, the right kind of glasses can solve several problems, for example by helping visually impaired patients to see better in the dark and lead a better life. Along with helping those with eyesight deficiencies, the right pair of glasses can do much more, for example solving a nasty case of marital infidelity or corporate espionage.

This is possible if you are using a pair of spy glasses, that is, something that at a first glance may look just like your ordinary pair of glasses, with a thick frame which gives them a certain 60’s feel.
On the contrary, the frame is thick because it is used to conceal on the inside, right between the eyes, the microscopic viewer of an equally small video camera.

This camera, as you can easily guess, can be used to record videos and take stills in an invisible way, while the people around you are unaware that their every move and word is being picked up by your glasses and saved on the small memory card placed on the inside.

Once the recording operation is completed, all you have to do is take the memory card out and place it into a reader, or connect your spy glasses directly to a computer thanks to the built-in USB plug. The camera concealed inside these glasses can shoot videos with a 640×480 resolution, or take pictures with a resolution of 1280×960.

This item is recommended not only for those who want to gather images and intelligence in a discreet way (police forces or private detectives), but also to record a confidential office meeting without having your colleagues notice it, or even to shoot “point of view” videos of a bicycle or motorcycle ride.

For more details on how spy glasses are working, you can visit the Endoacustica website and fill out our information request form.

An autonomous robot to carry medicines around in an hospital

settembre 22, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Once again from Japan, we have another robotic novelty, this time coming as a small autonomous robot, which can move on its four wheels and carry material quickly from one side to the other inside a public shared space.

Its codename is MKR-003, and it was designed by the robotics manufacturer Muratec. Its natural environment is inside a hospital, where it can be used to carry swiftly and comfortably, thanks to its “tray”, not only medicines from one department to the other, but also meals to be served to patients, thus making workload lighter for hospital personnel.

The technological endowment that this autonomous robot sports includes, among other things, an array of sensors to calibrate its movements to the right point, two cameras inside its eyes, a small LCD screen to display messages (for example to inform nurses about who is going to be administered a certain medicine or so), a voice recognition software, as well as the ability to “talk” with simple sentences.

With its multidirectional four wheels, it can move quickly and autonomously in any direction. In fact, thanks to its artificial intelligence, it is also able to learn the road towards a certain destination after walking it once, and it can dodge obstacles and objects along its way, thanks to its sensor that allow it to create a real-time map of its position, as well as of other objects and people around it.

MKR-003 was created by order of NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization), a Japanese governmental organization which promotes development of technology for scientific use.

Your telephone company is remotely monitoring you

settembre 22, 2010 Technology No Commenti

According to information coming from Japan, NTT (Nippon Telegraph and Telephone), that is, the largest telephone and telecommunications company of the Land of the Rising Sun, is at work on an electronic bracelet, similar to those used to keep an eye on detainees released on parole.

The difference lies in the fact that this bracelet, along with detecting its wearer’s geographical location, can also detects their movements thanks to a miniature camera, a microphone and an array of accelerometers which can measure speed and direction of the motions they detect.

Thanks to this technological setup, the bracelet designed by NTT is able to measure its wearer’s hands’ movements, to view the objects that they pick up or use, and to record sounds from the surrounding area, sending all the gathered data to a remote server which, by matching the information with pre-loaded data, is able to determine the actions and chores carried out during the day, like ironing, cooking, typing and so on.

For example, this kind of bracelet on the waist of elderly people would allow distant family members to keep them under control and make sure that they do not do anything wrong and potentially dangerous. Currently, the bracelet is still in its early development stages, and is only able, right now, to identify approximately fifteen actions.

In its final version, it should be able to recognize hundreds of actions, and should have a smaller size and a wireless connection to transmit the data it gathers. The only doubt that we get is whether it is really developed only for a humane usage such as assisting older people, or there is something else behind it.


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