Optical fibers to see through a wall

gennaio 17, 2010 Technology No Commenti


Being able to see without being seen is one of mankind’s great dreams, and the principle on which our work in the information gathering and surveillance field is based; this work is of course supported by technology, and when it comes to seeing without being noticed, even a thick wall is no obstacle if the right devices are on our side.

For example, optical fibers are greatly useful in this respect, because they have great capabilities within a space that can be as thin and long as a hair, but much more resistant; thanks to these capabilities, devices such as, for example, a fiberscope, can be used as if they were hidden cameras, by simply digging a hole and squeezing its tiny cable (just 5mm wide) inside it.

At one end of the cable, the fiberscope has a miniature viewer, which allows its user to examine an environment without being noticed, as well as using the fiberscope to inspect hidden corners such as home pipes or the engine of a car.

Other optical fibre devices which can find applications in the surveillance field are, for examples, fiberscopes which allow you to see through a ceiling thanks to their cable which is just 2.5 mm thin, or small monoculars which, if placed on the peephole of a door, can show you what is going on behind the door and inside the apartment.

This kind of device is very useful in intelligence gathering and surveillance, for example when law enforcement agents are chasing a suspect who takes a room in a hotel. In this case, they will just have to take a room next to his, plug a hole in the wall (of course while he is away!) and place the fiberscope inside it, if possible connecting it to a micro digital video recorder in order to store any footage captured and use it as evidence. Simple, huh?

Hope against Alzheimer disease can come from the eyes

gennaio 17, 2010 Technology No Commenti


Alzheimer’s disease, the terrible and subtle illness which slowly kills brain cells, is currently incurable. The population affected by this disease worldwide amounts to approximately 30 million people, but will reach a 100 million peak within the next 40 years.

In the last few days, some therapies and options have been made public, which might help cure the disease, slow down its process and, hopefully, prevent its development.
For example, a simple and cheap eye test might help diagnose the illness in its early stages, while a cocktail of common use medicines might improve our memory and its response in fighting the subtle Alzheimer, which hurts patients not only in their bodies but also in their pride, hampering their personal relations with their peers.

The research carried out by London University College has shown how a common eye checkup may help measuring in real time the speed at which brain cells are degrading, by simply measuring the same speed on retinal cells.
In fact, the retina is a direct extension of the brain, and the health of our retinal cells is proportional to that of brain cells; therefore with a simple visit to out optician, we will be able to obtain answers to a broad range of question on our conditions, and will also be able to provide an accurate diagnosis in due time to cure neurodegenerative diseases.

Death of nerve cells is a key factor in studying this kind of diseases, and so far it was not possible to measure its velocity in real time. Thanks to this technique, doctors will be able to follow and observe it at any given time, without complicated and expensive tests, and by diagnosing the disease in its early stages, it will be possible to try and reverse it, and measure the effect of therapies in real time.

Use augmented reality to repair your car

gennaio 17, 2010 Technology No Commenti


Modern cars have become less and less easy to repair, even for the savviest driver, because of the high technological contents and the huge amount of computerized systems installed, which make our mechanic’s job look more and more like a software programmer’s.

Fortunately, it is the very technology that makes our cars increasingly complicated (but much safer) that lends us a hand when it comes to fixing them, thanks to the usage of augmented reality.
In fact, researchers from Columbia University have created a system called ARMAR (Augmented Reality for Maintenance and Repair).

The system consists of a helmet similar to those used in virtual reality based videogames, which would display virtual images on top of the real ones, according to the augmented reality principle. The graphics are controlled through a mobile phone equipped with Android operating system.

In short, the system is guiding its user towards the damaged area, and by displaying 3D animations, it guides him step by step towards solving the problem. It has recently been successfully tested by the US Marine Corps on an armored turret, and repair time was cut by 50% compared to a normal manual job.

In the future, should this device enter the commercial vehicles market, it might be a real breakthrough, and allow almost all car drivers and users to take a shot at repairing their own car.

In the latest years, augmented reality is being used in an increasing number of applications: generally it is used to add details to satellite maps, or for leisurely purposes. ARMAR is one of the first systems to use augmented reality to carry out a specific and specialized task, and might me a spearhead towards introducing this technology in production and maintenance of complex systems.

The advantage lies in the fact that, along with solving the problem, ARMAR also teaches him how to do it, so one day, augmented reality might even chance educational programs in our schools…

A micro camera hidden inside a cap

gennaio 17, 2010 Technology No Commenti


Miniaturization of video technologies allows us to have micro video recorders with an embedded camera, so small that they can be concealed inside objects that we use every day, such as watches, pens, or even car key holders.

In this case, what at a first glance might be mistaken for a key holder is actually the remote control of our micro camera, as the recorder is concealed inside a baseball cap, and what looks like normal holes on top of the shade are actually concealing a tiny video camera and an equally small microphone.

It is a device for amateur use, powered by a rechargeable battery and capable of recording footage with a 640×480 resolution at 27 frames per second, storing it on a built-in 4 Gb memory card. By pressing any button on the remote control, the cap will slightly vibrate in response.

The characteristics of this micro recorder make it more suitable for a young audience, as it can be used in leisurely occasions, for example to shoot movies during a ride on a bicycle or a motorcycle, from the rider’s point of view, or to tape a university lesson instead of taking notes, to be able to review it later at home.

The fact that it is targeted to non-professional users is also reflected on price, as it would set you back a mere 55 dollars, a price range non comparable to digital micro recorders designed for professional use, aimed at surveillance and gathering of evidence to be used before a court of law.


gennaio: 2010
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