Your girlfriend might be cheating? Try a spy phone

aprile 10, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Nokia

As you might know, your humble blogger is living behind the former Iron Curtain. And you may also happen to know that women from these countries are famous for their beauty, and that due to the financial crisis, the emigration wave is turning into a flood towards the West.

So, it came as no big surprise when I heard that a friend of mine’s girlfriend was moving to Germany. What surprised me a bit was that he asked me to provide him with a spy phone, that he in turn would give her as a present, in order to keep a watchful eye over her.

The spy cellphone, at a first glance, is just your ordinary cellphone, with a small difference. The difference lies in a small piece of software installed in a completely invisible way, which allows a third party listener to know everything that happens to the phone’s user, no matter how far away they are.

In fact, while the owner of the phone uses it normally, making and receiving calls and having text conversations, what he or she does not know is that all messages can be automatically sent in copy towards a pre-programmed number, and that every time that a phone call takes place, an SMS notification is sent to the same number, from where it will be possible to call and listen in real time to the conversation, without being noticed.

It is also possible to listen to the conversations taking place around the phone while it is turned off, using it as a listening bug; and all these functions can be carried out without giving out any sign of activity or history records.

Thanks to all these functions, my friend unfortunately found out that his girlfriend’s job was actually… the world’s oldest job!

Maiden flight for the largest solar panel plane

aprile 10, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Impulse

After a series of tests carried out in the last months of year 2009, the skies over Switzerland have been witnessing, a few days ago, the first flight of the largest solar plane to ever take the air.

Christened Solar Impulse, this aircraft, which is entirely powered by solar panels, has reached a maximum altitude of 1200 meters, during the course of a flight time of approximately 90 minutes. Its wingspan of 63 meters makes it as wide as a medium-sized commercial airliner, while its extremely light weight (its total mass if approximately as much as a medium car) allows it to take off at speeds as low as 60 kilometers per hour.

For now, these are just the first cautious steps in the air, although to be precise, the Solar Impulse had already been flying, albeit for just a few hundred meters and at a whopping 1-metre altitude. The next step will be testing of night flight capabilities, while the final aim of the project is to make the plane ready for a round-the-globe non-stop flight, which in the team’s best intentions should take place by the end of year 2012.

The road ahead is still extremely long, including construction of a second plane to speed up the testing phase and get ready for the round-the world flight. In the intentions of Bertrand Piccard, inventor of Solar Impulse, the project may play a pivotal role in the future development of transport aircraft powered by renewable energies.

Maybe one day our grandchildren’s grandchildren may really travel on long-haul planes powered by sunlight, not polluting and silent. If that day ever comes, the world will definitely be a better place to live.

A robot to see underwater with its sixth sense

aprile 10, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Snookie

The constant progress of robotic technologies is bringing about modern systems which, even in a small size, are equipped with real artificial intelligence features, and that are capable of carrying out their tasks in a completely independent way, reacting according on conditions and changes of the environment around them. In extreme conditions, a good idea comes from the usage of sensors which can constitute some sort of “sixth sense”, capable to generate the correct reaction to inputs from the outside.

Such an array of sensors, which takes inspiration from the so called lateral line, a sensorial organ used by some amphibians to get oriented in murky waters, has been mounted on an underwater robot created by researchers from the Technische Universitaet in Munich, Germany.

Lateral lines are present only on amphibians, who use them to detect movements or changes in the surrounding waters, giving them the possibility to react to these changes or to a potential threat. By equipping these underwater robots with a systems which does the same job, it will be possible to make them fully autonomous in deep waters not reached by light, or during monitoring operations inside sewer pipes or so.

The first prototype, called Snookie, is therefore equipped with an artificial organ which, thanks to several thermal micro sensors placed on the robot’s body, is capable of measuring changes in motion, flow and pressure of the surrounding waters, with extreme precision and an extremely low energy consumption, thus allowing Snookie to detect any obstacles and possible threats at a distance of approximately 20-25 centimeters around it.

Its length of about 80 cm, with a diameter of 30, makes it small enough to be used not only in open waters, but also and especially inside pipes, such as those of an aqueduct, to inspect them in search of any potential damage and repair it before it can cause trouble.

Yamaha to launch its first series of internal earpieces

aprile 10, 2010 Technology No Commenti

EPH

The Japanese giant Yamaha has just announced the commercial launch of its first micro earpieces, to be placed inside the ear, designed for the music players market, but with an eye that looks to the professional market as well.

For Yamaha, it is the first approach towards this kind of market, and the step is taken with three different models of micro earpieces: the basic model EPH-20 has a diameter of approximately 1.1 centimeters, while other models EPH-30 and EPH-50 have a diameter of respectively 9 and 13 millimeters.

Their retail price can range from 20 dollars for EPH-20, up to 100 dollars that you would need to bring home a EPH-50 model, ideal also for a professional use, thanks to its sturdiness and to its 0.25” jack adaptor, which would allow you to use it also on your home stereo set.

Of course, these models cater to a clientele which is mostly using the earphones for leisure or for listening to music on the go. In spite of the good quality, these earpieces could not possible be used in our specific field, as audio surveillance operations or intelligence gathering require that the person carrying them out use a wireless invisible earpiece.

This kind of earphones is placed inside the ear canal, and while being completely invisible to the outside, they are capable of transmitting and receiving sounds at an unlimited distance, thanks to a Bluetooth connection with a GSM Watch kit, that is, a normal watch which on the inside conceals a SIM card just like the one of your mobile phone, which allows for a completely invisible phone connection with a distant listener, who will be able to give real-time instructions, listening to what is happening around the watch and earpiece wearer, without others being aware.

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