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A new rifle scope makes snipers even deadlier

The US weapon giant Lockheed Martin has just won a tender for a contract approximately 4 million dollar worth, with the US Department of Defense agency DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency), to develop a highly technological laser beam rifle scope for high precision rifles.

The laser rifle scope, called Dingo (Dynamic Image Gunsight Optic) contains a small ballistics computer, teamed up with a laser pointer and an array of sensors which are used to measure the effect of wind and other environmental factors and obstacles on the shot trajectory.

Dingo calculates the trajectory using the information it receives from the sensors and the pointer, thus giving soldiers a tool to hit targets at long distance, with a great level of resolution and, most of all, without having to change the scope each time that they have to shoot at different ranges.

In fact, the current pointing devices are optimized only for a certain range of distances, therefore when you are on a mission and have to shoot targets located at different distances, you would have to change the scope at every shot or every distance change, increasing the risk. Dingo solves this problem by eliminating this risk, improving operation speed and minimizing the time between one shot and the next, with obvious consequences on performance and mission effectiveness.

In fact, the first run of tests, carried out in December 2009, has shown that the snipers were able to double their shooting speed, and also to double the odds of hitting long distance targets (at over 1000 meters) with the first attempt.
In the first application phase, Dingo will be mounted on M-4 and M-16 rifles, and once the tests are completed and it starts it work, it may soon become the standard of reference for high precision shooting systems.

A video camera which follows our eyes

Everyone would, at a certain point, like to have a camera in their eyes, to record what they see, maybe to do it while their hands are busy (for example on a computer keyboard), or for surgeons and scientists who would need, for educational reasons, to record what they see and what their hands are doing during a surgery or a scientific research.

Nowadays all this, and more, is possible thanks to Eye See Cam, an eye camera which is controlled by movements of the human eye and is capable of recording what its user’s eyes are really looking at.

In fact, Eye See Cam is made up of 4 small cameras: one for each eye, mounted on the side ant pointed towards a lens placed at an angle of approximately 30 degrees, which reflects the movement of the eye. The third one is in the middle and works as a “third eye” while the fourth is above the other three and works as a pointer.

The eye camera is based on the principle of video oculography (VOG), used to measure eye movements in patients suffering from vertigo or from ocular bulb motion problems. Thanks to its four different points of view, Eye See Cam can analyze movements and torsion of the eye in 3D, in real time with a response time of just 4 milliseconds.

The videos recorded, with a resolution up to 752 x 480 pixel, can be stored on a PC, and the camera can be wirelessly controlled from a distance, for example via an iPod or iPhone.

To have an idea of how it works in a small demonstration, you can watch the video at the beginning of this post.

A fatigue detector for mining workers

maggio 25, 2010 Technology No Commenti

What at first sight looks just like your ordinary baseball cap, might actually save lives among those who, for their work, are engaged in conditions of extreme stress and heavy fatigue, that is, inside the tunnels of a mine.

Developed in Australia, where incidents among miners and truck drivers are unfortunately quite common even in our technological era, SmartCap is designed for truck drivers who carry material to and from the mines, and on the inside it houses an array of stress detectors, that is, small sensors which, without using a gel but rather by means of contact with the human hair, are capable of assessing the level of fatigue and strain suffered by the brain.

The brain waves picked up by the sensors are read and transmitted through a Bluetooth connection, and the relevant data is displayed on a screen inside the truck and on a computer at the main base, in order to enable the driver or his boss to take the appropriate security measures before having unpleasant consequences.

Thanks to its convenient location inside the cap, this technology is absolutely not intrusive, avoiding problems at an emotional level for the drivers who might feel a bit like a guinea pig or under surveillance.

On the contrary, during the test phase (after the project started in 2008), this system has received a very favorable feedback from the drivers it has been tested on, with a long line of volunteers who happily gave their consent to try a new tool which could dramatically improve their working condition. Therefore, such a similarly enthusiastic response is also expected by the time it will be launched on the market, at least in Australia.

Defense from chemical attacks comes from your mobile phone

maggio 25, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Modern mobile phones are always smaller, and packed with features and functions which make them very different from the first generation of mobile phones, heavy and used only to call or send messages. Modern smartphones are intelligent devices that allow us to take our office with us, along with all features we need for our work even when we are not in the office.

For those who are not working in an office or as managers, but as military personnel, and are engaged in first line combat in hostile areas, the functionalities of a “normal” cellphone may not be so necessary, while they could be very interested in the result of a research project carried out by the US National Security Agency, in cooperation with San Diego-based Rhevision Inc.

This research project is working on a sensor that would detect toxic gas, made up of a silicon flake which changes its color when it detects certain chemical agents. Inside the chip which houses the flake, there is a microcamera, smaller than the tip of a pencil, which capture the image of the color and displays it on the phone screen.

In order to analyze color shades, which can determine the kind of chemical agent encountered, the project is using a super macro lens, developed by Rhevision, of liquid consistency which allows it to rapidly change its shape and its focus.
By teaming up several flakes capable of detecting different chemicals, it is possible to recreate some kind of “nose”, to be placed on a mobile phone for instant detection of chemicals or toxic gases.

This sensor might turn out very useful not only for military personnel caught by a chemical attack, but also, once the sensor is developed properly, for firefighters who may be able to detect the presence of the deadly and odorless carbon monoxide during a fire, and don a gas mask before it’s too late.

A GPS based rescue system to save a life in danger

maggio 25, 2010 Technology No Commenti

As explained in our previous post, the GPS network now gives the opportunity to take advantage of an extreme precision in locating places, people or objects.
One of the most useful applications of the GPS network is called DASS, which stands for Distress Alerting Satellite System, that is, a system, managed by NASA, which quickly identifies the position of people in danger, thus reducing risk for rescuers and dramatically increasing the odds of a successful rescue operation.

This satellite rescue system, since its inception approximately 30 years ago, has saved over 27000 lives. In its latest version, it will be possible to identify much faster the exact origin of an alert signal sent by a plane, a ship, a car or a truck connected to the satellite network, thus immediately sending a signal with the position to rescuers such as firefighters, first aid or police forces.

In fact, by using the higher precision provided by the GPS network, DASS will be able to determine the signal’s origin with an accuracy of up to 1cm, thus saving time which, in these occasions, might literally save lives.

Furthermore, the DASS is currently using a network of satellite orbiting at lower heights than the GPS, and are therefore able to cover a smaller portion of Earth, and the alert signal might be picked up with a potentially deadly delay. With the constant coverage provided by GPS, the alert is sent out in real time and with absolute precision, an improvement which is being evaluated also in other countries, for example in the European Union, where the same system should soon be introduced also on the Galileo satellite network, and in Russia and China, for a life-saving worldwide cooperation beyond ideological or political barriers.

The new GPS satellite network, precision up to 1cm

maggio 24, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Not everyone may be aware of it, but nowadays, the Global Positioning System network (or GPS, as the acronym goes) is one of the pillars that keep the world as it is, some sort of nervous system of our planet and of technology as a part of our everyday life.

The data transmitted over this network is used not only to find our way in a city we have never visited before, to define routes covered by ships or planes or to carry out military operations marking a sensitive target, which will later be brought down by high precision satellite-guided rockets, but also, for example, to regulate bank transactions and the New York Stock Exchange market.

In fact, the time at Wall Street (as well as in many ATM networks) is marked by an atomic clock, in order to ensure absolute precision in moving huge sums of money. And this atomic clock is managed, you guess it, by the GPS network, which guarantees the required precision, up to one millionth of a second.

From now on, this extremely precise system will become even more precise, providing for a total and absolute coverage of each centimeter of our planet. In fact, the United States, who own the GPS network, have just launched the first of 24 satellites which, one by one, will replace those which are already in geostationary orbit and that allow us to find our way home with a precision level up to a few meters.

This upgrading phase of the satellite network will give new generation navigation systems an accuracy up to only one centimeter, as already said. Basically, any object on the face of our planet will potentially be recognizable by the new GPS system.

Nowadays, by using the right GPS location system, it is already possible not only to obtain driving directions and road information, but also to track down Alzheimer patients who may lose the sense of orientation and inadvertently get lost, keep track of the location of your staff to make sure that they carry out their duties or that they follow a certain route, or to locate cattle which may get lost or end up in trouble.

GPS systems are also used in the military field and for satellite monitoring operations, in order to keep under control convicted criminals released on parole or under a strict surveillance. Thanks to the new version, their whereabouts can literally be tracked down to the inch, allowing detectives and law enforcement agencies to achieve perfect results during their surveillance ops.

Of course, the possibility that a satellite can track down our every movement with such a precision might alert not only those who have something to hide, but also the common man, who might see his privacy given away to an almost almighty “Big Brother” (no, it’s not the TV show we are talking about!) which can influence his life thanks to GPS data.

For example, on a theoretical basis, a service provider might track down movements and locations from your GPS-equipped mobile phone, analyzing the time you spend inside a shop when you visit it, in order to identify your taste and send you tailored advertising messages on your phone.

This is just an idea, but Big Brother is already here, all we can do is defend ourselves by using it to our convenience whenever possible, and our lives may only benefit from this!

A portable biometric scanner takes security everywhere

maggio 23, 2010 Technology No Commenti

It is nicknamed, with a little bit of boasting, the most powerful biometric identification device ever seen. In fact, HIIDE (which stands for Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment) has well deserved to be defined like this, thanks to the approximately 65 thousand units currently in use around the world, especially in areas like Iraq and Afghanistan, and thanks to a 10 million dollar order that the US Department of Defense has recently placed with Whipsaw, the factory which produces it.

What is it exactly? HIIDE is a portable biometric scanner, which looks not much different from a standard photo camera, which thanks to three different parameter (analysis of iris, of fingerprint and of facial features) is capable of establishing and verifying a person’s identity.
It can work either connected to a PC or stand alone, making it a perfect tool for identification in open areas.

HIIDE can store up to 22000 different complete profiles, with two iris scans, a face picture, ten fingerprints and a full set of personal data of the identified person.
Just take a scan of the eyes, a face picture, ask the person being identified to pass their fingers on the fingerprint sensor, and the job is done.

At this point, the data gathered is matched against the database on the device, which can store up to 256 MB of names. If the name and details are not found, it is possible, through a wireless connection, to match it against an array of worldwide databases covering the entire planet.

Once the person standing before you is identified and recognized, they will gain access to the protected area or facility. Otherwise their data might be stored after the standard identification procedures, and added to the worldwide database.

New infrared micro lens for enhanced night vision

maggio 23, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Great news for those who are engaged with night surveillance and monitoring of sensitive targets… but the news are bad for those who hope that darkness might help them hide their activities, especially if they are illegal, from prying eyes.

In fact, a research team from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York State, is at work on a micro lens which might help in the creation of high power satellite cameras and night vision devices.

In order to augment the sensitivity to infrared light, researchers have been using a set of nanotubes coated with gold; thanks to the nanotubes’ capability of focusing the light which is picked up by the infrared detector, the normal sensitivity is doubled; by applying further modifications and improvement to the system, made up of myriads of gold-plated tiny holes, the researchers’ goal is to multiply the lenses’ sensitivity up to 20 times when compared to systems currently in use.

By applying this technology to satellite imaging systems, there would be benefits not only in satellite monitoring of military targets or sensitive areas, but also In scientific research, for example to keep under control the health level of our forests and, on a larger scale, to monitor climate changes.

In the video surveillance field, the benefits in terms of performance are immediate, as surveillance operations would find a new tool capable of dramatically improving the current night vision systems’ performance, providing absolute reliability to an evidence or intelligence gathering operation in low lighting conditions.

Furthermore, this technology might be put to good use in the military field, giving soldiers on a night mission on hostile areas or rough terrain one more device to easily detect hidden enemies.

A mobile phone controlled camera to keep your pets under control

maggio 22, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Many of us, and in particular those who have a dog or a cat at home, may be worried that, during their absence on a working day, their little friend might end up in trouble or cause some small (or big!) accident in the house, because of the curious and playful nature that makes us love our four-legged friends so much.

To meet this kind of needs, the latest novelty comes, needless to say, from Japan, a country where the love for pets goes together with that for technological innovation. In fact, the Japanese factory SoftBank has just launched on the market its Mimamori, a remote monitoring system which allows its users to see in real time what is going on at home, and to do it comfortably on their cellphone (of course, for those who have a video call-enabled handset and provider).

The camera is mounted inside a small dome, which vaguely resembles the R2D2 robot character from the Star Wars movies; the viewer can move within a range of just 35 degrees to the left or right, tilt 40 degrees upwards and 5 degrees down. By placing Mimamori in a corner, you should easily be able to cover an entire room with ease.

By sending a simple SMS from your cellphone, Mimamori will immediately take a snapshot, and send it right away back as a reply to your message. Also, its motion sensor allows it to automatically take pictures whenever it detects something, like for example a dog or a cat, within its operating range; the embedded Micro SD memory card allows for saving of the image stills, which can then be downloaded on your PC..

The price of this small Japan-made video camera has not been disclosed yet, therefore we will have to wait until September, when it is scheduled for launch on the Japanese market.

Boeing to launch its unmanned invisible Phantom Ray aircraft

maggio 22, 2010 Technology No Commenti

After a development phase which lasted a mere two years (a really short time in this particular field), Boeing has just introduced its Phantom Ray, a new unmanned aircraft or UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) which brings together a variety of elements which make it one of a kind.

In fact, thanks to its video and imaging systems, and integrated satellite positioning, it can be used to gather information and intelligence from the sky, as well as for surveillance and enemy target reconnaissance operations. Furthermore, Phantom Ray can be equipped with conventional weaponry to attack targets on the ground, and can transmit radio waves in order to scramble enemy defense systems.

All of the above is combined with a Stealth type design, which makes it invisible for enemy radars, allowing it to fly undisturbed even at very long range, thanks to the possibility of using in-flight refueling.

Phantom ray has a wingspan of approximately 15 meters, and a length around 11, and has been developed by Boeing Phantom Works, a division of the Seattle giant dedicated to development of invisible aerial vehicles, and is based on a system which was created around 10 years ago for the J-UCAS (Joint Unmanned Combat Air System) in cooperation between the US navy and the US Air Force.

After the first test runs, which are supposed to take place during this summer, the Phantom Ray plane should start taking off before the end of the year, with the aim of becoming one of the standards in this particular field of military avionics, further increasing the automation of combat systems, thus increasing security (and diminishing risk) for ground personnel.


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