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Augmented reality can make our driving safer

gennaio 18, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Just a couple of days ago we mentioned how usage of augmented reality can help you to repair your car or to carry out highly skilled tasks. Today we would like to demonstrate how this technology can make our roads safer, allowing car drivers to see vehicles or obstacles coming from behind a curve or a building.

This system, which is being developed by a group of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, merges two video feeds shot by two different surveillance cameras into one feed, giving the illusion of being able to see through a wall thanks to its processor, which matches common points from the two cameras. By identifying these spots, the software changes the video perspective to make it compatible with the driver’s view.

The resulting feed would then be displayed on the car’s windscreen, giving the realistic impression of seeing through a wall. Images to create this impression would be picked up by a video processor which can capture feeds from security cameras that you can literally find on every street corner in our cities.

In the future, should its usage become common, it might even capture images from other cars driving nearby and using the same system, but of course, at the current stage, this is just a speculation, as development and planning of such a software carries along a wide range of obstacles to overcome before we can really see it mounted on our cars.

For now, we can only see this new augmented reality application, which has been presented at the ISMAR fair in Florida, in the demo that you can see in the video above. And who knows, maybe one day we will really be able to use it!

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.

Protection from eavesdropping

gennaio 16, 2010 Technology No Commenti


When the information which is being circulated on our workplace is confidential, and when getting to know it might mean an advantage position and a substantial financial gain, one must make sure that all necessary measures are taken to make sure that our words are not being listened to by prying ears, who might have planted some hidden microphones and bugged our office.

For this reason, it might certainly be useful to address yourselves to a bug sweeping expert who, by using the appropriate systems for detection of covert listening devices, can reveal a threat that could otherwise be invisible.

In order to identify a hidden transmitter, these detection systems flood the area with radio waves, and can thus detect radio transmission sources hidden in the less accessible corners of our working room, for example in the back of a drawer, behind a pot of flowers, or even inside objects of everyday use, such as for example table calculators, key rings and fountain pens.

The most advanced bug sweeping systems can detect not only bugs or microphones, but also hidden video cameras or sources of Bluetooth or WiFi transmission. When you are searching for hidden transmitters, the main problem comes when trying to detect bugs which are either turned off or disabled, and may not be located after a first search.

Fortunately, there are some particular types of bug sweepers which can detect transmitters which are either turned off or even buried into a wall, allowing for a thorough cleanup of your premises, where you will soon be able to talk freely.

To obtain more information on systems for bug sweeping and find the most suitable option for your needs, we advise you to contact Endoacustica and its experienced staff, who will certainly be able to assist.

Internet-based home surveillance, wherever you are

gennaio 16, 2010 Technology No Commenti


To keep a watchful eye on your loved ones, your home or even the situation in your office while you are away, there is a system for remote surveillance called LiveLine which, thanks to the installation of a video camera in the place to be monitored, allows its users to display images in real time over the Internet.

This convenient anti theft service has a monthly fee of only 10 dollars, on top of which you should add the cost for purchasing dedicated cameras (between 130 and 200 dollars.
During its launch phase, the cameras were supplied for free, while now this offer is no longer available, although the price of the cameras is within the reasonable range for surveillance cameras designed for home or office use.

Once the camera is installed, all you have to do is connect it to your home computer, and you will be able to activate it and display its images in real time, wherever you are, just by logging into your online account. Furthermore, images captured by the LiveLine system are stored on the provider server, and can thus be used at any time as evidence, in case someone should break into your home, or if you should prove a marital infidelity or a case of corporate espionage taking place in your office.

This system is convenient not only to protect your home during your holidays, but also for those who leave their home often due to business trips, or those who live alone and work night shifts, leaving their home unattended during dark hours.
The LiveLine camera is also equipped with a motion detection sensor, which starts recording immediately and sends a notification either via email or via SMS, allowing you to acct immediately in case of danger.

A Playstation for urban surveillance

gennaio 16, 2010 Technology No Commenti


Last month, the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper published a report according to which the U.S. Air Force has purchased something like 2200 PlayStation 3, to be connected together in form of a cluster to carry out some not further specified urban surveillance tasks.

It is not the first time that the popular videogame console is used, especially by researchers and universities, for tasks very different from what it was originally designed for.

In this case, the USAF research laboratories, based in Rome, New York State, are using the PS3 capabilities in terms of graphics and high speed calculation, along with the possibility of having Linux installed on it, in order to turn it into a real computer.
By doing this, the powerful PS3 Cell processor can achieve results better than a normal server in handling complicated calculations.

Furthermore, Playstation 3 gives the best of its potential if more than one console is connected together in a network or cluster, in order to exploit their calculation might, reaching speed peaks 3 or 4 times faster than a normal server.

And all this comes at a price definitely more attractive than the normal desktop computers, considering that a server would set you back something like 3500 US dollars, while a Playstation can be taken home with less than 600, and it also has a 35% faster calculation time.

At the current stage, details of the urban surveillance operations in which the US armed forces are planning to be using all this power, but as we all know, the common man is always the last one to be informed (if ever) about this…

3G encryption is in danger of being cracked

gennaio 16, 2010 Technology No Commenti

3G Encryption

Times are harsh for security and privacy of our mobile phone calls: just a few weeks ago we learned that a young German hacker has cracked the A5/1 encryption used by GSM operators, which now might be made public, with a severe risk for privacy of our conversations.

Today we learned that the encryption system which manages conversations according to the 3G standard, called Kasumi, can easily be attacked and cracked with a procedure that only requires a few hours from an ordinary PC, and that there have already been successful attempts to breach its security.

The 3G encoding technique, called Misty is quite complex, as it uses an array of multiple keys, but its complexity makes it quite heavy on processors. Therefore, the Kasumi system was applied on it, in order to make the encryption process faster and easier.

Unfortunately though, this latter step seems to have created problems in terms of security, and now third generation mobile phone users are starting to wonder whether their conversations are really secure and private.

To be really safe from eavesdropping and prying ears, it is highly advisable to equip yourselves with a second tier of encoding and encryption, by using an interception-proof encrypted mobile phone.

In fact, encrypted phones are equipped with one more 256-bit encryption key, much safer than the 128-bit one used by GSM networks; by using two phones that share the same encoding key, any unwanted access would be thwarted, as the unauthorized listener would only be able to hear a white noise.

So, even though the modern cellular networks are showing signs of weakness as far as security is concerned, there is still a way to keep our calls private!

Micro earpieces: stay in touch at any time

gennaio 16, 2010 Technology No Commenti


In the field of surveillance and not only, using a micro earpiece can often make the difference between success and failure.

A miniature earpiece, thanks to its extremely small size, can easily be placed inside the ear canal of its user, and remain unnoticed even after a thorough body check or inspection. In spite of its tiny size, it is equipped with high level technology, which includes a miniature battery, an antenna and a small loudspeaker, in order to make sure that its user can receive information and instructions sent from a remote operator.

In a few words, we are talking about a micro sized FM receiver, which can be connected via Bluetooth to other devices such as for example a GSM watch, in order to create a complete system for discreet transmission and receiving, even at unlimited distance, since the GSM watch is equipped with a SIM card concealed inside, just like your every day mobile phone, and thanks to this card it can transmit the intelligence gathered, in real time and with a simple phone call.

Micro earpieces, furthermore, can be used to stay in constant communication with groups of people carrying out operations on a large area, such as workers on a construction site, rescue squads in large scale operations, and even with police agents during their struggle against crime, to avoid raising unnecessary attention while staying in touch.

Generally, a micro earpiece is equipped with a Zinc-Air type battery, with a very low energy consumption allowing for a power time ranging between 15 and 30 hours of operation. Furthermore, the earpiece can automatically switch to standby mode when it does not receive any communication for a certain amount of time, thus further reducing energy consumption while making it more difficult to detect for counter surveillance equipment.

For more information on earpieces available on the market, you can visit the Endoacustica website.


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