Google Goggles – Google’s AR app for Android phones

Posted by on December 8th, 2009

Tech Crunch has all the gory details, but this video gives you the gist – the heavyweight that Google now is just entered the Augmented Reality world, with an Android only (for now) application, Google Goggles:

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Meanwhile, iPhone owners don’t despair. You get to play with the other part of the complete-AR-experience tool-kit; voice recognition. Dragon Dictation, regarded as the best PC-based voice-recogition software is now available on the iPhone. If that’s not enough, you can see what your friend’s see, with Knocking.

Gadgets giving us superpowers, we got ‘em.

Mind-controlled prosthetic hand

Posted by on December 2nd, 2009

From Yahoo! News:

An Italian who lost his left forearm in a car crash was successfully linked to a robotic hand, allowing him to feel sensations in the artificial limb and control it with his thoughts, scientists said Wednesday.

During a one-month experiment conducted last year, 26-year-old Pierpaolo Petruzziello felt like his lost arm had grown back again, although he was only controlling a robotic hand that was not even attached to his body.

Petruzziello, an Italian who lives in Brazil, said the feedback he got from the hand was amazingly accurate.

“It felt almost the same as a real hand. They stimulated me a lot, even with needles … you can’t imagine what they did to me,” he joked with reporters.

While the “LifeHand” experiment lasted only a month, this was the longest time electrodes had remained connected to a human nervous system in such an experiment, said Silvestro Micera, one of the engineers on the team. Similar, shorter-term experiments in 2004-2005 hooked up amputees to a less-advanced robotic arm with a pliers-shaped end, and patients were only able to make basic movements, he said.

Experts not involved in the study told The Associated Press the experiment was an important step forward in creating a viable interface between the nervous system and prosthetic limbs, but the challenge now is ensuring that such a system can remain in the patient for years and not just a month.

via Joshua Ellis

Tribal Communication Technology

Posted by on November 30th, 2009

Possible future communication devices:

Telecom shops already seem to be growing phones in infinite variations. Nonetheless, students of the University of Dundee managed to find an original twist by creating a series of extremely specialized phones that communicate music, communicate nearness, or give you a massage when you get a message. I especially like the ‘tribal’ design of the series of devices. Although the wood style is somewhat illustrative, it is well chosen to provoke a debate about the tribal communication technology penetrating our everyday lives.


Networked surveillance minicopters can’t be kept down

Posted by on November 30th, 2009

Indoor flight requires a craft to be small, light and able to negotiate walls and other obstacles. “Reality bites you a lot more indoors,” says Zhang. But Sensorfly is too small to carry the technology it would need to look for and plan around obstacles. Instead it uses simpler strategies to survive.

Each robot carries a radio, accelerometer, compass and gyroscope. Thanks to the accelerometers it notices if it bumps into something, then backs off and warns fellow copters nearby of the obstacle’s approximate location. Any time two or more of the helicopters are within radio range, they form an improvised data network to share information. Their design is “passively stable”: as long as the twin rotors are spinning, the craft will hover in place. Its shape is such that if it is knocked to the ground, the craft need only keep trying and it should be able to get airborne again.

Squadrons of the craft connect with each other using radio. They pass information between themselves and back to a controller, and use the time delay on the radio signals to track their relative positions.


Toumaz Sensium Digital Plaster Goes on Trial

Posted by on November 10th, 2009


Toumaz Technology out of Abingdon, UK has announced it partnered with the Imperial College London to perform a clinical trial on the company’s “Digital Plaster” vital signs monitor. The technology, which we covered in the past (see flashbacks below), allows for continuous monitoring and wireless transmission of temperature, heart and respiratory rates to help speed up workflow and get rid of some of the cables.

Article discussing the initial trial:

The focus of the trial will be to verify that the physiological data acquired by the digital plaster system within a clinical setting is equivalent to that acquired using current gold-standard monitors in use in hospitals – equipment that is often bulky, expensive and fixed, such that patient mobility is impaired. The Sensium digital plaster is wireless and unobtrusive, meaning that patients can remain ambulatory in hospital while still being monitored. This flexibility allows continuous vital sign monitoring to be extended to patients who would not normally be monitored, thereby offering the potential to increase patient safety. The Sensium digital plaster is a disposable device with a working lifetime of several days, after which the plaster is disposed of in the appropriate waste receptacle.

The trial is being conducted in three phases, an initial phase with non-patient volunteers followed by two patient study groups: patients recovering from surgery, and patients with specific medical conditions in the general wards.

The Reactable

Posted by on September 19th, 2009


“The instrument is based on a translucent and luminous round table, and by putting these pucks on the Reactable surface, by turning them and connecting them to each other, performers can combine different elements like synthesizers, effects, sample loops or control elements in order to create a unique and flexible composition.”

Thanks to Joseph Holsten for the link!

Clothing that Tickles

Posted by on September 11th, 2009


Now we have the Hap.tickle Greeting, designed by Lina Saleem, that allows us to send a tickle to our loved ones and dearest friends.

Since “tickling” strengthens social connections (according to Charles Darwin), Hap.tickle Greeting can help you connect with separated friends. The wearable itself is decadently designed with ruffles, frills and vibrating motors (of course) on the backs and sides of the garment. When the garment receives a message via SMS, the motors gently begin to pulse sending loving tickles down the sides and spine of the wearer.

Hugs, massages, and now tickles. The catalog continues to be built.

Need To Fly A Military Drone? Yep, There’s An iPhone App For That

Posted by on August 10th, 2009

MIT Professor Missy Cummings (a former F-18 Hornet Navy Pilot), and her team of 30 students and undergrads, have successfully demonstrated how an iPhone could be used to control an Unmanned Area Vehicle, or UAV.

As part of their work at MIT’s Humans and Automation Lab (HAL, heh), the team thought about ways to improve on the suitcase-sized controller that soldiers must currently lug around to control hand-thrown Raven UAVs.

The iPhone app they developed sends GPS coordinates to the craft, which then in turn can send photos and video back to the iPhone.

Link and video via

The Real Twitpocalypse: Asteroid Alerts Come to Twitter

Posted by on July 29th, 2009

Twitter will now let you know when the sky is really falling:

Alerts about asteroids cruising near Earth have come to Twitter. @AsteroidWatch will let you know any time a space rock gets within a few lunar distances. Much more asteroid info will be distributed via a new NASA/JPL website. (Though if you want to know if a nuke is the best way to stop an asteroid, you’ll still need to come to Wired Science.)

“Most people have a fascination with near-Earth objects,” Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a press release. “And I have to agree with them. I have studied them for over three decades and I find them to be scientifically fascinating, and a few are potentially hazardous to Earth.”

The recent collision between a comet and Jupiter underscored the very real presence of possibly dangerous space objects in the solar system.

The Twitter feed, @lowflyingrocks, already uses NASA’s raw data to let you know after an asteroid has passed the Earth. But the site tells you about every rock within 0.2 astronomical units — that’s more than 18 million miles — so you get a ton of updates. @AsteroidWatch will be choosier about the near-earth objects it tells you about. Only rocks that come within a scant 750,000 miles or so of Earth will earn a Tweet.


I like to watch…

Posted by on July 29th, 2009

Straight from etsy, that window-shopper’s whorehouse, GrinderMonkeyStudios brings us ‘Salome’

This piece is a life-size cast bronze bust with steel for the arms, crosspiece and tray. The back is finished pressboard and the mounting system is wood. The video display is a b+w security monitor and the video loop (that i created specially for this piece) is ran with a dvd player(included) that is hidden in the back.

For $7,179.00 USD (plus postage) it can be yours. I want it to be mine. I would suggest looking at the other stuff available in the store.

Neurosky’s MindSet is now available

Posted by on July 29th, 2009

Neurosky‘s mind control headset, the aptly named MindSet, is now available for purchase.

I had the chance to see an early version of these in action at the Tokyo Game Show last year, and it was pretty impressive tech.

The demo video gives a quick run-down on what apps are currently available with it:

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Probably only for the first-adopter crowd right now, but I think we all can see the potential here.


Landlord sues tenant after tweet about moldy apartment

Posted by on July 28th, 2009

Food for thought on public tweets:

Those 140-character “microblog” posts to Twitter don’t constitute much more than links, dinner recipes, and bitching, right? Be careful with the bitching, though—a property management company in Chicago has filed a lawsuit against a tenant who tweeted an off-the-cuff comment about the company. The company, Horizon Group Management, says that the Twitter user in question sent the message maliciously, and is now asking for $50,000 in damages.

There are several reasons why this lawsuit is breaking new ground, not the least of which is its Twitter origin. There is much debate as to whether people’s Twitter streams are more like blogs—which are increasingly being held to the same legal standards as regular media when it comes to defamation—or a giant chat room, where most people presume “anything goes.” It may actually be somewhere in between, but the one problem with trying to hold tweets to a higher journalistic standard is the hard character limitation—it’s difficult to back up your comments within 140 characters (or even within several 140-character tweets), plus links to sources or pictures of evidence.

The other question is: did Horizon make any effort to sort out this issue with Bonnen before filing the lawsuit? It doesn’t seem so, given Bonnen’s immediate deletion of her Twitter account after the lawsuit was filed, but we admittedly don’t know the answer (and Horizon did not respond to our request for comment by publication time). The lawsuit makes no mention of the company making any effort to ensure that Bonnen’s apartment doesn’t have mold or to work with her to address her concerns.

Either way, the company has now managed to position itself as one that a lot renters and prospective homeowners wouldn’t want to do business with, unlike those that monitor their reputations on Twitter to address customer service issues. Zipcar, Boingo, one of my local pizza places, and even Allstate and Comcast have all swooped in to help out Ars staffers in need after we have aired some complaints. Even if Bonnen really had no mold and Horizon was technically innocent, the bad PR from this move will surely do more damage than Bonnen’s message to 20 of her best Twitter friends.


Does Social Media Produce Groupthink?

Posted by on July 28th, 2009

From, Ron Callari applies the eight signs of Janis’ “Groupthink” thesis to social media:

In the 1970s, Irving L. Janis’s book “Victims of Groupthink” described it as “a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing and moral judgment that results from in-group pressures.” In the Age of Social Media, where social networks like Twitter and Facebook have consumed our lives, has Digital Man evolved into the the current version of “groupthink” or the herd mentality?

* Invulnerability. Members of the group are so overly optimistic that they are willing to take extraordinary risks and unwilling to heed signs of danger.
An example here might be the rallying cry we heard from the streets of Tehran and their access to the microblogging site Twitter which was used to amplify their protest message to the world. While on the one hand, using Twitter as a communication tool was eye-opening, might it have created a false sense of security? As the West joined the Iranian protesters online, did we put people at risk? I myself was approached by several of my LinkedIn contacts to remove Twitter profiles from blogs that I had posted that listed Iranian Twitter account names.

* Rationale. They rationalize away negative feedback and warnings that might otherwise cause the group to change course.
Are we encouraging children to be intellectually curious or merely teaching them that every question has an instant and obvious answer? Does Google or Twitter Search make us less intellectually curious as we rely on their easily accessible database of knowledge?

Smart tags to reveal where our trash ends up

Posted by on July 16th, 2009

Ever wondered where your trash goes to die? New Scientist is collaborating with Massachusetts Institute of Technology in a ground-breaking experiment to electronically tag and follow ordinary trash as travels from ordinary garbage cans to landfills, recycling plants, and possibly some extraordinary destinations.

The team behind the experiment, MIT’s Senseable City lab, led by Carlo Ratti, have made a device that is about the size of a small matchbox and that works like a cell phone – without the phone bit. A SIM card inside the chip blips out its location every 15 minutes, the signal is picked up by local cell phone antennae and the chip’s location is relayed back to MIT.

Ratti’s team and New Scientist have already deployed a test run of 50 tracked items of trash ranging from paper cups to computers in Seattle. Several thousand more will be released in Seattle and New York garbage cans later this summer and we’ll chuck a batch into the London trash for good measure.


Video: Ultra-thin digital booth babe

Posted by on July 9th, 2009


Spotted at the International Stationery and Office Supply Fair, this eye-catching digital signage system consists of a 0.3-millimeter-thick high-luminance rear-projection film (Vikuiti Rear Projection Film developed by 3M) applied to a 3-millimeter-thick glass substrate cut into the shape of a woman. A rear projector beams video onto the film, whose microbead-arrayed surface produces a crisp, brilliant image viewable from any angle, even in brightly lit environments.

First node in the interplanetary internet added to the ISS

Posted by on July 7th, 2009

From New Scientist:

The interplanetary internet now has its first permanent node in space, aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The new software will make sending data from space less like using the telephone, and more like using the web. In the modern era of the web and information on demand, teams still have to schedule times to send and receive data from space missions.

The payload recently sent down its first science data – images of crystals formed by metal salts in free-fall – using the new programming. Its new capability has already speeded up the transfer of data back to Earth by about four times, says BioServe’s Kevin Gifford. If data is lost during a link, the system automatically transmits lost data later. Until now someone had to schedule a second attempt.

While the Earth-bound internet uses a protocol called TCP/IP to allow distant machines to communicate over cables, the ISS payload uses delay-tolerant networking (DTN), which is being developed to cope with the patchy coverage in space that is arises when spacecraft pass behind planets or suffer power outages.

The protocol could also benefit space station operations by automating space weather alerts (see Space storm alert: 90 seconds from catastrophe)


Incredible Shadow Art

Posted by on July 3rd, 2009

Created by Tim Noble and Sue Webster, visual proof that junk can still be useful:

Photos and link via

Thanks to Cat Vincents’ Wife-the-artist, for providing the names to the creators of the pieces.

CNN story on Virtual Vision

Posted by on June 20th, 2009

The story here is that CNN is reporting this. Or as reader Paul Luthy wrote “It seems significant that a major network news source is treating this as science news…”

So not much progress has been made since we posted about this in Jan ’08; but more people are aware of it now. Thanks CNN!

German students developing OLED data glasses

Posted by on June 6th, 2009

From gizmag:

oled data glasses

Students at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany are developing a pair of interactive data eyeglasses that can project an image onto the retina from an organic light-emitting diode (OLED) micro-display, making the image appear as if it’s a meter in front of the wearer. While similar headwear only throws up a static image, the students are working on eye-tracking technology that allows wearers, with just the movement of the eyeball, to scroll through information or move elements about.

via Mac Tonnies

Instant sex change served up by video software

Posted by on June 2nd, 2009

Changing someone’s gender or race on screen traditionally requires lengthy hours in front of a make-up mirror. But new software that can take a live video feed of a person talking and make them look and sound like somebody else could change that.

Psychologists rather than moviegoers are the first to see the benefits of the new technology: putting it to use in experiments that test how a person’s gender affects the body language of others.

The software was developed by computer scientist Barry-John Theobald at the University of East Anglia in the UK and Iain Matthews, formerly at Carnegie Mellon University and now at Weta Digital in Wellington, New Zealand. They were approached by psychologists at three US universities searching for a way to switch the apparent gender of volunteers talking to each other through video conference software.

Via Adds a new twist to the broadcast Doktor Sleepless did about authenticity…