Parking technology has finally caught up to our on-the-go culture: pay without paying attention. Researchers have built a device that does for parking lots what radio transponders do for highway tolls. You park, it keeps track.
The near field communications (NFC) system, dubbed Viatag, consists of 0.5 inch by 4-inch RFID windshield tags, parking lot transceivers that read tags, and a central database. The windshield tag signals the parking transceiver as you're entering and exiting a parking lot. A central database tallies your time in the lot and debits your account accordingly.
The tag is unobtrusive compared with bulky highway toll transponders. This is because it's a passive RFID tag--no batteries. Instead it draws power through the air--from radio waves sent by the transceivers.… Read more
Researchers have built a battery that's six times thinner than a bacterium. The microscopic power pack could be used to run all sorts of minuscule electronic devices, including sensors that spy on single cells.
Does this mean we'll start seeing commercials for the Energizer bacterium? At 150 nanometers wide, the nano battery is hundreds of times thinner than a human hair and more than 60,000 times smaller than a AAA battery. How many "A"s is that?
The little battery, developed at Rice University, is actually a cross between a battery and a supercapacitor. Supercapacitors can deliver more power at once than batteries--a bigger jolt. The diminutive battery is made by the thousands in dense arrays. Each battery is a nanowire, with one half of the wire working as a negative electrode and the other half as a positive electrode.… Read more
Japan's struggle to contain a nuclear power plant crippled in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami has had another setback as record-high radiation levels at the site have been detected.
Radiation levels at least 5 sieverts per hour were detected on the second floor of the No. 1 reactor building at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, the highest detected indoors at the plant since the quake and tsunami, operator Tokyo Electric Power Company said this week.
The previous highest dose detected indoors there was 4 sieverts per hour in the No. 1 reactor building.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk has a goal for humans in the next several decades: establish a colony on Mars.
Speaking yesterday at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics conference in San Diego, Musk said it's time to start working on getting humans to Mars and establishing a mode of transportation that would make it more possible.
"Ultimately, the thing that is super important in the grand scale of history is, are we on a path to becoming a multi-planet species or not?" Musk said during his keynote address, according to PC Magazine. "If we're not, that's not a very bright future. We'll just be hanging out on Earth until some eventual calamity claims us."
To get the ball rolling, Musk said, a spacecraft that can carry the payload humans need to establish a base on Mars is most important. However, Musk acknowledged, doing so will be extremely "hard." He pointed out that a Mars trip will require a craft capable of carrying "50 metric tons in a fully reusable manner." SpaceX has a Falcon Heavy rocket that can carry 12 to 15 metric tons.
The Falcon Heavy could very well become the inspirational predecessor to any vehicle that gets people to Mars. Last month, SpaceX announced that it had broken ground on the Heavy's launch site at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California. The spacecraft, which is expected to be brought to the launch site by the end of next year, can generate 140,000 pounds of thrust at sea level. And although it's meant to assist with low-Earth orbit missions, Musk said earlier this year that it could also explore space and send people to the moon.… Read more
Every time there dawns a new era of airport safety, we the citizens and passengers of the world bow in wonder at the latest new technology that will save us from our fellow man.
So it was at Australia's Sydney Airport yesterday, where the well-meaning authorities launched a shiny new full-body scanner that would not only ensure that you are not armed, but could also tell what you had for lunch last Tuesday. (That's merely a slight exaggeration, of course.)
News.com.au sniffed out a certain snafu, however, in the scanner's nervous system. For it seemed … Read more
German scientists are revving up a system that harnesses mind power to brake cars.
The setup involves attaching electrodes to the scalp to measure a driver's brain patterns and detect the intent to brake in an emergency situation. Researchers from the Berlin Institute of Technology say test drivers were able to stop 130 milliseconds faster via thought control than via the regular old brake pedal response--and shave a distance the length of a small car off their stopping span when moving at about 62 miles per hour.
These time and distance differentials--detailed in the Institute of Physics' Journal of Neural Engineering last week--are sufficient enough to potentially help drivers avoid an accident, the researchers say. Their goal is to build an even faster, more efficient collision system than those already in place.
The team identified parts of the brain that are most active just before a driver slams the brakes (medically known as the "Oh my god, I think I'm about to crash" parts). They then tweaked the mind-reading device to respond to the brain activity by pressing the brakes. Volunteers tested the system using a driving simulator that had them maneuvering a virtual race car behind another virtual vehicle using a customized version of the open-source racing software TORCS. The setting included oncoming traffic, and the participants didn't have the chance to avoid a potential accident by switching to another lane. … Read more
Four years after launch from Cape Canaveral, NASA's ion-drive Dawn spacecraft is finally in orbit around the asteroid Vesta, studying the second largest body in the rubble-strewn belt between Mars and Jupiter in unprecedented detail. Pictures released today show a strangely tortured world with huge parallel grooves separating the heavily cratered northern hemisphere from smoother terrain in the south dominated by the chaotic remnants of a catastrophic impact.
"These photos have been already a great revelation to the team about what the surface is like," Christopher Russell, the mission's principal investigator, told reporters today. "We … Read more
Japanese researchers are developing a robot that can adapt its behavior to new situations and make educated guesses about new challenges based on its knowledge.
Tokyo Institute of Technology's Osamu Hasegawa and collaborators are working on a robot that operates based on an algorithm they've termed a self-organizing incremental neural network (SOINN), which is designed for unsupervised learning tasks.
The humanoid bot has a head, cameras, and two arms. In an experiment, when it's told to serve water, it can identify a cup, grasp it and then pour pellets, acting as the liquid, into the cup.
As seen in the vid below, the experiment isn't exactly mind-blowing. But practical artificial intelligence that works in real-world situations will require robots like this one to be able to figure out what a cup is, and how to pour water.
The SOINN system can filter useful sensory data from background noise, as well as mine the Internet and the experiences of other robots for knowledge. Hasegawa gave the example of an elder-care robot in Japan querying another in England on how to make tea. … Read more
English engineers have produced what is believed to be the world's first printed plane. I'm not talking a nice artsy lithograph of the Wright Bros. first flight. This is a complete, flyable aircraft spit out of a 3D printer.
The SULSA (Southampton University Laser Sintered Aircraft) is an unmanned air vehicle that emerged, layer by layer, from a nylon laser sintering machine that can fabricate plastic or metal objects. In the case of the SULSA, the wings, access hatches, and the rest of the structure of the plane were all printed.
As if that weren't awesome enough, the entire thing snaps together in minutes, no tools or fasteners required. The electric plane has a wingspan of just under 7 feet and a top speed of 100 mph.… Read more
I love swarm robots, especially when they pull off tricks that you can easily imagine a robot army doing.
Researchers at the Georgia Robotics and Intelligent Systems Lab have been having fun with small Khepera robots and a quadrotor.
Ted Macdonald and colleagues previously taught the rolling bots to spell the lab's acronym, GRITS, as seen in this video. Now they've made the bots form a mobile landing platform for the quadrotor.
The vid below shows how the Khepera robots can be told to follow a leader bot and assemble into various formations. It's interesting to note that they don't communicate with one another, just like the experiment when they spelled GRITS. … Read more