A start-up called Lytro hopes to revolutionize photography by selling a camera later this year that lets people focus their images after the fact.
The technique used is called light-field photography, and it's been an active area of research for years in the optics realm. With it, lens and image sensor technology doesn't focus on a particular subject, but instead gathers light information from different directions; processing after the fact means different aspects of the scene can be recreated.
Lytro has been working on the technology for years--I interviewed Chief Executive Ren Ng three years ago when his … Read more
For the first time since 2004, a supercomputer built in Japan can claim to be the fastest on earth.
That's according to the Top500 Supercomputing List, which is expected to be released today at the conference in Hamburg, Germany. The new leader, Japan's K Computer, makes its home in Kobe's RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science. K Computer sped to the front of the class by achieving more than 8 quadrillion calculations per second (petaflop/s), which pushed it ahead of last November's winner, the Tianhe-1A at the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin, China, which in … Read more
In two days the annual Paris Air Show opens at Le Bourget Airport just outside the French capital. Aviation geeks of all stripes know the event is the biggest and best air show in the world, with just about every airplane you can imagine. And as it has always done, Boeing will be making the flight from Seattle to Paris to show off its newest aircraft, like the 747-8 and the 787 Dreamliner. There, the company will face off with rival Airbus and a number of smaller manufacturers like Bombardier and Embraer.
We've gotten used to touch screens always being flat. Get ready for that to change.
Silicon Valley start-up Tactus Technology has designed a touch screen that grows 3D buttons and knobs where and when you want them.
Smartphones, tablets, game consoles, and kiosks equipped with the technology would sprout physical controls like QWERTY keyboards and knobs on demand. The controls would recede into the touch screen surface after they've served their purpose.
3D controls are often easier to maneuver than today's flat touch-screen controls, as you can use them without looking. Getting the best of both worlds means marrying physical controls' higher accuracy and ease of use with touch screens' elegance, simplicity, and dynamic nature. The physical cues are especially important for people who can't see well or who have trouble with fine hand movements. They also make it easier to control your cell phone when it's in your pocket.
The trick to making a morphing touch screen useful is fitting it in a smartphone. The Tactus design calls for sandwiching a fluid between touch-screen layers and pushing the fluid around with a series of tiny valves. The top layer is flexible, so pushing the fluid to one part of the screen raises the surface there. … Read more
The notion of erasing memories associated with painful or harmful pasts is not a new one. But it has remained just that: a notion.
Now scientists in Israel say they have devised a method to erase memories that trigger cravings in rats addicted to cocaine--a method that works so well it actually results in rats ignoring the place where they had been scoring the drug.
"Memories can trigger a desire for the drug, including memories of the drug itself, the needle, or the environment in which the drug was consumed," says Hebrew University researcher Rami Yaka. "This research indicates the possibility of erasing these memories in a way that will allow addicts to cancel the associations they have in their minds regarding the drug."
The team worked with a small protein called ZIP, which has been found in other studies in recent years to erase memories and even, as a result, inhibit learning processes.
After giving the rats cocaine in a designated spot in their pens for a few weeks, the team injected ZIP into the nucleus accumbens, a brain region known to control pleasure, reward, fear, and more, and then returned the rats to their pens. The rats proceeded to ignore the location they had only recently sought out, suggesting they no longer remembered either the place, the effect of the drug, or perhaps both.
Yaka, who will present his team's findings at the Facing Tomorrow 2011 conference in Jerusalem next week, sees possibilities not just for drug addicts but also those suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder and other psychological conditions.
Of course, it remains unclear whether the protein erases selective memories associated with drugs, or if other pleasure-and-reward memories are also affected. Will one also forget the sweetness of chocolate? The ecstasies of copulation? The kiss of a gentle summer's breeze?
Nowadays, when a friend says her TV stinks, you assume she's talking about picture or sound quality. Some years down the road--assuming certain cross-Pacific R&D pans out--she might mean that literally.
Researchers at the University of California at San Diego are collaborating with Samsung to develop a compact odor-generating component for TVs and cell phones. The as-yet-unnamed device would give television programs and Web sites a palette of 10,000 odors.
Sure, people have been trying to add smell to visual media for a long time (Smell-O-Vision anyone?). The UC San Diego-Samsung collaboration, however, is pushing the technology closer to reality. Miniaturization and digitization are cracking the big challenges of odor-on-demand systems: control and variety.
Odor pixels are the key: a 100x100 matrix of tiny wires will make it easy to heat any one of 10,000 tiny liquid-filled containers.
It'd be cool to catch a whiff of ocean during a beach scene, or take in the heady odor of woodsmoke as a campfire flickers onscreen. But I'm thinking the smells have got to be totally natural. Otherwise, the intense pine forest experience I'm expecting might turn out to be a subliminal cue to break out household cleaning products. Maybe Samsung could offer an eco-organic version. … Read more
Getting those Google Maps directions you're viewing on your PC onto your smartphone might soon be as easy as pointing the phone at the screen.
Tsung-Hsiang Chang, a graduate student at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and Yang Li, a Google employee, have developed a system that makes it much easier to transfer certain Web-based computing tasks between devices. To do this, one simply takes a photo of the computer screen that's showing the task. The phone then automatically opens up the corresponding application on the mobile device--at the corresponding stage of the task.
The same process can also work in reverse, moving data from the phone to a computer.
The system, called DeepShot, relies on the fact that many Web applications use a standard format, called the uniform resource identifier (URI), to describe their current states. A typical example of this is the link provided by Google Maps that transfers the exact current location or driving directions to another browser on another computer.
This link consists of a long string of symbols that contain URI-related information such as the addresses of the starting and ending points and codes that indicate their geographical coordinates and the approximate size of the map window. Though URIs are a common feature of many Web applications, the data contained in a URI can vary greatly and is sometimes harder to extract than in the case of Google Maps.… Read more
After a few months of development, Microsoft released the Kinect for Windows software development kit, a tool for programmers to create applications for PCs that use the motion-sensing video game controller.
The free SDK is a beta product, and developers can only use it to create noncommercial applications. But there's little doubt that it moves computing a small step closer to an era of natural user interfaces, where users can tell computers what to do with voices and gestures.
"This SDK really helps people move toward that," says Anoop Gupta, an executive who holds the title of … Read more
As part of a bid to claim the Google Lunar X Prize, Carnegie Mellon University and Astrobotic Technology have completed structural assembly work on a lunar lander designed to deliver a roving robot to the surface of the moon in 2014.
Taking off from Cape Canaveral, the lander will ride on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which had a successful maiden flight last year, on its four-day journey to the moon.
The craft will attempt a pinpoint landing, which would be a significant achievement. After deploying, the solar-powered, four-wheeled Red Rover will beam HD video in 3D to Earth as it explores the moon's Sea of Tranquility.
The Astrobotic-CMU team wants to reach the Apollo 11 landing site, which hasn't been seen directly in 40 years (though NASA has imaged it), and film it in HD.
The $30 million Lunar X Prize is aimed at fostering the first private launch that sends a robot to the moon. It has to travel some 500 yards and send video, images, and data to Earth.
The 5-foot-tall, half-ton aluminum lander has solar panels that can provide 500 watts of power,… Read more