Sure, it's great when that hot avatar gives you a hug in Second Life, but wouldn't it be even better if you could actually feel the embrace? Researchers from Japan are demonstrating a motorized haptic device that lets you experience real-time virtual hugs by physically reproducing the pressure felt on the chest and back when someone gives you a squeeze.
Getting a hug that moves beyond the basic emoticon requires donning a kind of harness adorned with soft fabric hands that envelop the wearer in a warm faux embrace. But the HaptiHug is only one of the affective garments included in the I_FeelIM ("I feel therefore I am") system, which uses software to extract emotional meaning from written text and pass it on to one of a number of haptic devices that react accordingly.
The speaker-enabled HaptiHeart, for example, emits palpable heartbeat-like patterns to evoke sadness, anger, and fear. The vibrating HaptiButterfly and HaptiTickler, worn around the abdomen, are supposed to create feelings akin to nervous, joyous belly flutters. And the HaptiShiver and HaptiTemper are aimed at boosting fear emotions by, respectively, sending shivers up and down the wearer's spine by way of vibrating motors and producing spine chills via a fan blowing cool air. … Read more
JOHNSON SPACE CENTER, Houston--Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called the International Space Station Monday to mark the 49th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's launch on the first manned space flight, suggesting an international space summit to discuss future cooperative ventures on the high frontier.
"Space is our highest priority, regardless of how hard the economic situation is in the country," Medvedev said in translated remarks. "Space will always remain our priority. This is not just somebody's interpretation, it's our official state position."
"We want to thank you again for today's holiday," station … Read more
Surround sound? That's old technology. How about surround vision?
The folks at the MIT Media Lab have developed a new system called surround vision that can let you follow objects outside of your regular TV screen by viewing them on smartphones and handheld Internet devices. Imagine you're watching a movie on your regular TV, and a car drives off the screen. You could follow and view that car as it drives away by looking at and pointing your smartphone or tablet in its direction.
The person leading this promising new project is Santiago Alfaro, a graduate student at the lab. To kick-start his testing, Alfaro attached a magnetometer to an existing handheld device. A type of digital compass, magnetometers are already used in smartphones like the iPhone to detect the direction the device is pointing. He then created the necessary software to sync the magnetometer with other sensors on the device.
After outfitting the handheld with motion sensors, Alfaro shot video on campus from three different angles--center, left, and right. Watching the TV screen straight on played video from the center. But by pointing the handheld to the left or right, Alfaro was able to view the footage shot from both side angles.
As a further test of the technology, Alfaro took advantage of the alternate takes found on many DVDs. He created a demo that let him switch between the final footage and the alternate takes and angles by changing the direction of the handheld device.… Read more
Bored with your bank? Spain's Santander banking group has introduced sexy, autonomous robots to escort visitors around its lavish headquarters outside Madrid.
The sleek crimson droids, dubbed Santander Interactive Guest Assistants (SIGAs), show up once you step into the bank's opulent El Faro Visitors Center, located on a 400-acre financial campus. In the giant glass cube that serves as the entrance hall, a console with a touch-panel screen takes your destination and summons a robot via Wi-Fi. Then you're off, following your wheeled usher as it plays ambient music.
The SIGA robots operate on a multi-agent programming system designed by YDreams, a Portuguese IT company. The firm says the robo-butlers are one of the first applications of swarm robotics, the decentralized control of relatively simple machines, to a commercial setting. … Read more
You may one day in the not-extremely-distant future control your computer and other devices just by thinking.
At Intel's Tech Heaven event in Manhattan on Wednesday, the company demonstrated software under development that can tell--under very controlled circumstances--what a person is thinking by reading brain waves. The chipmaker has been working with Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh to develop software and an interface to convert brain waves scanned from MRIs into something recognizable by computers.
Though still in the early research stages, the technology looks promising to researchers. In a preliminary test conducted by Intel Labs … Read more
One week before President Obama is scheduled to attend a major "space summit" in Florida, NASA unveiled sweeping new programs Thursday designed to implement the administration's proposed shift to commercial manned rockets and development of new technologies to enable eventual deep space exploration.
The president's fiscal 2011 budget request, which would cancel the Bush administration's Constellation moon program, does not specify a long-range target for manned exploration or a timetable for moving beyond low-Earth orbit, factors that have generated widespread criticism.
A new discovery by HP could lead to faster, more powerful computers and other devices in the near future.
Hewlett-Packard's HP Labs research branch has discovered that the memristor, a new electric circuit developed by HP in 2008, has far greater potential than initially thought, the company announced on Thursday.
Previously seen mostly as a new type of storage similar to flash memory, HP found that the memristor can also perform its own logic. Such a discovery can pave the way for chips that can both perform calculations and hold data, potentially eliminating the need for a traditional core … Read more
A plane designed to fly day and night using solar power has successfully taken its first maiden flight.
The Solar Impulse HB-SIA soared into the air for its first flight early Wednesday from its home in Switzerland. After a smooth takeoff, the plane climbed to an altitude of 1,200 meters (3,937 feet or three-quarters of a mile) and stayed aloft for a total of 87 minutes. Pilot Markus Scherdel used the flight to run the Impulse through different exercises and maneuvers to see how it would handle itself.
As thousands of spectators gazed skyward, Scherdel worked the controls … Read more