Future of Engineering

Friday, September 26, 2008

Remote Control Not Needed - Control Your TV With Hands

Consumers will soon be able to control their TV screens or home entertainment systems simply by waving their hand, thanks to technology developed by Toshiba's Cambridge Research Laboratory in collaboration with the University of Cambridge Department of Engineering.

People tend to get nostalgic about those happy yesterdays. But if I were to ask - would you like to travel back to the stone age(that is life without AC and remote controlled TV), most of you would decline. Because life in the 21st century is all about existing in a remote controlled atmosphere.

Wiki says that the first remote intended to control a television was developed by Zenith Radio Corporation in 1950. The remote — officially called "Lazy Bones" was connected to the television set by a wire.

That's so clumsy!

The engineers of yesterday knew that too. That's why they invented the wireless remote controlled gadgets. Engineers of today have taken it one step further by creating the hand controlled TV.

"Using the Toshiba experimental TV viewers are able to interact with the display system simply by gesturing with their hand. Once the viewer is in front of the display screen, the system will ‘see’ them and invite them to take control of the display simply by raising their hand. As the system can robustly track their hand even under different lighting conditions, the visitor can enjoy controlling the on-screen cursor."

The gesture interface signals the arrival of a new era in the age of wireless communication. The remote control hasn't gone out of fashion yet. But the day isn't far when I'd be using my hands just like a choirmaster to keep things going according to my way.

Surely, we've come a long way from the good old days.

I just needed a remote
to switch and play
Now I need
just my hand to
surf away.
Oh! I believe in Today.

Source - Cambridge Network
Image - Cambridge Network

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Eat Silk: 'Edible Optics' Can Save Your Life

Researchers at Tufts University and elsewhere are using silk to create sophisticated optics that may eventually warn that the spinach you were about to eat is contaminated with E. coli bacteria.

Danger: Do not eat!

In the near future, a similar kind of warning would appear when you try to open a packet of infected food.

The delicious food on the plate tempts the eye to take the plunge. But it does not see the hidden world of microbes that can lead to a tummy ache. Statistics show that food poisoning kills about 5,000 Americans every year. Though you take extra care while preparing food, food poisoning might strike when you least expect it. But don't lose heart. Help is on the way in the form of silk.

Yes. That's right. Silk has undergone an amazing makeover that surprises its own scientific creator.
"It was serendipitous," said Fiorenzo Omenetto, associate professor of biomedical engineering and physics at Tufts. "We didn't really set out with this in mind, to make optics out of silk."

Ok. What exactly does it do?

In the Tuft's lab, a silkworm's cocoon is boiled in water to produce liquified silk. Instead of weaving it into fabric, protein is extracted from it. After the removal of toxic materials in the protein the purified material is poured into molds that create unique nano-scaled surfaces.

These nano sensors can detect the presence of various substances, like E. coli. Light passing through the sensor will appear as a specific color, depending on which substance is detected.

These nano films made from silk are biocompatible, biodegradable, nontoxic and bio edible. When the nano film is put on a bag of spinach, it would detect the presence of various substances like E. coli.Light passing through the sensor will appear as a specific color, depending on which substance is detected.

Now you can gladly go ahead and eat the spinach. There's no need to search for the film and throw it away. Being edible the nano film can be eaten too. You won't see nor taste it. That's nano technology for you.

Thanks to nano, I can have my cake and eat it too.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Detect Virus in 60 Seconds to Find a Cure

Virus detection can't get simpler than this. A powerful technique invented by University of Georgia scientists detects the disease caused by a virus within 60 seconds.

We have found a cure for a lot of diseases. Yet panic strikes when a viral outbreak occurs. People panic because time plays a major role in curing a disease. Traditional testing takes time. One has to wait for atleast a day or two before the report arrives. Within that time the damage would have been done.

The new rapid detection system takes care of it in a superfast manner. It uses surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy to measure the frequency of near-infrared laser light as it scatters off viral DNA and RNA. After a swab of a person's nasal passage, the technique can detect individual virus particles quickly and identify many types.

Each virus has a unique molecular fingerprint. The fingerprint is determined based on the nucleic acid sequence. The laser light highlights this unique fingerprint which clearly identifies the virus and the disease. Once the disease is identified, treatment can begin.

Nothing can escape the eye of the laser beam. Even a single virus can be detected. This technique is sure to be helpful in a terror-struck world. When love diminishes in the earth all kinds of terrorism would spread. Bioterrorism would be one of the methods employed by hate filled people to wreck the peace of others.

When that happens, this laser technique would save the day in an Incredibly Supermanish kind of way.

Source - Aip.org


Monday, August 25, 2008

Easy to Create Special Effects in Home Videos

What's the common factor amongst these films - Spiderman, Hulk & Superman? You'd immediately say 'Super hero'. But what makes them super on screen? No, it's not their flying, diving and crashing skills that create a big impression. It's their special effects.

Production houses can afford to spend millions on special effects. But it is not possible for an amateur trying his/her first stint at photography and editing.

Unwrap Mosaics a prototype software from Microsoft offers a simple and easy solution. A video is simply a sequential collection of frames or still images. If special effects have to be applied to an object, each and every frame where the object appears has to be edited separately. This is a laborious and time consuming task.

Unwrap Mosaics was developed by Rav-Acha, Andrew Fitzgibbon, Pushmeet Kohli and Carsten Rother. It virtually strips the skin from a selected object in a video, producing a 2D surface that can be easily edited using photo-editing software.

Rav-Acha and his co-workers have successfully tested their software on a range of videos. "There are professional tools that can do these kind of edits but it's an incredibly skilled procedure," says Fitzgibbon. "We believe that with this procedure anyone should be able to edit video."

Using this software, the editor can sit back and relax after making changes to a single frame. The software takes care of applying the changes to all the frames. For instance, if you add a hat and boots to your cat video in frame one, the changes appear till the end of the video.

Now everybody has the chance to create a home edition of Hancock, the super guy of the 21st century.

Source - Unwrap Mosaics


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Emotional Robots - Understands Your Moods, Tears and Anger

The Terminator: Why do you cry?
John Connor: You mean people?
The Terminator: Yes.
John Connor: I dont' know. We just cry. You know, when it hurts.
The Terminator: Pain causes it?
John Connor: No, it's when there's nothing wrong with you, but you cry anyway. You get it?
The Terminator: No.

A robot can think, analyse, calculate, perform actions, crawl, walk, dance and even play football. So what differentiates a robot from a human being?

Well it isn't programmed to have a cute little red heart, the symbol of love that's supposed to be the epicenter of feelings & emotions. That's why the Terminator couldn't understand the depth of a tear-drop.

Feelix Growing tries to bridge the gap between robot and humankind. It is developing software empowering robots that can learn when a person is sad, happy or angry.

Using cameras and sensors, the very simple robots being built by the researchers – using mostly off-the-shelf parts – can detect different parameters, such as a person's facial expressions, voice, and proximity to determine emotional state.

The main idea is, by being more in tune with human emotions, giving the impression of empathy, the robots should be more readily accepted by the people they may one day serve.

The Terminator: I know now why you cry,
[terminator wipes johns tear]
Guess what? It is something I can do too!

Source - ICT Results


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Scientists Develop Eye-shaped Camera, Paves Way For Bionic Eye

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University have developed an electronic-eye camera.

An eye-shaped camera recently developed by an Illinois-based team including three South Korean researchers, says it significantly reduces image distortion and allows a wider range of vision<br />(newscom.com)There are lot of developments happening in the world of digital camera. So, what's so unique about this electric-eye camera?

The answer lies in its curved nature. Currently when photos are taken, the picture is clear in the middle but at the edges it is blurred. The curved technology ensures that the entire picture is clean and clear.

"This is the first time we've demonstrated a camera on a curved surface to really make it look like a human eye," said Yonggang Huang of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

Wow! So why didn't they think about this earlier?

They did. And also tried to implement it. But to their dismay when microelectronic components were transferred onto a curved surface it broke under pressure.

Transferring microelectronic components onto a curved surface without breaking them was the task before Huang and Rogers. Guess what? They've found a simple solution to prevent breakage.
"Huang and Rogers developed a mesh-like material made up of tiny squares that hold the photodetectors and electronic components. The squares are connected by tiny wires that give each component the ability to mold to a curved surface."

This fantastic development goes beyond vacation photos.The device could be used to make better imaging equipment, such as curved sensors to monitor brain activity that follow the contours of the brain. It could even be used in the development of an artificial retina or a bionic eye.

Source - PC Pro
Image source - Newscom.com

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Fabric-friendly 'Microcapsules' Hide Unpleasant Body Odors

Researchers in Portugal have created a "microcapsule" filled with perfume and embedded in fabric maskS unpleasant body odors when using textile products.

Actors have sported double-roles on screen to show off their skills. (Sometimes they do it to test our patience.) Now our clothes have decided to do the same. They've made a fashion statement. Now they want to make a scented statement. And they surely have caught our attention.

These microcapsules need no introduction. They have been used already in scratch-and-sniff stickers and peel-apart fragrance samples. But the textile industry has kept off from this scented technology for a good reason. They knew that current versions make use of formaldehyde, a known cancer-causing agent. Surely there would be no takers for such clothing.

The textile industry didn't use it. But the lingering fragrance refused to leave. And they couldn't stop thinking about it. So they turned to science to freshen up their attire.

"The researchers identified polyurethane-urea, a type of environmentally-friendly plastic that is compatible with fabrics, as a solution. They used the material to prepare microcapsules containing limonene, the familiar scent abundant in lemons and widely-used in perfumes, and applied the capsules onto wool and polyester samples."

In laboratory tests, the microcapsules showed good performance in terms of prolonged fragrance production and durability. There's a time for everything. Now, it's time to say goodbye to perfumes and deodarants. For your clothes, tailored to perfection would be performing a great double-role.

Source - American Chemical Society