Future of Engineering

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, July 1, 2008

Chewable Jewelry - Safe For Babies, Stylish For Moms

You can't stop babies from pulling your necklace and putting it in their mouth. But it's unsafe to let them carry on. So you take the road most travelled by moms - quit wearing jewels till the kids grow up. That's a tough decision for a fashion consious mom.

Picture of a baby chewing on safe jewelryDentist Helen Bloom Smith decided to take the road less travelled when she spotted the teething problems of her twin nephews. Her decision has led to the creation of Dr. Bloom Inc., a company that manufactures original teething and nursing jewelry known today as Dr. Bloom’s Chewable Jewels ™.

"This teething jewelry is made of food-safe silicone, the same material used to make baby bottles and teething toys. It is designed to look like sleek resin or stone, but gently give way on baby's gums and are dishwasher-safe.

All of the parts, even the cording that holds the pendants, are made of products approved by the Food and Drug Administration and are free of latex and phthalates, controversial chemicals used in plastics that some say are linked to hormone disruptions and other health problems."

picture of chewable jewelryIndividual necklaces cost $16, sets of three bracelets cost $18, a bracelet-necklace combo costs $19 and a bracelet-keychain pairing costs $20. Check out her site to get info about the various product options, colors and packages.

Smith runs the company Dr.Bloom Inc., along with sister Joy Bloom Wright and friend Mary Wheeler Settlemier. Having tasted success in her first venture, she hopes to expand this feature into other safe baby products.

Smith's venture proves yet again that 'the road not taken has made all the difference'.

Source - Nola.com

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Monday, June 30, 2008

Ford Says Goodbye to Fuel Tank Screw Cap; Easy Fuel, Easy Go

'Every time a fuel cap is either lost or not screwed on properly, that equates to evaporative emissions entering the environment,' said Brian Aitken, a Ford fuel systems supervisor.

That's not it. It dirties your hand too.

Engineers at Ford have developed a product known as Easy Fuel to keep your hands clean. Easy Fuel is a capless fuel-filler system - it eliminates the need for a fuel tank screw cap.

Fuel cap with no screwThe novel design uses an integrated spring-loaded flapper door that is held closed by two latches that can only be released by a standard-size unleaded fuel nozzle. When the nozzle is inserted into the filler neck, the latches release to open up the flapper door. When the nozzle is removed, the doors close automatically.

This innovative system prevents the loss of fuel and also saves time. Positive response from customers has prompted them to to offer the Easy Fuel system as standard equipment across the Ford.

Easy Fuel was introduced on the 2008 Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer, and will be offered as standard equipment on the all-new 2009 Ford F-150, Ford Flex and Lincoln MKS.

Source - Ford

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

World's First Power Assisted Suitcase

'Wheelie cases were a great step forward, but they came out 25 years ago, and this is the first real innovation since then,' says Clive Hemsley, the case's inventor.

Live Luggage (liveluggage.com), a small firm from Henley-on-Thames, has created the world's first power assisted suitcase. A flat motor technology has been built into the wheels which makes a case loaded with 30kg of luggage as easy to move around as a conventional wheelie case holding 3kg.

This is possible because of the way the handle and the wheels have been designed. The handle centers 85 per cent of the weight centered around the wheels and doesn't transfer it into the user's arms. The battery holds on for a mile and a half. Then it can be easily recharged with a plug in charger.

It has an inbuilt live locator ID system that helps you to locate the suitcase in the event of loss. Nothing can put you off from getting your hands on this innovative case except the price.Yes, you've got to shell out £700 to get one. But researchers are already working on creating affordable cases for all.

Therefore from now on, travel with ease not with a burden behind your back.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Stunning Solar Powered Plant Pot Glows In the Dark

Until now, the fragrance of fresh flowers or the splash of nature's colors would have enticed a passer by to stop by and take a look at your well maintained garden.

This time your flowers are going to take the backseat. Your pot is going to bask in the spotlight. The humble clay pot has had a makeover. It has turned into a stunning solar powered plant pot that glows in the dark.

"As its name suggests, this stylish designer pot soaks up the sun's rays in order to charge an internal battery that powers several built-in LEDs.

As night falls the entire pot begins to glow, adding an enchanting touch of magic to your garden/patio. You can even choose between a pot that glows constant white or one that gently phases through a kaleidoscope of gorgeous colours."

It comes with a ground spike and a solar cell which enables the pot to be placed in shade too. A 3m cable connects the pot and the solar cell that is stuck to the ground. It comes with an eco-friendly tag; cos it doesn't require any electricity to function. Prices range from $39 to $45.

This fashionable garden accessory is sure to make heads turn.

Source - Firebox

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Your Bags Now Power Your Mobile - Solar Bags Have Arrived!

Now this is interesting. Call it the marriage of design and ecology. Eco-totes are becoming more and more in vogue now, with the Solar Bag being the latest in this series of eco-conscious innovations.

The Solar Bag is a bag with a miniature solar panel built into its front to accumulate energy. Inside there’s a battery and a range of plugs so you can hook up your I-Pod, mobile phone and every type of digital device.

The Solar Bag comes in two styles: a small trunk made from Bordeaux or black chamois, or classic arm-bag. With our entire society becoming eco & green conscious, eco-totes such as the Solar Bag will likely be frequently heard about from now on!

Designer Ennio Capasa is credited with developing the Solar Bag.

Of interest to you also could be the Power Purse, another cool eco-tote, developed by Solarjo. This again is covered with small solar panels that can power cell phones or any other gadgets through a USB port built inside.

Related stuff: Noon Solar - creates green totes and satchels chosen for their sustainability, Voltaic Backpacks - mobile solar power generators designed to charge virtually all handheld electronics.

We live in interesting times.

Sources: Boing Boing Gadgets, Crave, CNC Costume National, Racked

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A Bicycle that Goes 75 MPH - You Heard it Right

Image credit: Kneeslider

Pulsejets were the engines used by the German V1 buzzbombs in WWII. The buzzbomb got its name from the buzzing sound of the pulsejet engine.

Robert Maddox builds pulsejet engines. And he has attached some to - of all things - bicycles. The version you see in the video (below) puts out 50 to 60 pounds of thrust, enough for 75 mph or so on the bike. So, get set on the bike and vroooom!

As you can see in the video above, the buzzing bomb jet engine attached to a retro-style bicycle frame is capable of moving along furiously nicely.

If you are one of those freaks who loves to have your moving things big, the pulsejet bicycle is sure to please you. Now, whether it will please your neighbours is quite another question!

Sources: Kneeslider, AutoBlog Green

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Monday, May 5, 2008

Ugly Looking Japanese Car Costs Over US$ 90,000

The Japanese company Mitsuoka started selling the weird looking car Mitsuoka Orochi mid-engined sports for over US$90,000, starting January last year. Can you believe it? Of course it was in limited production (about 400 pieces), but who would be interested in plonking such large sums for such an ugly looking car?

Well, you never know!

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Vital Jacket - A Jacket That Monitors Your Heart

Vital Jacket is a versatile heart-monitoring system made in a wearable form, created in the University of Aveiro, Portugal.

Combining textiles and microelectronics, it was designed to be able to monitor health status in different life situations. It has all abilities to perform high quality vital signs monitoring, from a heart rate to a full electrocardiogram of a patient, and is very comfortable to wear.

Because it is worn on our bodies, it can operate even when the patient is on the go, running or working out. The data can be stored on the SD card and analyzed later or it can be instantly shown on the screen of PDA or smartphone - the method depends on the model you choose, the HWM100 or HWM200.

More than the technology, the design aspect is what needs to be appreciated. What better form for a heart monitor than a dress!


Computerized Combat Glove That Lets Soldiers Use Wearable Computers

With their product, engineers from the company RallyPoint have designed a combat glove so that soldiers can grip other objects, such as their weapons or a steering wheel, and still be able to use their electronic systems.

The sensor-laden military glove will be used as an input device for soldiers’ wearable computer systems. The glove has push-button sensors sewn into it that can act like a computer mouse, and embedded in the backhand area are three accelerometers. The sensors are used to activate radio communications, view and navigate electronic maps, and send commands. The glove is connected to the computer by a USB cord.

How does this work and where could this be used?

Sensors on the tips of the middle and fourth fingers activate radio communications, a different channel for each finger. Another sensor on the lower portion of the index finger changes modes, from "map mode" to "mouse mode." Also sewn into the pad of the middle fingertip of the glove is an "anywhere mouse" that uses force sensors and acts as a track pad.

U.S. soldiers, especially in dangerous places like Iraq are already equipped with wearable computer systems. But they are able to use these wearable computers only in their safe environments, such as within their protected humvees. What about using them in the more dangerous open, while also holding their weapons? It was not possible until now. With RallyPoint's sensor-embedded glove, a soldier can easily view and navigate digital maps, activate radio communications, and send commands without having to take his hand off his weapon. This device thus has all the necessary components in a combat-ready way.

A sensor-laden glove for wearable computing is not an entirely new concept. Researchers at MIT, the University of Toronto, and the Georgia Institute of Technology have been working on systems that focus on detecting hand and arm movements by using accelerometers, gyroscopes, and other high-tech sensors. But none of these researches have produced fully working products so far.


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Nature and Marine Animals Teach Engineers and Scientists

Marine snails, sea urchins, and other animals from the sea are teaching researchers in UC Riverside’s Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering how to make the world a better place

Consider, for example, the possibilities of designing a lightweight armor that would protect U.S. soldiers in Iraq from Improvised Explosive Devices. Or, what flexible ceramics might offer industry. Or, how everyone could benefit from new ways of producing and storing energy.

Nature holds these secrets and the answers to the questions that Prof. David Kisailus’s research group is learning how to ask. “My hope,” Kisailus said, “is that we can truly learn from these organisms how to design, optimize, and synthesize engineering materials that display properties that we as engineers can only dream of.”

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Monday, April 14, 2008

MediaCore Sofaside PC from Pearing Systems: Adrian Robins

Tired of sitting alone in your computer room? Then this MediaCore computer system dubbed as the Sofaside PC will fit perfectly into your living room. This contemporary piece of furniture by Pearing Systems gives everyone the ability to own a media center PC that is a beautifully designed and highly functional.

Adrian Robins, owner of PearingSystems and inventor of the MEdiaCOre computer system has a background in engineering and a degree in architecture. His love of design and electronics prompted him to design and build the MEdiaCOre™. He says, “This is innovation and invention - as many people know the problem with computers in the living room is, they’re ugly, noisy and need cooling – and what’s the obsession with making them look like audio components?

This European, hand built unit features versatile design with media functionality.
The wooden enclosure offers superior noise reduction over other cases and uses a forced air flow system and unique custom chassis to keep components cool and quiet. It features built-in cable boxes and wireless router to keep your living room clutter-free.

The hand crafted cabinet is available in many finishes and colors to suit many styles of décor.

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Keywords: Sofaside PC, computer room, MediaCore, Pearing Systems , MEdiaCOre, media boxes , forced air flow system AV, cable TV boxes, keyboard, décor.

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Biomimetics in Engineering, Materials Science, Solar Panels

A research fellow at the Natural History Museum in London and at the University of Sydney, Parker is a leading proponent of biomimetics—applying designs from nature to solve problems in engineering, materials science, medicine, and other fields. He has investigated iridescence in butterflies and beetles and antireflective coatings in moth eyes—studies that have led to brighter screens for cellular phones and an anticounterfeiting technique so secret he can't say which company is behind it. He is working with Procter & Gamble and Yves Saint Laurent to make cosmetics that mimic the natural sheen of diatoms, and with the British Ministry of Defense to emulate their water-repellent properties. He even draws inspiration from nature's past: On the eye of a 45-million-year-old fly trapped in amber he saw in a museum in Warsaw, Poland, he noticed microscopic corrugations that reduced light reflection. They are now being built into solar panels. Parker's work is only a small part of an increasingly vigorous, global biomimetics movement. Engineers in Bath, England, and West Chester, Pennsylvania, are pondering the bumps on the leading edges of humpback whale flukes to learn how to make airplane wings for more agile flight. In Berlin, Germany, the fingerlike primary feathers of raptors are inspiring engineers to develop wings that change shape aloft to reduce drag and increase fuel efficiency. Architects in Zimbabwe are studying how termites regulate temperature, humidity, and airflow in their mounds in order to build more comfortable buildings, while Japanese medical researchers are reducing the pain of an injection by using hypodermic needles edged with tiny serrations, like those on a mosquito's proboscis, minimizing nerve stimulation.

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Keywords: Natural History Museum, University of Sydney, Parker, National Geographic on Biomimetics, antireflective coatings, Iridescence, water-repellent properties, amber, Polandmicroscopic corrugations, light reflection, solar panels, mosquito's proboscis, hypodermic needles

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Intelligent Homes Lead to the Future of Home Automation

In light of today's suffering housing market, one solution to increasing the resale value of one's home may be through equipping it with the most up and coming technology available.According to Michael Milde, proprietor and systems integrator of Hunter Home Automation based out of Chicago, Ill., the home automation industry has been in place for more than two decades.However, only recently has it surfaced as an affordable means of revamping one's property to include what Ian Trible, operations manager at Intellihome Inc, a home automation company in Houston, Texas, refers to as "more qualities of life people look for.""Full automation in homes will become as common as cell phones are today," Milde said.With that being said, home automation services are destined to become accessible for every home dweller willing to think outside of the box."It used to be a custom standard…[now] it's becoming a standard," Trible said.One dimension of this current standard allows for the acquirement of reasonable "green" additions to the home, making it more energy efficient.

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Keywords: Intelligent homes, future of home automation, housing market, Michael Milde, systems integrator, Hunter Home, Automation, Chicago, Ian Trible, Intellihome, Houston, Texas, cell phones, home automation services

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Flat Screen TV Bed or Robotic TV Bed: from EliteChoice

Flat Screen TV Bed

The functionality of this bed targets elite class who respects space and doesn’t want to compromise on their routine activities done in lavish style. The flat screen TV comes integrated with a bed and its USP is that its hardly visible. It is hidden at the bottom of the bed but in a robot style gets erected on its own, when need be with a simple push of a button and goes back when asked for. Robot TV can be an alternative name for it. No price information is available but for sure this one-of-its-kind TV cum bed furniture is an elite model.

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Microsoft's LucidTouch Handheld Computer - No More Fat Finger Problem?

If you think the touchscreen on Apple's iPhone is cool, imagine a device that actually sees, reflects and responds to your fingers touching the back of the device. A prototype of that capability was among many that Microsoft Research showed off at TechFest , Microsoft's annual display of its research projects. LucidTouch isn't very practical in its current form. It's a large handheld computer with a small video camera attached to an arm about 30cm long on the back of the device. But the technology that enables it could easily change now that the concept is proven, said Patrick Baudisch, a researcher at Microsoft.

The current setup includes a touch sensor layer on the back of the device. That senses when a user's fingers are touching it. The camera attached behind it sends an image of the fingers to the device, where the image is overlaid lightly, like a shadow, on the screen. Moving your fingers on the back of the device, you can choose an item on the map. With LucidTouch, a user could touch an area on the wristband of the watch instead to make choices on the watch face.

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EcoGlove Reusable Gloves, Uses Cold Plasma Sterilization

The makers of the humble disposable rubber gloves are turning “green”, with the introduction of the reusable EcoGlove.

EcoGlove chairman Patrick Hampe claimed that the gloves would be cheaper for end users, reduce the risk of latex and chemical allergies, and friendlier to Mother Nature.

After use, the new gloves would be reprocessed by its manufacturers – sanitised and checked for defects – before being repackaged and sent back to the users.

A machine using cold plasma technology sterilises the gloves, and as a quality control measure, Hampe said any one set of gloves are only allowed to be reused seven times.

With EcoGlove, Hampe said the carbon footprint would be reduced by 60%, as there would be almost zero wastage.

Hampe said Loprol is a formula that is almost free from proteins, which trigger latex allergies, while most chemical allergies are linked to nitrile gloves.

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Apple Working on 3D Holographic Projection Displays

On March 20, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a new patent application of Apple’s that reveals they’re working on a next generation 3D Holographic-like display system. In one application, Apple’s display system would automatically authenticate a user, greet them and provide a customized desktop for just that user. Something along the lines of how new computer car systems will adjust the seat and controls for a particular driver. The Holographic-like displays are based on a projection system and in many cases the impression given is that these systems would apply to applications as diverse as video conferencing, scientific modeling, entertainment and perhaps even forensics. Think of the TV show “Bones” and their use of a device called holographic “angelator.” One of the unique aspects of this invention is that users won’t be hassled with 3D glasses or headgear of any kind.

Modern three-dimensional (”3D”) display technologies are increasingly popular and practical not only in computer graphics, but in other diverse environments and technologies as well. Growing examples include medical diagnostics, flight simulation, air traffic control, battlefield simulation, weather diagnostics, entertainment, advertising, education, animation, virtual reality, robotics, biomechanical studies, scientific visualization, and so forth.

Apple’s patent illustrates the nuts and bolts of their proposed 3D display system according to one embodiment of the invention. You’ll note that the system includes a host CPU, an operating system (”OS”), a 3D/stereoscopic rendering engine, a graphics card, and other components (not shown) as will be conventionally understood. The 3D/stereoscopic rendering engine renders 3D images (e.g., stereoscopic or pseudo-holographic) as further described herein below, and may be implemented in firmware, software, or hardware, according to the particular implementation at hand.

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Yasuo Kuniyoshi Smart Goggle Glasses Can Find Anything

We've all asked ourselves that irritating question: "Where on earth did I leave my car keys?"

A team of Japanese scientists claims to have come up with the answer, and the secretive artificial intelligence project code-named Smart Goggle does not stop at elusive keys!

With Yasuo Kuniyoshi's invention balanced on your nose, you will lose nothing. Simply tell the glasses what you are looking for and it will play into your eye a video of the last few seconds you saw that item.

Well, it's not magic, right? So how does it work?

Behind the goggles is an advanced object-recognition software and a computer that can learn the identity of new objects within seconds. So this is what you do, as a user: to start with, you wander around your house for about an hour "telling" the goggles the name of everything you see around you, as you fix your eyes on that object. So you essentially pronounce "coat hanger" when you are in front of the coat hanger and the word "kitchen sink" when you are in front of the kitchen sink - you get the idea. Once this process is over, the software using object recognition tech, stores the image of the object against the word you pronounced. Every time after that you move around your house, as and when that product is sighted by the goggles (though perhaps not perceived by you), its location is stored. And when you are at a loss one fine day as to where you left that product, all you need to do is to say the product name, and voila, the goggles tell you where you (rather, the goggles!) last saw it.

Sounds like a very sophisticated solution to a simple problem, but admit it, this simple problem can be at times most vexing, so who knows, the Smart Goggles could be a big hit!

You can read a bit more on this from here

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

`Drink Aid` Helping Mitch Hintz and Other Cerebral Palsy Patients

For most people getting a drink of water is a simple task that doesn`t take much thought, but until recently one Dickinson teen with cerebral palsy relied on everyone around him to keep him hydrated. That`s all changed thanks to a new invention.

For Mitch Hintz getting a drink of water has never been easy. He can`t hold a cup in his hands because of his spastic muscles. And he says he can`t place a glass on his wheelchair tray either.
"Cause then it would spill," Hintz says.

So for the past 16 years, wanting a drink meant calling on someone for help.

So Hintz mentioned to a teacher how much he would love to be able to drink water on his own. Word spread to an NDSU electrical engineering professor, and soon three engineering students took on the task of creating a device designed specifically to help him.

The Drink Aid delivers about an ounce of water at a time and kicks in once Hintz puts it into his mouth.

The NDSU students say the project took nearly a year to complete but in the end it was all worth it.

Hintz says now that he can drink on his own he does so at least several times a day.

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Electrophoretic Display Device from Composite Particles Invented

San-Ming Yang, Peter M. Kazmaier and Man-Chung Tam, all from Mississauga, Canada, Naveen Chopra of Oakville, Canada, and Ahmed Abd Alzamly of Al Ain, United Arab Emirates, have developed an electrophoretic display device.

According to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office: "An electrophoretic display device includes a display layer comprised of a binder having a multiplicity of individual cavities therein that contain a display medium, and conductive substrates, at least one of the conductive substrates being transparent, wherein the display layer is located in between the conductive substrates, and wherein the display medium comprises one or more set of colored particles in a dielectric fluid and has an electrical conductivity of about 10 sup-11 to about 10 sup -15 square per meter."

An abstract of the invention, released by the Patent Office, said: "The display device may be made by forming composite particles comprised of a sacrificial binder and the one or more set of particles of the display medium; mixing the composite particles with the binder to form a mixture; forming a layer from the mixture; removing the sacrificial binder from the composite particles in the layer to form cavities in the layer that contain the one or more set of colored particles; and filling the cavities with the dielectric fluid."

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Tangle-free Electrical Extension Lead - by Oliver Blackwell

An electrical extension lead that should never get tangled has been patented by a Devon graduate. Oliver Blackwell, 25, developed the spherical PowerBall which will not fall over or unplug.

The former Plymouth University student said he got fed with extension leads which got wrapped around trees when he was mowing the lawn at his Exmoor home.

"Basically PowerBall is like taking a well behaved dog for a walk as it always follows you," he said.
"I realised a ball shape would be a lot more practical. It's a very simple idea really."

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Lightfilm (Luccon + Glass) Opens Up Possibilities for Designers, Architects

Lightfilm – which combines the “revolutionary lightweight concrete Luccon” and glass – exclusive windows and doors, security windows and doors are among the innovative products that LIP Middle East intends to promote when it makes its debut at the gulfBID next month.

“This invention throws up exciting possibilities for both designers and architects. You can use the material for vanity tops and have the light filter through from beneath. Or clad pillars with it or use it as a door for a changing room and watch the interesting interplay of diffused light and shadow as people move behind it,” continues Andreas. While its tensile strength, resistance and conductivity are similar to concrete, its unique structure is embedded with a specially-developed webbing of light fibres. Luccon is sold in panels cut to size. However, all common methods for processing concrete, such as sawing, grinding, drilling and polishing are also possible with Luccon. Custom-made products (different sizes, thicknesses and colours) can also be made available on request.

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Magnetic Levitation Gives Haptic Computer Users New Sense of Touch

Computers, long used as tools to design and manipulate three-dimensional objects, may soon provide people with a way to sense the texture of those objects or feel how they fit together, thanks to a haptic, or touch-based, interface developed at Carnegie Mellon University. Unlike most other haptic interfaces that rely on motors and mechanical linkages to provide some sense of touch or force feedback, the device developed by Ralph Hollis, research professor in Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute, uses magnetic levitation and a single moving part to give users a highly realistic experience. Users can perceive textures, feel hard contacts and notice even slight changes in position while using an interface that responds rapidly to movements.

The system eliminates the bulky links, cables and general mechanical complexity of other haptic devices on the market today in favor of a single lightweight moving part that floats on magnetic fields.

A user moves the handle much like a computer mouse, but in three dimensions with six degrees of freedom — up/down, side to side, back/forth, yaw, pitch and roll. Optical sensors measure the position and orientation of the flotor, and this information is used to control the position and orientation of a virtual object on the computer display

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Theo Jansen's Kinetic Sculptures Could be of Help to Engineers

Kinetic sculptures that can move around a beach demonstrate a number of innovative techniques that more mainstream engineers might wish to tap into. Made of plastic tubing that is normally used as cable conduit, they walk about under wind or compressed air power. Some can even sense the presence of water or soft sand and avoid it – without recourse to any kind of electronics. The walking mechanisms are unique, and offer a much more energy-efficient way of crossing soft ground than using wheels and tracks. They represent a possible template for future planetary exploration vehicles, but it is some of the component mechanisms that many may find most interesting and potentially transferable

Theo Jansen originally studied physics at the University of Delft, but soon turned to art, while retaining his interest in science and engineering. He has given his machines names, as if they were living animals – saying “I got the plans to make new forms of life” – and which he sees as evolving into a new type of machine

* The machines are mostly made of plastic cable conduit tubing and are purely mechanical, although some use pneumatic
* They use a walking mechanism for traversing soft grounds that is much more energy efficient than any other
* They also include a number of mechanical and pneumatic innovations worthy of study and of potential usefulness in mainstream engineering

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Zero Waste Machines - Tapping into Nature's Genius

Many experts concur that there is other life in the universe - if not a little than an abundance - including beings much like ourselves who are millions of years more advanced. Whether or not you believe these beings have managed to bridge the distance required to visit us, one distinct thread runs though nearly all UFO reports: silence. Mention of sound is scantly present in the droves of UFO documentation, and if anything it is the absence of sound that is remarked upon, often with exclamatory glee: "Totally silent!" What's notable is that a soundless machine is probably running with almost zero waste, or near 100 percent efficiency - an immaculate system with every part exploited in full and no harm done to the other parts or to the environment. In other words, a system much like those found in nature.

If building zero-waste machines is one aspect of achieving interstellar travel, we may one day look back at the turn of the 21st century as the time when humans began to look at industrial design in such a way as to make this possible. How? By consulting the ultimate teacher - Mother Nature.

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iShoe - Motorized Shoes, Lightweight Transportation Device

With walking, driving, biking, Rollerblading and running, students can now add motorized shoes to their list of options to get around campus. Ilya Kaganovich recently developed the iShoe - described on the product's Web site as "a light weight transportation device for getting around the city, office complex or college campus.With constantly changing technology and increasing competition, a modern day inventor has a difficult process to undergo. Kaganovich said he worked on the shoes for 12 hours a day for about a month while spending the summer in New York.

The newest model weighs only 10 pounds with batteries built into the shoes, is able to go 20 mph and can be used outdoors and up hills.

Others are more skeptical of the practicality of the motorized shoes.

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Leggett & Plat Semi-Fold Box Spring - Collapsible, Flexible Box Springs

If you’ve ever tried to wrestle a box spring up a stairway or down a narrow hall into your bedroom, then you can imagine how comically awkward and expensive it would be to ship one via UPS or FedEx. Which explains why box springs (otherwise known as mattress foundations) aren’t exactly big sellers on e-commerce websites. But what if there were a way to make a box spring that collapsed to a manageable size for shipping, then unfolded to its full dimensions in the customer’s home? Then the lowly box spring might finally be able to join the Internet revolution.That was the idea that struck engineers at Leggett & Platt a couple of years ago. While the Carthage, MO-based manufacturer isn’t a household name, almost every mattress sold contains some L&P components; indeed, co-founder J.P. Leggett invented the spiral steel coil bedspring in 1883.

The company’s mattress designers had Goldfire Innovator at their sides as they pored over the mechanical, ergonomic, and materials-science problems associated with building a collapsible box spring. The result: the Leggett & Plat Semi-Fold Box Spring, a mechanical marvel that hit the market in 2007 and folds up into a rectangular shape with one-quarter the volume of a traditional mattress foundation.

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Gordon Thiessen's Swing-arm Invention Helps Construction Workers

Accidental inventor Gordon Thiessen hears a lot of "how come no one's ever thought of this before," when showing off his support arm for construction tools."This" is a gas-strut swing-arm that clamps to a vertical post, scaffolding or a tripod to hold heavy portable jackhammers, drills and other power tools aloft so construction workers don't have to strain and sprain their backs and necks holding them up manually for hours at a time.Thiessen, a research associate in automation and electronics at BCIT's technology centre, started work on developing the device in 2001 at the behest of Worksafe BC, then known as the Workers Compensation Board, which was looking for a way to ease the injurious strains of construction work.

The heavy-tool support arm that Thiessen came up with won some recognition as one of 75 technologies to be highlighted at a major U.S. innovation showcase at the end of last month.

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Keywords: Swing-arm invention, Gordon Thiessen, jackhammers, drills, power tools, BCIT, Workers Compensation Board, Canadian federal government, Arlington, Las Vegas, Robert Duncan, James Wells

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Flyak from Einar Rasmussen - A Superfast Kayak

At the outset, the race seems lopsided. A single kayaker is outmanned against an Olympic-style K4 craft with four oarsmen. As expected, the foursome achieves an early lead. What happens next, however, is miraculous. The kayak accelerates to triple its speed. The kayak wins by more than a length. Einar Rasmussen arranged the informal 200-M challenge as a demonstration. The four-time Norwegian kayaking champion and physics expert and his partner, kayakbuilder Peter Ribe, have created what they hope will become the fastest human-powered craft in history—the Flyak.

There’s nothing supernatural about the Flyak’s acceleration, as the name implies, the Flyak “flies.” Its wings are underneath the water, in the form of front and rear hydrofoils. The more the surface area of a hull touches the water, the greater the vehicle’s resistance.

Once the rider works the speed up to roughly 10 KMH (6 MPH), the Flyak is ready for take-off. The energy on the oblique foils propels the hull up above the water’s surface. Once airborne, the velocity gained from paddle strokes increases dramatically. Theoretically, the Flyak can achieve speeds nearly twice as fast as conventional championship-level racing kayaks

The foils are removable and interchangeable through a hand-screw apparatus behind the seat. By removing the foils, the craft can be maneuvered like a conventional kayak

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The Non-stick Chewing Gum Dream - by Terrence Cosgrove

Terrence Cosgrove, a professor in this town in western England, imagined a world where chewing gum did not stick to sidewalks and shoes, theater seats or hair. Because Cosgrove studies polymers - the chemical compounds that, among other things, make plastics plastic and chewing gum chewy - his was no idle dream. If he could find the right chemical mixture, the professor surmised, he could retain the chewy without the sticky.

The inspiration for Cosgrove's non-stick chewing gum came on a trip to academic conferences in the United States - not in a conference hall, but on American sidewalks, where he noticed wads of hardened chewing gum. Eventually, his team came up with a formulation of polymers that would not stick. To determine whether it came off sidewalks and other surfaces, they pitted it against standard chewing gums on main streets across western England. While the other gums stuck, Cosgrove's rinsed off with rainwater - "though some surfaces are better than others," he said, calling leather a "terrible" magnet.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

iPod Operated by the Wink of Eye Created by Taniguchi

A Japanese researcher says he has developed a system that will soon let people run their iPods with the flick of an eye.

The system, comprising a single-chip computer and a couple of infrared sensors, monitors movements of the temple and is so tiny that it can be built into the side of a pair of eyeglasses. Closing both eyes for one second starts an iPod, while blinking again stops the machine. A wink with the right eye makes the machine skip to the next tune while with a wink of the left eye it goes back. As a person does not have to move either hand, the system can serve as "a third hand" for caregivers, rock-climbers, motorbike drivers and astronauts, as well as people with disabilities.The Kome Kami Switch is also capable of operating television sets, air conditioners, room lighting and other household electronics.

The inventor Taniguchi hopes the system can eventually be adapted to run cellphones, wheelchairs and robots as "an ultimate remote control" used in everyday life

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Sole Orthotic Solutions - Custom Insoles, Orthotics in 30 Minutes

Brigham Young University undergraduate engineers demonstrated a portable workstation that creates custom insoles for shoes in less than 30 minutes on Tuesday. The team, sponsored by a Utah entrepreneur, was assigned to take a process that currently requires days and reduce it to minutes, with the potential for their invention to be an option for podiatrists' offices, athletic footwear stores or even ski outfitters.

The entrepreneur, who has a master's in engineering from MIT, was inspired to develop a better way of developing "orthotics," as such custom insoles are known, after dealing with delays and problems in getting them for his son, who has cerebral palsy.

The "Sole Orthotic Solutions" team conceived, designed and built an integrated system the size of a desk that begins by acquiring a computerized image of a customer's foot from a pressure pad.

Millions of Americans wear orthotics some for extra arch support, some to compensate for injury or disability, and others for simply a better fit with their shoes.

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Keywords: Brigham Young University, Sole Orthotic Solutions, vacuum system, pin mold, podiatrists, UTAH, MIT

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Computerized Facial Expression and Voice Recognition Changing the Way We Work

In the future your face, and not hands, will do the work. Breakthroughs in computerized facial expression and voice recognition technology are heralding a new era in communications that requires virtually no physical exertion whatsoever – not the click of a mouse or the tap-tap-tap of a keyboard. It'll save space on your desk and could put an end the ache of carpal tunnel syndrome. It will be a godsend for people with severe arthritis in their hands and arms. Like the voice command technology used in cars to keep drivers' hands on the steering wheel, much of this computerized communication is coming down the pipe in bits and pieces.

Technology for computerized facial recognition is ten times more accurate now than it was four years ago, and the best of the systems outperform humans, the National Institute of Standards said almost a year back.

Its facial-recognition test has compared vendor systems on in their ability to recognize high-resolution still images and three-dimensional facial images, under both controlled and uncontrolled illumination. According to the NIST report issued in late March 2007, the facial recognition systems it tested in the trials showed an “order of magnitude,” or tenfold, improvement over comparable tests conducted four years ago.

A new facial-recognition algorithm created by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is able to recognize faces with 90-95 percent accuracy, even if the eyes, nose and mouth are obscured

Reaffirming these trends, a number of consumer products today are coming out with visual recognition capabilities. Some of the new Toshiba laptops such as Portege M800, Satellite M300 and A300 recognize your face. A bunch of researchers from Tel Aviv University have even managed to successfully 'teach' a computer how to spot an attractive woman. Wow!

Voice recognition is making rapid strides too

Yahoo has released a new application that allows users to search the web with voice commands. The feature is part of oneSearch version 2, due to be released during the summer. However, the company is offering BlackBerry users an early peek of the voice recognition technology at m.yahoo.com/voice.

Mac users now have the option to use voice recognition tech too, thanks to MacSpeech Dictate.

Products such as Nuance voicemail to text make the transformation of voice and text messages easy and at the same time lets one access, sort, forward and archive their messages. The voicemail transformed texts are compatible with all standard message media. So that's voice recognition transforming the way you read email!

It's early days yet for facial and voice recognition systems. Sure, there are still lots of promises that face recognition and voice recognition systems are yet to deliver on, but the current status is, some elements of these technologies are poised for greatness even when still in the prototype stage, and some are already available to consumers and work just fine.

You can look forward to a future that involves a lot less using your fingers to type and a lot more using your face to talk and communicate.

Here are some more interesting resources for computerized facial & voice recognition, for those whose curiosity is never satisfied easily!
The Mathematics of Face Recognition
The Year Consumer Voice Recognition Gains Momentum

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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Mapping out the Future of Sound and Music Computing

A European consortium has drafted a roadmap for the future of sound and music computing (SMC), which provides the core technologies for the burgeoning electronic music industry

Drawing on inspiration from hard sciences like physics and engineering, social sciences like psychology and musicology, and the creative arts, digital musical instruments, CDs, MP3s and other innovative ICTs owe a great debt to SMC.

According to Nicola Bernardini, who coordinated the two-year IST-funded project, SMC research is behind the music industry as we know it today. With the appropriate guidance - the ambition of the S2S² roadmap - Europe could be in a position to secure leadership in this field.

Commercial music today is largely produced using computing and technology as a 'surrogate' for the real thing because using real instruments, learning to play them – or paying someone else to play them – can be expensive and time-consuming.

But this is a rather narrow view of the sector, said Bernardini. "With our roadmap, we wanted to show what SMC can be (and has already been) in research terms. [Music is] not only an economic lever but good for social cohesion."

Five key challenges have been identified:

1. Design better sound objects and environments (improving the sounds produced by objects present in our environment to enhance their emotional character).
2. Understand, model and improve human interaction with sound and music.
3. Train multidisciplinary researchers in a multicultural society.
4. Improve knowledge transfer.
5. Address social concerns.

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Paper-Thin, Bendable Batteries from Thin Battery Technologies Inc.

The idea of having a flexible, paper-thin battery that powers your mobile devices is not that far-fetched. As a matter of fact, this technology is currently being used in smaller applications, and newer and more powerful thin batteries are in development as we speak. Keep reading to find out more!The possibilities for a flexible, lightweight battery are seemingly endless. Of course, it will take further development to get to the point where we can throw away our bulky cell phone or PDA batteries and replace them with a paper thin one.

A company by the name of Thin Battery Technologies Inc. (TBT) was founded in 2003. This Ohio-based company began producing paper-thin batteries back in 2005 after about five years of research and development. They currently produce these tiny, paper-like batteries for applications such as RFID tags, trans-dermal drug delivery patches, data loggers, sensors, and displays. They produce Carbon-Zinc electrolyte based batteries that are "green" compliant, and in turn are safe for the environment.

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Touch Sensitive Screens & Displays in Futuristic Laptops

A lot has changed in the 20 years since the first laptop computers appeared, including gigahertz processors, color screens, optical drives, and wireless data.

However, one thing that has stubbornly stayed the same is the conventional clamshell format with its hinged display lid that opens to reveal a mechanical keyboard. That's about to change.

It's likely that at least some of the new ideas, components, and features showcased below will be coming to a notebook near you. For example, several concept laptops rely on touch-sensitive screens that act as the system's keyboard and mouse and go beyond today's multi-touch technology.

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Future Computer Interfaces to Merge with Humans by 2020 - Microsoft Report

The purrfect companion? Computers designed to bring man and machine closer than ever

By 2020 the terms "interface" and "user" will be obsolete as computers merge ever closer with humans.

It is one prediction in a Microsoft-backed report drawn from the discussions of 45 academics from the fields of computing, science, sociology and psychology.

It predicts fundamental changes in the field of so-called Human-Computer Interaction (HCI).

By 2020 humans will increasingly interrogate machines, the report said.

In turn computers will be able to anticipate what we want from them, which will require new rules about our relationship with machines.

The report, entitled Being Human: Human-Computer Interaction in the year 2020, looks at how the development of technologies over the next decade can better reflect human values.

Communication devices for the home that Microsoft is working on include Epigraph, an interface that allows family members to "post" pictures and messages to each other via their mobile phones.

Also, the keyboard, mouse and monitor will increasingly be replaced by more intuitive forms of interaction and display, including tablet computers, speech recognition systems and fingertip-operated surfaces.

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Saturday, April 5, 2008

Vivarium Design Using 3D Simulation and Industrial Engineering

The use of industrial engineering practices and 3D simulation in the development of new or renovated vivariums, provides a means of maximizing holding room densities while identifying the most efficient use of manpower in animal husbandry and colony management.

When designing a new facility or making changes to an existing small animal vivarium, conventional wisdom would lead planners and operations personnel to pack a holding room with as many cages as possible to maximize room density, and thus provide the greatest return on capital investment and lowest costs per diem. While all this seems logical and quite necessary, in many cases, the return on investment is more than offset by ongoing manpower penalties associated with animal husbandry and colony management staff working in holding rooms that are not optimized .

So how do others do the ? Planners and operations managers in other industries such as automotive, consumer goods, and telecommunications utilize industrial engineers to work alongside architects in the planning and design of new or renovated facilities. This is done to ensure that both manpower and building arrangements are optimized for a given operation.

Perhaps vivarium design and renovation should utilize these techniques too, feels this report

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Friday, April 4, 2008

Bionic Wrench from LoggerHead Tools Receives Design Award

LoggerHead Tools has received an IF (International Forum Design GmbH) Universal Design Award for its Bionic Wrench™ product line, a new class of adjustable ergonomic wrenches, with a patented mechanically efficient mechanism, that distribute force equally around a nut or bolt. This is the only product manufactured in America to receive a 2008 IF Universal Design Award. Since its launch in May of 2005, LoggerHead has received a total of 12 other international new product design awards for the Bionic Wrench™ and its other inventive product lines.

Full info on bionic wrenches from the Loggerhead Tools web site

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Renault Mégane Coupé Concept Car @ Geneva Motor Show

Renault took the wraps off its Mégane Coupé concept vehicle at the Geneva Motor Show held in March. Renault concept car incorporates a host of new design concepts.

This futuristic dragonfly lookalike foreshadows a compact production coupé to be released at a later date.

The 4,5- m-long vehicle features doors that are topped by a separate glazed area and, as they open, the two parts deployin an independent movement “redolent of dragonfly wings”. A carbon arm at the rear of the doors connects them to the body structure, and ensures easy access for passengers.

Full report here

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Designing Real Life Engineering with Second Life Tools

Unlike Gravina Island, the Public Works Island in Second Life (SL) hosts an entirely different kind of bridge. Created for mere Linden dollars, Avatar TEEX Clary’s virtual bridge symbolizes a bridge that is going somewhere—perhaps the future of civil engineering—using 3D tools in SL for visualization.

The Public Works Island is the brainchild of avatar Pam Renior. In real life, Pam Renoir’s alter ego Pam Broviak is a registered, professional engineer in Illinois. According to Pam, Public Works Island “...has been developed to introduce general citizens to public works and show them what we do—educate them—then it is also a place for those of us in related fields to build community.”

She also sees the island as an on-the-job resource for members of the American Public Works Association and others, “... to train here and develop things we can use in real life on our jobs.”

Full report here

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Timber Housing, Ty Unnos Modular Building Suggested for Future Homes

Timber housing is the future for better homes

Timber housing can help the UK to catch up on the shortage of new homes, construction industry leaders have been told. A conference in North Wales, Sustainable Construction: The Business Benefits and Natural Materials in Construction, was told there is a need to use timber housing if Wales is to meet sustainability targets.

Greater collaboration is needed across the building sector to make the most of new techniques and practices, the briefing told. The Ty Unnos system of modular building, using standard section Welsh Sitka spruce, was cited as another example of systems which offer the opportunity to use locally-sourced timber to meet the construction needs of Wales.

Full report here

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Hacktory - Where DIY Fans Meet to Share Ideas

And while many tools we buy themselves are under warranty, a little piece of plastic included in the tool might not be. "So I basically have a toolset, $60 or $70 worth of tools, that's useless because I don't have this little 10-cent plastic insert," says a user Lomazoff.

So he had a solution: He'll make one.

To do that, he's been putting in time at a new workspace called the Hacktory (thehacktory.org), assembling a vacuum-forming machine. The device will allow him to pop in a carved mold of what he needs, heat a sheet of plastic over it and suck that down on top of his positive model, creating a new tray.

The vacuum former is the first major machine project for the Hacktory, which is intended be part meeting place, part school and part garage where do-it-yourselfers such as Lomazoff can network and build things.

It's also among a surge of hacker spaces that independently have sprung up across the country and in Europe, says Ed Cummings, who sits on the board of the Hacktory's parent nonprofit group.

The idea to gather such like-minded people together first occurred to Romanoff a couple of years ago, after reading the debut of the do-it-yourselfer quarterly Make magazine. He says he and a friend were kicking back over beers, daydreaming of how great it would be to find others who were into the magazine and into building things.

Recent attendance is consistently topping 50, and the group is planning to hold its 14th meeting Sunday.

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Digital Livingroom - Will Devices Drive Functionality or Vice Versa?

What will be the evolutionary path of the digital living room? Will devices drive functionality, or will it happen the other way around, where functionality dictates the design of devices? Speakers at the Future of Television conference disagreed.

"I think purpose-built devices for particular applications will have a shelf life," BitTorrent president Ashwin Navin said. "Eventually, applications will get incorporated into the boxes with the highest volume."

Eventually, Navin said, you'll see the traditional cable or satellite STB will disappear as well, as the applications it supports get distributed across different devices.

Anton Monk, CTO of the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) thinks network operators will still have a role in determining functionality on a home network.

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Simtrix Swiftpoint Mouse Triped, Slider - Ergonomic, Reduces RSI

Ever get tired of using the oddly-placed touch pad on your laptop or get annoyed with a mouse that can cause wrist pain? Do you get frustrated with a mouse that doesn't exactly work when you happen to be in a place without a desk?

New Zealand based Simtrix introduces the handy Swiftpoint mice. These two mice are small and portable. Stated on the Simtrix Web site, there are six reasons to choose Swiftpoint:
Portable, Intuitive, Efficient, Ergonomic, Accurate, Multi-functional!

The first mouse, the Triped, is primarily used for tablet PC's and multi-touch table-top surfaces. Shaped like, well, a tripod, this mouse fits right into your fingers like a pencil. Basically, you are writing with your mouse.

The second mouse, the Slider, is ideal for portable laptops. Small and easy to use, this mouse is slightly bigger than your thumb and can be used with home multimedia products as well.
These mouse can also reduce the risk of Repetitive Strain injuries caused by lateral arm movements, hand and wrist rotation, and vertical clicking operation.

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Nano-imprint Technology - Can Molecular Imprints Circumvent Lithography Altogether?

A small group of players in the lithography industry wants to avoid the whole problem of nanometer optical lithography by doing away with the optical part. Nano-imprint technology typically uses e-beam systems to create a mechanical template, not unlike the tools used to press CDs, but on a much finer scale. These folks make a template that is an exact 1:1 image of a resist pattern. They coat the wafer with a polymer, press the template into it, harden the polymer with either heat or UV light, and withdraw the template. Presto: a pattern in the polymer that can be used to mask portions of the wafer. Stepping and repeating creates a patterned polymer layer across an entire wafer.

In principle, the technique has a great future. It requires only inexpensive equipment, needs no DfM tools, OPC, phase-shifting patterns, or other adjustments to the mask to compensate for optical effects—what you see is actually what you get—and in the lab researchers have demonstrated forming features as small as 3 nm. But there have been disabling problems as well.

The chief among them being but many industry experts feel that these issues can be addressed, and to a great extent have been already.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

How Not to Design Software - 5 Mistakes to Avoid

Some ideas to avoid while designing software:

1. Design a Perfect Solution
2. Build for Scalability
3. Use the Best Tool for the Job
4. Commit to Your Decisions
5. Fight Through the Pain

Interesting, and a must-read for software designers.

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Manufacturing in the Era of Design-Art-Technology

The sad consequences of manufacturing’s scale is that it defaults to the least common denominator.

Customization as a manufacturing process has not moved much beyond Henry Ford’s Model T color. True customization means materializing one’s own designs, one’s own imagination.

How does this different kind of manufacturing integreate with design and digital arts? It relies on “toolkits” consisting of digital software and hardware, fab machines, CNC “Robodrills” and 3D modeling. As importantly, the toolkits are also the far-flung networked communities of craftspeople and designers, artists and technologists sharing ideas and insights

The “tooling” for this practice includes open-source firmware for inexpensive microcontroller-based kits like the Arduino; hacked Nintendo Wii controllers; low-cost, rapid-turnaround printed circuit board production houses; free development environments like Processing; online knowledge sharing communities; parts suppliers with no minimum orders, and so forth.

Digital art is ready to move beyond the confines of keyboard, screen and mouse. If there is a “new materiality” to digital arts, it will emphasize material interactions in physical space, embodied experiences and contexts beyond the typically sedentary confines of the screen/keyboard/mouse/network assemblage.

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Optimal Cross Aisle and Fishbone Aisles Design - New Warehouse Design Concepts

An innovative, alternative warehouse-design concept developed by a University of Arkansas researcher and his colleague at Auburn University has been implemented by a Wisconsin generator manufacturer. In its newly designed warehouse in Whitewater, Wis., Generac Power Systems built a non-traditional aisle and rack system based on concepts created by Russell Meller, professor of industrial engineering, and Kevin Gue, engineering professor at Auburn.

In 2006, Meller and Gue announced two novel designs - the optimal cross aisle design and the fishbone aisles design - as alternatives to conventional warehouse layout in which storage racks are laid out to create rows of parallel picking aisles with one or more cross aisles in the middle. The researchers' alternative designs included V-shaped diagonal cross aisles that improved order-picking travel times by 10 to 20 percent.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Product Development Tends and Innovations - Steven Eppinger

Product-development planning remains crucial to organizations' survival and prosperity. Here we revisit some key trends in the process, based on a recent address from one of the world's leading experts in the field of engineered product development.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management Deputy Dean Steven Eppinger, whose textbook Product Design and Development is used by university students all over the world, recently identified and discussed with Eng-Tips.com what he sees as the top six trends and innovations in product development.

His list of trends, based on a transcript from the recent Eng-Tips.com interview:

1. Development Speed occurs more quickly through digital design, analysis and collaboration tools to get products to market faster.
2. Platform Flexibility results from using modular product architecture to provide more product variety to customers.
3. Complexity Management involves engineering complex systems through analysis of interaction networks.
4. Outsourcing and Offshoring permit optimizing supplier skills and capacity, international operations and new markets.
5. Lean Principles allow for improving product development’s efficiency by applying lean production ideas to the organization’s design process.
6. Customer Involvement becomes more easily achieved by using the Internet to bring customers’ ideas into the product design process.

Full details here

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Are Signs to Make Roads Safer Making them More Dangerous?

Wired Magazine published an article in 2004 about Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman, and a trend he started to improve roadway safety by making things appear more dangerous.

The theory goes like this. Putting up signs and designing to remove all possible things that interfere with traffic makes roads appear safer than they really are. Drivers react by becoming more relaxed and less vigilant, resulting in accidents. But if you make roads appear dangerous, for example, by removing signs, people pay more attention and there are less accidents.

Monderman has several real life examples. A quote:

"Riding in his green Saab, we glide into Drachten, a 17th-century village that has grown into a bustling town of more than 40,000. We pass by the performing arts center, and suddenly, there it is: the Intersection. It's the confluence of two busy two-lane roads that handle 20,000 cars a day, plus thousands of bicyclists and pedestrians. Several years ago, Monderman ripped out all the traditional instruments used by traffic engineers to influence driver behavior - traffic lights, road markings, and some pedestrian crossings - and in their place created a roundabout, or traffic circle. The circle is remarkable for what it doesn't contain: signs or signals telling drivers how fast to go, who has the right-of-way, or how to behave. There are no lane markers or curbs separating street and sidewalk, so it's unclear exactly where the car zone ends and the pedestrian zone begins. To an approaching driver, the intersection is utterly ambiguous - and that's the point.

Monderman and I stand in silence by the side of the road a few minutes, watching the stream of motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians make their way through the circle, a giant concrete mixing bowl of transport. Somehow it all works. The drivers slow to gauge the intentions of crossing bicyclists and walkers. Negotiations over right-of-way are made through fleeting eye contact.

It applies to things other than roads as well. Any system with extensive safety measures and procedures becomes at some point prone to catastrophic failure!"

Interesting perspective...

Mored from here

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NASA Future Space Suits - Bio-suites for Pumpkin Suits, EMU?

In the coming months, NASA is due to select one team to provide the suit that astronauts will wear for the next series of giant leaps.

Currently, NASA astronauts use one type of suit during the space shuttle's launch and re-entry (the orange-colored get-up nicknamed the "pumpkin suit") and another type of suit for spacewalks (the Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or EMU). Both are heavy stuff...Spacesuits are built to protect the body from the near-vacuum of space - and the traditional spacewalking suit does that through internal air pressurization. Currently, 70 to 80 percent of the energy expended by a spacewalker goes to bending the suit's joints against that pressure.

In contrast, the Biosuit does the same job through mechanical counterpressure. The result is a garment that provides a stiff skeleton while preserving much more of a person's mobility. Some experts figure that the Biosuit could be ready for prime time in 10 years.

Other groups such as Orbital Outfitters, are designing togs for suborbital space tourists - who wouldn't need the level of protection required for spacewalks or lunar surface operations.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Learning Industrial and Machine Design from Nature's Genius

If building zero-waste machines is one aspect of achieving interstellar travel, we may one day look back at the turn of the 21st century as the time when humans began to look at industrial design in such a way as to make this possible. How? By consulting the ultimate teacher - Mother Nature.

Some of the most advanced work in the field is being done here, on both the corporate and academic level. Students and teachers at local universities are exploring biomimicry research and education as companies such JDS Uniphase in Milpitas and Qualcomm in San Jose turn to nature's ingenuity for their designs. All this is just a microcosm of what's going on globally, where biomimicry is a burgeoning science.

Full report here

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Pininfarina Sintesi Sports Car - Liquid Packaging, Starting with the Passengers!

The Sintesi is a sports car with four doors and four seats, developed by an innovative approach: it does not consider the car as a shape that covers the mechanicals, but one that gives a shape to the mechanicals around the passengers, starting from the latter. This approach, which is known as "Liquid" Packaging, tends to improve weight distribution and lower the centre of gravity, important elements for driving dynamics.

Pininfarina made this possible by close collaboration with Nuvera, which developed the Quadrivium Fuel Cells system, the various components of which were distributed around the car, with four fuel cells positioned near to the wheels. The result is that the space for passengers is much more generous - in proportion to the total volume of the car - without detracting from the sporty line with its relaxed, elegant profile which is sleek, tapered and aerodynamic

Full story here (and nice pics too)

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Nokia Nanotech Phone Concept

Mobile handset giant Nokia has given the first glimpses of the research it is doing in collaboration with the University of Cambridge when it unveiled a shape changing mobile device concept based on nanotechnology.

Dubbed Morph, the joint nanotechnology concept was designed to demonstrate the possible future benefits of nanotechnology for mobile devices. Morph is both stretchable and flexible, but Nokia suggests nanotechnology could also allow future mobile phones to include self-cleaning surfaces and see-through electronics.

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Speedo’s Hydrodynamic Swimsuit for the Beijing Olympics

Aerospace engineering techniques contributed to dramatic improvements in surface-friction and form drag associated with Speedo’s latest high-tech swimsuit.

In competitive swimming, where hundredths of a second can separate winners from losers, hydrodynamic drag really is a drag. So the world’s top swimmers now take to the water in drag-reducing suits that cover more skin, leaving the skimpy swimsuits to the sunbathers. Speedo yesterday launched the latest of these sleek racing suits, the FASTSKIN LZR Racer.

Speedo made a splash with its first FASTSKIN swimwear at the 2000 Summer Olympics. Made from a knitted biomemetic fabric designed to emulate the hydrodynamic characteristics of shark skin, these suits were worn in 80 percent of Sydney’s medal-winning performances. The technology in the LZR Racer, which will be worn by members of the U.S. Swim Team in the upcoming Beijing Olympics, makes FASTSKIN even faster.

Full report here

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Sunday, March 2, 2008

Home Cinema Screens - what are the trends?

Home Cinema Screens - what are the trends?

With growing interest in high definition and larger displays, the home cinema projector market is hotting up. But there is no point in having a great projector if the screen and environment lets it down, and not everyone has the luxury of a spare room that can be dedicated to a home theatre. In order to make the most of the projector and the room it finds itself in, an ordinary screen will often not do, and how it looks aesthetically can be as important as how it performs technically.

To find out how the custom install industry is responding to these challenges, Hidden Wires asked a number of manufacturers, suppliers and installers what the trends are in terms of projection screens, and what recent innovations in the residential market they think are important. Here are their replies.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Shared work spaces a wave of the future

Shared work spaces a wave of the future

Working at home was too lonely for Summer Powell, a 35-year-old freelance graphic designer who had recently moved to San Francisco. She tried working in cafes but found it too distracting. So Powell called a friend and together they joined a communal drop-in office space called Sandbox Suites - an example of a new and growing work arrangement called co-working.

In co-working, a group of freelancers or other solo entrepreneurs share one big office space with perks that they might not get at home, such as conference rooms, espresso machines and opportunities for socializing. Co-working sites usually give members the option of renting a desk that becomes their own reserved space. But most also provide a drop-in option, where people can stop by and work in an unreserved common area for a lower fee...

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Related blogposts
Shared work spaces
Shared work spaces a wave of the future
Shared work spaces - future trends

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Friday, February 22, 2008

SMART Whiteboards - Boards that Make Learning Interactive

When second-grader Kyle Wendt goes to the board, he simply uses his finger to tap, pull and drag items. Or sometimes he uses an inkless pen to write. Or sometimes he just erases it all with a virtual eraser. Kyle is smart; the board he's using is too.

"These boards certainly have a wow factor, but beyond that, they allow learning to be interactive," said his dad, Jeremy Wendt, a TTU department of curriculum and instruction professor who is showing future teachers how the technology can change their classrooms.
SMART Board interactive whiteboards are scattered throughout area school systems, but are becoming more and more desirable as the number of teachers learning to effectively use them increases. The boards cost between $1,000 and $2,100, depending on size. The touch-sensitive board is connected to a computer and digital projector to show the computer image. Teachers and students can control computer applications directly from the board, write notes in digital ink and save their work.

Wendt points to a lesson plan created by an education student to help elementary students learn to count money. The virtual cash register displays the amount of money to collect and asks the student to make change. The register contains virtual paper money and coins that the students can put their fingers on and pull from the drawer.

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Cleanability - Hygienic Design for Food, Processing Industries

Cleanability is what Jürgen Hofmann is working towards. It is his watchword. He wants the design of machines involved in hygiene-critical operations to facilitate easy and efficient cleaning. Hoffman is about to take over a project run by the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging in Germany. It comprises an Internet portal called hygienicprocessing.com, which will be a complete information source with regard to hygienic design, with tips, links, a database of literature and a network of experts.

Hofmann is one of the experts involved in this. For the past nine years, he has been teaching as an academic assistant with the Department of Process Engineering at the Technical University of Munich’s Weihenstephan campus in Germany, which specializes in all food-related matters.
“Hygienic design is relevant in all areas where it is important to keep equipment clean. This includes pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, and even paint,” he says.

In a way, the aim is simple – cleaning is carried out with liquids. These must be able to flow smoothly through all the piping, valves, taps and pumps of a machine. Hofmann’s job is to ensure that there are no gaps, holes, grooves or “dead areas” that the liquid cannot reach. This requires smooth surfaces, curves that direct liquids in the right direction, and seals and gaskets that fit perfectly.

Trelleborg Sealing Solutions works closely with the University of Munich’s Department of Process Engineering and has focused research on sealing designs to meet Hofmann’s hygienic principles.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Smart Textiles, Wearable Devices - Sensors Make Clothes Clever

Clever clothes in a smart world

Pretty soon your gym gear will be more high tech than the groaning treadmill beneath you. Smart textiles and wearable devices can monitor your vital signs as you go about daily life. These clever clothes already exist and look set to find a market niche especially in elite sport and healthcare, say European researchers.

Tiny sensors woven into the fabric collect information about the wearer’s vital signs (respiration, heart rate, surface and core temperature) and movement, which can be monitored remotely using embedded GPRS transmitters.

Full story here

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Monday, February 18, 2008

LED Adds 'Cool Factor' in Car Design - Light Emitting Diodes Have Bright Future

Glowing appeal: In car design, energy use, LEDs add 'cool factor'

February 18, 2008

Bright little lights, known as Light Emitting Diodes, are changing the face of autos, inside and out, designers and engineers say.

Once a beacon for the plush interiors of Lexus, Mercedes and Cadillac, LEDs have made their way into daily drivers such as the Ford Focus and Chevy Malibu, and certainly will make their way into more. Interior and exterior designers love the little light bulbs and are finding new ways to use them.

Recent advances in LED technology and continued price drops mean LEDs will play a more important role in future designs. Consumers will reap the benefits, finding more extravagant light shows inside future vehicles and flashier exteriors as the luxury lighting source goes mainstream.

Full story here

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All New FG Falcon - Kinetic Design that Reflects the Car

All New FG Falcon-Design that Reflects the Car

The all-new exterior and interior design of the FG Falcon embodies the vehicle's core attributes of performance, comfort and fun-to-drive characteristics.

With three distinct faces providing greater series differentiation, a new interior designed around the driver, and the first Australian application of European kinetic design influences, the FG Falcon represents the most design intensive Falcon program since the introduction of the AU Falcon in 1998.

Full story here

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Luxury + Sustainability = Entermodal Leather Bags, Accessories

Luxury + Sustainability. Entermodal

The Entermodal philosophy originates from the idea that design can be a force for positive and meaningful change.” — Entermodal

Entermodal makes modern handcrafted leather bags, wallets, and accessories carried at Fred Segal and All Purpose in LA, Japan’s luxury emporium, Takashimaya, and Odin in New York, among others and featured in magazines like Details and Good.

Its designs are way too cool

See here for more

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Seatec Focused on Nautical Engineering, Design with Yacht Engineering Forum

Seatec focused on the future of nautical engineering and design with Yacht Engineering Forum

Seatec, the International Exhibition of technologies and subcontracting for boat and ship builders, is investing more and more in technical events and this year has hosted events that have centred on the future of the marine industry.

Good interest was shown in the workshop on “Innovative technology of propulsion systems” organised by ATENA, the Italian Association of Naval Techniques in Genoa, with the participation of designers and manufacturers of propulsion systems, where the most recent technological developments for producing propulsion systems (engines, transmission, hydrojets, propellers, etc.) were presented, with a complete show of all the most recent technology already in use or still being researched.

Some of the events and topics were: YEF – Yacht Engineering Forum – organised with the technical consultancy of Meccano Surveying from Livorno. The symposium on nautical engineering and design deals with six issues: Project and production: the reliability of a project in its complicated production process; Classification, design and production of giga-yachts. Yachts or passenger ships? ; Ergonomics and the nautical industry: a combination of form and function; Filling and painting: the big challenge; New frontiers in the design of electric, electronic, electrotechnical systems and nautical automation; The design of large size yachts.

Source: BYM Product & Industry News

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Friday, February 8, 2008

Engineering Jobs Become Car Makers' New Export

For years, car makers have been slashing expenses by building assembly plants in low-cost countries such as Russia, Turkey and Mexico. Now, high-skill design and engineering operations, which have long remained in industrialized countries like the U.S., Germany and Japan, are starting to follow.

Honda Motor Co. last year announced plans to create a development center in Guangzhou with one of its partners in China. Last month, Chrysler LLC said it will begin shifting development work to low-cost countries. General Motors Corp. has begun designing interiors in China for Buicks it will sell in the U.S.

Full report here

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Engineering Jobs Become Car Makers’ New Export

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Blue Tarp-Like Material Makes Concrete Flexible and Pleasing

The future of concrete

U of M develops revolutionary technique to mould concrete into a thing of beauty

Boxy, sterile and even ugly seem like more fitting descriptions for concrete. But it shouldn't be that way, says Mark West, an architecture professor at the University of Manitoba. Concrete can be beautiful. All that's needed is a little bit of fabric to bring out its hidden beauty.

The director of the Centre for Architectural Structures and Technology (C.A.S.T) and his students have been experimenting with a revolutionary technique using material similar to a "blue tarp found at Canadian Tire" to mould concrete into aesthetically-pleasing -- and useful -- new shapes for the construction of buildings.

Full report here

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

CCNtv highlights latest Civil Engineering Software Products

CCNtv highlights latest Civil Engineering Software Products

28 Jan 2008

CADCAMNETtv, the web-video news show produced by the publishers of CADCAMNet, the leading CAD industry online and print news resource, and Alkemedia Productions LLC, announced its newest webcast, covering the most up-to-date CAD industry news is available now.

This week's report highlights two of the leading Civil Engineering software products, from Autodesk and Bentley. The report includes details of Autodesk's Civil3D product, and PowerCivil from Bentley systems.

Full report here

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Reverse Engineering Outsourcing - A Growing Trend?

Many recent needs have put reverse engineering in the news, as today's engineers painstakingly disassemble, analyze, and re-create mission-critical components from ancient spacecraft and support systems.

For instance, engineers working on a particular problem learn their lessons, apply what they've learned to the solution, and move on. The lessons are retained by the group, but over time the group memory is lost. This has serious implications for commercial enterprises as well as government agencies.

Engineering managers are often reluctant to take engineers away from critical design projects that are timelined, to put them on reverse engineering projects. Now, they have the option of outsourcing the project to a reverse engineering specialist. Thus, a new breed of reverse engineering outsourcing vendors are cropping up!

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'Smart' Interactive Fitting Room Suggests What to Wear

A dressing room equipped with cameras and interactive displays could lead to intelligent fitting rooms that connect shoppers to a social fashion network, where they can see themselves and others wearing different outfits.

The system can help shoppers compare their dressing room choices before purchase and can suggest alternative styles. The program can also recommend other clothes available on the store's racks.

Interactive dressing rooms and social fashion networking are already a part of our society. A Prada store in New York City has a "Magic Mirror" that takes a video image of the shopper, which can then be sent via email or SMS to friends, who can reply with a thumbs up or down.

Really cool...full report here

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'Smart' Interactive Fitting Room Suggests What to Wear

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