Filtering by Category: Tech

SmartFish: innovative aviation

Smartfish is a project carried out by various lab and industrials such as EPFL, RUAG, German Aerospace...

The objective of team SmartFish is to develop and commercialise a revolutionary general aviation aircraft technology that is highly innovative in terms of safety, economy and emotion. This technology can be used for a wide range of applications, from UAV to high performance sports planes to business jets that can accommodate up to 20 passengers.

SmartFish differs from conventional aircraft by its innovative aerodynamic design, while relying on standard technologies for building materials and propulsion.

There is also HyFish, a SmartFish powered by a fuel cell.

Notes after the 3gsm gathering of mobilists

Yesterday at the 3gsm gathering of mobilists organized by Rudy De Waele and Gotomedia, Fabien and I met various practionners in the field of mobile applications/location-based services. Interesting people and various projects like minifizz or my favorite: a Ghost Detector that works on cell-phone (made by Future Platforms who also worked on Twitchr that Matt Jones presented at Lift):

Many paranormal investigators believe that fluctuations in Electro-Magnetic Frequences (or EMF) might indicate paranormal activity. Our application, built for mobile TV specialists WireTown, looks for these fluctuations and interprets them on a mobile phone screen as ghostly presences. It factors in regional issues and variations and compares the reception of users on the same network, flagging up expected peaks and troughs and linking them to a needle-and-gauge readout on the handset.

But it's more than just an on-phone novelty: building on the huge success of shows like Most Haunted and Derek Acorah's Ghost Towns on LivingTV, the application lets its users interact with a TV broadcast, producing an always-on link between viewers and a live show for the very first time.

Apart from that Markus Angermeier proposed the idea of mobile hotspots like taxis wandering around in cities offering a free wifi access. Just like mobile phone booth that would offer a seamless and wireless connection (!?). Markus is an accessibility expert, creative director design for Aperto’s, consultant for Plazes (mobile phone demo and brainstorming on proximity-based scenarios).

Alex Kummerman presented us his ideas about location-based/mobile social software that we tried lately and pointed us on Michel Simatic for discussing ideas about games, mobile platforms and multi-user issues.

We continue our discussion with Russell about the issues related to techno-push in the context of location-based services. According to him, phone carriers and vcs are very reluctant to invest in that domain because they saw that it did not work (!) with the project they saw (pure techno-push lbs like restaurant-rating system or virtual post-its or "where is my buddy in the vicinity?"). The reason for that was very often bad scenarios/use cases (not user-centered).

Jaakko Villa, CEO of idean research in Finland quickly described us his user experience company.

Finally, one of the attendant described us the atrocious journey he had from the US to bcn. He had to be rerouted to Milano because his luggage was sent there. This seems to be avery curious moment in which what we discussed at the blogject workshop: object may become first-class citizen in the sense that a human being has change his behavior accordingly with his/her own artifact.

Tech concepts of 2006

Popular Mechanics lists the scientific and technological breakthroughs that may spread quickly in 2006. These advances relates to various domains, I found the following interesting:

  • Body Area Network (BAN): Like everything else, implantable medical devices are going wireless. A new in-body antenna chip from Zarlink Semiconductor is in preproduction, and should appear in pacemakers and hearing implants this year. By transmitting data to and receiving instructions from nearby base stations, BAN chips can reprogram your heartbeat at your doctor's office or make a diagnosis from a bedside wireless monitor at home.
  • Internet Protocol Television (IPTV): Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) already lets us make phone calls over the Internet. Now, IPTV is doing something similar for video. The advantage? Convergence. If your TV is tapped into the Internet, you can program your DVR to record over the Web from your office. Future applications may add interactivity to standard TV broadcasts.
  • SPIT (SPam over Internet Telephony)
  • Pedestrian Protection System (PPS): Radar sensors and computer-controlled braking will keep drivers safer than ever, but what about pedestrians?

Some - of course - are more obvious: mobile VoIP, Ajax, metadata.

Mash-up of IM/RSS and publishing services

I am happy to see that I am not the only one thinking about how IM could be a good interface for information management (search, database query), as I described last year.John Battelle wrote a clever post about it, connecting this to mobile interfaces:

first of all, a mashup of RSS and IM is just a very cool idea. The medium of IM has been underappreciated by nearly everyone in the "media" business for one reason - the leaders of the business didn't use IM. But lord knows the rest of the world sure does.

there are other types of branded content that makes total sense in IM: publications and personal web services. A great publication has an intimate relationship with its audience, it's a trusted source of information, a pal, a buddy. And blogs, as I've argued again and again, can be great publications. And great web services like local search have earned our trust, know who we are, and we know that when we ask them questions, useful answers will come back. No one wants a stupid chat bot that tries to be, say, Santa Claus, that gets old fast. But a chat bot that is useful? That can instantly deliver your favorite content to your mobile phone without forcing it through the crappy sphincter of your mobile operators crippled web interface? Or can answer questions like, say, "pharmacy 91106" with the speed and intimacy of an IM chat session?

Why do i blog this? I like this idea and I am used to ask question to AIM bots about weather forecast, movie schedule... would it work on a mobile phone? I don't really know but I'd love to have this on my Nintendo DS for sure... There is an interesting debate in the comment part of this post. For instance usabiltiy-guru Jakob Nielsen complains that it's just re-inventing the command line. Some others expects "that the rich client UI applications of tomorrow will be delivered when the "browser" is merged with an "IM client"...

Phone masts disguised as trees

Preserved TreeScapes InternationalTM (PTI), a company specialised in replica trees. They now expanded their products to phone mast disguised as trees:

Most recently, PTI has turned its experience and talents toward concealment solutions for the wireless communications provider. The tremendous increase in demand for wireless towers has generated great opposition to the use of conventional, unconcealed structures. Both community and zoning requirements for high quality concealment are on the rise. Today, concealment issues may be the greatest obstacles to obtaining zoning approval. PTI’s botanically correct tree tower products will help speed the approval process. PTI has an ongoing commitment to develop future products and concealment opportunities through design, research and testing.

Why do I blog this? this kind of today's artefacts would definitely appear to be weird for time-travellers coming from the past.

'Beta' as a long-term label...

The WSJ last week had a good column about an interesting fact: for some technology companies, 'Beta' becomes a long-term label (by DAVID KESMODEL)

For years, the term "beta" referred to a relatively short period of testing by a select group of outsiders. These days, beta editions are not only released to the public, but also stay in that mode for months, or even years. Google News, Google's news aggregator, has been in beta for three years. Microsoft's antispyware application has been in beta for nearly a year. (...) The companies say consumers benefit from the practice because the widespread testing helps them make critical improvements and determine which extra features users want.(...) Many consumers will tolerate problems encountered with beta services because many are offered free of charge

Maybe it's connected to the 'kidult' phenomenon (Kidult = A middle-aged person who continues to participate in and enjoy youth culture)?

Mosquito sounds to avoid teenagers loitering

The IHT has a strange story about a device, called the Mosquito ("It's small and annoying,"), that emits a high-frequency pulsing sound which can be heard by most people younger than 20 and almost no one older than 30.

So far, the Mosquito has been road-tested in only one place, at the entrance to the Spar convenience store in this town in south Wales. Like birds perched on telephone wires, surly teenagers used to plant themselves on the railings just outside the door, smoking, drinking, shouting rude words at customers and making regular disruptive forays inside. "On the low end of the scale, it would be intimidating for customers," said Robert Gough, who, with his parents, owns the store. "On the high end, they'd be in the shop fighting, stealing and assaulting the staff." (...) The results were almost instantaneous. Where disaffected youths used to congregate, now there is no one. (...) Stapleton is considering introducing a much louder unit that can be switched on in emergencies with a panic button. It would be most useful when youths swarm into stores and begin stealing en masse, a phenomenon known in Britain as "steaming."

Kind of scary, will we see that in France to avoid car fires?

A Mobile Laser for Tracking Pollution or Warding off Lightning

Teramobile is a project that aims at studying the nonlinear propagation of femtosecond-terawatt laser pulses over long distances in the atmosphere, and their applications to atmospheric research. This includes Lidar remote sensing of atmospheric pollutants as well as lightning protection and triggering by a mobile Terawatt laser system. It's eveloped jointly by two French laboratories – the Laboratory for Ionic and Molecular Spectrometry (LASIM, CNRS/University of Lyon I) and the Applied Optics Laboratory near Paris in Palaiseau (CNRS/Ecole Polytechnique/ENSTA) – and two German laboratories (The Free University of Berlin and the F. Schiller University in Jena).

The dark side of Pervasive Computing: environmental issues

It's refreshing to see that some scholars are working on the dark side of technology, especially when it's related to pervasive computing which is one of the 'research object' we adress here:Expected Environmental Impacts of Pervasive Computing by Andreas Köhler, Lorenz Erdmann:

Pervasive Computing will bring about both additional loads on and benefits to the environment. The prevailing assessment of positive and negative effects will depend on how effectively energy and waste policy governs the development of ICT infrastructures and applications in the coming years. Although Pervasive Computing is not expected to change the impact of the technosphere on the environment radically, it may cause additional material and energy consumption due to the production and use of ICT as well as severe pollution risks which may come about as a result of the disposal of electronic waste. These first order environmental impacts are to be set off against the second order effects, such as higher eco-efficiency due to the possibility to optimise material and energy intensive processes or to replace them by pure signal processing (dematerialisation). The potential environmental benefits from such second order effects are considerable and can outweigh the first order effects. But changes in demand for more efficient services (third order effects) can counterbalance these savings. The experience gained thus far with ICT impacts has shown that such a rebound effect occurs in most cases of technological innovations.

There is also a relevant document about it by the same auhor: Effects of Pervasive Computing on Sustainable Development.

Why do I blog this? ... well... there are some fundemantal drawbacks we have to consider (read worldchanging!)

High-Altitude Platforms to deliver WiFi

Laurent sent me this intriguing news: High-altitude platforms for wireless communications by T. C. Tozer and D. Grace:

The demand for high-capacity wireless services is bringing increasing challenges, especially for delivery of the ‘last mile’. Terrestrially, the need for line-of-sight propagation paths represents a constraint unless very large numbers of base-station masts are deployed, while satellite systems have capacity limitations. An emerging solution is offered by high-altitude platforms (HAPs) operating in the stratosphere at altitudes of up to 22 km to provide communication facilities that can exploit the best features of both terrestrial and satellite schemes.

Skype-enabled WiFi phone

At last: news3yen reports on this interesting new gizmo: a Skype-enabled WiFi phone by Accton Technology (from Taiwan)

The new unit enables a talk time of up to four hours with a stand-by-time of up to 20 hours and is likely to be initially priced at over US$150 in the retail market, according to sources. Accton also plans to introduce dual-mode mobile phones that support both GSM and Wi-Fi technology in early 2006.

I am just wondering about how they deal with so many different WiFi network in terms of accessibility + security...

WiFi surveillance tool: WiFi Watchdog

WiFi Watchdog is a server-based software that detects, monitors and secures 802.11-based wireless networks (WLANs). According to the website, it's meant to "enforce "No Wi-Fi" policies as well as integrate with any existing Wi-Fi equipment to stop the increasing number of security threats not addressed by authentication, encryption or VPNs.". Here are some the features:

WiFi Watchdog creates a virtual location-based firewall around facilities and prevents unauthorized access from attackers attempting to break into a 802.11 WLAN using high-gain antennas, spoofed MAC addresses, broken encryption keys, stolen credentials, and stolen devices.

distinguishing true rogue devices in your building from nearby devices that are outside your facilities, eliminating volumes of false-positives signaled by other wireless IDS tools. WiFi Watchdog immediately identifiies the precise physical location of any unauthorized access points, ad-hoc networks, or soft access points within your facilities

WiFi Watchdog's flexible alerting architecture provides extensive intrusion detection capabilities. WiFi Watchdog identifies and locates an array of wireless attacks including MAC Spoof, MAC Storm, Man-In-The-Middle and Denial of Service attacks. Alerts identify the physical location of the source of the attack.

Here is the interface to manage this WiFi surveillance:

Their point is that "WiFi Watchdog Restores the Walls ":

Why do I blog this? even though I don't like this wifi boundaries thing, the tool seems to be interesting in terms of the data you can extract to understand how WLAN networks are used in physical places; relevant visualization might be computed from that. From what I saw it seems to be possible to have some histograms and pie charts that depicts information like channel usage or devices locations.

Locate and destroy RFID

What an interesting device! RFID washer: "RFIDwasher finds RFID tags and “electronically washes” it, thus protecting your privacy. (...) It disables the tag using patented prioprietary technology (...) it is designed to destroy all tags that you will find on everyday objects – these are known as passive tags. It is not designed to destroy active tags which are used in industrial applicatio"

An impressive mecha

This mecha is very impressive, it's taken from the last issue of IEEE Spectrum in which there is an article about the rise of exo-skeletons:

The colossal, 5.5-meter-high, 1360-kilogram Mecha exoskeleton sits in Carlos Owens's backyard in Wasilla, Alaska, its legs locked into position to prevent the hydraulic fluid that helps move the monster's limbs from losing all pressure. Powered by an 18-horsepower (13.4-kilowatt) Briggs & Stratton engine, Mecha cost Owens US $25 000 and took about a year and a half to build. This past May, Owens climbed into the pilot seat and took Mecha for its first walk: half a dozen steps, each measuring about 20 centimeters.

There is also a website about this project with some video footage.

Good paper about the rise of exo-skeletons

A very good review of the existing exo-skeletons in the IEEE Spectrum: The Rise of the Body Bots by: Erico Guizzo and Harry Goldstein:

Today, in Japan and the United States, engineers are finally putting some practical exoskeletons through their paces outside of laboratories (...) At long last, exoskeletons, the stuff of science fiction, are on the verge of proving themselves in military and civilian applications. Strap-on robotic controls for the arms and hands—used to remotely operate manipulators that handle nuclear material, for example—have been around for quite a while. But the new anthropomorphic, untethered, and self-powered exoskeletons now strutting out of labs aren't just a bunch of wearable joysticks. They marry humans' decision-making capabilities with machines' dexterity and brute force. They've got the brains to control the brawn.

What's relevant is that they mention the limits:

These efforts ran into fundamental technological limitations. Computers weren't fast enough to process the control functions necessary to make the suits respond smoothly and effectively to the wearer's movements. Energy supplies weren't compact and light enough to be easily portable. And actuators, which are the electromechanical muscles of an exoskeleton, were too sluggish, heavy, and bulky. (...)

You're not likely to see exoskeletons battling extraterrestrial monsters anytime soon. But before long, it might not even occur to you to gawk at the sight of a person strapped to an exoskeleton bringing home the groceries or going for a stroll in the park.

Check this impressive example developed in Japan by KANAGAWA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY:

>Why do I blog this? This is an interesting trend in HCI and the article is a great summary of people like me who just wanted to know more about this. I like the fact that the introduction starts with mentioning Robert Heinlein's Starship Troop because it's for me the first reference I ran across about exo-skeletons.

Control your car with your cell phone

Via strange new products, this crazy application: a wireless access protocol (WAP) version of Guidepoint™ that:
allows subscribers to track their vehicle, unlock doors, start the engine and honk the horn with a wireless device or cell phone. (...) The vehicle tracking service displays a map pinpointing the vehicle location, as well as a text readout of the street address where the vehicle is located.

Here is what says the website:

“The addition of WAP and our recent move to digital reflect our drive to deliver value innovation to customers. Our goal is not to create bleeding edge technology. Instead, we are focused aligning innovation with utility, price and costs to deliver a unique experience,”

"Aligning innovation with utility?", " deliver a unique experience"... mmmh are those the promises of location-based services people expressed in the last 5 years?

Nokia and MIT to establish a common research lab

Nokia and MIT are establishing a common research lab according to this press news:

"By carrying out long-term research in these fields, including novel uses of hand-held devices, MIT and Nokia will make new communication opportunities and services available for people around the globe." (...) The collaborative work of the Nokia Research Center Cambridge will center on a view of the future where small handheld devices such as mobile phones will become parts of an "ecosystem" of information, services, peripherals, sensors and other devices. Research will address new user interfaces that incorporate speech and other modalities, new mobile computing platforms - including low power hardware platforms and wireless communication, as well as new software architectures. Researchers will also address new ways of managing information: The use of Semantic Web technologies - an extension of the current Web developed in part at CSAIL and at the Nokia Research Center - will enable devices to more intuitively and automatically understand interconnected terms, information and services.

Time will tell.

Mac Mini robot

Via infogargoyle, this ultra-cool Mac Mini robot (in german, so check the english translation) :

Mini psi - in such a way our small friend is called - orients itself with one iSight and thinks with a MicroPsi Nodenetz. Three strong Servos turn a omnidirektionalen drive - thus the robot can itself, without having to change its adjustment, move in each direction.

More information on the project page. It's a project carried out by Kay Berkling, Armin Zundel, Nile Appelhans, Jessica Tin, Holger Heine, Tim Kietzmann, Roland Hafner and Ronnie Vuine.

Quick statistics about smart phones

I was just wondering about the market of smart phones: via Networks Silicon:

Smart phone shipments are continuing to grow steadily, according to research firm Canalys, up from 3.6 million devices shipped in the first half of this year to 9.6 million in the first half of 2005. (...) Canalys is predicting that for the first half of 2006, 13 per cent of all mobile devices will be smart phones. Of those devices sold so far this year in EMEA, the majority are still using the traditional input method. The analysts found that 80 per cent of smart phones are based on Symbian's Series 60 platform and use a normal phone keypad, while Series 80 phones – which tend to use keyboard-type interfaces – make up another 13 per cent. UIQ devices represent four per cent of the market.

MP3 Breasts

An odd news on Ananova today: musical breast implants:

Computer chips that store music could soon be built into a woman's breast implants. One boob could hold an MP3 player and the other the person's whole music collection. BT futurology, who have developed the idea, say it could be available within 15 years. BT Laboratories' analyst Ian Pearson said flexible plastic electronics would sit inside the breast. A signal would be relayed to headphones, while the device would be controlled by Bluetooth using a panel on the wrist.

A fully intangible interaction... wtf!?

More about it: The future of breast implants by Ian Pearson:

Silicone sounds a bit like silicon, which of course is used in many electronic chips. That’s because silicone gel is based on silicon. In fact, it is possible to make some electronic circuits based on silicone, though they are not well suited to heavy computing tasks. Other kinds of plastic can even be used to make organic displays (using organic LEDs). So knowing this as an engineer, it is now very hard for me to think of breast implants as purely decorative. I just can’t help feeling that if a woman is going to have something implanted permanently, it might as well do something useful. (...) So why not still use a combination of silicone and other plastics in the implant, but do something useful with them? One implant could house a range of gadgetry such as an MP3 player and the other store the woman’s entire music collection – we call this concept mammary memory! God provides her with two beautifully designed control knobs to select the track and adjust the volume.

This last point is utterly crazy... hopefully the end is better: "of course, there are now a wide range of medical monitors in use"