Seeing Is Believing

This robotic seeing eye dog from Japanese company NSK is an incredible display of how technology can help the blind and was profiled in PopSci on 9 November 2011.
While there are reports of many advances in returning sight to the blind through such breakthroughs as stem cell molecular regeneration and camera-like retinal implants, there will unfortunately be medical cases that cannot be readily cured and herein lies the promise for robotic guide dogs.
These dogs do not provide the same companionship that perhaps real dogs do, but they also don’t require the same care and feeding that can be taxing, especially, I would imagine, on someone with a handicap.
The Robotic Seeing Eye Dog can roll on flat surfaces and can climb stairs or over other obstacles.
It is activated by a person holding and putting pressure on it’s “collar” handle bar.
The robotic dog can also speak alerting its handler to specific environmental conditions and potential obstacles, obviously better than through a traditional dog bark.
The dog is outfitted with Microsoft Kinect technologyfor sensing and navigating the world.
It is amazing to me how gaming technology here ends up helping the blind. But every technological advance has the potential to spur unintended uses and benefits in other areas of our life.
Recently, I saw an advertisement for MetLife insurance that proclaimed “for the ifs in life” and given all the uncertainties that can happen to us at virtually anytime, I feel grateful to G-d for the innovation and technology that he bestows on people for helping us handle these; sometimes the advances are direct like with Apple’s laser-like focus on user-centric design for numerous commercial technologies, and other times these are more indirect like with the Kinect being used for helping the blind, or even the Internet itself once developed by the military’s DARPA.
I imagine the technology cures and advances that we achieve are almost like a race against the clock, where people come up with counters to the ifs and threats out there, adapting and adopting from the latest and greatest technology advances available.
Advances such as Kinect and then taking us to the robotic seeing eye dog, bring us a little closer–step by step, each time incrementally–to handling the next challenge that calls.
This week, I was reminded again, with the massive asteroid YU55 speeding past us at 29,000 mph and within only 202,000 mile of a potential Earth collision (within the Moon’s orbit!), how there are many more ifs to come and I wonder will we be ready, can we really, and whether through direct or indirect discoveries to handle these.

Replacing Yourself, One Piece at a Time

Here is a wonderful idea to help people who use prosthetics–a smartphone built right in to the artificial limb.What was once a challenging task to hold a smartphoneand make calls, write emails and texts, or just search the web is now just a push of a button or voice command away.This is a user-centric and functional integration of technology with medical science to help those who have either lost limbs or been born without them.While a step forward for the disabled, perhaps this is also a move towards future technological augmentation of regular body parts as well.What was once a tattoo or body piercing on the periphery may soon become an implanted smartphone in the body part of your choosing.The concept reminds me of the MTV show “Pimp My Ride” where run-of-the-mill cars are completely made over into new awesome vehicles by stripping them and rebuilding them with better, cooler parts.Is this where we are going with our human bodies–where one day we are an old beat-up minivan only to have our parts swapped out and replaced with biotechnology to become a new hotrod convertible once again.Now we are moving from leveraging technology for medical purposes to tinkering with our our physical bodies, using technology, for preference.Yes, this is already being done with facelifts and other cosmetic surgery, but how about replacing entire body parts not because they are diseased, but because you want or can afford an upgrade?Lot’s of exciting and scary implications to think about with this one–as our body parts become replaceable almost like legos–snap on and off.In the future, becoming a better, stronger, faster person may not be just a function of what you do, but how much you can afford to replace.

Keeping All Our Balls In The Air


This is the throwable panoramic ball camera.It has 36 cameras and when thrown in the air, takes 360-degree pictures of it’s surroundings as it reaches it’s apex (i.e. the highest point in the air).You can see behind you, above you, all around you even things that you didn’t even know where there.And you can pan, zoom, and scroll to get the precise view you want.The pictures are amazing–instantly, you have a birds eye view, but only better, because even a bird can’t see behind it’s head, but you can.The implications for artists, photo hobbyists, and outdoor enthusiasts is one thing, but then there are the possibilities for improved surveillance and reconnaissance for homeland and national security.Watch for camera balls to be used not only for throwing in beautiful and/or dangerous environments, but also for posting at security checkpoints, critical infrastructure, transportation hubs and more.One question I have is, whether the camera ball become a one-time use device, if you don’t catch it and it ends up smashing into the ground.Situational awareness is about to get a real bounce out of this one.

Display It Everywhere


We are getting closer to the day when mobile computing will truly be just a computer interaction anywhere–on any surface or even on no surface.
In this video we see the OmniTouch, developed by Microsoft in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon University, display your computer interface on everyday objects–yourself, a table, wall, and so on.
This takes the Kinect gaming technology to a whole new level in that the OmniTouch doesn’t just detect and sense your motions and gestures, but it meshes it with the way people typically interact with computers.
Using a wearable pico projector and a depth camera,the OmniTouch creates a human-computer interface with full QWERTY keyboard and touch pan, zoom, scroll capabilities.
It’s amazing to see the person demonstrating theinteraction with the computer practically in thin air–oh boy, Minority Report here we come. 😉
Of course, to become a viable consumer solution, theshoulder-mounted contraption has got to go really small–no bigger than a quarter maybe, and able to be mounted, with processors and connectivity, unobtrusively in clothing, furniture, or right into building construction in your home or office.
At that point, and it hurts to say it given how much I love my iPhone, computers will no longer be device-driven, but rather the application takes center stage.

And the ability to project and click anywhere, anytime helps us reach a new level of mobility and convenience that almost boggles the senses.

High-Tech Pooper Scoopers

A few weeks ago (17 September 2011), I blogged about the Peepoo for human waste disposal, and now we have the AshPoopie for handling doggie waste.
Made by Pauli Clean Tech, this device turns dog poop into odorless, clean, 100% sterile ash.
With push-button ease, the AshPoopie picks up the poop and mixes it with a capsule at high speed to render it into simple ash for easy disposal.
AshPoopie is scheduled for release in first quarter 2012.
A welcome site and refreshing smell to our doggy doo streets.
While I personally am not obsessed with this fecal subject matter, I am a fan of cleanliness…
So cheers to these high-tech pooper scoopers. 😉

Fitting Every Consumer A VIP

Check out this new augmented reality virtual fitting room technology called Virtual Interactive Podium (VIPodium) by Russian Company, Fitting Reality.
Using Kinect, motion-sensing technology, you use simple gestures to:
– Select, mix and match, and try on clothes in 3-D.
– Twirl around and see yourself in 360-degrees
Take pictures, email them or share them on Facebook
Get outfit information including sizing, and
– Place clothing in wish lists for future consideration or into the online shopping cart for purchase
Here is another video of a very cool implementation of this technology at the men and women’s TopShop store in Moscow.
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The people are visibly engaged and excited shopping and trying on clothes using the latest here for “tech-savy fashionistas.”
Honestly though, I see this more as an augmentation to the physical fitting rooms, in terms of helping select clothes, rather than a replacement, since really seeing how something fits, means actually putting the outfit on.
VIPodium beats simply holding up an new outfit to yourself and looking in the mirror, but it doesn’t come close to seeing how it really feels when it’s when you put it on.
However, add in the interactive social media features, available information, and ability to shop online and I think you got something that makes every consumer feel like a VIP.
Happy shopping!

Now You See It, Now You Don’t

Very cool new military technology by BAE Systems called Adaptiv–it’s an invisibility cloak (yes, we now have the technology of the Klingon Empire at our disposal!)
Hexagonal pixel plates are affixed to tanks (and soon battle ships) and these can change temperatures to be invisible to infra-red sensors and confuse heat seeking missiles.
Moreover, onboard cameras pick up surrounding scenarios and can display this onto the vehicle’s pixels, so that the military vehicles blend right into their environs.
Another trick, is that that the pixels can display alternate images to masquerade itself— so a tank is now a simple car or even a cow (according to Wired UK, 6 September 2011).
Like the Trojan Horse, I can only imagine what a military power could do by fully exploiting this capability–whether through the conduct of hit and run maneuvers or by invading and conquering  an unsuspecting foe.
This is the emergence of a whole new era of war-fighting capabilities, where camouflage is no longer just covering yourself with the basic elements, but rather where technology is used to create a virtual reality that masks the true physical.
On the battlefield, this technology will enable us to seemingly be there one minute, and gone the next (machines and people)–that’s technology magic that even Houdini would be envious of.
And yet, this is still just the beginning…we are only now bordering on the capabilities inherent in the Star Trek holodeck–where whole alternate environments are just a simulation away.

Robot Fighters Coming Soon

Maars
I love keeping up with the latest in robotics, especially when it comes to battlefield versions.
The Wall Street Journal (19 August 2011) featured QinetiQ’s Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System (MAARS) today as “America’s Newest Soldiers.”
MAARS features tank treads, days and night vision cameras, a 4-barrel 40mm high-explosive grenade launcher, and a M240B 7.62mm machine gun.
“It can stand sentry at a checkpoint and warn people away with a police style hailer, a nonblinding laser, tear gas or smoke grenades.  As a last resort, it can fire lethal rounds.”
Watching this thing, I imagine the D Day landings in Normandy would’ve looked a lot different with a swarm of these fellows landing on those bullet-riddled beaches.
The nature of the fight is changing and whoever stands in front of one of these armed robots (and even better next generation versions to come) better be prepared to say “bye bye, it was nice knowing you.”  😉
(Source Photo: here)

>Fit For A King

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So technology really does come to everything, eventually.
Check out Kohler’s new high-tech toilet, the Numi.
Aside from all sorts of automatic functions from opening the toilet (from up to 8 feet away), to raising the seat for men based on foot sensors, to even flushing with varying power level based on how long you’ve been doing your business, the Numi really performs as the “toilet of the future” as CNET calls it.
Using a touch-tablet remote (that magnetically docks to a wall panel):
– It washes (through an extending bidet with LED lights)
– It dries (with an built in air dryer and deodorizer)
– It cleans (the bowl with 2 modes–1.28 or 0.6 gallons of water for the eco-conscious, and it also cleanses the bidet head with water or a bath of UV light)
– It warms (by controls for seat temperature and blows warm air at your feet), and
– It entertains (with FM radio and speakers as well as integrates with your iPod/iPhones).
For $6,400 you get yourself a true throne with form and function fit for a gadget king.
(Credit Picture of Remote to Scott Stein/CNET and Credit Picture of Numi Side to Kohler)
Kohler_numi Toilet_side