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.

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.

>The Eyes Have It

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In the last couple of weeks, a new innovation by Tobii for eye tracking technology built into the lid of laptop computers has been featured on CNN, the New York Times (March 27, 2011), and Bloomberg Businessweek (March 28-April 3, 2011)

Tobii allows users to “control their computers just by looking at them.

The eye tracker uses infrared lights (like those used in a TV’s remote control) to illuminate the pupils, and optical sensors on the computer screen capture the reflection. Tobii can determine the point of gaze and movement of the eyes to within 2 millimeters.

So forget the mouse–“just look at a particular location on the screen, and the cursor goes there immediately.”

This is a natural user interface that is fast and intuitive, generally halving the time needed for many chores.”

Eye tracking is being tested and planned by Tobii and others for the following

– Read text down the screen and it automatically scrolls. – Look at a window or folder to choose it. – Use a map by eyeing a location and then touching it to zoom. – Activate controls by holding a glaze for a quarter to half a second. – Play video games by moving through with your eyes. – Gaze at a character and they will stare back at you. – Leave your TV and it pauses until you return.

This technology has the potential to help disabled people (who cannot use a traditional mouse) as well as prevent strains and injuries by reducing some repetitive stress movement.

Within a couple of years, the cost of eye tracking technology is seen as coming down from tens of thousands of dollars to a couple of hundred dollars for a laptop clip-on device or even less for those built right in.

I think another important use for eye tracking is with augmented reality technology, so that as people navigate and look around their environment, sensors will activate that can provide them all sorts of useful information about what they are seeing.

Ultimately, where this is all going is the addition of a virtual 4th dimension to our vision–where information is overlaid and scrolling on everything around us that we look at, as desired.

This will provide us with an information rich environment where we can understand more of what we see and experience than ever before. Terminator, here we come! Augmented_reality