Saturday, June 30, 2012

When will our flying cars arrive? The answer: 2013

Today's flying cars use the metaphor of a plane. Haven't they missed something?

Today's flying cars look like this...

...but shouldn't they function more like this?

Today's flying cars use the metaphor of an airplane and often look similar to the Terrafugia just launched to market at Automotto on April 7, 2012. 

But it is unclear how widespread this type of car will become.  Most consumer's commutes are less than 30 minutes.  Many would love to escape the traffic - yet few have the time or inclination to acquire pilot's licenses.  

Could we be using the wrong metaphor?  Isn't the average consumer looking for something that won't require a new driver's license.  Something that virtually pilots itself?  Something like the fabled flying carpet. 

Technology indistinguishable from Magic

Already we are seeing quadrocopters with control and stability systems sophisticated enough to play catch with humans (or each other) that are automated.

Today's flying cars have two engines - either of which if failed - could result in a crash. One interesting feature of quadrocopter design is that if one of the four quadrocopters failed - the other three can still land properly.  But why stop with just four engines?  Quadrocopters have been coordinated effectively to fly in coordinated swarms of twenty - successfully navigating obstacles and between each other in ways that exceed human ability without training.

What if this approach of multiple engines for redundancy were extended to increase safety and stability through an entire "carpet" of quadrocopters so that multiple blades could fail and the system could still land safely.

What is the flying car for the masses?  Perhaps it will look more like something like this.

Of course, taken to it's logical extreme of miniaturization, one could imagine nanofabric propellers.  Applying an electrical charge to the fabric could power millions or trillions of tiny rotors.  Woven into clothes - they would be self-air conditioning.  Stretched into a sheet - the fabric could generate loft.  But how much loft is possible - and how close are we today?

What about safety in cases of catastrophic failure?  

Consider wearable airbags: Airfall Airbags.

How might such a system help traffic? Consider that if we just used the air space fifty feet up in a planar fashion, the traffic could split between the ground and the sky and traffic would be half.  Use the layer 25 feet above that and the traffic is now 1/3rd as dense.  Truly, the sky is the limit.

How far are we away from this flying car vision?

October 21st, 2011 was the date of the first manned flight of a "multicopter" by eVolo.  It required just 16 blades and flew for 1 minute and 30 seconds. 

So how close are our flying cars?

E-volo, the German team that flew the manned, electric, 16-rotor multicopter in October, will launch a two-seater version this spring — and a commercial model will go on sale in 2013. The test flight only lasted 90 seconds, but according to E-volo the multicopter is capable of flying for 20 to 30 minutes on a single charge.

Of course, future designs could make ownership more exciting for some. 

How could this change healthcare?

Multi-trauma patient transport might never be the same.  Multicopters could be carried with ambulances or reach scenes helicopters cannot. Ambulances could stabilize patients in the field, place them on stretchers mounted on multicopters.  Patients could be lifted from the scene and taken to the nearest hospital - avoiding roads - and taking the most direct route. One can imagine seeing patient after patient being lifted from the scene simultaneously - while other multicopters return for additional people.  A two man version could enable a single paramedic to care for the patient while in transit. 

How long until the first patient arrives by multicopter?

Of course, it is not just those interested in healthcare that autonomous deliver has excited.  Some are anticipating a "revolution" in food delivery as well. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Nanoscale printers may bypass factories

Nanoscale printers may bypass factories


Solvent containing nanoparticles (yellow dots) flows out of a capillary and forms controllably ultra-small droplets. The solvent evaporates rapidly from the droplets, leaving a structure made of accumulated nanoparticles in its wake (credit: Patrick Galliker/ETH Zurich)

ETH-Zurich researchers have developed an economic, fast and reproducible method for printing micro- and nanoscale (<100 nm) structures in a manner similar to an ink-jet printer printing art.

The trick: ultrafine particles are transferred onto a surface from a capillary with the aid of an electrical field. Depending on how long material accumulates at the same spot, the structure can be a dot or nano-tower, or even an arch.

Surfaces modified with nano-structures can absorb, concentrate and transmit light instead of reflecting it.


  • Increased efficiency of thin-film solar cells by capturing the light and channeling it directly towards the active layer, for instance, instead of reflectng part of the light and letting another part escape unused.
  • Camouflage suits
  • New kinds of faster, more selective and highly sensitive detectors and sensors might be feasible.
  • Special light microscopes in which light nanoantennas trigger fluorescence, enabling individual molecules to be observed.
  • Wherever material needs to be applied on a nanoscale in a targeted fashion — a CPU printed on the spot, for example.

Using the new method, researchers can print dots, small towers, lines and other structures at the nanoscale (SEM image) (credit: Patrick Galliker / ETH Zurich)


  • Structures can be applied to different surfaces in a quick and reproducible manner.
  • Fast because the printer can be programmed in such a way that material is applied precisely where it is needed.
  • Removal and waste of excess material no longer required.
  • Less expensive — no large-scale facilities, high calssification cleanrooms, exceedingly high temperatures or special pressure ratios, and laborious and time-consuming vacuum steps.
  • Throughput and size of the printed surfaces may be increased considerably during industrial production.
  • Prototyping at the smallest scale could be performed fast and affordably.

The researchers next plan to develop a print head containing several individually addressable capillaries to increase throughput and enable stacking layers of different materials.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Samsung TecTiles: NFC stickers do cool stuff with your phone


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via KurzweilAI » News on 6/17/12

(Credit: Samsung)

Samsung is getting behind NFC (near field communication) in a bigger way with stickers that interact with your phone.

In a  demo, Samsung held the Galaxy S III demo device in front of a sticker, one that happened to be attached to a business card, and contact information appeared on the screen.

These TecTiles, as Samsung calls them, have a tiny nub of an NFC chip embedded within. Like other NFC stickers, TecTiles rely on near-field communication technology to communicate a set of instructions.

The stickers, which Samsung will sell in packs of five at each of the Big Four carriers' retail locations ($14.99), correspond to a free Android app that is responsible for the actual programming. With them, you'll be able to set a TecTile to set your alarm, check into a social network, auto-compose a text to a particular recipient, turn the phone to driving mode, and so on.

In some cases, you can mix and match tasks within the same category, so that tapping the NFC-capable phone to the sticker you've affixed to your bedside lamp turns on night mode and the alarm, and tapping it again toggles them off. Likewise, a TecTile on your car dash may toggle car mode while also engaging Bluetooth for calls.

You can reprogram the stickers to your heart's content, and the free app will work with the Samsung Galaxy S III, Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy S II, Galaxy S Blaze 4G, and Nexus S.

You'll also be able to download and use the app and TecTiles on non-Samsung phones, so long as they're NFC-enabled, like the HTC One X.

With TecTiles, you'll also be able to display a message of your choice on someone else's screen, place a call, launch an app, open a URL, check into Facebook, automatically "like" something on Facebook, follow a Twitter contact, and connect on Linked In, among a few other tasks.



Things you can do from here:


Monday, May 21, 2012

While looking for evidence around the doubling time of neural implants for quadriplegics....

....I found reports on the total worldwide count of cochlear implants.

The trend for cochlear implants worldwide is not only exponentially increasing - but accelerating.  The doubling time has increased from every five years to every two years now.

Depending upon when this curve turns sigmoidal and the degree of commoditization of components creating affordability in the developing world, nearly every person worldwide who is deaf (6.6M) could potentially have an implant within the next 12 years.

A plot of cochlear device fidelity might also give a hint as to what year implants could exceed the volume range or fidelity of the human ear.

Perhaps the Six Million Dollar Man is closer than most thought.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Farming with Robot-Vision Laser Extermination

Farming with Robot-Vision Laser Extermination

*Nifty piece here. Ties in so obviously with other surveillance and warfare practices. Instead of breeding weeds to resist herbicides we'll breeding them to become robot-camouflaged. Soon, New Aesthetic weeds of all kinds. The Leibniz team has worked to determine the optimum laser intensity to kill the weeds rather than encourage growth. The second ...

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Paralyzed woman moves robotic arm with her thoughts

And just on the tail of the announcement of monkeys moving their temporarily paralyzed arms using thoughts - a woman moved a robotic arm purely with her thoughts - feeding herself for the first time in 15 years.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Low-cost mini-sensor measures magnetic activity in human brain

Brain computer typewriters with only surface electronics appear closer than ever.

"...The NIST sensor measured magnetic signals of about 1 picotesla (trillionths of a tesla). For comparison, the Earth's magnetic field is 50 million times stronger (at 50 millionths of a tesla)..."

Imagine a string of these embedded in the arms of a pair of glasses.  Given the proximity to Wernicke's and Broca's speech forming areas - could they be sensitive enough to pick up mere thoughts of speech or sub-auditory vocalizations?  

Low-cost mini-sensor measures magnetic activity in human brain

NIST's atom-based magnetic sensor (credit: Knappe/NIST)

A miniature atom-based magnetic sensor developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that operates at room temperature has set a new record in miniaturization of magnetic measurements of the brain.

The measurements were verified by comparing them with signals recorded by a SQUID (superconducting quantum interference device). SQUIDs are the world's most sensitive commercially available magnetometers for biomedical applications such as studying mental processes and advancing the understanding of neurological diseases.

NIST and German scientists used the NIST sensor to measure alpha waves in the brain associated with a person opening and closing their eyes as well as signals resulting from stimulation of the hand.

The NIST mini-sensor is slightly less sensitive than a SQUID now but has the potential for comparable performance while offering potential advantages in size, portability and cost. It consists of a container of about 100 billion rubidium atoms in a gas, a low-power infrared laser and fiber optics for detecting the light signals that register magnetic field strength — the atoms absorb more light as the magnetic field increases.


(Top) Vision of a flexible fiber-coupled magnetometer system. (Middle) Schematic of the microfabricated sensor head. (Bottom) Photograph of the microfabricated sensor head. (Credit: T.H. Sander et al./Biomedical Optics Express)

Low-cost sensitive brain measurements 

The study results indicate the NIST mini-sensor may be useful in magnetoencephalography (MEG), a noninvasive procedure that measures the magnetic fields produced by electrical activity in the brain.

MEG is used for basic research on perceptual and cognitive processes in healthy subjects as well as screening of visual perception in newborns and mapping brain activity prior to surgery to remove tumors or treat epilepsy. MEG also might be useful in brain-computer interfaces.

MEG currently relies on SQUID arrays mounted in heavy flasks containing cryogenic coolants because SQUIDs work best at 4 degrees above absolute zero, or minus 269 degrees Celsius.

In contrast, the chip-scale NIST sensor is about the size of a sugar cube and operates at room temperature, so it might enable lightweight and flexible MEG helmets. It also would be less expensive to mass produce than typical atomic magnetometers, which are larger and more difficult to fabricate and assemble.

"We're focusing on making the sensors small, getting them close to the signal source, and making them manufacturable and ultimately low in cost," says NIST co-author Svenja Knappe. "By making an inexpensive system you could have one in every hospital to test for traumatic brain injuries and one for every football team."

The sensor has been improved since it was used to measure human heart activity in 2010. NIST scientists redesigned the heaters that vaporize the atoms and switched to a different type of optical fiber to enhance signal clarity.


Measurement positions used to detect MEG signals. Activity around 10 Hz linked to closing and opening of the eyes was measured with the sensor positioned above O1; signals related to electrical stimulation at the wrist were obtained over position C3. (Credit: T.H. Sander et al./Biomedical Optics Express)

The brain experiments were carried out in a magnetically shielded facility at the Physikalisch Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) in Berlin, Germany, which has an ongoing program in biomagnetic imaging using human subjects.

The NIST sensor measured magnetic signals of about 1 picotesla (trillionths of a tesla). For comparison, the Earth's magnetic field is 50 million times stronger (at 50 millionths of a tesla). NIST scientists expect to boost the mini-sensor's performance about tenfold by increasing the amount of light detected.

Calculations suggest an enhanced sensor could match the sensitivity of SQUIDS. NIST scientists are also working on a preliminary multi-sensor magnetic imaging system prior to testing clinically relevant applications.

Ref.: T.H. Sander, et al., Magnetoencephalography with a chip-scale atomic magnetometer, Biomedical Optics Express, 2012; DOI:10.1364/BOE.3.000981 (open access)

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Brain-activated muscle stimulation restores monkeys’ hand movement after paralysis

What do you think - 5 years away from the first trials in humans?This is the most promising development I have seen yet for spinal injury victims.  They won't be able to feel anything yet - but at least this could likely delay the crippling muscle atrophy and contractures thus biding some time until the next breakthrough.  I am only sad Christopher Reeves missed it.  

Brain-activated muscle stimulation restores monkeys' hand movement after paralysis

A new neuroprosthetic enables monkeys with one temporarily paralyzed hand to grasp a ball and put it in a chute (right). (Credit: C. Ethier et al./Nature)

An artificial connection between the brain and muscles can restore complex hand movements in monkeys following paralysis, Northwestern University researchers found in an NIH-funded study.

They combined two pieces of technology to create a neuroprosthesis (a device that replaces lost or impaired nervous system function):

  • A multi-electrode array implanted directly into the brain serves as a brain-computer interface (BCI). It allows researchers to detect the activity of about 100 brain cells and decipher the signals that normally generate arm and hand movements.
  • A functional electrical stimulation (FES) device delivers electrical current to the paralyzed muscles, causing them to contract.

The brain array activates the FES device directly, bypassing the spinal cord to allow intentional, brain-controlled muscle contractions and restore movement.

How it works

The research team was led by Lee E. Miller, Ph.D., professor of physiology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. The team recorded the brain and muscle activity of two healthy monkeys as the animals performed a task requiring them to reach out, grasp a ball, and release it.

The FES device then created the required patterns of muscle activity predicted by the brain activity.

The researchers gave monkeys an anesthetic to locally block nerve activity at the elbow, causing temporary paralysis of the hand. With the aid of the neuroprosthesis, both monkeys regained movement in the paralyzed hand, could pick up and move the ball in a nearly routine manner and complete the task as before.

Dr. Miller's research team also performed grip strength tests, and found that their system restored precision grasping ability. The device allowed voluntary and intentional adjustments in force and grip strength, which are keys to performing everyday tasks naturally and successfully.

The next steps include testing this system in primate models of long-term paralysis and studying how the brain changes as it continues to use this neuroprosthesis.

Ref.: Ethier C., et al., Restoration of grasp following paralysis through brain-controlled stimulation of muscles, Nature, 2012; [DOI: 10.1038/nature10987]

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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Crowdsourced Pathology, Thanks to Video Gamers

This study suggests that pathology diagnosis could be made available across the developing world at virtually the same quality of the developed world for virtually negligible cost by using crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourced Pathology, Thanks to Video Gamers

Researchers from UCLA's School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Medicine have designed a system that can harness distant groups of people to analyze pathology images for signs of disease. They tested the ability of non-professionals to quickly learn to detect malaria when looking at images of red blood cells and have shown that if necessary, with a bit of help from online crowds, large groups of people can potentially be screened for the disease.
The system they built relies on video gaming to attract people to do the visual tasks necessary to spot malaria.  The study subjects, mostly untrained newbie undergrads, showed a spotting ability that was within 1.25 percent of medical professionals.
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Thursday, April 19, 2012

UCLA-engineered stem cells seek out and kill HIV in living organisms

Soon, stem cell therapy could be cytotoxic to cells infected with viruses.

Not only HIV, but CMV, EBV, HepB, and others could have a cure.

Fullerene C60 administration doubles rat lifespan with no toxicity

It turns out it wasn't an apple a day that keeps the doctor away, it's a Buckyball.

Fullerene C60 administration doubles rat lifespan with no toxicity

Optical microscopy of spleen sections: (a) oral and (b) i.p. treatment with olive oil only; (c) oral and (d) i.p. treatment with C60-olive oil. The arrows indicate C60 crystals-containing macrophages (brown). (Credit: T. Baati et al./Biomaterials)

Researchers at the University of Paris and colleagues fed the molecule fullerene (C60 or "buckyballs") dissolved in olive oil to rats and found it almost doubles their lifespan, with no chronic toxicity.

The results suggest that the effect of C60, an antioxidant, on lifespan is mainly due to the attenuation of age-associated increases in oxidative stress, according to the researchers.

Pharmacokinetic studies show that dissolved C60 is absorbed by the gastro-intestinal tract and eliminated in a few tens of hours.

"These results of importance in the fields of medicine and toxicology should open the way for the many possible biomedical applications of C60 including cancer therapy, neurodegenerative disorders, and aging," the researcher suggest.

"C60 can be administered orally, and as it is now produced in tons, it is no longer necessary to resort to its water-soluble derivatives, which are difficult to purify and, in contrast to pristine C60, may be toxic.

Since 1993, countless studies showed that fullerene (C60) and derivatives exhibit paramount potentialities in several fields of biology and medicine, mainly including specific DNA cleavage, imaging, UV and radioprotection, antiviral, antioxidant, and anti-amyloid activities, allergic response and angiogenesis inhibitions, immune stimulating and antitumor effects, enhancing effect on neurite outgrowth, gene delivery, and even hair-growing activity, a summary in the Biomaterials paper stated.

Ref.: Baati T, et al., The prolongation of the lifespan of rats by repeated oral administration of [60]fullerene, Biomaterials (2012), doi:10.1016/j.biomaterials.2012.03.036

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Report: Wearable Computing Will Soon Intensify The Platform Wars

When you think about the popularity of image modification technology like Instagram- tools that  can make memories of places more vivid or more emotional - when Augmented Reality glasses are debuted, how many people do you think might choose to live in a permanently "rose tinted" world?  Every day could be differently everything looks like the world is in a 1920s movie...the next, everyone is beautiful...the next, you are living in the world as seen through the eyes of Renoir's paintings.  

Will people choose to see the reality of their spouse - or choose to always see the "Old Spice Man - the man your man could smell like" or the Spice girls and try a different one each day?  

Who will be staying in reality?

How One Response to a Reddit Query Became a Big-Budget Flick | Underwire |

Even the World of Hollywood is moving faster...

Hey, Remember FriendCaller? It Just Launched 7-Way Mobile Video Chat

Does Skype look expensive now?

Amazon's Cloud Now 1% of Internet Traffic does this story end?

Amazon's Cloud Now 1% of Internet Traffic

An anonymous reader writes "A Wired story claims Amazon's cloud now hosts enough companies and traffic to generate 1% of all Internet traffic (and visits from 1/3 of daily Internet users). An amazing number if true. And a little scary for one company to host this much cloud infrastructure."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Brain Implants Help Paralyzed Monkeys Get a Grip

It feels like the Holy Grail of spinal medicine.  Each announcement seems to put us just in reach.  Yet when I read them, I cannot help but feel encouraged and sad that Christopher Reeves will not be around to benefit from them.

Brain Implants Help Paralyzed Monkeys Get a Grip

sciencehabit writes "Spinal cord injuries cause paralysis because they sever crucial communication links between the brain and the muscles that move limbs. A new study with monkeys demonstrates a way to re-establish those connections. By implanting electrodes in a movement control center in the brain and wiring them up to electrodes attached to muscles in the arm, researchers restored movement to monkeys with a temporarily paralyzed hand. The work is the latest promising development in the burgeoning field of neuroprosthetics."
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Monkey do. A new neuroprosthetic enables monkeys with one temporarily paralyzed hand to grasp a ball and put it in a chute (right).
Credit: Adapted from C. Ethier et al., Nature, Advance Online Publication (2012)

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Wind Turbine Extracts Water From Air

The son evaporates millions of gallons of seawater a day. One can experience this driving through the dense fog in Abu Dhabi desert every night.  How long until we can harvest this moisture and reclaim our deserts?

Wind Turbine Extracts Water From Air

An anonymous reader writes "Getting access to enough water to drink in a desert environment is a pretty tough proposition, but Eole Water may have solved the problem. It has created a wind turbine that can extract up to 1,000 liters of water per day from the air. All it requires is a 15mph wind to generate the 30kW's of power required for the process to happen. The end result is a tank full of purified water ready to drink at the base of each turbine."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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