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Braille App Makes Tablets Accessible to Blind Persons

October 11, 2011 Leave a comment

“The Braille system has allowed blind people to read the written word since 1825. Unfortunately, Braille doesn’t translate well to the glossy smooth surfaces of modern touch screen tablets and phones. A new app thinks it can change that…

The new app was created by NMSU undergraduate Adam Duran, Stanford Assistant Professor Adrian Lew, and Stanford Doctoral candidate Sohan Dharmaraja as part of the Army High-Performance Computing Research Center’s (AHPCRC) annual two-month summer immersion course. It allows the blind to use tablets via the Braille eight-button keyboard but with an important twist.

Instead of requiring the user to find virtual buttons on a glass surface (how frickin’ impossible is that?), the individual keys orient themselves to the correct finger whenever the user touches the screen. “They’re customizable,” Dharmaraja said in a press release. “They can accommodate users whose fingers are small or large, those who type with fingers close together or far apart, even to allow a user to type on a tablet hanging around the neck with hands opposed as if playing a clarinet.””

Turn Your iPhone Camera Into a Microscope for $30

October 11, 2011 2 comments

“UC-Davis researchers developed a lens that’ll turn your iPhone or any camera-enabled smartphone into a 350X microscope.

The mod is a simple 1-mm ball lens mounted in rubber that’s taped to your phone’s camera. It costs about $30.

Besides its obvious uses in the classroom and research field, this basic lens could be a useful tool for doctors in impoverished areas.

It’s resolution of 1.5 microns is sensitive enough that doctors can use it to view red blood cells and diagnose blood diseases like iron deficiency sickle-cell anemia.”

Graphene “Big Mac” Sandwich May Replace Silicon Chips

October 10, 2011 Leave a comment

“The world’s thinnest, strongest and most conductive material, discovered in 2004 at the University of Manchester by Professor Andre Geim and Professor Kostya Novoselov, has the potential to revolutionize material science.

Demonstrating the remarkable properties of graphene won the two scientists the Nobel Prize for Physics last year and UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has just announced plans for a £50m graphene research hub to be set up.

Now, writing in the journal Nature Physics, the University of Manchester team have for the first time demonstrated how graphene inside electronic circuits will probably look like in the future.

By sandwiching two sheets of graphene with another two-dimensional material, boron nitrate, the team created the graphene ‘Big Mac’ – a four-layered structure which could be the key to replacing the silicon chip in computers.

Because there are two layers of graphene completed surrounded by the boron nitrate, this has allowed the researchers for the first time to observe how graphene behaves when unaffected by the environment.”

A Video Introduction of Siri on iPhone 4S

October 9, 2011 Leave a comment

 

New Machine Can Perform DNA Tests Within 3 Minutes

October 8, 2011 Leave a comment

“The Polymerase Chain Reaction, which amplifies specific DNA sequences out of mixtures (starting with as little as a single molecule), has revolutionized molecular biology, enabling DNA-based tests that once took months to be performed in an afternoon.

But even an afternoon is pretty slow for some purposes, such as diagnostic kits for infectious agents.

A team of impatient researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Lab has now managed to cut the time needed for a PCR reaction down from a few hours to less than three minutes.

PCR relies on a cyclical amplification process: high temperatures reset the DNA-copying reaction, lower ones let a new round of reactions start, and they proceed at an intermediate step.

The proteins that catalyze these reactions are actually very fast; the delay comes from the time neeed to shift the reactions between these temperatures.

Small machines called thermocyclers heat and chill metal blocks as quickly as they can, but it still takes minutes to get through a single cycle.

When a typical PCR reaction runs for 30 cycles, that can soak up a lot of time. This not only slows individual PCR reactions down, but also means that the thermocycler isn’t available for anyone else’s use.

The Livermore team tackled the heating and cooling very simply: their device has two reservoirs of water kept at the high and low temperatures needed during the cycle.

The water is pumped through a foamed copper block that contains the sample, enabling it to quickly equillibrate to the target temperature.

They also eliminated the time spent at the intermediate temperature, figuring the samples will pass through there long enough on their way between the two extremes.”

Desert Living Tackled With California Roll House

October 7, 2011 Leave a comment

“At times, the simplest form with least manipulation from its original form can offer visual amenities and adapted solution to the context.

California Roll prefabricated house takes this methodology to create its morphological adaptation to its environemt : desert.

Homogeneous exterior material which provides high grade of energy efficiency and reflects heat from the sun covers the entire surface except for glass panels which is electronically controlled to change its transparency.

Modularization of every structure members and finish materials are maximized to provide mobilty with rapid assembly and disassembly on site.

To sustain its challenging structural stand, carbon fibre truss frame under neath the exterior material holds the entire architecture.

Hydraulic powered automatic doors and security system is used for main entrance door which allows less spaces to operate the door mechanism.

California Roll house features these latest technologies applied to architecture which breaks the boundary of product or vehicle design and architectural design which brings more mobility to living spaces.”

Researchers Create SICE – a Secure, Stealth VM on Virtual Servers

October 7, 2011 Leave a comment

“A team of researchers have devised a way to create an isolated and trusted environment on virtualized servers. Called the “Strongly Isolated Computing Environment” (SICE), the approach makes it possible to run sensitive computing processes alongside less secure workloads on the same physical hardware.

SICE, developed by Ahmed M. Azab and Peng Ning of North Carolina State University and Xiaolan Zhang of IBM’s T. J. Watson Research Center, is currently a research prototype.

Peng and his fellow researchers will present a paper on SICE at the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security in Chicago on October 19. But if further developed, it potentially addresses one of the major security concerns with using virtualized environments: that attackers could take advantage of exploits in a hypervisor environment to access the memory and storage of the virtual machines running within it.

While it uses a hypervisor to communicate with the network and other workloads, SICE uses low-level functionality in x86 processors to carve off processing power and memory from the host computer, creating an environment partitioned off from less secure processes.

SICE uses x86 processors’ Systems Management Mode (SMM) to lock down regions of the computer’s memory, “so even the hypervisor can’t look inside,” Dr. Peng said in an interview with Ars Technica. “Even though it’s only one computer, it can be separated into two or more isolated environments,” he said.

SICE uses an extremely small amount of code to create the system isolation—approximately 300 lines—which makes the system much easier to secure, and “only these 300 lines of code need to be trusted to ensure the isolation,” according to Peng.”

Fraunhofer Develops Lightweight, Crash-Proof Battery for Electric Cars

October 7, 2011 Leave a comment

“Everyone is talking about electric drives, and the scientists from Fraunhofer are also working on them. Engineers have replaced a battery box for lithium-ion batteries with a lightweight component. Not only does the housing save weight and sustain no damage in an accident — for the first time ever, it can also be mass-produced…

To advance the symbiosis between electromobility and lightweight construction, engineers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT in Pfinztal, Germany, are developing manufacturing concepts that have one goal — they want to gradually replace individual components in the vehicle with lightweight ones…

The experts, along with colleagues from the Fraunhofer Institutes for Mechanics of Materials IWM, for Structural Durability and System Reliability LBF and for High-Speed Dynamics, Ernst-Mach Institut EMI, have developed a mass-production-ready, crash-safe battery housing that meets strict requirements.

The battery housing that surrounds the battery that weighs 340 kilograms (749.57 lbs.) only weighs 35 kilograms (77.16 lbs.). “Traditional solutions made of steel weigh up to 25 percent more,” said Reif. “The battery housing can withstand a crash, assuming a ten-fold gravitational acceleration.”

And even if a sharp object collides with the housing at 60 km/h (45mph), the highly sensitive battery on the inside remains intact. In addition, the 16 lithium-ion modules are protected from humidity, and a semi-permeable membrane to equalize pressure also guarantees that the batteries are able to “breathe.

What make the new battery protection so special are the new fiber-reinforced composite materials.”

CLASH Robot Can Climb Vertically Like an Insect

October 7, 2011 Leave a comment

“UC Berkeley has a long history of developing innovative legged robots: There was ROACH, there was BOLT, there was DASH. DASH, a cockroach-Inspired design, was a very simple, very fast hexapedal robot that could scuttle along the ground at 15 body lengths per second.

Now meet the latest addition to this family of robot bugs: CLASH, pictured above, is a vertically-enabled successor to DASH, and it’s designed to zip up vertical or near-vertical cloth surfaces with the aid of tiny little spiny toes. It’s sort of like what you’d get if you put DASH and SpinyBot together in a dark room along with a 3D printer and some Barry Manilow (or whatever it is robots are listening to these days).

For a vertical climbing robot, CLASH is surprisingly quick. It may actually be one of the quickest climbing robots in existence, able to move upwards at 24 centimeters per second, which is really quite a lot faster than it sounds.

Part of the reason that CLASH can scramble around so fast is that it’s small and lightweight with a simple, but clever, design. CLASH is 10 centimeters long and weighs only 15 grams. The back-and-forth climbing motion of four legs (the back two are passive) is entirely driven by one single motor that gives CLASH a gait frequency of a brisk 34 strides per second.”

Google Mobile Search is Threatened by Apple’s Siri

October 6, 2011 Leave a comment

“One day after Tim Cook’s first presser as Apple’s new CEO, the Internet is scurrying to analyze whether the lack of a radically redesigned iPhone 5 will give competitors a leg-up on Apple. Hardware-wise, maybe not, depending on what the competition has up its sleeve.

But there’s one element to the iPhone 4S—software, we might add—that is likely to eventually hit Apple’s competition where it hurts: the new “virtual intelligent assistant” known as Siri.

Introduced during Apple’s iPhone event in Cupertino on Tuesday, Siri offers iPhone 4S users a way to interact with their devices, apps, and data with natural language voice commands.

Users can send and receive texts or e-mails simply by talking to Siri, find out whether there will be rain today, create new Reminders and calendar items, ask for directions, move appointments, and more.

Not only that, but users can ask Siri to look up a plethora of information, such as restaurant reviews from Yelp or even simple facts from Wikipedia or Wolfram Alpha. Cooking and need to convert a recipe’s tablespoons to teaspoons? Ask Siri and get the answer back almost instantly without having to type a single character…

For Google, this is not good news. Google’s mobile search users (on any platform) are increasingly important to the company as more people begin to use their phones to look up local information such as directions, restaurant listings, reviews, and more.

Google Places, which works in conjunction with Google Maps, Google Plus, and Google Offers and allows businesses to pay for higher placement, was born almost entirely out of watching how and what users search for on their mobile devices.

Mobile ads attached to those queries are exploding right now—arguably moreso than just regular browser ads—and while Google doesn’t live or die by that revenue alone, it’s certainly not something to be taken lightly.”