Zothecula writes: Actors may soon say good-bye to those humbling Lycra body suits commonly used in the visual effects industry, thanks to a group of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Informatics (MPII). They've formed a start-up called The Captury that is set to deliver its proprietary markerless motion capture software later this year. Their software can even capture a costume's surface detail in three dimensions, like the draping folds in a ballroom dress.
Zothecula writes: We haven't heard anything from NASA's Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) spacecraft since its launch in February, but the satellite is now ready to start sending its first images back home. The first batch of photos are part of a three-month testing period, and show the meeting of the Great Plains with the Front Ranges of the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming and Colorado. Viewed from space, it's already a pretty spectacular scene, but the images from the LDCM managed to enhance it even further.
Zothecula writes: Scientists have often taken inspiration from the animal world in robotic designs, with bots modeled after fish, sandfish lizards, and even sea turtles. Such biomimicry makes sense – if you want a robot to move a certain way, why not look to creatures that already can? With the Salamandra robotica II, researchers have tried to replicate the movement of a salamander in designing a robot that can walk or crawl on land as easily as it swims in the water.
Zothecula writes: Each year, thousands of people worldwide experience full or partial paralysis as a result of spinal cord injury. Though there’s currently no medical cure for such injuries, new EU-funded research poses the potential to give patients the ability to walk again, with the aid of a mind-controlled robotic exoskeleton dubbed “Mindwalker.”
Zothecula writes: Robots either have legs, or they run on something like treads or wheels... right? Well, not in the case of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)’s new CHIMP robot. The humanoid ‘bot does have arms and legs, allowing it to stand and carry out tasks on a human scale. When it’s time to move, however, it can hunker down on all fours and roll along on rubberized treads built into its feet and forearms.
Zothecula writes: In the Spider-Man comics and movies, the famous hero's "Spider Sense" warns him of incoming danger, which proves to be just as important a superpower as slinging webs and climbing walls. Now a group of researchers at the University of Illinois in Chicago may have found a way to replicate such superhuman perception that doesn't involve any radioactive spiders. Using a collection of sensors placed all over the body, the group has designed a "SpiderSense" suit that detects objects in the environment and warns the wearer when anything gets too close.
Zothecula writes: If you’ve ever watched a fly trying to find its way around a house, you might have noticed that it didn’t take a particularly graceful approach – it probably bounced off a lot of windows and walls, until by process of elimination, it found a route that was clear. Well, researchers at Switzerland’s EPFL Laboratory of Intelligent Systems are taking that same approach with the latest version of their autonomous AirBurr UAV – it’s built to run into things, in order to map and navigate its environment.
Zothecula writes: If you’re one of the many people who hate poking at the tiny virtual keys on smartphone keyboards, then you might like the experimental “airwriting” glove system created by a team of computer scientists at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. When the glove’s wearer draws letters in the air with their hand, the system can identify which letters are being drawn. Those letters are converted into digital text, which could then be input into an email, text message, or any other type of mobile app.
Zothecula writes: The Japanese communication robot destined to join the crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS) this summer recently underwent some zero gravity testing. The Kibo Robot Project, organized by Dentsu Inc. in response to a proposal made by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, unveiled the final design of its diminutive humanoid robot and its Earthbound counterpart.
Zothecula writes: It took some time, but the age of the cyborg is upon us. For the first time, neuromuscular electrodes that enable a prosthetic arm and hand to be controlled by thought have been permanently implanted into the nerves and muscles of an amputee. The operation was carried out recently by a surgical team led by Dr Rickard Brånemark at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Goteborg, Sweden.
Zothecula writes: Over the last five years, the touchscreen has supplanted the mouse and keyboard as the primary way that many of us interact with computers. But will multitouch enjoy a 30-year reign like its predecessor? Or will a newcomer swoop in and steal its crown? One up-and-comer, Thalmic Labs, hopes that the next ruler will be 3D gesture control. Like Microsoft Kinect and the upcoming Leap Motion, MYO lets you control a computer with Minority Report-like gestures. But unlike those devices, which rely on optical sensors, MYO employs a combination of motion sensing and muscular activity.
Zothecula writes: When someone mentions counterfeiting, it brings up images of money, watches or DVDs. It certainly doesn't make honey spring to mind, yet honey smuggling and counterfeiting is an international problem involving hundreds of millions of dollars. In an effort to combat this, the European Space Agency (ESA) is funding a demonstration project to adopt lasers designed to study the Martian atmosphere, to detect fake honey.
Zothecula writes: The University of Surrey’s Surrey Space Centre (SSC) and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) are set to launch the world’s first smartphone-based satellite. Built around a Google Nexus One smartphone running on the Android operating system, the STRaND-1 (Surrey Training, Research and Nanosatellite Demonstrator) satellite will also be the U.K.’s first CubeSat to go into space.
Zothecula writes: A new research program is underway in Japan which will introduce fifth graders to a 1.2 meter tall communication robot called Robovie over a period of 14 months. Researchers at the International Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute (ATR) say Robovie has the conversational skills of a five-year-old, which they hope to improve through daily interactions with the children at Higashihikari elementary school.
Zothecula writes: Use digital technology long enough and you start to become dependent upon it for such mundane tasks as spell checking. That means when you pick up a garden variety ballpoint pen you’re back in dictionary and “I before E except after C” territory. Like LiveScribe, the creators of the Lernstift digital pen hope to bring handwriting into the 21st century by having the pen vibrate to indicate when the writer makes spelling and grammatical errors or exhibits poor penmanship.