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User Journal

Journal Journal: Roboswarm Technology Demonstrator

Invent Baltics, an Estonian research company has made some advances in robot swarm technoloy. FTA:

The project partners used fixed RFID (radio frequency identification) tags to help the swarms with positioning and navigation. The tags are used by the robots for coordination and task sharing, and are marked with various surfaces and objects.

Thanks to the ROBOSWARM technology, simple robots will be able to communicate extensively so as to split individual tasks in order to heighten the functionality of the swarm (i.e. scalability), to learn from the experience of individual swarm members through the local or international knowledge base (i.e. self-learning), and to operate with as few sensing capabilities as possible (i.e. cost efficiency).

Let the overlord jokes begin...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Self Healing Clay = New Plastic?

The New Scientist is reporting on a new type of clay that could serve as a replacement for plastic. According to the article, the researchers at the University of Japan were seeking replacements for plastic that were non-oil based. According to the article:

Takuzo Aida and his team mixed a few grams of clay with 100 grams of water in the presence of tiny quantities of a thickening agent called sodium polyacrylate and an organic "molecular glue". The thickening agent teases apart the clay into thin sheets, increasing its surface area and allowing the glue to get a better hold on it.

It will be interesting to watch this technology for developments.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Zune Haiku #2

File on desktop sits.
You do not recognize it.
Why won't you load it?

User Journal

Journal Journal: RFID Killer

Nothing big today - just an RFID Terminator Gun. It basically fries any RFID chip in range. Not sure what good it is, unless you want to play a trick on your friends and family by frying their passports. Big fun.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Nielsen's Usability Heresy

My latest rant: Jakob Nielsen's lastest version of Alertbox discusses usability for the masses. During my ~1.5 decades as a professional usability expert, I've seen quite a wide variety of user interface screens, ranging from perfect elegance to mind numbingly contorted and ugly. I've also worked with many self professed "experts" - many of which are developers that have had no formal training and only a passing interest in good UI design. On the plus side, Jakob does have a point that it is spreading the gospel of usability and getting it infused into many more projects. On the other hand, most of the mind numbingly contorted designs I've seen are the result of the "experts".

So, what do you think Slashdot? Is this a good idea? What are your experiences with trained vs untrained usability professionals?
User Journal

Journal Journal: Become Your Own Private Robotic Overlord: 20M Yen Android of Yourself

Gizmag is reporting on a company in Japan that will create a "robotic dopplegager" of yourself. All you do is shell out a cool 20 M Yen, and they will create a robot that...well actually looks a lot like you. It's actually kind of uncanny to look at the picture from TFA - if you didn't know it was an article about robots, you would just assume that it was about twins or something.

So, I was thinking about the applications of having such an item on one's inventory. Of course, my nefarious mind immediately thought about security and deception. If you were a high ranking official, it might serve as a pretty convincing decoy. I wonder about the criminal element though. It might be possible to use such technology to establish an alibi during the commission of a crime? It would be easy to have someone take a picture or video of you and establish a false timeline. Hrmmm....maybe I've been watching too many episodes of CSI.

Journal Journal: Visualizing Prime Numbers

Ok, so I know I already wrote my daily journal entry, but this is just way to good to pass up. Carlos Paris has an extremely interesting blog entry about the visualization of prime numbers, or has he calls it, a "map of factors". After you scroll past his intro, there are a number of visualizations that are fairly remarkable. Amazingly, all this was done in Autocad. There are also some nifty videos of the visualization to check out as well - especially the last one.


Journal Journal: Artificial Red Blood Cells

There's an interesting article in Technolgy Review that discusses the newest developments in artificial red blood cells. The lastest versions are both the correct shape and biodegradable, and can be used for carrying treatment and markers as well as oxygen. Apparently, these little guys are pretty hard to reproduce artificially: previous attempts result in a spherical shape rather than the double concave shape of the RBC. However, the article describes the process for developing this unique shape:

They expose the spheres to rubbing alcohol, which causes them to deflate and collapse into the dimpled shape of a red blood cell. The hard PLGA particle acts as a mold, around which the researchers can deposit layer after layer of proteins. They crosslink the proteins to get them to hold to the PLGA, then dissolve the rigid inner structure. The result is a soft, flexible protein shell the size and shape of a red blood cell. The researchers can also vary the protein coatings depending, for example adding hemoglobin, which could carry oxygen.

Journal Journal: Hypersonic Travel

It would seem that hypersonic travel is here to stay...finally. Most define hypersonic as travel above Mach 5. Michael Cooney reports that the good ol USAF is now preparing to launch a scramjet test platform designed to reach speeds of Mach 6+. This is fairly significant; while the last testbed reached these speeds a few seconds, this will sustain hypersonic speeds for about 5 minutes. The idea is to make sure "the engine doesn't disintegrate". Spectacular.

Scramjets are very cool in that there are no real working parts. This is an exaggeration of course - the engine relies on high speeds for compression instead of the compressor fans of a normal turbofan engine. The kicker is that you have to get the engine to extremely high speeds to start the compression cycle - most solutions so far utilize a rocket to jump-start the cycle.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Craigslist Creator Betrayed by eBay? 2

Reuters is reporting on an interview with Craig Newmark, the creator of Craigslist, that he feels somewhat betrayed by his new corporate (robotic?) overlords at Ebay. eBay initially claimed to share the same values as Craigslist in order to close the deal, but later launched the rival site Kiji. There also appears to be a clash between the notoriously anti-establishment Craigslist cultre and the eBay bigwigs. eBay execs, on the other hand, have portrayed Newmark as "resistant to change". One final interesting quote FTA: "Earlier Thursday, Price -- who was eBay's principal deal maker in acquiring its $32 million stake in Craigslist -- said the decision to buy a stake in Craigslist was partly to block a sale to Google Inc.". To quote Sherlock Holmes "There's evil afoot!".

User Journal

Journal Journal: Apple Move to Verizon

First, a usability rant about /. (sorry folks, I'm in the business). Just a nit, but can't you guys put a link allowing me to write in the journal at the *top* of the page? Come on folks, this is usability 101.

On to the article. So, Eric Slivka is reporting in on about the reasons Apple might move to Verizon in the near future. One of the reasons is the poor network record for AT&T. While it's too soon for this to happen in 2010, it could happen in the next couple of years once there is a convergence of 4G technology - there is also a requirement to fall back on the 3G network if necessary. Also interesting is speculation around the inclusion of new battery technology as well as an RFID-enabled payment system.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Military Wingsuits 1

Everyone on /. has been following the story of the jetman. It turns out that Wired is now running a story on military grade wingsuits which will allow soldiers to drop in from as great distances. The new lifting body suits have achieved a forward flight ratio of 5:1, which means a drop from 30,000 feet will translate to a 30 mile forward flight. At an estimated 60 mph, this would translate into a 15 minute flight. If you add jets to this thing like Rossy did, it is possible to double that to a 60 mile flight.

Even more interesting, New Scientist is speculating on the possibility of landing these things without a parachute as they currently do. This would be done by increasing the angle of descent from the current 2.5:1 to 4:1. You would also have to detach the lower half of your body to increase the angle if incidence as well. This video shows these crazy people grazing mountain tops as they fly only meters away from the ground on their way down. I may have to take a shot at this if my mid-life crisis keeps up any longer.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Toyota Linkz: Half Car, Half Facebook, Half Hockey Stick

(apologies to Yogi Berra for the title) So as part of the 2009 LA Car Show Design Challenge, Toyota created a cool concept called LINKS, which is an odd looking...well, vehicle. The most interesting aspect of it is that you link two of these together so that you can interact with fellow students as you travel; exchange notes, download music, or whatever. You pick up your LINK at a HUB, which appears to be the place where all the cool people meet to drink coffee, play bongos and recite poetry...while they're waiting for their LINKS to recharge.

It's interesting to me how the car companies are jumping on the social networking bandwagon. This seems a little extreme to me, though. One last thought - students don't seem to be a highly mobile lot to me. Most seem content to stay confined within a somewhat small geographic location. Pinning the hopes of this project on that particular target group might make this one a non-starter. Besides, they look like pregnant hockey sticks.
User Journal

Journal Journal: iPhone App For Creating Cashless Society???

There's an app for that??!! Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey said somewhat grandiosely that his new iPhone product Square will cause the world to stop using cold hard cash and turn to a creditless system. Apparently, attaching this device to your iPhone allows you to conduct any range of credit card operations. Plugging in the postage stamp sized hardware into your headphone jack provides swipe access to other's cards. You don't have to be a business either - if cousin Billy Bob owes you 10 bucks, just whip out your iPhone and scan his card. Laugh if you will, but they've already raised a cool $10 million for a company that is valued at $50 million bucks!

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