Archive for April, 2007

Coming soon: toys that read players’ brain waves

April 30, 2007

A twin of Darth Vader stalks the cubicles of a Silicon Valley office, complete with ominous black mask, cape and light saber.

But this is no Halloween costume. It’s a prototype, years in the making, of a toy that incorporates brain-wave-reading technology.

Behind the mask is a sensor that touches the user’s forehead and reads the brain’s electrical signals, then sends them to a wireless receiver inside the saber, which lights up when the user is concentrating.

The player maintains focus by channeling thoughts on any fixed mental image, or thinking specifically about keeping the light sword on. When the mind wanders, the wand goes dark.

Engineers at NeuroSky Inc. have big plans for brain-wave-reading toys and video games. They say the simple Darth Vader game — a relatively crude biofeedback device — portends the coming of more sophisticated devices that could revolutionize the way people play.

Toys with even the most basic brain-wave-reading technology — scheduled to debut later this year — could boost mental focus and help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism and mood disorders.

Source:  Associated Press

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FuelVapor car gets 92 miles per gallon

April 30, 2007

Canadian manufacturer FuelVapor has developed an ultra-low emissions vehicle that sprints to 62mph in five seconds and returns 92mpg.

The three-wheeler boasts grip of up to 1.7G, according to the company, which is currently testing the ale before a limited number go on sale next year.Created by inventor George Parker, the ale (pronounced ‘alay’) has been in development for 15 years.

Not only does the ale have extreme mileage capabilities, but its performance is outstanding and better than many high-end sports cars.  It accelerates from 0-60 seconds in 5 seconds, and will pull over 1.7 g’s in hard corners on street tires. 

Brad Zimmerman, head tech of the company, said:  “I drove it hard for four solid hours, throwing it into corners, accelerating and braking hard.  The car’s performance is spectacular.  After all that hard driving, we only through $10 in gas.”th

FuelVapor Technologies will also be competing in the “Automotive X-Prize” – a $10 million competition for the fastest 100 mpg car in the world.

 

Source:  MortorTorque

Top 25 things that changed the Internet

April 30, 2007

In celebration of the 25-year anniversary of the birth of today’s Internet, USA Today has an interesting article on what they think are the 25 things that made cyberspace what it is today.  Here are the Top Five:

World Wide Web

Tim Berners-Lee created user-friendly “Web pages” that could travel over the Internet, a network built to shuttle research between universities. The world logged on: 747 million adults in January.

E-Mail

Tech’s answer to the Pony Express. Programs such as 1988’s Eudora made it easy to use. In-boxes have been filling up ever since. Nearly 97 billion e-mails are sent each day.

 Graphical user interface (GUI)

Most computer displays were blinking lines of text until Apple featured clickable icons and other graphic tools in its 1984 Mac. Microsoft’s Windows took GUI — pronounced “gooey” — to the masses.

AOL

AOL turned people on to Web portals, chat rooms and instant messaging. Early subscribers paid by the hour. AOL once boasted 35 million subscribers. It bought Time Warner for $106 billion in 2001.

 Broadband

The answer to the drip-drip-drip of dial-up, high-speed Internet service fuels online entertainment. About 78% of home Internet users in the U.S. have broadband, up from less than 1% in 1998.

Australia facing the most extreme climate challenge

April 30, 2007

Drought-stricken Australia faces the world’s “most extreme” climate change challenge as millions of city dwellers try to cope with water shortages.

The government has already made the unprecedented declaration that farmers will receive no irrigation water from July in Australia’s most fertile region if the country’s worst drought in a century continues.

Water restrictions have been imposed across the vast island continent and scientist Tim Flannery, named the 2007 Australian of the year for his pioneering environmental work, says the problem will only get worse.

Flannery said the drought meant two of Australia’s largest cities, Brisbane and Adelaide — home to a combined total of almost three million people — would run out of water by the year’s end unless the so-called “Big Dry” ended.

“We could see a catastrophic situation developing here by the end of the year. It’s become a huge issue,” Flannery told AFP.Source:  AFP

Scientists ‘reverse’ memory loss

April 30, 2007

Mental stimulation and drug treatment could help people with degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s recover their memories, a study says.

Scientists found mice with a similar condition to Alzheimer’s were able to regain memories of tasks they had previously been taught.  A team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found two methods – brain stimulation and drugs – both worked.

Their findings were published in British journal Nature.  The researchers used genetically engineered mice in which a protein linked to degenerative brain disease could be triggered.

While most treatments for Alzheimer’s targeted the disease’s early stages, this research showed that even after major brain damage it was still possible to improve learning and memory.

Source:  BBC News

UK city unveils futuristic soccer stadium

April 29, 2007

IT could be one of the most amazing soccer stadiums in the country. A stunning 36,000 all-seater ground built against the backdrop of one of Britain’s most historic naval settings.

Stretching out into the harbour on reclaimed land, the massive two-tier stadium would be surrounded by 1,500 new luxury flats and a continental-style open piazza.

A public walkway or “urban beach” circling the ground would be another huge attraction, featuring restaurants, cafes and sports shops.

The striking bowl-shaped ground looks like a futuristic pleasure dome apparently dropped from space, which would transform Portsmouth and create thousands of jobs.

Source:  Hampshire  News

On the Road, Hope for a Zero-Pollution Car

April 29, 2007

In dozens of laboratories and research centers, scientists and engineers are busy searching for ways to reduce the cost and improve the practicality of hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Development has progressed to the point that some of these prototype vehicles are in daily service, commuting around Detroit, delivering packages in Washington, serving urban bus routes.

To look in on the development progress of hydrogen vehicles, The New York Times invited 10 companies actively promoting hydrogen for personal transportation to bring their vehicles to the Naval Air Engineering Station here.

With pressure mounting to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, the anniversary of a pivotal event 70 years ago seemed an appropriate time to look for a clearer understanding of what cars may be like in 30 years.

Source:  New York Times

Vudo could change the way we watch television…really

April 29, 2007

FOR the last two years, the employees of Vudu Inc. have quietly toiled in a nondescript office in Santa Clara, Calif., in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Vudu, if all goes as planned, hopes to turn America’s televisions into limitless multiplexes, providing instant gratification for movie buffs. It has built a small Internet-ready movie box that connects to the television and allows couch potatoes to rent or buy any of the 5,000 films now in Vudu’s growing collection.

The box’s biggest asset is raw speed: the company says the films will begin playing immediately after a customer makes a selection.

If Vudu succeeds, it may mean goodbye to laborious computer downloads, sticky-floored movie theaters and cable companies’ much narrower video-on-demand offerings. It may even mean a fond farewell to the DVD itself — the profit engine of the film industry for the last decade. “Other forms of movie distribution are going to look silly and uncompetitive by comparison.”

Source: New York Times

Britain could face extreme heat this summer

April 28, 2007

The possibility is growing that Britain in 2007 may experience a summer of unheard-of high temperatures, with the thermometer even reaching 104F,a level never recorded in history.

This likelihood is being underlined by the tumbling over the past year of a whole series of British temperature records, strongly suggesting that the British Isles have begun to experience a period of rapid, not to say alarming, warming. This would be quite outside all historical experience, but entirely consistent with predictions of climate change.

The Met Office’s Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, in a joint forecast with the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia, has already suggested that 2007 will be the hottest year ever recorded globally.

Its long-term forecast for this summer in Britain is much more cautious, merely predicting that temperatures this year will be “above average”.

Source:  The Independent

Mouse brain simulated on computer

April 28, 2007

BlueGene L under construction, IBMU.S. researchers have simulated half a virtual mouse brain on a supercomputer.

The scientists ran a “cortical simulator” that was as big and as complex as half of a mouse brain on the BlueGene L supercomputer.

In other smaller simulations the researchers say they have seen characteristics of thought patterns observed in real mouse brains. Now the team is tuning the simulation to make it run faster and to make it more like a real mouse brain.

Half a real mouse brain is thought to have about eight million neurons each one of which can have up to 8,000 synapses, or connections, with other nerve fibers.  The vast complexity of the simulation meant that it was only run for ten seconds at a speed ten times slower than real life – the equivalent of one second in a real mouse brain.

Source:  BBC News