Archive for September, 2007

New robots can connect users — or spy for them

September 29, 2007

This 2007 photo released by iRobot of Burlington, ...

Dominated by home-cleaning gadgets, the consumer robotics market is expanding with the arrival of ‘bots that can spy inside your home when you’re away or arrange virtual meetings of family or friends.

Robotics experts say gadgets introduced Thursday could usher more socially oriented robots into the U.S. market, though they bear little physical resemblance to humans or pets as robots embraced by consumers in Japan and South Korea do.

“As these kinds of devices mature in the years ahead, I expect them to gradually become more sophisticated in terms of providing gestures, object interaction such as picking things up, and eventually moving toward a more human shape,” said James Kuffner, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute.

A new device by iRobot Corp. resembles the company’s disc-shaped Roomba vacuum cleaner but has a webcam bulging from the top.

Source:  Associated Press

The Night The TVs Go Out

September 29, 2007

The industry has tried to get the word out, but many consumers still aren’t getting the message: In a year and a half, millions of television screens could go dark.

Not the fancy high-definition TVs or those connected to cable or satellite. But the 70 million sets relying on rooftop or “rabbit ears” antennas will end up showing nothing but snow.

Broadcasters will stop sending analog signals and move to all-digital programming on Feb. 17, 2009. After that, antenna TV watchers will need a special converter box to watch their sitcoms and newscasts.

But many consumers have no idea that this change is coming, and members of Congress are voicing concern over the lack of cooperation between federal agencies and the entertainment industry.

Source:  Washington Post

Could Nano-Food Be the Next Wheaties? It’s close

September 29, 2007

A poll earlier this month showed that only 7 percent of Americans would purchase food enhanced with nanotechnology, but a new study makes one thing clear: You can feed carbon nanotubes to fruit flies, and they still grow up big and strong.

Scientists at Rice University in Houston raised their fruit flies on a diet of yeast-and-nanotube paste, and then used an infrared camera to watch the progress of the tubes as they passed through the flies’ digestive systems, and in some cases were absorbed into the flies’ organs. The study found that nanotube-fed flies grew just as big and lived just as long as flies fed plain yeast, adding another data point to a simmering debate.

Some previous studies have found that inhaling nanotubes causes inflamed tissue in mice and rats, and causes cell death in lab tests. But other tests have found no evidence of toxicity, leading to claims of faulty experimental design on both sides.

Source:  Popular Mechanics

Scientists create the world’s first see-through frog

September 29, 2007

transparent frog

Frogs come in nearly every colour of the rainbow – from the dull greens of British species, to the vivid yellows and reds of their tropical relatives.

But Japanese scientists have gone one step further than mother nature – and created a transparent frog.

The creature’s see-through skin allows researchers to see details of its internal organs and blood vessels. They say this could bring huge benefits to medicine, making it easier and cheaper to study diseases such as cancer.

Professor Masayuki Sumida, who led the project at the Institute for Amphibian Biology at Hiroshima University, said scientists could look at the effect of drugs and chemicals on the frog’s internal organs and blood vessels without the animals having to be killed and dissected.

Source:  Daily Mail

Toyota’s new fuel cell vehicle doubles range

September 29, 2007

Toyota has unveiled a new fuel-cell vehicle that it says more than doubles the range of the company’s existing model.

It is the car-maker’s latest bid to stay competitive in the race to develop environmentally-friendly cars.

Toyota’s five-seater FCHV van was able to travel 480 miles on a single tank of liquefied hydrogen, more than double the 200 miles achieved by its existing model, the company said in a statement.

Toyota said this may be the farthest a fuel-cell vehicle has travelled on a singe fuelling – a claim that could not be independently verified immediately.

Source:  The Press Association

Unlocking the key to longevity

September 29, 2007

Antonio Zamora, a lean 64-year-old computer scientist from Bethesda, suffers none of the chronic diseases that afflict people his age. “I haven’t been sick for a long time,” Zamora said. “Last year, my medical bill came to $20 – for my co-pay for my yearly medical exam.”

Antonio ZamoraHis secret: a variant of an ultra-low-calorie diet known to extend the lives of animals and protect humans from age-related diseases.

Known as calorie restriction, or CR, the Spartan diet is one of several avenues researchers are exploring in their quest to understand and delay aging.

They’re also interested in genes that appear to play a role in getting older, along with a variety of chemical compounds, including one found in red wine, that may possess life-extending properties.

But assembling the clues to solve the aging puzzle is no easy feat.

Source:  Baltimore Sun

Space journey made germs more potent

September 29, 2007

Germs sent into orbit on the space shuttle last year came back to Earth three times more virulent, a finding that could have major implications for astronauts on the International Space Station or on proposed voyages to the moon and Mars.

Researchers knew that space travel depressed the immune systems of astronauts, so the observation that infectious agents can become more pathogenic in space could lead to new requirements for sterilization of food and other items, as well as to new protocols for the treatment of infections during missions, experts said.

The findings could have relevance for humans on Earth because the bacterium in question is common and can have severe consequences, said microbiologist Cheryl Nickerson of Arizona State University, who led the experiment.

Source:  Los Angeles Times

Robina, Toyota’s Tourguide Who Teaches Fellow Robots

September 27, 2007

Toyota’s latest robot isn’t bumping around a lab or, like Honda’s Asimo, taking trips to Disneyland. Robina (short for Robot as Intelligent Assistant) has a job.

It guides visitors through the Toyota Kaikan Exhibition Hall in Japan. The 4-ft.-tall, permanently coifed bot is fully autonomous and can navigate around obstacles, chat with visitors and even sign autographs without human assistance.

Source:  Popular Mechanics

Europe’s Bold Entry into Space Tourism

September 27, 2007

EADS rocketplane design

Your ride to space may not come from a scrappy startup after all.

In June, the Astrium division of the behemoth European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), after Boeing the largest aerospace company in the world, released its own design for a small tourist spaceship.

If it looks familiar, you’ve been paying attention: The design is basically a copy of the Rocketplane XP, a converted business jet that’s being built by the small Oklahoma company Rocketplane.

Two years ago, managers and engineers at EADS Astrium sat down to examine the business case for a suborbital tourist ship. They looked at the main concepts under development by the start-ups, including SpaceShipOne‘s midair launch from a carrier plane and Armadillo Aerospace’s vertical-takeoff-and-landing rocket.

Source:  Popular Science

Solar-Electric Cars Take to California’s Roads

September 26, 2007

Venturi Eclectic

Venturi of France is making much of the fact that it was the only alternative-energy vehicle maker invited to the Wired NextFest show in Los Angeles.

While on this side of the Atlantic, Venturi took its Astrolab and Eclectic solar-electric vehicles onto California roads and highways. The mayor of Los Angeles and, perhaps even more exciting, the president of Google were on hand to have a look at the futuristic vehicles.

The Astrolab concept is coated with photovoltaic cells and contains liquid-cooled batteries that recharge while the car is in motion, although it can do that with stored energy and does not need to be in full sun to move, Venturi says.

Source:  Edmunds