Swarms of flying robots could act as a mobile wireless network

Sometimes the aftermath of a natural disaster is just as bad as the disaster itself, as the rescue teams on the ground can face a stiff challenge when it comes to communicating with the outside world and one another. Of course, our favorite problem solvers are here to help: tiny flying robots.

This is SMAVNET (Swarming Micro Air Vehicle Network), a project  from Swiss-based lab EPFL, involves a swarm of micro air vehicles that will fly over a disaster site in a holding pattern. The flying ‘bots themselves will act as an ad hoc network, allowing rescue workers to use their phones and computers and the like.

The best part of it all could be how easy the SMAVNET — or Swarming Micro Air Vehicle Network — is to set up. To take off, all they need is one person to chuck them into the air, and they’re light enough that several can be carried at once. When the project is done, the swarm lands, making it as mobile as rescue workers need to be.

Check it out in the video below:

EPFL, via Engadget


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Grass LED Lights

Grass solar garden lights

If  you’re looking for something a little different as far as solar lights go you could pick up these Wild Grass Solar Garden Lights.  You can jam the stakes into the ground and make it appear as if you have random tufts of grass glowing in the dark.  If you have any extra gullible friends you could always convince them that the grass is a special variety that glows every single night.

The set includes 3 sprigs of grass packed full of LED lights.  Then of course there’s a handy little solar panel that charges up the rechargeable battery all day long.  At night the lights kick on automatically and then shut off when the sun starts to come up.  In order to run it’ll need 8 hours of sun to run for 6 hours in the evening.  You can choose to keep the light steady or to flash.  You can purchase it for $19.95

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Photo Album Story Teller

Usually I write down the history of a photo as I put it in an album.  That way if I forget or someone else seeing the album wants to know, it’s easy for them to glance at it and know.  However, if you’re just not big on writing or would prefer to leave your voice behind instead, this Photo Album Story Teller will let you record the story behind each and every picture.

The great benefit is that you can have your Grandmother tell the story on some old pictures and you’ll get to hear it from her perspective.  With each picture you put on a little sticker and the device scans that sticker.  It will then play the story that goes with it out loud.  The kit comes with 500 stickers, so you do have a limit on the amount of pictures you can do this on.  Just in case the device gets compromised you can back up your recordings on your computer.  You can purchase it for $99.95

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Tree Planting Robot

Tree Planting Robot

Imagine living in a world where all the trees are slowly dying, and all animals must be replaced with robotic couterparts. This would be the giraffe.

Actually, this particular robot is designed to prevent an environmental apocalypse. You see, this is a Tree Planting Robot designed for reforestation projects.

The Tree Planting Robot is good for carrying 320 seedlings, with each one in a biodegradable plastic protective barrier that protects it from plant-eating insects.

Not only can this thing plant, but it can also weed. Apparently, it has hot steam to destroy “competing vegetation, such as choking vines that can affect other plants”. It can also plant in patterns, just in case you want some sort of landscaping done.

Yeah, this is a concept project for now. I suppose it could be used for cases where a volcano like Mount St. Helens blows away the forest area.

However, why should we limit this guy on just Earth? Isn’t there a way to put this on Mars, and have it plant all sorts of vegetation. Then we could have some serious atmosphere by the time we land there, if ever. Of course, I could be wrong about the science here. Still, we are talking about a robot that plants here. We’re sort of in the science-fiction realm.

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Steelseries Shift Gaming Keyboard

Steelseries has come out with yet another keyboard for gamers to pick up.  Instead of being made for just one game, this one is able to handle interchangeable keysets.  This way if you decide to drop WoW and switch to a FPS game it doesn’t require you to pick up a new keyboard.  Plus, with the Shift Keyboard it offers several different ways to personalize it to the point that you’ll be able to use it the way you want.

The entire keyboard is fully customizable, all of the keys can be programmed to do something else.  The layers are easy to switch out, so it won’t consume too much of your time when you’re dying to just hop on the computer and start gaming.  Being a Steelseries keyboard you can count on that it’s a high quality keyboard and that it’s obviously ergonomic.  You can pick yourself one up for $90.

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Brain Wave Interface – The Future of Mind and Machine

future disabled mind

For the past several generations of Sci-Fi entertainment, we have actually underestimated the advancement of a certain technology: The interface.

I remember in Star Wars and Star Trek, Space 199, and Battlestar Galactica (the old one), Human/Machine interfaces were very primitive compared to modern GUI, multi-touch and now computer vision interfaces.

The next step is already in prototype: The brain interface.

The brain interface is a simple system where an array of electrodes is placed on your head. After the computer has a baseline on your brain waves, it can essentially read your intentions. While this technology is limited and used primarily for gaming, it is a clue of things to come, good and bad.

Let’s first examine the potential good.

What good can come from remote computer control directly through a brain wave interface?

First and possibly foremost is the security aspect. Your brain wave patterns, it seems, are very similar to your fingerprints. You are the only one with those particular ones. To keep prying eyes out of your computer, it may be as simple as registering your brain wave pattern as the only one with clearance. Of course computer error happens, and some hacker somewhere will find a way to defeat it. But that doesn’t make it not a significant step forward in security.

Another significant improvement is the un-chaining from the terminal. Because these brain wave devices work wirelessly, you can potentially be in a whole other room and manipulate the computer from there. Turn down the music? Change the channel? Command the computer to read email to you? All of these and a great deal more are possibilities. But they only scratch the surface of the tip of the iceberg.

When integrated with other up and coming tech such as the self driving car, you could use this technology to change your destination on the fly. Or use it to apply brakes or other commands when Human control is needed.

Used therapeutically, a technology like this could be used to sharpen ones sense of focus or as a biofeedback mechanism.

OK, there is some good. So where’s the bad?

As stated earlier, this technology is being used mostly in video gaming. What happens to the game addict who is so immersed by this technology that he cannot get his self to stop playing?

Applied commercially or politically in the place of polls, brain wave interfaces could be used to determine how a person really feels about a candidate or a product or an issue.

Legally, such a technology could become admissible as evidence in court. It could also be used in criminal investigations. Body language would be relegated to the back of the class. Brain waves would tell it all.

Would a technology like this make a hackers job easier once he got past the security aspect? He would not be limited by how fast he can type, but by how fast he can think. He would not need to hit the enter button physically, and there would likely be no typos on his part to trip him up.

Let’s consider big brothers potential uses for this technology. Would you feel comfy-cozy with large corporations and government intelligence agencies having a database of your thought processes, memories, intentions, emotions, dreams and day dreams? Many of us aren’t comfortable with a certain search engine gone empire keeping a history of our internet browsing. How will we feel to learn they keep a history of our mind? That is only speculation of course, but it’s not so far away from probable.

Even Human tracking could be enabled greatly by a brain wave scanning technology. Imagine if your brain wave pattern is kept in a central server somewhere, and a remote reader could filter all the brain waves in a given location. How would anyone hide from that? Not to say that such devices cannot be electronically jammed, but most people do not even know how to jam radio waves.

Are we really prepared for this kind of technology to be applied to virtually everything?

Can we trust the people who will have the most access and control over it?

It is not a question of whether this technology is going to happen. It’s happening now. The question is how we are going to respond to it. And that, currently, is an open question.

By Joseph Ford

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XWave brainwave interface for iDevices

XWave is an iPhone/iPod touch/iPad compatible device that detects brainwaves

Until humans evolve huge brains like the Talosians, it seems we’ll have to rely electronic headwear to allow us to control devices with our brainwaves – electronic headwear like the XWave from California-based company PLX Devices. The XWave is the first brainwave interface accessory for the iPhone/iPod touch/iPad that is worn over the head like a pair of headphones. Unfortunately, the device won’t allow you to scroll through playlists or select a contact to call with the power of your mind. Rather, like the Star Wars Force Trainer it detects your attention and meditation levels for use in games and getting the old gray matter into shape.

The XWave is powered by technology provided by Neurosky Inc. and the device itself is not dissimilar to that company’s MindSet headset we first saw at the Tokyo Game Show back in 2008. Like the MindSet, the XWave incorporates a single electrode that sits in contact with the wearer’s forehead to read brainwave information, or electroencephalography (EEG) data, and converts these analog signals into digital so they can be used

The device comes bundled with the XWave app that includes a number of exercises aimed at training your brain. Objectives include levitating a ball on the iDevice’s screen, changing a color based on the relaxation level of your brain and training your brain to maximize its attention span.

PLX Devices is also providing 3rd party software developers an SDK to allow them to design and develop apps using the XWave device. The company reports that some apps already in development include games in which objects are controlled by the wearer’s mind and another that allows the wearer to control the lights in their home or select music based on their mood.

The XWave will be available for preorder from PLX Devices now for US$100 ahead of an October 2010 release.

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