Jun 25, 2011

Reanimating the body, with the power of thought

PHILADELPHIA — In the future, man and machine will become one. Powering it all? The brain.
Speaking at the TEDxPhilly conference in Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, biomedical engineer Iyad Obeid said researchers are already hard at work attempting to harness the power of the brain to control mechanical devices such as computers or robotic prostheses.
And despite what you’ve seen in the movies, machines won’t replace brains. Instead, they’ll complement them, because the two function in completely different ways.
“We’re learning how to tap into the processing that the brain has — what it can do,” Obeid said. “By learning its language, we can harness that to make a lot of our day-to-day problems a lot easier.”
The director of Temple University’s Neural Instrumentation Laboratory, Obeid took the crowd step-by-step through the process of understanding and translating the brain to craft a brain-machine interface to allow it to communicate with a man-made electronic machine.

Hit read more for details.

Aerogels: ‘Frozen smoke’ can soak up oil

From capturing comet dust to sucking up oil, aerogels sure come in handy. Nicknamed “frozen smoke”, these silica-based substances are among the least dense materials on the planet.
NASA originally developed aerogels for work in space, but companies are finding plenty of uses for them here on Earth.
Their low thermal conductivity makes them superb insulators (SeeSuper-insulating aerogels promise to make homes more energy-efficient). But it’s their extreme absorbency that might come to the rescue in an oil spill.
Out of efforts to create a superior kitty litter, an aerogel sponge that Aeroclay, Inc. hopes to commercialize could help clean up our big black messes. Comprised of polymers and clay, this aerogel is 96 percent air. Hit read more for the full article.

Japanese researchers create palladium-like alloy using nanotechnology, 'present-day alchemy'

As you're no doubt aware, some of the precious metals used in consumer electronics -- like palladium -- can be both pricey and hard to come by, which has prompted some to harvest the materials from old electronics and reuse them, while others have been busily working on more readily available alternatives. Among that latter group are a team of researchers from Japan's Kyoto University, who have just announced that they've managed to create a palladium-like alloy using what's being described as "present-day alchemy." More specifically, they used nanotechnology to combine (and "nebulise") rhodium and silver, which don't ordinarily mix, into the new composite, which they say could eventually replace the real thing in a whole range of electronics and other products. Unfortunately, it's not clear when that might happen, but the researchers aren't just stopping at palladium -- they're apparently already looking at using a similar process to create other alloys.

Motorola intros dueling portrait QWERTY Android options for Sprint: XPRT and Titanium

It took 'em long enough, but it seems as if The Now Network has managed to snap up Motorola's Droid Pro... just seven months after Verizon Wireless did so. For whatever reason, Sprint's dubbing its version the XPRT, with the same 3.1-inch HVGA touchpanel, full QWERTY keyboard, 1GHz CPU and Android 2.2 loaded. It'll go for $129.99 on a two-year contract starting June 5th, but giving that the Pro hit the bargain bin long ago, we're having a hard time believing anyone will pony up for Sprint's iteration. Moving right along, the Titanium gets off on the wrong foot by shipping with Android 2.1, and while it's hailed as the first iDEN device to combine Nextel Direct Connect and Eclair, the G'zOne Commando has somehow managed to show its brawn while stepping up to v2.2. For those interested nonetheless, there's a 3.1-inch touchscreen and a chassis that's built to MIL-SPEC 810G for dust, shock, vibration, low pressure, solar radiation, high temperature and low temperature. She's unpriced for the moment, but the full release can be found just after the break.

LG Optimus 2X scoops up Guinness World Record for being first dual-core smartphone

LG's Optimus 2X just scooped up official recognition from the Guinness World Records crew for being the very first dual-core smartphone, which sounds like a good thing, but really it kind of isn't. In its rabid pursuit of the "First!" badge, LG neglected to polish up the 2X's software, leaving a lot of early users feeling high, dry, and in need of a good custom ROM. On the other hand, that very same phone's US variant, the T-Mobile G2x that came a couple of months later, arrived with a nice and shiny stock Android build that really showed off the underlying hardware's true capabilities. So yeah, kudos onanother Record, LG, but next time let's have less haste and more awesome, mmkay?

IDC: smartphone market grows 80 percent year-on-year

Smartphones are getting kind of popular nowadays, in case you hadn't noticed. The latest figures from IDC show a 79.7 percent expansion of the global smartphone market between this time last year and today, which has resulted in 99.6 million such devices being shipped in Q1 of 2011. That growth has mostly been driven by Samsung, which has more than quadrupled its output to 10.8 million shipments in the quarter, and HTC, whose growth has been almost as impressive. The other big gainer is Apple, with 10 million more iPhones shipped, but the truth is that all the top five vendors are showing double-digit growth. In spite of Nokia losing a big chunk of market share and RIM being demoted from second to third in the ranking, both of those old guard manufacturers improved on their quarterly totals. IDC puts this strength in demand down to the relatively unsaturated smartphone marketplace, and believes there's "ample room for several suppliers to comfortably co-exist," before ominously adding, "at least for the short term." And after the short term, our break-dancing robot overlords take over.

CyanogenMod 7 tops 200,000 downloads, celebrations erupt as development goes forward

Congratulations to the fine developers of CyanogenMod, whose latest aftermarket Android OS, CyanogenMod 7, has surpassed 200,000 downloads -- a huge milestone for this homebrew community. Now supported on 26 devices, the hallmark of this custom ROM comes from its flexible user interface, greater customization options, bonus features and worthwhile performance improvements. While the project gained early notoriety from its dispute with Google, it's become an increasingly popular solution for those wanting to command their phone (or tablet) as they see fit. The latest revision, 7.0.3, includes numerous fixes and refinements since its 7.0 release, so there's never been a better time to check it out -- in fact, we're pretty sure the group would love to bring you aboard. Well done everyone, and keep up the good work.

Japanese researchers develop 'swimming' endoscope

Sure, pills that survey the wild and nauseating gastric landscape have been done before -- but how about one that can "swim" to input from a doctor-controlled joystick? A team of Japanese researchers have successfully achieved just that, with a newer, smaller, creepier version of a device they call "Mermaid." Ariel jokes aside, the tadpole-shaped accessory has successfully self-propelled itself around different parts of its host's digestive tract, all while dutifully phoning home with what we presume are pictures only a licensed physician could stomach. Whether or not the entire shindig was in high definition wasn't specified, but let's pretend your brain didn't just wonder precisely that.


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