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terça-feira, 3 de março de 2015

Schermi LCD riproducono gli ologrammi della Principessa Leia

 

Una startup mira a dare ai dispositivi portatili la capacità di riprodurre immagini e video olografici a colori.

di Mike Orcutt |

Questo “modulo olografico” di 5x5 cm sarà il primo prodotto commerciale della della startup Leia.

In una famosa scena di Guerre Stellari, la Principessa Leia chiede aiuto a Obi-Wan Kenobi in un videomessaggio olografico proiettato per aria da R2D2. Secondo David Fattal, nel futuro prossimo, smartphone ed altri dispositivi mobili potranno mostrare qualcosa di simile.
La prossima settimana, in occasione del Mobile World Congress di Barcellona, la società di Fattal, propriamente battezzata
Leia, presenterà un prototipo del suo schermo 3-D. Entro quest’anno, la società intende mettere in commercio un piccolo schermo in grado di produrre immagini e video 3-D a colori che sono visibili – senza l’ausilio di occhiali speciali – da 64 punti di vista differenti.
La chiave alla tecnologia di Leia è un’invenzione di Fattal che sfrutta i progressi fatti nel controllo dei percorsi intrapresi dalla luce su nanoscala. Il concetto, che Leia descrive come “multiview backlight”, è stato presentato la prima volta due anni fa su un
documento di Nature (vedi "Un nuovo tipo di schermo 3D modifica radicalmente le immagini in movimento").
Al tempo, Fattal era un ricercatore presso i laboratori HP e il suo lavoro era applicato alle interconnessioni ottiche, che permettono ai computer di scambiare informazioni codificate nella luce. In quel periodo però, si sarebbe reso conto che questa stessa idea poteva essere utilizzata anche per mostrare immagini olografiche, e avrebbe deciso di lasciare Hewlett-Packard per perseguire la sua idea.
Le interconnessioni ottiche si affidano a strutture in nanoscala, denominate reticoli di diffrazione, che in base all’angolo da cui la luce le colpisce, costringono i raggi di luce a viaggiare lungo precise direzioni. Fattal si è reso conto che, invece di utilizzare i reticoli di diffrazione per inviare la luce attraverso un cavo per trasmettere dati, poteva progettarli per inviare la luce in direzioni determinate nello spazio, e che questo poteva costituire la base per uno schermo olografico 3-D.
La società ha affinato il design iniziale di Fattal per migliorare la qualità delle immagini ed ha già sviluppato un sistema per fare uscire gli ologrammi da un convenzionale schermo a cristalli liquidi (LCD). Secondo
Gordon Wetzstein, un professore di ingegneria elettrica dell’Università di Stanford che studia le tecnologie per schermi di prossima generazione, i tratta di un risultato impressionante perché significa che la tecnologia è pronta per essere commercializzata
Ciascuno schermo LCD monta un elemento di retroilluminazione che è composto da sue parti: una fonte di luce ed una “guida luce” in plastica. La guida serve a direzionare la luce verso i pixel dello schermo; le immagini compaiono sullo schermo in base alla quantità variabile di luce che viene bloccata prima che raggiunga ciascun pixel.
Leia ha fondamentalmente sostituito la classica guida luce con una molto più sofisticata dotata di reticoli in nanoscala. La nuova guida ha un controllo molto migliore sulla direzione seguita dalla luce prima di raggiungere i pixel. Invece di guidare tutta la luce in maniera uniforme, la guida è in grado di indirizzare un singolo raggio di luce verso un singolo pixel dello schermo. Leia ha impostato il suo schermo per inviare 64 immagini differenti, ciascuna delle quali viene prodotta da 1/64o dei pixel disponibili, e incorporarle in maniera tale da permettere al cervello di percepirle come un ologramma unico. La risoluzione risulta parzialmente sacrificata, per cui il processo potrebbe essere più difficile da applicare sugli schermi più grandi ma, secondo Wetzstein, i dispositivi portatili di oggi vantano già una risoluzione talmente elevata che gli utenti avranno difficolta a farci caso.
Guardando ai primi utenti che potrebbero cominciare a sviluppare nuove applicazioni e contenuti, la società ha intenzione di introdurre nel mercato asiatico un piccolo modulo portatile.
La domanda più importante riguardo questi schermi 3-D, specialmente dopo il fallimento dell’ultima ondata di televisori 3-D, è cosa servirà per convincere le persone ad acquistarle.
I videogiochi portatili sembrerebbero essere un’ovvia opportunità.
Leia ha creato una
risorsa online che può essere utilizzata dagli sviluppatori per convertire le grafiche e le animazioni 3-D esistenti in contenuti compatibili con la sua tecnologia. Un creatore di contenuti può importare una grafica o un’animazione 3-D già in uso in rete o in un videogioco, e lo strumento della Leia lo frammenta automaticamente nelle 64 immagini necessarie per generare un ologramma.
Non è possibile trovare un video olografico che sia più simile a quello della Principessa Leia. Per quanto la sua immagine sembrasse visibile da tutti i lati, la tecnologia di Fattal permette di vedere l’ologramma entro un arco di 60°, e già per questa impresa è necessario posizionare precisamente 64 immagini. Al Mobile World Congress, Fattal intende mostrare una videochiamata in tempo reale che richiederà un’ingombrante schiera di videocamere. Secondo lui, questo genere di impostazione potrebbe essere ottimizzato con un dispositivo dedicato, come un insieme di videocamere posizionate sul retro di un televisore per registrare le immagini di una persona che osserva lo schermo e trasmetterle via Internet a un altro schermo. “È certamente qualcosa di fattibile nel futuro prossimo”, dice.
(MO)

遗传学家开始通过互联网进行在线DNA测试

 

0条评论 安东尼奥 瑞伽拉多 发表于 2015-03-03 11:24

科学家正在启动他们的在线DNA数据库,创建一个为新标度基因分析铺平道路的网络。

 

遗传学家和电脑程序员组成的联盟(自称为世界基因组学与卫生联盟)正在开发一种可以在互联网范围内交换DNA信息的协议。研究人员希望他们的工作在医学领域能够起到重要作用,如同Tim Berners-Lee在1989年发明的HTTP协议在互联网中发挥的作用一样。

该组织第一批示范项目中的其中一个项目是简单的搜索引擎。利用这种引擎,可以梳理出存放在包括谷歌的服务器群和英国莱斯特大学等九个位置的成千上万封人类基因组DNA信件。根据该组织(包括人类基因组项目的核心成员在内)的介绍,搜索引擎是DNA网络的开关,最终是将数以百万计的基因子联系到一起。

正在开发的技术被称为应用程序接口(API),可以实现不同基因数据库之间的交流。汇集信息可以加快取得发现的步伐,这些发现涉及的方面是通过将疑似存在基因突变的儿童与已确诊存在基因突变的其他人进行配对,确定何种基因能够并帮助医生诊断出罕见的先天缺陷,

在两年前于纽约召开的一次会议上,因为担心基因组数据被锁入专用数据库、受到与患者签订法律许可协议的约束、隐私规则的限制,或者是被想要继续自己的科研工作的科学家控制,50名科学家提出建立该联盟的设想。该联盟将自己定性为继万维网联盟(W3C)之后的有一个监督网络标准的组织。

“这是在创建交换基因信息的互联网语言,”作为该组织领导人之一的圣克鲁兹加州大学基因组研究所科学总监David Haussler说道。

该组织于去年开始推出这款软件,目的是希望——大部分并未实现——任何一位科学家都可以在不触碰技术壁垒或隐私规则的前提下,提出关于由其他实验室掌握的基因组数据的问题。

研究人员认为,基因组解码成本降低(以前约为10000美元,现在快降到2000美元)后,可以生成他们没有做好准备的大量数据;为此;他们必须采取行动。美国医院的电子系统多数被分割成小块,系统之间无法进行交流,他们担心会出现像这些美国医院一样的结局。

基因组数据被孤立的方式已然成为一个问题,原因在于遗传学家需要基础更大数量的人群。他们要使用到10万名志愿者的DNA信息,以此来找出和精神分裂症、糖尿病及其他常见病有联系的基因。然而,在获得发现方面,即使是这10万份数据也不够大。“你将需要数以百万计的基因组,”剑桥博德研究所副所长暨新组织主席David Altshuler如是说道。

世界基因组学与卫生联盟认为答案在于互联网。网络将向其他科学家的有限数据搜索开放多个数据库。哈佛医学院遗传学家Heidi Rehm认为,利用这一理念,该联盟正致力于将全球最大的关于乳腺群癌基因BRCA1和BRCA2的信息数据库中的多个数据库,以及目前独立的九个数据库(存有导致出现罕见儿童疾病的基因数据)联系到一起。

去年三月份,该组织启动了一项测试,目的是看看科学组织是否愿意共享数据。一项被称为Beacon的成果让某个数据库的所有者将其数据库向极其严格的搜索开放。

“我们不是要发明一项技术壮举;我们要做的是解决人们不愿意共享数据这个问题,”参与接口建立工作的多伦多大学计算机科学系研究生Marc Fiume说道,“这会让你能够进行搜索,但又不会获取或侵犯患者隐私。”

截至目前,有15个数据库与Beacon兼容,Fiume评价称取得了一定的成绩。其中三个数据库存储的是谷歌上有备份的公共基因组,另一个数据归波士顿一家叫做Curoverse的软件公司所有。

Haussler认为未来的协议将会提供逐渐访问更多数据的途径,但是要按照受控的方式访问。科学家将需要注册,甚至是签署法律协议。“如果‘这样可以给我全部的基因组’,你需要为此签一份合约,”他说道。

该联盟正在推行的一项变革是新的所有者同意书。这份文件内规定了志愿者在提交各自的基因组时享有的权力。新的同意书范围比大多数同意书的更广泛,允许“世界各地的研究人员”进行“受控访问”。同意书内需要承诺研究人员不会识别出参与者,尽管这种DNA比较特别,比例指纹,那也不能保证研究人员会识别出参与者。

和W3C一样,世界基因组学与卫生有为此买单的“主办单位”。根据Altshuler的介绍,截至目前,这些单位包括博德研究所、英国的韦尔科姆基金会桑格学院研究所以及安大略癌症研究所,但是Altshuler拒绝透露每家单位的出资金额。

非营利组织赛智生物网络研究所首席平民官John Wilbanks正在与该联盟合作,同时也是W3C的前任成员。他认为该联盟的任务比W3C的要更艰巨。“网络在万维网联盟成立前就已存在了很长时间。这是很大的一个不同之处,”他说道,“网络需要发展,万维网联盟创建的目的是来管理网络,并不是说这个联盟创立了网络。”

Minhas músicas preferidas /8/ Are you lonesome tonight

Lonesome tonight

Happiness

Happiness

segunda-feira, 2 de março de 2015

Pens filled with high-tech inks for do-it-yourself sensors

Researchers drew sensors capable of detecting pollutants on a leaf.

A new simple tool developed by nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego, is opening the door to an era when anyone will be able to build sensors, anywhere, including physicians in the clinic, patients in their home and soldiers in the field. The team from the University of California, San Diego, developed high-tech bio-inks that react with several chemicals, including glucose. They filled off-the-shelf ballpoint pens with the inks and were able to draw sensors to measure glucose directly on the skin and sensors to measure pollution on leaves.

Skin and leaves aren't the only media on which the pens could be used. Researchers envision sensors drawn directly on smart phones for personalized and inexpensive health monitoring or on external building walls for monitoring of toxic gas pollutants. The sensors also could be used on the battlefield to detect explosives and nerve agents.

The team, led by Joseph Wang, the chairman of the Department of NanoEngineering at the University of California, San Diego, published their findings in the Feb. 26 issue of Advanced Healthcare Materials. Wang also directs the Center for Wearable Sensors at UC San Diego.

"Our new biocatalytic pen technology, based on novel enzymatic inks, holds considerable promise for a broad range of applications on site and in the field," Wang said.

The biggest challenge the researchers faced was making inks from chemicals and biochemicals that aren't harmful to humans or plants; could function as the sensors' electrodes; and retain their properties over long periods in storage and in various conditions. Researchers turned to biocompatible polyethylene glycol, which is used in several drug delivery applications, as a binder. To make the inks conductive to electric current they used graphite powder. They also added chitosan, an antibacterial agent which is used in bandages to reduce bleeding, to make sure the ink adhered to any surfaces it was used on. The inks' recipe also includes xylitol, a sugar substitute, which helps stabilize enzymes that react with several chemicals the do-it-yourself sensors are designed to monitor.

Reusable glucose sensors

Wang's team has been investigating how to make glucose testing for diabetics easier for several years. The same team of engineers recently developed non-invasive glucose sensors in the form of temporary tattoos. In this study, they used pens, loaded with an ink that reacts to glucose, to draw reusable glucose-measuring sensors on a pattern printed on a transparent, flexible material which includes an electrode. Researchers then pricked a subject's finger and put the blood sample on the sensor. The enzymatic ink reacted with glucose and the electrode recorded the measurement, which was transmitted to a glucose-measuring device. Researchers then wiped the pattern clean and drew on it again to take another measurement after the subject had eaten.

Researchers estimate that one pen contains enough ink to draw the equivalent of 500 high-fidelity glucose sensor strips. Nanoengineers also demonstrated that the sensors could be drawn directly on the skin and that they could communicate with a Bluetooth-enabled electronic device that controls electrodes called a potentiostat, to gather data.

Sensors for pollution and security

The pens would also allow users to draw sensors that detect pollutants and potentially harmful chemicals sensors on the spot. Researchers demonstrated that this was possible by drawing a sensor on a leaf with an ink loaded with enzymes that react with phenol, an industrial chemical, which can also be found in cosmetics, including sunscreen. The leaf was then dipped in a solution of water and phenol and the sensor was connected to a pollution detector. The sensors could be modified to react with many pollutants, including heavy metals or pesticides.

Next steps include connecting the sensors wirelessly to monitoring devices and investigating how the sensors perform in difficult conditions, including extreme temperatures, varying humidity and extended exposure to sunlight.

Plans unveiled for Google's new Mountain View headquarters

 

Google has commissioned top-tier architects Bjarke Ingels (of BIG) and Thomas Heatherwick ...

Google has commissioned top-tier architects Bjarke Ingels (of BIG) and Thomas Heatherwick to design its new green headquarters in Mountain View, California (Image: Google)

Image Gallery (9 images)

Google has released renders and preliminary information regarding its planned new headquarters in Mountain View, California. Finer details are unavailable at this stage, but the firm has commissioned top-tier architects Bjarke Ingels (of BIG) and Thomas Heatherwick to handle the design, and what information we do have points toward a sustainable, flexible, and future-proof headquarters for the company.

In contrast with the forbidding closed loop design of Apple's sustainable Cupertino campus by Norman Foster, Google's new digs appear more fragmented, open, and accessible.

"We're really making sure that we make spaces very open and accessible, so it's not just for Googlers but for anyone in the area to come by," says David Radcliffe, the firm's Vice President of Real Estate.

Google says a significant portion of the HQ's energy needs will be met sustainably, but (e...

Intended for the North Bay Shore area of Mountain View, the renders evoke more of a futuristic college campus feel than that of a secretive technology center, and it comprises a number of buildings with large transparent roofs that allow plenty of natural light. The renders also show a mash-up of both Ingels' and Heatherwick's style in places (such as the above image, for example), and it will be interesting to see if the end result will be a clash of egos or that of two "starchitects" complimenting each other's strengths.

The proposal features bike paths, lakes, and greenery, and cyclists are offered shelter from the rain in some areas with large solar canopies. Google says a significant portion of the HQ's energy needs will be met sustainably, but we've no word on how much yet, nor of any other sustainable tech in the works. Car parks are hidden from sight underground, and the renders show a focus on landscaping in a concerted effort to offer visitors and staff a greater connection with nature.

Intended for the North Bay Shore area of Mountain View, the renders revealed so far show a...

Another potentially interesting but vague nugget of information revealed is that the headquarters will apparently be flexible and future-proof. "Instead of constructing immoveable concrete buildings, we’ll create lightweight block-like structures which can be moved around easily as we invest in new product areas," added Radcliffe.

From this, we could infer anything from a novel system of movable buildings to simply easily-dismantled prefabs that can be extended when required. Time will tell.

 

Source: Google

 

Hey, I am not W.R.

Eu não sou Wynona

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Bringing clean energy a step closer

Bringing clean energy a step closer

February 27, 2015

Case Western Reserve University

Researchers have made an inexpensive metal-free catalyst that performs as well as costly metal catalysts at speeding the oxygen reduction reaction in an acidic fuel cell, and is more durable. The catalyst is made of sheets of nitrogen-doped graphene that provides great surface area, carbon nanotubes that enhance conductivity, and carbon black particles that separate the layers allowing the electrolyte and oxygen to flow freely, which greatly increased performance and efficiency.


Structure enables a carbon-based catalyst to perform comparably with metal catalysts in an acidic fuel cell. A: Carbon black agglomerates maintain a clear distance between graphene sheets imbedded with carbon nanotubes, allowing oxygen and electrolyte to flow through and speeding the oxygen-reduction reaction. B: Without the agglomerates, the sheets stack closely, stalling the reaction.

For nearly half a century, scientists have been trying to replace precious metal catalysts in fuel cells. Now, for the first time, researchers at Case Western Reserve University have shown that an inexpensive metal-free catalyst performs as well as costly metal catalysts at speeding the oxygen reduction reaction in an acidic fuel cell.

The carbon-based catalyst also corrodes less than metal-based materials and has proved more durable.

The findings are major steps toward making low-cost catalysts commercially available, which could, in turn, reduce the cost to generate clean energy from PEM fuel cells--the most common cell being tested and used in cars and stationary power plants. The study was recently published online in the journal Science Advances.

"This definitely should move the field forward," said Liming Dai, the Kent Hale Smith Professor of macromolecular science and engineering at Case Western Reserve and senior author of the research. "It's a major breakthrough for commercialization."

Dai worked with lead investigator Jianglan Shui, who was a CWRU postdoctoral researcher and is now a materials science and engineering professor at Beihang University, Beijing; PhD student Min Wang, who did some of the testing; and postdoctoral researcher Fen Du, who made the materials. The effort builds on the Dai lab's earlier work developing carbon-based catalysts that significantly outperformed platinum in an alkaline fuel cell.

The group pursued a non-metal catalyst to perform in acid because the standard bearer among fuel cells, the PEM cell, uses an acidic electrolyte. PEM stands for both proton exchange membrane and polymer electrolyte membrane, which are interchangeable names for this type of cell.

The key to the new catalyst is its rationally-designed porous structure, Dai said. The researchers mixed sheets of nitrogen-doped graphene, a single-atom thick, with carbon nanotubes and carbon black particles in a solution, then freeze-dried them into composite sheets and hardened them.

Graphene provides enormous surface area to speed chemical reactions, nanotubes enhance conductivity, and carbon black separates the graphene sheets for free flow of the electrolyte and oxygen, which greatly increased performance and efficiency. The researchers found that those advantages were lost when they allowed composite sheets to arrange themselves in tight stacks with little room between layers.

A fuel cell converts chemical energy into electrical energy by removing electrons from a fuel, such as hydrogen, at the cell's anode, or positive electrode. This creates a current.

Hydrogen ions produced are carried by the electrolyte through a membrane to the cathode, or negative electrode, where the oxygen reduction reaction takes place. Oxygen molecules are split and reduced by the addition of electrons and combine with the hydrogen ions to form water and heat--the only byproducts.

Testing showed the porous catalyst performs better and is more durable than the state-of-the-art nonprecious iron-based catalyst. Dai's lab continues to fine-tune the materials and structure as well as investigate the use of non-metal catalysts in more areas of clean energy.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Case Western Reserve University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jianglan Shui, Min Wang, Feng Du, Liming Dai. N-doped carbon nanomaterials are durable catalysts for oxygen reduction reaction in acidic fuel cells. Science Advances, Feb 27, 2015 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1400129

 

Samsung and Oculus have a new Gear VR for the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge

 

The new Samsung Gear VR, which uses a GS6 or GS6 edge instead of a Note 4

The new Samsung Gear VR, which uses a GS6 or GS6 edge instead of a Note 4

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Samsung's Gear VR still hasn't launched its full store with paid apps (it's coming to the US later this month), but the virtual reality headset is now compatible with two more phones. While the original Gear VR Innovator Edition was only compatible with the Galaxy Note 4, the new version adds support for the new Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge (along with a few other bells and whistles).

The new Gear VR has the same basic design as the original Note 4 version, but it is 15 percent smaller. It also gets a few more upgrades thanks to the new pair of phones: benefiting from their higher pixel density and faster performance. It also has a 96-degree field of view.

The biggest update, though, is that the new Gear VR will have better battery life. Now when you plug either the GS6 or GS6 edge into the headset's microUSB port, it will draw power from the headset. So when you sit down for a lengthy VR session, you don't have to worry (as much) about draining your phone's battery for the rest of the day.

The original Gear VR (pictured) now has an improved sequel that's compatible with the new ...

The biggest problem with the original Gear VR (above) was its tendency to overheat, so we'll have to wait and see if the new version does any better. Its Exynos processor, in place of the Note's Snapdragon, could potentially help out in this department.

Not many more details on the new headset at the moment, but we'll keep you posted as pricing and release info trickles in.

For more on the Note 4 version, you can hit up our full Gear VR review.

 

SanDisk crams 200 GB into the world's highest capacity microSD card

 

SanDisk's new microSD card packs an impressive 200 GB of storage

SanDisk's new microSD card packs an impressive 200 GB of storage

With all the high quality snaps, audio and video that we fill our mobile devices with these days, it doesn't take much to for the onboard storage to hit capacity. But SanDisk has just introduced a new microSD card designed to provide a little more storage breathing room. The SanDisk Ultra microSDXC UHS-I card, Premium Edition, packs a whopping 200 GB of storage capacity, while retaining the same diminutive microSD form factor.

Following last year's Mobile World Congress, where SanDisk rolled up with a 128 GB card to offer the world's largest capacity microSDXC card, the storage specialist has managed to increase the capacity by an impressive 56 percent. The latest addition to the microSDXC UHS-I range makes use of the same technology as the 128 GB version, but a new design and production process has enabled the company to squeeze in more bits per die.

Capable of delivering transfer speeds of 90 MB per second, the card is targeted primarily for use with Android devices. It is worth noting, however, that Samsung's newest flagship phones, the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge, themselves unveiled at World Mobile Congress over the weekend, do away with microSD slots, so the whopping bump in storage will be out of reach for some.

SanDisk says its 200 GB microSD card will be available worldwide in the second quarter of 2015 and priced at US$400.

Source: SanDisk

 

How drones are poised to help build the cities of tomorrow

 

Drones are already proving incredibly efficient at aerial mapping on building sites, but a...

Drones are already proving incredibly efficient at aerial mapping on building sites, but are they capable of more? (Photo: Skycatch)

Image Gallery (17 images)

Over time we have gotten used to machines assuming certain roles in society, but even at the dawn of the the age of robotics, some types of skilled labor still seem beyond their reach. After all, how does a machine wield a hammer and overcome the perpetual problem-solving involved in putting together a house or a high-rise? While we might be some ways off from watching buildings sprout out of the ground at the push of a button, flying robots are already carrying out surveying and mapping tasks on construction sites from the US to Japan. But leading researchers are adamant that when it comes to automating the building industry, these machines have more to offer.

The value of drones in construction, at least for the time being, is more or less tied to their ability to venture where humans and heavy machinery cannot. This dictates that the vehicles remain small, agile and with minimal payload, zipping around with onboard high-res cameras and relaying progress shots and aerial surveys to construction teams on the ground. This might sound like little more than a negligible cost-cutting, but drones are already forming an integral part of business operations for innovative construction firms the world over.

In Japan, an aging population has the construction industry turning to new technology to help build the infrastructure of the future. Leading the charge is the multinational machinery maker Komatsu which has just announced the launch of a new service called Smart Construction, aimed at helping fill Japan's void of a fit young workforce with cutting edge information and communication technologies. The service includes a a platform called KomConnect that will connect machinery and workers to the cloud to improve overall efficiency, artificial intelligence-assisted control for operating machinery and, of course, drones.

Japanese multinational machinery maker Komatsu has announced the launch of a new service c...

Komatsu has turned to San Francisco-based drone service provider Skycatch to put UAVs to use in its Smart Construction venture. Skycatch's vehicles will be deployed to conduct surveys and produce 3D models, culminating in live interactive maps of the job sites.

"The map comes to life on our dashboard, so to speak, and clients can do things like impose overlays of plans onto what’s actually been built, calculate volumetric measurements, and make annotations for themselves or to share with co-workers," Skycatch CEO Christian Sanz tells Gizmag.

In the view of Sanz, the potential of drones in construction is becoming too great to ignore.

"Right now, drone technology is providing a competitive edge to the companies who’ve successfully adopted it," he says. "They use their equipment and resources more efficiently, communicate better through accurate maps and data, and now have highly quantitative means of measuring their progress against their schedule. In the future, the construction industry will realize aggregate benefits such as a much better safety record and fewer projects that are completely late and off budget."

Though Komatsu prides itself on a history of technological innovation, it is far from the only construction company enlisting armies of flying robots. In all corners of the globe, firms are recognizing the aerial surveying potential of drones (a capability that has seen them used in applications as diverse as the hunting invasive plant species in Australia and warding off rhino poachers in Kenya.)

For the past three years, Siemens has been using drones to conduct surveying work above the Aspern Vienna Urban Lakeside project in Austria, one the largest urban development projects in Europe. Last month it unveiled a pilot project whereby aerial data collected by drones combines with image processing software to visualize energy losses across entire neighborhoods. The data is then presented as thermal maps, making it easier to identify which buildings could be renovated to be made more energy efficient.

Last month, Siemens unveiled a pilot project whereby aerial data collected by drones combi...

Down under, Australian firm Soto Consulting Engineers are using drones to monitor heavy industry and mining sites, scoping out large concrete structures, boilers and skyline conveyers to identify hard-to-spot structural problems.

"The high-res cameras allow us to pinpoint corrosion and use that as part of our report," Jim Allan, Chief Operating Officer at Soto explains. "The main benefit is the cost saving. It alleviates the need for cages and harnesses and safety requirements are reduced."

And according to Rory San Miguel, founder of Australian startup Propeller Aerobotics, there are significant savings to be made. Much like Skycatch in the US, his company offers drone services to companies looking for cheaper, higher quality aerial data. His aim is to create a standardized mapping interface for the surveying industry so that companies can benefit from consistent, easily digestible data.

"There is a AU$4 billion surveying and mapping industry in Australia, which at the moment doesn't involve drones," he tells Gizmag. "Surveyors are using tools like LIDAR that are very expensive and work very slowly. If we have a drone take off and fly in a grid pattern, taking a photo every 20 m (65.6 ft), we can cover the entire site very quickly and build 3D renders with true absolute accuracy. Like Google Maps on steroids."

So through monitoring and aerial mapping, drones are proving indispensable for forward-thinking companies looking stay one step ahead. By negating the need for expensive and heavy-duty safety equipment the robots are saving time and money, while also delivering precise information more reliably than is otherwise possible. But are drones capable of contributing more to construction than just gathering data?

Back in 2011, a team of roboticists from ETH Zürich's Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control offered a glimpse of what might be possible. The researchers presented a 6-meter (20 ft) tall tower constructed from 1,500 polystyrene bricks, every one of which neatly assembled without any assistance from a human hand. One by one, a fleet of flying robots dropped the pieces into place, guided by mathematical algorithms that took digital design data and translated it into flight paths.

In 2011, researchers presented a six-meter (20 ft) tall tower constructed from 1,5000 poly...

In the time since, the team has continued to work on improving aerial construction and overcoming weaknesses such as payload capacity. Federico Augugliaro, a researcher at the Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control, says that no longer are the vehicles seen merely as passive onlookers capturing information about an environment, but are engaging with that environment in a meaningful way through manipulation, construction and the way they interact with humans.

"Unlike cranes, drones have the ability to reach any point in space," says Agugliaro. "To have drones work close to humans on a construction site, however, their size has to be kept rather small. This limits the amount of payload they can carry and the amount of construction material that can be moved around."

The team is looking to more than just software and controllers to dictate the drone's movement, and are developing techniques that enable humans to reposition the drones with their hands.

"For the situations when drones and people will work closely together, some sort of compliant behavior on the drone side is desirable, both for safety reasons and convenience," says Agugliaro. "For example, instead of using a remote to pilot the drone, one can simply push the drone away."

At the same time, the team is partnering with ETH Zürich Chair of Architecture and Digital Fabrication to investigate the kinds of structures drones might be capable of building.

"Aerial robots are generic and can be equipped with different tools to transport and manipulate material in different ways, but a key subject hereby is weight," Ammar Mirjan, a researcher at the Chair of Architecture and Digital Fabrication, tells Gizmag. "This motivates the investigation into lightweight construction systems. We are particularly interested in the fabrication of tensile structures such as cable-net structures and three-dimensional suspension structures that could not be built with other fabrications methods."

Researchers at ETH Zurich are investigating how drones could be used to build tensile stru...

In Mirjan's view, a drone has a unique set of attributes that sets it apart from conventional construction machinery. The most obvious being that they are capable of flight, but also that they aren't limited to working in the one area and can access spaces that simply aren't accessible otherwise. This could see them carry out construction in hard-to-reach places like between buildings or sites without access to streets. Furthermore, they have the ability interact and collaborate on structures that cannot be built by single machines (like cranes that are limited to individual tasks) and can also move through and around materials during the process.

"Since it will be difficult to imitate existing construction processes because the tools are so radically different, it is likely that the conditions of how things are designed and built will be altered and hence resulting in new forms of architectural materialization," says Ammar. "History suggests that new tools and technologies often shift existing processes. Drones in construction will enable architectural materialization in ways we cannot imagine."

So while architectural practices may be adapted to suit the capabilities of drones in the future – optimizing a system by which they can work productively with lightweight materials is one way of overcoming the payload problem – it's not the only way researchers are approaching this dilemma.

In February of 2012, Indian roboticist Dr Vijay Kumar delivered a TED Talk revealing the work of his engineering team at the University of Pennsylvania robotics lab. He presented a video demonstrating a fleet of robots flying in tight, centimeter-perfect formations, requiring them to calculate control commands 100 times per second to avoid crashing into one another. Banding together to form neat squares, rolling figure eights and various other patterns, the choreography on show certainly made for an impressive spectacle, but held more value than was reflected by the wows in the audience. As explained by Kumar, with an ability to fly in effect as one solid shape, it follows that the strength and carrying capacity of the drones multiplies.

Among the research projects currently underway at the Vijay Kumar Lab at the University of...

Among the research currently underway at the Vijay Kumar Lab at the University of Pennsylvania is a project called "Cooperative Manipulation and Transport." This seeks to solve the problem of how autonomous robots can made to work together to move large payloads by looking to nature. The team draws inspiration from ants and the way they collaborate to transport items of food much larger than the individual ants themselves. Kumar tells us that since his presentation in 2012, his team has improved the system in two ways. The first is the use of sensors, such as cameras, to determine the position of the neighboring robot, negating the need for communication between vehicles. The second is an ability to enroll larger numbers of small, ant-like robots in cooperative tasks. "Now theoretically, we can do hundreds," he says.

When it comes to overcoming the payload limitations of drones with a view to using them in construction, Kumar believes having them work together is the best way forward. While scaling the vehicles up could render them capable of moving heavy materials like girders and beams, this will also make them more cumbersome and sacrifice one of their key strengths: agility.

"Making individuals more powerful or stronger is possible, although this would make this large, unwieldy, heavy and awkward, especially when there might be need to maneuver in tight spaces and or adapt to differently sized payloads," he says. "This is why we prefer the small, modular solution. It is not only bio-inspired and elegant, it is also more practical and economical."

In Europe, a consortium of robotics professors from across the continent have come together to put this thinking into action. The Aerial Robotics Cooperative Assembly System (ARCAS) project is aimed at taking cooperative robot flight and using it to build real world structures. First though, it must establish solid scientific grounding for real world deployment of a flying robot workforce, and like other research efforts, is creating and solving new problems as it goes through the process.

"By using the cooperative control techniques we are developing in the ARCAS project, it will be possible to share the weight of the carried structures over a platoon of robots, hence further increasing the overall payload capacity," says Professor Vincenzo Lippiello from the University of Naples Federico II and one of the ARCAS researchers.

But Lippiello says this brings on another set of challenges, including designing control laws that take into account the destabilizing effect of having several drones hold onto the same object in the air and how sensing capabilities might be best integrated.

Another hurdle that the ARCAS project is working on overcoming is determining the ideal payload for the drones, a predicament that pretty well seems to hang over all researchers working in this area. Its first prototype tested indoors had a payload capacity of 6 kg (13.22 lb), the second saw this increased to 9 kg (20 lb) per vehicle. An upcoming prototype drone will have a total payload of between 15 and 20 kg (33 and 44 lb). It does say, however, that external factors could bring about advances in the carrying capacity.

"It is true that technological limitations exist and are mainly linked to the power to weight ratio of the current batteries," says Lippiello. "But the recent improvements of battery technology, mainly related to the cellular business, have also generated benefits for the drones performance in terms of autonomy and or payload."

Japanese machinery maker Komatsu has turned to San Francisco-based drone service provider ...

So the value of drones in construction in terms of aerial mapping and surveying is pretty well established, if not yet entirely realized by the industry. As successful firms such as Komatsu, Siemens and Soto Engineering continue to lead the way, it seems logical that there will be more to follow, especially when we consider that the technology is only becoming cheaper and its benefits harder to ignore.

But for actually building the structures themselves? The general line of thinking among the experts we've spoken to for this story is that the technology is at least five to ten years away. But it appears that if it does come to fruition, it will come with its share of limitations. Drones as construction machines may spawn a new niche in architectural design just as the team at ETH Zürich anticipate, or they may cooperate to make light work of moving heavy materials, but even then it seems they will only amount to a technology that complements the construction industry, rather than truly disrupts it.

What we also know is there will need to be a serious economic case to get the drones out of the lab and onto construction sites. Delivery drones were unheard of until Amazon came along and professed that they had the potential to turn its business model on its head, and now here we are, with the technology more or less there and pilots projects being carried out all around the world. For flying robots to form part of construction sites of the future, their capabilities will need to align with the private interests behind them. This might involve scenarios where it is just not cost effective or physically possible to put human workers on the job.

"It's likely to be somewhere where labor is prohibitively expensive, or workers cannot go there," imagines Dr Kumar. "Think of us colonizing Mars. The first things that build for us there will be robots."

So if you think that using drones in construction is a pretty out of this world idea, in the end, you may just be proven right.

 

domingo, 1 de março de 2015

Intimate partners with low self-esteem stay in unhappy relationships

 

People with low self-esteem are more likely stay in unhappy relationships, suggests new research from the University of Waterloo.

Sufferers of low self-esteem tend not to voice relationship complaints with their partner because they fear rejection.

"There is a perception that people with low self-esteem tend to be more negative and complain a lot more," says Megan McCarthy the study's author and a PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology. "While that may be the case in some social situations, our study suggests that in romantic relationships, the partner with low self-esteem resists addressing problems."

The study is important for understanding how intimate partner communication can help improve the love lives of people around the world.

"If your significant other is not engaging in open and honest conversation about the relationship," says McCarthy, "it may not be that they don't care, but rather that they feel insecure and are afraid of being hurt."

In her research focused on intimate partner communication, McCarthy tests the impact on a relationship when one partner suffers from low self-esteem. "We've found that people with a more negative self-concept often have doubts and anxieties about the extent to which other people care about them," she says. "This can drive low self-esteem people toward defensive, self-protective behaviour, such as avoiding confrontation."

The study was presented this week in California at The Society for Personality and Social Psychology's 16th Annual Meeting.

The research suggests that people with low self-esteem's resistance to address concerns may stem from a fear of negative outcomes. Sufferers may believe that they cannot speak up without risking rejection from their partner and damage to their relationship, resulting in greater overall dissatisfaction in the relationship.

"We may think that staying quiet, in a 'forgive and forget' kind of way, is constructive, and certainly it can be when we feel minor annoyances," says McCarthy. "But when we have a serious issue in a relationship, failing to address those issues directly can actually be destructive."

McCarthy, along with her research colleagues, have plans for a second study that will look at how increasing a low-self-esteem partner's sense of power or influence in a relationship can promote more open disclosure.

"We all know that close relationships can sometimes be difficult," says McCarthy. "The key issue, then, is how we choose to deal with it when we feel dissatisfied with a partner."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Waterloo. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


 

Chicago in Winter

 

From the International Space Station (ISS), European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti took this photograph of Chicago and posted it to social media on Feb. 19, 2015. She wrote, "How do you like #Chicago dressed for winter?"

Crewmembers on the space station photograph the Earth from their unique point of view located 200 miles above the surface as part of the Crew Earth Observations program. Photographs record how the planet is changing over time, from human-caused changes like urban growth and reservoir construction, to natural dynamic events such as hurricanes, floods and volcanic eruptions. Astronauts have used hand-held cameras to photograph the Earth for more than 40 years, beginning with the Mercury missions in the early 1960s. The ISS maintains an altitude between 220 - 286 miles (354 - 460 km) above the Earth, and an orbital inclination of 51.6˚, providing an excellent stage for observing most populated areas of the world.

Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Samantha Cristoforetti

 

Chicago in Winter

Astronaut Barry Wilmore on the First of Three Spacewalks

NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore works outside the International Space Station on the first of three spacewalks preparing the station for future arrivals by U.S. commercial crew spacecraft, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015. Fellow spacewalker Terry Virts, seen reflected in the visor, shared this photograph on social media.

The spacewalks are designed to lay cables along the forward end of the U.S. segment to bring power and communication to two International Docking Adapters slated to arrive later this year. The new docking ports will welcome U.S. commercial spacecraft launching from Florida beginning in 2017, permitting the standard station crew size to grow from six to seven and potentially double the amount of crew time devoted to research.

The second and third spacewalks are planned for Wednesday, Feb. 25 and Sunday, March 1, with Wilmore and Virts participating in all three.

Image Credit: NASA


Astronaut Barry Wilmore