An anonymous reader writes "Ten years since the debut of the Roomba vacuum cleaner and military PackBot, robots are mainstream but still not in every home. Meanwhile, a new generation of robotics companies is taking off. Where does that leave iRobot, the godfather of the field? With its military business taking a hit from the U.S. defense budget, the 22-year-old public company is looking to reinvent itself with new kinds of robots, including a telepresence machine for doctors and hospitals and, further down the road, inflatable robots that could be cheaper, safer, and more portable than their metallic predecessors. The question is whether these new machines will be successful enough to keep the company growing — and add to its legacy in robotics."
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Esther Schindler writes "When Star Trek hit the air waves, talking computers were just a pipe dream. While teleportation remains elusive, several once-fictional technologies are changing the way people live and work. Here are some ways in which we're approaching the gizmos that Star Trek demonstrated. Speech recognition? Check. Holodeck? Sort of. Replicator? Workin' on it."
Mackadoodledoo writes "Details of an immersive video games display system that projects images of the title's environment around a player's room have been revealed in a U.S. patent belonging to Microsoft."
jehan60188 writes about a research project (involving Steve Mann) that combines a welding helmet and realtime HDR image processing to give welders a clear view of what they're working on. From the article: "In this demonstration, we present a specialized version of HDR imaging (use of multiple differently exposed input images for each extended-range output image), adapted for use in electric arc welding, which also shows promise as a general-purpose seeing aid. TIG welding, in particular, presents an extremely high dynamic range scene (higher than most other welding processes). Since TIG welding requires keen eyesight and exact hand-to-eye coordination (i.e. more skill and more visual acuity than most other welding processes), being able to see in such extreme dynamic range is beneficial to welders and welding inspectors. ... We present HDRchitecture as either a fixed camera system (e.g. for use on a tripod), or as a stereo EyeTap cybernetic welding helmet that records and streams live video from a welding booth to students or observers, nearby or remote. By capturing over a dynamic range of more than a million to one, we can see details that cannot be seen by the human eye or any currently existing commercially available cameras. We also present a highly parallelizable and computationally efficient HDR reconstruction and tonemapping algorithm for extreme dynamic range scene. In comparison to most of the existing HDR work, our system can run in real-time, and requires no user intervention such as parameters fine tuning. ... Our algorithm runs at an interactive frame rate (30 fps) and also enables stereoscopic vision. Additionally, a hardware implementation, which uses FPGAs, will be presented. The initial hardware configuration comprises an Atlys circuitboard manufactured by Digilent Inc., which is small enough to fit inside a large shirt pocket. The circuit board includes two HDMI camera inputs, one being used for the left eye, and the other for the right eye, as well as HDMI outputs fed back to the left and right eyes, after processing of the video signals. The circuit board facilitates processing by way of a Xilinx Spartan 6, model LX45 FPGA." The demonstration video is pretty cool, and you can read about the FPGA and details of the HDR algorithm in the research paper.
hypnosec writes about a neat little hack using Lego, Raspberry Pis, and Scratch to construct a "supercomputer." From the article: "A team of computational engineers over at the University of Southampton led by Professor Simon Cox have built a supercomputer using Raspberry Pi and Lego. The supercomputer is comprised of 64 processors, 1TB of storage (16GB SD cards in each of the Raspberry Pis) and can be powered on using just a single 13-amp mains socket. MPI is used for communications between the nodes through the ethernet port. The team managed to build the core of the supercomputer for under £2500. Named 'Iridis-Pi' after University of Southampton's supercomputer Iridis, the supercomputer runs software that was built using Python and Scratch. Professor Cox used the free plug-in 'Python Tools for Visual Studio' to develop code for the Raspberry Pi." Lots of pictures of the thing, and a howto on making your own.
An anonymous reader writes "A bald eagle that lost its beak to a poacher's gun receives a 3-D printed beak prosthetic like a dental implant." More (with pictures): "Mr Calvin, a founder of the Boise-based Kinetic Engineering Group, made a mold of Beauty's shattered upper mandible, laser-scanned it, fine-tuned it in a 3D modeling program, and created a prosthetic beak from a nylon-based polymer."
aarondubrow writes "2011 Nobel Prize Winner, Bruce Beutler, is using the Ranger supercomputer at The University of Texas at Austin for an ambitious new project to discover all of the genes involved in the mammalian immune response – the so-called 'resistome.' Over several years, Beutler's lab will sequence the protein coding portions of genes in 8,000 mice to detect the impact of mutations on immunity. This means scanning, enriching and sequencing 500 billion base pairs every week. The project represents a 'Big Data' problem of the highest order."
adeelarshad82 writes "At IDF, Intel announced the company's fourth-generation Core processor code-named Haswell. The chip is based off of the same 22nm process used in the current third-generation Core products. What makes this chip remarkably different from the third-generation chips is its ability to product twice the graphic capabilities at a much lower power consumption, which Intel has achieved by making use of a number of tactics." HotHardware has video of Haswell running a 3D benchmark.
Lucas123 writes "Furniture and auto makers are already ramping up production of wireless charging for mobile devices that will also allow I/O for music and data synchronization. Thanks to the widely accepted Qi standard, there shouldn't be a problem with interoperability, but how advantageous is wireless charging? Would it really offer more charging opportunities for mobile users in coffee shops who are today hamstrung by how many outlets are available? And then there's the added cost and reduced efficiency. As wireless systems are more complicated, a wireless battery charger will be more expensive and there are resistive losses on the coil, stray coupling, etc."
New submitter Covalent writes "I'm a science teacher and have, over the years, accumulated a number of lost graphing calculators (mostly TI-83s). After trying to locate the owners, I have given up and have been loaning them out to students as needed. I want to something more nerd-worthy with them, though. I would feel wrong for selling them. What is the best use for bunch of old calculators?"
itwbennett writes "Pity those poor Japanese students who attend cram schools, either full time or in addition to their regular schooling, to have a shot at passing the grueling math entrance exams for Tokyo University. If Fujitsu has its way, those students will be upstaged by a robot. The company has set a goal for the year 2021 of building an artificial intelligence robot that can pass the exams."
judgecorp writes "Bill Moggridge, the British-born designer of the first laptop computer has died aged 69. The GRiD Compass was a computing landmark, designed to meet a US government request for a briefcase-sized computer, and first sold for $8000 in 1982. The GRiD compass was used widely, and taken into orbit on the Space Shuttle. It embodied industrial design principles and paved the way for subsequent laptops and devices. Moggridge's company ID Two, later IDEO, also designed the Palm V."
dotarray writes with a bit from Player Attack: "Gaming is big business, says Valve, as the developer takes the time to show off its brand new gaming headset and TV-based Big Picture. Rather than inviting the games media masses who have been clamouring for any details on the Seattle company's 'wearable computing' initiative, Gabe Newell and his team instead went right to the top, with an in-depth interview published in The New York Times." The New York Times article on which this report is based is worth reading, too: Valve's corporate non-structure sounds hard to believe. It seems Valve is also looking for hardware designers.
First time accepted submitter Boldizar writes "My son turns seven next month and I'd like to buy him a cheap computer. I'm looking for the Slashdot hivemind opinion on what would be the best computer for a child. I'm looking for a computer that will teach him basic computer literacy, and hopefully one wherein the guts are a bit exposed so that he can learn how a computer works rather than just treating it like a magic object (i.e., iPad) – but that would still keep him interested and without leaving him behind in school. For the same reason, I prefer a real keyboard so he can learn to type. I don't know enough about computers to frame the question intelligently. Perhaps something in the $300 range that would be the computer equivalent of an old mechanical car engine? Another way to think about it: I'm looking for the computer equivalent of teaching my son how to survive in the forest should the zombie apocalypse ever come."
bazorg writes "Rick Falkvinge of the Swedish Pirate Party blogs on the subject of freedom of the press and foresees how users of Google glasses could be charged for possession and distribution of illegal porn. 'Child pornography is a toxic subject, but a very important one that cannot and should not be ignored. This is an attempt to bring the topic to a serious discussion, and explain why possession of child pornography need to be re-legalized in the next ten years.'"