Some believe a future full of massive, gesture-controlled computer displays like the ones seen in Twentieth Century Fox’s Minority Report are an inevitability, and a prototype PC designed by an intern with the Microsoft Applied Sciences Group may be among the first steps in making that future a reality. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Ph.D student and MIT Media Lab research assistant Jinha Lee recently set out to change the way we interact with desktop computers. While progress has been made with 3D display technology, 3D has not yet proliferated in the personal computing space and Lee wants to change that. The end result of his work is a fascinating desktop computer with a transparent 3D display and a unique gesture-based interface that could change the way we use computers. More →
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created an ultra-fast camera that can see around corners, Digital Trends reported on Wednesday. Once work on the camera is complete, the team believes it can be utilized by the military to see over walls or around corners in combat zones. The camera is able to reconstruct a hidden object using scattered laser light, which bounces off walls and surfaces that are close to the obstructed object. “We are all familiar with sound echoes, but we can also exploit echoes of light,” said Ramesh Raskar, head of the Camera Culture Research Group at the MIT Media Lab. The camera is able to record an image every two picoseconds, allowing the location of the object to me measured with extreme precision. An algorithm can then process the collected data and use it to construct an image of the hidden object. The technique takes several minutes to produce an image, however the scientists hope to eventually get the entire process down to a mere 10 seconds. A video from the science journal Nature showcasing the technology follows below. More →
We’re taking you back on this one… way back. Lego’s Robotics Invention System was released commercially in 1998 and was first utilized in educational settings thanks to a partnership with MIT’s Media Lab. So what did this “robotics” kit contain? Well, two motors, two touch sensors, and one light sensor. You used the included software to program the device, and it would perform completely on its own; acting according to the programmed instructions. Left, right, stop, start. If you had more than one unit, they could even “talk” to each other if they were within a certain distance. Not only could you program the brick (also known as the RCX) to perform what you wanted, but these were Legos — you could make them into whatever you wanted. Lego followed up the original Robotics Invention System with version 2.0 and, in 2006, with the NXT version. There is still pretty strong community support for these products even today. Did anyone else out there build two Lego robots and have them battling to the death?
BGR Throwback Thursday is a weekly series covering our (and your) favorite gadgets, games, and software of yesterday and yesteryear.
Yesterday, MIT showcased an oil-skimming, autonomous robot dubbed the Seaswarm. As the devices site explains, “Seaswarm uses a photovoltaic powered conveyor belt made of a thin nanowire mesh to propel itself and collect oil.” The robot, which is meant to hunt oil in packs (hence Seaswarm), costs around $20,000 and is powered by solar cells on the top of the device. Multiple robots can self-organize their swarm, without human support, using GPS and Wi-Fi. The device, which CNN describes as, “a treadmill conveyor belt that’s been attached to an ice cooler” drags around nanowire mesh that can absorb 20 times its weight in oil without absorbing any water. When the material is saturated with oil, it can be rolled up and left in the ocean for later pickup (it floats) or can be burned off using a heater located in the robot’s body. The nano-material used releases oil when heated to the proper temperature; which will allow skimmed oil to be recycled and repurposed. MIT estimates that 5,000 skimmers, running 24-hours a day (which they are designed to do), could have cleaned up an oil spill the size of the Gulf of Mexico in one month. MIT plans to continue researching and improving the robot over the next year before looking for a potential buyer. Not exactly mobile technology, but pretty cool technology nonetheless. We’ve got a video explaining how the device works queued up for you after the break. More →
Woh there George Jetson… Did you take your flying car to a remote studio on Mars to record this interview? WiTricity Corp. CEO Eric Giler sat down with the BBC for a (very) quick chat about the future of power. His vision of the future is pretty intense — where you park your electric car above a mat in your garage that powers it up while you go inside and munch on some Soylent Green wafers. We need immediate gratification however, so we’re much more interested in his cell phone charging solution for the time being. Within 12-18 months, Giler suggests that consumers will be able to purchase an accessory that will enable wireless handset charging. We’re talking truly wireless, contact-less charging here; none of this Wildcharge/Touchstone nonsense. Unfortunately, Giler danced around the all-important ‘cost to the consumer’ issue a bit, but he did seem to imply that it would be a while before WiTricity technology is affordable. Early adopters who are willing to pay a premium however, could be able to open those wallets nice and wide for some WiTricity sexiness before 2010 is through. Hit the jump for the BBC’s interview.