Monthly Archives: April 2008

‘Voiceless’ Phone Call

‘Voiceless’ Phone Call

Ambient Corporation has demonstrated a “voiceless” phone call. The call was made using a neckband called Audeo, which translates thoughts into speech by intercepting nerve signals. Although the device’s recognition abilities are currently limited to 150 words, is the company predicts it will be fully functional by the end of the year. Possible applications range from helping the disabled to performing discreet phone calls in public places.

In a recent conference held by microchip manufacturer Texas Instruments, the co-founder of Ambient Corporation, Michael Callahan, demonstrated the Audeo’s abilities. It seems that after careful training, a person can send nerve signals to his vocal cords, signals which can be ‘picked up’ by the Audeo and relayed wirelessly to a computer. The signals are converted into words, which are spoken by a computerized voice.

Users that might worry about the system voicing inner thoughts can relax. Callahan says that the production of nerve signals for the Audeo requires “a level above thinking”, meaning a conscious effort must be taken. A user must think specifically about voicing his words, or the Audeo will not intercept the signals. The new device has previously been used by handicapped people who were able to control wheelchairs using their thoughts.

Artificial Muscle Heals Itself, Charges IPod

Artificial Muscle Heals Itself, Charges IPod

Researchers in California have created an artificial muscle that heals itself and generates electricity.

The research, parts of which are already being used in Japan to generate electricity from ocean waves, could be used to make walking robots, develop better prosthetics, or even charge your iPod.

“We’ve made an artificial muscle that, when you apply electricity to it, it expands” more than 200 percent, said Qibing Pei, a scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles and study author. “The motion and energy is a lot like human muscles.”

Artificial muscles have been around for years but have essentially hamstrung themselves. Some artificial muscles get so big they tear, developing uneven film thickness and random particles that cause muscle failure.

The researchers used flexible, ever-more ubiquitous carbon nanotubes as electrodes instead of other films, often metal-based, that fail after repeated use.

Chinese scientists’ breakthrough in GM-modified rice

Chinese scientists’ breakthrough in GM-modified rice

China’s prestigious Zhejiang University announced that it has developed a method for creating selective terminable GM-modified rice, which could probably lead to the industrialization of the GM-modified crops.

The invention was reported on the latest version www.plosone.org,an open access, online scientific journal from the Public Library of Science, which was published on Wednesday.

The accidental escape of GM-modified crops has been reported in the past few years, which has caused major safety concerns over utilization of GM-modified crops, especially GM-modified crops for industrial and pharmaceutical applications.

“To make GM-modified crops selectively controllable is critical for the full utilization of the plant GM-modified technology,” said Zhang Zhitao, former associate director of the Rice Institute of China.

“The principle beneath this strategy is simple: the genes of interest in these GM-modified rice plants are tagged with an RNAi cassette which suppresses the expression of the rice detoxification enzyme against a common herbicide, rendering the GM-modified rice to be sensitive to this herbicide,” said Dr Shen Zhicheng, the project leader.

Eye-controlled robot may make heart surgery safer

Eye-controlled robot may make heart surgery safer

British researchers are developing a medical robot which can work out the intentions of a surgeon performing an operation, making surgery easier and more precise.

They hope new software will lead to less invasive operations, for example when conducting a cardiac bypass or tumour removal, allowing patients to recover more quickly.

The improvements have been made to the most advanced robotic surgeon on the market, the Da Vinci. It allows surgeons to sit at a viewing console directing the movement of the robot’s mechanical arms inside the patient’s body. The research team is working on using the surgeon’s eye movements to direct the robot, getting the best out of both human and machine.

“We want to empower the robot and make it more autonomous,” said computer scientist Professor Guang Zhong Yang, of the Hamlyn centre for robotic surgery at Imperial College London.

Cloning treats mouse Parkinson’s

Cloning treats mouse Parkinson’s

Therapeutic cloning has been successfully used to treat Parkinson’s disease in mice, US researchers say.

The study in Nature Medicine provides the best evidence so far that the controversial technique could one day help people with the condition.

The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre team say it is the first time animals have been successfully treated with their own cloned cells.

UK experts said the work was promising and exciting development.

Sensors for bat-inspired spy plane under development

Sensors for bat-inspired spy plane under development

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A six-inch robotic spy plane modeled after a bat would gather data from sights, sounds and smells in urban combat zones and transmit information back to a soldier in real time.

That’s the Army’s concept, and it has awarded the University of Michigan College of Engineering a five-year, $10-million grant to help make it happen. The grant establishes the U-M Center for Objective Microelectronics and Biomimetic Advanced Technology, called COM-BAT for short. The grant includes an option to renew for an additional five years and $12.5 million.

U-M researchers will focus on the microelectronics. They will develop sensors, communication tools and batteries for this micro-aerial vehicle that’s been dubbed “the bat.” Engineers envision tiny cameras for stereo vision, an array of mini microphones that could home in on sounds from different directions, and small detectors for nuclear radiation and poisonous gases.

Scientists Develop A Bionic Mini Device For Blind People

Scientists Develop A Bionic Mini Device For Blind People

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A team of 36 scientists have developed a mini device which could help the visually impaired to get their sight sense back. The research was called The Boston Retinal Implant Project and it was started by Dr. Joseph Rizzo III back in the 1980s. This bionic device is small enough to be implanted in the eye and it will send images to the brain through a connector the thickness of human hair.

This will be possible within a few years because the mini-technology has developed so much over the last 20 years when it was started this project. Dr. Rizzo says that the bionic retinal device acts like a light transmitter and for the moment it’s supposed to restore partial sight for the blind people, but not for all of them – this doesn’t work for people who are blind since they were born and for those who suffer from glaucoma.

Gene glitches may hold secret of a long life

Gene glitches may hold secret of a long life

A series of rare genetic mutations that boost human lifespan have been discovered by a team of scientists studying centenarians and their elderly children.

The genetic glitches are thought to interfere with the normal growth of cells, halting the ageing process.

The discovery mirrors similar findings from studies on animals, which have shown that certain variations of genes linked to an insulin-like growth hormone can extend animals’ lives dramatically.

Dr Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Ageing Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, found a series of mutations exclusively among centenarians which affect sensitivity to “insulin growth factor 1”, or IGF-1. This hormone influences the development of almost every cell in the body. It is crucial for children’s growth and continues contributing to tissue generation throughout adulthood.

Barzilai’s team discovered the genetic markers after scanning the genetic codes of 384 participants whose ages ranged from 95 to 110, with an average age of 100. They were compared with 312 controls, who came from families with a typical life span, none of whom had lived to 95.

Solar Power Paint Is 2.5 Years Away

Solar Power Paint Is 2.5 Years Away

According to a UK scientist Dr. Dave Worsley, commercial panels of architectural steel, painted with special solar-power paint capable of generating electricity should be available in as little as two and a half years. Dr Worsley and Dr Trystan Watson of Swansea University have developed a new paint based on dye-sensitized solar cells. This new solar paint is a result of previous research into different ways of preventing metal buildings from degrading due to the elements. Dr. Worsley describes the idea as “a collision between two existing technologies – one for generating electricity and one for applying paint to steel.”

The paint works by giving energy boosts to free electrons causing them to jump from dyed titanium dioxide into a layer of electrolyte. This causes excess energy to flow into the collecting circuit before the electrons jump back into the dyed titanium dioxide pigment. This process, unlike typical silicon based photovoltaic cells, where the suns energy is absorbed, is less efficient, however this also means that expensive solar grade silicon is not needed thereby lowering the cost.