Hardware Hacking

Brain-Controlled (Inflatable) Shark Attack 17

the_newsbeagle writes: This is a parlor trick, not neuroscience," writes this DIY brain hacker — but it sure is a nifty trick. The hacker put electrodes on his scalp, fed the resulting EEG data into a specialized processor that makes sense of brain signals, and modified the remote control for a helium-filled shark balloon. Soon, he and his buddies were steering the shark around the room. Why did it take his buddies, too? "EEG interpretation is not easy because, to be technical, EEG signals are a crazy mess. EEG recordings are a jumble of the signatures of many brain processes. Detecting conscious thoughts like “Shark, please swim forward” is way beyond even state-of-the-art equipment. The electrical signature of a single thought is lost in the furious chatter of 100 billion neurons." So builder Chip Audette settled on the simplest control system he could, and divvied up the actual controls (left, right, forward, etc.) among several users, so each one's brain signals could be interpreted separately.

The Effort To Create an 'Iron Man' Type Exoskeleton 52

Nerval's Lobster writes: Tony Stark, as played by Robert Downey, Jr., is the epitome of suave wit—but without his metal shell, he's just another engineer who's made good. The exoskeleton is a technology platform that, while young, is gaining traction in industrial, medical and military circles. For several years, the U.S. Special Operations Command has been working on a Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or "TALOS," that would provide "provide [infantry with] comprehensive ballistic protection and peerless tactical capability," in the words of Gen. Joseph Votel, SOCOM's commander. Meanwhile, several companies—including Raytheon, Ekso Bionics and US Bionics—are working on products that could help the disabled become more mobile, or allow warehouse and other workers to handle physical tasks with greater efficiency and safety. That means people who specialize in robotics, artificial intelligence, and other areas have an increasing opportunity to get involved. According to Homayoon Kazerooni, president of Berkeley-based US Bionics and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley, control and software engineers are the leads in developing these next-generation products. Although he can't estimate the ultimate size of the market for these intelligent exoskeletons, Kazerooni describes the industry as "fast-growing, but infant," with "very diverse uses" for the suits. Just don't expect the aforementioned suits to allow you to fly or blow anything up anytime soon.
The Courts

Court Rules Batmobile Is Entitled To Copyright Protection 138

schwit1 writes: The Batmobile's bat-like appearance and other distinct attributes, including its high-tech weaponry, make it a character that can't be replicated without permission from DC Comics, the copyright holder, the 9th U.S. Circus Court of Appeals said. "As Batman so sagely told Robin, 'In our well-ordered society, protection of private property is essential,' " states the opinion. "Here, we conclude that the Batmobile character is the property of DC, and Towle infringed upon DC’s property rights when he produced unauthorized derivative works of the Batmobile as it appeared in the 1966 television show and the 1989 motion picture."
Hardware Hacking

1000-key Emoji Keyboard Is As Crazy As It Sounds 146

hypnosec writes: A YouTuber named Tom Scott has built a 1,000-key keyboard with each key representing an emoji! Scott made the emoji keyboard using 14 keyboards and over 1,000 individually placed stickers. While he himself admits that it is one of the craziest things he has built, the work he has put in does warrant appreciation. On the keyboard are individually placed emojis for food items, animals, plants, transport, national flags, and time among others.

Facebook Finally Delivers On the VRML Dream With Immersive Star Wars Video 58

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook has launched its 360-degree video feature, with an eye to virtual reality and next year's release of the Oculus Rift. Among the showcase videos is a specially rendered 'fly-through' of a scene from new Star Wars movie 'The Force Awakens', allowing the viewer to pan laterally and horizontally as the movie progresses. This kind of immersive video was made possible with Apple's QuickTime VR in the 1990s, but was hampered by the same technological bottlenecks of the period as VRML.

What Ridley Scott Has To Say About the Science In "The Martian" 163

An anonymous reader writes: Sciencemag has an interview with the people behind the movie The Martian. Director Ridley Scott, author Andy Weir, and Jim Green, NASA's director of planetary science and an adviser on the film talk about the technology and the science in the movie. Scott says: "Almost immediately [after] I decided to do it, we started to have conversations with NASA about process, the habitats, the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), the suits and everything. And they sent us pictures, almost like photographs, of what they hoped it would all be. If there had been anything in [the screenplay] that actually was suspect—they are not shy—they would have said so."

British Movie Theater Staff To Wear Night-Vision Goggles To Combat Movie Piracy 279

Ewan Palmer writes: Movie theater across the UK will be required to don military-style night vision goggles in order to help crack down on movie piracy ahead of the release of potential box office smashes such as Spectre and Hunger Games. The initiative is part new measures to combat piracy as in recent years, pirates have found new and inventive ways to illegally record movies while using a smartphone to film through a popcorn box. Kieron Sharp, director general of the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), said: "The bigger the film and the more anticipated it is, the higher-risk it is. We have staff on extra alert for that. James Bond is a big risk and we will be working with cinema operators and the distributors making sure we will keep that as tight as possible. We really don't want to see that recorded. They [cinema staff] are on alert to really drill down on who is in the auditorium and who might possibly be recording. They still do the sweeps around the auditoriums with the night vision glasses regardless of the film. But sometimes extra security is put in place for things like Bond."

Sci-Fi Author Joe Haldeman On the Future of War 241

merbs writes: Joe Haldeman wrote what is hailed by many as the best military science fiction novel ever written, 1974's The Forever War. In this interview, Haldeman discusses what's changed since he wrote his book, what hasn't, and what the future of war will really look like. Vice reports: "...The Vietnam War may have ended decades ago, but our military adventuring hasn’t. Our moment can somehow feel simultaneously like a crossroads for the technological future of combat and another arbitrary point on its dully predictable, incessantly conflict-laden trajectory. We’re relying more on drones and proxy soldiers to fight our far-off wars, in theaters far from the conscionable grasp of homelands, we’re automating robotics for the battlefield, and we’re moving our tactics online—so it seems like an opportune time to check in with science fiction’s most prescient author of military fiction."

The Forgotten Tale of Cartrivision's 1972 VCR 92

harrymcc writes: In 1972 -- years before Betamax and VHS -- a Silicon Valley startup called Cartrivision started selling VCRs built into color TVs. They offered movies for sale and rent -- everything from blockbusters to porn -- using an analog form of DRM, and also let you record broadcast TV. There was also an optional video camera. And it was a spectacular flop. Over at Fast Company, Ross Rubin tells the fascinating story of this ambitious failure.

Barbie Gets a Brain 235

minstrelmike writes: Mattel is coming out with a Talking Barbie designed by a huge team and pre-scripted with thousands of responses controlled by an AI, with designs to be your best friend. The design team remembers the "Math is hard" debacle of the 1990s and if a girl asks if she's pretty, Barbie will respond, "Yes. And you're smart, too." If she asks if Barbie believes in God, she says a person's beliefs are personal. And suggests talking to grownups about some problems. The linked New York Times' article ("Barbie Wants to Get to Know Your Child") even discusses trying to avoid edited vids on YouTube by scripting out words such as "cockroach."

Former NASA Mission Controller James Oberg Lauds 'The Martian' 55

At IEEE Spectrum, James Oberg gives high praise to the upcoming film The Martian (release date: October 2). Oberg doesn't have much to say about the acting; he concentrates on the physics and plausibility of the plot and the technology portrayed, which beat those of most Hollywood space epics, and notes in particular "There’s no cheating on even highly-technical spaceflight topics, as shown in the treatment of the so-called “Rich Purnell maneuver,” wherein the Hermes slingshots past Earth back to Mars for a desperate pickup attempt. ... The basic strategy of the Rich Purnell maneuver is not fictional—a crippled Japanese Mars probe named Nozomi actually used a similar Earth-flyby scheme to set up a second chance for its own faltering unmanned Mars mission a dozen years ago." Oberg's background gives his appraisal some weight -- he's a former NASA mission controller who specialized in orbital rendezvous maneuvers. He has some quibbles, too, with the way mission personnel are depicted, and notes one excursion into "fantasy mode" near the fim's close, but concludes that it's a fair trade for the overwhelming sense of realism.
It's funny.  Laugh.

2015 Ig Nobel Prizes Honor Bee Stings, Elephant Urination 30

sciencehabit writes: The Ig Nobel prizes award research that 'makes people laugh, and then think', and this year was no exception. At a ceremony at Harvard University Thursday night, awards were given for a variety of wacky science papers. Among the winners, a scientist who repeatedly had himself stung by bees to figure out the most painful place in the body to be stung, and a study of which animals take the longest to urinate.
Star Wars Prequels

The Force Awakens With Devon's $28,500 Star Wars Limited Edition Watch 112

MojoKid writes: If the Force is strong in your bank account and you're looking for a new timepiece, luxury design firm Devon Works has come up with a limited edition watch that's perhaps more advanced than the Death Star. It's the new "Star Wars by Devon" co-branded watch with a patented system of interwoven "Time Belts" and hybrid electro-mechanical power. The watch is a celebration of Devon's fifth anniversary. It combines glass-reinforced nylon belts (same as used in the gauges on the original 747 aircraft) with multiple high-tech optical recognition cells, micro-step motors, and no less than 313 electrical contacts. Materials used in the construction of the Star Wars timepiece are sourced from an aerospace company located in California. Keeping true to the Star Wars franchise now owned by Disney, the watch incorporates elements of Darth Vader and the TIE Fighter. Only 500 of these watches are being made. If you want one of these timepieces, you'll need a $2,500 down payment towards its $28,500 retail price.

Why We're Looking For ET All Wrong 275

StartsWithABang writes: When you consider that there are definitely millions of planets in the habitable zones of their stars within our Milky Way galaxy alone, the possibility that there's intelligent life on at least one of them, right now, is tantalizing. But we're in our technological infancy, relatively speaking, having only been broadcasting electromagnetic signatures visible by an alien civilization for around 80 years. Unsurprisingly, we're looking for exactly the types of signals we're capable of sending, but what if that's totally wrongheaded? Based on how technology is evolving and what the Universe is capable of, perhaps we should be looking not at electromagnetic radiation, but neutrino or gravitational wave signals from the distant Universe to search for alien civilizations.

Finding Hope In Cryonics, Despite Glacial Progress 87

biobricks writes: The NY Times covers cryonics and destructive mind uploading, with some news on progress in brain preservation research. Quoting: "Dr. Fahy, a cryobiologist whose research focuses on organ banking, had provided the most encouraging signs that cryonics did preserve brain structure. In a 2009 experiment, his team showed that neurons in slices of rabbit brains immersed in the solution, chilled to cryogenic temperatures and then rewarmed, had responded to electrical stimulation. His method, he contended, preserved the connectome in those slices. But a complication prevented him from entering the prize competition: Brain tissue perfused with the cryoprotectant invariably becomes dehydrated, making it nearly impossible to see the details of the shrunken neurons and their connections under an electron microscope. ... He could fix the brain’s structure in place with chemicals first, just as Dr. Mikula was doing, buying time to perfuse the cryoprotectant more slowly to avoid dehydration. But he lacked the funds, he said, for a project that would have no practical business application for organ banking."