Friday, October 29, 2010

Driverless Electric Van Cruises from Italy to China

Driverless electric van cruises 8,000 miles from Italy to China without stopping to ask directions

They made it. The team from Visilab, which left way back in July, has arrived in China and will now take its place among the various other random things going on at the Shanghai World Expo. As you may or may not recall, a gaggle of autonomous orange EVs left Italy three months ago on a trip that would take them through cities like Moscow and wastelands like the Gobi Desert, all thanks to an array of laser scanners, cameras, and of course GPS. It was a 13,000km journey (8,078 miles) that was made with minimal driver intervention and, thanks to the EV-nature of the vehicles, without stopping once for gasoline -- though they were limited to about four hours of travel each day before having to recharge. Now, remember when you were impressed that Google's autonomous car managed about 1,000 miles on its own? more

Mount Everest now 'wired' for Internet, ready for Starbucks

TeliaSonera subsidiary Ncell has just completed installation of a 3G base station at 5,200 meters (17,000 feet) that will reach the 8,848-meter peak of Mount Everest. Mind you, we've already seena cellphone call made from the world's highest peak using a temporary base station in a Motorola publicity stunt. This time, however, it's permanent and faster allowing climbers to surf the internet or make 3G video calls. Why would Ncell want to build a base station in such a sparsely populated area? Because it is there. more

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Microsoft Adaptive Keyboard - UIST

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You may recall us thinking outloud about the idea of an advanced keyboard using LCD displays for each key and a touch LCD panel across the top. We call it our Adaptive Keyboard and it's an idea that Steven Bathiche has been thinking about for many years in our Applied Sciences Group. This year we gave prototype hardware to a group of students and asked them to present their ideas at this year's User Interface Software and Technology (UIST) symposium.

I headed out to New York to see what the students had come up with and there were plenty of good ideas. You can see the official winners here. A couple that stood out to me included WHACK, a system to dynamically remap keys so your passwords are always different and can't be captured by keyloggers, several visual clipboard applications,and one application that allowed the keyboard to be a visual interface for editing videos.

Watch the Microsoft Hardware Blog for more information.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

.NET Gadgeteer

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At Maker Faire 2010 New York, the .NET Micro Framework team and Microsoft Research (Cambridge) showed off their new device: the .NET Gadgeteer. It's like LEGO for electronics.

In this video, Colin Miller explains some of the details on the board. The board itself has a multitude of connectors, and each is labeled with a letter. A sensor is then used to tell the end user which port to plug into, and all of this allows Collin to create a basic camera using only about three lines of code!

Colin did misspeak, however. He referred to the Device Solutions board as the Embedded Fusion board. That was the old name.

Dare to Dream Different Winner

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Dare to Dream Different was a contest held to see what cool ideas people could come up with using a standard hardware reference board using .NET Micro Framework. During the final judging, I got together with the finalists and talked to them about the projects they submitted.

First Place winner James Ng shows us his very cool (though in this iteration - large) wearable system for controlling automation and replacing things like car keys, credit cards, and passwords. He even made a carbon fiber shell for the reference board.

Building devices with .NET Gadgeteer

Microsoft .NET Gadgeteer is a rapid prototyping platform for small electronic gadgets and embedded hardware devices. Individual .NET Gadgeteer modules can be easily connected and programmed using C# to make fully functional devices.

This video shows how easily .NET Gadgeteer modules can be connected together to build devices, including a simple MP3 player and digital camera.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Microsoft LightSpace

Microsoft LightSpace brings Surface (plus shadows) to any table (video)
It's hard not to love the crazy stuff happening at Microsoft Research, but it's also hard to imagine when any of it is going to actually start changing the way we interact with our PCs. Surface was bested bySecondLight as the coolest tech we can't buy, and now here comes another successor: LightSpace. This gets rid of the expensive table in favor of a (surely not cheap) series of projectors hanging from the ceiling paired to a 3D camera. The camera detects the relative position of things and instructs a projector to apply a Surface-like interface onto any flat surface. From there a user can literally grab any file they like and carry it over to another surface, where it will be displayed. It's all demonstrated quite handily in the video below, and while the system does look a wee bit rough at the moment, the potential is surely there. Just like it was with SecondLight, and Surface, and Courier...more