Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Military Developing Robot-Insect Cyborgs

Instead of creating robots, researchers hope to augment actual insects

Instead of attempting to create miniature robots as spies, researchers are now experimenting with developing insect cyborgs or "cybugs" that could work even better. So far scientists can already control the flight of moths using implanted devices.

Miniature robots could be good spies, but researchers now are experimenting with insect cyborgs or "cybugs" that could work even better.

Scientists can already control the flight of real moths using implanted devices.

The military and spy world no doubt would love tiny, live camera-wielding versions of Predator drones that could fly undetected into places where no human could ever go to snoop on the enemy. Developing such robots has proven a challenge so far, with one major hurdle being inventing an energy source for the droids that is both low weight and high power. Still, evidence that such machines are possible is ample in nature in the form of insects, which convert biological energy into flight.

It makes sense to pattern robots after insects — after all, they must be doing something right, seeing as they are the most successful animals on the planet, comprising roughly 75 percent of all animal species known to humanity. Indeed, scientists have patterned robots after insects and other animals for decades — to mimic cockroach wall-crawling, for instance, or the grasshopper's leap.

Mechanical metamorphosis
Instead of attempting to create sophisticated robots that imitate the complexity in the insect form that required millions of years of evolution to achieve, scientists now essentially want to hijack bugs for use as robots.

Originally researchers sought to control insects by gluing machinery onto their backs, but such links were not always reliable. To overcome this hurdle, the Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems program is sponsoring research into surgically implanting microchips straight into insects as they grow, intertwining their nerves and muscles with circuitry that can then steer the critters. As expensive as these devices might be to manufacture and embed in the bugs, they could still prove cheaper than building miniature robots from scratch.

As these cyborgs heal from their surgery while they naturally metamorphose from one developmental stage to the next — for instance, from caterpillar to butterfly — the result would yield a more reliable connection between the devices and the insects, the thinking goes. The fact that insects are immobile during some of these stages — for instance, when they are metamorphosing in cocoons — means they can be manipulated far more easily than if they were actively wriggling, meaning that devices could be implanted with assembly-line routine, significantly lowering costs.

The HI-MEMS program at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has to date invested $12 million into research since it began in 2006. It currently supports these cybug projects:

* Roaches at Texas A&M.
* Horned beetles at University of Michigan and the University of California at Berkeley.
* Moths at an MIT-led team, and another moth project at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research.

Success with moths
So far researchers have successfully embedded MEMS into developing insects, and living adult insects have emerged with the embedded systems intact, a DARPA spokesperson told LiveScience. Researchers have also demonstrated that such devices can indeed control the flight of moths, albeit when they are tethered.

To power the devices, instead of relying on batteries, the hope is to convert the heat and mechanical energy the insect generates as it moves into electricity. The insects themselves could be optimized to generate electricity.

When the researchers can properly control the insects using the embedded devices, the cybugs might then enter the field, equipped with cameras, microphones and other sensors to help them spy on targets or sniff out explosives. Although insects do not always live very long in the wild, the cyborgs' lives could be prolonged by attaching devices that feed them.

More details here...

Miniature Robot Crawls Through Veins

The Technion - Israel Institute of Technology has unveiled a miniature crawling robot (ViRob) that measures just 1 mm in diameter and 14 mm in length. The ViRob has the potential to perform precise medical procedures inside the human body in order to diagnose and potentially treat artery blockage and cancer.

The Technion researchers, led by Professor Moshe Shoham, Head of the Kahn Medical Robotics Laboratory, have developed a basic prototype of the robot, which can move as fast as 9 mm per second.

Using tiny arms which allow it to withstand blood pressure, it can crawl through the inner walls of blood vessels, the digestive tract and the respiratory system in order to progress through veins and arteries. The robot is powered by an external magnetic field allowing it to be controlled for an unlimited amount of time during medical procedures.

The team at the Technion is examining the possibility of using the ViRob as a treatment for lung cancer. ViRob could assist in targeted drug delivery to lung tumours as well as take samples from different areas within the body.

In addition, a number of these micro robots could simultaneously treat a variety of metastases. Researchers also plan to install additional equipment on the robot, including electrodes, miniature drug capsule and other miniature equipment.

Prof. Moshe Shoham said, “This robot is a breakthrough in the biomedical industry, as it allows doctors to access inaccessible areas in the body with minimal invasion. The technology enables a targeted treatment without scattering materials to unnecessary areas in the body."

Military Robot Could Feed on Dead Bodies

It could be a combination of 19th-century mechanics, 21st-century technology — and a 20th-century horror movie.

A Maryland company under contract to the Pentagon is working on a steam-powered robot that would fuel itself by gobbling up whatever organic material it can find — grass, wood, old furniture, even dead bodies.

Robotic Technology Inc.'s Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot — that's right, "EATR" — "can find, ingest, and extract energy from biomass in the environment (and other organically-based energy sources), as well as use conventional and alternative fuels (such as gasoline, heavy fuel, kerosene, diesel, propane, coal, cooking oil, and solar) when suitable," reads the company's Web site.

That "biomass" and "other organically-based energy sources" wouldn't necessarily be limited to plant material — animal and human corpses contain plenty of energy, and they'd be plentiful in a war zone.

EATR will be powered by the Waste Heat Engine developed by Cyclone Power Technology of Pompano Beach, Fla., which uses an "external combustion chamber" burning up fuel to heat up water in a closed loop, generating electricity.

The advantages to the military are that the robot would be extremely flexible in fuel sources and could roam on its own for months, even years, without having to be refueled or serviced.

Upon the EATR platform, the Pentagon could build all sorts of things — a transport, an ambulance, a communications center, even a mobile gunship.

In press materials, Robotic Technology presents EATR as an essentially benign artificial creature that fills its belly through "foraging," despite the obvious military purpose.

Japanese Scientists's Robot-Insects

Police release a swarm of robot-moths to sniff out a distant drug stash. Rescue robot-bees dodge through earthquake rubble to find survivors.

These may sound like science-fiction scenarios, but they are the visions of Japanese scientists who hope to understand and then rebuild the brains of insects and programme them for specific tasks.

Ryohei Kanzaki, a professor at Tokyo University's Research Centre for Advanced Science and Technology, has studied insect brains for three decades and become a pioneer in the field of insect-machine hybrids.

His original and ultimate goal is to understand human brains and restore connections damaged by diseases and accidents -- but to get there he has taken a very close look at insects' "micro-brains".

The human brain has about 100 billion neurons, or nerve cells, that transmit signals and prompt the body to react to stimuli. Insects have far fewer, about 100,000 inside the two-millimetre-wide (0.08 inch) brain of a silkmoth.

But size isn't everything, as Kanzaki points out.

Insects' tiny brains can control complex aerobatics such as catching another bug while flying, proof that they are "an excellent bundle of software" finely honed by hundreds of millions of years of evolution, he said.

For example, male silkmoths can track down females from more than a kilometre (half a mile) away by sensing their odour, or pheromone.

Kanzaki hopes to artificially recreate insect brains.

"Supposing a brain is a jigsaw-puzzle picture, we would be able to reproduce the whole picture if we knew how each piece is shaped and where it should go," he told AFP.

"It will be possible to recreate an insect brain with electronic circuits in the future. This would lead to controlling a real brain by modifying its circuits," he said.

Kanzaki's team has already made some progress on this front.

In an example of 'rewriting' insect brain circuits, Kanzaki's team has succeeded in genetically modifying a male silkmoth so that it reacts to light instead of odour, or to the odour of a different kind of moth.

Such modifications could pave the way to creating a robo-bug which could in future sense illegal drugs several kilometres away, as well as landmines, people buried under rubble, or toxic gas, the professor said.

All this may appear very futuristic -- but then so do the insect-robot hybrid machines the team has been working on since the 1990s.

In one experiment, a live male moth is strapped onto what looks like a battery-driven toy car, its back glued securely to the frame while its legs move across a free-spinning ball.

Researchers motivate the insect to turn left or right by using female odour.

The team found that the moth can steer the car and quickly adapt to changes in the way the vehicle operates -- for example by introducing a steering bias to the left or right similar to the effect of a flat tyre.

In another, more advanced, test, the team severed a moth's head and mounted it onto the front of a similar vehicle.

They then directed similar odour stimuli to the contraption which the insect's still-functioning antennae and brain picked up.

Researchers recorded the motor commands issued by nerve cells in the brain, which were transmitted to steer the vehicle in real time.

The researchers also observed which neuron responds to which stimulus, making them visible using fluorescent markers and 3-D imaging.

The team has so far obtained data on 1,200 neurons, one of the world's best collections on a single species.

Kanzaki said that animals, like humans, are proving to be highly adaptable to changing conditions and environments.

"Humans walk only at some five kilometres per hour but can drive a car that travels at 100 kilometres per hour. It's amazing that we can accelerate, brake and avoid obstacles in what originally seem like impossible conditions," he said.

"Our brain turns the car into an extension of our body," he said, adding that "an insect brain may be able to drive a car like we can. I think they have the potential.

"It isn't interesting to make a robo-worm that crawls as slowly as the real one. We want to design a machine which is far more powerful than the living body."

Copyright © 2009 AFP.

Office 2010 Coming To The Web For Free

In a move that will likely expand its market reach while adding appeal to its product range, American software behemoth Microsoft has this week confirmed upcoming free Web-based iterations of its popular Office productivity suite.

Specifically, next year’s official launch of Office 2010 will be boosted by the online availability of scaled back versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.

Get Microsoft Silverlight

“We believe the web has a lot to offer in terms of connectivity,” a Microsoft product manager explained to the BBC.

“We have over half a billion customers world-wide and what we hear from them is that they really want the power of the web without compromise,” he added. “They want collaboration without compromise.”

According to Redmond-based Microsoft, more than 400 million customers armed with Windows Live accounts will receive online access to the free lightweight productivity applications.

A public beta period allowing for widespread testing and feedback collection regarding the free online Office suite is likely to be opened by the end of 2009.

In terms of the upcoming Office product range, Microsoft has said the new suite will be offered in five different editions – which is a reduction from the usual eight.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Windows Embedded @ Imagine Cup 2009

Solve the World's Toughest Problems

"I wish there had been an Imagine Cup when I was growing up. It gets people involved in seeing that software is changing the world."

- Bill Gates
Chairman, Microsoft Corp.

Everything that the world may become "someday" lies in the hands of young people today. As they look at the road ahead, their close relationship with technology enables them to dream in ways we never have before. Put the two together, and you have young minds holding the tools that can make their vision a reality.

This is the recipe that inspired Microsoft to create the Imagine Cup. What begins with a burst of inspiration and a lot of hard work can become a future software breakthrough, a future career, or a flourishing new industry. The Imagine Cup encourages young people to apply their imagination, their passion and their creativity to technology innovations that can make a difference in the world – today. Now in its eighth year, the Imagine Cup has grown to be a truly global competition focused on finding solutions to real world issues.

Open to students around the world, the Imagine Cup is a serious challenge that draws serious talent, and the competition is intense. The contest spans a year, beginning with local, regional and online contests whose winners go on to attend the global finals held in a different location every year. The intensity of the work brings students together, and motivates the competitors to give it their all. The bonds formed here often last well beyond the competition itself.

Following are the videos of Image Cup 2009 held in Cairo...

Windows Embedded @ Imagine Cup 2009 - Days 1

Windows Embedded @ Imagine Cup 2009 - Days 2

Windows Embedded @ Imagine Cup 2009 - Days 3

Windows Embedded @ Imagine Cup 2009 - Days 4

Windows Embedded @ Imagine Cup 2009 - Days 5

Get ready for Imagin Cup 2010 in Poland!

See more details here...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Norton AntiVirus 2010 Preview

Norton AntiVirus 2010 will be the fastest and lightest malware scanner Symantec has ever delivered. Norton AntiVirus scans faster and uses less memory than any other antivirus product on the market. Unlike free solutions from Microsoft, Norton AntiVirus includes intrusion detection to detect malicious code hidden in web sites before it can strike.

Norton AntiVirus’s pulse updates ensure that you are always plugged into Symantec’s global security grid and you are never more than a few minutes away from the latest update.

Improved Norton Safe Web technology blocks Internet threats before they can infect your PC. So you can browse, buy and bank online with confidence. Plus, unlike other antivirus products, Norton AntiVirus 2010 provides easy-to-understand threat and performance information to help you avoid future threats and keep your PC running fast.

Note that you are required to register the product before download can commence.

Download here...

My Blog - Google Analaytic Report

Google Analytic is very handy tool to manage traffic on your website. Its easily integrable with any web page and very power tool to improve traffic on your website. Following is report for www.mrmubi.com for 12th July 2009.

Map Overlay:

Avg. Time on Site
% New Visits
Bounce Rate
1. 134 1.81 00:03:37 2.24% 65.67%
2. 6 1.33 00:00:09 83.33% 66.67%
3. 6 1.50 00:03:23 16.67% 66.67%
4. 5 2.60 00:03:13 80.00% 60.00%
5. 5 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 40.00%
6. 4 1.75 00:04:35 100.00% 75.00%
7. 3 1.33 00:00:29 100.00% 66.67%
8. 3 1.00 00:00:00 33.33% 0.00%
9. 2 1.50 00:00:57 50.00% 50.00%
10. 2 1.50 00:00:12 100.00% 50.00%
11. 2 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 0.00%
12. 2 1.50 00:00:01 100.00% 50.00%
13. 2 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 30.00%
14. 2 1.00 00:00:00 50.00% 20.00%
15. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 10.00%
16. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 10.00%
17. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 30.00%
18. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 20.00%
19. 1 9.00 00:48:16 100.00% 0.00%
20. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 0.00%

Network Locations:

Network Location
Avg. Time on Site
% New Visits
Bounce Rate
1. 75 2.01 00:03:57 2.67% 60.00%
2. 59 1.54 00:03:12 1.69% 72.88%
3. 5 1.60 00:04:03 0.00% 60.00%
4. 3 1.00 00:00:00 33.33% 100.00%
5. 2 1.50 00:00:57 50.00% 50.00%
6. 2 1.00 00:00:00 50.00% 0.00%
7. 2 1.00 00:00:00 50.00% 0.00%
8. 2 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 20.00%
9. 2 1.00 00:00:00 50.00% 30.00%
10. 1 2.00 00:00:10 100.00% 0.00%
11. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 10.00%
12. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 10.00%
13. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 100.00%
14. 1 2.00 00:00:46 100.00% 0.00%
15. 1 8.00 00:14:50 100.00% 0.00%
16. 1 2.00 00:01:17 100.00% 0.00%
17. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 80.00%
18. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 100.00%
19. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 10.00%
20. 1 2.00 00:00:01 100.00% 0.00%
21. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 50.00%
22. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 10.00%
23. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 10.00%
24. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 40.00%
25. 1 2.00 00:00:23 100.00% 0.00%
26. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 30.00%
27. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 10.00%
28. 1 4.00 00:18:20 100.00% 0.00%
29. 1 2.00 00:01:26 100.00% 0.00%
30. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 10.00%
31. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 50.00%
32. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 30.00%
33. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 20.00%
34. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 30.00%
35. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 10.00%
36. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 20.00%
37. 1 9.00 00:48:16 100.00% 0.00%
38. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 50.00%
39. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 10.00%
40. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 10.00%
41. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 50.00%

Thanks you all for visiting my blog.

Stay tuned.

Japanese railway workers take 'Smile Scan' test

Keihin Electric Express Railway Co. has introduced a "Smile Scan" system to evaluate the grins of its station staff.

The smile-measuring software has been developed by Kyoto-based precision equipment maker Omron Corp. The device analyzes the facial characteristics of a person, including eye movements, lip curves and wrinkles, and rates a smile on a scale between 0 and 100 percent using a camera and computer.

For those with low scores, advice like "You still look too serious," or "Lift up your mouth corners," will be displayed on the screen.

Some 530 employees of the Tokyo-based railway company will check their smiles with Smile Scan before starting work each day. They will print out and carry around an image of their best smile in an attempt to remember it.

"We aim to improve our services to make our customers smile," says a company official.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Identity Theft: Be Prepared

Reduce the info available about you in the public domain. Data you provide on the Net lasts forever and can assist someone in assuming your identity or targeting you for a crime. Keep personal info out of business profiles. Where you live, who you know, and what you do with spare time makes you an interesting person but an easy target.

Every time I watch the news, it seems a new frightening event is occurring. Swine flu, economy, identity theft and gun-carrying coworkers weren't things I used to worry about. How do you keep yourself safe in an increasingly chaotic world?

As I frequently tell my clients, I want you to be prepared, not just scared, about events you can't control.

I interviewed a security Relevant Products/Services specialist, Christopher Falkenberg, for tips on workplace safety. He's worked as a secret service agent and lawyer before starting Insite Security.

Falkenberg surprised me by pointing out that our risk for identity theft has gone down. He said the big problem now is identity impersonations. Apparently, Facebook and LinkedIn can be useful but dangerous because they can give the wrong people too much information.

I asked Falkenberg what he would advise readers to do. His hot tips included:

1. Reduce the information available about you in the public domain. Data you provide on the Internet lasts forever and can assist someone in assuming your identity or targeting you for a crime.

2. Keep personal information out of business profiles. Where you live, who you know, and what you do with spare time makes you an interesting person but an easy target.

3. Be wary of calls you get at work. Falkenberg said criminals are masters at pretending to be a close friend of someone they stalk. If in doubt, don't give out information about coworkers.

4. If a caller pressures you to cough up confidential corporate information, be suspicious. Falkenberg said con artists may use bits of information and pressure tactics to get what they want. Check out the identity of callers.

I was surprised to learn there's actually research on who survives a crisis. Turns out that pessimists fare better than optimists. Having a survival mindset means you have to imagine worst- case scenarios. If you're on a plane, have you counted the rows between you and the exit? If you're staying at a hotel, did you pay attention to the exit route? At work, have you asked about whether the organization has a plan for violence, disasters or pandemics?

Falkenberg said the biggest hurdle for people in a catastrophic event is not to freeze or act habitually. Did you know that most people in a plane crash actually slow themselves down by automatically getting their carry-on luggage?

Having more money or visibility actually increases your security risks (some comfort for the rest of us during this economy). Falkenberg recommends that those with higher income or visibility make certain they keep public information about them vague, business oriented and impersonal. He highlighted the need to do thorough background checks on anyone working for you.

[I] frequently point out that we can't avoid adversity but we can learn ways to handle it well. Falkenberg advises that denial is no protection against a crisis.

Go through your worst case scenarios, listen to your gut instincts, and don't ignore information that makes you uncomfortable.