Technology

No batteries! Wireless tech recycles airborne radio waves

Publication: NBC News   Date: August 13, 2013   View Article

A world full of Internet-connected devices is a giant step closer to reality thanks to a new communications system that works without batteries or wires for power.

Just as we use mirrors to reflect light, or turbines to catch the wind, this technique — known as “ambient backscatter”— co-opts transmissions from TV and cellular towers and reflects them to exchange information between wireless devices. These waves serve as both a source of power and carriers of information.

Move over corn, a new source of ethanol is in town

Publication: NBC News   Date: August 1, 2013   View Article

Commercial quantities of the alternative fuel ethanol are being produced from wood waste and other vegetative matter, a chemical company announced Wednesday. The milestone holds potential to curb the controversial practice of using corn kernels to brew the fuel that is commonly mixed with gasoline.

Several companies have been racing in recent years to develop the technology required to produce ethanol from cellulose — the woody parts of plants — and many are close to firing up commercial facilities. INEOS Bio is at the finish line.

Robotic boats have mind of their own on water

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 15, 2013   View Article

For all the anxiety and sleep deprivation they caused, the robotic boats plying a Virginia pond this past week might as well as have been carrying nuclear bombs instead of soft-foam projectiles to shoot through hula hoops in a bid for extra points.

“We’re talking Cuban missile crisis stress level,” Andrew Gray, an exhausted and slap-happy graduate student in the Machine Intelligence Laboratory at the University of Florida, told NBC News on Sunday after his team took top prize in the 2013 International Roboboat Competition at a pond at the Founder’s Inn & Spa in Virginia Beach, Va.

Want to love a robot? Let it nurture you, not the other way around

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 10, 2013   View Article

When human-like robots are standard home appliances, their owners will have increasingly warm, positive feelings for them if the robots take good care of their owners and require little maintenance, according to a new study.

In the study, participants could help Nao, a human-like robot, calibrate its eyes, or Nao could examine the human’s eye as if it was a concerned doctor and make suggestions to improve vision. After the task, the participants were asked how they felt about the robot.

The researchers found that participants trusted the robot more and were more satisfied with their relationship when they received eye care, for example, rather than gave it. In other words, when it comes to building a relationship with human-like robots, it is better to receive than to give.

Catastrophic power outages on the rise, but new tech helps keep lights on

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 2, 2013   View Article

Last year, nearly a tenth of the world’s population — 620 million people — lost power at once. The cause? Two simultaneous failures on India’s enormous electric grid.

While these catastrophes are a symptom of infrastructure investment lagging behind rapid urbanization and modernization, technology can help: A new computer algorithm could lower the chances of such massive blackouts from recurring.

Virtual robot masters win real ones to send into disasters

Publication: NBC News   Date: June 27, 2013   View Article

Seven teams of software gurus whose code deftly controlled a virtual, human-like robot through a virtual obstacle course were awarded a real humanoid to program for a real-world competition to develop disaster response robots, the Pentagon’s advanced research arm announced Thursday.

The teams competed in the virtual leg of a competition run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA, to develop machines that can operate with limited human supervision to assist in response to future natural and human-caused disasters.

Moldy strawberries? Not for 9 days with UV LEDs

Publication: NBC News   Date: June 4, 2013   View Article

Strawberries are a treat to treasure, but if stashed in the fridge for a handful of days, they’re likely to grow an undesirable goatee of mold. Those days may be numbered, according to researchers who’ve shown that exposing the red fruit to low levels of ultraviolet light doubles their shelf life.

The proof-of-concept results stem from a challenge given by an undisclosed refrigerator manufacturer to the maker of new light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that emit ultraviolet (UV) light at wavelengths found in sunlight transmitted through the atmosphere.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach