Saturday, September 20, 2014

GelSight allows robots to experience incredibly complex touch sensations

SEPTEMBER 20, 2014
2:45 AM

The robot grip fitted with GelSight sensor pads
The future of robotics takes another step towards progress today as MIT researchers unveil GelSight for their experimental robot Baxter. According to the research team, the GelSight sensors allow Baxter to perform certain tasks with a gentle touch if needed, or to detect the physical properties of an object it is grabbing. All of the sensors are in a sort of padding on the "fingers" of the robot, so right now it's rather rudimentary... but the applications are endless!

If robots can start to record complex and abstract amounts of data like sensory data that was previously reserved for organic machines like the brain, then they will be able to manipulate the world around them without human aid. Some of my readers might recognize this as the Singularity, the point at which the machines could sustain themselves without our help -- though, I doubt such a day in science will be apocalyptic.

Check it out for yourself in the video that the research team released on YouTube, it's simple but neat:

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Fake cell phone towers might be stealing your data without you ever knowing

1:22 AM

Fake cell phone towers have been cropping up the nation over, unclaimed by any businesses and whose function is steeped in mystery. The only purpose of these towers seems to be the collection of phone data, like calls, texts, etc., especially near military bases. You won't recognize it when it happens. In fact, you probably won't ever realize that it happened to you at all... and that just makes it an even more serious security threat.

So who is collecting all of this information? Perhaps the better question is, why are they collecting it? The distribution around military bases suggests a clandestine purpose -- perhaps even espionage. Or maybe they are part of a US government project of some sort, one which the public cannot be informed of. Any way you spin it, it's a little spooky, am I right?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

You Are Here: Laniakea, the supermassive galactic cluster we call home

11:20 PM

Earth and the Milky Way rest on the edge of a galactic supercluster named Laniakea
By the way, we're waaaaaay smaller than that red dot.
If you are reading this blog, chances are you have at least a bit of an interest in science, tech, or general nerd-related topics like futurism and sci-fi -- so I also expect most of you to possess a general knowledge of the universe and its structure. We've got the Earth, then the Solar System, then the Milky Way, and then... what's the next biggest item on our cosmic scale?

The first answer that may come to mind is "the universe itself," and that's a reasonable conclusion. We are taught this in grade school, and many times even in higher education levels like college or university science classes. The thing is, though, that there is an intermediary scale, called a cluster. So don't feel bad if this is the first you're hearing of it!

Clusters include hundreds or even thousands of galaxies within their limits, and until recently we believed the Milky Way to live in just another regular ol' cluster like all the others. Thanks to the work of lead researcher Brent Tully at the University of Hawaii, as well as his astounding team, we now know that the Milky Way is actually part of a much more massive supercluster, named Laniakea after the Hawaiian phrase for "immeasurable heaven;" an appropriate choice indeed!

Laniakea, like all clusters, is influenced by a massive gravitational well (a "great attractor") that pulls the galaxies of the cluster together (or, in some cases, shoots them off like cosmic bullets). While the Milky Way is at the edges of the supercluster, it is not immune to the pulling effects of Laniakea's attractor; and so our galaxy shoots on, racing towards that dense, roiling core of galaxies. No need to worry, though -- we've still got hundreds of millions of light years to go!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

MYOB - Make Your Own Beer, with The Beer Machine

AUGUST 31, 2014
11:23 PM

Home brewing, all in one machine

Now if only I knew how to use it...

Now you can be the ultimate Homer Simpson-esque drunk with a clever appliance (if you can call it that) called The Beer Machine. The name pretty much explains it all, so I'll keep this one short and sweet -- hopefully like the drink this machine brews! Imagine never needing to buy beer again; just set this sucker up in your garage and let her go.

Apparently, you won't have to wait long for the beer to reach drinkable readiness, and you will be equipped with everything you need to start your first batch right away. That includes mix, yeast, attachments, and even reusable bottles and caps for packaging the product for your friends and family. Be the guy who always brings the good stuff, the home-made stuff.

I suppose this begs the question, though: is it the good stuff? Well, until someone here ponies up the cash to experiment with one, we may not know. Amazon reviews show there are a host of problems, but as Amazon user David B. Paul points out, "I have owned my brew machine for over 5 yrs. I have had a few small issues over this time but what that's expected when you brew your own beer."

If you had a lot of cash to spare, would you try it?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Finally! DrinkMate brings small Breathalyzer plug-in for the Android

AUGUST 30, 2014
8:00 PM

Well, it's about damn time

DrinkMate Breathalyzer for Android Smartphones -- fits on your keychain, super small/tiny!
Aww, isn't it adorable?
Have you ever found yourself standing at the door of that club you and your friends all went out to Friday night, staring at your car and wondering if that beer or two back at the bar has inebriated you just a bit too much? The ol' saying-the-alphabet-backwards trick (or walking in a straight line) sure is useless at telling anybody anything other than that you can say the alphabet backwards (or, again, walk in a straight line). Heck, anyone with a little practice could do it dead drunk.

If you want to make sure you're good to go, though, you can always try out this insanely useful little attachment for your Android called the Drinkmate by Edge Tech Labs. And when I say little, I mean tiny -- a true marvel at how far we have come in the world of personal computers. Just plug it into your Android smartphone and blow on it. Presto! Instant BAC measurement. Now the question is... is it really accurate enough to depend on?

That's the kicker. It's still in the prototype stage, but that means we could be getting the market product any time now, before the wave of hype crests and dies. So can we trust it when the time comes to make the call? The difference could be a ticket, a serious car accident, or worse. I guess time will tell.