News

Pedestrian Detection System Captures Body Heat

Researchers at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) have designed a new pedestrian detection system for cars that works in low-visibility conditions using infrared cameras to capture body heat. The new driving-aid system uses images captured by far infrared with two thermal cameras to identify the presence of individuals in their field of vision. The objective is to alert the driver to the presence of pedestrians in the path of the vehicle, and in the case of cars with automated systems, actually stop the vehicle.

Posted in: Cameras, Imaging, Sensors, Detectors, Transportation, Automotive, News

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Will Robots Make Good Caregivers?

An EU-funded program, called the GiraffPlus Project, uses robotics to help elderly people who want to remain at home. The GiraffPlus robot is part of a system that includes environmental and physiological sensors, which feed back information about the inhabitants' movements and health. A recent Pew Research poll revealed that 65% of respondents thought it would be a change for the worse if lifelike robots become the primary caregivers for the elderly and people in poor health.

Posted in: Question of the Week

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Unmanned Aircraft Tested as Tool for Measuring Polar Ice Sheets

Scientists studying the behavior of the world's ice sheets — and the future implications of ice sheet behavior for global sealevel rise — may soon have a new airborne tool that will allow radar measurements that previously would have been prohibitively expensive or difficult to carry out with manned aircraft.

Posted in: Environmental Monitoring, Green Design & Manufacturing, Test & Measurement, Measuring Instruments, Monitoring, Aerospace, Aviation, RF & Microwave Electronics, News

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3D-Printing Aerial Robot Mimics Tiny Bird

Scientists from Imperial College London have developed a 3D-printing Micro Aerial Vehicle (MAV) that mimics the way that swiftlets build their nests.The MAV is a quad-copter, with four blades that enable it to fly and hover. The vehicle, made from off-the-shelf components, carries in its underbelly two chemicals that create polyurethane foam when mixed, and a printing module to deliver the foam. The foam can then be used to build simple structures or repair components.The texture of the polymer exuded from the 3D printer can also be used to create ’grippers,‘ which stick onto and transport objects to different locations. The MAV could therefore pick up and remove bombs, or dispose of hazardous materials without exposing humans to danger. The next step for the team is to enable the vehicle to fly autonomously in any environment. The scientists plan to incorporate high-speed cameras and sensors on board the MAV, which will act like a satellite navigation system for tracking and controlling of the flight trajectory.SourceAlso: Learn more about NASA's Robonaut 2.

Posted in: Imaging, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling, Materials, Plastics, Sensors, Aerospace, Aviation, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, Defense, News

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OCULLAR Provides Around-the-Clock Ocean Measurements

A team led at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., has developed an instrument capable of observing ocean color during normal sunlight conditions and under moonlight — a first-ever capability that will allow scientists to monitor the health and chemistry of the planet’s oceans literally around the clock.The prototype Ocean Color Underwater Low Light Advanced Radiometer (OCULLAR) has shown in field testing that it can measure ocean color under low-light conditions across multiple wavelength bands, from the ultraviolet to the near-infrared. In contrast, current remote-sensing instruments can obtain measurements — based on electromagnetic energy emitted by the sun, transmitted through the atmosphere, reflected off Earth’s surface, or upwelled from water masses — only during daylight hours, said Principal Investigator Stan Hooker.Of particular interest to scientists studying ocean color is phytoplankton, the microscopic ocean plants that form the base of the oceanic food web. The tiny plants use sunlight and carbon dioxide to produce organic carbon. This process, called photosynthesis, is possible because plants contain chlorophyll, green-colored compounds that trap the energy from sunlight. Because different types of phytoplankton contain different kinds of chlorophyll, measuring the color of a particular area allows scientists to estimate the amount and general type of phytoplankton there. Since phytoplankton also depend on specific conditions for growth, they frequently become the first to be affected by pollution or some other change in their environment.Until now, however, obtaining these measurements was limited to daylight hours and only during the spring, summer and fall months in the polar regions — a problem Hooker sought to correct with OCULLAR. The successful OCULLAR demonstration leads the way to anticipated commercialization and creates a new capability for oceanographers, climate scientists, and others interested in quantifying, understanding, and monitoring the biological productivity of oceans, coastal areas, and inland waters.SourceAlso: Learn about a Data Assimilation System for Coastal Ocean Prediction.

Posted in: Photonics, Environmental Monitoring, Green Design & Manufacturing, Test & Measurement, Measuring Instruments, Monitoring, News

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Will Self-Driven Cars Improve Road Safety?

Using autonomous technology, Google has also been testing its self-driven robotic cars near the company's Silicon Valley headquarters. The vehicles are equipped with navigation software, like Google Maps, and other sensors to avoid obstacles and unexpected events. The cars' technology also features a laser radar system and a laser-based range finder that enables detailed 3D maps of surroundings.

Posted in: Question of the Week

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NASA Simulator Recreates Space Dust

A team of scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, has successfully reproduced, on Earth, the processes that occur in the atmosphere of a red giant star and lead to the formation of planet-forming interstellar dust.Using a specialized facility, called the Cosmic Simulation Chamber (COSmIC), scientists now are able to recreate and study dust grains similar to the grains that form in the outer layers of dying stars. Scientists plan to use the dust to gather clues to better understand the composition and the evolution of the universe.In the past, the inability to simulate space conditions in the gaseous state prevented scientists from identifying unknown matter. Because conditions in space are vastly different from conditions on Earth, it is challenging to identify extraterrestrial materials. Thanks to COSmIC, researchers can successfully simulate gas-phase environments similar to interstellar clouds, stellar envelopes, or planetary atmospheres environments by expanding gases using a cold jet spray of argon gas seeded with hydrocarbons that cools down the molecules to temperatures representative of these environments.COSmIC integrates a variety of state-of-the-art instruments to allow scientists to recreate space conditions in the laboratory to form, process, and monitor simulated planetary and interstellar materials. The chamber is the heart of the system. It recreates the extreme conditions that reign in space where interstellar molecules and ions float in a vacuum at densities that are billionths of Earth's atmosphere.SourceAlso: Learn about Coatings for Lunar Dust Removal.

Posted in: Materials, Test & Measurement, Monitoring, Aerospace, News

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