Communications

Cockroach Biobots Detect Sound

North Carolina State University researchers have developed technology that allows cyborg cockroaches, or biobots, to pick up sounds with small microphones and seek out the source of the sound. The technology is designed to help emergency personnel find and rescue survivors in the aftermath of a disaster.

The researchers have also developed technology that can be used as an “invisible fence” to keep the biobots in the disaster area.

“In a collapsed building, sound is the best way to find survivors,” says Dr. Alper Bozkurt, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State and senior author of two papers on the work.

The biobots are equipped with electronic backpacks that control the cockroach’s movements. Bozkurt’s research team has created two types of customized backpacks using microphones. One type of biobot has a single microphone that can capture relatively high-resolution sound from any direction to be wirelessly transmitted to first responders.

The second type of biobot is equipped with an array of three directional microphones to detect the direction of the sound. The research team has also developed algorithms that analyze the sound from the microphone array to localize the source of the sound and steer the biobot in that direction.

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Also: Learn about FINDER (Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response).

Posted in: News, Communications, Wireless, Electronics & Computers, Automation, Robotics
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Harness-Mounted Computer Improves Communication Between Dogs and Humans

North Carolina State University researchers have developed a suite of technologies that can be used to enhance communication between dogs and humans. The communication tool enables applications in search-and-rescue operations and pet training.

“We’ve developed a platform for computer-mediated communication between humans and dogs that opens the door to new avenues for interpreting dogs’ behavioral signals and sending them clear and unambiguous cues in return,” says Dr. David Roberts, an assistant professor of computer science at NC State and co-lead author of a paper on the work. “We have a fully functional prototype, but we’ll be refining the design as we explore more and more applications for the platform.”

The platform itself is a harness that fits comfortably onto the dog, and which is equipped with a variety of technologies.

“Dogs communicate primarily through body language, and one of our challenges was to develop sensors that tell us about their behavior by observing their posture remotely,” Roberts says. “So we can determine when they’re sitting, standing, running, etc., even when they’re out of sight."

A harness-mounted computer transmits data wirelessly. The technology also includes physiological sensors that monitor things like heart rate and body temperature. The sensors not only track a dog’s physical well-being, but can offer information on a dog’s emotional state, such as whether it is excited or stressed.

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Also: Learn about a Communication Monitoring System for Enhanced Situational Awareness.

Posted in: News, Communications, Wireless, Electronics & Computers, Sensors, Monitoring, Test & Measurement
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NASA Tool Helps Airlines Minimize Weather Delays

A NASA-developed tool, Dynamic Weather Routes (DWR), is designed to alleviate weather-induced air traffic interruptions. The computer software tool is programmed to constantly analyze air traffic throughout the National Airspace System, along with the ever-shifting movements of weather severe enough to require an airliner to make a course change.

Posted in: News, Aerospace, Aviation, Communications, Electronics & Computers, Software
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No-Power Wi-Fi Connectivity Could Fuel Internet of Things

Imagine a world in which your wristwatch or other wearable device communicates directly with your online profiles, storing information about your daily activities where you can best access it, all without requiring batteries. Or, battery-free sensors embedded around your home that could track minute-by-minute temperature changes and send that information to your thermostat to help conserve energy.

Posted in: News, Products, Communications, Wireless, Electronics & Computers, Power Management, RF & Microwave Electronics, Sensors, Monitoring, Test & Measurement
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Robots Restore Electricity After Power Outages

A team led by Nina Mahmoudian of Michigan Technological University has developed a tabletop model of a robot team that can bring power to places that need it the most.

“If we can regain power in communication towers, then we can find the people we need to rescue,” says Mahmoudian, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering–engineering mechanics. “And the human rescuers can communicate with each other.”

Unfortunately, cell towers are often located in hard-to-reach places, she says. “If we could deploy robots there, that would be the first step toward recovery.”

The team has programmed robots to restore power in small electrical networks, linking up power cords and batteries to light a little lamp or set a flag to waving with a small electrical motor. The robots operate independently, choosing the shortest path and avoiding obstacles, just as you would want them to if they were hooking up an emergency power source to a cell tower.

“Our robots can carry batteries, or possibly a photovoltaic system or a generator,” Mahmoudian said. The team is also working with Wayne Weaver, the Dave House Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering, to incorporate a power converter, since different systems and countries have different electrical requirements.

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Also: Learn about Locomotion of Amorphous Surface Robots.

Posted in: News, Communications, Wireless, Batteries, Electronics & Computers, Power Management, Energy, Energy Storage, Solar Power, Automation, Robotics
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New DARPA Technologies Could Make Cyber Warfare a Reality

Three years after the Defense Department named cyberspace a new domain of warfare, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is unveiling technologies that could soon make it possible for military leaders and warriors to plan and execute real-time cyber missions in a territory charted so far only by machines.

Posted in: News, Communications, Defense, Electronics & Computers, Displays/Monitors/HMIs, Imaging
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Tiny Wireless Sensing Device Alerts Users to Telltale Vapors Remotely

A research team at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) has developed a small electronic sensing device that can alert users wirelessly to the presence of chemical vapors in the atmosphere. The technology, which could be manufactured using familiar aerosol-jet printing techniques, is aimed at a variety of applications in military, commercial, environmental, healthcare and other areas.

Posted in: News, Communications, Wireless, Board-Level Electronics, Electronic Components, Electronics, Electronics & Computers, Nanotechnology, RF & Microwave Electronics, Semiconductors & ICs, Detectors, Sensors
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Wireless Sensing Lets Users “Train” Smartphones for Gesture Control

University of Washington researchers have developed a new form of low-power wireless sensing technology that could soon let users “train” their smartphones to recognize and respond to specific hand gestures near the phone. The “SideSwipe” technology uses the phone’s wireless transmissions to sense nearby gestures, so it works when a device is out of sight in a pocket or bag and could easily be built into future smartphones and tablets.

Posted in: News, Communications, Wireless, Electronics & Computers, PCs/Portable Computers, Antennas, RF & Microwave Electronics, Detectors, Sensors
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NASA Tests Robot Swarms for Autonomous Movement

NASA engineers and interns are testing a group of robots and related software that will show whether it's possible for autonomous machines to scurry about an alien world such as the Moon, searching for and gathering resources just as an ant colony does.

Posted in: News, Communications, Wireless, Electronics & Computers, Motion Control, Antennas, RF & Microwave Electronics, Automation, Robotics, Software
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Astronauts to Test Free-Flying Robotic 'Smart SPHERES'

Three bowling ball-size free-flying Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) have been flying inside the International Space Station since 2006. These satellites provide a test bed for development and research, each having its own power, propulsion, computer, navigation equipment, and physical and electrical connections for hardware and sensors for various experiments.

Aboard Orbital Sciences Corp.'s second contracted commercial resupply mission to the space station, which arrived to the orbital laboratory on July 16, NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, sent two Google prototype Project Tango smartphones that astronauts will attach to the SPHERES for technology demonstrations inside the space station.

By connecting a smartphone to the SPHERES, the technology becomes "Smart SPHERES, " a more "intelligent" free-flying robot with built-in cameras to take pictures and video, sensors to help conduct inspections, powerful computing units to make calculations and Wi-Fi connections to transfer data in real time to the computers aboard the space station and at mission control in Houston.

In a two-phase experiment, astronauts will manually use the smartphones to collect visual data using the integrated custom 3-D sensor to generate a full 3-D model of their environment. After the map and its coordinate system are developed, a second activity will involve the smartphones attached to the SPHERES, becoming the free-flying Smart SPHERES. As the free-flying robots move around the space station from waypoint to waypoint, utilizing the 3-D map, they will provide situational awareness to crewmembers inside the station and flight controllers in mission control. These experiments allow NASA to test vision-based navigation in a very small mobile product.

Source

Also: Learn about Automatic Lunar Rock Detection and Mapping.

Posted in: News, Aerospace, Aviation, Communications, Electronics & Computers, PCs/Portable Computers, Power Management, Cameras, Imaging, Video, Visualization Software, RF & Microwave Electronics, Automation, Robotics, Sensors, Test & Measurement
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