Skyscraper viewing platform tilts visitors over the edge at one of Chicago’s skyscraper

A new attraction has been installed at a Chicago skyscraper for visitors with a head for heights. 360 Chicago, formerly the John Hancock Observatory, has installed a viewing platform with a difference. Tilt gradually leans visitors by up to 30 degrees out over a 1000 ft (305 m) drop.

The idea was conceived by engineering company Thornton Tomasetti, with a view of letting people explore their own limits. Naturally, a great deal of planning and development was required. The original drawings of the building had to be studied along with measurements from the existing viewing platform. From there, a process of continuous review and revision was required until the design was finalized.

The initial fabrication of the steel structure was completed in February this year, and the platform was installed later that month. In order to do so, the west portion of the existing viewing platform had to be remodeled, setting the steel frame, attaching the hydraulic unit, testing the unit and finishing the detail of the new space.

The 360 Chicago building sits close to the shoreline of Lake Michigan and visitors to the viewing floor have impressive 360-degree views. The Tilt platform itself can accommodate eight users at a time and moves out using hydraulic cylinders. Once the guests are situated safely inside the compartments, which are on the 94th floor of the building, the platform tilts out by 19 degrees, then 25 degrees and then 30 degrees.

Tilt overlooks Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, a 13-block stretch of North Michigan Avenue that features shops, restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues. The attraction itself is owned by Montparnasse 56 Group, which also runs the the Observation Deck at Montparnasse Tower in Paris, France, and the Berliner Fersehturm / TV Tower in Berlin, Germany.

Visitors can currently check out Tilt for an introductory rate of US$5 (plus the cost of the general admission).

The video below provides an introduction to Tilt.

Source: 360 Chicago

Google’s first 100 percent self-drive car on streets

Google has revealed its first self-driving car prototype, which as you guessed requires no driver. The prototype accommodates for two passengers and is missing quite a few of the features you’d expect to see in a standard car. With no need for a steering wheel, mirrors or braking and accelerating pedals, the car comes fully equipped with special software and sensors that feed information into an onboard computer, which then drives the car.

Google has been experimenting with autonomous driving technology since 2010, which allows cars to drive themselves. In the past the company has experimented with retrofitting ordinary cars with video cameras and radar sensors, linked to a detailed mapping system, which allows the car to navigate through urban streets and traffic without the assistance of a driver. Now the first completely new build self-driving prototype has been developed.

Focusing on safety, Google’s self-driving prototype features sensors that can “see” beyond blind spots and detect other vehicles, objects, pedestrians and landmarks within a 360 degree radius that spans approximately the length of two football fields.

“In a normal car there’s power steering and power brakes, and if the power steering fails, as a strong person you can use your muscles as a fallback to still steer the vehicle”, Google’s Chris Urmson told re/code in a recent interview. “In our car there is no steering wheel so we have to design really fundamental capabilities. So we have effectively two motors and they work so if one of them fails the other can steer, so the car can always control where it’s going, and similar with brakes.”

The car also features collision protection for both its occupants and pedestrians, including a foam exterior and flexible windshield. During the testing phase of this new technology, Google has capped the vehicle’s maximum speed to 25 mph (40 km/h) in order to minimize any potential danger.

The interior of the vehicle has also been kept simple and practical for testing purposes. There are two comfortable passenger seats, with seatbelts and spacious leg room; a small storage compartment, stop and start buttons positioned in the center console and a navigation screen displaying the planned journey.

Google has plans to build a further 100 self-drive cars within the year, with safety tests to commence over the (Northern Hemisphere) summer.

“If all goes well, we’d like to run a small pilot program here in California in the next couple of years,” says Google. “We’re going to learn a lot from this experience, and if the technology develops as we hope, we’ll work with partners to bring this technology into the world safely.”

Check out the new Google self-driving car in the video below.

Source: Google

Sony Cyber Shot RX100 III adds faster lens

Sony has announced the third iteration of its RX100 camera, and the new point-and-shoot looks like it could be one of best compact cameras on the market. It features everything that was great about previous RX100 cameras, plus a faster zoom lens, Sony’s speedy BIONZ X image processor, and a built-in pop-up electronic viewfinder.

When Sony launched the first RX100 in 2012, it made us rethink what compact zoom lens cameras could do. Its large sensor, combined with a versatile zoom, was capable of producing outstanding image quality, in a very portable package. Then with its sequel, the RX100 II (M2), Sony improved the camera with the addition of features like Wi-Fi connectivity and a tilting screen.

The new RX100 III (M3) uses a 20.1 megapixel one-inch-type (13.2 x 8.8 mm) CMOS sensor, similar to the 20.2 megapixel one in its predecessor. However, it’s now paired with a BIONZ X image processor, as used in the high-end Sony A7. This means the camera can produce quality images, with natural reproduction of fine textures, in a variety of lighting conditions. It has an ISO range of 125 to 12,800, and features speed priority shooting at 10 fps.

While the new processor also helps ensure swifter focus tracking and detection, it’s slightly disappointing that the autofocus system is still contrast detection-based rather than a speedier hybrid set-up. That said, a new eye autofocus function, which detects and focuses on a subjects eye, is a welcome addition, like it was in the recently announced Sony A77 II.

Manual controls have also been upgraded on the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III, and functions ca...

The biggest improvement to the RX100 III is probably its new Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T 24-70-mm equivalent F1.8-F2.8 zoom lens. While not reaching quite as far on the zoom end (the RX100 II went to 100-mm equivalent) it goes wider, and is considerably faster. A maximum aperture of F2.8 on the telephoto end of the zoom means better light-gathering power and the ability to blur out the background of an image.

There’s also the addition of a retractable OLED electronic viewfinder which rises from the top plate next to a pop-up flash. With 1,440,000 dots, it gives users a viable alternative to composing shots on the 3-in rear LCD monitor, which has 1,228,800 dots. That said, the monitor now tilts 180-degrees, which could come in handy for selfies.

There’s the option to shoot Full HD 1080p video at 60/50 fps, though this can now be done in AVCHD or XAVC S format at up to 50 Mbps. Slow motion fans will be pleased to know the RX100 III can also shoot 720p footage at 100 fps. Clean HDMI output means Full HD footage can be stored to an external recorder.

While it makes a great point-and-shoot, manual controls have also been upgraded on the RX100 III, and functions can be assigned to a new custom button or control wheel. Despite the extra features which have been packed into the aluminum camera, it still measures a pocketable 101.6 x 58.1 x 41.0 mm (4 x 2.3 x 1.6 inches) and weighs a travel-friendly 290g (10.2 oz).

Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity means it’s easy to share images or video instantly, and there’s now the option to use Sony’s PlayMemories Camera Apps.

The Sony RX100 III will be available in June and will set you back about US$800.

Product page: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III

MIT develops glasses free 3D projector which is alternative to holographic video

The 3D format has had something of a renaissance in recent years, but the technology still has some way to go before the potential of “real-life” multiperspective 3D can be realized. The Camera Culture group at the MIT Media Lab is developing a new 3D video projection system that doesn’t require glasses and provides different users different perspective angles of the same object. The team sees it not as a final answer, but as a transitional system that sits between current technologies and true holographic video.

In one form or another, 3D projection systems have been around almost as long as the cinema itself. The trick has always been to come up with something practical and economical – preferably without the glasses, nausea, and headaches. Over the decades, the Bijous and Odeons of the world have seen two-color systems, polarized light systems, mechanical shutters and multiple projectors systems come and go as each fell short of the mark.

The MIT approach was to come up with a glasses-free video projection system with a wide vision angle, ultra-high resolution, yet is mechanically simple and doesn’t require elaborate installations, as well as being cheaper than conventional holographic systems of comparable quality. The idea is that it will act as a short term, intermediate solution until a more mature technology can be developed, while making it attractive as a transitional technology for users of more conventional 2D systems.

The MIT system doesn’t just produce an illusion of parallax – it creates an actual shift in perspective for multiple viewers looking at the image from different angles, as if were looking at real objects. In addition, it provides better resolution and contrast than conventional 2D video.

The heart of the projector is a pair of flat panels of liquid-crystal modulators that act like tiny liquid-crystal displays (LCD) set between the backlight source and the lens. The first bank of LCDs produces light patterns at particular angles. This pattern passes through the second bank, but only at these angles. These then pass through a series of lenses that are arranged in the same manner as a Keplerian telescope. The patterns then pass through a transparent projection screen made up of lines of vertical lenses, a bit like the striated transparent sheets found in children’s books and toys that shift between a pair of images. These resolve the patterns into a 3D image that shifts as one moves from one of eight points of view to another.

The modulators refresh the image 240 times every second, which is less than that of modern televisions, but ten times that of standard-speed film. The system requires a lot of bandwidth to work, but it also opens the possibility of the system displaying ultra-high resolution video. Part of the reason for this is that the MIT system uses data compression algorithms that concentrate on reproducing the edges of the images rather than the body of objects, because edges change more as an object moves or turns. The algorithm also produce a brighter image with stronger contrast by generating something closer to “true black,” which is not possible for LCDs.

Another way the image is improved is by how the light patterns interfere with one another. By manipulating this, the system can gain higher resolutions, though this requires some prodigious real-time calculations. In addition, the MIT system doesn’t simply enlarge the image, which reduces the field of vision in 3D projections. Instead, the system spreads out the pixels from one another.

The team sees the technology as having applications in collaborative design and medical imaging as well as in entertainment.

The video below explains the basics of the technology

Source: MIT


Samsung releases tab for schools Galaxy Tab 4 Education

Samsung has announced a new addition to its Galaxy range of tablets. The Galaxy Tab 4 Education is the company’s first tablet designed for use in schools and can be used at both primary and secondary levels. It will provide access to education-focused apps, books, and videos.

Samsung says the Galaxy Tab 4 Education has been designed to be durable and easy to manage, as well as providing easy access to digital learning resources. The company says it “allows teachers and students to connect, communicate, and collaborate while securing peace of mind for school administrators.” We’re taking that as bloated PR speak for “tablets in the classroom.”

The device includes access to Google Play for Education, a specially-tailored version of the Android app store. Users can access a range of “teacher-approved” resources to enhance the learning process and help personalize learning for individual students. A future upgrade to the Samsung School, a service that allows sharing of content between teacher and students, will add integration with the new tablet.

The hardware itself includes a protective casing and Corning Gorilla Glass for rugged use. It sports a 10.1-in WXGA display with 1280 x 800 resolution and 16:10 aspect ratio. We’re also looking at front and rear cameras, 16 GB of memory, a microSD card slot (for up to a further 64 GB of external storage), and the option to connect a USB keyboard. AllShare Cast can be used to mirror content to other displays and charging carts are available for classroom storage. Near Field Communication (NFC) technology is included with the aim of making it quick to set up a number of devices.

The tablet will run Android 4.4 KitKat and will also include Samsung’s MultiWindow, which allows users to view two apps side-by-side. The device supports WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n and Samsung says it has a battery life of 10 hours to comfortably accommodate a full school day.

The Galaxy Tab 4 Education is available now for schools in the US planning for the 2014-2015 academic year. Educators can buy the tablets through Samsung distribution and channel partners with a suggested retail of US$369.99 each.

Source: Samsung

Glass bottom floor Glacier Skywalk gives new views of Columbia Icefield

Hovering above the Columbia Icefield in the Canadian Rockies, the recently opened ‘Glacier Skywalk’ offers visitors a breathtaking experience (Photo: Brewster Travel Canada)

Back in 2011, the original designs for the Glacier Skywalk received attention after winning the Future Projects Category Award at the World Architecture Festival. Three years on the project is finally complete and the cliff-edge walkway and awe-inspiring observation deck are now open to the public, providing spectacular views of the Columbia Icefield in the Canadian Rockies.

The Glacier Skywalk incorporates a meeting area, free viewing area, cliff-edge walkway and observation deck. The award winning design features an impressive curved glass-floored walkway, which is suspended 280 m (918 ft) above the Sunwapta Valley. The ambitious project was completed by the design build team PCL Construction Management, engineering firm Read Jones Christofferson and Sturgess Architecture for Brewster Travel Canada.

“In developing our design, we carefully considered what would maximize the impact of the site for visitors while respecting the environment,” says engineering firm, Read Jones Christofferson. “We wanted to push the limits of the sense of exposure offered and quickly decided that the best way to approach this would be to construct a glass floored walk area. We want people to feel as if they are suspended in the air over the Sunwapta Valley floor.”

Similar to the Grand Canyon Skywalk, the engineering firm decided to curve the glass walkway in an effort to offer additional views and a thrilling experience seemingly beyond the structural supports. The design features an intricate cable suspension system that reduces the appearance of the supports and thus gives users the sense of danger as they walk above the dramatic landscape.

“When contemplating material choices and construction methods, we took into consideration the local site restrictions, the importance of blending the structure into the natural surroundings, long term durability and ongoing maintenance requirements, budgetary considerations, as well as the expressed desire for a rapid construction time,” says Read Jones Christofferson. “Weathering steel was selected because the bulk of the structure can be substantially fabricated off-site; it is very durable, has limited maintenance requirements and will naturally blend in with the surrounding geology.”

The total cost to complete the Glacier Skywalk, including consultation, environmental monitoring and assessment, planning, design and construction, was approximately CA$21 million (approx. US19 million).

Apart from the Glacier Skywalk, visitors to the Jasper National Park can also jump on board a huge Ice Explorer and go out onto the surface of an ancient glacier, They can also take in the Northern Lights, which are best viewed in the winter months, with stargazers benefiting from the fact that the Park is the second largest dark sky reserve in the world.

The Glacier Skywalk is open daily from May to October, with tickets prices set at CA$24.50 for an adult and CA$12.50 for a child (under 16).

Sources: Brewster Travel CanadaRead Jones ChristoffersonSturgess Architecture via Designboom

Self service Sexual Health Clinic

An innovative self-service sexual health clinic has opened in Soho, London, where anyone can be screened free of charge six days a week, while only waiting six hours to get their results back. The NHS Dean Street Express clinic was designed by Penson architects and features a high-tech system that allows patients to log themselves in, before being given a self-test kit and shown to a screening room. The clinic is also home to the first on-site Infinity machine, which quickly tests all samples and allows for results to be sent back to the patients within six hours of testing.

“Anybody who needs a quick sexual health check-up can benefit from the self-service clinic,” Penson architects tells Gizmag. “No appointment is necessary and it’s open to all members of the public, regardless of age, sexual orientation or whether you’re a resident of the area.”

Drawing inspiration from luxury hotels and restaurants, Penson architects designed the clinic to resemble anything but a medical facility. Designer fittings and artwork litter the facility and the four screening rooms have been designed around different aspects of the surrounding Soho areas; including fittings and elements from famous shopfronts and photography of iconic landmarks.

“We like to think we captured the essence of Soho pretty well,” tells Penson. “We love the photography that lines the walls in the downstairs waiting area. All of the images are of the Soho area and were taken by nurses who work at the clinic.”

The self-service clinic comes equipped with a series of iPads located in the reception area, which allows patients to log themselves into the system, before being sent through to one of the four screening rooms. Each patient is given a kit to facilitate a variety of self-service tests: such as collecting urine samples or mouth swabs. However, patients wishing to complete HIV and other blood test will be personally seen by an onsite medical practitioner. This unique semi-automated system means the medical staff have more time to focus on testing samples and getting results back to their patients as soon as possible.

Inside the screening room, demonstration videos explain to the patients how to complete the test themselves. Once they have prepared the test samples all they need to do is insert them into an air-tight capsule and place it into a vacuum tube which shoots it through to the lab for testing. Six hours later patients will then receive an SMS text message with their results and instructions on how to make a follow-up appointment if treatment is required.

“Personally we love the pneumatic vacuum systems that carries samples from the screening rooms to the lab for testing,” tells Penson. “It was great fun to design something so futuristic and for all the right reasons.”

Dean Street Express Clinic is open Monday to Saturday til 7pm and the video below demonstrates how the self-service facilities work.

Source: Penson

A free roaming Wireless multiplayer virtual reality experience

Melbourne based startup Zero Latency built a wireless cooperative virtual reality environment in which you and a friend can blast – or run and hide from – zombies that seem freakishly real

“Virtual reality needs its arcade moment,” argues Zero Latency co-founder Tim Ruse. The Oculus Rift headset may be making waves around the tech sphere and zeroing in on a takeover of home entertainment, but to really experience immersion, the Melbourne-based startup aims to prove you need to add full-body motion tracking and a big space that players can move around in. No wires, no gamepads, no treadmills.

Zero Latency’s Inversion VR system includes a custom-built backpack which untethers the Oculus Rift headset and headphones from the main PC, while an array of cameras locate and track your body and a plastic gun as you walk, run, crouch, jump, scream, shoot, and hide from zombies in an actual 50 sq m (540 sq ft) space that’s mapped to the in-game environment – or rather many in-game environments, as they can switch the virtual scene on the fly.

The game is locked at a smooth 60 frames per second, with no noticeable latency (delay between your real-world action and its in-game representation). The version I tried earlier this month lacks full-body tracking, rendering you instead as a floating head with a similarly floating gun, due to processing limitations (accurate motion capture technology capable of running fast enough for the needs of Inversion VR remains prohibitively expensive). But Zero Latency is working on a compromise that will allow for G.I. Joe-style depictions of your arm, leg, hand, and torso movements.

It takes a moment to get comfortable after you’ve been strapped in, especially when it comes to loosening up and moving about freely. But it’s a great feeling to have your basic movements translate directly into the game, without any need for joysticks or button presses. Even with the big ugly pixels in front of your eyes (Zero Latency has yet to receive the new 1080pCrystal Cove Oculus Rift prototype), you soon come to accept the virtual reality laid before you as real enough to stop feeling so self-conscious.

Not that you have a lot of say in the matter once the zombies start flooding toward you. The Inversion VR experience is certainly an intense one, and it’s hard not to flee in panic-laden terror the moment a virtual zombie gets within a few feet of you. But that’s precisely the idea. Inversion VR was conceived as an arcade-style experience, with all the thrills and spills that normally entails.

Its creators are banking on it being a social experience, too. “We’ve found a lot of people like watching their friends play,” Ruse says. “They like watching what’s coming behind their friends to see what’s sneaking up on them.”

A monitor outside the play space shows what the player sees, and people can watch both this and the bizarre dance of the person inside, battling foes or exploring spaces that are invisible to the real world.

Zero Latency’s three-man team has been building the technology and a number of demo environments since January 2013, and over 200 people have now tried the beta version. The next step is opening it up to the general public.

The company is asking for 25,000 AUD (US$23,500) from presale tickets on crowdfunding site Pozible to pay for a dedicated venue (only in Melbourne, for the time being) and more equipment. Early bird Game Passes are still available at the time of writing, for 60 AUD each. If all goes well, the game launch is targeted for November.

Check out the pitch video below for more on the project’s history and goals.

Sources: Zero LatencyPozible

European Union Court Forces Search Engines to Remove Links Under “Right to be Forgotten” Ruling

The European Court of Justice made a ruling Tuesday that will affect how search engines operate in Europe. The “right to be forgotten” was argued by plaintiffs and gives people the right to request old information be removed from search engines. The ruling only affects search results, the original link would not be removed or altered.

The ruling comes after a 2011 request from a Spanish court about EU privacy laws. Cases were brought by 180 people who were unhappy with search results. One example includes links to a 1998 announcement that disclosed disputed social security debts of Costeja González published by the La Vanguardia. The judgement is based on a 1995 data protection law that provides the right to request the removal of certain information.

Europe has stringent privacy laws  that may become even more rigorous. Momentum is building in Europe to adopt an even more far-reaching privacy laws. Already under negotiation by lawmakers is a policy that includes a tougher so-called right to be forgotten, or “erasure” as it is termed in draft legislation, that also would apply to companies like Facebook.

This is a critical ruling for American companies like Google since it basically requires them to operate under different rules based on the country in which they are displaying search results. Companies will have to assume the costs and responsibility for removing links that are under complaint. Some companies like Microsoft have already gone to the trouble of making sure their contracts adhere to EU standards.

European companies have an edge when it comes to compliance and are already used to the privacy and data laws. Need to adhere to EU standards has already created some powerful partnerships between cloud providers and European tech companies.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the decision “makes grim reading for Google and will delight privacy advocates in the EU,” said Richard Cumbley, information-management and data-protection partner at UK law firm Linklaters.

Individuals will be able to request that search engines take down any web pages containing information about them when searched by name. Examples would be legal announcements and court cases.

The ruling left some room for interpretation saying that there needs to be a balance between public interest and the impact that such information can have on people’s lives.This ambiguity will make it extra difficult for companies trying to figure out whether they need to comply. European courts will now need to implement the ruling.

“This sounds like a landmark judgment,’’ Peter Hustinx, a top European Union official for data protection told the New York Times. “The court is saying that Google isn’t just selling adverts in Europe, but is providing content along with those services. If you are a regular citizen, it gives you a remedy anywhere in Europe for you to ask companies to take down content connected to you.”

DEKA The first prosthetic arm set to hit the market

FDA gives approval for DEKA prosthetic arm controlled by muscle impulses

Prosthetics have come a long way in recent years, with many artificial limbs incorporating advanced robotic and cybernetic systems that include everything up to and including mind control. Unfortunately, for all these advances, the lack of prosthetics capable of complex motor control means that most users see them as tools rather than replacement limbs. However, that may be changing as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced approval for marketing of the DEKA Arm system, the first prosthetic arm set to hit the market that translates signals from a patient’s muscles to carry out complex tasks.

Manufactured by DEKA Integrated Solutions in Manchester, New Hampshire, the DEKA Arm was developed under DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics program that aims to develop arm prostheses with near-natural control. DARPA sees the DEKA Arm as a way of expanding the options for amputees, especially those using the split-hook hand developed in 1912. It says a lot about how far prosthetics have to go that something developed over a century ago is still so widely used.

The DEKA Arm is aimed at aiding those who are using muscle-powered prosthetics; providing them with an arm that is not only less exhausting to use, but also one with finer and more complicated control. Designed for those with limb loss occurring at the shoulder joint, mid-upper arm, or mid-lower arm, the DEKA Arm uses electrical signals from the muscles picked up by electromyogram (EMG) electrodes to control the arm. This isn’t new. The Boston Arm had similar capabilities over forty years ago.

The DEKA Arm was developed as part of a DARPA program

What’s different is that the battery-powered DEKA Arm allows simultaneous control of multiple joints with ten powered movements using a variety of input devices, including wireless signals from sensors attached the the user’s feet. In addition, the hand has six user-selectable grips. That’s not bad for an arm that’s the size and weight of a natural adult arm.

DARPA says that creating the arm required eight years of work on miniaturization of motors, computer controls and sensors, as well as developing new lightweight materials that were up to the job. All of this had to be put together into a rugged package that could handle day-to-day punishment.

The FDA says that for approval of the DEKA Arm it used its de novo classification process intended for novel low- to moderate-risk medical devices that are first-of-a-kind. Based on clinical studies of 36 DEKA Arm study participants, the FDA concluded that 90 percent could use the arm for everyday tasks that previous arms couldn’t deal with, such as using locks and keys, preparing food, eating, using zippers, and brushing and combing hair. The agency also examined the arm’s software and electrical systems, and tested it for impacts and durability under exposure to common environmental factors such as dust and light rain.

The approval opens the way for DEKA to pursue a commercial release of the arm.

The DARPA video below shows the DEKA arm in action.

Sources: FDA, DARPA

United States Army’s next generation protective mask

Army researchers envision a fan embedded within the mask’s filtration system that uses less power, is lighter and is far less bulky than conventional respirators (Image: U.S. Army illustration)

As well as protecting soldiers from impacts, modern helmets and masks are also designed to provide protection against chemical and biological agents. Such gear requires a powered air purifying respirator to supply air, but these traditionally rely on a separate battery pack and blower unit that is connected to the mask via a hose. The US Army is developing technology for a compact self-contained mask that is not only lighter and less cumbersome, but also helps keep soldiers cool.

With an eye towards technologies that could be integrated into a next-gen mask, scientists at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center developed a fan that is embedded within a mask’s filtration system. The team says this consumes less power and is also lighter and less bulky than conventional respirators, helping to lighten the load for soldiers already burdened with heavy equipment.

Instead of a blower unit hanging off the hip or back, the new system pulls air through a filtration system on the side of the mask by a mini-blower before being directed across the nose cup, providing an even flow of cool, clean air across the face. When the user exhales, the air valve closes and the clean filtered air is diverted into the mask’s eye cavity. This over-pressurizes the face piece to prevent outside contaminants entering the mask if the seal is broken.

The Army says that test studies using a modified, commercial version of the M50 joint service general purpose mask, which replaced the M40 Field Protective Mask in the US armed forces in December 2009, was found to be more comfortable for soldiers, while maintaining equal or higher levels of effectiveness when doing things that soldiers do, such as crawling, running, firing rifles and combat maneuvers.

The Edgewood Chemical Biological Center’s Respiratory Protection Branch says it plans to develop a number of technologies that have the potential to be integrated into next-gen helmet and communication systems. Amongst these is a mask that uses physiological monitoring to sense when the fan needs to activate and deactivate, or a mode that lets the user control various settings, such as turning the fan on or off, turning the fan on with airflow just to the eye cavity, or turning the fan on with airflow to both the eye cavity and the nose cup.

Source: US Army

Tech Companies Strive to Keep Net Neutrality on the Table in Government Negotiations

More than 100 major technology companies have voiced opposition against a new proposal from Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler that would make concessions to a “pay to play” model of network management that would allow ISPs to charge companies for preferential treatment.

These new rules, which are currently scheduled to be voted on May 15, are expected to strike a major blow against “net neutrality,” the concept that ISPs should treat all data that travels over their networks equally.

The proposal by Wheeler, a former government lobbyist, has been opposed in writing by the likes of Google, Reddit, Facebook, Amazon, and dozens of other companies. The letter states that the FCC should not permit “individualised bargaining and discrimination.”

The Open Internet Order, a prior attempt by the FCC to set forth regulations in favor of net neutrality, was rejected in January by a federal court on the grounds that it exceeded the FCC’s authority.

According to the FCC, the latest plan will forbid ISPs from acting in a “commercially unreasonable manner to harm the Internet, including favoring the traffic from an affiliated entity.” This ambiguous wording has many worried that it could be “commercially reasonable” to allow ISPs to charge companies like Netflix or Amazon extra to for better network speeds.

There are also voices of dissent within the government agency itself. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has stated that the rulemaking should be postponed for at least a month to give the public adequate time to respond to Wheeler’s proposal.

Fearing what will happen to its users, web host Neocities is throttling all connections from the FCC to 28.8kbps modem speeds on the front site (identifying visitors based on the FCC’s internal IP block).

While it’s doubtful that anyone at the FCC will find their access to Neocities personally limiting, this is in an attempt to demonstrate how treating online entities differently online could make the internet a fragmented place where individuals and companies need to negotiate network speeds rather than making everything fast and available to everyone else.

Consumer ready CENTR video camera takes 360 degrees footage

Video professionals with the US Army, Red Bull and National Geographic are already using the technology, and you’ll soon have your chance. The consumer-ready CENTR Camera aims to make it easy to capture 360-degree HD footage, recording your world in full.

Built by former Apple engineers, the CENTR has four HD image sensors mounted around a palm-sized chassis. Instead of filming straight-on, like the average video camera, it’s constantly filming 360 degrees of footage. CENTR’s 20-variable image calibration stitches images from the four sensors into a single video automatically, so they’re available to view right away without any complicated post-filming editing.

“When shooting video, we pull either 720p or 1080p RAW video data from each camera,” CENTR explains on Kickstarter. “When each camera is shooting at 1080p resolution, we are processing 4K of panoramic video data in each frame. The effective resolution after image stitching is 1080 x ~7500 pixels. The final panoramic width for each video actually varies slightly based on the calibration parameters automatically set by CENTR.”

The footage can be viewed in real time using the CENTR interactive player on a Wi-Fi-connected desktop computer, tablet or smartphone. It looks like a normal video at first, but unlike your typical YouTube fare, you can scroll to spin it around. In a video made from the cockpit of a plane, for instance, you start off looking forward from the pilot’s POV and can then scroll to look over the wing and keep going to view the pilot himself.

In addition to video, the CENTR can be used to capture time-lapse panoramic stills photos. Each image sensor is 5 MP, allowing for 20-MP time-lapse photography. The camera also includes a single-sensor mode for times when you just want to shoot traditionally without the 360-degree effect.

The CENTR’s tape-roll design is meant to allow the filmer to grip the camera through the center without blocking any of the individual sensors. It’s also built to work with tripod and GoPro mounts, delivering a versatile filming platform for capturing everyday action.

Sketch of CENTR mount

Inside its housing, the CENTR Camera includes a digital bubble level that helps in leveling filming. It saves footage on 8 GB of internal flash storage and includes microSD expansion. The battery runs for two hours and is designed to be quickly swapped out. Audio is recorded via three built-in microphones. The camera weighs just 9 oz (250 g).

After developing the CENTR for the past three years, the design team has turned to Kickstarter to help it get over the hump to production. It’s offering an early bird pledge price of US$299 (est. retail: $399) in an attempt to raise $900,000. If all goes to plan, production is set to begin in February 2015.

When it does, it’ll be competing against products like the 360Fly and Geonaute.

The campaign pitch video can be seen below.

Sources: CENTRKickstarter

Microsoft Gains Most Websites in May 2014 Netcraft Web Server Survey

Microsoft gained the most websites again in April 2014, bringing it the closest it has ever been to Apache’s leading market share, according to the May 2014 Netcraft Web Server survey.

Netcraft received responses from 975,262,468 sites in April, up by 16 million from March.

Apache added 4.3 million sites in the month, however lost market share. Microsoft gained over twice as many sites, and increased its market share by 0.37 percentage points, bringing it to just under 4 percent behind Apache for total number of sites served.

Apache has been the most popular web server for over 18 years.

Among active sites Microsoft also gained modestly on Apache (0.20 percent), as did nginx (0.14 percent).

nginx released versions 1.6.0 and 1.7.0 on April 24, and while it lost sites overall, it was the only company to gain market share amongst the top million sites. nginx may see additional gains going forward from the improved support in the recent Ubuntu 14.04 release.

Use of the new gTLDs increased in April, with Netcraft finding massive adoption of both .email and .berlin. The latter increased in the month from 2 websites to 40,000, despite criticism of the new gTLDs from German news magazine Der Spiegel, which had previously registered its own .berlin domain name.

Microsoft IIS gained 7 million websites, over a third of which were hosted in the North Central US Azure region.

Apple is going to buy Beats Audio for $3.2bn?

Apple has reportedly bought Beats Electronics for a cool $3.2bn. The news comes courtesy of Dr. Dre himself in what has to be one of the most unorthodox corporate announcements in recent years, via Instagram.

The Instagram video along with a number of images, all of which seem to suggest the purchase is a sone deal, have all since been removed from the site.

This comes after the Financial Times reported that Apple’s purchase of Beats could be announced as soon as next week. The deal has been agreed in principle, but some financial details still need to be ironed out, the paper said.

T3’s very own Managing Editor and columnist Duncan Bell points out that whilst odd, there would certainly be method in Apple’s madness with buying Beats.

“Beats mouthpiece Jimmy Iovine has hinted at an Apple and Beats tie-up for years, but a full-on buy-out would still be a little surprising. ”

“However, the two brands would make a good pairing as they have one key thing in common: they make products that are premium in terms of pricing, yet mass-market in terms of popularity.”

“A buy-out would also give Apple an easy route in to on-demand streaming via Beats Audio, letting it compete with Spotify. Spotify isn’t profitable but it must currently be taking big chunks out of iTunes’ bottom line. Maybe Apple thinks it knows how to make money from music streaming…”

Beats Electronics is best known for its range of Beats headphones and speakers, as well as the recently launched Beats Music service.

The deal is said to be worth as much as £2 billion. If true, it would make the acquisition the largest in Apple’s history.

Apple has bought at least 24 companies in the last 18 months. Its purchase of Prime Sense is the largest that we’re aware of. Apple bought the company behind the original Kinect for $350 million (£207 million) .

The company has traditionally shied away from major purchases. However, Apple has said that it is willing to drop big money to buy a company – but only if it made sense.

Beats was founded by rapper Dr Dre and the chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records Jimmy Iovine. The first headphones under the brand were launched in 2008.

Apple is thought to be targeting the business to buy into the Beats brand itself.

Source:Financial Times

Emails Between Google,other major Tech companies and NSA Suggest Ongoing Cooperation(Reports)

Google and other major tech companies have been meeting with the NSA about cybersecurity for years, emails obtained by Al Jazeera reveal. The emails between Google executives Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt and NSA Director General Keith Alexander were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and date from the summer of 2012.

The emails refer to ongoing co-operation and information sharing between the NSA and industry leaders, even while some of those same industry players have been publicly voicing concerns over NSA practices.

In November of 2013 reports began to surface that the NSA was accessing data travelling between data centers, andGoogle was amongst a chorus of objectors.

Over a year earlier, in the summer of 2012, an email from Alexander referred to “A group (primarily Google, Apple and Microsoft) recently came to agreement on a set of core security principles.” The same email referred to a collaborative effort to foil a BIOS attack originating in China which included Intel, AMD, HP, Dell and Microsoft.

That alleged threat was covered by 60 Minutes, but has met with skepticism, both that the threat was real and that the NSA’s intention was the defense of data networks.Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Nate Cardozo told Al Jazeera that the NSA may have been “looking for weaknesses in the exact same products they’re trying to secure.”

John Pike, director and founder of told VentureBeat: “The large telecom companies, including Internet companies, have an extremely intimate relationship with the NSA. How could it be otherwise?”

One of the emails from Alexander to Brin thanks him for participation in the Enduring Security Framework (ESF) program, which was launched in 2009 to partner the private sector with the federal government to improve cybersecurity.

Another email invites Schmidt to participate in a “decision-oriented” meeting on security and threats involving mobile devices.

“We work really hard to protect our users from cyberattacks, and we always talk to experts — including in the US government — so we stay ahead of the game,” Google said in a statement. “ It’s why Sergey attended this NSA conference.”

The emails contain no reference to the NSA accessing Google user records.

Al Jazeera is expecting its FOIA request to eventually yield dozens of additional emails.

BMW gives “i8″ that is its very own solar carport

BMW Group DesignworksUSA has designed a solar carport to house the new i3 and forthcoming i8 electric vehicles. BMW is revealing the one-car solar garage concept as part of the official media launch of the i8 in Los Angeles.

The concept follows previous efforts from the German automotive giant to power its “i” sub-brand using renewable energy. It last year unveiled a similar carport system conceived in partnership with the photovoltaic firm SOLARWATT GmbH.

The latest design features an insect-like frame that makes extensive use of bamboo and like the SOLARWATT system, it features glass-on-glass solar modules on its rooftop.

The system is designed to work in conjunction with BMW’s i Wallbox Pro, enabling owners to charge direct from the solar collector panels and providing a detailed report on the amount of solar going into the system and how that compares against grid consumption. Any excess energy produced by the carport can be fed back into the owner’s residence for domestic use.

BMW’s solar carport concept may not be quite as eye-catching as say, thePure Tension collapsible solar pavilion revealed by Volvo last year, but it does appear to have a better chance of moving beyond concept stage.

The i8 hybrid, when fully charged has a range of approximately 22 miles (37 km) in all-electric mode.

Source: BMW

Sikorsky wins to replace Marine One US Presidential helicopters

Airforce One may be the flashiest plane in the US presidential hangar, but that doesn’t mean the day-to-day runabout gets neglected. The US Navy has announced that Sikorsky Aircraft has been awarded the contract to replace the Marine One helicopter fleet used to transport the President. The initial US$1.24 billion contract is for six S-92 helicopters and two trainer simulators for the US Marine Corps as part of a development and conversion program that will see a fleet of 21 aircraft built for presidential use by 2023.

Marine One is the call sign of the helicopter used by the US President for getting from place to place quickly and securely. It’s usually a VH-3D Sea King or a VH-60N WhiteHawk, but these date back to the 1960s and 1980s, and after the 9/11 attacks were regarded as obsolete.

The previous attempt to replace the Marine One fleet was a competition between Sikorsky and a Lockheed Martin / Agustawestland partnership. Lockheed won the contract to build the replacement helicopter, called the VH-71 Kestrel, but the cost of the 28-helicopter fleet skyrocketed from US$6.1 billion to $13 billion before being cancelled by the Obama administration in 2009.


The new helicopter, dubbed the VH92, is based on the dual-engine, medium-lift S-92, of which Sikorsky has delivered over 200 to customers in ten countries since 2004. Applying lessons learned from the previous replacement program, Sikorsky was required to submit a proposal based on an existing, in-production helicopter in its bid, which will be fully evaluated before production begins. The six aircraft to be delivered by 2018 will be used to test the flight performance and mission communications of the S-92, with four going on to operational status. Meanwhile, the simulators will be used to train pilots and flight crews.

If all goes according to schedule, the first batch of production aircraft will be ordered with the final deliveries by 2023. Assembly of the helicopters will be at Sikorsky’s S-92 production facility in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. These will then be sent to a secure facility in Stratford, Connecticut, for modifications before going on to another facility to install the integrated communications and mission systems, then back to Stratford to install the presidential interior complete with in-flight toilets.

Exactly what the VH92 will be like is highly classified, but industry opinion about the previous replacement program indicates that it will have greater range than existing Marine One helicopters, and carry up to 14 passengers and thousands of pounds of cargo. It will also be specially hardened against electromagnetic pulses, carry encrypted communications and video conferencing gear, and be able to jam radar and deploy countermeasures against anti-aircraft missiles, though the combat and communications capabilities may be scaled back to control costs.

Source: Sikorsky

Mink 3D printer lets you create your own customized color makeup

Finding the exact shade of lipstick or eye shadow you have in mind can be tough, which is why Grace Choi, a Harvard Business School alumni, came up with the Mink – a 3D printer that lets you print out makeup in any color you fancy. Whether it’s the color of a fruit, your friend’s purse or a sunset, transforming that color into any kind of makeup is simply a matter of choosing it and hitting print.

The Mink 3D printer uses the same FDA-approved substrates and ingredients used by popular makeup brands. To print color-specific makeup, a user just needs to pick a color, be it from an image found online, a photo they’ve clicked, or a color they’ve selected in image editing software like Paint or Photoshop. All the software needs is the hex code of the chosen color (easily obtained with a color picker) and Mink is ready to print.

Instead of being restricted to a limited color palette, users will be able to print (and wear) makeup in any color in the world, from the comfort of their own homes, according to Choi. “It can take any image and instantly transform it into a wearable color cosmetic, turning any phone, laptop or camera into an endless beauty aisle,” she says. “You can take a picture of your friend’s lipstick and just print it out.”

Choi 3D printed a light pink eye shadow when she presented Mink at theTechCrunch Disrupt 2014 conference in New York. While Mink can currently print powder-based makeups, Choi plans to expand its capabilities to print things like lip gloss and cream.

The 3D makeup printer is targeted at users in the 13-21 age group and will retail for less than US$200 when it’s launched later this year.

Check out the video of her presentation below.

Source: Mink via Techcrunch

Sky , CityFibre and TalkTalk announce 1 Gbps broadband for cities in UK

Broadband speeds in the UK currently max out at about 300 Mbps, provided by British Telecom. Sky and TalkTalk have now announced that they intend to bring 1 Gbps speeds to UK cities. The roll-out will begin in York next year, before moving to other locations.

Working with CityFibre, Sky and TalkTalk have created a new company that will build the infrastructure for providing ultra-fast broadband. The new venture is aiming to create a “state of the art, city-wide, pure fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network.” Once the network is built, Sky and TalkTalk will retail competing services over the infrastructure.

At 1 Gbps per second, the services will be significantly faster than the fastest fiber optic speeds available in the UK today and will match those offered by Google Fiber in the US. Sky says that the fiber optic roll-out in York will be the first time that ultra-fast broadband has been deployed in the UK on a city-wide basis. Fujitsu will be employed to deploy the network.

“This announcement makes York the digital infrastructure capital of the UK,” said James Alexander, leader of the City of York council. “Gaining ultra fast broadband across the city is a huge boost for our economy, providing significant new opportunities for businesses based here and better quality and value to our residents.”

The services are expected to go live in York from 2015, with a subsequent roll-out planned for two more, yet to be named, cities.

Source: SkyTalkTalk and CityFibre

Kohler touchless toilet lets you only ‘wave to flush’

The Japanese might have been the first to bring technology to the toilet, but even the most advanced throne requires you to touch it.

In an age where high-end hotels have touch-less taps, soap dispensers and even doors,  why do we still have to touch the toilet itself? Well, those days may soon be over.

Toilet-maker Kohler has developed the world’s first touch-less toilet, which uses electromagnetism to activate the flush when you wave your hand over the sensor.

“Unlike a beam-based sensor, in which a beam of light is broken to trigger the actuation, the Kohler Touchless flush utilizes emerging sensing technology, which projects an electromagnetic field that is both extremely accurate and reliable,” says Kohler.

“This type of sensor detects the user in the projected field and initiates the flush.”

The company will be bringing the technology to many of its upcoming models and releasing it as a $99 standalone kit that you can attach to your own toilet.

It’ll work with most single-flush models although if you have a dual-flush toilet, you’re out of luck. There’s no word yet on UK availability but we’ll keep our fingers, and legs, crossed.

“Vanhawks Valour” World’s first smart bike?

A Concept smart bike that connects to your smartphone and transmits information from an array of sensors has made its way onto Kickstarter

Designed by startup Vanhawks, the Valour is a smartbike aiming to maximise your safety and provide metrics on how you’re peddling.

Unlike other smart bikes, the Vanhawks Valour is not an electric bike. In fact, it’s a carbon fibre framed road bike. However, it’s stuffed with a variety of sensors, including an accelerometer, magnetometer and a speed sensor.

It can connect with any device that runs iOS,Android or Pebble according to its makers. It’ll piggyback off those devices to provide turn-by-turn instructions to the rider in the form of LED indicators on the handlebars.

According to Vanhawk, these LED indicators will provide riders with valuable information. Like routes that avoid steep hills.

“A year ago, we set out to create a fundamentally new kind of bike,” the company said on its website. “We believed there had to be a way to improve a technology that hadn’t been re-thought in 120 years.

“Bikes are one of the funnest, most efficient and most environmentally sound forms of transportation. That’s why we care about them so much.

“Over the last 300+ days, we’ve poured our hearts into re-thinking urban commuting from the ground up. It took countless nights, thousands of engineering decisions and R&D with some of the world’s most advanced production partners to finally make it here.”

It’s currently a Kickstarter project – the company is hoping to raise CAD$100,000 (£55,000) to get the wheels in motion. So to speak.

Sony’s new magnetic tape technology enables 185 TB

One of the joys of old science fiction movies is watching the giant reel-to-reel tape drives spin around as they serve computers less powerful than a modern wristwatch. But magnetic tape isn’t just something found in oldUFO episodes; it’s a key component in modern digital systems required to keep modern online systems reliable. At the INTERMAG Europe 2014 international magnetics conference in Dresden, Sony announced a new breakthrough in magnetic tape technology that keeps the medium relevant by allowing a tape cartridge to carry 74 times the data of a conventional data tape, or the equivalent of 3,700 Blu-ray discs.

Tapes were the backbone of computer memory storage from the 1950s until the late 1980s. They’re familiar to early home computer users in the form of the humble audio cassette that saved them from having to laboriously type in a program every time they wanted to run it. In everyday life, tapes were replaced so universally by hard discs, flash drives and optical media including CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays that it often comes as a surprise to learn that magnetic tape is still widely used as back up memory for servers and databases. Because, while discs may be fast and flexible, tape still has the advantage of being very stable and using much less power than hard disc drives, so tape is anything but yesterday’s technology.

Sony’s breakthrough, which pushes past the previous record set in 2010 by a factor of five, produces a recording density of 146 Gb per square inch. This results in a cartridge capable of holding 185 TB. Conventional tapes fall well short of this by comparison with a density of 2 Gb per square inch and a maximum capacity of 2.5 TB.

Diagram detailing the new magnetic tape developed by Sony

To achieve this density, Sony uses a new “sputter” technique to deposit fine nano-grain magnetic particles on a soft polymer underlayer less than 5 micrometers thick. These particles are much smaller than those found in conventional tapes, which are tens of nanometers wide. The fineness of the particles already improves the storage capacity of the material, but the tricky bit was getting particles to line up in an orderly fashion instead of landing at random on the underlayer.

This uniformity was achieved by using an electrostatic discharge to force argon ions into the target material, which forms it into a thin, uniform layer. It involves having the magnetic particles of both the same average size (about 7.7 nanometers) and lined up in the same direction. In addition, the polymer underlayer has been re-engineered to make it much smoother, so the particles lie more evenly. The result is a tape material that Sony boasts has the world’s highest recording density by area.

Sony says that it is currently working on commercializing the new tape material, as well as improving the sputter technique to achieve even greater recording densities.

Source: Sony

Cree aims to make fluorescent tubes obsolete with LED T8 series

Fluorescent lights aren’t on the top of many people’s favorites list. Ever since they were introduced at the New York World’s Fair in 1939, they’ve been notorious for their cold, bluish light that is the definition of “uncomplimentary” and accompanied by flickering and a telltale buzz. Cree, Inc. is aiming to relegate fluorescent tubes to the pages of history with its new T8 series of LED tubes that promise LED-level energy savings and greatly improved light quality.

LEDs have proven a useful alternatives to both incandescents and fluorescents when it comes to bulbs with their durability, economy, and promise of better light, but when it comes to tubes, LEDs haven’t quite made the grade. It’s easy enough to shape an LED to match a fluorescent tube, but the color leaves much to be desired and they aren’t as bright as they need to be.

The Cree T8 is a new series of tubes designed to replace conventional fluorescents. According to Cree, the T8 is capable of putting out 2,100 lumens per tube for 21 watts of power, or 3,800 lumens for a two-tube fixture. In part, this is due to the oval shape of the tubes which is designed to avoid wasting light illuminating the inside of the fixture.

The Cree T8 is 30 percent more efficient than conventional tubes

With a 30 percent energy savings, Cree says that the tubes will pay for themselves within three years. It has a near-universal driver compatibility and the company claims that the T8 has the industry’s best color quality, capable of covering both the 3,500 K and 4,000 K color temperature ranges.

Cree is claiming a 50,000-hour lifetime for the T8, which is also dimmable and compatible with over 90 percent of electronic ballasts (that is, the circuitry used to regulate fluorescent tubes), including instant start, programmed start, and rapid start ballasts.

“Similar to what we’ve achieved with the Cree LED Bulb in the residential market, the Cree LED T8 Series is revolutionizing the commercial lighting market with a product that saves energy, delivers superior light quality and is universally compatible with nearly all existing fluorescent T8 ballasts,” says Chuck Swoboda, Cree Chairman and CEO. “There’s no reason to install another linear fluorescent tube again.”

The Cree T8 is available in the US and Canada for a suggested retail price of US$30.

The video below introduces the T8 series of LED tubes.

Source; Cree via Gizmodo