The VR hardware market exploded after Facebook deemed VR investment worthy with its 2 billion acquisition of Oculus in 2014. A lot of serious players entered the game and Q1/2016 is gonna be the culmination of this. All major players Oculus, HTC/Valve, Sony and Microsoft with their AR headset, announced the public release of their consumer products for the beginning of next year. What still seems the most interesting to see though is what Magic Leap can come up with.
I always thought that the real magic of VR and AR technology doesn’t lie in entertainment but in its great potential as a tool for engineering and creation in general. So far only one company, HTC, lets this idea reflect in its marketing leading up to the big battle of the platforms next year. The following video is an example for this.
The German automation specialist Festo and its Bionic Learning Network have spawned another creature: The Bionic Kangaroo. After recreating the motion mechanics of several fascinating aquatic and airborne animals they seem to now move on trying to learn the tricks nature applies to land based creatures.
With the BionicKangaroo, Festo has reproduced the unique way a kangaroo moves. Like its natural model, it can recover the energy when jumping, store it and efficiently use it for the next jump.
It combines pneumatic and electrical drive technology to produce a highly dynamic system. The stable jump kinematics plus the precise control technology ensure stability when jumping and landing. The consistent lightweight construction facilitates the unique jumping behavior.
The system is controlled by gestures with a Myo Armband. Festo paid particular attention to the mobile energy supply on the artificial kangaroo. For this purpose, the team even developed two different concepts – one with an integrated compressor and one with a mobile high-pressure storage device.
There is a detailed brochure on the project here. Altogether as always great marketing leading up to the Hannover Messe. Still impressive technology though.
The airframe comprises of just nine parts, all of which are built using the FDM process: Two wings, two elevons, two spars, two wing end fences and a central spine.
None of these components require support material during the print process. The aircraft was designed to split into two halves about the central spine. This configuration allowed a larger wingspan to be built within the FDM machines build envelope, and made transportation easier. The singlewing UAV has a 1.5 Meter wingspan an weighs in at 2 kilograms.
“Deciwatt” a project that started out as a crowd funding campaign on indiegogo with the purpose to create a sustainable and affordable light source for developing countries, has now produced the first batch of its gravity powered lamp. Some of this first lamps go to the projects indiegogo supporters while the rest is used in a field trail in developing countries.
The lamp, like a grandfather clock, uses a hanging weight as the energy source to drive an electric generator. It needs no battery replacement, no expensive solar cells only 3 seconds of human power to lift the weight that on decent generates 25 minutes of light.
From the project description:
GravityLight only generates a deciwatt or two of power but has a superior light to the majority of kerosene lamps used by those without electricity, as well as being significantly more sustainable, safe and healthy. With no running costs, at $10, a GravityLight would pay for itself within a few months, freeing people from fuel poverty and the increasing costs of kerosene.
As LEDs continue to rapidly increase their lumens per watt and – as Koomey’s Law predicts – the energy efficiency of devices doubles every two years – this has huge implications for low cost, off grid lighting as well as computing and communication equipment. This is the driving force behind Deciwatt’s mission to explore how to do more with less.
A great example of clever engineering for a good cause. And also a good example for the possibility that crowd funding provides to finance and realize such projects.
Researchers at the University of Bremen, Germany have developed “iStruct” an apelike robot that is able to balance and walk on 4 as well as 2 feet.
The aim of the project is to develop a robotic system as well as biologically inspired structural components which, if applied to a robotic system, effectively improve its locomotion and mobility characteristics. All elements are designed and build as self-contained as possible decentralizing sensing, control and communication. The robot itself is supposed to be a test platform for foot and spine structures.
The next step in the race towards “live” maps seems to be public satellite, or ISS, based near realtime HD video. The footage below is from Skybox Imaging, a company that has just started offering customers 90-second video of any point on Earth from its SkySat-1 satellite. In this clip, the SkyBox video sits on top of a static layer of satellite imagery and is overlaid by a map layer from Mapbox, based on OpenStreetMap.
Another company, Planet Labs, has just launched its own fleet of 28 imaging microsatellites from the International Space Station and hopes to offer scientists and the public the chance to track changes on the Earth’s surface with much higher frequency than ever before. These satellites will only provide still images though.
Also NASA seems to be willing to ride the wave by putting up four off the shelf HD cameras outside the ISS for the HDEV (High Definition Earth Viewing) project. The cameras will be insulated but not shielded against radiation. One of the projects goals is to find out what camera copes best with the radiation.
[Update] Recently found this more comprehensive list of players in this race on ieee.spectrum.
I remember when the Kinect was first released, and later when the first 3D AR demos leveraging Kinect Fusion style algorithms became public, thinking that this would be a very interesting thing to have on a mobile platform.
Now Google has made its Project Tango public that is promising to deliver exactly this.
Their protoype a 5″ phone is capable of tracking full 3D motion while simultaneously creating a 3D map of its environment. Running on Android APIs provide position, orientation, and depth data to standard Android applications written in Java, C/C++, as well as the Unity Game Engine.
Algorithms, and APIs are still in active development. You can apply for a developer program to receive one of the 200 prototype device currently available. They expect to distribute all of our their available units by March 14th, 2014.
The new muscles can lift 100 times more weight and generate 100 times higher mechanical power than a human muscle of the same length and weight. They can generate astonishing 7.1 horsepower per kilogram.
In a paper published in Science, the researchers explain that the powerful muscles are produced by twisting and coiling high-strength polymer fishing line and sewing thread. Scientists at UT Dallas’ Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute teamed with scientists from universities in Australia, South Korea, Canada, Turkey and China to accomplish the advances.
The muscles are powered thermally by temperature changes, which can be produced electrically, by the absorption of light or by the chemical reaction of fuels.
Silverplated Nylon using the silver as heating element and water for rapid passive cooling.
With the SpaceX Dragon 3 capsule that was recently berthed to the ISS, NASA deployed the HDEV (High Definition Earth Viewing) experiment to space. It consists of four of the shelf HD video cameras in a common housing with a video encoder and router.
Today ISSs robotic arm extracted the box from the Dragons unpressurized cargo hold and mounted it outside of the Columbus module.
Live stream showing video of all four cameras in a predefined sequence.
The four cameras are mounted so that one camera is pointing forward into the stations velocity vector, two cameras to the back and one down towards the earth.
The housing insulates the cameras from the extreme temperatures and vacuum of space but will provide no significant shielding against radiation. That’s on purpose as the main reason for the experiment is to find out how none radiation hardened cameras, especially their sensors, will fare in this environment.
The video signal is encoded to a H264 stream for the downlink and broadcasted live on a ustream channel. The stream will show all four installed cameras in a preprogrammed sequence.
This is an interesting contribution in the race towards live satellite maps, several companies are now taking part in, as the possibility to use off the shelf camera would definitely limit the costs for such ventures.
Installation of the HDEV outside the Columbus module.