A bearing on magnetic north growing farther away all the time

Tom James @ 17-09-2009

compassScience writer Quinn Norton tests a new sense, that of always knowing what direction North is via an ankle-attached bracelet that indicates true north using vibrations from eight internal buzzers:

The Northpaw is based on the Feelspace, a project organized by the Cognitive Psychology department of Universität Osnabrück in Germany. The principle is simple and elegant. The buzzers signal north to the wearer. The wearer gets used to it, often forgetting it’s there. They just start getting a better idea of where they are through a kind of subconscious dead reckoning.

Quinn has written about similar direction-sensing enabling technologies before.

I recall something like this in Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett. PTerry gifts his elves with “poise” – the ability always to know where they are.

[via Slashdot, from h+ Magazine][image from ★lex on flickr]

Smartdust on the roads, in the cars

Tom James @ 01-07-2009

highway_insomniaThe old chestnut of fully automatic cars trundled a little bit closer with the development of EM2P by the European research group EMMA:

“We sought to hide the underlying complexity of in-car embedded sensors so that developers could quickly design new applications with existing electronics,” explains Antonio Marqués Moreno, coordinator of the EMMA project. “EMMA will foster cost-efficient ambient intelligence systems with optimal performance, high reliability, reduced time-to-market and faster deployment.”

The project hopes that, by hiding the complexity of the underlying infrastructure, its work will open up new prospects in the field of embedded, cooperating wireless objects.

The key of the idea is to make a middleware application between the embedded sensors in cars and designers who want to develop interesting and useful applications.

it could also work between cars – opening the prospect of cooperating cars – and, of course, it can work with traffic infrastructure like lights, warning signs, and other signalling information. All of this via the same middleware platform.

Also a possible route of entry for a hypothetical Internet of Things.

[from ICT results, via Physorg][image from Nrbelex on flickr]

Virtual reality: now covers all five senses, still looks stupid

Paul Raven @ 11-03-2009

Hey folks, remember virtual reality? A decade and a half ago, we were importuned with promises of virtual worlds that we could walk around in physically rather than clicking our way through with a mouse or joystick; computer-generated realities that would – in hardly any time at all – become an enjoyably commercialised take on Gibsonian cyberspace; a destination where we could work, play, learn and… er, meet new people, if you know what I mean.

'Virtual Cocoon' VR headsetAfter the fad for arcade games with bulky headsets blew over (and the Lawnmower Man movie started to look dated), VR kinda dropped off all but the most geeky of radars… but there are still some clades of techo-optimists (who doubtless shoulder their way past back-issues of Mondo 2000 each morning on their way work) striving to bring the golden technodream of the early nineties to fruition.

People like the team behind the “Virtual Cocoon”, a virtual reality headset that promises to stimulate all five senses for a completely immersive experience:

Smell will be generated electronically using a technique that will deliver a pre-determined smell recipe on-demand while the team intend to provide a texture sensation relating to something being in the mouth and tactile devices will provide touch input.

As Gizmag points out (and the accompanying photo makes plain), you’re still going to look pretty stupid while wearing the thing… and it’s probably pretty cumbersome, too. [image ganked from linked article]

Maybe it’s mean of me to snark, but I can’t help but feel this route to VR is a dead-end mud-track; with all the rapid advances in brain imaging and direct electromagnetic cortical stimulation, I suspect that when virtual reality finally arrives it won’t do so via helmets with tiny eye-screens and smell-generators, but through a comparatively subtle skull-cap of electrodes.