More mind-controlled motion: the Ratmobile

Paul Raven @ 06-10-2010

An opportunity arises to indulge in a bit of Gen-X/Y media nostalgia! UK-based readers of a similar age to myself may well remember this Ratmobile [context for the baffled*; image ganked from the TV-AM nostalgia archives]:

Roland Rat and his Ratmobile

Now, simultaneously compare and contrast the above with Monday’s mention of mind-controlled wheelchairs and this little cyborg rodent fella [image ganked from Hack-A-Day, who got it from this IEEE Spectrum article]:

Rat with brain-controlled cybercart upgrades

Awesome. Extremely creepy, and very much of its time, but still awesome.

[ * I was a huge Roland Rat fan, to the extent of pestering my mother for an at-the-time very out-of-fashion denim jacket in order that I might emulate his effortless cool. So, yes, I’ve always made rather odd fashion choices. Selah. ]

From carjack to carhack

Paul Raven @ 16-08-2010

As if you didn’t have enough things to worry about when you’re driving… researchers have demonstrated some rather worrying security holes that could allow an attacker to PWN your car’s onboard computer systems by spoofing the signals from the wireless tyre pressure sensors [via George Dvorsky]:

… previous experiments showed what could be done with a physical connection to a vehicle’s computer. The new work by teams from the University of South Carolina and Rutgers tried a different tack: spoofing the wireless sensors in wheels used by tire pressure monitoring systems, required in all new U.S. vehicles since 2008.

The researchers didn’t find a wide-open door so much as the security employed by a 1920s speakeasy: once they learned the secret knock, the unidentified test car’s controls let them in no questions asked. The team sent fake warning messages from 40 meters away, and in another experiment, got the test car to flash a warning that a tire had lost all pressure while beaming the signal from another car as both drove 68 mph.

Because each sensor uses a unique ID tag, it was also possible to track specific vehicles, in a way that would be far less noticeable than roadside cameras.

The hacked car usually reset its warnings after the spoofed messages stopped. But after two days of tests, the electronic control unit for the tire monitors fell off its twig and had to be replaced by a dealer. The researchers note that it took several hours of graduate-level engineering to devise their tools and crack into the monitors, but that the actual technology for doing so cost about $1,500.

Buying off-the-shelf kits to accomplish this sort of hack will be as easy as buying an ATM credit card skimmer or a few hours of run-time on a botnet; it’s just chips and code, after all. And now, would the congregation please join with me in chanting the votive mantra of Futurismic: Everything Can And Will Be Hacked.

California proposes car license plates with electronic ads

Paul Raven @ 21-06-2010

Well, things are pretty tight in California, money-wise, so you can’t fault them for looking to cut that deficit. But this proposal is bad news for anyone frustrated by the ubiquity of advertising on every surface of the world: electronic license plates which show the vehicle’s code number while in motion, but which switch to (presumably network-served) adverts after a few seconds of coming to a halt [via SlashDot].

Regular readers (and, indeed, anyone with the remotest knowledge of how electronic technology actually works, if only in the abstract) will doubtless have spotted more fundamental problem, but just in case, I’ll remind you that Everything Can And Will Be Hacked. Hell, there’s already a proof-of-concept for electronic billboard exploits. So the no-mercy breed of road-warrior may want to avoid cutting in front of more geeky communters should these things go into production…

I’ll trade a Puffin for my as-yet undelivered jetpack, thanks

Paul Raven @ 14-04-2010

Personal electric aircraft? Yes please!

NASA Puffin personal air vehicle concept

Nice to see NASA aren’t just resting their feet on the desks at the moment, though whether the Puffin concept would ever make it out of R&D (let alone strike anyone as useful or necessary at a consumer level) is a question probably best left unasked. As charming as it is, I look at that thing and think “oooh, Sinclair C5!” Though maybe some of the world’s crankier and/or more show-offy military forces would invest in them just for their wow factor.

I know I could never afford one, but even so: the avarice, it burns…

eROCKIT – 50mph electro-assist bicycle

Paul Raven @ 16-07-2009

File under “wow, gimme one of those!” – the eROCKIT bike is described by its creators as “a new vehicle category, the human-machine-hybrid”. A trifle hyperbolic, perhaps, but it’s still pretty awesome. Watch:

The eROCKIT bridges the gap between the regular two wheeler categories. On one side the muscle-powered two wheelers, on the other side, the motorcycles. The eROCKIT concept requires a continuous muscle deployment from the rider. The vehicle’s electronic system multiplies this muscle power and deploys it as vehicle propulsion.

For the first time in the history of vehicle construction, the driver’s physical power becomes just as relevant for driving dynamics and speed as technical vehicle properties and engine power.

Send me one for review, please! Because I sure as hell can’t afford the €33,000 price tag… [via NextBigFuture]

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