Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Robot Skin, Emotional Phones, and Omni-aerial Planes

Every day, exciting and inspiring news from the tech and science world comes out.  This week I wanted to mention a few of these lesser discussed murmurings.  

This weblog's venerable podcast, After The Jump, consistently discusses such news, including the recent breakthrough of a computer with hyper sensitive skin. Nevertheless, I thought it was cool enough for two mentions here on Charge-Shot.

The skin, based on "organic electronics" (whatever that means, sounds like an oxymoron to me) is 1,000 times more sensitive than that of a human, allowing a robot to differentiate between distinct substances. Without this kind of breakthrough, a robot would have no trouble, say, picking up a wooden egg. Give it the real thing though, and you'd quickly see that the robot's ability to perform simple tasks is not all it's cracked up to be (I'd like to point out that the entire preceding run-on sentence was constructed with the sole purpose of the pun at the end, I apologize to any and all remaining readers…I just can't help but make my little yokes...).

In any case, this major breakthrough will probably contribute to developments in computing and artificial limbs (and other medical applications) in addition to robotics.
I know I've been writing a ton about mobile phones, recently including some research that indicated that people are developing emotional attachments to their mobile devices. There was a bit of news last week that forced me to once again resurrect my recent discussions of people's relationships with their phones.

The headline, found on Popular Science (basically my new favorite news site…allowing me to consistently indulge my nerdy urges), reads, "Intel's Context-Aware Computing Will Let Your Smartphone Sense Your Mood."

Basically, Intel is working on making software that collects and processes information on your phone so that it can better serve you.  Everything from the speed of your gate, breathing patterns, location, analytics of voice timbre, not to mention a whole sleuth of other metrics will help phones paint a pretty accurate picture of your state of mind.  Is it just me or is this the first step in the eventual hostile take-over of the world by computers?

Lastly, I wanted to quickly mention the new Boeing plane. Normally, subjects such as aviation hold no interest for me, but for some reason, a spy-plane that can stay aloft for five years is pretty cool!

From the Boeing press release: "SolarEagle is a uniquely configured, large unmanned aircraft designed to  eventually remain on station at stratospheric altitudes for at least five years," said Pat O'Neil, Boeing Phantom Works program manager for Vulture II. "That's a daunting task, but Boeing has a highly reliable solar-electric design that will meet the challenge in order to perform persistent communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions from altitudes above 60,000 feet."

Next step, the Boeing city in the sky...