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MIT: GelSight sensor gives robots touch

Researchers at MIT and Northeastern University have equipped a robot with a novel tactile sensor that lets it grasp a USB cable and insert it into a USB port.

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Internet-Connected Machines Might Find Their Voices With This Chip


by Michael Keller

A future covered with data-beaming sensors just got a little closer. Stanford engineers say they have produced miniscule chips that cost just pennies to make. These silicon-based components can process and relay commands, making them ant-sized controllers that can send and receive information wirelessly.  Developers say the chips bridge the communication gap between sensors, machines and computers and will let them communicate back and forth.  

Electrical engineer Amin Arbabian says the devices he has created are powered by the radio signals they are tuned to receive, so they don’t need any external power sources.

"The next exponential growth in connectivity will be connecting objects together and giving us remote control through the web," said Arbabian. "How do you put a bi-directional wireless control system on every lightbulb? By putting all the essential elements of a radio on a single chip that costs pennies to make."

"We’re ultimately talking about connecting trillions of devices."


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Flexible Electronics for Sensing

In Professor Gerhard Tröster’s Electronics Lab at ETH Zurich, scientists have been researching flexible electronic components, such as transistors and sensors, for some time now. The aim is to weave these types of components into textiles or apply them to the skin in order to make objects ‘smart’, or develop unobtrusive, comfortable sensors that can monitor various functions of the body.

The ultra-thin electronic membrane sticks to various surfaces. (Credit: Peter Rüegg / ETH Zürich)

Giovanni A. Salvatore, Niko Münzenrieder, Thomas Kinkeldei, Luisa Petti, Christoph Zysset, Ivo Strebel, Lars Büthe, Gerhard Tröster. Wafer-scale design of lightweight and transparent electronics that wraps around hairs. Nature Communications, 2014; 5 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms3982

About 60 miles from the site of the deadly 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima prefecture, inside a former silicon chip manufacturing facility owned by the Japanese computer company Fujitsu, a small team of highly trained engineers are working on one of the company’s hottest new products.

Fujitsu’s marketing team claims it’s already proving a hit with their oldest—and youngest—consumers. It’s so popular, in fact, it’s probably just the first in a long line of related Fujitsu products. The product is lettuce. Like the giant monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, this new head of lettuce is simultaneously a product of this factory’s past and the future.

Fujitsu is a space-age R&D innovator with sprawling, specialized factories. But several of its facilities, including this one, went dark when the company tightened its belt and reorganized its product lines after the 2008 global financial crisis. Now in the aftermath, it has retrofitted this facilities to serve tomorrow’s vegetable consumers, who will pay for a better-than-organic product, and who enjoy a bowl of iceberg more if they know it was monitored by thousands of little sensors.

The Internet Of Things Meets Hydroponics: How To Grow A Better Vegetable

How Will Adding Intelligence to Everyday Things Change Your World?  Big Think

On a global level, we are adding connected intelligence to both machines and objects using chips, micro sensors, and both wired and wireless networks to create a rapidly growing “Internet of things” sharing real-time data, performing diagnostics, and even making remote repairs. Many jobs will be created as we add intelligent connected sensors to bridges, roads, buildings, homes, and much more. By 2020, there will be well over a billion machines talking to each other and performing tasks without human intervention.   

Think of it this way: from phones to cars to bridges, embedded technologies are increasingly making the things we use smarter every day. For example, some of the newest cars use cameras mounted in the rear to see if something is in the way when you are backing up. If there is something in the way, the car will apply the brake even if you don’t or you are slow to react. Likewise, the concrete in new bridges has embedded chips that can let engineers know when the concrete is cracking, stressed, and in need of repair before the bridge collapses. In addition, sensors on the surface of the road going over the bridge will detect ice and wirelessly communicate the information to your car. If you don’t slow down, the car will slow down to a safe speed for you.

Sensors and satellites deployed to save Pompeii

Ground sensors and satellites will be deployed in a new bid to keep the ancient Roman city of Pompeii from crumbling following a series of recent collapses at the sprawling and long-neglected site near Naples.

Italian aerospace and defence giant Finmeccanica on Thursday said it was donating the technology to the culture ministry in a 1.7 million euro ($2.3 million) project entitled “Pompeii: Give it a Future”.

The main aims are to assess “risks of hydrogeological instability” at the sprawling site, boost security and test the solidity of structures, as well as set up an early warning system to flag up possible collapses.

Finmeccanica said the project would last three years and that the results of satellite monitoring of a network of wireless sensors installed around the Roman ruins would be made available via the Internet. Read more.

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Amputee Feels in Real-Time with Bionic Hand

EPFL writes:

Dennis Aabo Sørensen is the first amputee in the world to feel sensory rich information – in realtime – with a prosthetic hand wired to nerves in his upper arm. Sørensen could grasp objects intuitively and identify what he was touching while blindfolded.

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Connected Characters Created To Help Parents from A to Z

Who said sensors need to be impersonal and boring? Bleep Bleeps is a bunch of connected objects and devices that are designed to help you through out every stage of parenting. The company has given their line of IoT products a quirky twist by making each of them a character with a name and a story. Their launch product, Sammy Screamer, is currently being crowdfunded on Kickstarter.

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Italian physicist-turned-sensor-developer Benedetto Vigna on how sensors are changing storytelling and the human experience of reality – a short animation for the 2014 Future of Storytelling summit.  

Thermometers don’t seem like they need reinventing. Just stick one beneath your tongue, wait a minute, and everything you need to know is right in front of you. But there’s a lot more that temperature can tell us if we’re paying close attention. “Normally on temperature, I’d think that’s not very interesting,” John Rogers, a University of Illinois researcher, tells The Verge. “It turns out, measuring skin temperature, let’s say to a tenth of a degree … that says something very meaningful about your physiological status and health.” (via Electronic tattoo tracks the heat running through your veins | The Verge)

Injectable Microscopic Robots Can Detect Threat Of Blindness - PSFK

Oxygen is vital to human life, and while many know of the ramifications that a lack of oxygen may have to our lungs or brains, many are not aware that our retinas also need oxygen to function; without it, permanent blindness – sometimes within mere hours – can occur. Up until now, it has been difficult for doctors to gauge how much oxygen is reaching the eye, but now researchers at Swiss university ETH Zurich have developed miniscule robots that can be injected into the eye and measure the amount of oxygen in the retina.

A faster way to sense bacteria-tainted food

On the horizon is a new approach for food pathogen screening that is far faster than current commercial methods. Scientists are reporting the technique in the ACS journal Analytical Chemistry.

Conventional methods to detect harmful bacteria in food are reliable and inexpensive, but they can be complicated, time consuming and thus allow contamination to go undetected. Sibani Lisa Biswal’s team set out to develop a faster method to catch unwanted microbes before they can make people sick.

They used an array of tiny “nanomechanical cantilevers,” anchored at one end, kind of like little diving boards. The cantilevers have peptides attached to them that bind to Salmonella. When the bacteria bind to the peptides, the cantilever arm bends, creating a signal. The screening system rapidly distinguished Salmonella from other types of bacteria in a sample. One of the peptides was even more specific than an antibody, which is considered the gold standard. That peptide could tell eight different types of Salmonella apart from each other. The researchers stated that the technique could be applied to other common food pathogens.

Specific binding between analytes and receptors causes surface stress that bends the microcantilevers. The deflection of the cantilevers, which is tens of nanometres, is measured using electronic readout from stress-induced changes in the MOSFET drain current. This approach offers low noise, high sensitivity and direct readout, and could be used to detect DNA hybridization, protein binding and other assays in a multiplexed and parallel manner. © G. S. SHEKHAWAT, S-H. TARK AND V. P. DRAVID

New Sensor a Thousand Times More Sensitive Than Current Camera Sensors

Cameras fitted with a new revolutionary sensor will soon be able to take clear and sharp photos in dim conditions, thanks to a new image sensor invented at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

The new sensor made from graphene, is believed to be the first to be able to detect broad spectrum light, from the visible to mid-infrared, with high photoresponse or sensitivity. This means it is suitable for use in all types of cameras, including infrared cameras, traffic speed cameras, satellite imaging and more. Not only is the graphene sensor 1,000 times more sensitive to light than current imaging sensors found in today’s cameras, it also uses 10 times less energy as it operates at lower voltages. When mass produced, graphene sensors are estimated to cost at least five times cheaper.

[via ScienceDaily] [Nanyang Technological University] [Credit: Image courtesy of Nanyang Technological University]

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Biohacker Implants Chip Into Arm to Take on Evolution

And I thought I was into “wearable tech” but this guy takes the cake!

Tim Cannon is a biohacker (a group that merges human and machine in a DIY style) who is attempting to take on the limitations of evolution. Cannon put a chip in his arm which enables him to record and transfer his own biometrical data. 

"The human body is really really failing in almost everyday. I want to live to be thousands of years old. I don’t want to do. I don’t understand why anybody would" Tim Cannon DIY Cyborg told Motherboard.

The sensor is HUGE and looks as though Cannon has an iPod under his skin. But after a successful operation he demonstrates that data is being collected and sent over to his connected device.

Source: Motherboard

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Flow is a floating instrument that “lives and breathes and responds to the river” – amazing sensor-driven electroacoustic machinery that sets the water to music. Best thing since the Solar System set to music

PLEASED project working on “plant-borgs” to act as environmental biosensors
Many claim that talking to plants helps them grow faster. But what if the plants could talk back? That’s what the EU-funded PLants Employed As SEnsing Devices (PLEASED) project is hoping to achieve by creating plant cyborgs, or “plant-borgs.” While this technology won’t allow green thumbs to carry on a conversation with their plants, it will provide feedback on their environment by enabling the plants to act as biosensors. Like most living organisms, plants produce electrical signals in response to external stimuli. By classifying which electrical signals are produced in response to which stimulus, the PLEASED team says will be possible to use plants as biosensors to measure a variety of chemical and physical parameters, such as pollution, temperature, humidity, sunlight, acid rain, and the presence of chemicals in organic agriculture. In an interview with, project coordinator Andrea Vitaletti admits that there are already artificial devices capable of measuring such parameters, but plants are everywhere, cheap, robust and don’t require calibration. They are also able to measure multiple parameters simultaneously. This is both a plus and a minus because it will make it more difficult to differentiate between different electrical signals that occur simultaneously. (via PLEASED project working on “plant-borgs” to act as environmental biosensors)

No Longer Vaporware: The Internet of Things Is Finally Talking | Wired Opinion |

Hackers began using increasingly inexpensive sensors and open source hardware—like the Arduino controller—to add intelligence to ordinary objects. There are now kits that let your plants tweet when they need to be watered and teensy printers that scour the web and print out stuff you might be interested in. And there are oodles of “quantified-self” projects: “I know a guy who put a tilt sensor in his beer mug. It lets him know precisely how much he drank during Oktoberfest,” Arduino hacker Charalampos Doukas says with a laugh. “Sensor prices are going down; sizes are going down. The only limit is your imagination.”


An Intelligent Rug That Detects When You Fall And Calls For Help

SensFloor, a large-area sensor system, is based on a textile underlay with a thickness of only 2mm. The sensor system has four integrated radio modules and 32 proximity sensors per square meter. Whenever a person walks across the floor, sensor signals are sent to a control unit and various different types of events are identified: The sensor system differentiates between a person standing or lying on the floor and determines the direction and velocity of movements. Static signal detection and self-test capability are important features for security applications. 

SensFloor switches lights, controls automatic doors, and detects unauthorised intrusion. In health care, SensFloor detects patients leaving their beds or their rooms and transmits alarm signals through indoor call systems or radio components. For high-security applicationslike access control in combination with RFID, SensFloor can count individual people

SensFloor can be installed beneath PVC, carpet, and laminate. 

[read more] [via Designtaxi]