Hacked Kinect taught to work as multitouch interface

11 11 2010

We gotta say, the last time we were this excited about hardware hacking For The Greater Good was when people started using the Wiimote for all sorts of awesome projects. Kinect is naturally a lot more complicated, but there’s also a lot of potential here, and we can’t wait to see what people come up with. Florian Echtler took that open source driver and hooked the Kinect into his own multitouch UI “TISCH” software library (which actually supports the Wiimote as an input already, funny enough). The result is a bit of MS Surface-style multitouch picture shuffling and zooming, but it uses full body tracking instead of touchscreen input, of course. The self-effacing Florian had this to say in the video description: “I thought I’d get the mandatory picture-browsing stuff done so it’s out of the way and everybody can focus on more interesting things.” You’re still a hero in our book, man. Always a hero.

Feeling left out on all these Kinect shenanigans because you’re rocking a Mac? Well, libfreenect has also now been ported over to OS X by Theo Watson (who sounds unenthused about his accomplishment in the video embedded after the break). Also: once you’re done admiring your IR-rendered visage on your shiny Apple-built hardware, scrounge yourself up a working Linux box. All the cool people are doing it


MIT Medical Lab Mirror tells your pulse with a webcam

7 10 2010
MIT Medical Lab Mirror tells your pulse with a webcam

Mirror mirror on the wall, who has the highest arterial palpation of them all? If you went to MIT you might be able to answer that question thanks to the work of grad student Ming-Zher Poh, who has found a way to tell your pulse with just a simple webcam and some software. By looking at minute changes in the brightness of the face, the system can find the beating of your heart even at a low resolution, comparable to the results of a traditional FDA-approved pulse monitor. Right now the mirror above is just a proof of concept, but the idea is that the hospital beds or surgery rooms of tomorrow might be able to monitor a patient’s pulse without requiring any wires or physical contact, encouraging news for anyone who has ever tried to sleep whilst wearing a heart monitor.

Berkeley Bionics reveals eLEGS exoskeleton, aims to help paraplegics walk in 2011

7 10 2010

Wondering where you’ve heard of Berkeley Bionics before? These are the same whiz-kids who produced the HULC exoskeleton in mid-2008, and now they’re back with a far more ambitious effort. Announced just moments ago in San Francisco, the eLEGS exoskeleton is a bionic device engineered to help paraplegics stand up and walk on their own. It’s hailed as a “wearable, artificially intelligent, bionic device,” and it’s expected to help out within the hospital, at home and elsewhere in this wild, wild place we call Earth. Initially, the device will be offered to rehabilitation centers for use under medical supervision, and can be adjusted to fit most people between 5’2″ and 6’4″ (and weighing 220 pounds or less) in a matter of minutes. We’re told that the device provides “unprecedented knee flexion,” and it’s also fairly quiet in operation; under ideal circumstances, speeds of up to 2MPH can be attained, and it employs a gesture-based human-machine interface that relies on legions of sensors to determine a user’s intentions and act accordingly. Clinical trials are going on as we speak about to begin, and there’s a limited release planned for the second half of 2011. We’re still waiting to hear back on a price, so keep it locked for more as we get it live from the event.

Update: We just got to see the eLEGS walk across stage, and you’ll find a gallery full of close-up pics immediately below. We also spoke to Berkeley Bionics CEO Eythor Bender, who detailed the system a bit more — it’s presently made of steel and carbon fiber with lithium-ion battery packs, weighs 45 pounds, and has enough juice to run for six hours of continuous walking. While he wouldn’t give us an exact price, he said they’re shooting for $100,000, and will be “very competitive” with other devices on the market. Following clinical trials, the exoskeleton will be available to select medical centers in July or August, though Bender also said the company’s also working on a streamlined commercial version for all-day use, tentatively slated for 2013.

Raytheon’s Sarcos XOS 2 military exoskeleton just does the heavy lifting — for now

28 09 2010

Raytheon’s XOS 2 has a right hook that can rip straight through a wall, but its master — Dr. Fraser Smith — assures us that death-dealing variants are still a good ways off. We caught up with the good doctor earlier today, who’s been working on the military-grade exoskeleton for eight years, and quizzed him on the hows and whys of building a would-be Iron Man. Find out what we learned after the break, and see the mean machine in our gallery below!

Though the XOS is obviously capable of some pretty fancy footwork and pummels a punching bag with ease, Smith laid out the reality for us right away: the military is looking for exoskeletons primarily to help reduce headcount by carrying heavy weights. The fewer folks it takes to load munitions into a truck and the longer soldiers can carry 120-pound packs, the more money the government’s willing to spend on those defense contracts. That doesn’t rule out an armored, wall-busting Juggernaut variant for rescuing hostages, kicking ass and chewing bubble gum — and that sort of “don’t bother with the door” exoskeleton was indeed on the drawing board, Smith said — but “the teams most interested are coming from the logistics side of the business.”

Presently, there are two models in the works, a “combat variant” that just includes exoskeleton legs and attaches at the waist, much like Lockheed Martin’s HULC, and the full-body “logistics variant” for lifting crates, missiles, bombs… you know, the usual. The XOS 2 is nearly usable for the latter job, but even at 50 percent more efficient than the original (by the company’s last count) it’s still a prototype that requires a tethered high-pressure hydraulic engine to function. By designing custom hydraulic servos and managing the robot’s gait so that it only uses high pressure when it truly needs to (like when it’s beginning to take a step), the company hopes to bring that number to 20 percent. That’ll let Raytheon cut the cord and install an lightweight internal combustion engine of some sort, he hopes, while letting the exoskeleton keep on truckin’ for over eight hours (a military requirement) before running out of fuel.

While we had the doctor at our disposal, we thought we’d ask how the exoskeleton manages such a blend of dexterity, agility and strength that it can both boot around soccer balls and lift 200 pounds with ease. As it turns out, the crux of the invention was head-slappingly simple: though a patent-pending idea Smith calls “get out of the way control,” the unit measures the load on each joint as its operator moves about, and figures out the direction it needs to move in 3-D space to literally move out of the way. Smart, right? If you agree, then we’ve got a reading assignment we think you’ll enjoy — Popular Science chronicled the genesis of the bionic suit in this must-read feature.


HDR video accomplished using dual 5D Mark IIs, is exactly what it sounds like

9 09 2010

Are you ready for a wave of HDR to crash over the consumer electronics industry, leaving nothing but oversaturated photos and full-to-the-brim Flickr groups in its wake? We’ve got a sneaky suspicion that Apple’s inclusion of HDR in the iPhone is one of those telling warning signs that you ignore at your own risk, and now we’ve got HDR video to cower from behind our fast-aging current gen devices. As you might expect, HDR video looks just like HDR stills (an underexposed and an overexposed image combined into one), except in motion. The effect has been accomplished by Soviet Montage Productions, who used two Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLRs and a beam splitter, which allows each camera to look at the exact same subject, to accomplish the effect. They’re short on details on the post-processing end, but we’re sure there will be “an app for that” before too long.

Nike files patent for auto-lacing sneakers, Marty McFly doth protest

27 08 2010

We’ve seen some extremely DIY auto-lacing sneakers, but it looks like the big boys — Nike — have thought about getting in on the game as well. Patent filings which occurred in early through late 2009 show off an automatic lacing system that is pretty reminiscent of Marty McFly’s invention in Back to the Future, and we can tell you that from the looks of it, it’s a future we’d definitely like to inhabit. The shoes appear to boast a charging system and lights in addition to the lacing component, and while so few patent apps ever lead to a real retail product, we’re really rooting for this one. One more image below.

sourceWorld Intellectual Property Organization

Fully-functional Android port for N900 threatens to beat N9 to market

27 08 2010

The NITDroid project has been slogging along this year in an effort to get Android fully ported to Nokia’s N900, and the progress has been promising so far — but wouldn’t it be nice if you could, you know, make calls? Looks like these guys are making some solid progress there with a new video showing both incoming and outgoing calls doing… well, something or another on the N900 side. Cellular data’s coming along nicely, too, as you can see on the video after the break — so here’s the million-dollar question: when this is rock-solid and ready for prime time, are you jumping ship or sticking with Maemo?