Friday, December 2, 2011

Video: Watch Flying Robots Build a 6-Meter Tower

What happens when you put a bunch of roboticists and architects together in an empty art gallery?
This is what happens:



This is the Flight Assembled Architecture, an installation that opened yesterday near Paris and is still going up as I write this. It's the result of a collaboration between ETH Zurich roboticist Raffaello D'Andrea and architects Fabio Gramazio and Matthias Kohler, also from ETH.
D'Andrea, an IEEE Fellow and IEEE Spectrum editorial board member, is known for his amazing robotic sculptures and flying robot stunts, and Gramazio and Kohler, who run their own design studio, are pioneers in bringing together robotics and architecture. But for an installation at the FRAC Centre, in Orléans, near Paris, they wanted to do something entirely new and bold.
How about using a fleet of quadcopters to build a 6 meter (20 feet) twisting tower out of 1500 foam bricks? Sure!
D'Andrea tells me they're using four flying robots at the same time. First, the robots grab foam bricks from a special brick dispenser on the ground. Next the quadcopters receive the exact coordinates of where the bricks should go based on a detailed digital blueprint of the tower. Then they fly off.

The robots fly autonomously, but they get help from the environment: The ceiling of the room where the assembly is taking place was equipped with a motion-capture system. A computer uses the vision data to keep track of the quadcopters and tell them where to go -- the same approach used at ETH's Flying Machine Arena. (More technical details here.)
When a robot's battery runs low, it automatically lands on a charger and a new quadrotor takes its place. The assembly is happening at a pace of one brick per minute on average, D'Andrea says. Glue on the bottom of the bricks keeps them in place (the installation will become part of FRAC's permanent collection).
The foam tower is actually a 1:100 model of a "vertical village" conceived by Gramazio and Kohler. It would have a height of 600 meters and living space for 30,000 people, with each "brick" housing multiple apartments.
This week, after some test runs in Zurich, D'Andrea, Gramazio, and Kohler gathered their teams, packed their robots and bricks, and started the setup at the FRAC space. Last night, the museum opened its doors, and a crowd filled the room, letting off "lots of oohs and ahhs," reports Markus Waibel, a member of the D'Andrea team.



Thursday, November 10, 2011

MEDELEC 2011 - Embedded systems for medical devices




MEDELEC is the only technical event in the UK which focuses specifically on the increasingly important role that electronics components and embedded systems is playing in the design, development and manufacture of medical devices. 

MEDELEC 2011 will take place in Cambridge on the 29th November and expects to attract engineers from across Europe. The organisers have also announced Med-Tech Innovation as main media sponsor for MEDELEC 2011. Med-Tech Innovation is a brand new online and print media platform for the UK and Irish medical device research, design and manufacturing community, and is the only dedicated media of its type. www.med-techinnovation.com

The MEDELEC one-day conference and exhibition will be of value to electronics engineers and technical managers working in the clinical and healthcare sectors. This event will be an opportunity for them to learn about the very latest advances in medical electronics through the technical seminar programme and workshops. They will also be able to view demonstrations of innovative software and hardware technologies, and network with peers.

The MEDELEC organisers have arranged for the conference programme to be set by an independent judging panel of experts to address the needs of medical device manufacturers, covering topics such as diagnostics, patient monitoring, miniaturisation, and remote monitoring to optimise patient care. This includes technologies used in operating theatres, hospitals, clinics, doctor's surgeries, and home devices.
More information and registration at www.medelec.co.uk

Friday, November 4, 2011

Climbing Robot Tank Can Corner Like a Gecko



This is not the first sticky-treaded robotank, but as far as I know, it's the first one that can manage to go around corners and make that tricky transition from horizontal to vertical. The somewhat unfortunately named "Tailless Timing Belt Climbing Platform" (or TBCP-11) comes from Simon Frasier University way up there in Canada. It weighs 240 grams, and has no problems climbing up whiteboards, glass, and other slick surfaces.
The sticking power of those treads comes from the same handy little Van der Waals forces that geckos use to effortlessly stick to, well, everything. Instead of tiny hairs, though, TBCP-11 uses tiny mushrooms, which provide a substantial amount of conformable surface area for the robot to use to adhere to walls.



Maximizing compliant surface area has been an issue for gecko-type (aka dry-adhesion) climbing robots for a long time; the material itself is spectacular, but the tough part is getting enough of the material to make contact with your climbing surface. For example, check out the picture of Stickybot III's toes in this article, and notice how little of the adhesive the robot is relying on to stick. This is one of the advantages of the TBCP-11: the continuous loops of adhesive material provide a lot of adhesion power.

While this robot does have some autonomous capability, it's still tethered for power, since batteries are heavy. It's going to take a little extra work to increase the strength of the adhesive so that the TBCP-11 can bring its power source onboard, and the SFU researchers are also trying to figure out how to get the thing to turn without the treads coming loose and causing the TBCP-11 to plummet to its doom.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

OSRAM Developers Reach New Milestone in LED Technology

OSRAM developers have achieved a milestone in LED technology by producing a 124,000 candelas rating for an LED flashlight with 7.5 degrees as the coverage angle. So, by combining a warm white colour temperature and an excellent colour rendering, LED spotlights can now achieve a power range that has been achieved till now only by high-intensity discharge lamps. 

 This type of spotlight is of special interest for shop illumination and architecture, where they can be used for novel applications. This breakthrough achieved by OSRAM has changed the focus of the lighting market towards semiconductor-based technologies.

Breakthrough for the researchers at OSRAM: for the first time ever an LED spot has achieved a rating of 124,000 candelas in a coverage angle of 7.5 degrees. Credit: OSRAM

Thus far, high-intensity discharge lamps have been predominant, however, the new OSRAM LED spotlight, when joined with a standard commercial reflector in continuous operation, can attain a rating of 124,000 candelas with a 7.5 º coverage angle. Nevertheless power consumption is only 60 W. When compared, a reflector with coverage angle of 9 ° and one spotlight with a standard 70 W high-intensity discharge lamp can achieve a rating of roughly 82,000 candelas. The phosphors and the connection technology were modified for maximum results to achieve these high ratings.
OSRAM Opto Semiconductors’ new generation of chip technology, the UX3, enables the functioning of the LEDs at a higher current. Here, the power supply does not flow through the chip surface, but it is combined within the chip itself. Therefore, the light is beam is focused uniformly and reaches the illuminated object more uniformly compared to other methods.
The new LED module exceeds the minimum rating of 3,000 Lux for flashlight illumination and it reaches a rating of 124,000 Lux from a distance of 1 m and 5,000 Lux from a distance of 5 m. Therefore, constructions and exhibits can be lighted from a greater distance without disturbing the visual effect.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ultrafast Semiconductor Lasers for High-Speed Optical Data Transmission

Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) researchers have conceptualized an ultrafast semiconductor laser to enable high-speed data transmission over the Internet. They have utilized the spin of electrons and their intrinsic angular momentum for overcoming the existing limits to modulation speed. 

 

 The global information society and the networked world require semiconductor laser-based optical data transmission. The highest speed achievable by semiconductor lasers has limited the speed of optical data transmission. The desire for transmitting higher volume of data and expanding networks have been the motivation for the development of faster transmission systems.


Current modulation frequencies of conventional semiconductor lasers are lower than 50 GHz. RUB researchers have used spin lasers for overcoming the modulation speed limits. In spin lasers, electrons whose spin state has already been determined are injected, but in conventional lasers the electrons’ spin is arbitrary.

The injection of the spin-polarized electrons forces the laser to work with different frequencies in two laser modes. Dr. Nils Gerhardt stated that the birefringence in the resonator can be used to tune the differences in the frequencies. This could be done by bending the microlaser. Coupling of the two laser modes within the microresonator leads to an oscillation with a frequency of over 100 GHz, theoretically.

The study has been conducted at the collaborative research centre 491 at the Universities of Bochum and Duisburg-Essen. The research has been published in the Applied Physics Letters journal from the American Institute of Physics.

 

Practical Quantum Computers Creep Closer to Reality

Physicists find quantum versions of both feedback control and classical computer architecture

 

 

16 September 2011—The long-promised arrival of practical quantum computers—machines that exploit the laws of quantum mechanics to solve complex problems much faster than conventional computers do—seems a step closer, thanks to two recent advances by physicists.


In the first development, reported in the 2 September issue of Nature by a group led by Serge Haroche of the École Normale Supérieure and the Collège de France in Paris, the researchers created a real-time feedback mechanism for a quantum computer. Control mechanisms, such as feedback loops, are central to the operation of large conventional computers.

In the second advance, reported the same week in Science by a group led by Matteo Mariantoni and John Martinis of the University of California, Santa Barbara, scientists created a quantum central processing unit (CPU) with memory. The rudimentary device is the first quantum computer based on the common von Neumann processor-memory architecture that conventional computers use.


Dick Slusher, director of the Quantum Institute at the Georgia Institute of Technology, in Atlanta, and other experts unanimously praised the work of both groups. However, Slusher says that ”for quantum computing to be fault tolerant—a condition required to scale up to true applications like factoring useful coding keys—the error levels must be much lower than achieved so far.”


Quantum computing is an emerging field that has witnessed considerable advances in recent years, including progress toward silicon devices. However, it has proved difficult to create a practical quantum computer that would rival the processing abilities of a conventional machine. Part of the difficulty lies in the fragility of quantum states, which break down (or ”decohere,” in the parlance of quantum mechanics) rather quickly. So far, only rudimentary quantum computers with a handful of ”qubits” (quantum bits) have been built. (In May, D-Wave Systems sold Lockheed Martin a special type of computer that relies on a ”quantum annealing” processor, but many quantum computing experts remain skeptical that it is a true quantum computer.)

As they seek to create larger quantum systems, scientists have tried to incorporate some of the same systems-engineering concepts that are used in conventional computers, but the equivalent quantum systems have proved elusive—until now. ”These machines are very fragile,” says Haroche. ”The coupling to their environment causes decoherence, which destroys the quantum features required to achieve their tasks. Correcting the effects of decoherence is thus a very important aspect of quantum information. One possibility is to control the quantum machine by quantum feedback.”


Yet therein lies a challenge: In the quantum world, the mere act of observing photons or atoms perturbs their motion and changes their positions and velocities—and therefore the value the qubit holds. So for quantum feedback to work, one must be able to observe the system by performing ”weak measurements,” perturbing it only minimally, and the computer must take the perturbation into account before applying the correction.

Haroche and his colleagues use a small collection of atoms as a kind of quantum sensor to overcome this challenge. They pass atoms through a microwave cavity that contains the qubits as photons. The atoms obtain a detectable signal—a shift in their phase. This technique provides information about the state of the photons, but it does so by performing only a weak measurement and does not lead to a total collapse of the light’s quantum nature. Measuring changes in the final state of atoms that sequentially pass through the light field provides a signal that can be used to control the light.


”The work is a very impressive demonstration experiment showing that the many techniques developed in the systems engineering community can be translated to the quantum regime—if one is clever enough,” says Michael Biercuk, a quantum physicist at the University of Sydney, in Australia.


The challenge of translating a classical system, in this case the common von Neumann processor-memory architecture, into a quantum system also motivated the second team of researchers. To build a quantum CPU and RAM, the UC Santa Barbara group used two superconducting Josephson junctions—two pieces of superconducting metal separated by a thin insulating layer—as qubits. They connected the qubits using a bus made of a superconducting microwave resonator. Each qubit also had a separate resonator that acted as RAM. With the help of microwave pulses, the qubits could influence one another’s state in a way that performed calculations, and the results could be stored in the quantum RAM. They tested their CPU by allowing it to solve a few quantum algorithms, including the equivalent of the Fourier transform. The demonstration could quickly lead to a larger-scale quantum processor based on superconducting circuits, according to the UC Santa Barbara team.


The most complex algorithms performed so far have used a quantum computing system based on trapped ions, but Biercuk says the superconducting system is quickly catching up, and that’s ”extremely exciting.”

While no one expects a quantum computer to rival a conventional computer in the very near future, experts were pleased with these recent developments.


Raymond Laflamme, executive director of the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo, in Canada, said both experiments had ”very strong results,” and that they ”demonstrate an increasing amount of control of quantum processors.”

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

New Ford Focus PART III

BLind-spot Information System (BLIS)
One small but very useful part of the Driver Assistance Pack is the blind-spot information system (BLIS). Its job is to make sure that you don't change lane in front of another vehicle when driving down the motorway.




Using BLIS, the car detects when another vehicle is directly in the driver’s blind spot and lights up a yellow LED on the corresponding wing mirror. The LED stays lit for a short time after the other vehicle emerges out of your blind spot. We tested the system on the motorway, but it will also work when overtaking on any road. The yellow light is unobtrusive but still very noticeable when driving, making it perfect as a gentle reminder to check over your shoulder before you make a manoeuvre. 

Convenience Pack

While the Driver Assistance Pack is designed to make the car safer, the Convenience Pack (standard on the Titanium X and part of the £525 Convenience Pack on the Titanium model) is designed to make the car simpler to park and also comes with power-fold wing mirrors.
Auto Park Assist
The key feature of the Convenience Pack is Auto Park Assist, which lets the car automatically parallel park for you. The video below was filmed in 3D. To watch it on a 3D TV or monitor, click on the 3D button and select side-by-side. If you don’t have a 3D screen, you can still watch in 3D, but you'll need a pair of red and blue glasses. Click on the 3D button below the video and select the Red/Cyan option. Make sure the colours are round the right way using the options. If you prefer to watch in 2D, click on 'no glasses' then change the mode to 'left only'.



When the driver presses the parking button, sensors around the car start scanning the distance between parked cars. When a suitable space is found, a message appears on the screen in the centre console telling you to stop. With the accelerator and brake controlled by the driver, the car steers itself into the space, prompting when to change between reverse and first gear. Another message flashes up when parking is finished, which should help a lot of people get into spaces that they might otherwise avoid because of having to parallel park. Of course, driving out again is entirely up to the driver.

It worked flawlessly in our tests, but the downside of the system is that it needs a relatively large space to work - larger than a space that you could manually squeeze the car into yourself. This could mean that you could spend more time looking around for a suitable space than if you just parked the car yourself.




Rear Park Assist is included in the Convenience Pack, and helps you manually park the car, either parallel or straight into a space. Sensors in the front and rear bumpers detect how close the car is to objects such as cars, lampposts and bollards, and this information is relayed to the driver with ever-quickening beeps and a dashboard display showing where and how close the objects are. We liked the extra information on-screen, which is far better than the traditional audio-only warning. The system didn't pick up low kerbs, but for reverse-parking into a crowded car park we can certainly see the advantages of having it on board.
If you don't want to pay for Active Park Assist, you can get Rear Park Assist as part of the City Pack (£275 on the Titanium and £525 on the Edge and Zetec models).

Monday, October 31, 2011

New Ford Focus PART II

Ford DAB Navigation System

Satnav doesn't come as standard, although it can be added to the Zetec for £750 and to the Titanium and Titanium X for £550. It's pretty much what you'd expect from a modern satnav, with clear voice prompts, easy-to-search maps and clear directions displayed on the screen. However, it's also very expensive and doesn't give you anything extra that a handheld satnav will do for a fraction of the price. Unless you want the neatness of having everything integrated, this is one option to ignore.

Adaptive Cruise Control

A £750 option on the Titanium and Titanium X, Adaptive Cruise Control uses a long-range radar to detect the distance between you and the car in front. By setting a minimum timegap using the dashboard controls, you can follow the car in front safely, with the Focus automatically adjusting its speed to ensure that there's always a safe gap.
If the road ahead clears, the Focus will accelerate back up to the pre-set speed automatically. It's effective and simple to use, removing some of the annoyances associated with using speed-only cruise control.

The other part of this system is the Speed Limiter, which lets you set a maximum speed for the car, helping you avoid speeding tickets. It prevents the car from breaching this speed, by automatically adjusting the fuel intake. However, if you floor the accelerator, it disengages, allowing you to make emergency manoeuvres.

Standard equipment

The packs are great, but we also tested out the standard equipment installed in every Focus, regardless of engine capacity or trim. DAB radio works as you would expect; even in rural Scotland (where Ford invited us to test the car) we could pick up all the major radio stations. Another great inclusion is Bluetooth; we paired our iPhone 4 with the system in just a few steps and could instantly make calls using the buttons on the dashboard or steering wheel to browse the list of contacts. Ford has taken the technology one step further than making phone calls, as you can now use Bluetooth to wirelessly stream the music stored on compatible devices to the car stereo.
The option was automatically enabled when we connected an iPhone 4, but you still need to use your handset to change tracks. Sound quality was fantastic; we can see this technology quickly replacing in-car connection kits. A USB port will still let you play your music if you have an unsupported phone or media player, albeit using a cable plugged into the socket inside the glovebox.

Conclusion

There's no doubt that the new Ford Focus is technologically impressive. It’s incredibly good value given the number of gadgets included as standard, while the add-on packs give you all of the gadgets and gizmos of a luxury model for a fraction of the price.
If you're buying a Titanium or Titanium X model, the Driver Assistance Pack is well worth the £750. In fact, we'd go so far as to say it would be mad not to buy this option with a new car. The Convenience Pack gives you the funky trick of letting the car park itself, but unless you have lots of difficulty parking, the City Pack with parking sensors is a more sensible choice for most people.

 Thank you for reading !!!
Med it

Sunday, October 30, 2011

New Ford Focus PART I


The Ford Focus has long been a favourite in the UK, with its decent price, reliability and safety record all contributing to the hatchback's massive success. With the New Ford Focus, the car has undergone a major revolution in terms of the sheer amount of technology that's been put into it. To put it another way, the kind of tech you can get on this car is similar to, or even better than, that on many luxury cars.

 The good news is that these options don't cost a fortune and we'd even consider essentials on a new car. In this review we're taking a look at all of the new technology and option packs in the Ford Focus. To see how the car drives and feels read the Ford Focus review on our sister site, CarBuyer.




Driver Assistance Pack

The Driver Assistance Pack is an optional extra that costs just £750 on the Titanium and Titanium X models. It's designed to make driving safer, providing the driver with more information and safety aids that can help prevent accidents, or at least reduce the damage involved. It's comprised of several different systems.


Traffic sign recognition


A front-mounted camera is used to constantly scan the road ahead, looking for traffic signs. The system currently recognises both speed and overtaking signs, and displays both prominently on the dash.

The speed limit sign recognition is particularly useful, as we've lost track of the number of times that we've been driving only to realise that we had no idea what the current limit was. It's particularly useful when you're driving to an unfamiliar location, as you can focus on driving, while the car scans the roadside for important information to keep you safe and your license free of penalty points.
We found the system was very responsive, with updates appearing on the dash the instant that we'd passed a sign. It was only occasionally that the system confused signs on side roads for changes in the speed limit on the road we were driving on, but this was rare. Driving round an unfamiliar town in Scotland, the system meant we were always aware of the speed limit even when we hadn't seen the speed limit signs themselves.


 The notifications appear large on the dashboard screen, but they can be shown in the top right corner should you want to look at another part of the trip computer. In order for you to notice new signs appear, the symbols appear in colour then slowly fade to grey, so when the speed limit changes it’s immediately obvious.

Low Speed Safety System


One of the stand-out safety features of the Driver Assistance Pack is the Low Speed Safety System, which is known as Active City Stop in the US. This is designed to automatically step in to prevent low-speed collisions that can occur with urban driving.

To start with it pre-charges the brakes, to shorten the stopping distance should you need to hit the brakes quickly. However, it is how it deals with the threats you don't see that's really impressive. A forward-facing infra-red laser beam mounted next to the camera in front of the rear-view mirror scans the distance to an approaching reflective object. If the car senses that you're getting too close and will have an accident, it hits the brakes for you.

Ford claims that at speeds less than 10MPH, it will completely stop the car with no driver intervention. At speeds between 10MPH and 20MPH, it will slow the car down and reduce the amount of damage done. It does not operate at speeds above 20MPH because of the working distance on the sensor.
Testing it out by driving towards a set of bollards was a strange feeling, but we were incredibly happy when the car pulled sharply to a stop before we collided with it. It should mean that you're immune to accidentally running into the back of a car when you're stuck in slow traffic commuting through a busy city

Friday, October 28, 2011

Soon: FORD FOCUS serie

With 64-bit ARMv8-based X-Gene, AppliedMicro demos clean-slate approach to cloud computing

Hot on the heels of ARM’s announcement of the 64-bit v8 instruction set architecture (ISA) today, Applied Micro Circuits Corp. demo’d X-Gene, the world’s first 64-bit arm Linux running on the world’s first ARM 64-bit hardware. (See X-Gene demo video here).

The demonstration of the core functionality on an FPGA platform was three years in the making, with AppliedMicro having been a strategic partner with ARM on the development of the v8, 128 of which will be on X-Gene when it starts sampling in the second half of 2012, running at 3 GHz.

The goal of AppliedMicro’s entry into the cloud computing server space is that it recognized an opportunity to fundamentally change server design due to a disparity between the tasks data servers were originally designed to do, and what they’re doing now. That disparity is causing havoc with the total cost of ownership (TCO) which is not just based on capex, but also power consumption, and is rising at an incremental rate of $95 million - per day.

At the demonstration, Andrew Feldman, founder and CEO of SeaMicro, framed the disparity best, by describing how data and server needs have gone from internally oriented approaches where staff is told to wait in line, to customer-oriented cloud computing, where wait states are not tolerable. “The work changed, but servers didn’t,” he said.

The wait states are a result of the bursty nature of Internet traffic which can overload servers, while at the same time, the down times mean servers are still consuming vast amounts of power, in idle mode.

Feldman sees a need for small, simple CPUs to improve computation-per-unit power. His company currently uses Intel’s Atom, but is now shifting to the v8. “We will shrink the motherboard to the size of a business card, and then connect them.”

X-Gene will help with that move, with AppliedMicro’s demo team believing it is, “on the cusp of something beautiful.”

The enthusiasm may be well founded. The processor tackles the problem from three angles: improved efficiency, hardware utilization and improved latency. From a hardware point of view, this entails higher integration, efficient out-of-order cores (read: v8) and virtualization support.

The integration is impressive. It will integrate the 128 v8 cores running at 3GHz with all the networking and I/O, including PCIe and 10/40/100-Gbit/s Ethernet, all connected via a coherent terabit fabric and an 80 Gbyte’s memory throughput.

Software support includes Lamp, MySQL, Stack, Apache Server and of course Linux. “The cloud is synonymous with Linux,” said Paramesh.

The expectation is the ARM-based “Server-on-a-Chip” solution will take a 30% chunk every year out of the server farm’s total cost of ownership (TCO). A tall order: I’m looking forward to seeing it happen.

For more, see the video demo, as well as:

AMCC demos 64-bit ARM server chip

Monday, October 17, 2011

CMU Researchers Turn Any Surface Into A Touchscreen

Soon you, too, will be able to talk to the hand. A new interface created jointly by Microsoft and the Carnegie Mellon Human Computer Interaction Institute allows for interfaces to be displayed on any surface, including notebooks, body parts, and tables. The UI is completely multitouch and the “shoulder-worn” system will locate the surface you’re working on in 3D space, ensuring the UI is always accessible. It uses a picoprojector and a 3D scanner similar to the Kinect.

 

The product is called OmniTouch and it supports “clicking” with a finger on any surface as well as controls that sense finger position while hovering a hand over a surface. Unlike the Microsoft Surface, the project needs no special, bulky hardware – unless you a consider a little parrot-like Kinect sensor on your shoulder bulky. While obviously obtrusive, the project is a proof-of-concept right now and could be made smaller in the future.
So far the researchers have tested drawing and “crosshair” interaction with the system and it has worked well on arms, hands, notebooks, and tables. We’re obviously looking at a research project here so don’t expect shoulder mounted Xboxes any time soon, but by gum if this isn’t the coolest thing I’ve seen today.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tiny infrared LEDs could find a home in ultra-thin multitouch screens


A company called Osram Opto Semiconductors has created a new infrared LED that can be used in conjunction with detectors to create ultra-thin touchscreens.

We've seen infrared used in touchscreens before, most notably in Microsoft's Surface and recent e-readers from Barnes & Noble and Kobo. But, Osram's solution is complex enough to work in a multitouch tablet, while being as space-saving zForce.

At only 0.45mm tall the diodes and sensors can easily be crammed into a bezel around a screen and sip just 35mW during regular use. Now the company just has to convince someone to put the tiny IREDs in their products.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Researchers wed quantum processor with quantum memory, quaziness ensues

Quantum computing has a long way to go before becoming truly mainstream, but that certainly hasn't stopped us from indulging in dreams of a qubit-based existence. The latest bit of fantasy fodder comes from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where researchers have become the first to combine a quantum processor with memory mechanisms on a single chip. To do this, Matteo Mariantoni and his team of scientists connected two qubits with a quantum bus and linked each of them to a memory element, capable of storing their current values in the same way that RAM stores data on conventional computers. These qubit-memory links also contained arrays of resonators -- jagged, yet easily controlled circuits that can store values for shorter periods of time. The qubits, meanwhile, were constructed using superconducting circuits, allowing the UCSB team to nestle their qubits even closer together, in accordance with the von Neumann architecture that governs most commercial computers. Once everything was in place, the researchers used their system to run complex algorithms and operations that could be eventually used to decode data encryption. The next step, of course, is to scale up the design, though Mariantoni says that shouldn't be too much of a problem, thanks to his system's resonators -- which, according to him, "represent the future of quantum computing with integrated circuits."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Supertex Introduces AT9919, New Automotive LED Lamp Driver IC




Supertex introduced AT9919, an LED lamp driver integrated circuit (IC), designed specifically for solid-state lighting applications in automobiles, such as head lights, tail lights, brake indicator lights, dome lights, and panel backlights. AT9919 is AEC-Q100 compliant, and drives LEDs using a buck topology. It is available in a compact, eight-lead, DFN package.
Because of the hysteretic control function of the IC, a constant output current to the LED string is maintained at all times, thereby improving the reliability and lifetime of the LEDs. LED brightness is achieved through a PWM control signal. The IC drives loads of up to 1.0A at over 90% efficiency from input voltages ranging from 4.5 to 40V.
The AT9919 is available in an eight-lead DFN package (AT9919K7-G). The part is RoHS compliant. Samples are available from stock. Pricing is US$0.98 each for the AT9919K7-G in 1K quantities.

More information about Automotive LED Lamp Driver IC can be found at Supertex Website

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Get to know Engkey and Kibot! South Korea’s Most Famous Education Robots

A smart, high-tech, technical and resourceful classroom; what really constitutes a high-tech classroom? I know when I was in grade school, headphones for every student and a couple computers placed in each classroom was considered to be pretty high-tech. However in the year 2011 in the land of South Korea, high-tech classrooms really have begun to fulfill the image of a geeked-out learning environment

 Tablet PCs equipped in a South Korean classroom
With the announcements of Korean schools trading in their regular textbooks for digital ones, tablet PCs becoming more readily available to students in the classrooms, digital touch screen teaching boards replacing white boards, the most fascinating topic of e-learning catching the attention of many around the globe has to be the robot English teachers.

Hello there “Engkey!”
In late 2010, the South Korean government began to run trial tests, equipping selected classrooms with English robot teachers around the country. The city of Daegu was chosen to host 29 robots in 21 schools to help children learn English. This robot’s name is “Engkey.” Engkey was developed by the Korean Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) and this robot is designed to be a tele-presence tool that brings English teachers located in the Philippines to the schools in South Korea. The instructors in the Philippines communicate using embedded microphones and speakers. And although it is a high-tech robot, the overall body and the CG face has been purposely designed to keep things “low key” in order for the students to feel that Engkey is approachable and not intimidating. Each robot costs around 10 million Korean Won (about 8,700 USD), but officials have hopes to cut the price and make it possible to equip every kindergarten classroom with one of these robots by 2013. 
 The Engkey - Robot English Teacher

With the well received response from the late 2010 tests and the other previously mentioned e-learning objectives from the South Korean government, with only a short test run in late 2010 the government is committed to investing 1 billion Korean Won (about 8.69 million USD) in robot teachers in 2011 alone and the budget is expected to expand to 40 billion Korean Won (about 36 million USD) by 2012. If this new system provides a significant amount of positive results, the government plans on teleporting these robots out into elementary schools as well. 
Beyond the Classroom with “Kibot”
South Korea is also infamous for the high frequency of parent involvement in every step of their child’s learning experience. So it was only a matter of time for the advancements in technologies to provide a means for parents to get more involved with their student’s learning. Kibot is another robot that has been developed by a cooperative effort between one of South Korea’s Telecom Conglomerates, KT Corporations and a leading Korean digital A/V product powerhouse, iRiver (for more info on iRiver and their new buzzed about iRiver Story HD Google ‘s first eBooks-integrated e-reader, refer here: http://www.advancedtechnologykorea.com/?p=6305).
This robot has been designed to teach kids to speak another language while playing with the robot around the house. But unlike the Engkey, the Kibot can be considered to be half tutor and half babysitter! The Kibot is equipped with a face-to-face video function that makes it easy for children and small toddlers to interact with Kibot, but it is also equipped with wireless technology that allows parents to take a peek at their children while they are out! Parents can call into the Kibot and use their smartphone as a remote control, and then move the robot around the house to track down their children and take a look into what they are up to. 
The Kibot
The Kibot has a price tag of 485,00 Korean Won (about 450 USD) and a monthly service fee of 7,000 Korean Won (about 6.5 USD). Let’s take a look at what this robot comes equipped with.
RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) Technology: KT has adapted the RFID method that is normally used in high-tech warehouses to simple cards, so that users will not have to fuss about pressing multiple buttons on the Kibot for operation. These cards are also loaded with data that is made up of words, books and songs.
■ Download Interactive Games: The interactive features of the Kibot are what make this robot appealing to parents. Parents are able to download interactive games and play with their children.
■ Telephone: Children can also call their parents by simplifying tapping a “labeled” card on Kibot’s nose.
■ Barcodes: The Kibot is equipped with IT barcodes that make it possible for the robot to immediately read messages/commands sent to it and take action.
Let’s take a look at Kibot’s features and capabilities in action. Below is a short video clip of the Kibot roaming about at a convention in Korea:



 



This kind of advanced lifestyle is possible in South Korea because 98% of the Korean homes already have access to a broadband network. Hence Korea being at the top of the world’s most wired countries list. I am excited to see the other advancements with e-learning in Korea and how it will shape today’s generation of learners. I hope that these e-learning tools will be able to provide a more fun and encouraging learning environment for both children and adults.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Microsoft Imagine Cup: Student Coders Compete For World Title



On Sunday night, during the final round announcements at the Imagine Cup World Finals in New York City, the competitors really let loose. They bound into the Broadway Ballroom at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square wearing bold-colored matching team T-shirts, waving country flags, hooting, high-fiving, back-slapping, and chanting "USA! USA! USA!" or "Le-ba-non! Le-ba-non!" If you ask any of them what if feels like to a be a contender for a 2011 Imagine Cup world title, he or she will probably say it feels like being in the Olympics.
Of course, national pride and competitive spirit aside, the 400 Imagine Cup world competitors have little in common with Olympic athletes. They're university students, competing in events like software design, embedded development, and game design for a chance to win as much as $25,000. (In total, Microsoft will fork out $215,000 in prize money.) Forget javelin throws and triple toe loops. These competitors have mastered the Microsoft XNA Game Studio, the Silverlight plug-in, the Windows Phone 7 and the Windows Azure cloud-hosting platform.
This is the ninth year that Microsoft has organized what it calls "the world's premier student technology competition" and the first year the World Finals have been hosted in the United States. The event is all Microsoft all the time. Competitors wear name tags hung on lanyards printed with the Microsoft logo. They make last-minute fixes to presentations using free laptops installed with Windows and Office. In a lounge overlooking the multistory billboards of Times Square, they can "blow off steam" by playing games on Xbox 360 and Kinect consuls.
The Imagine Cup competition has expanded and morphed significantly since its early days. One thousand students from 25 countries signed up to compete in the first Imagine Cup in 2003 under the theme "Link between people, information, systems, and devices, using Web services and .NET as a springboard." The following year, organizers settled on the more inspirational theme "Imagine a world where smart technology makes everyday life easier" and registered 10,000 students from 90 countries. This year's challenge: "Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems." 380,000 students from 184 countries entered.
"That's about the size of the entire IEEE membership!" remarked Jon Rokne, a computer science professor at the University of Calgary and former IEEE board member, who helped judge entries in the software design category this year at the World Finals. "The magnitude of participation is remarkable."
Rokne said he was also impressed by the quality of students' projects. "I've seen 14 out of the 65 [software design projects] and they're all excellent," he said. It was Sunday afternoon, four hours before six finalists in the category were announced.
"Although," he added, "there were three projects that really spoke to me." For example, the three-member team from the tiny Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago developed software that helps teachers customize their methods according to kids' behavior in the classroom. Rokne said he thought that idea was "really cool."
Almost everyone I talked to at the competition had a favorite project or two that they were sure would make the final cut. For instance, Jacqueline Russell, Microsoft's academic lead for Western Europe, told me to keep an eye on the team from Finland, who built a software application that helps parents monitor young children's phone conversations and text messages for evidence of cyber-bullying. "Their user interface looks like a company's solution," she said. "I would buy that for my daughter!"
Rokne acknowledges that for many students, the Imagine Cup is about more than academics. "It enables young people to get together, have an idea, push it forward, and in some cases, have a complete and finished product that can be sold," he said. Last year, for example, a team from the Czech Republic made a mobile application that helps disaster rescue teams navigate and coordinate their efforts. The students are now working with a global non-profit to use their software to help track the spread of cholera in Haiti and monitor earthquake and tsunami damage in Japan.
During the final round announcements, I sat behind a team from Arizona State University in the U.S. whose project, called Note-Taker, I'd heard was particularly compelling. The team leader, David Hayden, is legally blind. He can see, but just barely. It used to be that when a math professor wrote notes on a chalkboard, Hayden had to find each equation with a monocular, then hunch over his notebook and write it down. Find, hunch, write. Find, hunch, write. The method was painfully slow; Hayden couldn't copy down the professor's notes fast enough.
"I had to drop my classes," he said. Frustrated, he built the first prototype of Note-Taker—a tablet PC connected to a motorized camera and installed with software that lets him use half the tablet screen to zoom in on the board and the other half to take notes with a stylus. His team is now on the third prototype of the device, and Hayden has since re-enrolled in and passed all his math courses.
"You once said it saved your math degree," interjects John Black Jr., the team's advisor.
"Yup, and it got me into a PhD program at [Massachusetts Institute of Technology]," Hayden said. In the software design category, Note-Taker was the first finalist announced.
When the announcements ended, there was more chanting, high-fiving, and picture taking as well as some hanging of chins and sympathetic patting of shoulders. As the teams exited the ballroom, the sound system blasted the Eurythmic's "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)."
On Tuesday, the finalists will come back for the last round of presentations. The judges will announce the winners on Wednesday night.
Check out the complete list of Sunday night's finalists here.
To learn more about a specific project, look up the team's video here, where you can also vote in the People's Choice Awards

Baolab Microsystems Develops GPS Sensors Using Simple Manufacturing Processes



Location based services in mobile phones are not new. Many apps and functions come embedded in even the simplest and cheapest cell phones. To enjoy such applications, you do not necessarily require purchasing an iphone. With the latest technologies we can easily track a person, his velocity, his direction of approach and other details. Today’s mobile phones also have sensors integrated in them, which can sense a shake/motion and a mere flick can enable us to control them. Adding or rather improving upon the original sensors, Spain based baolab Microsystems has found out a way to make the sensors cheaper and smaller.

The digital compass sensors built by Baolab work on the principle of Lorentz force. The concept says, that whenever a current is flowing through a conducting material, the magnetic field associated with the system will generate a force. Thinking on the same lines, the developers must have felt that they anyhow want to measure the magnetic field, so why not measure it on the basis of force generated in the process? The idea thus came out to be simple than the conventional GMS system. While the traditional GPS module is manufactured using a process called complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor manufacturing (CMOS manufacturing)The process involves, the use of Hall effect and not the Lorentz force. However, CMOS manufacturing is not as easy as it looks. Though we can make a circuit initially, integrating magnetic field concentrators  externally is a complex job.
Baolab developed a circuit by etching out nanoscale micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) from the conventional chip. the MEMS device has spring suspended aluminum mass . As per the theory just mentioned above, a force produced by current flowing through mass helps in measuring magnetic field. This does not require any magnetic concentrators rather, it avoids such complexities. the device is useful even if the magnetic field associated is very small. Baolab provides us with a set of three such circuits which can easily measure the earth’s magnetic field and its orientation. Moreover, the manufacturing process gives us a cheaper alternative of production of these GPS sensors.
The new method can lead us in simplification of many more complex motion sensor problems and other advance applications. It can also be used in things like running shoes and tennis rackets. Baolab Microsystems is hopeful of bringing this technology in a working mode from next year on wards in all GPS applications.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Texas Instruments Announces New C2000 Concerto Dual-Core Microcontroller (MCU) Series


Texas Instruments Incorporated announced its new C2000™ Concerto dual-core microcontroller (MCU) series. The new Concerto 32-bit microcontrollers combine TI’s class-leading-performance C28x core and control peripherals with an ARM Cortex-M3 core and connectivity peripherals to deliver a clearly partitioned architecture that supports real-time control and advanced connectivity in a single, cost-efficient device. To make them easy to use, Concerto MCUs are supported by an intuitive software infrastructure as well as application and connectivity libraries within controlSUITE™ software. The series includes multiple safety and security features and is code compatible across the C2000 platform to enable scalability and code reuse in green applications such as intelligent motor control, renewable energy, smart grid, digital power and electric vehicles.


Greener applications require the performance of a real-time control MCU to execute complex algorithms needed for precise, efficient power conversion, which is the essence of efficient motor control, renewable energy and smart grid technologies. But to take that efficiency to new levels that can dramatically save energy, these applications must also be connected for remote data sharing, diagnostics, monitoring and control. Concerto MCUs enable developers to do both real-time control and connectivity within one microcontroller, eliminating the traditional need to choose between optimal performance and advanced connectivity.
Concerto F28M35x microcontroller series features and benefits:
  • Real-time control subsystem based on TI’s C28x core with floating point and the Viterbi Complex Math Unit delivers 13X performance over existing MCUs as well as industry-leading control peripherals required to design the most reliable, efficient green applications
  • Robust host communication subsystem based on Cortex-M3 and connectivity peripherals such as Ethernet, USB On-The-Go, dual CAN, and multiple serial communication ports
  • Performance can be tailored to different applications with options for 150/75 MHz, 100/100 MHz or 60/60 MHz on the C28x and Cortex-M3 cores, respectively
  • Safety and security features, including up to 1 MB of flash and 132 KB RAM with error correction, parity on CAN and interrupt registers, redundancy for functions, and lock protection
  • Free turnkey application and connectivity software libraries, including Ethernet and USB (Digital power, motor control and renewable energy libraries will be available in 3Q11)
  • Speeds design with simple development environment that supports programming each subsystem independently
  • Roadmap for tailored devices to meet specific smart grid applications, such as smart electric meters and concentrators
The new Concerto F28M35x Experimenter Kit includes a F28M35x controlCARD and docking station to enable developers to easily begin evaluation and development. The modular controlCARD is hardware compatible with TI’s C2000 application-specific development kits, and software to further support development on the kits will be available later this year. Free, on-demand training for Concerto MCUs is immediately available online, and is a great way for developers to begin further exploring the optimized architecture, tailored features and easy-to-use software infrastructure of the devices.
Available in a 144 QFP package, Concerto MCUs now start at $6.99 at 1K and samples can be immediately ordered at www.ti.com/concerto-es-lp-pr. The Concerto F28M35x Experimenter Kit is priced at $139. The Concerto F28M35x controlCARD is also available individually for $99. Both are immediately available to order at www.ti.com/concerto-es-lp. There is an estimated 4 week lead time for samples and kits.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Texas Instruments Introduces 2.4 GHz CC8530 PurePath Wireless Audio




Texas Instruments introduced the second device in the family of PurePath™ Wireless audio products for consumer, portable and high-end audio applications. The 2.4 GHz CC8530 radio frequency (RF) system-on-chip transmits uncompressed wireless audio over a robust RF link, and supports digital streaming for up to four audio channels. TI also introduced the CC85XXDK-HEADSET development kit and reference design as part of the PurePath Wireless audio family. As the market’s most cost-effective offering for high-quality headsets and headphones, the design has a total electronic bill-of-material cost of less than USD $5 in high-volume production, and achieves a 22-hour life on a 465 mAh battery – a 100 percent increase as compared to currently available headsets.
“PurePath Wireless audio represents TI’s industry leading expertise in digital audio and wireless connectivity markets,” said Erling Simensen, product marketing manager, wireless audio, TI. “We’ve done all back-end work with the new wireless headset reference design, so engineers can build a prototype in less than one day. With the ability to stream two stereo streams from one audio source to several receivers, the CC8530 will enable exciting new use cases for wireless headsets and multichannel home audio applications, such as surround sound speaker systems with no need to pull wires across the house, and headphones that easily switch between two audio streams coming from one stereo system.”
“TI’s PurePath Wireless technology enables us to design cutting-edge wireless audio products,” said Robert Wills, president, InterSource OEM Inc. / Claridy Amps, a design house specializing in audio products. “Thanks to PurePath Wireless technology, our high-quality designs offer unwired multipoint audio streaming, and our audio systems can expand to up to four speakers and cover two stereo-audio listening zones. Products such as Sound of Lights wireless speakers are sparking tremendous interest with great customer feedback, and we look forward to continued work with the TI team.”
Key features and benefits of CC8530 solution
  • Multichannel audio streaming capability:
    • Four speakers receiving independent audio streams from wireless base station
    • Up to four headphones receiving either stereo A or stereo B audio from the same base station
  • Complete solution: RF protocol, microcontroller, audio codec setup support, application designs
  • No required software development: Free Configurator PC software tool for easy configuration
  • High quality-of-service for digital wireless audio transmission:
    • Excellent coexistence with Bluetooth® technology, WLAN and other 2.4-GHz devices
    • Distributed audio clock for synchronized wireless speakers
    • Low latency for better synchronization between audio and video
    • No unwanted noise (clicks or pops)
    • High mean time between dropout (MTBD) as compared to existing solutions
    • Eliminates the sound distortion typically found in competing proprietary systems
    • Support for 16-bit, 44.1-KHz or 48-KHz audio without any compression
  • Compatible with various TI audio codecs: TLV320AIC3204, TLV320AIC3254, TLV320AIC3256, TLV320AIC3101, class D amplifiers TAS5708, TAS5710, TAS5713, TAS5727, CC2590 range extender and BQ25015 power management device
Key features and benefits of CC85XXDK-HEADSET development kit:
  • 22 hours on 465mAh battery: 100% longer battery life compared to today’s standard headsets
  • Consists of all-TI components
  • Cost-effective design for high-quality wireless headsets and headphones
  • Enables easy testing of complete headphone and headset functionality
  • Fully programmable with PurePath Wireless Configurator PC tool.
  • Includes TI’s BQ25015 power management device, the low-power TLV320AIC3204 audio codec and CC2590 range extender
The multi-channel CC8530 is available today from TI and through authorized TI distributors. The solution is packaged in a ROHS-compliant, 6 mm x 6 mm QFN-40. Pricing starts at $3.95 in 1,000-unit quantities. Future devices in the family will include the CC8521 (two channels with USB) and CC8531 (four channels with USB).
The new CC85XXDK-HEADSET development kit is available today for USD $149 on TI’s e-store, and comes with a free reference design for wireless headsets.
The CC85XXDK development kit, introduced last year for the CC85XX product family, provides all hardware and software necessary to evaluate the CC8530. This kit is available on TI’s e-store for USD $299.

Samsung's 30nm DDR3 DRAM boosts speeds, cuts power consumption




Samsung has been taunting us with the promise of 30nm DRAM for quite sometime, and when the tiny chips went into mass production last year it was the world's servers that got first dibs. The average consumer stuck with that aging 40nm stuff -- blech. This summer though, you'll finally be able to snatch up some of Sammy's latest tech in the form of two and four GB DDR3 1600 sticks for both laptops and desktops. The company claims that its new RAM modules are up to two-thirds more energy efficient than more common 60nm chips and 20 percent faster that its own 40nm ones. Both solo and dual packs will be hitting retailers soon starting at "less than $30." Check out the PR after the break.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Analog Devices Releases the ADIS16407 iSensor IMU

ADIS16407 iSensor IMU Functional Block Diagram(Photo from Analog Devices Website)




Analog Devices released the ADIS16407 iSensor® IMU (inertial measurement unit) which integrates a tri-axis gyroscope, tri-axis accelerometer, tri-axis magnetometer and a pressure sensor into a single package. Each sensor in the ADIS16407 combines ADI’s industry-leading iMEMS® technology and signal conditioning expertise to optimize the IMU’s 10- DoF (degrees-of-freedom) dynamic performance. Every IMU is factory calibrated for sensitivity, bias, alignment, and temperature. As a result, each sensor has its own dynamic compensation formulas, maximizing accuracy of sensor measurements.

“Emergency first responders, unmanned vehicles, and precision autonomous instruments often require the merging of multiple sensors to accurately track location in office buildings, warehouses, tunnels, caves, mines, ‘urban canyons’ and other GPS-denied environments,” said Bob Scannell, iSensor business development manager, MEMS/Sensors Technology Group, Analog Devices. “All existing 10-DoF IMUs for these applications are significantly larger, with less factory calibration, and do not adequately address the price-performance requirements. The ADIS16407 combines all of these sensors in a single package, fully integrated and calibrated at the factory, at a low system price.”
ADIS16407 Inertial Measurement Unit Key Features
  • High performance triaxial, digital iMEMS gyroscope with digital range scaling: ±75°/sec, ±150°/sec, ±300°/sec settings
  • High performance triaxial, digital ±18 g iMEMS accelerometer
  • Triaxial ±2.5 gauss digital magnetometer
  • Digital pressure sensor rated at 10 mbar to 1200 mbar
  • All sensors aligned and calibrated at the factory
Sample Availability: Now
Full Production : Now
Price per 1 k Units : $444.00
Package(MSPS): 23 mm × 23 mm × 23 mm module

Skyworks Introduces Series of Ultra Low Current LNAs for Diverse Wireless Applications



Skyworks Solutions introduced the first in a series of ultra low current, general purpose low noise amplifiers (LNAs) for diverse wireless applications including satellite receiver set-top boxes, Bluetooth® headsets, medically prescribed hearing aids, advanced meter reading devices and 2.4 GHz wireless local area networks. These high performance LNAs deliver enhanced receiver sensitivity and wide dynamic ranges facilitating improved signal reception, increased design flexibility and reduced part counts

The miniature SKY67014-396LF is an advanced gallium arsenide pseudomorphic high electron mobility transistor (pHEMT) enhancement mode process LNA with an integrated active bias and on-die stability structures enabling simple external matching and stable performance over temperature. Skyworks’ enhancement mode pHEMT process allows the device to offer excellent return loss (15 dB typical), stable gain (12 db), low noise (<1 dB) and high linearity (+18 dBm OIP3) while drawing <6 ma of bias current. The SKY67014-396LF offers the designer the ability to externally adjust the supply current to further optimize the amplifier linearity performance for the chosen application. The supply voltage is applied to the RF-OUT/VDD pin through an RF choke inductor and through the VBIAS pin through an external resistor. The supply voltage is adjustable over a range of 1.5 to 5V. The LNA is manufactured in a compact, 2 x 2 millimeter, 8-pin dual flat no-lead, restriction of hazardous substances compliant, surface mount technology package.
The device is the first in a series of high performance, low power LNAs targeting broadband wireless applications. Additional footprint compatible LNAs for the 100 – 700 MHz and 700 – 1500 MHz bands will be launched later this year.