Big Brother’s trying to find new ways to keep an eye on things. Wired has a story on Homeland Security “soliciting industry feedback” on the viability of a high-endurance aerial camera drone capable of keeping an eye on four square miles at once, similar to drones the military’s been working on. This is the “bad” side of drones becoming available outside of the military – privacy can disappear really easily. (Although if the government can use them to actually reduce crime rates, that’d be awesome.)
A Dallas meat-packing plant was caught releasing blood and effluent into a nearby river by a civilian who was test-driving a 75$ UAV with an attached camera. A good demonstration of one of the up-sides to having civilian UAVs.
… a what, now?
No, seriously. It’s an unmanned blimp, shaped like a worm or a snake, with a little gondola full of sensors for spying on stuff. And it’s apparently got a small radar footprint.
The Army’s planning to deploy a new drone, the A-160 Hummingbird robot helicopter. It’s got a long loiter time, allowing it to stay in the air for up to 20 hours at a time, making it invaluable for prolonged scouting missions. But they’re also adding on an interesting system, dubbed the ARGUS, which is a package of 92 5-megapixel sensors capable of monitoring up to 36 square miles at a time. And, because it’s got multiple sensors on board, it can also be used to track multiple targets at once, allowing one drone to keep track of an entire combat zone.
- NASA’s always looking at ways to explore space – the trick is getting a good idea and sufficient funding to pull it off. Space.com’s got an article here about possible “next steps” beyond low Earth orbit.
- Incentives are critical when you’re looking at systems involving humans. Change the incentives, and you can radically change the behavior of people in the system. So what happens when you reward people for doing well, but require that they pass all their rewards to the people that helped them? Suddenly, you have a strong incentive for people to help each other so that they can get rewards from their friends.
- Normally, I try not talk about tablets and phones – I’m not enough of a gadgethead to know the pros and cons of Android over iOS, or iPads over… whatever other tablets that are out there. But! When I see a tablet that’s specifically designed for gaming, that gets my attention (I’m a gamer, if you hadn’t guessed). Considering how much time people spend playing games on their mobile devices, this doesn’t really surprise me.
- As the man in the video says, CES is full of interesting toys, gadgets, and appliances, but what really matters is finding something to drive your pet nuts. Enter the Sphero, a ball that rolls where you direct it, controlled by your iOS device.
- Brace yourself, the ridiculosity in this one is really high: An Iranian has claimed that Iran grabbed that US drone with “advanced space technology” and “field forces” (he meant force fields or tractor beams). George Little, the Pentagon’s spokesman, said “We have no comment on this individual’s claims, but tell him the Secretary would like his lightsaber back.”
Ah, CES. What wonders it holds each year. And what a deluge of news stories. Which I have sifted through and picked out what I think will actually matter. Read on…
- A new survey says that only 48% of consumers were watching cable TV in 2011, down from 71% in 2009. I wonder if we’re going to see the TV turn into a peripheral for the internet and mobile devices, rather than being the central media device?
- We’re used to touchscreens by now, but what about touch-sensitive clothing or upholstery?
- Touchscreens are coming to the kitchen, now, too: A touchscreen is the controller for an induction stove, which can selectively heat whatever is on its surface, wherever it’s placed.
- Liquipel is a new waterproof coating for the innards of your electronics; we may be looking at the beginning of widespread waterproofing of anything and everything electronic. [Update, 1/11: Here’s another brand that’s looking to do the same thing.]
- You’re at a conference (say, CES) and your cell is about to die. You don’t want to be tied to a wall socket waiting for it to recharge, so what do you do? Plug it into your backpack. The Powerbag is a backpack with a battery built in, which can charge your electronics while you’re on the go. And they thoughtfully provided some attending reporters with some, just to make sure that we heard about it.
- Somebody’s finally built a couple of wall sockets with built-in USB plugs. All I have to say is, it’s about time.
- 3D printing is trying to make a move into the home market – for reals, this time – and the Cube and MakerBot’s new two-color printer called the Replicator are the contenders that I’ve seen in the coverage of CES today.
- Sheesh, talk about a wonder-material. Scientists have found another use for graphene. Again! This time they’ve tinkered with the isotope make-up of the material, which creates a form of the stuff that’s apparently very good at dissipating heat. So now, even if we can’t figure out a way to make graphene computer chips, we’ll be able to use graphene to keep our old-fashioned silicon chips cool.
- Scientists have recreated the white, fungus-filled layer that coats some types of cheese. Why am I talking about fungus and cheese, you ask? Because the layer that they’ve created could be used to keep a surface permanently clean – it eats organic material (like bacteria) that falls onto it, and it can theoretically live forever as long as there’s enough moisture in the air.
- The Marines are looking for a new brain/control-system for their robots – something that doesn’t need its hand held going from one place to another, and that can be plugged into multiple different platforms.
- And speaking of military robots… The US military’s airfleet is now 1/3 UAVs. I repeat: one third of all aircraft in the US military is now unmanned. Mind you, this includes the itty-bitty ones that are launched by hand, but that’s still an… interesting milestone, considering that the number was 5% in 2005. I wonder when it’ll become 50%? or 90%?
- Is NASA thinking of sending another lander to Venus? It’s not a particularly hospitable environment, what with a temperature around 1000*F, massive air pressure and a choking atmosphere. Still, NASA’s building a hell-on-Earth simulator for wannabe Venusian probes, so they seem to be considering the possibility…