Device Promises Dog Translations
No More Woof, a sophisticated dog headset, promises to translate a dog's thoughts into English.
Courtesy Harbin Ice and Snow Festival
This week, we have a village and a truck carved from ice, a Gecko-inspired robot and a solar-powered car from Ford, to name a few.
It's cold in Northern China, but the 2014 Harbin Ice and Snow Festival heats up the night with its spectacular sculptures, winter games and ice village lit by colorful LEDs. The festival takes place on the grounds of a 124-acre park and features skating rinks, mazes and a 787-foot-long ice slide. What a wonderful way to brighten up a long, dark winter.
Jan. 1 marked the start of the 2014 Federal phase-out of 40W and 60W incandescent bulbs. To help fill the gap, Philips has introduced SlimStyle, a flat A19 LED light bulb that generates the brightness and warm glow of a 60W incandescent, but doesn't come with the typical steep LED price. It's currently selling at Home Depot for $9.97.
Nordic Society for Invention and Discovery
No More Woof is a headset that, according to Tomas Mazzetti of the Nordic Society for Invention and Discovery, translates a dog's thoughts into speech. The EEG headset measures brainwave activity and converts three baseline readings -- sleepiness, agitation, and curiosity -- into words humans can understand. Now if you can just get your dog to keep the headset on instead of chewing it, we'll be good to go.
A proposal in London means to get cyclists up off the streets. The elevated SkyCycle -- from the architectural firms Foster + Partners, Exterior Architecture, and the urban planning consulting group Space Syntax -- calls for more than 136 miles of lanes built above suburban railway lines. This new bike highway could handle 12,000 cyclists an hour and slice nearly half an hour off regular commute times.
Canadian Tire and Iceculture
Artists from the sculpting house of Iceculture, along with gearheads from Canadian Tire, teamed up to make this ice truck. They started with a 2005 Chevy Silverado 2500 HD frame, then added 11,000 pounds of ice and special engine fans to blow hot air away from the frozen cab. The ice truck was built as a promotional stunt for a Canadian Tire and in fact, three trucks were actually built: one as a prototype, one for advertising clients and the third for the commercials. No seat warmers in this vehicle.
Simon Fraser University School of Engineering Science/MENRVA
Abigaille is a tiny-legged prototype robot inspired by Gecko lizards that are able to walk up any surface. Developed by the European Space Agency, the robot is being designed to crawl along the hulls of spacecraft, cleaning and maintaining them. So far, it can transition from vertical to horizontal surfaces in the vacuum conditions of space. Next on the agenda: zero gravity.
Ford is exploring solar charging with its concept car, the C-Max Solar Energi. Solar panels on the roof work in combination with a parking structure (not shown) equipped with solar concentrators. The concentrators magnify the sun's rays by a factor of eight and direct them onto the car's roof-mounted solar panels. The cells gather enough light during a day's charging for a full battery top-up, or 21 miles of EPA-rated electric range. It's a prototype and so the hope is that future versions will generate more energy.
LEGO has come out with its own version of NASA’s Curiosity Rover currently roving the Red Planet. For just $29.95, rover fans can own a scaled-down version of the 10-foot Curiosity, which cost NASA $2.5 billion. LEGO's 295-piece vehicle has many of the same features as the real thing, including a "rocker-bogie" suspension for the six wheels, an articulated arm and various antennae.
New York City’s bike-sharing program, Citi Bike, launched a campaign to help power the New Year's Eve Times Square Ball. The organization set up six stationery bikes at the corner of 42nd Street and 7th Avenue and gave tourists and residents alike the chance to turn the kinetic energy of pedaling into electricity used to illuminate the ball.
A recently launched Kickstarter campaign could make transparent tablets a reality. The so-called Grippity, which could be available by the fall if money is raised, features a semi-transparent 7-inch 800 x 480 display. Two-sided touch controls would give users multi-touch access from both sides of the tablet. Developer Jacob Eichbaum said that typing and touching from the back panel rather than the front would prevent users from obscuring the display with their fingers. $235 will get you a tablet by Oct. 24 or pre-order one for $159.
A dog may be man's best friend, but if people ever figure out what dogs are really thinking, will the friendship sour?
That's a risk that a few inventors in Europe are willing to take: They've received funding to develop "No More Woof," an electronic device that promises to analyze dogs' brain waves and translate a few of their thoughts into rudimentary English.
It's still a work in progress, but once No More Woof is ready for the market, it will join a wide range of other scientific efforts aimed at "breaking the language barrier between animals and humans," as the inventors state on their IndieGoGo.com fundraising page. [The 5 Smartest Non-Primates on the Planet]
Developed by the design team at the Sweden-based Nordic Society for Invention and Discovery (NSID), the No More Woof is a lightweight headset, sized for dogs, with sensors that can record electroencephalogram (EEG) readings.
The EEG readings are then analyzed by a Raspberry Pi microcomputer, which will, according to NSID, be programmed to translate those EEG readings into simple phrases like, "I'm hungry," or "Who is that person?" Once translated, those phrases will be reported over a small speaker.
Paging Dr. Doolittle
If and when the No More Woof ever comes to market, it would mark the latest in a centuries-old effort to communicate with dogs, dolphins, apes and a whole menagerie of other animals.
Scientists recently developed a speaker that can project the full range of the high- and low-frequency sounds that dolphins make — including those used in dolphin-to-dolphin communication and the echolocation clicks used to locate food.
Dolphin researchers designed the speakers to broadcast a specific series of vocalizations and then record dolphins' responses; over time, this back-and-forth could reveal what dolphins are "saying," eventually opening up the possibility of human-dolphin communication.
"We know very little about how dolphins classify their own sounds. We need more perceptual studies to find out, and this equipment may help us do that," Heidi Harley, a comparative cognitive psychologist at New College of Florida in Sarasota, told LiveScience in a previous interview.
No More Woof joins a wide range of other scientific efforts aimed at breaking the language barrier between animals and humans.NSID
A Chatty Menagerie
Dolphins are prime targets for communication research, due to their complex social structures and highly developed brains, but they're not the only animals that scientists are struggling to communicate with through sounds, physical gestures or some combination of those.
Koko, a famous gorilla living in captivity in California, reportedly has a vocabulary of about 2,000 words. She and her trainers use a form of sign language to communicate and understand those words. And a border collie named Chaser has been credited with understanding more than 1,000 spoken words.
But in a significant paradigm shift, more researchers are now eschewing teaching human words to animals, instead trying to decode the chirps, whistles, roars and other sounds that animals use to communicate with one another.
Constantine Slobodchikoff of Northern Arizona University has spent years deciphering the language used by the Gunnison's prairie dog, a species native to the U.S. Southwest. Slobodchikoff discovered that these prairie dogs have a surprisingly complex language that can, for example, describe the size, shape and color of clothes worn by a human intruder.
No Dog Left Behind
The dog researchers at NSID hope that future refinements of their No More Woof device could communicate complex thoughts with more specific descriptions, such as, "Who is that woman? She looks nice!"
While that level of sophistication will take some time and a lot of research, the NSID crew is encouraged by the level of interest their crowdfunding effort has attracted: They've exceeded their original funding request of $10,000 by several thousand dollars, and are continuing to attract donations.
If successful, NSID designers hope to ship their first No More Woof prototypes to eager dog owners worldwide by April of this year. But the designers' sights are set much higher: "We believe that within a few years the technologies we are working with will revolutionize our relation to pets and animals," according to the group's IndieGoGo website.
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