Space Station Sunday: Robonaut Gets A Leg Up (Two, Actuallly)

With an imminent return to Earth scheduled for Russian cosmonauts Alexander Svortsov and Oleg Artemyev, there has been a lot of activity on the ISS this week. However, one particular development gave legs (literally) to a whole new set of ideas.

Commander Steve Swanson has been making some serious strides on the ISS's synthetic spaceman Robonaut, reports. The humanoid helper, who happens to be a robot, has long aided the ISS crew with experiments, and now thanks to Swanson's "robot surgery", Robonaut has gained a whole new range of motion. Formerly a head, torso, and two dexterous arms and hands, Robonaut now has a pair of legs to aid him in station science endeavors.

Since the ISS's microgravity keeps its residents relatively aloft, Robonaut's legs did not need to be proportionally as large as his upper body to support his weight. While comparatively small, they are extremely flexible thanks to three different jointed segments. Additionally, instead of feet, Robonaut has a pair of grasper attachments, making him useful in a variety of positions that human astronauts may not be be able to sustain (and also because come on, what badass space robot needs feet when it can have graspers?)

This frees up Robonaut to scoot around the station doing maitenance, like a cooler version of the Jetsons' Rosie the Robot, allowing the human astronauts to do the more complex scientific tasks that we went to space to work on in the first place. However, the badass 'bot will get his chance to act like one of the real boys (and girls) when he takes his first spacewalk later this year.

Watch this space!

He's got legs...and he knows how to use 'em...(and cool grasper-feet too!)

New 3-D Printed Books Let Blind Kids Read By Touch

The usage of 3-D printing to help those with physical impairments has taken many interesting paths. Recently, this technology has found another excellent use, helping blind children "read" picture books by 3-D printing in Braille.

According to, The Tactile Picture Books for Children Project, an initiative from the University of Colorado, aims to use 3-D printers to bring literature to life for visually-impaired youths. The printers layer the stories' images onto the pages, allowing readers to feel the pictures, which are augmented by text in Braille.

"Since our children have limited or no vision, having a book that they can feel gives them a sense of what the world looks like," says Alice Applebaum, the executive director of Denver's Anchor Center for Blind Children.

So far, 3-D titles include Goodnight Moon and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Later this year, the Denver group will team up with Boston's National Braille Press to offer the new title Dragons Love Tacos.  Fortunately, Everybody Poops is not yet being considered for this 3-D treatment.

A detail from a 3-d printed book.  No, adults, you CANNOT request a 3-D 50 Shades Of Grey.

E-bola: Watch Virus's Developments With This App

With thousands of cases and escalating confirmed deaths attributed to the Ebola virus in Africa right now, it has become important to keep tabs on the spread of disease, preferably from as far away as possible. The CDC has stepped in to help, creating a new category in their Epi Info app to help monitor the outbreak.

As reported by, the "contact tracing" ability of the app makes it possible to deduce where certain carriers of the disease have caused it to spread, allowing for others to avoid possible danger zones. The viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF) app creates databases of crucial patient information, such as names, locations, ages, gender, and the especially important "dead or alive" status. Those classified as "sick and isolated" with no further information are also considered cases. Aid workers can then use the data to visualize and assess VHF problems.

Once downloaded, the app is functional sans internet connection, which is useful in the many remote areas in which the disease flourishes. The Epi Info app also can be used to track other epidemics, such as Marburg, Crimean-Congo, Rift Valley, and Lassa. Hopefully, the current Ebola crisis can be partially mitigated in thanks to this careful observational/informational aid, in conjunction with dedicated workers.

“The bottom line with Ebola is we know how to stop it: traditional public health,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden. “Find patients, isolate and care for them; find their contacts; educate people; and strictly follow infection control in hospitals. Do those things with meticulous care and Ebola goes away.”

Maybe head to any other continent for vacation this year.

Shut The World Up: New Window-Mounted Device Eliminates Outside Noise

Sure, you love living in the big city, but maybe you're tired of constant reggaeton music waking you up at ridiculous hours, or perhaps the hip new bar that just opened up underneath your apartment has got too many pseudo-intellectuals screaming drunk conversations at each other outside over their American Spirits. Or perhaps your landlord conveniently forgot to mention that the hospital's ambulances make frequent trips beneath your window. Want to shut out the noise without shutting yourself out of urban life? A new noise-cancelling device can help.

As reported by, a new invention called Sono is now able to maintain your sanctuary with just a simple sticky dial on your window. Currently a prototype in development, according to inventor Rudolf Stefanich, it “turns your window into an advanced noise cancelling system that allows you to eliminate and/or control the sounds that pass through."

Specific sounds can be filtered out by simply turning the dial, which is essentially a volume knob for real life. The option to replace the nuisance noise with your own special soundtrack rounds out the Sono's usefulness. Correctly stating that, “In our loud and busy world a moment of silence has become a scarce and almost luxurious experience", Stefanich (an industrial designer) was motivated to help keep the peace by creating Sono's broadband antenna rings to reduce "the level of e-smog pollution" in your life.

Doesn't that sound great?

*May not be applicable during Mardi Gras.

A Drone New World: Disney To Use Flying Robots In Their "Magic"

Like them or not, no one can deny that Disney live operations are major spectacles that are specifically engineered for a maximum "wow" factor. Now, they plan to augment their man-made magic with some help from some happy little flying robot friends. Weirdest sidekick ever?

According to the, Disney Enterprises are massing a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles to fly around and aid with puppetry and light work in their live shows, like Cinderella or Snow White's fun forest friends (if they were electronic and had cousins with the potential to be used for evils from surveillance to assassinations.)

Similar to Jeff Bezos' notion to put drones to work as delivery vehicles, or Google's plan to make them aerial photographers (supposedly) for cartographical purposes, the masters of the Mouse feel that drones would make good "castmembers" (Disney slang for workers.) Three patents approved this week would allow the ground-controlled gizmos to manipulate puppet "tether lines" from the air, carry around portable "flexible projection screens" like flying carpets for movies, or shoot colored lights from the sky (and with Disney's penchant for fireworks, this could look amazing.)

The latter, as part of Disney's "Symphony of Lights", was quoted as being applicable for use “over a sports stadium or theme park where no or few buildings may be present.” Cue the countdown to someone using it to make a wedding proposal. While this technology is interesting and could be used well by such creative types as Disney, does this open a door for constant drone-based entertainment-whoring or flying advertisements to become part of our world?

It's the cirrrrrcle of liiiiife (and sometimes lack thereof.)

Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun: Investors Bet On Renewable Energy

In a move that would have been more useful to the world a century or so ago, a major player in the banking industry seems to be rallying behind solar power and other renewable energy sources, telling investors to put there money where it's sunny.

UBS, the world's largest private bank, has officially predicted that large "traditional" power stations will be outmoded in as little as ten years' time, with the focus switching to decentralized methods of obtaining and storing power. This decision reflects the fossil fuel industry's waning appeal in the face of numerous other options, not the least of which is tempered by consumer regard for more environmentally-friendly options.

As reported by, UBS issued a statement urging investors to "join the revolution." The authors explained their reasoning in logical terms when saying, “Power is no longer something that is exclusively produced by huge, centralised units owned by large utilities. By 2025, everybody will be able to produce and store power. And it will be green and cost competitive, ie, not more expensive or even cheaper than buying power from utilities.”

The company, which has assets of over $1.5 trillion, went on to explain the nuances of how electric cars will be driving down the currently-expensive sustainable battery prices, which will then lead to more general acceptance in many areas as batteries become better and more available. This will ultimately, according to them, make fuel-burning cars too expensive. A similar effect would occur with solar technology.

“Battery storage should become financially attractive for family homes when combined with a solar system and an electric vehicle. As a consequence, we expect transformational changes in the utility and auto sectors,” the UBS paper says. “By 2020 investing in a home solar system with a 20-year life span, plus some small-scale home battery technology and an electric car, will pay for itself in six to eight years for the average consumer in Germany, Italy, Spain, and much of the rest of Europe.”

This is not to say that every home now must be maintained as a survivalist would. Decentralized power could mean collection facilities such as hydroelectric turbines or windmills that are shared between small cities or neighborhoods, which could bridge the gap while the technology is rapidly progressing to the point where individuals are easily able to use clean energy to gain and store all the power needed for personal use. Such facilities could also serve as a backup in case of emergency or failure of an individual's power system. And they'll quickly pay for themselves...with no deep-sea drilling or blowing the tops off of mountains required.

While the banksters have often proven themselves untrustworthy, when it comes to power, one would think that world-class financiers would know what they're talking about. These people love power in any form, and if they're putting their cash power behind another form of force, that seems like a sound bet indeed.

Turn it into a nightclub/skate park/music studio or something.

Missouri Senator: Cameras On Cops, Or No Federal Funding

Militarized police forces across America have become a major concern for average citizens. There is a good and reasonable answer to help curtail this, and now, one senator has spoken up. Claire McCaskill, a senator from cop-embattled Missouri, wants all police to start wearing body cameras, lest their federal funding be curtailed.

As reports, her reasoning is reflected by her constituents, and others around the nation. A petition citing similar intents has surpassed 100,000 signatures, requiring the Obama administration to consider the problem. Concrete improvement in police problem reduction has already been proven in a study done by the Rialto, California police department, who wear cameras. Other cities who have taken up this initiative include Fresno, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, and Cincinnati. The issue has been discussed for the NYPD as well.

The ACLU summarized the need for this inexpensive yet effective change to occur by noting its advantages for both parties involved in a police incident. They stated that helmet or body cameras, "have the potential to be a win-win, helping protect the public against police misconduct, and at the same time helping protect police against false accusations of abuse."

Hey police...stop resisting.
Maybe GoPro can release a "GoPo" edition?

Tutorial: A Simple iOS Stopwatch App in Swift

In this tutorial, we will create a single view iOS application using the Swift programming language. The tutorial will provide some insight into basic usage of the Apple Xcode integrated programming environment, as well as the model/view/controller software architectural pattern. Our target audience are people who have some prior experience in application development and programming but who are relatively new to Xcode and iOS development. The project goal is to build a simple iOS stopwatch-style timer application designed for iPhone using Swift.

The app will contain two labels (one for our title and one for our numeric timer display), and two buttons (a start/stop button, and a reset button). We will first lay out our main view, which will contain these elements and then use the interface builder (i.e. storyboard) to hook our view into the controller (IBOutlets and IBActions). Finally, we will turn to the business logic of the app. In the end, we will have two imports and a view controller. We will add three methods to the view controller class: two actions methods and one helper method. The tutorial will be broken down into a series of just over thirty steps with screen caps to provide a quick visual aid.

The first thing you'll need to do, if you haven't already, is download the latest version of Xcode 6 (currently in beta as of this writing). If you are completely new to Xcode, you may find it difficult to navigate the interface. There are tons of great guides to Xcode that can be found online such as this one.

On initial startup, Xcode will present you with its ‘Welcome’ screen and offer several options. Select the “Create a New Xcode Project” panel from the window (see figure 1). If it does not present you with this screen, select File->New->Project from the menu bar.

Figure 1
On the following screen, select “Single View Application” and press the “Next” button (see figure 2).

Figure 2

Next, choose the options for your new project (see figure 3) and fill in the necessary fields as you wish, ex. project and organization names, and select “iPhone” as the device, since we are creating an iPhone app.

Figure 3
The following screen will then prompt you to provide a destination directory for your project. I like to keep current projects in a folder on my Desktop. There is also an option on the bottom of the screen to place your project under source control. If you don’t know what source control is or how to use it, then simply uncheck this box. (However, it is highly recommended that you invest some time learning about source control systems such as git.) Click “Next” once you have made your selections.

Your project should have opened to a screen similar to the one in figure 4.

Figure 4
From the device dropdown menu, located in the upper left corner, select iPhone 5s (notice also the other options that could have been selected here if we were planning to create a different app). See figure 5.

Figure 5

Now that we have our project’s initial setup completed, let’s get down to business! From the Project Navigator, select the Main.storyboard file. See figure 6.

Figure 6
In the Storyboard, select any view, then go to the File Inspector in Xcode’s right panel. Uncheck “Use Size Classes”, and you will be asked to keep size class data for: iPhone/iPad. Then click the “Disable Size Classes” button. Doing this will make the storyboard’s view automatically size with the selected device. See figure 7.

Figure 7
In the top left corner of Xcode, locate the “Play” button and press it to build and run your project for the first time. See figure 8. Upon a successful first launch of the project, you should see something like the image in figure 9, an iOS simulator. If you get any errors and the project does not build correctly, read the error report(s) carefully and see if you can troubleshoot the problem.

From the Object Library toward the bottom of the right panel in Xcode, select Label (figure 10) and then drag and drop it at the left style guide, but vertically centered into your single storyboard scene/view. See figure 11. The style guides are temporary visual placement lines that appear as you position view elements into your scene. This label will eventually provide the numeric display of our running stopwatch.

Figure 10

Figure 11

In order to make the label wider, we will select and drag the trailing edge of our Label element to the right of your scene until it meets the right most style guide. See figure 12.

Figure 12
From the Attribute Inspector panel in the right panel of Xcode, toggle the text alignment to center so our text appears in the middle of the label. See figure 13.

Figure 13
Go back to the object library and place two Buttons equally spaced apart about midway between the label and the bottom of our scene. See figure 14. These will function as our reset button and our start/stop button on the stopwatch.

Figure 14

From the Size Inspector in Xcode’s right panel change, the width of each button to 60 points. See figure 14.1.

Figure 14.1
Run your project to see what it looks like. Again, if you get any errors and the project does not build correctly, read the error report(s) carefully and see if you can troubleshoot the problem.

Select the Assistant Editor from the top right corner of Xcode to display the storyboard and associated Swift file side-by-side. Now hide both the Navigator and Utilities panels by clicking on the appropriate panel buttons in the top right corner of Xcode. See figure 15.
Figure 15
Now let’s connect up our storyboard elements to our controller, which will connect our interface to our code, that way all the relevant interface elements can communicate events to the controller.

Place your mouse pointer over the Label; then press and hold the control button while clicking and holding down your mouse button as you pan your mouse pointer across the screen and into the right side of Xcode where your Swift file is located. You should see a blue line follow your mouse pointer. See figure 16.

Figure 16

Once in the class area, as shown, release the mouse button and the control as well.  You will see a dialogue box prompting you for the name of your outlet. Name it ‘numericDisplay’. See figure 17. This will add the necessary outlet code to your Swift controller class. An outlet is a reference pointer to an element inside your storyboard. Creating outlets allows for easy access to objects in your storyboard. After naming the outlet, your screen should look like figure 18.

Figure 17

Figure 18

Go ahead and connect the buttons as outlets as well. Name the left button ‘resetButton’ and the right button ‘startStopButton’.

In a similar fashion to the newly created outlets, we will now create action methods for each button. This time we will drag the blue line toward the bottom of the file but inside the class body. Name the left button resetButtonPressed and startStopButtonPressed for the right button. In the dialog box, make sure you select 'Action' from the Connection drop down menu. See figure 19. Action methods are the functions in your class that get messaged/called when the button that is associated with the connected method is triggered by an event. An event is initiated when the user interacts with any of your buttons.
Figure 19
Your interface should now look like the screencap in figure 20.

Figure 20

To accurately update our numeric display label, we need to tie it in to a mechanism that will update at very precise time intervals. To access this functionality, we need to import the appropriate class library. From Xcode’s menu bar, select the Window tab drop down menu then select Documentation and API Reference. See figure 21. The documentation search window should appear. In the search bar type CADisplayLink and locate the appropriate documentation. Read through the documentation and familiarize your self with the CADisplayLink class. This class is very useful when your code needs precise timing control.

Figure 21

Notice that the CADisplayLink requires the QuartzCore framework. A framework is a set of classes with predefined functionality so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel; it's code packaged for re-use, so use it!  With Swift you no longer need to define an interface(.h) and an implementatin(.m) file to define a class which is nice. Also, when importing different frameworks into your project you no longer have to go Xcode's build setting and explicitly add that framework; it automatically loads when you use the keyword import followed by the desired framework like so: import {SomeFramework} but without the curly braces.  And my favorite addition is the fact that semicolons are no longer required! WhooHoo! There are also a ton of outher features of Swift that I have yet to discover. In your ViewController.swift file add the line of code importing QuartzCore:

Importing a framework into your file gives you access to its classes and functionality. In your ViewController class, add the following var properties just below the @IBOutlet properties. Add the code in lines 5 and 6 below:

‘var’ is short for variable and displayLink is our object pointer of type CADisplayLink. We use this pointer to hold a strong reference to an instantiated CADisplayLink object that we will create in a few moments. We want a strong reference to an instance of CADisplayLink to be able to access it throughout the various parts of our class. We also define a lastDisplayLinkTimeStamp of type CFTimeInterval. This variable will store a running tally of the total elapsed time.

Now let’s set the default view element values for our numeric display label and our two buttons. Add the code below to our viewDidLoad() method:

In your viewDidLoad() method now add the lines of code from the snippet below:

The first new line of code above (line 16) creates an instance of a CADisplayLink object, and assigns this class, i.e. “self,” as the target for messages that inform us of a display refresh rate update. This occurs in the first parameter of the CADisplayLink(<first parameter>, <second parameter>) method call. In the second parameter we pass the name of the method that we would like to be called when there is a display refresh rate update. We will define this method shortly. The second new line of code (line 9) ensures that the display link does not begin its updates until we press the Start button in our user interface. The third new line of code (line 12) schedules the display link to begin sending notifications to our instance method about display refresh rate updates. The fourth new line of code (line 15) simply initializes our elapsed time running tally variable.

The next step is to define the method that will be called when the display link has an update. Add this code to the bottom of the viewController.swift class, i.e. inside the final class curly brace:

Now for the logic—we are almost there! In the newly created function add the following lines of code:

The first new line of code (line 3) updates our running tally. The second (line 6) formats our running tally into a string that only shows the last two significant digits. The third (line 9) updates our numeric display label.

Let’s move over to the startStopButtonPressed(…) method. This method is called anytime the user presses the button situated to the right in our stop watch scene. When this button is pressed we want to toggle the display link’s “paused” Boolean value. Add the following line of code to this method.

At this point you can run your project and press the start button to see your stop watch in action! Woohoo! Again, if you get any errors and the project does not build correctly, read the error message(s) carefully and see if you can troubleshoot the problem.

Let’s shift our focus to the Reset button. What do you think this button should logically do? It should pause the display link to prevent it from  sending us any further updates, then set the numeric display label to zero, and update our Start/Stop button state. In the resetButtonPressed(…) method add the following lines of code:

Let’s now complete our code project by adding the last few lines of code for our Start/Stop button. In startStopButtonPressed(…) add the code in bold:

Our label text string will not be modified if our code does not fall through our first conditional if statement. If, however, the display link is paused, then we check the running display link tally. If this tally is greater than zero, then we display the resume button since pressing this button again will not reset our running tally. If it’s equal to zero then we display the start text. The button text is set in the last line of code.

Your final ViewController file should look like this.

Finally, let’s add a title label. Go back to the main storyboard. From the object list at the bottom of the File Inspector in the right pane of Xcode, drag a Label to the center/top of your main view. Size it as you like, and provide it with a text title such as “Stopwatch”.  The final product should look something like the three screencaps below, showing the default, running and paused states:

Default State



And that concludes our simple Stopwatch app tutorial! We leave you off with a question for further reflection.  Notice that our chronometer output is not formatted for standard time. Our implementation increments our minor units, values to the right of the decimal point, from .00 to .99 before increasing the the major unit by one. Although this is a correct unit of measurement, it is not in the ubiquitous standard time format. In the standard format the minor unit, a.k.a the second, is incremented from .00 to .59 before the next major unit, i.e. a minute, is increased by one. Since there are many ways to implement this, some being more efficient than others, we leave this consideration to the reader as an exercise. Post your own solution below. And, as always, feedback, suggestions, and angry tirades are welcome in the comments.

This project can be found on GitHub.

The Stopwatch app and tutorial was originally authored by Stefan Agapie, a Senior iOS Software Engineer, and then adapted for the present piece.

Scammed By A Skimmer: Watch Out For ATM-Based Info Theft Devices

Crafty criminals have used technology to streamline their operations since the word "hacking" only meant to slash off someone's limb.  Recently, their methods have been getting trickier and less obtrusive, so much so that you may be robbed without even knowing about it.

Who needs to be a stickup artist when a simple, slim ATM skimmer can do all the work for you?  According to, that's what's troubling police in southern Europe this week, after this insidious little interloper was pulled from a bank machine.

It's efficient, but sure doesn't look as badass as old bank robbers used to.

Powered by a mere watch battery and a small magnetic reader, the heist device was also equipped with a small data storage unit.  The skimmer was likely used alongside an external camera that monitored customers pressing PIN numbers, although this was missing from the crime scene.  One bank employee explained that mystery well, stating they "didn't capture any hidden camera [because the criminals] probably took it. There were definitely no PIN pad [overlays]. In all skimming cases lately we see through the videos that fraudsters capture the PIN through [hidden] cameras."

This trend could easily go unnoticed in busy commercial centers where people need cash quickly, but if you aren't paying attention, you may end up paying through the nose. Keep your eyes peeled and your wallets sealed around shady ATMs!

Microneedles: Big Development, Little Pain

The best technology is the type that makes life easier for people in places where it seemed difficult or impossible to create a more user-friendly interface. If successful, one new development in India is set to aid medical technology tremendously: near-painless needle arrays for syringes.

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Sciences have been working on a new invention, called "microneedles." Instead of a standard stainless-steel jab, these are small arrays of microscopic-sized silicon filaments which are still able to pass medication on to the user, sans any of the traditional pain.

As any screaming child who's gone through an impalement of inoculations can attest to, this could be very important in the healthcare field. Those who require frequent injections, such as diabetics, could have their ordeal made immensely more simple. At a mere 130 microns apiece, the tiny silicon snippets would barely sting, even in an array.

The biocompatibility of silicon was augmented by researchers using a simple and easily mass-produced method. K.B. Vinayakumar, lead author on the project, explained to that, "...we coated the needle with very thin layers of titanium and gold through electroplating.” This is to prevent negative reactions with blood plasma and degradation through repeat use (which is important to maintain the microneedles' strength enough to break the skin's "resistive force.")

The microneedles are currently still being tested on animals, but may soon be seen (though not felt) in use for humans.

If you still cry about needles after this, you're a huge wuss.

Space Station Sunday: Extremeophile Edition

It may be that not all the life aboard the ISS is human. This week, after a spacewalk, it was reported by cosmnauts Olek Artemyev and Alexander Skvortsov that plankton is growing on the exterior of the spacecraft.

According to the, it was reported that the two spacefarers were conducting a cleanup operation outside the station when the extreme-living organisms were discovered. Samples were taken for analysis from among the other residue that coats the ISS as a result of its 6,000-odd days in orbit.

This may not be as alien as it sounds. Other organisms may live deeply beneath ice shelves, far below the ocean, or even in the vacuum of space. Theories on the space plankton include ideas that it has been carried up aboard another flight (although the material is inconsistent with growths found around Roscosmos, the Kazakh cosmodrome responsible for most of the space launches to the ISS), or that tiny frozen molecules containing the organisms wafted up from the atmosphere.

NASA has not yet confirmed these findings. Their spokeman, Dan Huot, told that, “As far as we're concerned, we haven't heard any official reports from our Roscosmos colleagues that they've found sea plankton." Russian ISS orbital mission chief Vladimir Solovyev pushed the claim, and was quoted in stating, “Results of the experiment are absolutely unique. We have found traces of sea plankton and microscopic particles on the illuminator surface. This should be studied further.”

It could be something out of a horror movie...or it could just be a case of the ISS needing a good wash. More news as this story this space (station.)

Plankton or planetary invasion?

Serendipitous Songs? New App Maps Where And When People Play Similar Songs

Do you ever wonder if you share a "soundtrack" with other people, perhaps during a certain time, or in a certain vicinity? If you do, now there's a way to find out what your fellow music fans are jamming to at the same time or place you are.

According to, Spotify's new Serendipity app tracks your tunes as you rock out, then shows users if someone else, anywhere in the world, is grooving to the same song. As Spotify describes this, "If you're listen[ing] to a popular song, there's a good chance someone else is listening to it in sync with you." You can watch the results on a map and allow yourself to be happy that someone, somewhere is also crying along to Air Supply's "All Out Of Love."

The fascinating part about this is that Spotify has deduced that every second, ten people begin listening to the same song within a tenth of a second. So yeah, it could be implied that every time you're blasting the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive", ten other people may be doing the Travolta dance along with you...somewhere.  
Ha, ha, ha, ha - oh sweet, some dude in Belgium is jamming it too!  Intercontinental dance party! 

Where're You At? New App Monitors Missed Connections

Have you ever passed a certain someone on the street and, for whatever reason, have not been able to get them out of your head? Now, a new app can help you find them without having to deal with all the weirdos in the "Missed Connections" forums.

Happn, a new app created by a hacker, an entrepreneur, and a computer engineer, seeks to play e-matchmaker with those who have perchance crossed your path. As their website exclaims, Happn is, "An app that loves coincidences and boosts luck again!"

Prospective users make profiles which are invisible to other users, except in the event that their paths parties, concerts or bars, on hikes on or the street. Maybe it's even just someone in the same hallway at work as you who you've never mustered up the courage or a reason to talk to. Now, thanks to Happn, you can happen upon their real identity.

The creators claim the app does not share information and has easy features to flag or block those who would use this app for stalking or other unsavory recon. So get out there and find that mystery man or woman!

One of these people could be the one for you, and now, you don't even have to talk to them to meet!

Gorgeous New Electric Coupe Charges Forth

Now that Tesla has officially proven it isn't going to pack up shop just because the oil lobbyists cry about it, it's time for the competition to heat up among the electric car creators. Enter the Renovo coupe, a hot new electric model set to debut in 2015.

According to, the classically-styled Renovo coupe clocks in at 0-60 in 3.4 seconds and boasts 500 horsepower. Not bad for a car that you fuel in nearly the same manner that one would charge their cellphone. The car's Twin Sequential Axial Flux engine runs on three lithium ion batteries that require just 30 minutes, or which can attain a stronger "level 2" charge after five hours.

USA Today reports that the Renovo will be priced considerably higher than its Tesla competitors, with the coupe costing $529,000. The price coupled with the fact that its maximum range is 100 miles may hinder some interest in the vehicle. However, its light frame allows for superior handling. Jason Stinson, Chief Technical Officer, developed the car alongside other "performance junkies" like himself, and caters to a similar clientele. And while the Renovo isn't really a racecar (it tops off at 129 m.p.h.), it certainly looks like a champion. The drool-inducing chassis is based off of a design from Shelby American, a company created by racing legend Carroll Shelby.

Could a new golden age of American automobile enthusiasm soon start kicking the tires and lighting (well, charging) the fires?
Ride on.

Replace Your Face: 3-D Facial Implants Approved By FDA

Thanks to the success of Oxford Performance Material's 3-D printed skull (75% of which took up residence in a patient's headspace last year with great results), the FDA has announced approval of the company's OsteoFab Patient-Specific Facial Device, which can substitute your face-bones should such a dramatic need arise.

It's as simple as printing out the required new part and surgically installing it into your face-space. The rapid rise of 3-D technology has aided surgery for prosthetics, bones, and has even made strides on creating new organs, so this bit of reconstruction is not surprising, and also not significantly different from what you were born with.

According to, Oxford Performance Materials' CEO Scott DeFelice said, "With the clearance of our 3D printed facial device, we now have the ability to treat these extremely complex cases in a highly effective and economical way, printing patient-specific maxillofacial implants from individualized MRI or CT digital image files from the surgeon."

So basically, you just need to steal one of your favorite movie star's MRIs and tell the surgeon to build you a fresh visage. OK, that might not work, but for those in need of serious cosmetic surgery, this offers a chance at restoring relative reality.

DO NOT ABUSE THIS NEW TECHNOLOGY.  We don't any more Cages or Travoltas running around.
A few extra Harrison Fords wouldn't be bad, though.

ChairWare: New Exoskeletal Device Creates Front-Row Seats Anywhere

Upright workers of the world, your savior has arrived. It is called the Chairless Chair, and it is designed for one purpose only: to give you a chance to take a load off, whenever you need it.

The Chairless Chair, according to, was invented and developed by Keith Gunura, a 29-year-old who had had his fill of lengthy labor jobs causing him a pain in the neck (and back...and legs...and feet.) He created the company noonee to expand his idea of a portable, lightweight, wearable chair that would give you a break without breaking your workplace rules or concentration.

The device is simply strapped to the body at the waist and thighs using support straps, then is easily activated when the user desires to sit down. A 6-volt battery provides 24 hours of comfort, and also proper spinal configuration - something that your average day job probably doesn't care about.

Noonee CTO and co-founder Bryan Anastisiades explains, "In addition to resting your leg muscles, it also provides optimal keeps your back straight and can reduce the occurrence of bad postures for both healthy workers and those recovering from muscle related injuries."

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are a serious issue, with the U.S. Department of Labor reporting that such disorders were responsible for 33% of work-related injuries and illness in 2011. In Europe, 23 countries (a combined 40 million workers) reported physical troubles due to MSDs.

The 2-kilogram chair does not impede other motion, such as climbing stairs or moving rapidly.  It has a delightful array of available uses, from factory workers needing a quick reprieve on the crowded floor, to bartenders whose late nights grow too tiresome, to outdoor laborers who have no available seating, to higher-end jobs (Gunura even references surgeons) whose physical toll of their jobs shouldn't detract from the concentration (perhaps at rest) required to complete them.

The noonee chairs are not designed for extended use, so don't expect to be strapping a recliner to your butt anytime soon. However, the comprehensive effect of a quick sit-down could raise quality of life for laborers everywhere.

Get down with the Chairless Chair.

If You Smell Something, Yell Something: Mass-Produceable "Electronic Nose" To Monitor For Gas Attacks

While relatively rare in the world of terror attacks, deadly gas remains a threat as an insidious, easily-deployed weapon of mass destruction. However, a new sensor can help curtail gas-based attacks and save lifes.

According to, an "electronic nose" is in development at the Universitat Politècnica de València in Spain, to be used on public transport in an effort to identify deadly gases. Fifteen sensors in the device would alert an attached data acquisition system and computer (via sensitive metal oxide semiconductor sensors) to help discern the nature of a toxic airborne attack, such as sarin gas.

Cristian Olguín, a researcher on the project, explains, “The use of the electronic nose technology aims to create a device that detects these warfare gases in an efficient, quick, simple and cheap way.” The affordability and precision of the device would make it a popular option for monitoring the air in and around trains, planes, and many other hubs of public connection all over the world. The device is also small enough to be portable, which could have valuable applications for both military operators and civilians living in embattled areas.

Methodology of monitoring the volume of unpleasant-smelling commuters is unfortunately still limited to first-person analysis.

Our lives can go on like normal now!  Thanks, electronic nose!

Custom Camouflage: Octopus-Inspired Technology Will Help You Blend In...Or Not

In some social settings, have you ever just wanted to blend into the walls and disappear? Maybe this will soon be possible thanks to new changeable camouflage technology being developed at the University of Illinois. 

As the BBC reports, a thin grid of 1-mm cells is controlled by a temperature-sensitive colored dye that is able to adapt to its environment. Derived from observations of creatures like octopi and cuttlefish, who are able to easily change colors to disguise themselves in the ocean to avoid predators and attract prey, the technology based itself in part on the idea of the animals' layered skin. In the grid, the bottom layer uses photosensors to reflect the desired pattern to actuators in the middle layer, which then control the colored pigment in the top level to change color at precisely 47 degrees Celsius. Similarly, an octopus would have these actuators embedded in its muscle flesh to control their color-changing outer skin.

Though the work is being accomplished in America (led by senior author Professor John Roberts), the word of this project has jumped the pond and gathered attention. Professor Anne Neville, the Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging Technologies at the University of Leeds, called Professor Roberts' work "very innovative and very interesting," as well as noting it was operating at a "very high standard."

The technology is not fully developed yet, and some hindrances still exist. The dye is currently only working in black and white, but will eventually take on other hues as the technology develops. Another issue is a power source for the camo, which is currently fueled externally, but could likely benefit from an element of solar cells.

The project is based off of information gleaned from "a collaboration between experts in biology, materials, computing and electrical engineering," according to Professor Roberts, but has wide potential for architectural, military, and even fashion applications. One day, you could use the hues to make your shirt any color you wanted, or really stand out in a room by reflecting its most stark colors, like a real-life Paint eyedropper feature for fashion.

Or, for those who still treasure their privacy in the face of ever-encroaching surveillance, you could just practice vanishing...

Homeland Security has no idea who this guy is.

Mass Surveillance In Massachusetts: Boston Police Spy And Lie

In yet another installation of a police force overprotecting and serving themselves, it has recently come to light that every single attendee of the Boston Calling music festival in 2013 was under surveillance, the records of which were accessible through the darknet.  According to, the Boston Police Department then lied about their involvement in the entire operation.

While the event was clearly being documented by the media, various videographers, and amateur snapshooters alike, no one was availed of the information that they were being categorized and profiled during the festival.  Reporter Tim Cushing described it as such:

"What Boston Calling attendees (and promoters, for that matter) didn't know, however, was that they were all unwitting test subjects for a sophisticated new event monitoring platform. Namely, the city's software and equipment gave authorities a live and detailed birdseye view of concertgoers, pedestrians, and vehicles in the vicinity of City Hall on May 25 and 26 of 2013 (as well as during the two days of a subsequent Boston Calling in September). We're not talking about old school black and white surveillance cameras. More like technology that analyzes every passerby for height, clothing, and skin color."

Boston's Dig website found some even more unsettling information:

"Shockingly, these sensitive documents have been left exposed online for more than a year. Among them are memos written by employees of IBM, the outside contractor involved, presenting plans to use "Face Capture" on "every person" at the 2013 concert. Another defines a party of interest "as anyone who walks through the door."

Over 50 hours of footage was available for easy access. When confronted, the Boston police department denied any involvement, until they were called out by journalist Kenneth Lipp (who found the files.) Boston police were clearly seen in monitoring stations, being trained by IBM employees.

Fortunately, this forced out the truth, with mayoral press secretary Kate Walsh explaining to Dig in an email that a "pilot program" had indeed been tested, and of course, it was for our own good. The city was merely "looking at challenges such as permitting, basic services, crowd and traffic management, public safety, and citizen engagement through social media and other channels. These were technology demonstrations utilizing pre-existing hardware (cameras) and data storage systems."

Yes, that's right. They've had the ability to do this for a while. And nobody in the crowd - or even the promoters - knew.

Lipp continued to probe, uncovering a host of other sensitive information that the BPD had left out in nearly plain sight. Driver's license information, addresses, and other valuable informative material was easily accessed, which could have led to a bigger problem than anything the cops were looking out for with their spy system.

Despite events like the Boston Marathon bombings prompting authorities to seek more intel on members of large crowds, the fact that this system went live without any public knowledge or oversight, and was then lied about, doesn't make the average civilian feel any safer.  When civilians are treated like suspects for no reason, cops are acting like villains for no reason.  And what kind of society is served by villains?

Soon they'll start judging and profiling you by your music tastes, too.

Be Future-Fashion Forward With 3-D Printed Dresses

Science has determined that soon we'll be able to 3-D print out whole new organs for our bodies. But what are our freshly-invigorated forms going to wear? 3-D printing now has an answer for that too.

As shown by burlesque performer, "muse and model" Dita Von Teese in New York City, 3-D printing proved that isn't just in fashion, it's creating fashion. Her $100,000 3-D printed mesh dress, inspired by the ever-escalating Fibonacci sequence, conforms precisely to her form thanks to virtual technology imbuing the dress with next-generation design elements.

“It’s that continuous variation — managing the complexity of the subtle adjustments in form to respond to curvature of the body, how things tighten or narrow, where we need more flexibility or less flexibility of the mesh, all that was able to be tuned to a really high level,” says Francis Bitonti, who along with fellow designer Michael Schmidt created the dress using various 3-D imaging software programs.

According to, the process was elaborate. First, a 3-D model of the dress was built by Bitonti from an original sketch by Schmidt, using the Maya design program to custom tailor it to Von Teese's figure. Using Rhino, a software program that works to intricately detail surfaces, he fleshed out the 2,633 "rings" that interlock to form the garment. The dress was then sintered on an EOS P350 laser printer by Shapeways and manually assembled from the 17 different sections of material.

The dress, while expensive, could set the stage for a whole new category of couture. Shapeways designer Evangelist Duann Scott enthused, “Traditionally, all garments are either a weave or a stitch...with 3-D printing, we can…introduce something completely different. So we can grow designs rather than just using something that’s centuries-old technology. It’s a whole way to move forward in fashion and clothing and textiles.”

The 3-D technology of the future holds many can stop sweatshop labor yet quickly create necessary items when none are available...could its refinement and tailored-tech finally be able to solve the problem of finding that perfect pair of jeans, too?

Von Teese's fabulous fabricated frock.

Space Station Sunday: Supermoon!

The astronomical phenomena known as a "supermoon" occurred earlier this week, giving humans both on Earth and in space the chance to gaze on the biggest and brightest view of the moon seen in 20 years.  The supermoon occurs when the moon is at its perigee, a.k.a. the point closest in its orbit to the earth (the scientific name for the supermoon is "perigee moon.")  That put our nearest astronomical neighbor a mere 221,765 miles away from us, making it appear 30% brighter and 14% larger, according to a report published on

The supermoon was prominent indeed to our intrepid heroes on the ISS, and was captured in all of its super, moony glory by several astronauts.  Oleg Artemyev, a Russian cosmonaut aboard the ISS, snapped a series of images of what he called the "moonset", including the dramatic shot below.

German ISS astronaut Alexander Gerst also captured the event, posting an image of the supermoon behind the spacecraft to his Twitter feed.

Meanwhile NASA posted this patriotic take on the phenomena.

It's even red, white, and blue!  Of course, because Americans reached the moon first.

Moon enthusiasts (lunatics?) can check out even more cool supermoon pictures from

The supermoon was so bright that even while it was waning, it outshone another major astronomical event last week:  the Perseid meteor shower.  But don't worry, astronaut Gerst had a good enough view to capture a subtle but still cool bit of that too, explaining "Here's what a shooting star looks like from the side!"

  You get to make extra wishes on shooting stars seen from space.

Believe The Hyperlapse: New App To Smooth Out GoPro Videos For Maximum Cool Viewing

For adventurous videographers everywhere, the GoPro is a thing of beauty.  The compact, tough little cameras operate in a variety of crazy environments - even underwater or hurtling through the air - and the high-def videos serve as souvenirs like no other of your excellent exploits.  Unfortunately, your gnarly ski vids end up looking a little TOO gnarly thanks to the shaking inherent to all of your extreme activity.  Thankfully, Microsoft is working on a software solution to this issue.

According to, a new app is in development to help smooth out your shots and gives your home movie a "hyperlapse" real movie feel.  This works by an algorithm analyzing your original trajectory, then restitching and blending the frames together to create a more fluid appearance.  "Hyperlapse" refers to the smoothed-out version of time lapse videos - a.k.a. the sped-up versions of your adventures that make the action move more swiftly, and now, not at the expense of watchability.  The technology is currently in development for a new app for Windows.

Learn more and check out some spectacular stabilized footage at

So even if you're attacked by sharks during a dive, you'll still look chill.

Windowless Planes To Provide Amazing High-Res Views?

If you like flying so much that you can't bear to be away from the window seat, there may be an exciting new technological breakthrough you'll enjoy. A new design for a windowless airplane that recreates scenery in high definition inside the airplane cabin could revolutionize how you see the skies.

Technicon, a Parisian design company, has drawn accolades for their new IXION Windowless Plane Concept. Using exterior-mounted cameras, a 360-view of what's going on outside your aircraft could be displayed in glorious high-def for your in-flight entertainment.

According to, design director Gareth Davies explained, “The ethos of the project is simple, to challenge current thinking, and propose something a little different, but not just a fantasy. It has to be credible and relevant, yet provoke discussion.”

Amorphous solar panels on a windowless fuselage would help to power the displays. The imagery itself could be anything - your flight over Kansas could magically become a leisurely lift over the Hawaiian islands, or even space-based scenes. Parallax balance technology could allow for separate viewing screens, if you absolutely HAD to watch some boring business presentation during your amazing all-seeing excursion.

While this is still a concept in development for the private planes of the future, it's nice to know that even something as awesome as flying can still get even better.

Wonder Woman has the right idea.