Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Festive Wishes

Wishing All Readers of the NEW MOBILITIES blog many healthy & happy festive wishes.

And - importantly






Monday, December 22, 2008

The hands-free future for transport

Euronews has a good video post on a new breed of transport that is being developed to relieve the congestion which is choking Europe’s city-centres:

Researchers are looking for answers to ease the inner-city jams, and clear the air. And their prototypes are cleaner and safer, even though they drive themselves.

Watch video post here: 'The hands-free future for transport'

See also


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Study shows hotels' Internet connections unsafe reports that travelers who use a hotel's Internet network risk the possibility of data theft, citing a new study from Cornell's School of Hotel Administration:

The analysis of the networks in 46 hotels and a survey of 147 U.S. hotels found that a majority of the hotels do not use all available tools to maintain network security.

For example, about 20 percent of the hotels surveyed still use simple hub-type systems, which are most vulnerable to hacking. The findings of the firsthand analysis of 46 hotels were no more encouraging.

"Even with hotels that required authentication, I found helpful employees who got me past that barrier," said Josh Ogle '08, a Cornell Hotel School graduate, president of TriVesta LLC. and a co-author of the study. "So, authentication is not as effective as we think, and then I found that of the 39 hotels that offered WiFi connections, only six used encryption to help protect the system."

Read post at - 'Study shows hotels' Internet connections unsafe'


Thursday, December 18, 2008

India's Highway

National Geographic has an interesting piece on India's new 'superhighway' that links four of its major cities - bringing 'old and new India into jarring proximity'. Here's what the article says:

yellow sari under bridge

India's new national highway, part crushed rock and asphalt, part yellow brick road, swings through Bangalore as it races across southern India bearing the turbocharged hopes of a billion people from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal. In downtown Bangalore the wheels roll to a stop, briefly, beside an ornate, 50-foot-high Hindu temple where every night a cheerful little man in horn-rimmed glasses named R. L. Deekshith, the temple priest, delivers the Hindu equivalent of curbside service. His specialty is the ritual called a puja, in which he spreads the munificence of the god Lord Ganesh upon a parade of newly purchased vehicles—cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles, and auto rickshaws, along with the occasional bicycle or bullock cart—whose owners wouldn't think of hitting the road without the blessings of a happy, four-armed god with the head of an elephant who brings prosperity and good fortune, particularly to machines and those setting out on something new.

Read original post - 'India's Highway'


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Atlas of the Real World

UK's The Telegraph is hosting what it calls 'The Atlas of the Real World' which uses software to depict the nations of the world - 'not by their physical size, but by their demographic importance on a range of subjects'. On their site they select a series of travel- and news-related maps:

The Atlas of the Real World

See images at 'The Atlas of the Real World'


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Observing urban drivers in their natural habitat

Here's a post from Kevin Harris over at the Neighbourhoods blog, on a somewhat humourous, somewhat disturbing, real-life ditty of human urban driving habits:

Short trip I was walking up the road this afternoon and heard a car start up nearby. The driver pulled out of the drive, rather closely in front of an oncoming car, then after a short distance drew in alongside a post box. I watched a woman get out and post a letter. She was clearly able-bodied. She got back in, turned the car round and headed back the way she came. I thought, well I suppose you might do that if you're off somewhere. So I turned round to see if she was. But she drove straight back into the driveway of the house.

I crossed the road to take this pic of the house, from beside the post box. It's about 75 metres away I reckon.

Read original post at 'Observing urban drivers in their natural habitat'

Thanks to Kevin for the heads-up on this one!


Monday, December 15, 2008

Growing Vertical: Skyscraper Farming

Scientific American has a post on how cultivating crops in 'downtown skyscrapers might save bushels of energy and provide city dwellers with distinctively fresh food'. The article goes on to say that

Why not grow grains, vegetables and fruits right where the expanding crowds of consumers are: in the middle of a city, inside a tall glass building? Poultry and pork could be reared there, too. A vertical farm would drastically reduce the fossil-fuel use and emissions associated with farm machinery and trucking, as well as the spread of fertilizer and its runoff. Crops could grow and be harvested year-round instead of at the end of one season, multiplying annual yield by at least four times. Urban agriculture could also convert municipal wastewater into irrigation water, reducing a city’s refuse problem. And consumers would get the freshest food possible, without pesticides.

Is this such a fanciful notion?

Read more at - 'Growing Vertical: Skyscraper Farming'


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Filmmaker Plans to Install Camera in His Eye Socket

Wired's blog has an unusual post about a Canadian film-maker who's planning to become a 'lifelong' film-maker - by putting a camera in his eye!


Rob Spence looks you straight in the eye when he talks. So it's a little unnerving to imagine that soon one of his hazel-green eyes will have a tiny wireless video camera in it that records your every move.

The eye he's considering replacing is not a working one -- it's a prosthetic eye he's worn for several years. Spence, a 36-year-old Canadian filmmaker, is not content with having one blind eye. He wants a wireless video camera inside his prosthetic, giving him the ability to make movies wherever he is, all the time, just by looking around.

"If you lose your eye and have a hole in your head, then why not stick a camera in there?" he asks.

Spence, who calls himself the "eyeborg guy," will not be restoring his vision. The camera won't connect to his brain. What it will do is allow him to be a bionic man where technology fuses with the human body to become inseparable. In effect, he will become a "little brother," someone who's watching and recording every move of those in his field of vision.

If successful, Spence will become one of a growing number of lifecasters. From early webcam pioneer Jennifer Kaye Ringley, who created JenniCam, to Microsoft researcher Gordon Bell, to commercial lifecasting ventures and, many people use video and internet technology to record and broadcast every moment of their waking lives. But Spence is taking lifecasting a step further, with a bionic eye camera that is actually embedded in his body.

Read in full - 'Filmmaker Plans to Install Camera in His Eye Socket'


Friday, December 12, 2008

A Tour of Tesla Motors

Another post from the Worldchanging retrospective month - this time a post about the rise of the Tesla electric speed cars:


You've heard about Tesla Motors already--the silicon valley startup that's making the next generation in electric cars, a roadster that can go from 0 to 60 in 4 seconds, and that looks like a million bucks. (It'll also cost nearly $100K, but that's cheap compared to a Lamborghini, and you just might beat it off the line.) There have been plenty of great articles on the company and the car, from Wired, The Guardian, and others. As it happens, I know several of their engineers, so I was able to get a tour of the company a few weeks ago...

Tesla's motor is a high-performance induction motor; not revolutionary new technology, but top-of-the-line. In fact, it's the same one the EV1 and AC Propulsion's tZero prototype cars used. Tesla's innovation is in the way it is manufactured, keeping performance quality high but reducing costs. I also asked whether they thought about using in-wheel motors, since putting a small motor in every wheel instead of having one big motor with a drivetrain connecting it to the four wheels can greatly reduce mechanical complexity and weight, as well as improving reliability.

Read more at - 'A Tour of Tesla Motors'


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Train 'n Wheels: the Perfect Commute?

Wired's Autopia blog has a good story on what is being dubbed 'the benefits of bicycle transit trips':


We love public transportation. We also love bikes. Judging by a recent increase in bike rides to and from public transportation known as "transit trips," American commuters are starting to feel the same way. "Transit trips are way up," Tim Blumenthal, head of the national bike advocacy group Bikes Belong, told "More buses have racks on the front, and more light rail and subways are allowing bicycles on board even during peak hours." According to Blumenthal, the benefits of bicycle transit trips are huge: commuters lose weight while the air gets cleaner, and highways get less crowded while America starts to recover from its oil addiction.

San Francisco's Caltrain commuter rail service was one of the pioneers in bringing "bikes on board," dedicating certain cars of each train for bikes and allowing up to 64 bike commuters to ride their own bikes to and from work (video after the jump). The program took off, and also took some cars off the road: 80% of cyclists who started taking Caltrain only did so after they could bring their bikes along. "Caltrain has for awhile now provided exemplary bike service," Andy Thornley, Program Director for the San Francisco Bike Coalition (SFBC) told"Other systems have accommodations, but its usually one or two bikes per car."

The program was so successful that demand soon surpassed the supply of bike cars, and non-biking passengers began to complain that their train was overrun by a peloton of two-wheeled commuters. "The success of the program is outstripping the system," Thornley said.

Read more at - 'Train 'n Wheels: the Perfect Commute?'


Monday, December 08, 2008

Using your voice to pilot your computer

Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends has a post on how a team of scientists of the University of Washington (UW) has developed Vocal Joystick, a software which enables people with disabilities to control their computers using the sound of their voice and without the need to use a mouse:
Their virtual computer mouse driven by sound has already been tested at the UW Medical Center with spinal-cord-injury patients and other participants with varying levels of disabilities. The researchers, who developed their own voice-recognition technology, hope to have a prototype available online this fall. But read more...

UW Vocal Joystick

You can see above "the mapping of the vowel sounds recognized by the Vocal Joystick engine to the radial direction resulting in a mouse pointer movement. The VJ engine also captures loudness and pitch information, which can be used to control the speed of the pointer movement." (Credit: UW) Here is a link to a larger version of this diagram.

Read original post - 'Using your voice to pilot your computer'


Friday, December 05, 2008

Revolutionary Virtual Reality Training Originally Designed For The Army

The capacity of virtual reality simulation is rapidly expanding - no wonder then it is increasingly being used for real-life training. Here's some latest news:

Development studio Intelligence Gaming is behind a different kind of game, dubbed “serious gaming” - games that are designed to teach users rather than entertain them. The company has previously created games for the United States Navy, and has now been contracted by the Army to develop a new kind of game that is part virtual reality, part movie. The company teamed with development and design firm EffectiveUI to create a technology called RealityV based on Adobe’s upcoming Flash 10 platform. The result: 3D interactive simulations that could revolutionize training in the military, health care, retail stores, and any number of other industries.

At the core of each RealityV experience is a a full motion movie shot in 360 degrees. This movie is projected into a special headset that strongly resembles the “Virtual Reality” googles of yore. As the user rotates, their perspective in the video rotates as well (they can only rotate around a single point, as the technology doesn’t yet support movement). During the videos users are forced to make quick decisions that affect the scene’s outcome - it’s sort of like a ‘Choose your own adventure’, except you feel like you’re actually there. Users can also use RealityV from their browser, but this effect is lost.

The first application of the technology is “Immersive Cultural Simulation Product”, a game created for the Army that teaches soldiers how to handle cultural differences in Iraq. Soilders are forced to make decisions in real time as they watch the people surrounding them, paying attention to gestures and facial expressions to decide who to pay attention to and look for any possible threats.

Read more at - 'RealityV: Revolutionary Virtual Reality Training Originally Designed For The Army'


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

IBM builds online version of China's famed Forbidden City

The ultimate in 'virtual tourism', and this time it's a forbidden city!

IBM on Friday opened online doors to an interactive, animated replica of the 178-acre (720,000 square-meter) walled fortress of the famed Forbidden City in China, which served for centuries as an exclusive realm for the nation's emperors.

"Forbidden City: Beyond Space & Time" is billed as a first-of-a-kind, fully immersive, three-dimensional virtual recreation of "this Chinese cultural treasure."

Visitors to the virtual Forbidden City can explore it as animated avatars, able to chat with others or take part in activities such as archery, cricket fighting, or a board game called Weiqi.

Read more at - 'IBM builds online version of China's famed Forbidden City'


Monday, December 01, 2008

The revolution of paperless paper

Is it finally going to arrive? Are we still not convinced? Well, the BBC looks into the 'revolutionary' electronic newspaper:

At Plastic Logic's factory in Dresden, British engineer Dean Baker shows me a new kind of newspaper.

What's new about it? Well, for a start there's no paper - it's electronic.

The device looks just like a table mat, it's as light as a magazine.

But onto it you can download hundreds of newspapers and - at the touch of a button - browse through them quite safely, without elbowing anyone ever again.

"It's very robust," says Mr Baker.

To prove it he whacks the screen with his fist. Not a scratch.
The machine's so tough, because everything, from the screen to the electronics inside, is made of plastic.

That's why the electronic newspaper is so light, flexible and revolutionary.

Mr Baker believes the device will help consign ordinary paper to the rubbish bin of history.

"There's a huge amount of waste," says Mr Baker.

"We have paper being distributed all over the country which is consumed on that day and then discarded into the bin. This doesn't need to be the case.

"All of that contact could be transmitted electronically and stored on a single e-reader, with the same visual appeal as paper. "

Read original post at - 'The revolution of paperless paper' - video on site.