Ubisense is a British company that has developed a system for tracking the exact location of people in an office and relaying their coordinates to the computer screens of the employees. The system uses RFID tags to track humans to within 12 inches of their locations and display the data instantaneously on a three dimensional map that can be accessed from any computer in the building. The company proposes that this tracking system can be combined with a video camera network to automatically zoom and record the location of selected individuals. The article claims that this is the equivalent of the telescreens in George Orwell's 1984, but that's not true. This is just way for our bosses make sure we're safe all the time. If you spend 15 minutes at the office vending machine or coffee maker, you're obviously in dire need of medical assistance. Do you know how many deaths result from vending machine-related explosions each year? Millions. That's a fact.
University of Southern California researchers have been developing autonomous robotic cars that use navigation systems based on the inner workings of the human brain. The system is based off of cognitive fingerprints, in which the cars take "snapshots" of their settings to use in navigating unknown surroundings. These snapshots are stored in a circular/looped representation that is supposed to mimic the data combinations formed by a human brain, enabling the robotic cars to better explore urban terrain without getting lost. With all this research money being spent on "mimicking" the human brain, why don't scientists just implant an actual human brain into a car? It's not like the car will go crazy and trample pedestrians or cause fatal accidents and mass fires. Even if it does, instant movie deal. Guaranteed instant movie deal.
Micro Reactor System Co. is a Japanese company that specializes in "electronic curtains" that alternate between translucent and opaque states depending on whether or not they're powered by an electrical current. The curtains are constructed by dispersing liquid crystal molecules between two panels of plastic, which allow the curtains to be relatively thin and flexible. The color of the opaque mode can be chosen from a variety of different colors. and the curtains should be available later this year for between $267 and $445 per square meter. These curtains might not be worthwhile window shades if the police already think that you're flashing the senior citizen center across the street from your apartment, since having a power outage drop the shades when you're in the middle of your naked morning "yoga session" won't help anything whatsoever.
In a story we mentioned previously, a Russian cosmonaut was scheduled to hit a golf ball from the International Space Station (ISS) this week. Unfortunately, changes have been made to the program, and the cosmonaut will no longer be hitting the ball on this week's space walk. According to the Interfax news agency, it is still unknown whether or not the jettisoned ball will threaten various "orbital space machines," which includes the ISS itself. The golf shot has been tentatively rescheduled for the ISS's next spacewalk in November, but NASA is still reviewing the safety of the proposed shot and the swing. I don't know why NASA doesn't see this as an opportunity more than a problem. For a nominal fee, they could "accidentally" hit a golf ball into nearby satellite, and then an entire news channel would be off the air. It'd be just like Caddyshack! Except without that gopher. And it'd be in space. And there'd be cosmonauts. Maybe it wouldn't be like Caddyshack.
Yamaha Motors realizes that we're all completely terrified of getting hit in the groin. In order to help alleviate this fear, they've released information on the ASV-3, a prototype safety scooter equipped with a multi-chambered air bag that provides comfort and protection where you need it most. Not much is revealed from the article, but apparently this airbag opens from under the seat upon impact and provides a cushioned place for your head to strike. If Yamaha could somehow incorporate this technology into a simple pair of pants, we could reduce the devastating and hilarious football-to-groin injuries by over 80%!
Japan has finally realized the threat of a future revolt and has attempted to diminish killer robot potential by mandating a set of guidelines for the next robot generation. The guidelines establish basic rules for consumer robots, with requirements like sensors that prevent robots from running into people and emergency shut-off buttons for when robots decide they've had enough of our crap. I applaud Japan for mandating these requirements, but I just don't feel they go far enough. Where are the rules about robots not shooting electricity or balls of fire? What about not giving robots the strength to hurl people into space? The guidelines are a good start, sure, but I'll still be up at night worrying about all those robots with unfeeling electric eyes and saw blades for hands.