Can thoughts be harnessed to move robotic limbs?


Via The Seattle Times : Advances in neural engineering could make what sounds like science fiction a reality in less than a decade. “The day Jayna Bean Doll was born, May 11, 2006, we noticed seizure-like behavior. After close supervision, her doctor confirmed the seizures and ordered a CT scan of her brain. He closed the door to our room to give us the news… we knew right away, our lives were never going to be the same…” – Jayna’s mother, Sunshine Glynn, via CaringBridge. The diagnosis was hemimegalencephaly, a rare condition in which one half of the brain develops abnormally larger than the other. The seizures, a symptom of the condition, lasted minutes, consuming Jayna’s entire being. The only answer, at 28 days old, was a hemispherectomy — performed on the youngest patient in the world at the time — by Seattle Children’s neurosurgeon and Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering member Dr. Jeff Ojemann. The surgery to remove the right hemisphere of her brain was successful, but the outlook was dim: doctors told Jayna’s family she’d likely never walk or talk. That they’d have only a few years with her, at best. Fast-forward a decade, and Jayna — who lives life with partial blindness and paralysis on the left side of her body — is the happiest walking, talking 10-year-old you’ll ever meet. And, as a participant in the College of Engineering’s Ability & Innovation Lab pioneered by assistant professor of mechanical engineering and CSNE member Kat Steele, Jayna is… Read more

The Coming Game-Changer In Manufacturing Technology: Industry 4.0


Via Manufacturing Business Technology : The Coming Game-Changer In Manufacturing Technology: Industry 4.0 In 2007, Klaus Schwab told an assembly of the World Economic Forum that the world was now entering what he called the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” — a new period of manufacturing technology that will be fully upon us in the next ten years. At its core will be cyber-physical systems made up of processors, software, sensors and communication technologies. If the Digital Revolution of the second half of the twentieth century brought a shift from analog and mechanical technology to digital technology, “Industry 4.0” describes the linking of production and automation technology with the Internet, optimizing production in real-time. Powered by the convergence of low-cost storage, ubiquitous sensors, powerful artificial intelligence and analytics, plus widespread adoption of Software as a Service (SaaS) and Cloud-based computer systems, one can think of Industry 4.0 as the interaction of the real and virtual worlds — with huge impacts for product engineering and manufacturing. The first hints of the power of Industry 4.0 can be seen in the increased automation of various industrial processes in fully digital factories. The first fully digital factories have been implemented by companies who have integrated software platforms that link all aspects of manufacturing, from initial product design to factory layout and manufacturing process optimization to customer feedback after delivery. This integration ties together each aspect of the manufacturing process, including CAD modeling and visualization tools, design for manufacturability (DFM) analysis software, computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), computer-integrated manufacturing… Read more

Companies race to make electric cars mainstream


Via PBS : Companies race to make electric cars mainstream When Tesla Motors announced in March it would build a new, all-electric car at a starting price of $35,000, it was a turning point for the company. General Motors is also developing an all-electric sedan and hopes to market it early next year. Will increased competition and new options spur more sales? NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent John Larson reports. TESLA HOST: “Welcome to the stage, Mr. Elon Musk!” JOHN LARSON: When Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk announced in March that his company would build a new all electric car for the masses, many believed it might be a turning point toward a Holy Grail of sorts, a combination of cost and range that might somehow attract the mass market of American car buyers, and rewrite the more than century-old story of gasoline powered cars. ELON MUSK: “We have an amazing product to show you tonight, I think you’re going to be blown away.” JOHN LARSON: In its first 10 years, Tesla Motors had gone from a Silicon Valley startup to a small, but critically-acclaimed maker of expensive battery-powered cars. Its Model S, rolled out in 2012, cost between 60 to 120-thousand dollars and could go well over 200 miles on a charge at a time when most electric cars couldn’t even go 100. As we can attest, the Model S is one of the fastest-accelerating cars on the market, powering from 0 to 60 in under 3 seconds. ELON MUSK: “So… Read more

This Robot Can Do More Push-Ups Because It Sweats


Via IEEE Spectrum : When we use our muscles, they produce heat as a byproduct. When we use them a lot, we need to actively cool them, which is why we sweat. By sweating, we pump water out of our bodies, and as that water evaporates, it cools us down. Robots, especially dynamic robots like humanoids that place near-constant high torque demands on their motors, generate enough heat that it regularly becomes a major constraint on their performance. One of the reasons that SCHAFT did so well at the DRC Trials, for example, was their fancy liquid-cooled motors that could put out lots of torque over an extended period of time without overheating. Engineers solve this heat-generating problem in most mechanical systems by using fans, heat sinks, and radiators, which means that you’ve got all of this dedicated cooling infrastructure that takes up space and adds mass. At the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) this week, Japanese researchers presented a novel idea of how to cool humanoid robots in a much more efficient way: Design them to be able to sweat water straight out of their bones. When we use our muscles, they produce heat as a byproduct. When we use them a lot, we need to actively cool them, which is why we sweat. By sweating, we pump water out of our bodies, and as that water evaporates, it cools us down. Robots, especially dynamic robots like humanoids that place near-constant high torque demands on their… Read more

The Construction Business Goes Digital


Via The Wall Street Journal : The Construction Business Goes Digital Builders up their game with data-driven design, drone mapping, 3-D printing and more innovations The dirt-under-the-fingernails world of construction is breaking digital ground. In an industry where practices have barely changed for decades, the building site of the future promises comprehensive online modeling, drones as surveyors and virtual-reality images of everything from building sites to commercial real estate. Led by some big builders and a clutch of startups stretching from Australia to Silicon Valley, the industry is seeking to eliminate the delays and cost overruns that have plagued it in the past. “We are certainly seeing a rapid shift toward digitization in the construction sector, as the industry looks to harness new technologies to drive more-efficient delivery,” says Alasdair Reisner, chief executive of the U.K.-based Civil Engineering Contractors Association, who sees huge opportunities in building a digital construction industry. Breaking the budget Cost and schedule blowouts are the norm in construction. Large projects typically take 20% longer to finish than scheduled and are up to 80% over budget, according to a study by McKinsey & Co. And the industry lags behind other fields in spending to develop innovations. Construction-related research-and-development investment runs less than 1% of revenue, compared with 3.5% in the automotive industry and 4.5% in aerospace, the study found. Only agriculture and hunting spend less on information technology. Thin margins are partly to blame, as are the volatility of returns. Builders generally are reluctant to adopt expensive new… Read more

Lincoln architects use drones to see up close, up high


Via Omaha World-Herald : A couple of years ago, Lincoln architect Kevin Clark of Clark Architects Collaborative 3 was asked to inspect a 200-foot bell tower on the grounds of a religious retreat center southwest of Waverly, Nebraska. The inspection would determine how well the sealant joints and caulking were holding up on the concrete tower built in 1964. A job like that typically would have involved renting a boom truck and hiring someone to inspect the tower up close. Instead, Clark used a drone. With a remote control unit in hand, Clark directed the white quadcopter to turn on its four rotors — propellers that provide vertical thrust — and then to lift off the ground and circle the tower. After the 20-minute inspection flight, Clark reviewed the video. “We never needed a boom truck, never needed a person licensed to go up that high and didn’t need to reposition the truck all around the tower,” said Clark, whose firm is one of the first in the area to own a drone as an architectural tool. The architect said hiring a boom truck and an operator for that single inspection would have cost hundreds of dollars. The drone that he used for the job cost about $1,200. Since that flight, Clark has used drones for a variety of tasks. He said that although many people in architecture understand the potential of drones, few have used them to their fullest capability. In addition to flying for architects, drones have monitored traffic… Read more

From AR to BIM: Mapping the future of construction technology


Via MS Construction News : The onset of cloud and mobile technologies is ushering in major disruption in the industry Construction technology has seen tremendous progress over the years, with the introduction of building information modelling (BIM), the steady integration of virtual and augmented reality, and the use of converged security systems and drones on construction sites. In fact, the benefits of these new systems and devices have been so well received that governments and developers are now beginning to acknowledge the effectiveness of implementing them while working on a development. The first big shift that happened in the industry was the move from using 2D drawings and models for projects to using 3D technologies, says Suhail Arfat, head of Autodesk Consulting Middle East. “We’ve noticed that there is a dependence on the usage of BIM, where it becomes easy to visualise, simulate and plan a project from its conceptualisation to implementation phase. BIM has also helped diverse project teams to collaborate on a real-time basis, minimising expensive reworks, significantly reducing project costs and improving efficiency.” He says that he sees the onset of cloud and mobile technologies ushering in another disruption in the industry as it moves towards a new way of working and managing projects. Speaking about the progress that BIM has seen, Charles Dunk, associate director of the Immersive Technology Group, UAE & Oman at AECOM, says that while it is well established in the architecture and building sectors, civil engineering is yet to fully embrace it across… Read more

Innovative molten silicon-based energy storage system


Via Science Daily : A team of researchers from Solar Energy Institute at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) are developing a novel system that allows the storage energy in molten silicon which is the most abundant element in Earth’s crust. The system, which has been recently published in the Energy Journal and has patent pending status in the United States, and aims to develop a new generation of low cost solar thermal stations and becoming a innovative storage system of electricity and cogeneration for urban centers. The unstoppable progress of renewable energy, especially wind and photovoltaic energy, has given rise to a global challenge in the energy sector: the storage of such dispersed and intermittent energy. In recent years, a large number of devices have been developed for this purpose. Some of these devices have reached the advanced testing phase and even the commercialization phase. And this is the case of the solar thermal energy, in which sunlight is stored as heat molten salt, and then the energy is and converted to electricity upon demand through a thermal generator. However, there are still problems with the existing solutions due to excessive costs, safety problems or lack of material resources in the future. Therefore, research centres and companies worldwide are seeking alternative solutions by using low cost and abundant materials lacking of great risks to the safety of people. Researchers from Solar Energy Institute at UPM are developing a new energy storage system in which the entry energy, either from solar energy… Read more

Bing Thom, visionary architect who united East and West, dies at 75


Via The Globe and Mail : Throughout his career in architecture, Bing Thom was adept at transcending cultural boundaries, taking great care to experience and understand every locale in which he designed. “I have always been searching, both subliminally and consciously, to fuse the values of East and West,” the Hong Kong-born Canadian architect said in a 2008 interview. Earlier this week, Mr. Thom was travelling from his home base in Vancouver to Hong Kong to check on his firm’s new opera house, which is under construction. The $350-million Xiqu Centre is his latest international landmark, and Mr. Thom took special pride that it is being built in Hong Kong, the city of his birth. When he died there unexpectedly of a brain aneurysm on Oct. 4, it marked the geographic full circle of a remarkable life and career. He was 75. Bing Wing Thom was born on Dec. 8, 1940, to the offspring of the first wave of Chinese immigrants to Canada’s West Coast. Mr. Thom’s father had returned to Hong Kong, embittered at the racist policies of the day that prevented him from practising his profession. He stayed there for many years, even after his wife decided to resettle in Vancouver to raise Bing and his two brothers. “[Mr. Thom] told me that he got in a lot of fights back then,” says Vancouver architect James Cheng, a long-time friend. “He couldn’t speak English very well and kids would pick on him. That formed part of his character as… Read more

Quantity surveyors go “Green”


Via Engineering News : Executive Director, Association of South African Quantity Surveyors For those in the construction industry the term “quantity surveyor” is commonly known. But, a quantity surveyor’s function is not always understood. To illustrate the value of this key function we take a look at Green buildings. The role of a quantity surveyor (QS) is to quantify and manage the various cost items of material, labour, plant and equipment, which make up the total cost of a construction project. A QS is a professionally registered advisor who provides a value add service, from the feasibility stage of a project right through to completion. And, in the two key areas where construction projects typically go wrong, e.g. budget and project completion date overruns, a proactive QS will save the contractor and their client both time and money. Familiar with public and private sector procurement strategies, they can be rather useful in getting past the hiccups that usually occur when procurement procedures are unfamiliar. With setting up budgets their forte, this can be a distinct advantages when preparing large, complex tenders, and even small ones too. But why go Green? Climate change is no longer a speculation but a reality in our lives. As populations grow bigger and urbanization grows cities at an unprecedented rate, with local authorities building upwards and not outwards, this concentration of people and the conveniences of life impact our natural environment – aggravating climate change even further. The construction and operation of modern buildings, those in which… Read more