The Future Has Just Arrived On Exclusive College Campuses
Aug04

The Future Has Just Arrived On Exclusive College Campuses

CMU IoT Study Mobile systems such as cell phones and global positioning systems are becoming the dominant method of accessing large-scale networks, as opposed to the “traditional” desktop computer. In fact, as of January 2015, more than 50% of all internet traffic is from mobile users. In light of this shift, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh are converting their entire campus into a laboratory. Specifically, they are going to place inexpensive sensors all over the campus. A Living Campus CMU researchers intend to increase the interconnectivity of all appliances, buildings and devices on campus with sensors. The project is part of a multi-college initiative funded by Google to increase research in, and support the development of, the Internet of Things. CMU researchers will also be working with colleagues at Cornell, and Stanford. “The goal will be to radically enhance human-to-human and human-to-computer interaction through a large-scale deployment of the internet of things (IoT) that ensures privacy, accommodates new features over time and enables people to readily design applications for their own use,” said Anind Dey, lead investigator and director of CMU’s Human Computer Interaction Institute. Creating a Connected World Researchers will encourage students across campus to create and use IoT apps via an IoT app store. Any campus member, and members of the larger research community, will be able to share and develop IoT script, actions, sensor feeds, or apps. For example, researchers have created an app called Snap2It, which allows users to connect to a printer or smartphone by simply taking a photo of the device. As principal investigator of the study, Dey states that he hopes to push the current boundaries of mobile interaction. The IoT project is currently supported by Google., which will provide CMU with $500,000 as initial funding. CMU will work with scientists from the other partner universities in order to develop of the GIoTTo, which will support the security of the apps and enable users to create their own experience. Preserving the privacy of mobile users and ensuring security in an increasingly digital world is one of the main challenges the team hopes to tackle with this project. Ultimately, the CMU and Google are striving to have these sensors placed throughout Pittsburgh. The city’s mayor, Bill Peduto, has expressed favor for this idea, as he hopes that it will “…enhance city services and improve the quality of life of our [Pittsburgh’s]...

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NASA’s Jet Laboratory Helps Determine Extent of California Drought
Jul10

NASA’s Jet Laboratory Helps Determine Extent of California Drought

While the four year long California drought is making headlines worldwide, United States government researchers are trailblazing new ways to measure the scope and scale of the drought. Members of the NASA jet laboratory, the prestigious Jet Propulsion Lab, are using advanced technology to figure out exactly how, where, and why the drought is occurring and experts hope to use this information to predict the duration and severity of the drought Since the Sierra Nevada Mountains are the largest source of freshwater for the state of California, the snowpack levels in the mountains are of particular importance when it comes to monitoring how much fresh water the state can expect to receive each season. Winter levels of snow can help to predict how much water will melt and flow to the low-lands during the hotter seasons. The NASA jet laboratory is using an airplane known as the Airborne Snow Observatory to do flyovers of the snowpack to check levels. The plane is a turboprop Beechcraft King Airplane which has been specially outfitted with numerous devices that help scientists to measure the snowpack levels. The amount of snowpack contributes up to 70% of the total precipitation in California. The aircraft flies almost daily in areas in and around California and the American West. It uses a technology called Lidar—which is laser radar—to determine how deep the snow is at any particular level. The laser is able to scan the land 800,000 times per second. The rate to which the signal bounces back to the plane  is used to determine the depth of the existing snowpack. The depth of the snowpack is then used to figure out how much freshwater there will be. In addition, NASA also measures how much sunlight is being reflected by the snow using an imaging spectrometer. This is a control measure and helps to create more accurate data. Between the two data, NASA can tell water managers how much freshwater will be available and when it will be available. This can help to determine policy changes or cutbacks that may need to be made due to worsening drought conditions or whether commercial and residential areas can loosen those rules. For the first time in history, NASA is able to tell officials how much water will be necessary to end a drought in the US. Launched in 2002, the data collected by its Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites showed that two of California’s main river basins were depleted by 4 trillion gallons of water each year from 2011–2014. Together, the data shows that California will need to replenish roughly 11 trillion gallons of water to recover from...

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Welcome to the Fourth Industrial Revolution!
Apr27

Welcome to the Fourth Industrial Revolution!

Imagine a future where, as you awaken in the morning, your house is waking up with you.  Using your individual custom settings, the shower begins running, the coffee starts brewing itself in the kitchen, and your car has started itself in the garage, warming up to take you to work. Your phone sends you a push notification that it has determined its battery will wear out soon and that a new one has been ordered and will arrive on Thursday. Welcome to life after the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The phrase “industrial revolution” probably reminds you of sitting in history class learning something about a steam engine and James Watt’s vapor-powered technology making it possible to shift to mass production. However, there have been two others since: one in the late 1800s based around electrification and division of labor (assembly lines), and another in the late 1900s based on the rise of information technology (computers and the Internet). Three years ago, the Germans were predicting a fourth revolution, one that promises dramatic transformations in the workplace, making an entire universe of objects revolve around you; one in which everyday objects are connected to the Internet and are able to communicate with one another. This is the production side of the Internet of Things (IoT). Everything around us, from our cars to our toasters, will be connected to the Internet. Smart devices will be able to talk directly to the machines that manufactured them, making it possible for your dishwasher to notify the factory that it is about to wear out. Factories can then adjust production levels to compensate, so that a replacement unit is ready and waiting for you when you need it. Even automated factory processes themselves are getting the IoT treatment, to the point of incorporating remote alarm notification systems designed to inform operators of breakdowns or failures. As a result of all of this smart technology, backorders and wait times will soon be a thing of the past and factories will largely care for themselves, leading to greater efficiency. Smart factories are set  to irrevocably change the face of manufacturing, avoiding breaks in production and reducing energy waste so often seen in the industrial sector. There are, of course, potential pitfalls. As these smart machines replace human labor, there will be fewer jobs available. It won’t matter much how efficiently products are made if no one has the money to buy them. Also, a universal computer language will need to be developed; otherwise there may be times when devices can’t speak across proprietary company boundaries. Security is another obvious concern. Malware already exists that is designed specifically...

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Carnegie Mellon Students Invent New Way to Teach Braille
Apr16

Carnegie Mellon Students Invent New Way to Teach Braille

Computer science students at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, have designed an innovative device to teach Braille to blind students without using Braille Paper or a slate and stylus. The Braille Tutor for blind children, which was developed as part of the CMU TechBridgeWorld program, has already been used to teach Braille to impoverished blind children in India, Tanzania, and Zambia. According to Dr. Bernardine Dias of the CMU computer sciences department, the Braille Tutor project began to take form in 2006. Dr. Dias and her project team first realized that the little black box had potential after successfully using the device to teach Braille to students at Mathru, a school for the blind in Bangalore, India. Even children who lacked the ability to conceptualize Braille could learn with the assistance of the Braille Tutor. According to Ermin Teeves, project manager of TechBridgeWorld, CMU’s computerized Braille Tutor eliminates the cost of Braille paper and the frustration of embossing raised dots with a slate and stylus. Students have even developed a model that requires only a set of speakers to listen to the audio cues and instructions that help students learn the alphabet in Braille. Dr. Dias founded TechBridgeWorld to provide an avenue for Carnegie Mellon computer science students to create simple technology with the goal of assisting impoverished communities throughout the world. The Braille Tutor was one of the first projects to emerge from the TechBridgeWorld program. Although the project was initiated by CMU graduate students more than a decade ago, a series of ambitious students and computer science staff have kept development alive. TechBridgeWorld plans to continue development of the device. The students are already working on a version that can be connected to a Smartphone. Newer versions of the Braille Tutor eliminate the need for an external computer and allow students to use a stylus, consult an audio tutor, or both. Dr. Dias and the project team hope to strengthen their partnership with schools for the blind in impoverished areas of the...

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CERN’s Large Hadron Collider Returning to Service
Apr02

CERN’s Large Hadron Collider Returning to Service

On February 14, 2013, CERNs’ large hadron collider (LHC) executed a maintenance shutdown following ground-breaking experiments that ultimately observed the elusive Higgs Boson particle the year before.  It’s now two years later and the facility is being brought back online; it is currently undergoing “warm-up” testing prior to returning to full service. Unlike the shutdown performed in response to a wiring fault in 2008, this maintenance period was planned well in advance. The LHC has a virtually countless number of individual parts, including 1232 superconducting, helium-cooled magnets. Statistically, every nut, bolt, and widget has a predictable lifetime and must be replaced prior to the possibility of failure. When the LHC is brought up to full capacity later this month, upgrades performed during the shutdown should empower researchers to break new ground in the study of particle physics. The improved magnets that keep high-speed protons on track, and the vacuum chamber through which they move, are estimated to support 13 TeraElectronVolt (TeV) collisions at start up, improved from the 8 TeV collisions that produced observable evidence of the Higgs boson. Engineers are predicting they will be able to increase performance even further – up to 14 TeV. These higher energy collisions are needed to test some fundamental hypotheses, such as supersymmetry — a prediction that every particle exists with a second partner particle. Evidence of supersymmetry is scarce, but the improved LHC may provide an opportunity to more closely observe particle decay after very high energy collisions, perhaps leading to insights about its existence. The higher energy collisions are also predicted to produce more exotic and elusive particles, which may indicate the composition of dark matter, a substance that does not emit any detectable light from the electromagnetic spectrum, but whose gravitational effects can be observed on a galactic scale. Unlike the Higgs boson experiments, these experiments are exploratory; firm predictions like the existence of a specific particle don’t apply. What CERN may find could be wholly unexpected, and it is that potential for a new discovery that keeps them pushing the limits of the...

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Google and Mattel Introduce New & Improved View-Master!
Mar02

Google and Mattel Introduce New & Improved View-Master!

One of the most popular retro childhood toys just received a major upgrade! The beloved View-Master, which has been around in one form or another since it debuted at New York’s World Fair in 1939, has undergone a huge change and is now joining the world of virtual-reality gaming. Over the past couple of decades, the popularity of the View-Master has declined because so many high-tech gadgets had come along to compete. Toy company Mattel finally decided to change that by partnering with Google to update the classic toy. Now, the View-Master has become a tool for virtual reality fantasy and game play.Similar in some ways to the popular Oculus Rift gaming device, the new and improved View-Master resembles the style of the older model, but with a thicker, more modern feel. To play it, you simply download the View-Master app onto your phone and then connect your phone to the device. Designed for ages 7 and up, this new technology opens up doors for both entertainment and education. With it you can take virtual field trips to far away places and learn interesting new facts as you play. For instance, the San Francisco tour takes you to popular tourist attractions like Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. You can also go back in time to when the dinosaurs roamed the earth and see the ancient lizards up close. As you view the 360-degree photography around you, informational texts will pop up to tell you more about what you are seeing. This partnership between Mattel and Google is still fairly new, but even more exciting things are planned for the near future. For instance, Mattel plans to add even more gaming features to the new View-Master, including fun interactive treasure hunts for kids. The company plans to integrate old photography footage from the toy’s archives, so classic favorites will likely be available as well. Right now the toy is only compatible with Android phones, but that is set to change before the item hits store shelves later this...

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