Geologists are constantly searching for new sources of energy, but offshore drilling remains controversial. Environmentally sensitive areas can be damaged by oil spills, and water supplies are easily poisoned. Researchers feel that a majority of oil spills are caused by human error.
That’s why engineers are proposing automated oil rigs as an answer to many environmental problems. Oilrigs would have to be fairly intelligent if they operated on their own. Current designs call for only partial automation, but full automation could come in the near future as advances in artificial reasoning/computation are made. This would solve many of the problems associated with offshore drilling today.
Human error wouldn’t be an issue since computer controls couldn’t become distracted. Boredom is actually a serious problem when it comes to any long-term maritime operation. When people become bored they’re more likely to be distracted. Ennui can actually cost lives, but it’s not an issue that plagues machinery.
Heuristics algorithms would also be quite helpful. Advanced neural networks that emulate brain wave patterns could easily be applied to the field of oil exploration. Satellite systems have been able to use radar for locating new oil deposits, but this isn’t an exact science. Oilrigs linked by neural networks could locate deposits from the ocean and work them without any need for outside intervention.
This makes them particularly useful for areas where supplies of oil aren’t particularly plentiful. Automated oilrigs could periodically work small deposits and then move on after they’ve been drained. This methodology could supply somewhat ample supplies of fuel for countries that would otherwise have to import almost all of their energy.
While it might not be obvious to casual observers, these systems would actually have a beneficial influence on the environment. Considerable amounts of fuel are used to move energy resources between different countries today. Nations that are currently supplying all of their energy from foreign oil wells are increasing their carbon footprints as a result of moving fossil fuels between continents.
By working small deposits in these countries, they could supply up to half their own energy needs. This would have a beneficial influence on local economies as well. Patents would probably be the biggest issue with an emerging technology like this. Agencies that manufacture automated devices would probably want to maintain a stranglehold on the technology.
Open source development is a possible solution for these problems. Everybody would have access to open resources. When the threat of a patent infringement lawsuit is taken out of the equation, smaller countries would be more likely to invest in this type of technology. Automated rigs would actually be less expensive to operate than regular ones. They don’t require expensive crews either. While this is certainly an advantage, it could create some interesting labor problems.
On the other hand, automated mineral energy devices will become increasingly important in a society run by technology. Independent machines would have to collect their own energy sources, which means that automated oilrigs and other similar projects would become commonplace in the near future. It’s not hard to imagine engineers making similar devices to collect natural gas or mineral wealth in the future.
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Data Gloves (or wired gloves or cybergloves), as the name implies, are computer input devices that are worn on the hand like a glove. They utilize motion trackers to translate finger manipulations into electrical signals. In the near future, this technology might revolutionize the way that disabled people are able to access computer resources. For instance, individuals who are currently unable to use a mouse or keyboard might have a better chance with a wired glove. As these products come down in price, it’s fair to assume that regular computer users will be able to afford them as well. Some USB standard devices are already out on the market today. There are other possible commercial applications for these devices as well…the market just needs innovators to lead the way.
The Past and Future of Data Gloves It might be best to call these high tech gloves a reemerging technology. They actually came into vogue in the 1980s. A number of rather ridiculous contraptions were designed around these devices at the time – but this was of course due to the available technologies of the era. The VPL DataGlove was certainly one of the earliest virtual reality products regular people could buy. For a while, many believed they were the future of video games and virtual simulations.
Despite the early promise of the devices, people forgot about them for quite some time. There are a few reasons that wired glove technology has been downplayed in recent years. For instance, many virtual reality machines designed around data gloves were hazardous to people’s health. Certain types of displays caused headaches and seizures. Many wired glove consumer products were also poorly planned early on. Many of you may remember the ill-fated Power Glove for the Nintendo Entertainment System. So there have been some missteps in this field. However, there’s nothing to say that wired glove products need to use 3D displays for successful operation. For that matter, there isn’t even a reason to believe that their future success is dependent upon adoption in the consumer market.
Moving Forward – How Data Gloves Can be Used Some of the most interesting research being done today lies within the field of human-machine interfaces. Rather than applications pertaining only to specialized fields (i.e. rehabilitation), many experts believe that the future for cybergloves is actually quite broad.
Machines or robots in the future might be designed specifically to include glove interfaces. For example, some organizations have focused on creating certain types of robots that lack sophisticated software for organizational tasks. Think of a robot that might be used to assemble a multi-ton piece of equipment that needs to be built to spec. In this type of application, humans would remotely control the robots, using data glove interfaces, as opposed to building software to control the robots. This can reduce the need for sophisticated software that has the potential to fail (and avoid the potential catastrophes that might follow) by allowing a human operator to take control of a system, through the use of a wired glove interface, while capitalizing on the advantages of robotics at the same time. Since computers currently lack the ability to discriminate between different choices, a human operator might actually be superior to a computer in these types of applications. These are the instances when data gloves may be useful.
Alternatively, data gloves can be used in telerobotic operations. For example, telerobotics could give organizations the option to control systems anywhere in the world using localized data gloves. This has significant implications when considered. For instance, what if companies could repair broken down equipment in the sea, space, or even the desert using the devices? Isn’t that better than risking the lives of humans for the same processes? There are lots of possibilities in terms of commercial applications in this area. I’m simply touching on a few just to illustrate the potential that these devices may have in the future.
Another obvious use of these high-tech gloves lies within the area of rehabilitation. People recovering from injuries may be able to relearn how to use certain muscle groups by using these sorts of devices. Some modern rehabilitation systems have actually been built around the devices. Computing applications abound as well…especially in the quest to rid the world of input devices. While it’s far too early to claim that keyboards (or the mouse) are an endangered species, a diverse line of data gloves in the near future could potentially change the computing market in this area.
What are some problems you can imagine data gloves being able to solve in the future?
Fahn, C., & Sun, H. (2010). Development of a Fingertip Glove Equipped with Magnetic Tracking Sensors Sensors, 10 (2), 1119-1140 DOI: 10.3390/s100201119
Yamaura H, Matsushita K, Kato R, & Yokoi H (2009). Development of hand rehabilitation system for paralysis patient – universal design using wire-driven mechanism. Conference proceedings : … Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Conference, 2009, 7122-5 PMID: 19963950
HOSHINO, K. (2006). Dexterous Robot Hand Control with Data Glove by Human Imitation IEICE Transactions on Information and Systems, E89-D (6), 1820-1825 DOI: 10.1093/ietisy/e89-d.6.1820
Dalley, S., Varol, H., & Goldfarb, M. (2012). A Method for the Control of Multigrasp Myoelectric Prosthetic Hands IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering, 20 (1), 58-67 DOI: 10.1109/TNSRE.2011.2175488
Nattapong Tongrod, Teerakiat Kerdcharoen, N. Watthanawisuth, & A. Tuantranont (2010). A low-cost dataglove for Human computer interaction based on ink-jet printed sensors and ZigBee networks International Symposium on Wearable Computers – ISWC, 1-2 DOI: 10.1109/ISWC.2010.5665850
It seems that 3D printing is all the rage these days so I thought I’d examine this exciting technology a little more in-depth to find out what all the hubbub is about. While the technology itself isn’t new, the fact that equipment and materials pricing is dramatically coming down in the space is the difference right now. In future years, I predict we will all have 3D printers sitting on our desks. I would love to have one of these to make models of planets and other celestial bodies…ahhh someday.
3D Printing – A Closer Look
Additive manufacturing technology doesn’t really resemble traditional CNC techniques, and that’s why 3D printing has become such a major topic in recent years. While the name might suggest that these are printers used to put three-dimensional images on paper, 3D printing devices are generally used to produce objects by layering different amounts of material (such as plastic) that are shot out of jets. Some of the most advanced 3D printing devices can yield models that closely copy the look and feel of complex and finished products. Engineering consumer goods in this way can ultimately cut costs. Imagine how this might transform R&D as well.
However, despite the positive applications of this technology, there are some negatives as well. For example, plastic figurines are being made that truly resemble the originals made by artists. While this might be a good thing for those who collect pop culture items, it’s most certainly not for the artist. I worry that intellectual property disputes will arise at an alarming rate if these printers ever do go mainstream. And this is a very real concern in the industry. Nonetheless, real progress is being made in the fields such as surgical implants and model patterns and these are the areas that I find most exciting.
Applications in Science
Layering different amounts of steel over other surfaces (such as those created by 3D printers) is an innovative method of making machine parts. This is more accurate than traditional techniques, and it’s quickly becoming less expensive as well. The potential applications within various science fields are staggering as well. For instance, replicating ancient artifacts for archaeological research has always been a time consuming task. 3D printing technology is able to produce almost identical copies of priceless museum pieces. Forensic pathologists are starting to use 3D printers as a way to reconstruct evidence, and paleontologists are beginning to use 3D printers to make reproductions of fossilized bone structures. Astronomers may soon be using them to replicate crystal matrix patterns found in asteroid fragments.
Various types of 3D scanning technologies can help researchers reproduce objects without the use of molding techniques. This is a huge boon for anyone who needs to replicate something without destroying it. What might interest computer users is that there is a movement to produce open-source versions of 3D printing technology that could be used to make 3D printing presses that aren’t encumbered by patent laws. These presses would be free from even hardware patents, which make them attractive as a small business solution. I can also see ways that 3D printers can be used in classrooms as well in the future…assuming schools can afford them.
I’m personally excited about the future of 3D printing but do have reservations in terms of IP violations and such. Regardless, this is an exciting technology and I like the direction it’s headed.
Low noise RF filters have already changed radio astronomy quite a bit. However, they’ve usually been based around regular commercial, multi-stage receiver technology. Radio devices have progressed a great deal, especially considering the fact that the transistor has made them so much smaller. Custom designed components would have a number of benefits as well.
This isn’t to say that countless custom designs aren’t in service already. RF devices have simply developed along a certain path. This has allowed discoveries found in one scientific field to be used in many others. While this sort of system is beneficial, it has also forced many researchers to prefer developing components that could be used for countless applications.
Adventurous experimenters might want to try their hand at radio astronomy. They might feel they have nothing to lose. Taking a few proper safety and legal precautions are a must in the field. Some technology is not supposed to be used without a license, especially if it can transmit a signal. Reception of certain signals also might be unlawful. So be careful!
Nevertheless, home experimenters have pushed the boundaries of science in many ways. Hobbyists don’t have to worry about research grants or political motives. That means they might be the ones discovering quasars in the near future.
Before GPS and cellular devices gave drivers directions, Long Range Navigation (LORAN) beacons helped sailors and pilots to find their way during their travels. Powerful radio pulses emanate from radio transmitter sites. Skilled operators are able to determine latitude and longitude if they’ve received at least three different beacons. Signals from close transmitters arrive earlier than those from far away sites, because radio energy constantly travels at the speed of light.
Unlawful reception of cellular phone signals is a serious offense, and LORAN world band transmissions take a great deal of skill to utilize. It doesn’t seem like any other navigational option is available to most people. Countless individuals rely on commercial solutions.
Individuals living in a technological singularity might very well use a radically different system than the status quo some day. People could be tuned into a worldwide navigational network that would allow them to find their way with RF impulses. While the connection between radio energy and cancer is poorly understood, scientists might discover a way to make this arrangement safe for human users. Cybernetic implants could perhaps be used to interface neurons with radio communications. If nothing else, it would give an entirely new meaning to the phrase tin foil hat.
As I was sitting in rush hour traffic this morning and wishing that I were back home in bed with my pups, I started thinking how great it would be if I could just push a button on my dashboard and zip off into the sky leaving all those less fortunate commuters behind on the road below. Of course reality soon set in and I realized I was one of those less fortunate commuters myself. Oh how I wish I had a flying car.
As my mind wondered, I started thinking about a world with flying cars. Things like mid-air collisions with other flying commuters; the potential carnage that might result on the ground below when the collisions occurred; how we could essentially cut traffic on roads in half if we only had them (I’m assuming that half of the population would want to remain grounded); how giant inflatable airbags could save people that had the aforementioned mid-air collisions (and the trajectory of their bounce when they hit the ground below); the size of garages these vehicles would require; whether or not we would let 16 year-olds fly; what birds would think of us flying around up there; and a host of other ideas I’ve thought about countless times before when dreaming of a world full of flying vehicles. This is the kind of crap that goes through my head when I’m stuck in traffic. It could all be solved if I only had a flying car, right?
No futuristic theme is quite as enduring as the flying car. Several modern engineers continue to plug away at different ways to make automobiles take to the skies. Aerocar owners might be laughing at these efforts though. After all, their flying cars have been in service since 1948.
Aerocar Flying Car (1956)
Only a few models of the Aerocar were ever made, and production completely ceased in the 1960s. However, they prove that it’s possible to attach fixed-wing aircraft technology to regular cars. Aerocars might not have been practical, but they were built in an age before widespread adoption of the transistor. Electrical components are far smaller today than they were in the past.
Strangely enough, a similar motor vehicle was made in Germany called the Aerocar as well. However, the Wagner Aerocar was much closer to a helicopter than an airplane. Both vehicles suggest that highways might be a thing of the past…some day. Drivers are currently too reliant on fossil fuels to put these ideas into practice on a mass scale. Weather is a major factor as well. People would definitely have to pay more attention to their local forecast.
Electric motors could theoretically let future commuters look at a few clouds on the way to work. Another positive is that fewer people would have to worry about potholes any more. The days of rush hour traffic jams would be a thing of the past (maybe). Ahh, what a world we’d have if we only had flying cars. Of course, right now I’d settle for that jet-pack I’ve been hearing about since I was a kid as an alternative!
My question to you is this: If flying vehicles were an option today (and they were roughly the same cost as traditional vehicles), would you buy one? Feel free to share why you would, or wouldn’t. Have a great day everyone!
Image Credit: YEE design by the South China University of Technology
Researchers in New York have shown that measuring human brain waves could help marketers develop more effective advertising campaigns. The team monitored brain wave activity in volunteers to determine what types of film scenes elicited universal responses. They say their data shows that the method could be far more effective than conventional market research techniques. Thoughts?
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True technocapitalism is a far way off because of the prejudice of modern man. Nonetheless, humanity will be in a much better position to reach the next developmental level once people are able to move past judgmental behaviors. Much has been written about how people treat others, and this is certainly important. The issue of this post involves how they view construction, however. Read More →
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New scientific research (referenced below) raises the possibility that advanced versions of T. rex and other dinosaurs — monstrous creatures with the intelligence and cunning of humans — may be the life forms that evolved on other planets in the universe. “We would be better off not meeting them,” concludes the study, which appears in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. Read More →
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McGraw-Hill Education today launched the Science, Technology, Engineering & Math Innovative Educator Awards, to recognize and reward teachers who are finding innovative ways to reach today’s students. The awards, known as the STEMIEs, will acknowledge teachers who are pioneering effective techniques to engage their students in science, technology, engineering or math – fields of study critical to our nation’s economic growth. McGraw-Hill will award $25,000 in cash and prizes to the winners of the contest.