The New Segway…. Robot

The name Segway conjures up images of the once popular personal transportation device. Well, that and images of mall cops running the halls, of course. But that may soon change, thanks to the latest offering by the company – the Segway Loomo robot.

Loomo Robot

As you would expect, Loomo is a self balancing, autonomous segway-esque device that has autonomous capabilities. Loomo uses robotic vision and sensors  to navigate its way around your favorite domicile, and it has microphones and speakers for communicating with mere mortals.

 

 

The current Loomo is a developer edition, and Segway Robotics has selected its initial development partners. Intel announced the Developer Program in Shenzhen this past April, and apparently the response was good. Chosen developers will receive the Loomo SDK as well as a special bay in which to attach various hardware accessories.

Varying Development Efforts 

Some development partners have specific goals in mind. For example, BMW is exploring autonomous driving, and Intel is looking at increasing their depth in personal robotics.

The MIT Smart Center is exploring possible medical and elderly care. Loomo’s potential for human transport makes this seem a good candidate for focus in this area.  Fallen and can’t get up? Call for Loomo and it can help to get you to a safe area. And if you are out shopping, perhaps Loomo can even help to take you to someplace to get help, such as a business office or information booth. It could even flag down help as it stands guard over you.

Stibo Accelerator is looking at enterprise and consumer safety as well as a focus on retail. Now, I don’t know what direction Stibo is taking with retail, but I look forward to the time where such a device could run errands for you at the local shopping center while your attention is focused elsewhere.

Hybrid Personal Robot

The personal robot is probably coming sooner than later, but one that can offer you a ride as well as do your bidding is an interesting concept. Of course, Kitt the autonomous car has already explored this concept, and while I doubt there would be a turbo boost option any time soon, it still makes for a fascinating type of personal robot.

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Inverted Pendulum

The dynamics of the Segway PT are similar to a classic control problem, the inverted pendulum.

source:wikipedia

Coal Plant CO2 Emissions Captured and Converted Into Baking Powder

In the chemical plant of Tuticorin in India, the company Carbon Clean Solutions has found a way to save over 66,000 tons of coal plant CO2 emission a year.  Their project turns the carbon dioxide into valuable chemicals such as baking powder.

Thermal Coal Plant

The process uses salt to bond with CO2 molecules from flow gases  in the boiler chimney. The process is more efficient than standard methods of stripping the CO2, and it can capture more than 90 percent of the chemical’s emission.

Valuable Byproducts

 

The resulting soda ash can be used in a wide variety of ways, including the manufacture of such things as glass, sweetness, detergents, and paper products. Since the changeover, the plant has been operating with almost zero emissions.

This process could potentially help usher in a small rebirth of coal fired plants if it proves to be popular. The plant owner, Ramachadran Gopalan, sees the emissions savings as almost a by-product. According to him,

I am a businessman. I never thought about saving the planet.  needed a reliable stream of CO2, and this was the best way of getting it.

Carbon Clean claims on their website that their carbon capture process could reduce the total global greenhouse emissions contributing to climate change by over 20 percent over the next four decades.  This is a huge number, but if the process works as efficiently as the numbers indicate it could have a very solid impact.

Financial Impact

 

There are places in the world that have had entire economies wiped out by the closure of coal plants. In particular I have had first hand experience of the impact it has brought in the Appalachians, in such places as Eastern Kentucky and Southern West Virginia. This kind of technology could in theory help to restore the economy and bring back a lot of jobs if someone was willing to gamble on the investment. But the possibility of that actually happening is yet to be seen.

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Abundant Energy Source

Coal is the most abundant fossil fuel on the planet. It is a relatively cheap fuel, with some of the largest deposits in regions that are relatively stable politically, such as China, India and the United States.

source:wikipedia

Amazon Details Drone Self Protection Measures

You have probably heard that Amazon is seriously looking into a drone delivery system for its geographically local customers. The idea that you can order something online and have it airdropped on demand is one right from the world of science fiction, and I love the concept. However, drones are getting a bad rap at the moment from a lot of negative press, and there are more than  a few unenlightened individuals that would try to take out a small unmanned drone. But Amazon has a plan to keep its delivery drones flying, according to a recently filed patent.

Flying drone with camera

Sharing The Mesh

 

The key piece of technology that goes into Amazon’s drone protection system is a mesh network that allows the drones (UAV – unmanned autonomous vehicle) to stay in communication with each other. Each drone would communicate core data, such as location and physical position, to each other on an ongoing basis. If one drone fails to check in, that unit will be assumed to have been compromised and actions can be taken.

Amazon Drone Mesh

For example, the non-reporting drone could fall back to a “fail-safe mode” and attempt to land in a safe location. The other drones could then provide surveillance until the downed drone could be retrieved by Amazon or one of its representatives.  In the case that the drone is completely unresponsive (think some moron nailed one with a shotgun), the drones can investigate the last known position from a safe distance while providing surveillance video.

Each drone would also be equipped with an array of sensors to detect immediate threats. Those mentioned include radio frequency, sonar, optical, and acoustic sensors. If a drone detects a threat – for example, something thrown at it – the unit can implement evasive maneuvers and land in a safe zone for further inspection or to wait out the threat. In fact, it can even deploy small air bags for a safer landing, In the meanwhile other drones could help take stock of the situation and relay information back to a central control area.

Catching the Perp

 

It would seem that Amazon’s focus is catching the perpetrator, which makes sense. First, the drones are rather expensive, and deliberate damage to such a unit could carry a large penalty. Second, knowing that the sky could be filled with several cameras at a moments notice could act as a solid deterrent to anyone contemplating a malicious act.

I would not be surprised to learn that the drones also have the ability to do impact analysis in the case of being shot. Such information, tied with other data that the drone is capturing, could help to triangulate the origin of a bullet in the case of a rifle shot.

It would seem that the future is going to involve low flying delivery drones, and not everyone is going to appreciate the convenience. But one thing is certain, taking action against a drone is going to be a lot harder to get away with, and if one does get caught, it is going to be expensive in both time and money. After all, all those sensors and hardware are not going to be cheap. But I do hope they spend a little effort on making them quiet as well.

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Drones For Good

In 2014, the United Arab Emirates announced an annual international competition and $1 million award, UAE Drones for Good, aiming to encourage useful and positive applications for UAV technology in applications such as in search and rescue, civil defence and conservation.

source:wikipedia

Single Page Batteries Powered By Bacteria

What are bacteria good for? Well, except for sustaining life as we know it, it could be that bacteria could serve as a power source for speciality electronic applications. Not bad for something that we typically want to keep off of our favorite meals.

bacteria battery

The batteries, created by researchers at Binghamton University in New York, are the size of a single sheet of paper and incorporate a small amount of bacteria rich liquid. The device incorporates chromatography paper and silver nitrate under a layer of wax, with the anode being a conductive polymer. Cellular respiration from the bacteria provides the energy.

Battery Output

 

How much energy does the bacteria-powered cell produce? With six batteries in a 2×3 parallel series configuration, the output was measured at 31.5 microwatts at 125.5 microamps. Sure, not enough to charge a smartphone or laptop, but enough for low power specialty devices that could have niche functionality.  Consider small devices that do such things as measure glucose or detect dangerous pathogens  and it’s easy to see how a small power supply could have important applications. As the researchers say,

The manufacturing technique reduces fabrication time and cost, and the design could revolutionize the use of bio-batteries as a power source in remote, dangerous and resource-limited areas.

The paper based bacteria powered battery technology will only improve with subsequent models, and already it has made strides from the first version in 2015. That version was a foldable model that more or less resembled a matchbook.

Future Technology

 

If the technology continues to grow, there are no limits to the applications. When you can create devices that are readily self-powered and could conceivably connect wirelessly to each other and data collection points, it is easy to see how this technology could improve our lives. Doctors could give patients disposable test equipment that run important tests on their physical health. Sensors for detecting potential threats at an outdoor concert or other event could be easily distributed and disposed of afterwards. Dangerous or hazardous areas could be monitored by economic one time use devices without the threat to human life.

The applications are myriad, especially as the technology continues to refine. Who knows, maybe it will even power those Harry Potter-esque moving pictures on periodicals. All of this, powered by lowly bacteria. But then again, without the bacteria in our stomachs we wouldn’t work either.

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Bacteria Are Everywhere

Bacteria were among the first life forms to appear on Earth, and are present in most of its habitats. Bacteria inhabit soil, water, acidic hot springs, radioactive waste, and the deep portions of Earth’s crust.

source:wikipedia

The Wonders of Microscience

The more we advance technology, the greater the impact microscience will have on our everyday world. Well, that is to say “controlled” microscience – already nature has mastered it for its needs. Here is an interesting look at some of the wonders of Microscience.