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Industrial Equipment Noise

Tech Wake-Up: Consumer-to-Engineering Kinections, New Ghost Town, New Touch Tech, and How to Save a Half Million Dollars with a Triumph

By Mark Devlin

May 14, 2012

Kinect Coming to Engineering? Maybe!

I’ve been predicting that it’ll happen, but I wasn’t expecting something (if even a prototype something) this soon.

At this point, connecting a Microsoft Kinect to a 3D projector has resulted in the MirageTable, which enables ‘people in remote locations to share and interact with real and virtual objects,’ according to this brief at NewScientist. Here’s a generally Wow-level walkthrough… 

Appearing at first as though the ‘augmented reality,’ 3D projections are rough holograms, they’re actually presented on (and interacted with) via a curved, white screen. Advance to about 2:30 to watch people remotely manipulating virtually projected objects.

Hrvoge Benko, Ricardo Jota, and Andrew D. Wilson of Microsoft Research designed the system. 3D glasses, of course, are also required on both ends.

Make the object-handling capability more complex to handle intricate shapes, up the resolution and clarity, then add a gauging system of some kind—then we’ll have something for engineers and technologists.

Really interesting work.

New Life from, Uh, Research in Motion??

I predicted awhile back that BlackBerry Maker RIM would meet its demise within five years, seeing little (Okay, no…) innovation coming out of the Waterloo, Ontario-based company. In a move that could be argued as a positive or negative, the company recently hired lawyers to handle its restructuring. I’d have to say that’s a negative but, admittedly, I’ve nothing concrete on which to base that presumption—other than lawyers don’t seem like the most innovative bunch on the planet, and RIM is in desperate need of innovation. My take was that such a move was a nail in the company’s coffin.

Then, just a few days ago, Engadget reported that the U.S. Dept. of Defense has officially approved the use of several BlackBerry 7 smartphones by military and DoD personnel.


Interesting, but not all that surprising since RIM’s been the smartphone of choice for much of the U.S. government for awhile. Known for its secure BlackBerry Enterprise Server, oddly, the company late last year opened up use of such secure servers for iPhone and Android smartphone users.

So far, it’s still not looking like a lot of life. BUT…

They’re also working on fuel cells to power mobile gadgets, somewhere along the capability lines of the butane-fueled, Lilliputian Systems model that we mentioned here just last week. According to this brief at Engadget, RIM has applied for two more fuel cell patents.

Huh. Maybe there is some innovative life left in the seemingly boring ol’ gal.

What do you think? I’m still thinking RIM death betting pool, but fuel cells change the odds a bit…

How to Test Future Tech in Actual Town? Build One.

Testing new technologies in an actual, pre-existing town could cause not only inconveniences and potentially more serious problems, but lawsuits—and, of course, deafening screams and torch-lit marches when inevitable glitches shut-down services.

What are technologists and researchers to do? Build a brand spanking new Ghost Town modeled after Rock Hill, SC (pictured below)…


…and call it the Center for Innovation, Technology, and Testing. See the source article here at Yahoo! News UK.

With construction work scheduled to begin by the end of next month, the project will be built by Pegasus Global Holdings, a subsidiary of New Mexico-based CITE development. Price? A Pegasus representative says that, realistically, they’re looking at $1B even though the initial development cost is quoted at $400M.

To be located in Lea County, NM, near Hobbs—‘which has emerged as a leader in industrial development in the Southwest’—the 15 square-mile, no-people tech town will have both old and new roads, houses, and commercial buildings—and the houses will include necessities such as appliances and plumbing.

Types of testing could include anything from smart technologies on old grids to running driverless cars around the town.

Jobs? So far, they’re talking 350 permanent and 3,500 indirect.

Initial customers of the Pegasus project are expected to include federal labs and agencies, universities and research institutions, commercial industries, non-profits, and energy and water resources.

New Touch Technology Works with Liquids

…and more.

Yes, you read that right. Disney Research has proposed Touché, ‘a touch sensing approach based on swept frequency capacitive sensing.’ Existing capacitive touch sensing uses a single frequency—with a value that increases or decreases, depending upon if a finger is touching. Touché, on the other hand, ‘sweeps over a range of frequencies, sampling the voltage many times’… 

Here’s a quote from the Disney Research Touché site

For example, in our explorations we added complex touch and gesture sensitivity not only to computing devices and everyday objects, but also to the human body and liquids. Importantly, instrumenting objects and material with touch sensitivity is easy and straightforward: a single wire is sufficient to make objects and environments touch and gesture sensitive.

Want more info? Check out this research paper (PDF) by Disney Research, University of Tokyo, and Carnegie Mellon University.


Aerospace Testing Too Expensive? Use a Motorcycle.

According to this article at Phys.Org, a company called XCOR needed to test critical bearing components for the rocket piston pump used in the company’s commercial, reusable launch vehicle (RLV) called Lynx—an endeavor which could have cost $500 per minute using a traditional pump test stand.

Instead of going that Route, XCOR headed to Route 66 on a Triumph Street Triple that was specifically setup to test those bearing components. Dan DeLong, XCOR Chief Engineer, said…

This particular motorcycle, the Triumph Street Triple, develops about the same horsepower and has the same cylinder arrangement as the liquid oxygen and kerosene fuel pumps for the Lynx suborbital spacecraft. That makes it ideal for a long-life pump test platform. The bike is much less expensive to operate than the full up rocket pump test stand. We're adding hours of run time each ride, not just minutes. 

What a great road trip that must’ve been—topped off with an estimated net savings of about a half a million dollars.

‘Thinking outside the box’ is a grossly overused phrase, but (hopefully) was written with journeys such as this one in mind.

Very impressive, XCOR.

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