Smart Glasses Track Eye Movement
Researchers from Dartmouth College have created a pair of battery-free smart glasses that track your eye movement to create more accurate graphic rendering and augmented reality.
The solar-powered glasses include a microcontroller and a light sensing unit that uses near-infrared lights and photodiodes to see how your eye reflects light. The glasses infer pupil size and position to track rapid rapid eye movements.
Improvements are twofold as the wearable could not only improve augmented reality, but it also ditches the clunky power supply. However, the prototype is certainly due a little more aesthetic work — but function before fit and form.
The study was only conducted indoors because infrared light outdoors would saturate the light sensors in the current prototype. The researchers plan to tackle outdoor functionality problems with the second generation prototype as well as continue to improve rapid eye movement detection.
The glasses are designed with the gaming industry in mind, but as the team improves eye tracking, the glasses could one day be used to identify health problems, like mental disorders, fatigue and even assess clinical treatment effectiveness.
Team Creates World’s First Bricks Made From Human Urine
A team of researchers from the University of Cape Town in South Africa has created the world's first bricks made out of human urine. The team calls them bio-bricks, and yes, they do look like giant clumps of cat litter.
The bricks are created using microbial carbonate precipitation, a process similar to the way that seashells are formed.
The bricks could be a waste recovery solution that is also more efficient. Traditional bricks have to be baked in a kiln at about 1,400°C; the bio-bricks are created in room temperature molds.
So, how does it work? According to the researchers, it begins with urease-producing bacteria that is added to sand. The urease breaks down the urea in urine while producing calcium carbonate through a chemical reaction. The carbonate cements the sand into the shape of the mold. What is interesting is that the strength of the brick is dependent upon how long you let the bacteria work.
Previous work has sourced synthetic materials, but this was the first to tap humans. According to the researchers, urine is "liquid gold" because the process could also be a boon for the commercial fertilizer industry. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are byproducts of the bio-brick manufacturing process. Up to 97% of the phosphorus in urine can be converted into calcium phosphate, which is important, because the world’s natural phosphate reserves are reportedly running dry.
Next, the researchers will continue to test the bio-bricks' strength, but they will also look to tap the other half of the natural resource. Right now, they're only using male urine that is collected using special urinals.
Make sure to keep an eye on the researchers' work. Surely urine for a real treat.
Is Bartini’s Flying Car Real?
Bartini is a Russian startup that presents yet another potential competitor in a quickly oversaturating flying car prototype landscape. The flying car is an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) design.
The company has both two- and four-seat designs, and the team recently built a half-scale prototype at the National University of Science and Technology’s High Complexity Prototyping Center in Moscow. The design incorporates coaxial, ducted blades, that reportedly double the thrust of one-meter engines.
The prototype looks cool, and a video from earlier this year shows the team working on the blade design and the half-scale prototype in flight tests.
The video shows Bartini CEO Ilya Khanykov standing next to the flying car or "air taxi" and it looks conspicuously clean. If you look at the fine print, you read, "Computer generated image. Final product may vary." It just seems like an odd way for a startup to blow the marketing budget.
The team wants to keep the aircraft small, about 5 x 5 meters, with low noise (equivalent to a truck passing by) and panoramic views - as you can see, the cockpit is almost all glass. The CTO even admits that he was inspired by Back to the Future, so it's no wonder that they added the Delorean’s falcon-wing doors.
The flying car will only have a range about 93 miles, flying about 186 mph on a 30 minute charge. That is total flight time, so the range could be significantly less, but the aircraft is envisioned as an air taxi for in-town commutes.
Bartini is part of McFly air taxi incubator, which is essentially trying to replicate Uber's success and business model, only in the sky. The plan is to have a flying car that can cross almost any city in 15 minutes, ready for the commercial market by 2020.
Next, Bartini and the Prototyping Center will collaborate on a full-scale prototype. Maybe put that one in the follow-up video.