23 Jul

For a mere $88, consumers can now buy and use a device that allows them to hack into their automobiles. Called Panda, the gizmo plugs into something known as a car's OBDII port, thereby tapping into information that has usually been the sole domain of vehicle manufacturers.

George Hotz, who invented Panda, also has released a software tool, Cabana, that permits gear heads to reverse engineer their machines using the data pulled by Panda.

And so?

People who know what they're doing can customize their cars in much the same way as can be done with computers.

According to  report from Business Insider, "Using the Panda/Cabana combo for example, someone could theoretically write software to give a car automatic braking or advanced cruise control (assuming the car has the necessary sensors built-in)."

21 Jul

Space rovers can only get us so far as they move across the surface of other planets. There are numerous areas too small for the large vehicles to squeeze into, which leaves sizable sections of areas unexplored.

The solution for that challenge could be in the form of small snake-shaped robots, which were recently commissioned by the European Space Agency. Originally introduced by the Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research, the robots are shaped in a way that makes it easier for them to squeeze through various areas.

19 Jul

As advanced as human beings believe we are, there’s one area where a certain species could beat us. In a physical battle, experts say a chimpanzee would be at an advantage. Pound for pound, chimpanzees are approximately 1.35 times more powerful than their human counterparts. This is according to a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix.

To learn more about the strength of our animal kingdom counterparts, scientists reviewed previous studies looking into chimpanzee strength. The study’s authors found that in activities like jumping, pushing, pulling, and lifting, most primates are stronger than humans. This includes monkeys and apes, the study’s authors said.

17 Jul

It's enough of a challenge to contemplate what life will be like once everyone is forced in one way or another to interact with robots. Devices currently on the market have gradually begun sounding more like actual humans. And since part of the idea of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is to be able to anticipate a person's needs and choices, while also adjusting to changes in plans, it's a safe bet that robots will soon sound so human-like -- because who really wants to hold a conversation with a machine? -- that it might be difficult to tell robots and humans apart.

Enter the special earpiece, a prototype device, somewhat resembling a behind-the-ear hearing aid, that can sense synthesized voice patterns and then, via a thermoelectric plate, send a chilly shiver down the wearer's backbone.

15 Jul

What does a city do with a river running through it that seems to be more in the way of downtown life than an integral part of it -- especially when that river is a concrete culvert, not a meandering waterway with vegetated banks and overhanging trees?

Start a project, called the LA River Downtown Design Dialogue as a way of generating achievable ideas for transforming portions of the river into attractively designed urban oases, that's what.

The project, according to its web site, "celebrates the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the City's Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan by envisioning ways to implement the goals of the Plan while responding to the current context of public and private investment in the Downtown LA River corridor."

To that end, seven design firms were asked to each take a specific downtown segment of the river and come up with design treatments.

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