Nokia N8 released – Just Amazing (iPhone Killer ?)

Nokia just today announced N8 its new flagship phone for the future. The Nokia N8 introduces a 12 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics and Xenon flash, HD-quality video recording, film editing software and Dolby surround sound. All in a beautiful, aluminium design. Well at least by the looks of it.

Nokia N8

Continue reading Nokia N8 released – Just Amazing (iPhone Killer ?)

So you wanna get an Iron Man Suit for yourself … Huh?

After my previous post about the Iron Man 2 release with stills, I had promised that I will write about how you can get one yourself. Well first things first, there is nothing called an Iron Man suit out there. The closest you can get to an Iron Man Suit however is an Exoskeleton. Sounds interesting doesn’t it ? First of all the exoskeleton is something of a fantasy that a lot of people have written about or made into movies, from James Cameroon’s Avatar where the AMP’s roam around with a man inside them or the movie of discussion Iron Man, other movies like Starship troopers, Robocop etc games like Halo, Crysis etc. It has always been the attempt of engineers and scientists to be able to develop armor that would protect the wearer as well as include weapons in case it was required. Technologies till date have not been miniature enough to be able to work on a solution like this. Scientists have not stopped trying and their efforts are slowly bearing fruit.

Basically, an exoskeleton is a wearable machine that gives a human enhanced abilities. Imagine a battalion of super soldiers that can lift hundreds of pounds as easily as lifting 10 pounds and can run twice their normal speed. The potential of non-military applications is also phenomenal. In 2000, DARPA requested proposals for human performance augmentation systems, and will soon be signing contracts to begin developing exoskeletons. The military agency said that the testing of this new technology is at least a decade away. It will be much longer before soldiers are donning these body amplification systems for battle. The exoskeleton is not made by just one organization at the moment, it is being developed my many people worldwide from Japan to the United States all having their own interpretation and implementation of the exoskeleton. Guess this is a good time to look at some of these exoskeletons that are available in the world.

Robot Suit (HAL)

First lets travel to Japan to the factory of Cyberdyne Industries (which film buffs will recognize as the name of the company that built the ill-fated “Skynet” in the Terminator movies ) home to the Robot Suit HAL (Human Assistive Limb); which is a cyborg-type robot that can expand and improve physical capability.

When a person attempts to move, nerve signals are sent from the brain to the muscles via motoneuron, moving the musculoskeletal system as a consequence. At this moment, very weak biosignals can be detected on the surface of the skin. “HAL” catches these signals through a sensor attached on the skin of the wearer. Based on the signals obtained, the power unit is controlled to move the joint unitedly with the wearer’s muscle movement, enabling to support the wearer’s daily activities. This is what we call a ‘voluntary control system’ that provides movement interpreting the wearer’s intention from the biosignals in advance of the actual movement. Not only a ‘voluntary control system’ “HAL” has, but also a ‘robotic autonomous control system’ that provides human-like movement based on a robotic system which integrally work together with the ‘autonomous control system’. “HAL” is the world’s first cyborg-type robot controlled by this unique Hybrid System.

The HAL exoskeleton is currently only available in Japan, but the company says it has plans to eventually offer it in the European Union as well. The company will rent (no option to buy at this time) the suits for about $1,300 per month (including maintenance and upgrades), according to the company’s site.

The Sarcos XOS

The XOS, is the latest and arguably most advanced exoskeleton in existence, developed by one-man idea factory Steve Jacobsen and the engineers at Sarcos, a robotics company he started in 1983 that was recently purchased by the defense giant Raytheon. Sounds familiar to Iron Man ? The film follows a prolific inventor named Tony Stark who builds a robotic suit of armor that grants him fantastical abilities. The Sarcos XOS exoskeleton is made of a combination of sensors, actuators and controllers, and can help the wearer lift 200 pounds several hundred times without tiring, the company said Wednesday in a press release. The company also claims the suit is agile enough to play soccer and climb stairs and ramps.

The major challenge has been engineering a power source that will power the robot from four to 24 hours. Right now the Exoskeleton can’t operate that long without being plugged into some external power source, but the engineers are working on making it completely self sustaining.

The HULC from Lockheed Martin

The HULC Human Universal Load Carrier exoskeleton from Lockheed Martin is designed to augment the strength and endurance of soldiers; it transfers the load to the ground using powered titanium legs. The HULC is a completely un-tethered, hydraulic-powered anthropomorphic exoskeleton that provides users with the ability to carry loads of up to 200 lbs for extended periods of time and over all terrains. Its flexible design allows for deep squats, crawls and upper-body lifting. There is no joystick or other control mechanism. The exoskeleton senses what users want to do and where they want to go. It augments their ability, strength and endurance. An onboard micro-computer ensures the exoskeleton moves in concert with the individual. Its modularity allows for major components to be swapped out in the field. Additionally, its unique power-saving design allows the user to operate on battery power for extended missions. The HULC’s load-carrying ability works even when power is not available.

Based on the Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton (BLEEX), a DARPA robotics engineering project that is designed to help foot soldiers carry more supplies for longer distances this is an upgrade of sorts. The user straps the exoskeleton legs onto his own, and puts on a backpack with an engine, control system and space for materiel. The robotic device could also assist other professionals, like firemen carrying heavy equipment. The HULC powered suit runs on li-ion batteries at present. Though it allows a soldier to march easily with a load of 200lb, it normally runs flat after just a few hours – significantly less if any jogging or running is done. But Lockheed believe that a fuel cell powered version could go for days on one fill of juice. Even better, it would offer power sockets for all the wearer’s other electronics, meaning that spare – or even, perhaps, primary – batteries could be left behind. Lockheed Martin have said that fuel-cell firm Protonex will “develop power supply concepts that will enable the HULC™ robotic exoskeleton to support 72+-hour extended missions.

Honda Experimental Walking Assist Device

Back to Japan again to look at the Experimental walking assist device (no real fancy name here). The Honda Experimental Walking Assist Device is a robot exoskeleton for the legs, designed to reduce the strain of walking for the elderly and those with mobility problems. Essentially a chair with legs, the Honda exoskeleton allows users to sit down in a saddle-like seat and strap their feet into two shoes attached to artificial limbs. The seat supports a portion of the wearer’s body weight, reducing the strain to joints in the knees, ankles and hips.

The exoskeleton, which comes in small, medium and large sizes, weighs about 14.3 pounds (6.5 kilograms). The user secures it with a belt around the hip and thigh, then straps into a pair of shoes connected to it. A seat fits between the wearer’s legs like a mini saddle. The device is powered by a lithium ion battery that lasts about two hours between charges, as long as the wearer isn’t walking faster than 2.8 miles per hour (4.5 kilometers per hour).

The company used the same approach to develop the walking assist device as it did to create the gait of its ASIMO humanoid robot—which walks in a bit of a crouch, as if trying to avoid hitting its head against something.

MIT Exoskeleton

Designed to use less power and weigh less than similar robotic devices, the exoskeleton developed in Cambridge, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is another wearable robot for the lower body. The purpose of the exoskeleton is to help people with heavy loads to carry on their backs (hikers, soldiers, students with too many physics textbooks) lighten the load.

Unlike other robotic exoskeletons, which can require up to 3,000 watts to power, the MIT exoskeleton only requires one watt. However, the device does interfere with the wearer’s normal walking motion, which causes the user to expend more oxygen than he or she would without the device.

The person wearing the M.I.T. exoskeleton places his or her feet in boots attached to a series of tubes that run up the leg to a backpack. The exoskeleton, powered by a 48-volt battery pack, uses an onboard computer, weighs 11.7 kilograms (about 26 pounds) and requires two watts of electrical power during loaded walking. The device fits parallel to the legs, transferring payload forces from the back of the wearer to the ground. The exoskeleton system includes elastic energy storage elements at the hip and ankle, and a variable-damping mechanism at the knee.

Not today really but tomorrow for sure

Iron Man has been thriving in comics for more than four decades, but this is Hollywood’s first go at the story. And the timing couldn’t be better. Not only is Iron Man—a hero born of pure engineering—the perfect idol for our gadget-obsessed era, but for the first time since the character appeared, the suit is more than just an illustrated dream. Although these amazing inventions are just leading the way towards a full blown suit, if you however want make one immediately, you can make a papercraft Iron Man Suit, like it is shown here.

All reference sources from wikepedia here.

Iron Man 2 and a leap in technology

With Iron Man 2 set to release in just under 2 weeks worldwide and this weekend here in the middle east (YES its releasing early here), I thought it might be worthwhile to check what technologies are available today and what we can achieve in terms of building a real Armor Suit. This would also be of interest to people who would have played the overly successful Halo series and Crysis games. The main concept of the ExoSkeleton has been in games for a long time and has been successfully accepted by all worldwide. So until I am able to finish up a post with this am going to leave you with the trailer and  a few stills from the movie.

Some Stills

One of the coolest features of the new Iron Man movie is that there are more than just one … yes ofcourse. added attraction of Scarlett Johannson as Black Widow makes the whole movie even more interesting. But as a technology stand point the coolest feature seems to be the Portable Iron Man suit. Check out a clip from the movie with the Suitcase Suit.

I am working on a feature to cover how to make a real Iron Man Suit with available technologies. We can recap at some of the close technologies from the first Movie as well. Coming Soon :)

5 artificial organs getting better by the day – Repo Men

Just watched the trailer for the Movie Repo Men, the movie which features a futuristic world that deals with Artificial Organs and the cost that people pay to get them. Not only is it monetary cost but also  a lot more. Check out the trailer below.

While watching the trailer I though well lets go out and have a look at the available advances in artificial organs now. As it is I had written about the Pacemaker powered by the heart itself before and wanted to move on from there to see where the brilliant minds of our worlds are going towards. I guess you can use the link above and get to the pacemaker powered by the heart so I will not really go there. Artificial body parts are here today, but they still have a long way to go before they can rival our original equipment.  I guess a replacement of this sort gives birth to the term Cyborg. I am sure we all can remember the days of Robo Cop and Terminator.

Heart

Artificial Hearts today can be made only for a temporary usage. Internal artificial hearts such as the AbioCor (pictured above) exist today, but because of the tendency to form stroke-inducing blood clots, they’re limited to heart patients waiting around for organ transplants. The race is on for a permanently implantable artificial heart, and French transplant specialist Alain Carpentier says his model will be ready for clinical trials by 2011, and for actual use as an alternative to heart transplants in 2013. He already has a prototype, using electronic sensors and made of chemically treated animal tissues that he calls pseudo-skin.

Scientists are aiming for a miniaturized artificial heart controlled by minuscule processors that determine how quickly the heart needs to beat. It will be equipped with sensors that detect artery blockage and will notify its patient and the doctor of any impending malfunctions. Maybe it will even be able to do those notifications via Twitter.

Liver


Today: liver assist devices. Of the 16,000 people waiting for liver transplants, there are only about 6,500 transplantable livers available each year. Unlike the movie Repo Men, there are currently no implantable artificial livers, but researchers are developing ELAD, an Extracorporeal Liver Assist Device that resides outside the body. Mimicking a normal liver, it cleanses the blood of toxins and waste, and produces albumin and clotting factors. It’s not all artificial, though, with the secret sauce inside being “immortalized human liver cells,” interlaced with tiny tubes through which the patient’s blood flows. The current technology offers a temporary replacement for the liver while a awaiting a donor. Boston company HepaLife (shown above) is working on a “bioartificial” liver using a proprietary line of liver stem cells. Once the patient’s blood is separated into plasma and blood cells, a external bioreactor unit with those stem cells inside can reduce levels of toxic ammonia by 75% in less than a day.

BioEngine’s implantable hybrid system uses liver stem cells grown on a special three-dimensional framework of micro tubing running through the cells. The ultimate goal is to create a complete implantable liver replacement.

Hand


Today’s artificial hands have come a long way from the days of when people had capped off hands and artificial Jaipur Limbs as they were known in India. Using what’s called myoelectric linking, the prosthetic limb picks up electrical impulses from remaining muscle fibers on the arm, transmitting those impulses to articulating fingers and a thumb. They’re attached to the stub by suction, belts or cuffs, and some can be expensive, costing upwards of $35,000. More reasonably priced is the i-Limb, an $18,000 artificial hand with articulating fingers and thumb, each with its own motor.

Scientists are working out on a SmartHand which is a bioadaptive hand that can actually feel. Its 40 sensors communicate back and forth directly with the brain using nerve endings in the arm. The hand sends its sensory input to the brain, and the brain sends instructions for movement to the hand. The result? It can pick up a plastic water bottle without crushing it, or pour a drink without spills. You ask why is this an issue, well artificial limbs cannot think how the grip should be hard or a feather touch. Researchers are also working on permanently implanting an artificial hand directly to the bone in the arm, a process called “osseointegration.” That will eliminate much of the inconvenience and discomfort currently associated with artificial limbs. Further improving the experience will be smaller and more efficient batteries, and lifelike materials that will more closely resemble real skin, and be capable of more accurate communication between hand and brain.

Lungs


About the closest you’ll get to an artificial lung today is a clunky heart-lung machine next to your hospital bed. These ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machines are designed for temporary use, while a patient recovers from infections or trauma. The MC3 BioLung is a soda-can-shaped implantable device that uses the heart’s pumping power to move blood through its filters. It’s designed to work alongside a natural lung, exchanging oxygen from the air with carbon dioxide from the bloodstream. So far, it’s been tried on sheep, where six of the eight animals on the BioLung machine survived for five days. Human trials are expected within the next couple of years.

The future shows Artificial heart/lung. Scientists are concentrating on a dual-function device that pumps blood and oxygenates it at the same time, similar to an internal heart/lung machine.

Eye

Nearsighted or farsighted? Wear glasses or contact lenses, or get some laser surgery. Missing an eye? Glass eyeballs have been around for centuries. There’s no cyborg eye available yet, but there certainly is a lot of research going on. The Argus II Retinal Prosthesis is deep into its research phase, and it works with a tiny camera, a video processor worn on the belt, and 60 electrodes implanted on the optic nerve. So far, all it creates is a murky image where only patterns of light and dark are visible. The experimental procedure costs $100,000 and might be covered by insurance. If it’s not? Pay up, or look out for the Repo Men.

Work is now underway for special contact lenses that give you superpowers. Beyond that (I’m speculating here), as the camera/optic nerve link is perfected, resolution will be much sharper, way beyond the vision of a hawk. Infrared vision, panning and zooming, night vision and telescopic vision will be possible. The link between eye and brain could be also used for video viewing and hyper-realistic simulations. Maybe a small eye could be implanted in the back of the head, simulating the unique capabilities of my third grade teacher.

[ source ]

Indian Innovation in Mobile Phones – Worlds first

Definitely this is something we as Indians are not really well known for, Electronics Hardware. Mobile phones is something that Indian companies have shown awesome success off late in this field of mobiles. Karbon mobile, Maxx mobiles are famous for their ads during most of the IPL season 3, including between overs and in game ads as well. I could write about them, but I havent really used one. However the third company that is as innovative as them is Intex. First things first, if you guys from Karbonn, Maxx are reading this, please work on your website ranking. Other sites with your products show up before you guys.

India is a country where telecom rates are the lowest, not only in terms of handset costs and calls, but also in terms of international calls. So how do 14 telecom operators work in such a small space ? New offers all the time. And like any place with such a system, the general public switch Sims and networks very often. Although Motorola has announced the intelligent Sim card, which can work with 4 numbers; until the implementation of this large scale people are stuck with multiple Sim card phones. Enter, dual SIM phones. They help you separate work and personal calls and numbers without having to carry two phones. But with 14 numbers there is always that extra Sim that you might be tempted for.

Intex mobiles has just launched a triple Sim mobile phone for an unbelievable price tag of under Rs 5000 (Dhs 475/ $100) which not only works great but also has an additional awesome feature. Camera ? FM Radio ? Bluetooth ? well none of those, but a Currency Checker. You read that right, Currency checker. With the number of cases of counterfeit currency increasing this might be well worth your Rs 5000/-. The Intex IN 5030 carries a triple SIM (GSM + GSM + CDMA) slot, which would be benefit users who subscribe to both CDMA and GSM services. This Java enabled handset comes with dual batteries for longer talk time and a standby time of up to 120 hours. It has a unique application called Currency Checker, which enables users to differientiate between fake and real Indian currency.

Better late than never, I am sure this joins in with the other two Indian Hardware that I have showcased here before, the Notion Ink Adam and the Pi.

Awesome Cinema TV with awesome Ad campaign

The world of televisions is changing with every person bringing new innovations daily to reach a larger and bigger audience. LG and Samsung are busy introducing the new breed of television sets, that are slimmer (LED Back lit) televisions as well as 3D Screens which are of course cutting edge. 3D television might be the next best thing according to these people, well not me really. You can really check out this video to what extent they are pushing it.

Well the point of the whole post is not really to talk about 3D TV’s, that I have really written already about here; the point of this post is to check out the competition of these guys. Phillips being one of them is working had and they have just launched a television with a great big screen with an aspect ratio of 21:9 rather than the usual 16:9. With this screen resolution the television viewing experience might really suck, but the point is that your movie experience at home would be really out of the world, especially if you are watching movies on Blu-Ray or something on really High definition. Check out the television pics here :

However, the awesome part of the whole campaign from them, is definitely the technology they have turned to, Augmented Reality. Yes the very technology that I rant and rave about so much. Well here is the demo of the advertisement showing the next obvious transformation for this technology, marker less Augmented Reality.

It will definitely change the playing field for Augmented Reality, and  opens up various possibilities for this awesome technology. Boy am I excited at the future of this tech.

Building the Emirates 777 in 90 Seconds

Living in Dubai, Emirates Airline and staff and crew of the Airline are people that everyone knows and identifies with. From giant multi million deals for the Airbus A380 or its now standard Boeing 777, emirates is on track to become on of the biggest airline companies in the world. In fact according to many sources online Emirates is now the largest operator of its flagship Boeing 777. As a person living around the Airline (Construction of Airports) I would like to showcase the construction of one of the worlds most used aircraft.

The video features some awesome and cool infographic sort of information overlay on the video, taking this one step ahead I would also want to showcase some of the amazing and really interesting additions to the Aircraft.

  • Fly By Wire : In designing the 777 as its first fly-by-wire commercial aircraft, Boeing decided to retain conventional control yokes rather than change to sidestick controllers as used in many fly-by-wire fighter aircraft and in many Airbus airliners. Along with traditional yoke and rudder controls, the cockpit features a simplified layout which retains similarities to previous Boeing models. The fly-by-wire system also incorporates flight envelope protection, a system which guides pilot inputs within a computer-calculated framework of operating parameters, acting to prevent stalls and overly stressful maneuvers. This system can be overridden by the pilot in command if deemed necessary.
  • Fully Software Configurable Avionics : It comprises electronic systems for use on aircraft, artificial satellites and spacecraft, comprising communications, navigation and the display and management of multiple systems. It also includes the hundreds of systems that are fitted to aircraft to meet individual roles; these can be as simple as a search light for a police helicopter or as complicated as the tactical system for an airborne early warning platform. But to have these systems to be completely software configurable would take a lot of trust and in turn, lot of work into the Avionics software.
  • All Glass cockpit Flight Display : Pioneered by Honeywell, the Honeywell LCD all glass cockpit flight display brings large, clear, full-color liquid crystal display (LCD) units into the cockpit to help meet today’s requirements for enhanced features and situational awareness. With the first certification of the all-glass cockpit in the Boeing 777 using active matrix liquid crystal displays, the Boeing 777 and Honeywell have crossed an important landmark in cockpit design.
  • Electronic Flight Bag : Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) is an electronic information management device that helps flight crews perform flight management tasks more easily and efficiently with less paper. It is a general purpose computing platform intended to reduce, or replace, paper-based reference material often found in the Pilot’s carry-on Flight Bag, including the Aircraft Operating Manual, Flight Crew Operating Manual, and Navigational Charts (including moving map for air and ground operations). In addition, the EFB can host purpose-built software applications to automate other functions normally conducted by hand, such as performance take-off calculations.
  • First use of a fiber optic avionics network on a commercial airliner.

These amazing innovations in the aviation industry will make very interesting times ahead. So before closing the post I would like to leave you all with another Emirates video, this one is actually the project that I worked with, the Dubai International Airport, Terminal 3.

Your Car is smarter than you !

A car is an engineering and technological marvel. Something that we rarely look at and go hmm … wonder how they got here from the wheel and logs of wood. I am not going to go into the history of how the car came into existence. For decades, it was up to the driver’s skills and intuition to survey the environment and make the necessary adjustments to the steering, brakes and throttle to maintain control and avoid accidents. But gradually, over the past several years and without most of us noticing, that control has been migrating from the driver to the driven. Cars of today rely more and more on computers, compared to the cars of the past. Technology is getting more advanced and the automobile industry has always been trying to use that to their advantage.

More and more functions that used to be operated manually are now done electronically. The engine and parts under the hood power the car, but it’s the microprocessors that tell it what to do. You would be surprised in exactly how many functions have something to do computers, I thought it might be a good idea to actually list out a few and see what is in store in the future as well. Here is a list of a few of those:

  • ECU- controls engine functions : The ECU is a pre-programmed, triple microprocessor digital computer. It regulates ignition timing, air-fuel ratio, emission control devices, charging system, certain transmission features, speed control, air conditioning compressor clutch engagement and idle speed. The ECU can adapt its programming to meet changing operating conditions.
  • Airbag Module : The microprocessor in the Airbag Control Module contains the supplemental restraint system logic circuits and controls all of the supplemental restraint system components. Though the first cars with airbags debuted in the early ’70s; Chrysler is the first to make them standard in cars, in 1988. It protects you in a rollover, and cushions your knee.
  • Body Controller : The BCM utilizes integrated circuitry and information carried on the Programmable Communications Interface (PCI) data bus network along with many hard wired inputs to monitor many sensor and switch inputs throughout the vehicle. The BCM supports many body electrical features such as Interior Lighting, Exterior Lighting, Intermittent Wipers, Remote Radio, Accessory Delay, and Heated Seats.
  • Driver’s Door Module : The Door Modules control various electronic features such as power door locks, power windows, power mirrors, courtesy lighting, and the lift gate lock motor.
  • Cruise Control Module– Regulates speed while in cruise control wherein the driver can select a certain speed and the car will maintain it.
  • Climate Control Module– Monitors interior temperature and controls the heating and cooling systems
  • Sunroof Module : Controls operation of the sunroof Open, Close and Vent Functions.
  • Transmission Controller : The Transmission Control Module controls all electronic operations of the transmission. The TCM receives information regarding vehicle operation from both direct and indirect inputs, and selects the operational mode of the transmission. Based on the information received from these various inputs, the TCM determines the appropriate shift schedule and shift points, depending on the present operating conditions and driver demand. This is possible through the control of various direct and indirect outputs.
  • ABS Module : controls anti-lock brakes and may handle the traction-control and stability-control systems. Also controls Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), an electronically controlled proportioning valve.
  • Power Distribution Box Module- controls relays in the power distribution box
  • Instrument Panel : The Mechanical Instrument Cluster (MIC) provides gauge and indicator control. The MIC utilizes the PCI Bus to obtain most, but not all, of the information needed to control the gauges and indicators. Additionally they may also include Compass, temperature, trip computer, information center (EVIC).
  • Rain Sense Module : The microprocessor-based Rain Sensor Module senses moisture in the wipe pattern on the outside of the windshield glass and sends wipe commands to the Body Control Module (BCM). Four InfraRed (IR) diodes within the RSM generate IR light beams that are aimed by four of the convex optical lenses near the base of the module through the windshield glass. Four additional convex optical lenses near the top of the RSM are focused on the IR light beams on the outside of the windshield glass and allow the two photocells within the module to sense changes in the intensity of these IR light beams. When sufficient moisture accumulates within the wipe pattern of the windshield glass, the RSM detects a change in the monitored IR light beam intensity.
  • Sentry Key Immobilizer : The Sentry Key Immobilizer Module contains a Radio Frequency (RF) transceiver and a microprocessor. The SKIM transmits RF signals to, and receives RF signals from the Sentry Key transponder through a tuned antenna ring integral to the SKIM housing. When the ignition switch is turned to the On position, the SKIM transmits an RF signal to the transponder in the ignition key. The SKIM then waits for an RF signal response from the transponder. If the response received identifies the key as valid, the SKIM sends a valid key message to the PCM over the PCI data bus. If the response received identifies the key as invalid, or if no response is received from the key transponder, the SKIM sends an invalid key message to the PCM. The PCM will enable or disable engine operation based upon the status of the SKIM messages.

The processor that’s the most important is the ECU and it stands for the engine control unit. It controls the engine functions like the spark timing and obtaining the correct fuel and air mixture to intake into the engine block. It can also manage the emissions and the fuel economy of the car, it does so by creating the perfect ratio of fuel/air mixture. The ECU has a 32-bit, 40MHz processor, which is a lot less than a computer, but then again the car doesn’t need all that. Cars today may have as many as 50 microprocessors, many of which make them easier to service. Every engine, every vehicle and every computer system is different — but all the sensors, all the output devices, must be in perfect “sync” for cars, minivans, trucks and SUVs to run efficiently. You can check out a pretty good list of the sensors here.

When automobiles were first invented, none of these microprocessors were necessary and were also non-existent. So why such the increase in microprocessors to cars? Should it not make them more complicated? These extensive numbers of computers in cars actually simplify many of the tasks to create a vehicle. First off, there are new laws and standards that cars must meet. Engine controls must meet emission laws and fuel economy standards; meaning something must control the amount of pollution leaving the exhaust and the car must get a reasonable mile to the gallon. Computers also help give advanced diagnostics and help mechanics quickly discover a problem. They also simplify the manufacture and design of cars, as well as simplify the wiring. Microprocessors are also proving to help with safety, convenience, and comfort features.

Another great advantage to computers in cars is multiplexing. This is a method that simplifies the wiring, preventing wires from getting out of control. Each module is controlling a small aspect of the car, and these modules are attached to the communications bus which can carry it wherever it needs to go. For example, when you hit the window button in your car the driver’s door module sends that information to the bus, which gives it to the body controller which opens activates the windows motor. This is much more efficient then running wires from every switch and sensor to the part it controls. The Volvo S80 is a great example of the new technologies of multiplexing. Microprocessors are also to thank for saving lives; they control important safety features that have proved to save lives throughout the years. They control the anti-lock brakes system (ABS), the airbags, and more recently the traction-control and stability-control systems. Each one of these new features requires another module which contains many microprocessors. The Volvo SCC previews some of the future safety features that we may see more of. This vehicle is capable of adjusting the seat, steering wheel, floor, pedals, and the center console by scanning sensors in the position of the driver’s eyes to adjust the most comfortable position for the driver. It also has adaptive headlights which adjust the lighting according to the speed and steering of the car. The rearview mirrors and rear bumper are active and alert when approaching traffic is entering the drivers blind spot. It even has a remain-in-lane advancement which monitors the cars position in relation to the centerline and side-marker lines for 20 meters ahead of the car. When the car starts to swerve out of its lane, then it alerts the driver.

Wow, so if they can do that much with microprocessors, I am definitely going to keep an eye out for these enhancements for further updates. All I can say for the time being is Watch this space. I am sure we are reaching closer to the KITT car of the very famous Knight Rider Series.

Social Networking a Boon or Curse !

Well ever since Gulf News posted an article of my favorite Social Networking Website Orkut, Emirates Internet I.e Etisalat have blocked the website from accessibility within UAE.

Its been three long and painful years in Dubai for me, and for these three years I had lost in touch with a lot of my fiends back home, some very near and dear to me. In this time and age of emails, work get so hectic that mailing friends goes down to the bottom of the priority list. When I was at my vacation last year a few friends in Bangalore mentioned Orkut to me. I was impressed with the idea, created an account just before I got to Dubai. When I got back here, I was surprised to find the number of long lost friends there were on Orkut. Some from more than 10 years back. A lot of my coffee table conversations at that time involved around which friends I found and which ones I was looking for more. It even gave an idea of which of my friends made it and which of them were on the brink of success.

Few months into using Orkut I discovered Groups, there was a group for the School Alumni, One for my college Alumni, One group for the place I worked first, Groups for people with similar interests and even a group for people who had joined too many groups lol. I thought that was interesting. Well for us poor souls it is a boon in disguise. Moreover the assurance that it is run by Google is something noteworthy as well. How many times have you forgotten a friends birthday, Orkut would help remember birthdays as well.

But like everything on the net, the blog has been bitten by the sex bug. There are other tons of communities promoting sexual interests, one of them called Dubai Sex with over 2000 members in it. Interesting as it may seem, this is an issue which is far fetched than just Orkut or any networking site. Alas, the people who are running such communities do not realize the long term effects it has. Not that I do not support it, I mean its their lives and their preferences, and that is the very fact that makes us human. Our perspectives and choices. Well human, choice and perspective are not words that are very widely appreciated in the Middle East and being what they are they have blocked the site.

There goes the days of connections, back to celibacy from friends. I think we will have to wait for someone to say its Ok. Maybe Google to make some modifications or Etisalat to relax a bit. Either way now is the time for alternatives. And my first stop is FaceBook. A little more privacy and tons of features, this application is beginning to loose its charm in my perspective.

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)

This is definitely one of the defining moments in the Human Evolution. People are able to produce something extraordinary from computers once they spend enough time with it. Imagine what it would do to a child’s way of thinking, not bound by the shackles of society and stereotypical thinking, One Word, Miracle. I remember the first time I saw a computer it was when I was in 9th grade. I would walk up and sand outside the computer lab for hours, fantasizing about the computer and the computer teacher. Some of my weirdest dreams at that time included both of them in it. Anyway, it was a black screen with a cursor and some text spewing when a person keyed in something into the typewriter attached to it. I was hooked.

Through the years, I have used computers for a lot, even learnt software authoring and the likes. It always used to make me wonder, from the time I saw my first computer to this day its about 8 years and I should say I have learned quite a bit, if not all of it. What would a young man come up with who has been with computers for about 25 years or more. He would have a lot of answers to our questions. Increasingly popular internet resources and knowledge bases online have forced every sort of educational institution around the world to provide internet and computers as part of their learning process. I think to find the answers to such a question the team at MIT Labs took fourth the mission of providing a laptop to all children in about 100$, maybe eventually even free. This especially in the developing countries.

This weeks tribute goes into the OLPC Foundation for trying to achieve the impossible, burning the flame of knowledge………….