The two sides of 3D printing in “Arms”

In what is called as the next big revolution in the world, 3D printing is slowly making its mark. A world where you can start downloading furniture, toys and other things you would need and print it yourself. Feels almost like technology utopia, but it does have its qualms.

A detailed guide to printing in 3D is already published on the blog before, you can read it here. I am today going to pen my thoughts about what’s the next few steps and where we might go from here. And yes for a seemingly innocent technology as well, there can be a dark side. (Never underestimate the mind of a human being). But before I go all dark and scary, lets start with the positive.

“Magic Arms” for Emma

 

Emma was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC), a rare disease that cripples joints and limbs. Because of this condition, the two-year-old girl couldn’t play with blocks, bring food to her mouth or hug her mother.

That is, until engineers at the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children used a 3D printer to create a durable exoskeleton that helps her lift her arms. Emma was able to lift candy to her mouth for the first time while wearing the supportive plastic vest.

The Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton (WREX) is made of hinged metal bars, resistance bands and tiny 3D printed parts. Emma calls them her “magic arms.” Emma was one of the first patients to wear the WREX. Now, about 15 of the hospital’s littlest patients are wearing the lightweight vests. The ease of 3D printing makes customization of parts possible. When a piece breaks, on-demand printers enable quick fixes. If a child outgrows a vest, the engineers can simply print larger parts out.

And Emma’s case is not just isolated, here are some more :

With advances like this one, and many others, you can quickly see the draw that many people have to 3D printing. It solves business problems, but more so, it solves life problems and changes lives.

And then come the “Fire Arms”

This summer, an American hobbyist used a thermoplastic machine to fashion parts for a homemade .22-caliber rifle.

Wisconsin engineer and amateur gunsmith Michael Guslick detailed on his personal blog how he used a Stratasys 3D printer and downloaded blueprints for the lower receiver — or frame — of an AR-15 firearm (the closest civilian variant of the M-16).

Guslick has been prototyping ideas for gun parts for years, but it did not occur to him until last year to use his Stratasys to build an actual firearm. “The concept is making its way to the hobbyist gunsmith,” he explained on the blog. He took pains to record how he made the 3D-printed weapon; as to the best of his knowledge, this is the first firearm in the world to be tested.

For the U.S. government, keeping tabs on the flow of physical weapons is proving to be a problem. 3D printing is only making matters worse: How do you control a digital pattern that people can use to print guns in their living rooms?

However, if metal materials become available for home printers, it could become possible for hobbyists to one day print an entire gun. Gun-enthusiast groups like “Defense Distributed” even set up a crowdfunding page (known as “Wiki weapon”) to usher into existence the first fully 3D printed gun. Indiegogo recently shut down its page, citing “unusual account activity.”

In related news, the army recently deployed a 3D printing kit to Afghanistan, including an industrial CNC machine, plasma cutters and more, so soldiers could built weapons on the spot, without needing to ship equipment from overseas.

So well the sort of other “arms” to be printed are not al that great for mankind. Who is to say this will not lead to another incident like the one at the opening of Dark Knight Rises. Access to many weapons easy, is not really something that the engineers would have thought when they made the first.

What I think 

Well there will always be people who will use technology for bad, I think the example of the nuclear weapon is the largest that anyone can give. But the promise of clean energy is worth the scare. Similarly these extremities will always exist in technology, its upto when we will be able to justify the good to bad is when the true potential comes through. In fact, I am a believer that saving one “Emma” is worth a lot more than potentially creating havoc.

What do you guys think ? let me know.

When technology goes bad : BMW stolen in less than 3min without keys

Personally on this blog I like to talk about technology and how it makes lives better, innovation and such. But there is a time when too much technology or rather lack of thinking in application of technology is something that really creates the negative impact in people. Culprit in question :BMW.

Oh I love their cars, the concepts, the ads even like the one above. But seriously BMW what were you thinking ? Making the car with accessibility to the programming port available is definitely a major design flaw. A user on the BMW 1M addicts forum has posted this video of his BMW 1M getting stolen within 3 minutes with the thieves not having the keys. This is a video of a £43,000 BMW 1M Stolen at 3am in 3 minutes. The thieves accomplished this by accessing the BMW OBD port in the footwell by breaking the glass, reaching in and using a device to reprogram a blank key fob. The car was simply then unlocked and pushed off the drive and driven away.

 

The one incident reported above apparently used a similar FOB programmer from Bulgaria and they were able to make another key on the spot. The Chinese and Taiwanese are surely watching this closely as they can definitely make a knock off and sell it for like AED 100. Look at the 3 videos below for how these things work.

It’s probably the cream of engineers that have worked on the cars, and with the cream comes issues of practicality. They are brilliant in technology and its application, but it’s the final practical user experience if you, may that would come from the second crop or the third crop of engineers. What needs to be commended is actually the ingenuity of the guys that figured it out. BMW, looking for new engineers ??

Are Social Networks Diverging Culturally?

One thing that makes social networking a unique and unpredictable topic within the tech world is that, in a more direct way than other computing products, they reflect the influence of their users. The infrastructure and design behind them maybe draws a certain type of user more than others to begin with, but they quickly develop a culture or cultures of their own.

To take a now-outdated example, LiveJournal, structured as it was around the metaphor of a diary, became associated culturally with a certain mode of discourse. People spilled their emotional feelings, perhaps to excess, and LiveJournal became caricatured, fairly or not, as a haven for oversharing, rumor-mongering emo teenage girls.

The recent explosion of interest in Pinterest, if you’ll pardon the rhyme, has been more gendered still, with the front page at any given time resembling a women’s magazine. Whether this reflects something about the “pinboard” format or is merely a historical coincidence of crowd behavior is hard to untangle. On the other end of the spectrum, Reddit, Digg, and especially Slashdot cater to a primarily male audience of hardcore technology enthusiasts. LinkedIn is obviously the most gender-neutral, with a notable lack of personality that is quintessentially corporate: everyone needs a job.

The most successful social networking sites, Twitter and (especially) Facebook, have created the perception that they are each a permanent phenomenon with universal appeal. But is this so? We saw this anxiety play out in a big way surrounding the Facebook IPO: not only concerns about the company’s advertising model, and thus revenue stream, but this idea of, will the crowd move on, as it did with Myspace?

There is a certain element that social networking sites will always share in common with other social phenomena like fashion, parties, trends, which don’t stand still but move with the

Facebook has gone, in my short lifetime, from a substitute dorm-room where we could all reminisce about last night’s vodka shots, to a vast, family-friendly site that attempts to encompass all potential users from child to grandma, and thereby has risked alienating the original early adopters, students, who flocked there from Friendster and Myspace.

Twitter has picked up some of the slack in this regard. Its content and users noticeably hipper, snarkier, and more “plugged-in” than Facebook. Anecdotally speaking, many of the most trend-setting people I know have long ago dropped square old Facebook for snappy, fast-paced Twitter.

For those of us who think strategically about such things, it’s important to monitor the intangible differences of flavor that have cropped up within the cornucopia of social networking options. Most normal people simply do not have the time to make a sustained commitment to 17 different social sites at once, and so as they choose what “scene” attracts them, we’re bound to see this evolution continue.

This is a guest post by Aniya Wells. Aniya Wells is one of the most passionate writers you’ll ever meet. Though her writing interests run the gamut—from personal finance to health to current events and more—her primary interest is modern higher education. She serves as a reliable online degree guide for students considering taking advantage of the conveniences inherent in distance learning. Don’t hesitate to contact Aniya for questions or comments at aniyawells@gmail.com.

Prediction : Future Phones will not come with chargers

The other day I was out of charge on my phone which is a rare thing considering that I got a new Galaxy Nexus (Yes I will post a review) which is not only energy efficient but by far the best battery I have seen on a portable device taking the phone to nearly 2 days of talking and wifi without the need of charging. Back to where I was,  the need for a charger was large and the charger was no where in sight, shopped around in the office and found a blackberry charger that well fit the phone very well. This got me thinking, well why don’t all manufacturers come up with some universal standard for the charger if required. At all other times they can use alternative means built into the phone itself. I have been writing about some of these here on the blog before. Lets see whats available.

First off the Charger itself 

The mini USB is pretty much a standard charger at the moment for a lot of phones, my Blackberry, the Nexus One and now the Galaxy Nexus all seem to love it. But move Blackberry models and phones, you will quickly see that its not enough its just another in the large market for charger pins. In fact when I got this car charger from Merlin in Dubai, looked like there are a lot more than just the mini USB in the market.

Add the ever popular iPhone and the other Galaxy smartphones and the chargers change. I am not sure if the mini USB is the best standard, but considering that most people seem to have one lying around these days, looks like this could be a good standard to follow.

Getting to the Chargers built in with the phone 

First getting through the familier, here is a list of some you can read within the blog:

Indian Innovation : Wind Powered Helmet mounted Cell phone charger

Indian Innovation : Hand Powered Mobile Phones 

Thermoelectric boots charge your mobile phone

Charging phone from the movement of the owners

Charging Phones with residual energy from airwaves

Charging phones with body heat

Some more from other blogs that can fill up the gap with more innovations

Nokia Bicycle charging kit 

Some Eco friendly charging options (must see) 

Juicebox, the charging platform available in public places

Another Charger using movement of phones 

Mobile phones charged by the power of speech

Wind-powered mobile phone charger

Mobile phones in developing nations could charge up using dirt

Sound Charge t-shirt tops up mobile devices using sound

Solar powered tie charges your mobile phone

Piezoelectric generator creates power from shoes

Interestingly a lot of these were invented by Nokia in an attempt to make the lives of all better, but the lack of good software (ahem .. Android) has kind of made it difficult for Nokia to make it big in the market, we might be able to see some of these innovations in the Mobile Phones running Windows Mobile. Keeping fingers crossed to see the Lumia 900 with one of these built in.

From notifications that require attention of the users towards energy saving and other power saving tips to alerts when Phone batteries are fully charged, the chargers require an upgrade if possible to go with apps that are coming up on phones to do the same on the software side. All in all it seems like a really required innovation that the manufacturers are keeping away from the consumers, even though it seems like they have most of these figured out. Well only time will tell if these innovations will get lost or really get implemented into future phones. Are you listening Google, Apple and ofcourse Nokia.

Phone stacking, you really need to know about this.

In my recent memory I cannot remember the day when I left the house without my mobile phone. Our lives are more or less run my Mobile Phones. Being in construction, the entire “coordination” for all activities on site / engineering and others actually relies completely on Mobile Phones. This gets even worse with fields like sales, events where constant updates change the game. The additional usage gets worse when you include such devils as the BBM into the equation. Although I use it in my opinion it is a plague to the society. From movies to the dinner table including first dates, people all over the place seem to be using their phones.

One annoying habit that seems to be very common is people sitting with friends or family and are on the phone chatting, checking emails etc to be somewhere else. And this is not just work related stuff (some people are justified with that). So in another out of box thinking a new solution has appeared online, from tumblers to now the bigger blogs all are talking about Phone Stacking.

I ’ve seen/heard this described as both “The Phone Stacking Game” and “Don’t Be a Dick During Meals”, but a quick  poll of my friends suggests that it hasn’t become widespread yet. Which is a shame, because it’s perfect for folks in tech. Interested to learn more ?

Rules:

1) The game starts after everyone has ordered.

2) Everybody places their phone on the table face down.

3) The first person to flip over their phone loses the game.

4) Loser of the game pays for the bill.

5) If the bill comes before anyone has flipped over their phone everybody is declared a winner and pays for their own meal.

Variations/house rules:

-Starting the game after everyone is seated.

-In the rare event that multiple people flip their phones simultaneously, the bill is split between said players.

– Feel free to invoke penalties/strikes systems.

Notes:

– No touching or messing with anybody else’s phones.

You can explain the game in a few different ways. Most obviously, it could be a protest against the indecent, unthinking use of cell phones during social gatherings. Or maybe it’s a game that acknowledges the new reality and tests your willpower accordingly. Personally, I like to think of it as a free market exercise. After all, people love to say, “Sorry, but I have to take this.” Do you have toanswer it? Really? Is it that important to you? Great, then you can pay.

 

The window of the future is truly insane

Over the past few years Samsung has well and truly worked its way up to the top of the electronics Manufacturers market and with new innovations they seem to add in interesting and intriguing possibilities into the world of the future. This one well, is a bit over the top. However, having invested as much as they have in the past few years on Television screens, and just screens of every type, it seems like a natural progression that they will try to include screens anywhere and everywhere possible.

There’s a lot of buzz around the Samsung Transparent Smart Window, the full touch TFT (thin-film transistor) LCD display that turns any household window into a prop from Minority Report. The 46-inch, 1366×768 resolution display won the CES 2012 award for innovation and, from what we see in the demo below, it’s not hard to see why. A video from Samsung video gives a nice overview.

The device is really a transparent touchscreen LCD that can be fitted to any window, so long as it’s no longer than some 46 inches. Resolution is 1366 x 768 pixels, reportedly. During the day, illumination is provided from outside. At night, built-in lights kick in.

At first glance, the window, while cool, isn’t necessarily innovative: it just brings all the apps and widgets we’ve come to love to your window. But Samsung has included a few unique touches. My favorite is the “blinds” feature, where with the swipe of your finger, you can open and close virtual blinds that will actually blot out the light. A video report from MobileNations says that mass production will begin “in the coming months.” Samsung has indicated an intention to put the thing out by the end of the year. No word on price yet.

The window is considered to be working as a one sided glass when viewed from outside, making it like ordinary windows. Additionally, the window can also work as a screen for Augment Reality to see overlaid information on the outside world. So in what can be described as a double stroke, Samsung has not only opened another market for the screens they make but also have taken on the window covering world, from Blinds to Curtains.

India Innovation – Android Love from India, including a Siri Clone

Its been a while since I wrote about India and the technological innovation there but here is something that is hard to be missed. Being an Indian and an Android fan it is one of those moments that you will be surely proud of, Apps. Indian Software developers are not the foremost to come up with products, yes there are quite a few there, but in comparison to the number of apps used worldwide the apps from India don’t come to the forefront. Indian Software industry has always played a service role for most companies, where we have developed products for others. Not many products that are home-grown. I guess its changing, and here are the first signs that we can be good at it too.

When Apple introduced Siri, every Android user wanted to hear about the version for Android. And there were few but all lacked complete functionality. An Indian Startup is trying to change all that, from the notion that Indian Software companies dont do products to Siri App for Android. Enter Dexetra, A startup from Cochin that is planning to change the world of Android and India.

Iris 

Like the Siri clone, Iris is a speech recognition and interpretation engine aimed solely at the tech savvy always connected Android user. Like the iPhone 4s the Iris requires the internet to be connected at all times to be able to process the information and spit out the results. With over a Million  installs and with tremendous response from the global Android community this app seems to be the one to see in 2012. Along with the company.

Check out Iris for yourself here on Android Market. Oh yes that’s not it, they also have more software like the Speed Sense and Secure Keys that are as helpful as the Iris You can check them out on their developer page on Android Market. Check out decent App Intro Videos as well for their upcoming Android App, Friday. Does this not look like an international App company now ?? Proud to have crossed paths with these guys.

I just hope that these guys find all the support they need and also move along and produce some brilliant Android Apps. Now waiting for some hackable intelligence of connecting the Arduino with the Iris to get a proper solution to the Voice Activated Home. Dexedra Are you listening ??

Location, Location, Location … the next big thing

At first there was the humble Mobile Phone, then it received a GPS and with the addition of a camera and smart internet connections, it transformed into the SMARTPHONE. Then came Android and the iOS platforms making it easier for developers to use the platforms and launch new services and applications on them. Apps are all the rage. Through the entire process a new object came to light, the location. With mobiles becoming more location aware, searches could be tailored to what’s nearby.

The world of Check Ins was born. Facebook, Twitter, Google + and other services opted Check ins as a new inclusion into the vast software frameworks. However one company did spark off the initial interest and its popularity is what drove companies to follow. Foursquare. Foursquare has not been the most famous of apps for the mobile phones, but it was really instrumental in making the location based aspects of mobile phones important.

Foursquare is a Social Networking platform that will try and get you to meet people in your vicinity and also provide you with opportunity to meet with like minded people who go to similar places like you. Restaurants offer discounts and offers on Check ins usually and frankly I was happy to see this in Dubai too. We were at the Le Meridean village, Dubliners Pub and restaurant and walla they have a special for check in as well. I am not sure if it still exists but was an interesting find when I was there a few weeks back. Check out Checkin Mania, a site that keeps track of checkins on Twitter, Foursquare, Gowalla and Britekite.

Now they are taking location based applications to the next level. With newer developers now beginning to use Foursquare as a platform for their related Apps new interesting location based games are coming up. Here are a few that might really interest you all.

World of Fourcraft

The World of Fourcraft is a clever Foursquare application which allows users to track their check-ins and use them for ‘social conquest’ gameplay. Currently the application is designed for use within New York City, pitting the five boroughs and the areas surrounding, aptly titled ‘Here Be Dragons,’ against each other.  Signing in with a Foursquare account, players must select – and join forces with – their borough.  ’Borough Buddies’ must then boost their teams status with increased Foursquare check-ins across the city, ‘swarming’ and conquering territory.

There are no prize-incentives, with the app relying on neighborhood pride to encourage play. Users can keep track of their ‘hood’s progress with the Battle Map found on the website.

Check out more about World of Fourcraft

Foursquareopoly

Foursquaropoly turns your city into a Monopoly board and your Foursquare check-ins into a gaming piece.  Players begin with ten-thousand dollars and can buy unclaimed buildings they check-in to using Foursquare.  Rent and upkeep fees are determined by the building’s popularity and are payable by the owner.  Just like the original Monopoly game, players who ‘land’ in a claimed location must pay rent to the virtual landlord.

Originally a student concept, the app is currently in development.

Check out more about Foursquareopoly here.

 

We can only wait

Alas, unfortunately like everything in technology, these games are currently gaining popularity in the US, next it will spread to countries like India and then come over to places like Dubai. However, in the mean time we can get around the various check in stops in Dubai and meet with the different Mayors and Chieftains of Foursquare.

Have not yet tried Foursquare ? here is how you can get it for yourself, FREE. Available for Android, Blackberry, Nokia and the iPhone on http://m.foursquare.com ; visit it on your phone browser.

Wordless Thursday – Revolution in every generation

My life is constantly changing and evolving, especially in how we lead our day to day. I would love to go behind the scenes to research upcoming technologies but cant. However. it’s always a pleasant surprise when big new things come out.

This infographic highlights big inventions that impact our lifestyles greatly. It does a good job of getting lots of cool info into one piece. I must say however I’d like to see more of the ‘graphic’ section of infographic. There’s definitely some cool statistics and charts that could be thrown in with all these great ideas. A cool fact you may not catch a first glance: 2.8 million e-mails are sent every second!

Wife Discovers Husband’s Murder Plan On Facebook

Its unbelievable what Facebook is turning out to be in or lives. From being a tool to connect to Friends to something like this is absolutely shocking and disturbing at the same time.

Was reading the New York Post today, and this article came up as an interesting read. But the more I started reading the more I learnt of how good Facebook turned out to be in this case. If Ram Gopal Varma would read this he might make a movie on this issue. As it turns out alls well that ends well in this case. A curious Wife, a smart ass husband and Facebook. An interesting stopy of Pati, Patni  aur Facebook.

Angela Voelkert and her husband David were undergoing a messy divorce. Well, the plot thickens when Angela concocts this rather lamebrain plot that gets David to do some pretty diabolic confessing via a fake Facebook account.

According to the New York Post, the 29-year-old wife decided to open up a Facebook account posing as a 17-year-old named Jessica Studebaker, and sent a friend request to her 38-year-old hubby David. He accepted. After numerous friendly exchanges with the teen about his marriage and custody issues, on May 31, David spilled his plans for the demise of Angela by revealing to Jessica, that he had placed a tracking device in his wife’s van that would keep tabs on her whereabouts at all times.

David even asked the teen whether she could supply him with a “gang-banger” who’d be willing to do the deed for $10,000. “With me gone with my kids, the police can’t pin anything on me as I will be in another state, so I will be fine,” he said in a message. The desperate hubby then had the audacity to ask the teen to run away with him once he brought the curtain down on his poor “unsuspecting” wife. The audio salesman was arrested Friday. He was initially charged with illegally installing the tracking device.

Apparently, he provided the courts with a signed and notarized affidavit from May 25, which was six whole days before he sent his eerie request to his Facebook pal Studebaker. The affidavit, published by the Smoking Gun, states that David knew all along that Studebaker was actually his wife, Angela. He claimed to have been playing along with his wife’s little cooked-up scheme and had absolutely no intention of killing her or running away with their children.

The important question is, people getting so used to spilling most of their lives on Facebook is a personal choice, but how much is too much ?

India Innovation – USB 3.0 from Bangalore

Yes you are reading it right, a Bangalore based company has just developed the next generation USB standard called SuperSpeed USB 3.0 completely out of Bangalore. Arrow Devices is the company and is a start up based in Bangalore. According to their website, USB 3.0 design transfers data at 5 Gbps, and is 10 times more faster than existing USB Standard. The new standard has proven to transfer a high definition movie file in under 2 minutes versus 14 minutes taken by traditional USB implementations.

The USB 3.0 IP provides a configurable number of Bulk, Interrupt or Isochronous In/Out Endpoints. They also provide DMA controllers which can be used along with their IP in order to build applications that use the USB 3.0 device controller. We can interface to a variety of system buses. The company has bagged Nvidia, one of the top-5 semiconductor companies in the world as a customer for this chip design.

Started in 2008, the company plans to license their design to chip manufacturers for fabrication. As far as USB 3.0 is concerned, the next generation USB standard is expected to hit the market in the coming year, though companies like Intel have clearly stated that they will not support USB 3.0 until 2011.

Checking their website, it looks like the company is based out of a residence, in RT Nagar in Bangalore. I know some of you who will be excited just to know that. Innovation in India is growing, and we are the lucky ones getting a chance to witness India’s growth agian in the industry.

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Why ‘NFC’ will be the most important alphabets of this year

NFC, or Near Field communication is burning hot this year. Another technology centered around the Mobile Phone like Augmented Reality. Unfortunately Augmented Reality has not yet completely taken off, but NFC on the other hand is driven by money and so will definitely do well in the coming year. It is an old idea that started off with contact less smart cards, and is now adapted into the mobile. Some time back I had shown Apple patent application for the introduction in the next generation iPhone, but while Apple was still working on the paperwork, Google has rolled the technology (although half baked) into the Nexus S, the new flagship phone of Google made by Samsung.

But why is NFC going to be big ? Everyone in technology usually dreams of technology getting unified and ubiquitous where certain aspects of our lives will be completely supported through technology in a completely integrated form. We already use a whole load of technologies like them, the credit card is an excellent example. The problem with the credit cards are how successful the cards have become. Every small agency and company now wants us to carry a card with their loyalty program running with them, like you Gym, airline, favorite restaurant etc etc. But I feel there are one too many on the front of cards.

What is the solution ? smash the cards into one. It would be even better is this card would be easily accessible and programmable to be whatever card you want it to be when you need it to, something like this was demoed by Microsoft in their video for the future of technology.

Its time this technology starts getting into main stream with many different application and service providers. Companies and services are utilizing this new technology as a dedicated app on phones. Did I say phones ?? yes I did, the new Near Field communication chip is now into mobile phones, Google has already launched the chip into the phone.

Phone might be not the best place to keep it, this according to many people all over. Main issue being what if the phone is lost ? Phones get lost at all times, and so do wallets. What do people do when something like that happens ?? They find a way out.

Not only is the Nexus S the mobile with this included, if the rumor mills are to be believed then Blackberry and iPhone are next. All in all its a good start for the year, and tell you what its not the last you are going to hear of it.