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Mar 30, 2012
High-Tech Nova Weekly: Top five trends for 3/26-3/30
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Tune into the trends that are shaping the high-tech industry this week!

Computer identifies liars at a much higher rate than experienced interrogators

Crossed fingers behind the back may not be visible, but this man's face would not be able to fool the computer lie detectorUniversity at Buffalo computer scientists are exploring how machines can read the visual cues that give away deceit. Results so far are promising: In a study of 40 videotaped conversations, an automated system that analyzed eye movements correctly identified whether interview subjects were lying or telling the truth 82.5 percent of the time. Ifeoma Nwogu, a research assistant professor at UB's Center for Unified Biometrics and Sensors (CUBS) who helped develop the system, stated that it was a better accuracy rate than what expert human interrogators typically achieve in lie-detection judgment experiments. In published results, even experienced interrogators average closer to 65 percent, Nwogu said. They suggest that computers may be able to learn enough about a person's behavior in a short time to assist with a task that challenges even experienced interrogators. The videos used in the study showed people with various skin colors, head poses, lighting and obstructions such as glasses. However, this does not mean machines are ready to replace human questioners; they are merely advanced tools to assist in human lie detection.

Haptic photography research at UPenn develops images that can be both seen and physically felt

Haptic photography simulates the feel of various high-tech devices to better prepare professionalsKatherine J. Kuchenbecker, Skirkanich Assistant Professor of Innovation for Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics (MEAM) at the University of Pennsylvania, explains the work she and her research team are conducting on haptic photography. Haptography, like photography in the visual domain, enables an individual to quickly record the haptic feel of a real object and reproduce it later for others to interact with in a variety of contexts. Particular positive ramifications of establishing the approach of haptography are to let doctors and dentists create haptic records of medical afflictions such as a decayed tooth surface to assist in diagnosis and patient health tracking; to improve the realism and consequent training efficacy of haptic surgical simulators and other computer-based education tools; to allow a wide range of people, such as museum goers and online shoppers, to touch realistic virtual copies of valuable items; to facilitate a haptographic approach to low-bandwidth and time-delayed teleoperation, as found in space exploration; and to enable new insights on human and robot touch capabilities.

Geothermal power: The clean energy source you rarely hear about

Steam rising from the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station in IcelandAlthough geothermal energy may be a strong potential green energy source that doesn’t receive as much attention as things like solar energy, improvements in geothermal technologies are beginning to make headway. A drilling technique that has been given new life and is under development by the US Navy and Sandia National Labs, is one of those improvements. The drills that today are commonly used to create wells for oil and natural gas still make use of bits that were originally developed 30 years ago for geothermal drilling. These bits, called polycrystalline diamond compact, or PDC bits, never really caught on in the geothermal drilling industry, because of the complexity required to drill geothermal wells. Not so anymore, thanks to the US Navy and Sandia National Labs -- their PDC bits outperformed the traditional geothermal drilling bits by almost 300 percent.

Microsoft and West Coast Customs: Unlikely partnerships create better business and technology

The Project Detroit mashup vehicle created by Microsoft and West Coast Customs Microsoft, best known for software and the Xbox gaming system, recently worked with West Coast Customs, best known for 'pimping' cars, to create a concept car called Project Detroit -- based on the automotive architecture of a Ford Mustang -- that can not only move with 400 horsepower, but also provides immediate access to multiple Microsoft technologies including Windows, Kinect and Bing. The aggregation of dissimilar technologies -- even through an unorthodox architecture platform like a classic car -- is a trend that is being accelerated by customers as they seek more value through a better experience by linking technologies that have an affinity for each other and by the manufacturers as they seek to differentiate themselves from their competitors. The latter strategy can be seen in products of Hewlett-Packard (HP) -- a hardware manufacturer in the personal computing space -- that has been going to market with laptops that integrate 'Beats' audio technology. 'Beats by Dre' is an earphone and audio sound product line developed by well-known rapper and producer Dr. Dre. Beats earphones are considered high-end with some costing more than $300. HP laptops -- traditionally considered a hardware commodity -- are now perceived as having more value, especially with those who enjoy music because of the well-branded audio capabilities provided by Beats.

Boston Dynamics has created the 'Sand Flea' robot that can jump 30 feet into the air

The Sand Flea can leap tall buildings in a single boundDeveloped by Boston Dynamics, the Sand Flea is an 11 pound robot with one trick up its sleeve: Normally it drives like an RC car, but when it needs to it can jump 30 feet into the air. An onboard stabilization system keeps it oriented during flight to improve the view from the video uplink and to control landings. Current development of Sand Flea is funded by the US Army's Rapid Equipping Force. The implications for military surveillance is tremendous, as the small robot can be maneuvered to leap over large fences, take a tumble for a great height with nary a scratch, and deftly fit underneath small areas.

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