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Friday
Apr102009

IHF Roundup: Robots Hitting the Crop Fields, Airport Facial Scanners Slowing Security Lines & Other Top Headlines This Week


Phewf! Finally catching my breath after the whirlwind of ISC West and sitting down to read all the headlines that hit this week.

Lots in the research fields -- literally, fields -- in the news this week. I actually wrote about this robotic work a few weeks back, but the AP reported more on MIT's work with robots that can water, harvest and pollinate cherry tomato plants. According to the article, each plant is connected to both a robot and computer network to enable sensors that know when it is time to water the plant, pick the ripe fruit, or need fertilizer. This is the first big initiative I've heard about using robots for agricultural purposes, and while its currently exclusive to tomatoes, I'm curious if the technology will be adapted to other fruits and vegetables moving forward.

Biologists are hitting the books and looking at old laws of flying to further understand how birds, insects and other winged-animals keep themselves in flight in order to apply to future biomimeric-flying robots. Using high-speed video to see the asymmetrical flapping that hummingbirds and others are capable of to make turns mid-air, they hope to apply these locomotive maneuvers to future robotic developments.

And from wildlife and agriculture to babies -- Japanese scientists have created a child robot with Biomimetic Body (CB2 for short) capable of developing social skills from continuous human interaction. The robot can watch and record facial expressions using embedded eye-cameras and match them to corresponding physical movements to understand emotion, mirroring a developing mother-baby relationship. Wow.

In the surveillance realm, some feathers being ruffled this week, particularly in the UK.

According to a leaked memo, Manchester Airport allegedly re-calibrated its facial scanner machines from alerting security personnel if the passenger had less than a 80% likeness to their passport photograph to only calling out matches at less than 30% due to an overwhelmingly high number of "false positives" and particularly long queues at checkpoints. However, the UK Border Agency responded, saying that "neither the software nor the machines have been recalibrated or changed since the trial began in August 2008." Either way, lines are apparently out the door and there are rumors that 30% thresholds aren't high enough to tell Winona Ryder from Osama Bin Laden. If that's the case, I'll have no problem getting through as Colin Firth (if I had his passport, that is).

As noted by Leischen Stelter of Security Director News, biometric technologies, like facial scanners, address challenges airports face in providing the utmost security to its passengers, and more and more airports are adopting various technologies to do so. Whether its access control, iris and fingerprint readers or facial scanners, biometrics are enabling greater confidence in airport security efforts. In fact, the Biometric Airport Security Identification Consortium (BASIC) was initiated last year to test many different biometric technologies at airports nationwide and has grown from six initial participants to 32 airports. BASIC will move this one step further and present its findings to the TSA, which has promised to provide an approved vendor lists going forward. Exciting stuff.

Standardization in video surveillance has been an ongoing issue, but camera regulation is another rising matter, particularly down under. The Victorian Law Reform Commission in Australia proposed that an independent regulator oversee all public surveillance to ensure no footage is recorded without authorization. With tens of thousands of surveillance devices across the state, it is vital that no video falls through the cracks and into the wrong hands. Great to see.

So many headlines to summarize every week that it's almost getting overwhelming! I'm going to aim to summarize important headers a few times next week and moving forward -- hopefully this will keep everything timely and ensure I don't miss anything. Wouldn't want to let the readers down.

Reader Comments (1)

Cool stuff, but the posts don't display properly on my iPad, perhaps you could check that out. Thanks, anyway.

May 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKelp Fertilizer

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