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Entries in Lasers (4)

Tuesday
Jan182011

Amazing New Car Enables the Blind to Drive

This month, Daytona International Speedway isn't just about racing. A unique car that enables blind people to drive will be unveiled there Jan. 29. 

The car, a modified Ford Escape Hybrid, features special sensors, computers and interfaces that help it gain an unprecedented understanding of its road environment -- and even enable the driver to make his or her own decisions. It was designed by engineers and students at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, College of Engineering in Blacksburg, Va.

How does it work? According to the Vancouver Sun, the first step is the sensors, which include lasers and cameras. 

"The laser shoots around, scans the environment and makes a map around the vehicle," said Dr. Dennis Hong, an associate professor in the mechanical engineering department. "The camera system looks all around the vehicle by using some very sophisticated computer vision algorithms to identify and classify objects so that the vehicle knows ... a tree is over there, a rock is over here."

The sensor information enables the car's computer to create a virtual map of the environment. It then interfaces with the driver when necessary: 

Special driving gloves, for example, vibrate across each knuckle to let the vehicle's operator know how sharply to turn, while speed strips, which vibrate along the driver's legs and back, indicate how much to accelerate, says Anil Lewis, director of strategic communications with the National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore, Md.

One interface, for example, is the AirPix, a small tablet-like device with holes on it. Compressed air comes out from these holes and forms an image of what is around the vehicle.

"You put your hand over it and feel these are the roads. That's a tree over there; there is a moving vehicle to my right," says Hong. "The computer provides information about the vehicle so that it is you, the driver, who makes active decisions," he adds. "That is the concept."

Friday
Oct292010

Driverless Vans Travel From Italy to China

The Escapist
The whole "driverless cars" idea is really taking off. The Sydney Morning Herald reported today that four driverless vans successfully completed a 8,100-mile (13,000-kilometer) trek from Italy to China this week, with only minimal human intervention.
The vehicles were equipped with solar-powered laser scanners and video cameras that work together to detect obstacles.
According to the Herald:

A computerized artificial vision system dubbed GOLD, for Generic Obstacle and Lane Detector, analysed the information from the sensors and automatically adjusted the vehicles' speed and direction.

"This steering wheel is controlled by the PC. So the PC sends a command and the steering wheel moves and turns and we can follow the road, follow the curves and avoid obstacles with this," said Alberto Broggi of Vislab at the University of Parma in Italy, the lead researcher for the project.

"The idea here was to travel on a long route, on two different continents, in different states, different weather, different traffic conditions, different infrastructure. Then we can have some huge number of situations to test the system on," he said.

Thursday
Sep162010

405nm Laser Face Paint

From Pink Tentacle:

First, artists Daito Manabe and Motoi Ishibashi used a 405nm laser to cause an image of a face to appear on a wall that was coated with a special photoluminscient paint. The face hovers, supernaturally, then slowly fades.

The artists then go one step further and apply the process to someone's real face, shining the 405nm laser an a person wearing photoluminescent face paint.

They speculate that the technology might be useful in outdoor advertising at night; more likely a night club or Burning Man, if you ask me. It's zombieriffic either way.

Thursday
Aug122010

3-D Mapping Goes Indoors

Call it Google Maps 2.0. A team of researchers and students at UC Berkeley have developed a "laser backback" that produces fascinating 3-D models of the inside of a building.

"The idea is, you wear the backpack, you walk inside the building, you're done," says Prof. Avideh Zakhor. "Push a button, and out comes this model."

Four cameras snap photos simultaneously, while a set of lasers and positional scanners do the rest. The resulting model is textured with each photograph, providing an unprecedented 3-D map of the inside of each building. As the video points out, the human wearer enables the mapping unit to explore in caves, up stairwells and throughout other areas that a robot simply couldn't travel.

The backpack might herald the next step in online research--even for simple questions like "How fancy is that restaurant?" or "How deep is that cave?"

"Every location, indoors and outdoors, will eventually be mapped," Zakhor said. "And we'll have it all online. Without even going anywhere, you can see what [every] interior looks like."