Drones that Deliver Beer

bigstock-Beverage-Series-Beer-110434The Oppikoppi Festival has been taking place in South Africa every year since 1995. It is a big music festival. For this year, the 19th year of the festival, they are going to be trying something new to help distribute beer to the people who attend.

According to HypeBot the festival will make use of small drones that will deliver beer directly to the person who ordered it. He or she won’t have to walk away from the music, and stand in a long line, in order to purchase a beer.

Instead, a small, 8-propeller helicopter drone, that has been loaded with beer, will fly over the festival and locate the person who ordered a beer. The drone will then drop a single beer, which has been attached to a small parachute. Use your smartphone to order the beer, and stay put. The beer will come to you!

This year, the Oppikoppi festival planners are intending to have people hand guide the drones. In other words, the drones won’t be functioning without a human guiding them along behind the scenes. If things work out well, there is potential that other large, outdoor, music festivals may decide to use some beer delivery drones.

Image by Stock Photo Beverage Series Beer by BigStock

Team of Girls Become Finalists With “Arrive” App

TechnovationThe Technovation Challenge began in 2009. It is run by Iridescent, which is a 501c3 non-profit company. The purpose of the Technovation Challenge is to give girls the opportunity to learn how to start a company and become high-tech entrepreneurs.

Teams of five (or more) high school girls can enter. All they need is “a safe place to meet, a laptop with internet and a smart phone”. It doesn’t cost any money to enter the Challenge. A curriculum is provided to the teams to help them through the process. Every year, a theme is selected for the Technovation Challenge. For 2013, girls needed to develop an app that solves a problem in their local community. They can focus on a health problem, a social problem, or a lack of resource.

This year, there were 115 submissions. You can check out a complete list of the finalists. One that caught my attention is a team from The Nightingale-Bamford School in New York City. The team of high school girls have created an app called “Arrive”.

The purpose of the app is to allow girls to use their smart phones to check into school. Administrators can use the app to view student attendance by class and last name. Parents can opt-in to having the app send them a text message when their daughter arrives at school.

This would replace the school’s current check in system, which uses plastic ID cards and countless paper attendance sheets. Instead of having students gather around one check in point, “Arrive” would let them scan a QR code (which can be placed in many locations). The video below shows the girls as they explain more about what “Arrive” will do.

FTC Announces Winners of Robocall Challenge

bigstock-robot-group-26063990Nobody likes robocallers, including the Federal Trade Commission. Last year, in October, the FTC launched the Robocall Challenge. The purpose was to have innovators create solutions that would block illegal robocalls.

The winners have now been announced. Nomorobo won for “Best Overall Solution”. Say the name Nomorobo out loud, and it sounds a lot like “no more robo”. It was created by Aaron Foss, who is a software developer.

There is a video on the Nomorobo website that explains how it works. It has been designed to work with existing technologies and will block illegal robocalls. It is a cloud based solution that does not require normal callers to have to enter PIN’s or CAPTCHAs.

There is another winner for “Best Overall Solution”. It has a long name: Robocall Filtering System and Device with Autonomous Blacklisting, Whitelisting, GrayListing and Caller ID spoof detection. It was created by Serdar Danis, who is a computer engineer. The two winners of “Best Overall Solution” will split the $50,000 prize.

The FTC also selected a Federal Trade Commission Technology Achievement Award winner. The winner was a solution called: Crowd-sourced Call Identification and Suppression. It was created by Daniel Klein and Dean Jackson. They are both Google engineers. There is no monetary prize for this award.

Image Stock Photo Robot Group by BigStock

HDBaseT Alliance

HDBase The HDBaseT Alliance was founded in 2010 by LG Electronics, SamsungSony Pictures Entertainment and Valen Semiconductor to promote the use of HDBaseT Technology. A HDBaseT device would enable a single LAN cable to replace multiple cables and connectors in a home or business environment. A single cable using this technology can go up to 100 meters and you can have up to eight connections (8×100).

The base technology is 5Play which allows one CAT5e/6 LAN cable to handle uncompressed HD video, 4K video, audio, ethernet and even power, You can connect one device to multiple displays in multiple rooms. For example you could connect one blue ray player to multiple monitors in different rooms. The system will also pass along an infrared signal and will also works with a wireless system.

The HDBaseT Alliance has recently been joined by Panasonic, Pioneer, Epson and Belkin. The alliance deals both with manufactures but also talks to consumers. They realize that the consumer is the one that often pressures manufactures to install the new technology. More information about the HDBaseT Alliance can be found at their website

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine, and Interview by Nick DiMeo of F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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Hyundai’s Technology BlueLink and More

Bluelink Hyundai showed off a lot of technology at CES 2013, BlueLink, haptic control, gesture control, face recognitions, advance heads up display and connectivity with your smart device. The infrared motion sensor, senses distance, motion and proximity. It allows you to change things with just hand gestures.  You can even reconfigure your gear cluster. They are also working on eye tracking software that can warn the driver if they are falling the asleep. They are developing face recognition software that would prevent the car from being stolen plus make things better for the driver.  When you buy a car a profile is set up for you and anyone else that is going to drive the car. When a person gets in the driver seat if the car recognizes that person (they have a profile) it will adjust the seat position, audio and climate control to the person’s preference based on their profile. If someone tries to steal the car and the car doesn’t recognize the person the car will not start or do anything.

It uses MHL Protocol to connect to your smart phone. Everything is in real-time. Navigation is projected on the windshield, so the driver can see the directions without ever having to take their eyes off the road. BlueLink Telematic System allows things to be  reconfigured remotely from an app, the web or using the in-car system. You can reconfigure heating, air conditioning, gage cluster, fan position and power. It keeps track of the health of the car and whether it needs maintenance. It can even tell you where your car is located when you lose your car in the parking lot of a mall. It is like putting remote start on steroid.

You can find more information about BlueLink and other Hyundai technology at the BlueLink website and the Hyundai website.

Interview by Allante Sparks of F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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N. Joseph Woodland Died at Age 91

bigstock-Barcode-18830351You might not immediately recognize the name of Norman Joseph Woodland, but it is safe to say that you are very familiar with his work. He was one of the inventors of the bar code, the zebra-like series of lines that is on most, if not all, product packaging. It is the code that the cashier scans whenever you make a purchase.

The concept of using a series of lines and spaces came to him one day as he was on a beach in Miami, Florida. He used his fingers to draw four lines into the sand, and realized that he could use bars of different thickness and thinness instead of dots and dashes.

He was a graduate student at the time and was working with a classmate named Bernard Silver, (who died in 1963). In 1949, the two submitted their patent for a code that had concentric circles and resembled a bull’s eye. The patent was issued in 1952.

The technology for the now familiar bar code didn’t exist until the 1970’s. A team at IBM’s Research Triangle Park, in North Carolina, were the ones to develop a barcode-reading laser scanner system. N. Joseph Woodland was part of that team. The decision to create it was to satisfy a demand from grocers who were seeking a way to automate and speed up checkout (while, at the same time, cutting down on product handling and inventory management costs).

Norman Joseph Woodland, the man behind the “beeps” you hear when you are watching the cashier scan your purchase, died at the age of 91. You may not have known his name, but you saw his invention every day.

Image Stock Photo Barcode by BigStock

GigaPan Shows You Every Face in the Crowd

GigaPan brings you Gigapan images that you can explore by zooming in, zooming out, and moving the image around. This is a whole new way to look at photography, and it combines very nicely with social media.

What’s a Gigapan? Gigapans are gigapixel panoramas. They are digital images that have billions of pixels. They have a clarity that other photos simply do not, and they do not get “fuzzy” even when you zoom in to pick out the faces in the crowd.

They have several galleries for you to browse through. One gallery has images from Hurricane Sandy. Others let you explore celestial images, cityscapes, or underwater. This is definitely a website that a person can go to “just for a minute” and end spending much longer than a minute exploring.

The most interesting gallery, at least to me, is the one called “Capture the Crowd”. It has Gigapan images of several different sporting events. I’m not big on sports, so the part that captured my attention was the fact that you really can zoom into the Gigapan image in order to see individual people who were in the stands watching that game.

It’s a little weird to think about. On the one hand, these people all knew that they were in a public place, and probably realized that a television camera might pick up their image. One might assume that they consented to having their photo taken under these circumstances. If you attending a particular sporting event or concert, you could search for yourself in the crowd and then tag yourself.

On the other hand, I doubt very many of the people who went to the events know that there could be a Gigapan image of the event they attended. The incredibly clear image, and the ability to literally scan the entire crowd for someone, could make some people feel as though their privacy has been violated.

Oh, and there is the potential that your friend who went to the event with you could decided to tag you as well as himself. Those tags will connect to both of your Facebook pages, and anyone who wants to can easily find exactly where you were seated at the event.

This might not be so great for people who faked a sick day in order to get out of work so they could go watch the game. However, it is really awesome for people who want to have a unique memento that proves that they really were there!

Learn How to Code with the Bright Eyes Kit

As a former teacher, I know that the best way to encourage people to learn something new is to make it fun! That’s why The Bright Eyes Kit on Kickstarter got my attention. It is a DIY kit that is designed to encourage people to learn programing.

The Bright Eyes Kit comes with a pair of glasses that have 174 LEDs and a micro SD card. The first thing you need to do is put the glasses together. The video describes this process as being easier than IKEA. Once you have the glasses put together, it is time to learn how to program the LEDs.

The kit talks you through the process in a way that will encourage people who have never done programming before to give it a try. Ultimately, you will learn how to program the lights on your glasses to flash in a specific way.

Make the lights respond to graphics, animations, or whatever else sounds fun to you. Connect your glasses to your Twitter account and let the LEDs flash to your Tweets. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination and interest in learning how to make it work.

They recently added a microphone that you can use to program your Bright Eyes glasses to respond to sound. If that doesn’t interest you, perhaps you would prefer to play around with an ambient light sensor that you can attach to the glasses instead.

The Bright Eyes glasses look really cool and are attention getters. I could see Elton John, or Lady Gaga, wearing them. Code them, wear them out in public, and you are certain to have someone start a conversation with you about your Bright Eyes glasses. All of the code will be open source and freely available. Learn to code, and have some fun doing it!

For more information, check out this video from the Bright Eyes Kit on Kickstarter.

Biodegradable Server Chassis

No matter how much we would like them to, the truth is that servers do not last forever. They last for a few years, and then it is time to replace them with a newer one. What do you do with the old one? Many people recycle them. This is better than throwing them into the trash, but recycling still uses energy and creates waste.

There could be a better solution. Perdue’s College of Technology has a new entrepreneurship program called Tech Ventures. It has teamed up with Open Compute, which was founded by Facebook. They have created an interesting competition. Teams of up to three students can register to enter a challenge to make a server chassis that is biodegradable.

Ultimately, the hope is that the winning design for a biodegradable server chassis will result the creation of more computer parts that can be composted instead of recycled. Imagine being able to put your old computer into your compost bin where it will break down naturally! This concept, of course, has a very long way to go before it can become reality. The first step towards a greener type of server chassis is through the Open Compute Challenge.

Each team that competes in this challenge will get a server to use. The team that creates the winning design will get a trip to attend the Open Compute Summit where they will be able to present the winning design to information technology industry leaders. Perdue will help the winning team to create a prototype of their design for a biodegradable server chassis.

Image: Stock Vector Images by BigStock

Pumpktris Combines Tetris and Pumpkin Carving

Here is the most awesome pumpkin that I have seen this Halloween! Nathan at the HaHaBird blog has created Pumpktris.The result is a pumpkin that you can actually play a modified version of the classic video game Tetris on. It involves LED lights that are connected on a matrix, some soldering, lots of wire cutting, drilling holes for the LED lights, and a whole lot of dedication and skill.

Many people have played Tetris, but few have played it on an pumpkin that has been “upgraded” to become a unique form of video game console! The stem of the pumpkin functions as the controller. Move it around to maneuver the Tetris “blocks” as they fall. From a player standpoint, it appears to be as simple to play Pumpktris as it was to play the classic Tetris game. I am so impressed by the amount of planning and work that went into the creation of Pumpktris!

There is an excellent step-by-step tutorial on how to create your own Pumpktris on the HaHaBird blog. I’m not sure if you will have time to attempt this for Halloween this year, unless you have today and tomorrow off of work, and no specific plans for celebrating. If not, then you have a whole year’s worth of time to plan it out for next Halloween.