Archive for January 18th, 2007

An Ear for Snipers – A new robotic head can pinpoint the location of enemy shooters

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

The RedOwl is a robotic head that looks more like a PowerPoint projector than a sharpshooter’s worst enemy. But don’t let its Circuit City appearance fool you: Controlled by a laptop-wielding soldier, the RedOwl’s superior senses can read a nametag from across a football field and identify the make and model of a rifle fired a mile away simply by analyzing the sound of the distant blast. And soon it could be putting its powers to use in Iraq.RedOwl’s developer, Glenn Thoren, now a director at Insight Technology in Londonderry, New Hampshire, says several prototypes have finished an intensive 10-week field test at Fort Benning in Georgia. Given the defense department’s budget approval early this year, he hopes the $150,000 sniper-finders will be in Iraq by this spring. The robot’s mechanical ears were originally designed to improve hearing aides. But Thoren, then with Boston University’s Photonics Center, which heads the RedOwl project, thought up a new application after learning of a spike in sniper activity surrounding Iraqi hotspots like Abu Ghraib prison… read more

via zinzi & popsci 

Nabaztag/tag: Robo rabbit returns

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

Remember Nabaztag? He’s back, and he’s badder than ever. The plastic Internet router rabbit that wowed geeks across the globe with its uncanny knack of reading emails aloud, telling you to wake up in the mornings and dictating the news now has a smarter successor: Nabaztag/tag.

Nabaztag/tag is equipped with all the power of his predecessor plus the power to hear and ‘smell’ his surroundings. The rabbit has a microphone built into its navel, since according to the press release, “rabbits are using their ears for other things”. (Are they being smutty?) This microphone allows voice activation so you can give Nabaztag/tag verbal orders, and it’ll even wait until it hears you enter the room before it starts reading out the weather forecast.

The young rabbit can use his built-in speaker to play audio from a multitude of sources. Internet radio? Check. MP3s? Check. Podcasts and books? No sweat.

Perhaps more impressive is the fact Nabaztag/tag can ‘smell’ — that is to say he has an RFID tag reader. When an object with an RFID tag is waved in front of it, the rabbit will detect exactly what that object is. Violet, the company behind Nabaztag/tag, says this could come in handy with RFID-equipped bouquets of flowers: you send your loved one a batch of Interflora’s finest, he or she scans the bouquet with Nabaztag/tag and it’ll read aloud your message — you know, for that personal touch.

Nabaztag/tag is available for $165 (£85) — you can grab more info from the official Web site. -RR

via cnet