Archive | Engineering

Sign Language Phone Being Tested

SEATTLE, Aug. 19 (UPI) — University of Washington researchers say they are testing the first video phone that transmits American Sign Language over the U.S. cellular network.

Project leader Eve Riskin, a professor of electrical engineering at the Seattle school, says the tool is just completing its initial field test by deaf and hard-of-hearing students participating in a summer program.

“This is the first study of how deaf people in the United States use mobile video phones,” Riskin said in a statement.

The field test allows the research team to see how people use the device in their daily lives and what obstacles they encounter.

The challenge for researchers has been to deliver enough image quality around the face and hands so sign language could be recognizable but still low-cost, Riskin says.

To extend the phone’s battery life during video use, the device employs motion detection to determine whether or not a person is signing.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Engineering, Other0 Comments

'Electronic Eye' Helps Distracted Drivers

SEATTLE, Aug. 16 (UPI) — An “in-car coach” — an electronic eye tracker used to monitor the driver’s gaze — helps avert accidents due to distracted driving, a U.S. researcher says.

Study co-author Linda Ng Boyle of the University of Washington in Seattle says some “high-risk” young drivers have a greater propensity to become distracted while driving. However, those who drove the worst seemed to benefit most from an in-car coach and changed their behavior the most dramatically.

“Our research shows that these high-risk drivers might not be thrill seeking or aggressive — maybe they’re just not aware of what the risks are,” Boyle says in a statement. “By providing continual feedback, drivers may be more likely to learn from their mistakes and put their eyes back on the road.”

Boyle and colleagues used an eye tracker to monitor 53 subjects ages 18-21 as they operated a driving simulator, cruising a two-lane highway with oncoming traffic and given a financial incentive to simultaneously perform simple matching tasks on a screen beside the steering wheel — a distraction at about the level of scanning a playlist on an mp3 player.

The study, published in the Journal of Transportation Engineering, finds providing young drivers feedback on their driving via the electronic coach helped high-risk drivers more than double their time until a virtual crash.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Engineering, Other, Transportation0 Comments

Micro-machines Offer New Possibilities

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., Aug. 12 (UPI) — Tiny self-calibrating machines could be super accurate sensors for crime scene forensics, environmental testing and medical diagnostics, researchers say.

Purdue University scientists say a new technology allowing tiny machines called micro electromechanical systems to “self-calibrate” could help create a “nose-on-a-chip” for tracking criminal suspects, sensors for identifying hazardous materials or laboratory tools for specialists working in nanotechnology and biotechnology, a university release said Tuesday.

“In the everyday macroscopic world, we can accurately measure distance and mass because we have well known standards such as rulers or weights that we use to calibrate devices that measure distances or forces,” said Jason Vaughn Clark, professor of electrical and computer engineering and mechanical engineering. “But for the micro- or nanoscopic worlds, there have been no standards and no practical ways for measuring very small distances or forces.”

A new technology called electro micro metrology is enabling engineers to determine the precise movement and force that’s being applied to, or sensed by, an MEMS device, Clark said.

“For the first time, MEMS can now truly self-calibrate without any external references,” Clark said. ” And in doing so, they become very accurate sensors or actuators.”

MEMS accelerometers and gyroscopes are already in use in commercial products including the Nintendo Wii video game, the iPhone and automotive airbags.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Engineering, Other0 Comments

Researchers: Car Systems Are Vulnerable

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J., Aug. 12 (UPI) — New wireless technologies showing up in cars could compromise a driver’s privacy and are a potential security and safety threat, U.S. researchers warn.

Researchers at Rutgers University say wireless sensors and devices, such as systems that monitor air pressure inside tires and trigger dashboard warnings if a tire’s pressure drops, are becoming increasingly common on modern cars, a university release said Thursday.

The Rutgers scientists say signals from such wireless devices can be easily intercepted from as far away as 120 feet using a simple receiver. Since signals in tire pressure monitoring systems include unique codes, this raises concerns drivers’ locations could be tracked, they say.

The devices lack common security protections such as input validation, data encryption or authentication, so a transmitter that mimics, or “spoofs,” the sensor signal could easily send false readings and trigger a car’s dashboard warning display. This could prompt a driver into stopping his or her car when there is actually nothing wrong with the tires, they say.

Marco Gruteser, Rutgers professor of electrical and computer engineering, said it’s reasonable to expect other aspects of automobile operation will come under wireless control.

“A spoofed signal could potentially cause serious safety concerns if stability control or anti-lock braking systems relied on the data,” Gruteser said. “So we are sounding the alarm right now.”

The fact people could carry out those actions using publicly available radio and computer equipment costing a few thousand dollars shows that systems are vulnerable, he said,

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Cars, Engineering, Other0 Comments

N.Y. Nuclear Risk Assessment Described

WEST VALLEY, N.Y., Aug. 12 (UPI) — U.S. researchers have announced an improved method of predicting where people might be exposed to radiation from nuclear waste disposal sites.

Engineering and scientific experts associated with U.S. and New York state energy agencies focused on a buried nuclear waste disposal facility at West Valley, N.Y., a Society for Risk Analysis release said Wednesday.

Researchers say their study looked at possible scenarios, likelihoods and consequences of a threat to the disposal site and concluded “a release resulting in a dose of 100 millirems in one year, or more, is extremely unlikely during the next 30 years of operation of the state managed disposal area at the Western New York Nuclear Service Center.”

By comparison, the study said, the public is exposed to approximately 300 millirems a year of cosmic radiation in the atmosphere with no visible health effects.

Possible scenarios were considered involving hypothetical releases of radionuclides by liquid, solid or air pathways.

The scientific analysis supports a decision to continue management of waste at the site for another decade, the researchers said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Engineering, Other, Radiation, Waste Disposal0 Comments

Method Proposed for Power Demand 'spikes'

LEEDS, England, Aug. 11 (UPI) — British and Chinese researchers say they’ve found a way to deal with sudden peak demands for electricity that could cut fuel costs in half.

Scientists at the University of Leeds and the Chinese Academy of Sciences looked at ways to cope with demands on a national power grid that can vary widely at different times of the day, a Leeds university release said Wednesday.

Power demands usually peak in the early evening after the mass exodus toward home from school and work, and short-lived spikes in demand are common after televised sports events or during commercial breaks, the release said.

Energy companies typically deal with the demand spikes with electricity from power plants that are only switched on to cope with the peaks. But the gas-fired generators often used to feed these peaks are notoriously inefficient and expensive to run, and sit idle for long periods of time, researchers say.

University of Leeds Professor of Engineering Yulong Ding and colleagues propose a more environmentally friendly system that would store excess energy made by a plant supplying the “base” demand and use this to supply the “peaks” in demand as and when they happen.

The key idea would be to use excess energy — not needed during “base” demand times — to power a unit producing liquid nitrogen. At times of peak demand, the nitrogen would be boiled, using heat from the environment and waste heat from the power plant, to drive a turbine or engine generating “top up” electricity to deal with demand spikes.

“On paper, the efficiency savings are considerable. We now need to test the system in practice,” Ding said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Electricity, Engineering, Other0 Comments

Telemedicine Can Be Remote Lifesaver

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y., Aug. 9 (UPI) — Oil rig workers and others working in remote locations are relying more on telemedicine “visits” with distant doctors and specialists, health professionals say.

Work on an oil rig can be dangerous, with cuts, sprains, fractures and other injuries not uncommon, and ailments such as respiratory infections, asthma, and heart attack can also pose a serious problem on a rig where access to medical professionals is limited, an article published in the journal Telemedicine and e-Health says.

Oil companies are increasingly Internet or satellite connection technology to link emergency medical technicians working on the oil platform to emergency physicians and specialists at major medical centers.

Medical test results can be relayed in this way, and the use of Web cams or even a photograph relayed from a smartphone are giving doctors a visual look at injuries and an opportunity to assess a patient’s status with their own eyes, experts say.

Telemedicine facilities on oil rigs can include EKG capabilities, a blood pressure monitor, thermometer, pulse taximeter or glucose meter in addition to two-way voice, data and video transmission capabilities.

“As we have seen in the last several months, working on an offshore oil platform is a dangerous job,” said Charles R. Darn, professor of public health sciences and biomedical engineering at the University of Cincinnati.

“Access to healthcare via telemedicine is an excellent application of technology and can save lives and money.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Engineering, Other0 Comments

'City-sized' Ice Island Breaks off Glacier

NEWARK, Del., Aug. 6 (UPI) — An ice island four times as big as Manhattan has been calved by a glacier in Greenland, the biggest such breaking off of Arctic ice since 1962, researchers say.

Scientist at the University of Delaware said the huge floating mass broke free from the Petermann glacier early Thursday about 620 miles from the North Pole, a university release said.

The glacier lost about one-quarter of its 43-mile long floating ice-shelf, researchers said.

The Petermann glacier is one of the two largest glaciers in Greenland that terminate in floating shelves and connects the Greenland ice sheet directly with the ocean.

The new ice island is at least 100 square miles in area, Andreas Muenchow, associate professor of physical ocean science and engineering at the University of Delaware, said.

“The freshwater stored in this ice island could keep the Delaware or Hudson rivers flowing for more than two years. It could also keep all U.S. public tap water flowing for 120 days,” Muenchow said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Engineering, Other0 Comments

Tiny Robot Proves Adept Wall Climber

SALT LAKE CITY, Aug. 5 (UPI) — A robot that can climb like a human rock climber may have many applications, its inventor says, but he also admits it’s a “really cool toy.”

Developed at the University of Utah, ROCR — as in “rocker” — uses two claws, a motor and a tail that swings like a clock’s pendulum to clamber up an 8-foot carpeted wall in a little more than 15 seconds, like a human rock climber or an ape swinging from branch to branch in trees, a university release said Wednesday.

“While this robot eventually can be used for inspection, maintenance and surveillance,” developer William Provancher, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, says, “probably the greatest short-term potential is as a teaching tool or as a really cool toy.”

Most climbing robots “are intended for maintenance or inspection in environments such as the exteriors of buildings, bridges or dams, storage tanks, nuclear facilities or reconnaissance within buildings,” Provancher says.

But “there’s a lot more work to be done” before climbing robots are in common use, he says.

Compared to some large climbing robots that can weigh in at hundreds of pounds, ROCR is small and lightweight at 12.2 inches wide, 18 inches tall and weighing only 1.2 pounds.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Buildings, Engineering, Other0 Comments

Russia Announces Two Space Probe Missions

MOSCOW, Aug. 3 (UPI) — Russia’s space agency says it is preparing two space probes for launch in the next two years to study the surfaces of both the moon and Mars.

The Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said a spacecraft scheduled to be launched in 2012 would study the Moon, RIA Novosti reported Monday.

“Roscosmos plans to send to the moon a spacecraft bearing a neutron generator developed by our institute to study the lunar surface,” Yevgeny Bogolyubov, deputy chief designer of the Automation Engineering Scientific Research Institute, said.

The same kind of generator will also be onboard a NASA spacecraft bound for Mars, he said.

“The IGN-10K impulse neutron generator is designed to study the surface of Mars to determine the content of water in the soil by nuclear-physical methods. The generator will be installed on board a NASA Mars lab that is slated for launch in 2011,” Bogolyubov said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Engineering, Other0 Comments

No Posts in Category
Advertisement