By Heather Kelly, CNN
For a tiny bug-shaped robot made of cardboard and plastic, Dash is surprisingly advanced.
The new $65 DIY programmable robot is built for tinkering. It comes with a gyroscope, visible light and infrared sensors, and an iOS app for controlling it over Bluetooth 4. The Arduino-compatible bots also have LED lights and additional ports for expanding and hacking the Dash.
You can program in your own behaviors, making the robots move in patterns or follow walls. They can operate as a swarm and cooperate, or set off on individual tasks. Add in touch sensors and turn two peace-loving Dash robots into battlebots that fight each other and keep score on their multi-colored LEDs.
"Our goal is to get a robot into everyone's hands because we think they're great educational tools," said Nick Kohut, one of the founders of Dash Robotics.
Conveniently, Dash will fit right into in the palms of those hands. It has six legs, weighs about half an ounce, and its killer feature is being able to move quickly over various kinds of terrain. It can cover five to six feet a second and is able to cross sand, concrete and other surfaces.
By Heather Kelly, CNN
There's only so much you can fit inside one of those cute woven baskets found on the common bicycle: a small bag of groceries, fresh-cut flowers and a baguette, maybe a puppy.
But the new 2X4 cargo bike from NTS Works is built to haul up to 100 pounds of goods and, with the help of its electrical-assist engine, go as fast as 20 miles an hour.
The bike, a cross between a bicycle, motorcycle and beast of burden, is the brainchild of California bike designer Neal Saiki. He hopes the $4,800 2X4 will catch on with regular people running errands, as well as companies that deliver packages, fruit boxes, pizzas and other goods in urban areas.
Enterprising riders around the world have used the humble bicycle to haul freight for more than 100 years. They creatively balance large loads or small families on two wheels, often modifying a bike's design to accommodate specific hefty cargo.
These "cargo" or "freight" bikes are still in use in many places where cars and gas remain too expensive, or where the roads are so small or congested that a bike is a more efficient way to get around. They're especially popular in Europe, where some manufacturers have added electrical engines to boost the bikes' hauling power and assist riders up hills. FULL POST
By Rebecca Bluitt, Special to CNN
Off the Hawaiian coast, the humpback whale is thrilling spectators and scientists alike with its acrobatic jumps, complex songs – and its spectacular recovery.
“When we started there was talk of whales in the hundreds out here,” says Jim Darling, renowned whale researcher and co-founder of Whale Trust Maui, a nonprofit devoted to studying whales in the waters of the Hawaiian island. “Now in the North Pacific the best estimates are about 20,000 whales.”
“They become part of the local culture a little bit. And that’s sort of seeping into the national culture,” says Darling, referring to the booming whale-watching industry. Whale tourism added an estimated $2 billion to the global economy last year, a number that is expected to increase by 10% each year.
About the size of a school bus and weighing an average of 45 tons, the humpback whale is an impressive creature. But they weren't always such a visible part of the Hawaiian seascape. Their recent comeback from near extinction at the hand of whale hunters is as remarkable as the animals themselves, and has wildlife experts in awe of their recovery capabilities.
“The fact that they’ve been able to come back like this proves that it is possible, if we give them half a chance,” Darling says.
Strict international restrictions on whaling, implemented in 1966, gave the humpback population its chance to rebound. But is 20,000 humpbacks in the entire North Pacific really that many?
“When you think about it, it’s not,” Darling says. “I mean, think about how many people attend a football game, you know? It’s a little chunk of a stadium. But ... it’s so many more than were here."
It’s enough of a recovery, some argue, that the North Pacific humpback whale should be taken off of the federal list of endangered species altogether. The Hawaii Fishermen’s Alliance for Conservation and Tradition recently petitioned for removing the North Pacific humpback from the list, claiming that the whales' population increase warrants a reexamination of the current restrictions on fishing practices.
And Japan, the largest whaling country in the world, is already utilizing a loophole in anti-whaling laws to kill some species of whales. Hunters claim the carcasses are used for scientific research – gathering information on the animals’ age, diet, and birthing rate – before the meat is packaged and sold.
In 2007, Japanese whalers insisted that the humpback’s comeback justified adding the whales to their list of prospective prey. But outcry from the international community has forced them to back down, at least for now.
Darling believes this long-term conflict between humans and humpbacks is the greatest threat to the whales' future.
“As far as entanglements and vessel collisions, we can slow boats down, or we can warn vessels when there are whales in the area, or we can come up with different kinds of fishing gear which maybe reduces the entanglements. There are ways to sort of tackle those issues," he says.
"The bigger ones of how we’re all going to survive in the long run are going to be a little more challenging.”
It's a challenge, Darling says, that Whale Trust Maui is ready to tackle.
By Elissa Weldon, CNN
There’s nowhere quite like the beach in summer. But between the sun, scenery and a relaxed vacation mindset, many beachgoers don't think much about their safety in the ocean.
Ask anyone who has ever had a close call in the water - been caught in a rip current or struggled against powerful tides to make it to shore. Often, there's only one person standing between them and death: a lifeguard.
Meet Archie Kalepa, chief of ocean safety for the Hawaiian island of Maui. Kalepa has a team of 64 lifeguards under his command and is responsible for the safety of about 2 million beach visitors every year.
"It only takes 5 minutes for a person to go brain-dead, or to drown," Kalepa says. "For us, a lot of times the surf is way offshore. And so it's all about the response time. How quickly can we respond from Point A to Point B?"
His commitment to public safety has deep roots. Kalepa pioneered the use of Jet Skis for water rescues nearly 25 years ago. After Hurricane Iniki struck Hawaii in 1992, he became a local hero by using a Jet Ski to save 12 people from drowning. Those rescues proved to be a turning point in Kalepa’s drive to adopt the Jet Ski for widespread water-safety use.
“We were the ones with the idea,” says Kalepa, “but we needed everybody’s support to get the officials to realize that this (watercraft) is a tool, not a toy.”
Today, Kalepa is still working on improving his lifesaving techniques while developing innovative rescue equipment. He has devised an inflatable rescue board that the head of the United States Lifeguard Association calls a “real, significant innovation” with “enormous promise.” Kalepa is working with partners to commercialize the product.
Kalepa also is an elite athlete who relishes the chance to surf some of the biggest waves in the world. He's drawn to “the excitement, the thrill, dabbling in danger," he says. "I really, really enjoy being in that kind of environment.”
Kalepa uses his knowledge of the ocean to help others - even rescuing big-wave surfers in dangerous conditions.
“I’ve seen him in action. He will rush in without question and try to help anyone in peril,” says tow partner Buzzy Kerbox.
As a fifth-generation Hawaiian, Kalepa is probably proudest of his Hawaiian heritage and his honorary title of Waterman.
He was recently inducted into the Duke Kahanamoku Hawaiian Waterman’s Hall of Fame, a prestigious honor reserved only for those with vast knowledge of the ocean and experience in all aspects of water. Watermen can swim, surf, dive, paddle, fish and canoe with skill, strength, agility and instinct.
“Archie to me exemplifies exactly what a Hawaiian Waterman is, which is connected,” says Kaino Horcajo, an expert in Hawaiian culture. “We say the words fearless, courageous, brave, crazy. But what we really mean to say is connected - in tune, down to earth, and without filters.”
For Kalepa, being a Waterman and a Hawaiian means sharing his knowledge of the ocean with others. He trains some of the world’s most elite military units in water safety and Jet Ski rescues.
“Out of pure respect for what they do to keep America safe, it was an honor to train these people and work with them,” Kalepa says.
As a public-safety expert, a big-wave surfer and a Hawaiian Waterman, Archie Kalepa is driven to help others and spread what he calls the spirit of "aloha," the Hawaiian greeting.
“Sharing the spirit of aloha is always giving somebody a helping hand, always giving somebody a kiss. Always when somebody needs help, you help them, show them how to be good people," he says. "That's what the aloha spirit is, showing people love. It's what people from Hawaii do. It's how we live our life."
By Heather Kelly, CNN
Would you let a robot take over as a live-in nurse for your aging parent or grandparent?
In 2050, the elderly will account for 16 percent of the global population. That's 1.5 billion people over the age of 65, according to the Population Reference Bureau. Caring for those seniors - physically, emotionally and mentally - will be an enormous undertaking, and experts say there will be a shortage of professionals trained and willing to take on the job.
"We have to find more resources and have to get new ways of delivering those resources and delivering the quality of care," says Antonio Espingardeiro, an expert in robotics and automation at the University of Salford in Manchester, England, and a member of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society.
Enter the elder-care robot.
Robots have the potential to meet many of the needs of an aging population, according to Espingardeiro. A software engineer, Espingardeiro is finishing his PhD on new types of human and robotic interaction. He has developed a model of elder-care robot, P37 S65, which can monitor senior patients and communicate with doctors while providing basic care and companionship. FULL POST
Editors Note: Dan Selec is the founder and CEO of the nonPareil Institute – a hybrid school and software company in Plano, Texas that teaches adults on the autism spectrum to write and develop apps, video games and iBooks. Watch his full profile this Saturday at 2:30p ET on “The Next List”.
By Kristyn Martin, CNN
Dan Selec has a revolutionary idea: teach adults on the autism spectrum how to code so they can create apps and video games and make a living in the tech industry.
“If you want to know what terror is, find out that your child has a disability,” said Selec. “As a parent we’re all asking the same question: what happens after we’re gone?”
Selec, who has a son on the autism spectrum, wanted to find the answer to that question. “I wanted Caleb to have a chance to live a fulfilled life, not just a life,” said Selec. “He loves technology … it turns out there’s a whole population of this group where, this is their core strength. They’re digital natives.”
Selec, along with his partner Gary Moore, founded the nonPareil Institute in Plano, Texas. NonPareil is a hybrid school-meets-startup tech company. There, he teaches around 120 adults on the spectrum everything they need to know to create apps, video games and iBooks.
“For me, and I think a lot of students, we never expected to make video games,” said Jeremy Gage Farris, a student at nonPareil. “They might be lucky enough to just get a janitor’s job like I had for a few years. And just going from that to this is just a miracle for a large group of people like us.”
While the exact unemployment rate for adults on the autism spectrum is unknown, studies point to it being very low, according to The University of Missouri.
“It’s very limited in the number of job opportunities they have, the pay is very poor if they get paid at all,” said Jim Connell with the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute. “The nonPareil model is very viable for a specific portion of the population.”
Selec wrote and designed software specific to the needs to adults on the autism spectrum to streamline their learning process. It teaches them everything they need to be competitive in the software industry. “When you have gone through all the training and all of the courses you begin to get assignments and campaigns," said Selec. "And campaigns are product that is going to market.”
The nonPareil Institute already has several video games and apps available for purchase on iTunes and on most mobile platform stores. “That’s our vision, to be an innovation factory for approaching the market place and giving our crew sustainable revenue for the future,” said Selec.
Moore says the school's long-term goal for people on the Autism spectrum is more ambitious.
“We want to provide a campus community where they can train, they can work and they can also live,” said Moore. “Just like anybody else, they’re looking for purpose in life… and unfortunately there just are not many places that will give them that opportunity.”
“We want to answer this for every family across the U.S. and maybe even the world,” says Selec.
By Heather Kelly, CNN
While Google, universities and car companies work on perfecting self-driving vehicles, flawed and sometimes sleepy human drivers still fill our roads.
But new technology could help detect when those drivers start to feel tired and possibly prevent dangerous accidents. A research project at the University of Leicester has combined eye-tracking and brain monitoring to calculate when a driver's alertness starts to wane.
Researchers have used the two tracking technologies on their own before, but Dr. Matias Ison, who led this project, said they've found a new way to combine them for more accurate information about a person's state of mind.
"There are a variety of behaviors that are related to sleepiness and distractions," said Dr. Ison. "Some of them, such as blinking more frequently, changing our eye movements’ pattern, or not fixating on the road ahead are well suited to be detected with an eye tracker. However, brain activity changes during sleepiness and low cognitive alertness state can only be detected with an EEG."
Editor’s note: Jim Richards is a professor of biomechanics and vice provost for graduate and professional education at the University of Delaware, where 3D simulations are created to enhance performance in both sports and medical rehabilitation. For more on Richards, watch "The Next List," Saturday June 29th at 2:30 p.m. ET on CNN.
By Jim Richards, Special to CNN
One of the most interesting aspects of biomechanics is its widespread applicability to everything ranging from the study of insect flight to complex medical issues. I am fortunate enough to work on a campus that has made a significant investment in resources and expertise that facilitate research across the entire spectrum of biomechanics, including significant efforts in orthopedic research, rehabilitation of wounded soldiers, osteoarthritis, and of course, sport injuries and performance.
Researchers in sport biomechanics have been studying athletic performance for decades and have made significant improvements in equipment, athlete safety, and less frequently, performance. In fact, the ability to use biomechanics to directly improve athletic performance has been minimal. Performance improvement has been realized through advancements in equipment design (ie. golf clubs, skis), but improvements to actual skills have been sporadic.
Traditionally, biomechanical analyses of skills conclude with professional interpretation of the measurements and recommendations for potential improvements to performance. The “contribution” of biomechanics typically ends once the recommendations have been made, leaving the coach and athlete to figure out what the final result should look like. As expected, this approach rarely leads to meaningful improvements in performance, and this has been a source of frustration for both scientists and athletes.
When we started the skating project, the goal was to utilize technology to conduct rapid assessment of the athlete’s performance and to provide objective and mechanically sound recommendations for improvement in a form that both the skater and coach could immediately use. Prior work with the skaters taught us that most were failing to complete their jumps because of ineffective posture during the flight phase of the jump. The fact that the skater isn’t in contact with the ground during this part of the jump simplified the analysis and allowed us to adopt a modeling approach to improving performance. There were several advantages to this approach. First, different strategies to improving performance could be examined without putting the skater at risk by asking them to implement the strategies on-ice. Second, unproductive strategies could be ruled out while successful strategies could be identified, minimizing the amount of trial and error that would normally be part of the process. Finally, the skater and coach would be able to view a 3D rendering of the model to see how changes would look during the performance, providing them with a visual example of how the performance would appear for each individual athlete.
To date, the outcomes of the on-ice analyses have met our expectations. Within approximately 10 minutes of the performance, the skater and coach can begin working with the model. The coaches can experiment with both traditional and non-traditional arm, leg, and trunk positions and immediately determine whether they benefit the skater’s performance. Most skaters report being able to implement the recommended changes in a period of 2-3 weeks, and we frequently receive email and/or video evidence of a skater’s success. Additionally, trends associated with successful jumping styles have begun to emerge, and coaches are able to apply this knowledge to the training efforts of other skaters.
The research on the shoulder presented a different set of challenges. Early on in my career, I analyzed shoulder mechanics of pitchers ranging in skill from little league to major league. The obvious flaw in the analysis was the fact that it ignored the contribution of the scapula (shoulder blade), a structure critical to shoulder function. Current research on shoulder function still suffers from the same flaw, and when we were invited to participate in a shoulder workshop at the Philadelphia Shriners Hospital focusing on patients with brachial plexus birth palsy, it became obvious that we couldn’t ignore the scapula any longer. It plays a critical role in the ability of BPBP patients to realize any degree of functionality.
Drs. Kozin and Zlotolow at Shriners provided the medical direction for the work, which focused on measuring scapular contribution to specific clinical positions used to estimate the patient’s degree of shoulder function. Our approaches began with surface mapping strategies using hundreds of markers and evolved to more landmark specific strategies using a few as 10 markers. To date, we have been able to differentiate between scapular contribution and glenohumeral contribution (the ball and socket joint in the shoulder) to specific arm positions, and are working toward measuring the scapula during dynamic motions. We have a long way to go, but we’re pleased with the progress we’ve made to date.
In the future, we’re optimistic that improvements in technology and new approaches to the mathematical analysis of human motion will continue to advance our ability to analyze and improve performance. Looming on the horizon are optical systems that can capture motion data outdoors, optical systems that can capture motion data without markers, and wireless sensors that can measure body orientation without the use of cameras. It would not be surprising if in the near future, much of the process that we now perform with expensive, high-end technology becomes available in the form of affordable lightweight portable sensors coupled to a smartphone app.