Tag: design

Researchers create prosthetic hand that offers more lifelike dexterity

Researchers at Georgia Tech have developed a prosthetic hand inspired by the bionic one given to Star Wars' Luke Skywalker. What sets this one apart from other prosthetics is the amount of dexterity it offers, allowing users to move individual fingers at will. With it, Jason Barnes, the amputee working with the researchers, was able to play piano for the first time since losing part of his arm in 2012.

Most available prosthetics use electromyogram (EMG) sensors to translate muscle movement where the limb was removed to hand and finger motions. But those types of sensors are pretty limited in what they can do. "EMG sensors aren't very accurate," Gil Weinberg, the professor leading the project, said in a statement. "They can detect a muscle movement, but the signal is too noisy to infer which finger the person wants to move." So the team took their prosthetic one step further and attached an ultrasound probe. Just as physicians can use ultrasound machines to take a look at a fetus inside of a womb, the probe can see which muscles are moving in an amputee's arm. Algorithms can then translate that into individual finger movements. "By using this new technology, the arm can detect which fingers an amputee wants to move, even if they don't have fingers," said Weinberg.

There are a number of groups working on improving prosthetics and trying to make them more lifelike. Some of those efforts include introducing tactile feedback to let users know where their prosthetic is without having to look and giving prosthetics the ability to see what they need to grasp. DARPA even has an advanced prosthetic named LUKE, also inspired by Skywalker.

This isn't the first prosthetic built for Barnes by the Georgia Tech team. In 2014, they gave him an arm that let him play drums. It even had a second drumstick that moved based on the music being played and could play faster than any human drummer. About his second, dexterous prosthetic, Barnes said, "It's completely mind-blowing. This new arm allows me to do whatever grip I want, on the fly, without changing modes or pressing a button. I never thought we'd be able to do this."

Source: Georgia Tech

Google’s Pixel AR stickers are available starting today

During Google's Pixel 2 event in October, the company teased its upcoming AR stickers and starting today, Pixel users can actually get their hands on them. Those with Pixel phones running Android 8.1 Oreo will have access to AR stickers like Foodmoji, 3D text and celebratory balloons and champagne just in time for the holidays. And ahead of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Pixel users can also get a pack of Star Wars-themed AR stickers.

You can check out the Star Wars stickers in the video below or the image above and overall they look pretty great. They seem to have a much better quality than the Stranger Things AR stickers that we've seen previews of before and are also being released today. And they look way better than that Snapchat Star Wars Lens.

To add these stickers to your photos or videos, just open the camera app, switch to AR Stickers mode, select which sticker pack you'd like to use and the drop the stickers into the scene. You can then resize them and move them around and they'll also interact with whatever else is in the image.

The new AR Stickers are rolling out to Pixel users over the next few days and Google says more sticker packs will be released in the future.

Apple’s Jony Ive will return to his design management role

Apple's chief design officer, Jony Ive, is picking his old management duties back up again, 9to5Mac reports. Back in 2015, Ive was upgraded to chief design officer from senior VP and day-to-day management was taken over by Alan Dye and Richard Howarth. Earlier today, 9to5Mac noted that Dye and Howarth were no longer listed on Apple's leadership page and now word's out that Ive is back at the management helm. In a statement to Bloomberg, an Apple spokesperson said, "With the completion of Apple Park, Apple's design leaders and teams are again reporting directly to Jony Ive, who remains focused purely on design."

Apple has come under fire for some of its recent design choices, like the way its Pencil and Mouse charge, the lack of ports in the MacBook and, of course, that iPhone X notch. That may or may not have anything to do with Ive's return, but as 9to5Mac notes, the writing may have been on the wall. Dye and Howarth haven't really been in the spotlight much since becoming senior VPs while Ive has retained a fair amount of public exposure.

We've reached out to Apple for comment and we'll update this post when we hear more.

Via: 9to5Mac

Source: Bloomberg

Watch The Game Awards right here

It's been a fairly fantastic year for video games -- so let's celebrate. The Game Awards kick off tonight in Los Angeles at 9 PM ET, though the pre-show begins at 8:30 PM ET across a variety of live-streaming platforms, including Twitch, Twitter and YouTube (in 4K, no less).

The show honors the year's most influential, creative video games and the people who create them, as voted by 51 international media outlets, including Engadget. There are a total of 30 categories, including Best Multiplayer, Best Narrative, Best Art Direction, Trending Gamer, Best Independent Game and a handful of eSports-specific awards.

Titles up for Game of the Year are The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, Persona 5 and Horizon Zero Dawn, while nominees for Best Performance are Melina Juergens (Senua in Hellblade), Laura Bailey (Nadine Ross in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy), Claudia Black (Chloe Frazer in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy), Brian Bloom (BJ Blazkowicz in Wolfenstein III) and Ashly Burch (Aloy in Horizon).

Presenters include a lineup of high-profile gaming and Hollywood names: Hideo Kojima, Guillermo del Toro, Norman Reedus, Andy Serkis, Felicia Day, Aisha Tyler and Zachary Levi are all set to hit the stage tonight. Those first three are building Death Stranding together, so go ahead and get your hopes up for news about that game during the show. It happened last year, after all.

On top of trailer debuts and statue distribution, the Game Awards is also a giant party -- the rock band Phoenix will perform throughout the night, complete with some seriously retro set design.

Sony sold 2 million PSVR units in just over a year

Sony's PlayStation 4 has continued to sell well, and just broke 70 million consoles sold. That shouldn't be a big surprise given its market trajectory, moving past 60 million systems in June and 50 million a year ago. More importantly, it shows that Microsoft's cheaper Xbox One S and supercharged Xbox One X released last month haven't noticeably diminished Sony's console sales. But more notable is news about the PSVR, which has moved 2 million units since it launched in fall 2016.

Until now, we haven't really known how successful Sony's VR headset has been. The device launched as a cheaper mid-grade option between top-tier desktop computer systems like Oculus VR ($400) or HTC Vive ($600) and far cheaper smartphone-based units like Google's Daydream or Samsung's Gear VR. Instead, PSVR relies on the PS4 and more powerful PS4 Plus, and Sony's headset broke 1 million units sold last June.

According to analysts, the PSVR took almost 50 percent of the million VR units sold in Q3 2017, beating out the Oculus Rift's 21 percent share and HTC Vive's 16 percent cut. Today's PSVR news means it's continued to move a not-insignificant number of units for a $350-plus-additions device. But it's still leading a niche market. As we pointed out on the PSVR's one-year anniversary, it has sold almost 10 million games for its system but has yet to release a killer must-have game to bring more than a fraction of the tens of millions of PS4 owners into the fold.

The Mustang GT adds brains to the brawn

The Mustang personifies the American muscle car. Folks who have zero interest in the Camaro and Charger are in awe of the design of the Ford that landed on roads in 1964. Besides a few design hiccups (ugh, the Mustang 2), it's been coveted, sung about, restored -- and as of 2016 -- purchased more than 9.5 million times. But, it's never been that smart -- until now.

The 2018 Mustang GT Fastback Premium is loud, fast and sure to put a smile on the face of its fans. The growling (and it's nearly always growling) car has 460 horsepower and 420 pounds of torque supplied by a 5.0 liter V8. Its base price is $39,000 but the test car given to us by Ford was tricked out with the GT performance package, MagneRide damping suspension and a tuned exhaust, which bumps the price up to $49,000.

But all that cash (and it's a lot of cash) doesn't just pay for brute force. It also powers a car that's smarter than you would expect. While the exterior, tire-spinning power and roar of the car make it seem like a big dumb (but fun) animal, the pony has gotten an impressive tech upgrade.

The highlight is the 12-inch all-digital dashboard display. Ford has taken the simplicity of its muscle car's dashboard cluster and translated it into something that's easy to read, navigate and has wealth of features that unleash, or tame, the beast under the hood.

All of these features are accessible via the Mustang logo on the steering wheel. Press it and you're dropped into a menu system filled with ways to customize the car. From adjusting the color scheme of the dash cluster to raising the volume of the exhaust system -- all of it is a few taps away.

There's even the ability to schedule the car to start quietly instead of unleashing a thundering roar when the start button is depressed. Something that will make your neighbors and family happy when you have to leave for work at 5 am. Basically, you're telling the car to use its inside voice.

The in-dash mode selection system also makes it simpler to drive, well, like a maniac. The car's five modes include normal, sport, snow and ice, track and drag strip. That's right, there's a drag strip mode for those nights when you're at the track racing against Camaros, Teslas, Corvettes and tricked-out Hondas. In this mode, with launch control on, Ford states the Mustang can do zero to 60 in under four seconds. It's crazy quick. By comparison, the Honda Civic Sport goes from zero to 60 in 7.5 seconds.

In track mode, the traction control is off by default, which makes for some fun rear-wheel-drive drifting that you should only do on a track. In fact, both of these modes come with a warning to check the manual to see how they affect the car. They take an already aggressive car and focus that power. But for the average driver, you'll be more than happy with sport mode. It's louder, faster and more fun than normal mode. To be honest though you'll end up using normal mode most of the time if you live in any urban area.

Beyond the power and how it's controlled, the car ships with an eight-inch touchscreen Sync display, but you should upgrade to Sync 3. It's still one of the best infotainment systems on the market with virtually zero latency and an easy to use (but slightly bland-looking) UI. It worked flawlessly with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

I do have one issue with the car's center console and that's the metal effect toggle switches. They look cheap and most of them don't even toggle. They just go up, which is a pain when you're switching car modes and you go past your desired setting. Instead of pressing down, you have to press up until it appears again. While the rest of the interior looks outstanding, it's hard not to focus on those ugly switches.

If you're lucky, the comfort of the front seats will take your mind off the weird toggle switch decision by Ford designers. The back seats might also be comfortable, I'll never know since no one over five-foot-three should ever attempt to sit in them.

On the whole, the Ford Mustang GT a blast to drive while using current technology to enhance that experience. No, you won't get semi-autonomous features. The cruise control isn't even adaptive. The V8 monster of an engine is also pretty much the furthest you can get from the hybrid with a 15 city and 25 highway per gallon ratings.

Yet, when you sit behind the wheel, shift it into first and stomp down on the accelerator -- for folks who truly love driving -- it's a love letter from Ford of a bygone era. The Mustang GT is an insanely fun driving experience that merges power with technology in way that should appease fans of old-school muscle cars while giving new fans that have lived all their lives with tech-filled cars a chance to understand why the Mustang has persevered all these decades.

Researchers found a way to tuck AR objects behind real ones

Current AR technology does a pretty decent job of placing a virtual image in front of an actual one, but blocking a virtual image with a real object is actually quite difficult and something that available head-mounted augmented reality displays can't do yet. But MIT Technology Review reports that University of Arizona researchers have developed a prototype system that can do just that.

The project was led by Hong Hua, a professor in the College of Optical Sciences, and she told MIT Technology Review that trick is getting precise control of the real-world light. Her prototype does this with a series of lenses and mirrors, not totally unlike a telescope. In the image above you can see a digital teapot is sitting both in front of a can of compressed air and squeeze bottle as well as behind a can of spray paint. With this prototype, Hua's goal was to make it as inexpensive as possible, which she and her graduate student did by using lenses already available rather than custom designing new ones, so the end result was a bit bulky. Hua says they're now working on a wearable prototype.

Though she says this research isn't related, Hua is a consultant for Magic Leap and is listed on at least two of the company's patents, including this one that features mutual occlusion capabilities. So maybe that means this technology is already finding its way into Magic Leap's work. Regardless, Hua says getting these functions into smaller devices probably won't happen anytime soon. "To make it into the popular glasses form factor is probably going to take a while," she told MIT Technology Review. But it's a promising start to solving a complex problem.

The work was recently published in Optics Express.

Via: MIT Technology Review

Source: Optics Express

MIT researchers made a living ink that responds to its surroundings

Researchers at MIT have developed a 3D printable hydrogel that can sense and respond to stimuli. The hydrogel is loaded with bacteria that can be genetically programmed to light-up when they come in contact with certain chemicals and, therefore, could be used as living sensors.

To demonstrate the living ink's abilities, the researchers printed the hydrogel in a tree pattern with different sections of the tree's branches containing bacteria sensitive to different types of chemicals. They then smeared those chemicals on a person's skin and put the 3D-printed tree-shaped "living tattoo" on top. When the branches came in contact with those chemicals, the bacteria were triggered to fluoresce.

"This is very future work, but we expect to be able to print living computational platforms that could be wearable," researcher Hyunwoo Yuk said in a statement. Some examples of possible future applications of this type of technology could be living sensors programmed to monitor inflammatory biomarkers or ingestible versions that can affect gut microbiota. Bacteria-loaded materials like this could also be used to sense pollutants in the environment or changes in temperature, for example.

The research was published today in Advanced Materials and you can check out the video below for more information on the project.

Image: Liu et al.

Via: MIT

Source: Advanced Materials

Researchers 3D-print WiFi-connected objects that don’t need power

Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a way for 3D-printed plastic objects to transmit information via WiFi without the help of batteries or electronics. And they show that it can be done with commercially available plastics and WiFi receivers. "Our goal was to create something that just comes out of your 3D printer at home and can send useful information to other devices," Vikram Iyer, a graduate student on the project, said in a statement. "But the big challenge is how do you communicate wirelessly with WiFi using only plastic? That's something that no one has been able to do before."

To do this, the team used things like 3D-printed springs, gears and switches that could be used to translate motion into antenna-transmitted information. For example, they created an anemometer, which measures wind speed, and attached it to a gear. When the gear spins, the teeth connect with an antenna embedded into the object and that antenna then reflects ambient WiFi signal, which can be decoded by a WiFi receiver. The faster the wind, the faster the gear spins and the more rapidly those signals are transmitted. They also created a scale and a flowmeter that can measure water speed.

Additionally, they printed three widgets -- a button, a knob and a slider -- that work in similar ways and can be used to talk to other smart devices. The researchers also developed two smart objects -- a detergent bottle with an attached flowmeter that can track the amount of remaining detergent and order it when it gets low and a test tube holder that can be used to measure the amount of liquid test tubes contain and track inventory. And lastly, they developed a way to print iron into 3D objects in distinct patterns, which when read by a magnetometer in a smartphone, for instance, can be used to convey important information about that object such as what it is, who made it or how a robot is meant to interact with it. "It looks like a regular 3D-printed object but there's invisible information inside that can be read with your smartphone," said Justin Chan, another student on the project.

The team is making their 3D models available to the public so that anyone can utilize these objects at home. The work was recently presented at the Association for Computing Machinery's SIGGRAPH Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Asia and you can check out a video about the work below.

Image: Mark Stone/UW Photography

Source: University of Washington (1), (2)

Turning indie horror hit ‘Neverending Nightmares’ into a manga

She stands in front of you, clutching a teddy bear to her chest. She can't be older than 8, with long, straight black hair and a frilled dress. You don't know her name, but she's smiling warmly. And then, suddenly, she isn't: Her doe eyes widen, white and afraid. Her mouth gapes and blood drips past her lips. You follow her gaze down -- a knife protrudes from her stomach, staining her dress bright red, blood dribbling into her socks and Mary Janes. A knife that your hands are grasping tightly.

This is how the video game Neverending Nightmares begins, and it's also the first scene in a manga of the same name that debuted last week. As a game, Neverending Nightmares is a chilling, powerful peek into the darkest thoughts of a person struggling with depression and intrusive thoughts. The protagonist, Thomas, is trapped in a hellscape loop, repeatedly waking up only to realize he's still in a terrible nightmare: Headless corpses are piled against black-and-white walls; bodies hang from meat hooks in a claustrophobic cell; Thomas pulls a vein from his wrist like a stray thread.

So far, the manga is just as brazen in its depiction of suffering and death. It's done in the same Edward Gorey-esque art style, filled with scratchy black lines and explosions of red highlighting gruesome scenes of disembowelment, murder and torture. For creator Matt Gilgenbach, these scenes are the heart of Neverending Nightmares, though they're not gory for the sake of gore. They serve a profound purpose as he attempts to demonstrate the depth of his own depressive thoughts.

Neverending Nightmares spawned from a dark period in Gilgenbach's life, as described to Joystiq (now Engadget) in 2014: His game, Retrograde, had just bombed and he was financially downtrodden. He slipped into depression, something he'd faced earlier in his life. His mind began to fill with images of self-inflicted violence and he longed for an outlet to express the overwhelming nature of these thoughts.

"When I started thinking about how to represent my obsessive compulsive disorder, one of the main things I struggled with are intrusive thoughts, violent thoughts of self-harm," Gilgenbach says. "These were very upsetting, and as soon as I became comfortable with a particular image, my mind would dream up an even more intense and awful image that would make me miserable. I thought that Neverending Nightmares would be a great opportunity to bring those to life."

Gilgenbach was onto something there. Neverending Nightmares premiered on PC in 2014 and it's still relevant today, picking up new players and expanding to fresh platforms. Alongside the launch of the manga last week, Neverending Nightmares landed on Android and iOS with a sticker price of $4. The game is now available on Steam, PlayStation 4, Vita and mobile devices.

The prologue of Neverending Nightmares


The prologue and first chapter of the manga are available now, for free, on Japanese artist forum Pixiv. The remaining eight chapters -- each readable in English, Japanese and simplified Chinese -- will roll out once a month through July, also for free.

Pixiv played a big role in making the manga happen. Gilgenbach hadn't seriously considered transforming his game into a comic book or any other medium, but once Neverending Nightmares hit PlayStation Network in Japan, it picked up a lot of interest on Pixiv. The company reached out to Gilgenbach with an offer to license his IP and create a manga.

"One of the most exciting things about the manga is that I can reach a different audience that might not be interested in the game," Gilgenbach says. "When I met with Pixiv early on, I stressed to them how important of an IP to me this was and how I wanted to ensure it stayed true to the theme of the original work. They were very receptive to this and worked with me on keeping the same theme as the game."

Developing the manga is a collaborative process: Gilgenbach doesn't have any experience in writing Japanese comic books himself, so he and Pixiv worked with a specialist on the script. The story itself, however, resides in Pixiv's hands.

"I feel that they have made the manga a bit faster paced, and added more gore and horror to the beginning of the work," Gilgenbach says. "It definitely changes the feeling, but I think it really works well for the medium. I get chills reading the manga, so I think they pulled off the horror effectively."

Gilgenbach is surprised to still be working on Neverending Nightmares after all these years. Its longevity is notable in the crowded independent marketplace to begin with, but it's especially impressive considering the game's dark subject matter and heaps of gore.

"I didn't expect it to continue to have interest at this point," Gilgenbach says. "I think because I set out to do something different and recreate my personal journey with mental illness thematically, it really resonates with a fanbase that is continuing to grow through word of mouth."

And, now, word of manga.