Tag Archive: Technology

Payment System Reads Your Palm For Quick Check-Outs [Video]

A Swedish startup called Quixter has demonstrated a technology that lets buyers use their hands to make payments. Quixter’s payment technology involves scanning the vein patterns of a person’s palm to verify the person’s identity. Though vein-scanning isn’t new, it’s the first time that a payment system is using the whole palm to do so. To make a payment, the user needs to first enter their ID code and then scan their palm. The scan reads the user’s vein patterns, which is unique to an individual. The user’s purchases are collected in an invoice and paid twice a month through direct debit.

Quixter was started by Fredrik Leifland, an engineering student at Lund University. Leifland wanted to come up with a quicker way to make payments. The system is currently used in 15 places around the Lund University campus, and has approximately 1,600 users. Quixter is convenient for people who don’t want to carry their wallet or money around with them, but even Leifland admits that it takes a lot of work to get retailers and financial institutions to go for the system. The company has plans to expand, but it may be a while before it finds its way outside Sweden.

Check out a demo in the video below.

We’ve seen interactive rings that receive alerts from your smartphone and even rings that will give you the current time in a unique way, but a new ring leapfrogs the rest by acting as a full-on control mechanism.

On its exterior, Logbar’s Ring device looks like nothing more than a silver ring, but packed inside the device are electronics that allow it to recognize your finger gestures and control any number of devices.

Logbar CEO Takuro Yoshida gave a detailed demonstration of the silver interactive device last year in San Francisco, and now Ring is available for purchase through a Kickstarter campaign.

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For the past few years, bendy electronics have become a new trend. It may seem like sci-fi, but phones that roll up and fit in your pocket and televisions that you can fold up and carry to a friend’s house are that much closer to becoming reality thanks to a new discovery by a team of scientists at the University of Houston. These researchers figured out that by using a gold nanomesh material, they can create the perfect surface for electronics: one that is flexible, conductive, and transparent all at once.

Although there has been talk about bendable smartphones and even bendable batteries, no one has been able to create a material for truly flexible electronics that allows for rolling, folding and easy carrying. In fact, no one has been able to create something that has all three ideal features of such devices: flexibility, conductivity and transparency. However, the Houston team took gold nanowires and created a mesh material. This material was then embedded on a transparent polymer. Gold is more ideal than previously tested metals, such as silver and copper, as it doesn’t oxidize easily, giving it better overall long-term conductivity. To test this material, the scientists stretched it up to 160 percent. The nanomesh material only lost a small portion of conductivity when stretched to its limit, but that conductivity returned when it snapped back to its original form.

So although some smartphone manufactures are working on flexible models of their devices, they aren’t really fully flexible and they cannot be stretched. This new discovery, however, means that future models could be both, as well as transparent. With the size of smartphones increasing to near-tablet size, models that can roll up or be folded into a pocket-sized square would be welcome additions to the technology market.

Cuttable sensor

Printing foldable mobile phones on a sheet of paper from a normal 2D printer is just a decade away, according to Jürgen Steimle, head of the Embodied Interaction Group at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Saarbrücken, Germany. Steimle and his colleagues took a step towards this in 2013, when they used a standard printer loaded with nanoparticle ink to print a paper circuit that works even after the sheet is torn.

In the past couple of years, similar applications have popped up in laboratories around the world. “People are starting to realise the power of printing,” says Vincent Rotello, a chemist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who is working on a printable test strip for pathogenic bacteria in water.

The convergence of nano and printing is partially due to the success of one eye-grabbing device, the 3D printer, which produces objects to a three-dimensional template by extruding soft plastic noodles that rapidly consolidate into the shape of the desired object. Scientists are now adding nanoparticles to the plastic, thereby giving these products “smart” properties, but the humble 2D printer, which is far more commonplace, is being revitalised by nanoparticle ink.

Steimle’s sensor, for example, needs only a normal inkjet printer, commercial photo paper, and a silver nanoparticles suspension that can be bought online. With these ingredients, Steimle and colleagues can lay a circuit on the paper that works like a touch sensor. When that’s linked up to a computer, software can recognise which areas of the paper are being touched by the fingers of a user. It’s not just simple and effective to set up – it’s cheap too. “The ink needed to cover a sheet of A4 costs only one dollar, but about 20 cents is enough for a functional circuit”, says Steimle.

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BYU engineer Dah-Jye Lee has created an algorithm that can accurately identify objects in images or video sequences — without human calibration.

“In most cases, people are in charge of deciding what features to focus on and they then write the algorithm based off that,” said Lee, a professor of electrical and computer engineering. “With our algorithm, we give it a set of images and let the computer decide which features are important.”

Not only is Lee’s genetic algorithm able to set its own parameters, but it also doesn’t need to be reset each time a new object is to be recognized —  it learns them on its own.

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laptop, hacking

Using the microphones and speakers that come standard in many of today’s laptop computers and mobile devices, hackers can secretly transmit and receive data using high-frequency audio signals that are mostly inaudible to human ears, a new study shows.

Michael Hanspach and Michael Goetz, researchers at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing, and Ergonomics, recently performed a proof-of-concept experiment that showed that “covert acoustical networking,” a technique which had been hypothesized but considered improbable by most experts, is indeed possible.

Their findings, detailed in a recent issue of the Journal of Communications, could have major implications for electronic security. “If you have a high demand for information security and assurance, you would need to prepare countermeasures,” Hanspach wrote in an email to Inside Science. In particular, it means “air-gapped” computers — that is, computers that are not connected to the Internet — are vulnerable to malicious software designed to steal or corrupt data.

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A British company has demonstrated a prototype device capable of stopping cars and other vehicles using a blast of electromagnetic waves.

The RF Safe-Stop uses radio frequency pulses to “confuse” a vehicle’s electronic systems, cutting its engine.

E2V is one of several companies trying to bring such a product to market.

It said it believed the primary use would be as a non-lethal weapon for the military to defend sensitive locations from vehicles refusing to stop.

There has also been police interest.

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A winner of the coveted red dot awards for design concept in 2013, Sign Language Ring is a device that detects sign language motion and “translates” that to voice by emitting audio through a speaker.

Comprising a bracelet and set of detachable rings worn on select fingers, Sign Language Ring was inspired by Buddhist prayer beads, according to its six designers from Asia University. The wearable device can also translate voice to text, transcribing spoken language picked up by a microphone into text that’s displayed on the bracelet’s screen.

Users have the option to pre-record signing movements and assign words to them, a feature that’s especially handy since not all sign languages are the same. For example, British and American sign languages are vastly different even though both countries speak English. Furthermore, in the U.S., Black American sign language has distinct differences rooted in segregated education systems.

Acquiring a superpower usually requires a bite from a radioactive insect, an uncomfortable dose of cosmic radiation, or the discovery of extraterrestrial parentage, but scientist Michael McAlpine hopes to make the process as simple as purchasing aspirin at the pharmacy. So far, he’s invented a “tattoo” for teeth that can detect cavities—not exactly the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters—although his latest project, a 3-D printed bionic ear that enables superhuman hearing, could be.

McAlpine earned his Ph.D. in chemistry at Harvard and now is an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton, where he leads a nine-person research group. “I was corrupted to being more of an engineer than a scientist,” says McAlpine. “I like to do stuff that’s a little more applied.”

His first papers in 2003 focused on putting silicon nanowires on flexible substrates. It was an astonishing technical achievement for his time, but unfortunately it came at a point when iPods could only be controlled through a click wheel and Mark Zuckerberg was getting ready for his senior prom. Despite its scientific importance, the market wasn’t ready and McAlpine started looking for other research topics, when he asked, “Instead of trying to put nanowires on plastic substrates, why not put them on the body?”

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Medical milestone or privacy invasion? A tiny computer chip approved Wednesday for implantation in a patient’s arm can speed vital information about a patient’s medical history to doctors and hospitals. But critics warn that it could open new ways to imperil the confidentiality of medical records.

The Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday that Applied Digital Solutions of Delray Beach, Fla., could market the VeriChip, an implantable computer chip about the size of a grain of rice, for medical purposes.

With the pinch of a syringe, the microchip is inserted under the skin in a procedure that takes less than 20 minutes and leaves no stitches. Silently and invisibly, the dormant chip stores a code that releases patient-specific information when a scanner passes over it.

Think UPC code. The identifier, emblazoned on a food item, brings up its name and price on the cashier’s screen.

The VeriChip itself contains no medical records, just codes that can be scanned, and revealed, in a doctor’s office or hospital. With that code, the health providers can unlock that portion of a secure database that holds that person’s medical information, including allergies and prior treatment. The electronic database, not the chip, would be updated with each medical visit.

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Last night, I sat around a bonfire, sipping whiskey with my best friends, when the flames rose up in the form of a large turtle with a shark’s head. A creature chased us into the giant carrot where we’d be living. No, I didn’t dose acid last night, but I did go to sleep. Unfortunately, I don’t remember what happened once I entered the carrot, because humans have an incredibly difficult time remembering dreams (we forget an estimated 95 percent within five minutes of waking).

Cue Shadow, an app with two purposes: to help you remember (thus record) your dreams and to create a dream database from users across the globe.

The hardware here is pretty straightforward. Rather than megaphone you awake, Shadow’s alarm wakes you slowly. Once you’re awake, it immediately asks you to record your dream via voice or text.

The cool part: It takes all of those dreams and stores them in a digital dream journal that tracks your sleep and dream patterns over time. If you want, this can be private, but you can also add your sleep/dream patterns to a worldwide database. The information from said database will be used to analyze these patterns in general (looking to answers questions such as “Does sleeping more give people more or less dreams? Happier or sadder dreams? Etc.)

“There’s a lot going on in the subconscious mind that if you can start to pull out little details, you start to get a wider picture of yourself,” says Hunter Lee Soik, one of Shadow’s designers. “We’re socialized to think of sleep as inactivity, but certain parts of our brain — the parts that handle things like problem solving and memory — are most active while we’re sleeping. That’s a huge amount of potential data we’re forgetting each morning.”

At the moment, Shadow is a barebones app with a Kickstarter campaign (and a killer promo vid) to further inform the designers of what users hope to gain from it. Check out its (promo) video below.


As the password makes its slow fade towards extinction, many technologies are jockeying for position as the next method for securing online accounts. We’ve told you about brain waves, fingerprints, even magic rings, but a new technique is literally getting to the heart of the matter.

A wristband dubbed Nymi confirms a user’s identity via electrocardiogram (ECG) sensors that monitor the heartbeat and can authenticate a range of devices, from iPads to cars. Developers at Bionym, the Toronto-based company that makes the device, say the peeks and valleys of an individual’s heartbeat are harder to imitate than the external features of biometric systems, like fingerprints or facial recognition.

To register their identity, uses touch a sensor on top of the wristband for about two minutes while Nymi records an ECG signature. Once it’s stored, it will only recognize that signature.

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How would you like a speaker system in your living room that was completely clear? Or, better yet, an active noise-canceling window that could mute the outside? The technology is already here, and a team of materials scientists at Harvard is showing us what’s now possible with ionic conduction, or using ions to carry the current that powers this new generation of electronics.

The speaker consists of two layers of saltwater gel sandwiched around a thin rubber sheet. When a high enough voltage is passed through the gel it causes the rubber to contract and vibrate, playing the music in the video. It’s actually capable of producing every frequency in the audible spectrum, from 20Hz to 20KHz.

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A pair of British students have developed a new technology capable of turning anything into an iPad-style tablet computer.

The innovative software is called Ubi Displays and uses a projector, a depth camera and a PC

Dubbed the ‘next big thing in home technology’, the system lets people transform normal objects, such as an envelope or a fridge, into a tablet using a projector, depth camera and a PC.

The pair even showcased the PhD students’ technology at a research conference hosted by Google at its Californian headquarters.

The innovation was created by students John Hardy and Carl Ellis, both 25, from Lancaster University.

The software is called Ubi Displays and uses a projector, a depth camera and a PC to create interactive multi-touch displays anywhere and on anything.

Google was so impressed with the PhD students' technology that the search giant flew the pair to their Californian headquarters for a demonstration

Currently, the device, which is in a prototype phase includes all the technology in a rather bulky box that must sit opposite the object that the person wants to use as a tablet.

It does not rely on any other computers or devices.

The technology uses a high-tech projector to beam an image of an iPad, alarm clock, or any chosen device onto an object.

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Fujitsu Laboratories has developed a next generation user interface which can accurately detect the users finger and what it is touching, creating an interactive touchscreen-like system, using objects in the real word.

“We think paper and many other objects could be manipulated by touching them, as with a touchscreen. This system doesn’t use any special hardware; it consists of just a device like an ordinary webcam, plus a commercial projector. Its capabilities are achieved by image processing technology.”

Using this technology, information can be imported from a document as data, by selecting the necessary parts with your finger.

The University of Engineering and Technology in Lima, Peru, wanted to attract new students for the 2013 school year, so they teamed up with DraftFCB and created the world’s very first water producing billboard for a city that sits in the middle of a desert, with almost no rainfall per year, an area where fresh, clean water is not guaranteed for everyone. It works by extracting water from the air that passes through the billboard, condensing it, cooling it and then storing it so that people can come to the billboard to collect safe drinking water.


New ways of interacting with digital displays can bring about important new possibilities for working – as the Kinect-basedIntera system for surgeons has proved. Now Japanese researchers have unveiled the AquaTop display, which consists of a screen projected onto the surface of water, controlled by interacting with the liquid.

Demonstrated at the Laval Virtual conference in France earlier this year – where it won the Interface and Materials Award, as well as the Grand Prix – the interface was developed by researchers at the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo. The AquaTop uses cloudy water to act as a projection surface and – similar to the Intera – detects gestures with a Kinect. The creators engineered the system to use the water surface as an integral part of its control – for example, one action is carried out when users dip their fingertips to interact with a screen object, and another when they approach the item from underneath the water. On-screen items also react to the movement of the water, meaning that they can be moved or changed by simply disrupting the surface with a splash, or scooping up the water and placing it elsewhere.

The system has currently been rigged up primarily as a platform for games – with an underwater speaker included to create ripples when a goal is achieved – although the researchers have also demonstrated how it could be used to interact with computer files such as images and video. The following video shows the AquaTop in action:

AquaTop shows the possibilities of widely-available consumer products in the creation of engaging and intuitive new ways to interact with digital objects. Considering how many of us take our devices with us wherever we go, this could be used practically – bringing electronics safely into the bathroom, for example – or for creating unique public displays. If water can become a medium for digital interaction, surely the possibilities are endless?

Camera system

A digital camera that functions like an insect’s compound eye is reported in the journal Nature this week.

It comprises an array of 180 small lenses, which, along with their associated electronics, are stretched across a curved mounting.

The prototype currently has few pixels, so its images are low-resolution.

But the device displays an immense depth of field, and a very wide-angle view that avoids the distortion seen in standard camera lenses.

The development team, led from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, US, believes its new imaging system could eventually find uses in surveillance and for endoscopic investigations of the human body.

In their report, the researchers also suggest such cameras could be fitted to tiny aerial vehicles one day that behaved like robotic insects.

At the moment, the “bug-eye” system’s vision is comparable to that enjoyed by some ants and beetles.

The expectation, however, is that the array can be greatly enlarged.

“The compound design of the fly’s eye incorporates perhaps 28,000 small eyes, or ommatidia,” explained team-member Dr Jianliang Xiao from the University of Colorado at Boulder, US. “That’s the direction we want to move in,” he told BBC News.

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Studio Roosegaarde is set to expand its Intimacy 2.0 range of smart dresses that turn transparent based on electronic signals they receive.


Hot on the heels of our recent coverage of the MJ v1.0, a jacket that enables wearers to make music solely by gesturing, we’ve come across another example of wearable tech. Netherlands-based design group Studio Roosegaarde is set to expand its Intimacy 2.0 range of smart clothing to include a men’s business suit which turns transparent when the wearer is being untruthful.

The group has already released its range of womenswear that turns transparent based on electronic signals it receives. The clothes used ‘smart e-foils’ that are naturally transparent but turn cloudy when light from LEDs are refracted through them. The dresses were connected to sensors that could detect the heart rate – when their bpm hit a certain point, the LEDs were turned off and the material became transparent. Now the studio hopes to apply similar technology to create a business suit for men that monitors their vitals to discern whether they are lying.

Although essentially a high-fashion concept that professionals are not likely to ever willingly wear, the idea does recognize the recent call by consumers for business transparency and corporate social responsibility. Are there other ways wearable technology could more positively help us reveal aspects of our personalities?

Caltech engineers build self-healing electronic chips that repair themselves

Imagine that the chips in your smart phone or computer could repair and defend themselves on the fly, recovering in microseconds from problems ranging from less-than-ideal battery power to total transistor failure. It might sound like the stuff of science fiction, but a team of engineers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), for the first time ever, has developed just such self-healing integrated chips.

The team, made up of members of the High-Speed Integrated Circuits laboratory in Caltech’s Division of Engineering and Applied Science, has demonstrated this self-healing capability in tiny power amplifiers. The amplifiers are so small, in fact, that 76 of the chips-including everything they need to self-heal-could fit on a single penny. In perhaps the most dramatic of their experiments, the team destroyed various parts of their chips by zapping them multiple times with a high-power laser, and then observed as the chips automatically developed a work-around in less than a second. “It was incredible the first time the system kicked in and healed itself. It felt like we were witnessing the next step in the evolution of integrated circuits,” says Ali Hajimiri, the Thomas G. Myers Professor of Electrical Engineering at Caltech. “We had literally just blasted half the amplifier and vaporized many of its components, such as transistors, and it was able to recover to nearly its ideal performance.”

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