Category archives: New Technology

Retiring on Mars

In 2010 SpaceX became the first private company to launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft. This rocket is an original design they created after their founding in 2002. SpaceX is now the cheapest way to put a satellite into geosynchronous orbit (costs about $60 million). They have more than $2.5 billion in revenue under contract.

It’s given this context that hearing Elon Musk talk about his plans to terraform Mars and retire there that you have to pause a listen. Mentioned in this article.

XBox Kinect – Depth of field camera

Apparently the Microsoft XBox Kinect just came out. This is a device you put on top of your TV and then it watches the movements of your whole body to let you control a game.

I just saw an article about a few people who have been tinkering with it and it was fascinating how this device works. I haven’t found a good explanation, but best I can tell is this:

Imagine if I held two laser points side-by-side in my hands and I pointed them across the room, but instead of the beams behing parallel I angle them slightly apart.

Now if you put your hand near the laser points, you’ll see two red dots about an inch apart. As you pull your hand back the dots will get further apart. This is the key part (as far as I can tell) about how it works. It projects a whole infrared dot pattern onto your body, and another infrared camera watches this dot pattern. Based on the spacing of the dots on various parts of your body it can tell how close that part of your body is to the camera–and likewise it can pick you out of the background of the room because your whole body is closer than the stuff behind you.

There are a series of videos in the article linked to above that show the camera in action, but even in the picture right here you can see his hand (which is closer to the camera) is lighter red. Here is a video of the camera in action:

And the invisible infrared matrix being projected in the room:

Augmented reality toy

I picked up this toy a few years ago when I was in Tokyo. It’s a clever blend of real and virtual.

It’s made the rounds on the internet but most people I show it to have still never seen it. It’s a favorite.

Badass robot hand

Robotic HandSome day I’d like a third arm with this system. :)  Tasks such as throwing and catching a ball, dribbling, twirling a pen–all of these we can learn to do and perform with relative ease. But “real world” tasks such as these are complex problems for robotic systems. Check out this incredibly adept high speed robotic hand.

If you want to skip the engineering explanation, the demos start at 1:05. The single coolest demo is at 2:38.

What are other practical applications of technology like this?