Archive for March, 2012

Touch-Screen Display You Can Feel

Hi MAT 120 students! Can you believe it is almost April?! This semester is just flying by! For today’s blog, I found some information about a new technology that could eventually be used in the iPhone or iPad. Enjoy!

Think back to your first cell phone, it probably only had a number pad and you had to use T9 to type out a sentence. Then, cell phones moved to having a full keyboard. But now, many new phones have completely eliminated any sort of button and evolved to a touch screen that allows way more keyboard functions and options. Even though these touch-screens offer more, many people still prefer buttons on their phone. People argue that the lack of buttons make it difficult to type on a cell phone. Now, Apple could settle this argument with their new patent application.

Apple’s latest patent application is called the “Touch-based User Interface with Haptic Feedback.” Well, that’s a mouthful. What this means is that an iPad’s or iPhone’s touch-screen display will allow user to feel buttons and other controls through the use of actuators and sensors.

These piezoelectric actuators are placed under the display and when touched, it provides the user with localized feedback (piezoelectricity means electricity resulting from pressure). Unlike other haptic technologies, like how the whole phone vibrates when the screen is touched, this localized feedback allows the user to feel individual buttons.The touch-screen will have to be flexible so the haptic layer can sense placement and pressure.

This new patent application will add to the touch-screen gestures recognized by the iOS devices. Also, this haptic feedback will allow users with disabilities be able to use iPhones and iPads more easily.

If you would like to read more about it click here.

Don’t forget to take the quiz!



March 29, 2012 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Robot Environmentalism

Welcome back!

I hope everyone had a great spring break. I can’t believe how fast this semester has flown by, but I thank each and every one of you for keeping up with the blog.

This week I wanted to share with everyone a very interesting use of robots by Vijay Kumar highlighted on Mashable. He is the deputy dean of the University of Pennsylvania and has invented a revolutionary palm size robot. Kumar calls the robot the quadrotor. In a recent demo at TED Talks, Kumar explained how the robots can act independently to solve complex problems (see the video below). The tiny robots span approximately 8 inches across and can fit in the palm of your hand. The uses of the autonomous robots is unlimited, but Kumar and his colleges have determined that the most effective use includes scanning disaster zones and protecting deforestation in Brazil.

Currently, many drone robots fly over the rainforest to protect against drug trafficking, but these drones must be controlled by humans. Kumar’s creation has the ability to operate independent from human operation.vThe robots are also extremely agile and this has been a recent focus for Kumar. As the vision was to use the robot in areas with a ever changing environment, mobility is crucial to their success. The rotor blades on the robot allow them to either hover or travel vertically if all of the blades rotate at the same speed. In contrast, the robot can make very quick maneuvers if the blades move at different speeds. Currently, the robot is capable of changing its blade speed 600 times per second which allows it to be very adaptable to any environment.

Another interesting feature of the robots is their ability to work as a team. This is no central communication method for the robots. In fact, they do not communicate in anyway when performing a particular task. Each robot is provided a general idea of how to complete a task, but has the ability to learn how to work with other robots to complete the task. Kumar’s team was inspired by how ants work together to move food when creating this feature.

To protect the rainforest these robots can easily move around jungle canopy and notify central authorities of deforestation. Farmers and loggers have certain restrictions on destroying the forest on their property, but the vast size of the rainforest in Brazil makes this difficult to monitor. If effectively implemented these robots can independently act of an eye in the sky. While Kumar’s current vision is to monitor the rainforest a similar concept could greatly increase monitoring of any potentially hazardous area without the need for additional personnel.

Thanks for reading and do not forget to take the quiz.



March 22, 2012 at 8:53 am Leave a comment

“All Your Devices Can Be Hacked”

Hello and happy Spring Break!  Thanks again for reading our blog.

I wasn’t certain if we’d stop for a week or if the blog would be ongoing through Spring Break, but I’ve made the Blackboard quiz due March 25 – so whatever was decided, you’ll have the following two weeks to try the quiz.  There’s much more detail in the video ( and it’s really interesting if you have a chance to listen to it, but here’s a basic summary.

Avi Rubin, a computer science professor at Johns Hopkins University (and director of its Health and Medical Security Lab) gave a TED talk last October detailing some of the security implications of our newest wireless devices.  This is important because of the number of people it potentially affects, and it shows the importance of security in all IT-related applications.

The first example he gives has to do with recently manufactured pacemakers, with wireless capabilities.  Of course, pacemakers sometimes have to be adjusted or reset, and it doesn’t make much sense to reopen the patient’s chest cavity each time that happens.  Wireless communication is an excellent solution because it allows adjustments to be made as needed, with little interference in the life of the patient.  However, because pacemakers can now be wirelessly controlled, reverse-engineering the wireless communication protocol can make it possible to change data on the device, such as the patient’s name, cardiac data, or the type of therapy.  A denial of service attack can literally be deadly if the appropriate wireless security measures aren’t used.

In addition, automobiles now have a large amount of networking technology built in:  there’s a dashboard interface reporting vital information, a diagnostic port to tell you when to check the engine, signals coming in via Bluetooth and XM/FM/AM radio, and more.  Two field tests were done by other researchers; they bought two cars and simulated two different types of attacks, one on the wired network and one on the wireless network.  The first test fooled the speedometer into displaying 140MPH while the car was in park.  The other showed that it’s possible to apply or disable the brakes from outside any given car.  That entire discussion is at 4:43 in the video if you’d like to hear more details.


One can jam P52 radios with the right tools; these are commonly used by police and secret service agents.  Denial of service was simulated using “My First Jammer,” built from a texting device made by Girl Tech (which, interestingly, happens to operate on the same frequency as P52 radios).

Using the iPhone 4’s much more sophisticated accelerometer, it’s possible to determine to a certain degree of accuracy what is typed on a keyboard next to the iPhone.  This is according to a project done by researchers at Georgia Tech.  An article from explains their results this way:  “…it [the software developed by Georgia Tech] can use the accelerometer to sense vibrations within three inches, in degrees of ‘near or far and left or right,’ allowing it to statistically guess the words being written — so long as they have three or more letters. It does this by recording pairs of keystrokes, putting them against dictionaries with nearly 58,000 words to come up with the most likely results.”  The full article is here: .  The results say that by simply placing an iPhone 4 with this software on the desk next to your laptop, you risk transmission of 80 percent of the words you type on your laptop.

This particular talk is all about network security and how some of the same principles can be applied to such different technologies as pacemakers and P52 radio transmitters.  We know that hacking isn’t easy in reality, and it certainly isn’t easy to fully protect things from hackers, but it’s clear that specialists in the security field will become very important as technology advances.  There are important government jobs and others that need security people.

At ISU, there’s another scholarship available for IT majors to apply to.  If you’ll be a junior or senior, or going on to graduate school, it’s worth checking out.  Funding for tuition, fees, room & board, and even paid internship opportunities are available to students who meet the qualifications (a 3.0 GPA is one of them, 3.2 for grad students).  It’s funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.  If you’re interested, the contact is Dr. Doug Twitchell.

Once again, the quiz is available on Blackboard, and you’ll have until March 25.  It looks like there are now two pages of quizzes and it will appear on the next page.

March 11, 2012 at 11:15 pm Leave a comment

No Need for a Bulky Wallet Anymore

Hi MAT 120 students! Are you ready for spring break? It is almost here! Today, I actually found something Google has recently developed for smartphones. It is called Google Wallet. It looks like Google is changing the market once again. Hope you enjoy this post!

Everyday, smartphones are making our lives easier. Because of the thousands of apps offered, we no longer need phone books, maps, and now your wallet. Google developed a new system for your smartphone called Google Wallet that stores your credit card and more. Google Wallet is still in development, so right now it is only offered to those that have an Android-powered phone with NFC, and on the Sprint mobile network. Also, you need a Citi MasterCard credit card or a Google Prepaid Card. I know this sounds really limited, but the Google team plans to eventually make it available for every credit card.

So what exactly is Google Wallet? If you have the right requirements for Google Wallet, you can start up by downloading the app and creating an account. What Google Wallet does is it safely stores your credit card information and makes all of your credit cards available in a single app. To use your credit card, you simply open the app and tap your phone on a Paypass credit card receiver.

But wait, there is more. Google Wallet doesn’t just save your credit cards. Nowadays, almost every store offers their free loyalty or rewards cards that offer you savings when you spend more at the store. I can’t even begin to tell you how many of those cards I have, how much room in my wallet they take up, and how most of the time I just forget them. Thanks to Google Wallet, you don’t have to worry about those reward cards anymore. At participating stores, you can save your rewards card on your Google Wallet account and your information will be given to the cashier when you tap your phone. That’s not all either, Google also searches for offer codes or coupons and will automatically redeem them at purchase with Google Wallet.

Now, you are probably thinking, is it safe to store all my information in a single app? Yes, Google Wallet is actually safer than holding your wallet with all your cards in it. Your wallet can just get stolen and then someone can instantly start using your cards. With Google Wallet, your credit cards are locked with a PIN. You can’t use the app until the PIN is entered. Not only does the app itself have a PIN, you can also put a password lock on your phone. Google Wallet also offers layers of security. It stores your information not on your phone’s memory chip, but on what is called the Secure Element. This chip only allows trusted programs to access your information.

Even though this is a pretty new technology, many companies already offer its services. Some of the major stores are American Eagle Outfitters, Banana Republic, Foot Locker, Gap, CVS/pharmacy, Walgreens, Sports Authority, Jamba Juice, and many more. It is also rumored that Walmart and Target are going to be offering it soon.

I only gave you the basic overview of Google Wallet, there is still so much more it can do. If you are interested in reading more about it, here is Google Wallet’s official website.

Hope you enjoyed this post! Don’t forget about the quiz!


March 8, 2012 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Hate needles, but need medicine? Introducing the wireless drug delivery chip.

The implantable medical device that allows repeated wireless drug delivery in lieu of injections. Photo: M. Scott Brauer

Hope you MAT 120 students had a great weekend!  I know I did!  I found this interesting article a couple of weeks ago when doing my daily Engadget browse, and decided to write about it.  A lot of good information is presented in the article, so check it out after reading this post.  It will be linked at the bottom.

hate needles.  I know that blood is drawn from them, and drugs are administered through them, but seriously they suck.  But thankfully, two MIT professors, Robert Langer and Michael Cima had an idea 15 years ago to develop a programmable wireless microchip that delivers drugs.  It would be implanted into the patient with a certain number of doses.  The doses can be released based on a programmed schedule or triggered remotely by radio communication over a special frequency called Medical Implant Communication Service (MICS).  The current versions work only within a few inches, but the researchers plan to extend the range.

The initial study was started in January 2011 in Denmark.  It was implanted into seven women aged 65-70 with twenty doses of the drug teriparatide.  They were stored individually and sealed in tiny reservoirs the size of a tiny pinprick.  The study found that the device delivered dosages comparable to injections, and there were no adverse side effects as well as the dosages had less variation than those given by injection.  The results, published Feb. 16, represent the first successful test of such a device and could help usher in a new era of telemedicine!

You could literally have a pharmacy on a chip.  […] You can do remote control delivery, you can do pulsating drug delivery, and you can deliver multiple drugs,” says Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT.

These programmable chips can do more than just deliver osteoporosis drugs, but medication needed for chronic pain management, insulin doses/readings, and can avoid the compliance issue that comes with a lot of drug regiments, including those where patients have to give themselves injections.  The researchers at MicroCHIPS, the company that funded the study, and was born after the initial findings from the MIT team in 1999, says the future looks promising.  Once a version of the implant can carry a larger number of doses, they plan to seek approval for further clinical trials.  The company has also been developing sensors to monitor glucose levels, and the idea of combining sensors with drug reservoirs on chips can adapt drug treatments to the patients specific and unique condition.

Here is the link to the Engadget article, and the MITNews source.

Don’t forget to check out the quiz on Blackboard!!  Thanks for reading, and make this last week before Spring Break count!


Rishi Sheth

P.S:  Engadget showed a video a long time ago about Boston Dynamics Alpha Dog, a robotic pack-mule the size of a bull that can carry up to 400 pounds and it is unstoppable.  Below is the video of their new project, the bipedal PETMAN.  One step closer to the Robot Apocalypse!

This postscript, like the last one, and the video do not have related questions on the quiz, and are for your amusement only.

March 4, 2012 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

Augmented Reality Becoming Reality

Hi MAT 120!

Thanks for continuing to read our blog and learning about some of the most exciting news happening right now in technology. Today I wanted to share some recent information I found about new developments in the augmented reality sector.

So, what is augmented reality?

Augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.


When we discuss augmented reality, we talking about bringing together technology and reality. Many experts have continuously worked on this effort to make human-computer interaction a more natural and intuitive experience.

One of the best examples of truly augmented reality is the SixthSense technology debuted at a TEDTalk. I highly encourage watching this video featuring Pranav Mistry, the mastermind behind the technology, explain his journey of joining the computing world with reality. The SixthSense technology requires users to wear colored fingertip caps, a small projector, a small camera, as well as a miniature computer system. Combining all of these technologies provides users with greatly increased knowledge at any given location.

TEDTalk Spoiler Warning: Some of the great abilities you will see in the video include the ability to simply look at a book and projector displays reviews about the book on the actual book. Another great example is the ability to play interactive video games on a piece of paper! SixthSense is still in the early stages of development, but it will be exciting to see where the augmented reality technology will go.

TED Talks Video

Finally, I cannot end a discussion about augmented reality without discussing Google’s recent announcement of Google Glasses. Google has built glasses that allow those who wear the glasses to complete tasks such as check their e-mail and see the weather forecast. According to sources that are developing the top secret product at Google X, Google’s top secret product development center, the most important feature involves location based interaction.

Google Glasses will augment reality by displaying information to wearers about current landmarks their are viewing among a plethora of other powerful features.

Learn more about Google Glasses on the New York Times.

Augmented reality is still making its way to consumers, but it provides power to consumers to use computing power to make faster and better decisions at any given location.

I hope you enjoyed reading, and do not forget to take the quiz!

Best regards,


March 1, 2012 at 8:37 am Leave a comment

March 2012
« Feb   Apr »