Author Archive

4/22/2010 – Yoky Matsuoka

This is Yoky Matsuoka, mother of three and a dog owner.  You might assume that the problems Yoky solves through out her day are mundane or repetitive, but you’d be wrong.  That’s because in addition to being a Mom, she is also a sort of expert in the fields of science and engineering.

Along with Neurobotics Lab, Yoky has been involved in over a dozen projects focusing on understanding how the brain directs the body then replicating that process in robots.  For example, one project resulted in a hand exoskeleton to aide people with paralysis.  The exoskeleton receives signals via EMG sensors attached to other parts of the body.  The hand was capable of pinching, pointing, and grasping and successfully aided a quadriplegic student in testing.  The lab is also working on an anatomically correct robotic hand. Check out the projects section on their website to see more of their projects.

When you’re done head back to black board and take the quiz!



April 22, 2010 at 11:57 am 2 comments

2/25/2010 Music From the Future

This week i wanted to write about how technology changes the arts, specifically music.  We’ve  come a long way from the Bladder Pipe to Electric Guitar.  Technology has allowed us to make fantastic music without getting our mouths anywhere near an animal’s bladder.  So what is the instrument of the future?

The Reactable looks like an illuminated, round table with a diameter of about 1 m (3 ft.) and a glass top. At first glance, the musical instrument of the 21st century does not make such a futuristic and complicated impression. And it is exactly this that is the secret of the Reactable: The interaction between musician and instrument takes place simply and intuitively via the smooth surface of the table on which the artist places and moves different objects in relationship to each other. No buttons, no switches, no keys.

To operate the Reactable, various Plexiglas objects are placed on the table, related to each other and moved. These objects fulfill different functions based upon their geometric shape. For example, square shaped elements generate basic tones, while round objects act as sound filters, which modulate these basic tones. The symbol on the selected elements determines the type of the basic tone and/or the filter; the spatial relationship of the objects to each other determines the extent to which one element affects another. A special collection of symbols was conceived for the Reactable which meet the system requirements for easy and fast recognition. Due to the fact that they look like one celled organisms, the symbols were given the nickname “amoebae” by the researchers.

How does the reactable work?  Like this!

How does the reactable work? Like this!

The Reactable projects markings onto the surface of the table to make the instrument easier to operate. These not only confirm to the musician that the object has been recognized by the system, but also provide additional information regarding the status of the generated tone and its interaction with neighboring objects. This allows the artist to see the connections and a dynamic graphic presentation of the generated sound waves on the table. The kicker: The musician can change individual sound parameters by touching the projected information with his finger.

Thanks to Allied vision tech for the material


February 25, 2010 at 2:30 pm 1 comment

2/11/2010 – Brain Games

Now that we’ve been through  a few week’s together I want to ask you all for your input.  If you have any comments or suggestions suggestions about how we can improve things let us know!  Either leave a comment after our posts or visit our twitter.

This week i thought I would focus on something typically thought of as “children’s  games” which are being developed in new directions with uses beyond entertainment.

You may have seen games like Big Brain Academy or Brain Age for the Nintendo DS.  These are simple brain teasing puzzle games which are very entertaining when you’re stuck someplace with nothing to do (maybe a lecture hall).  Inspired by games like these, Posit Science has begun developing “brain training software.” Armed with money from four grants, over 50 professors and scientists from around the world have teamed up to work on the project.  The brain games they produce are some of the first to be proven, through clinical research, to improve brain functions.

The games are designed to promote strong brain function that supports a variety of cognitive skills, increase the quantity of sensory information the brain takes in, and improves the quality with which the brain processes and records this information.  The games work by focusing on what Posit Science calls “root problems.”  These are deteriorating trends which occur in the human brain after age 30.  These trends include slower speed, “fuzzier” accuracy, and decreasing amounts of chemicals called neuromodulators.

You probably aren’t over 30, so how does this affect you?  Well besides the fact that you aren’t Dorian Grey, and will someday be older than you are now; the project is indicative of developing trends in technology.  Posit Science has combined the talents of knowledge of neuroscientists, psychologists, and others with that of technology enthusiasts.  An indicator that any future career can benefit from experience with technology.

If you want to test out the brain games, you can play some on Posit’s website for free.  (email and name are  required) Otherwise, head back to blackboard and take the extra credit quiz!

Thanks, David


February 11, 2010 at 10:54 am 1 comment

1/28/2010 – Machine Learning

Welcome to ISUTech, math 120 students. Rather than making a very content heavy post, I thought I’d let you focus on getting getting a hold of things. So check out this really short blurb on a robot which uses Machine learning to teach itself facial expressions.

EinsteinAt first I thought this robot resembled a creepier version of Mark Twain.  This robot, however, is meant to resemble Albert Einstein, and the choice of its appearance isn’t its creator’s alone.  This robot doesn’t choose from facial expressions programmed by humans.  Connected to a video camera, loaded with face recognition software, and placed in front of a mirror, the  robo-Einstein can contort its face randomly until it receives a reward signal.  Armed with this information it can repeat the process, perfecting its facial expressions by matching them to  human responses.  Its developers call the process “body babble.”There are also plans to use the robot to start socializing after that it will be used in automatic tutoring experiments.

That’s all for now, but come back every Monday and Thursday for new posts, and more chances for extra-credit! Remember to take the blackboard quiz, you can read more about the robot here.


January 28, 2010 at 1:08 pm 3 comments

11/5/09 – Google’s Got Issues

Last week my roommate came to me in a panic. He had a paper due the next morning but he hadn’t bought the required books. His problem, like many of today’s, was solved with a simple answer. Google it! Of the three books needed for his paper, my roommate was able to find two on Google books. It wasn’t the prettiest solution but it was enough for him to earn an A minus.

Google books is an example of how advances in technology impact other aspects of society, and I don’t just mean student’s grades.  Google’s effort to digitize library books, beginning in 2004, is making impacts across the world.  Primarily these impacts are being felt in the fields of publishing and copyright law.   Google is now involved in what time magazine calls “a ferocious legal free-for-all spanning the globe.”  A year ago, Google made a legal settlement with groups representing authors and publishers.  But recently, this settlement has come under fire as cases like Authors Guild et al. vs. Google Inc. have dragged the dispute across seas.  Some publishers weren’t consulted during Google’s first settlement while other parties fear the lack of competition Google would face as a book seller. (The traffic from Google books is already a major boost in traffic.)

The dispute has attracted major attention.  Some, like Angela Merkel the chancellor of Germany, have criticized Google’s actions and apparent neglect.  Others, like Amy Tan, have supported Google’s attempts.  Regardless of the outcome there will be a major impact on traditional forms of book distribution.  Which means authors and the publishing industry might do well to adapt.

Don’t Forget to take the Black Board Quiz

Time Magazine Article

November 4, 2009 at 11:12 pm Leave a comment

10/22/09 – Technology Not Just for the Guys

Most people have heard of Mark Zuckerberg and Myspace Tom.  But entrepreneurial success on the internet isn’t just for the guys.  The internet is not nearly as male (or nerdy) as you might think.  Recently many women have been capitalizing on that fact.  After you watch this  video, head back to blackboard for a quiz and extra credit.



October 22, 2009 at 11:48 am 1 comment

10/9/2009 -Internet Spam Is a Cash Cow

Ever wonder how why annoying spam e-mails flood your in box with offers of cheap Viagra and exotic prescription drugs you have no desire to ingest?  Spam mail is actually a very profitable business.  It has enormous profit margins and requires a minuscule amount of effort,  which explains why spam mail is prevalent.  Check out this article by Jacqui Cheng sharing more details on how spam e-mail operates.  When your done head back to blackboard for the quiz and extra credit!



Pharmaceutical spam can generate more than $4,000 per day in sales, confirming that spam continues to thrive because of those gullible few who click through and ruin it for the rest of us. And that’s not just an estimate: a security researcher from Sophos have combed through sales logs as part of his investigation into the growth of spam networks, noting that Russian affiliate partner networks—also known as “partnerka”—are responsible for some of the largest Canadian pharmacy spam businesses.

Dmitry Samosseiko’s report, “The Partnerka — what is it, and why should you care?”  focuses largely on these Russian networks and how they drive traffic, advertising, and more. Not surprisingly, online pharmaceuticals tend to be a very popular affiliate business, with one of the largest being one called GlavMed. GlavMed itself claims to be strongly anti-spam, but it has a sister company called “SpamIt,” a private group of e-mail spam affiliates that researchers suspect are also behind the Storm, Waledec, and Conficker botnets.

Samosseiko discovered a wide-open PHP backend to GlavMed that contained evidence that the company is indeed set up to benefit largely from spammers. This involves e-commerce software for spammers to launch their own GlavMed copies or to simply set up domains that redirect to GlavMed. Additionally, some of the documents Samosseiko discovered were sales records, giving a glimpse into the purchasing behavior of GlavMed’s targets.

According to the sales records from GlavMed, there were apparently more than 20 purchases per day per spam campaign, with GlavMed claiming a 40 percent commission on each sale. With an average purchase of around $200, that adds up to over $4,000 total per day per campaign (or $1,600 for GlavMed). As you can imagine, that total easily multiplies if more than one spam blast is run per day thanks to different affiliates, and it continues to skyrocket when we consider how many different online pharmacies exist that benefit from spam, including, Rx-partners,, Evapharmacy, and DrugRevenueget.

Clearly, the amount of cash being made makes spamming a worthwhile investment—even a small percentage of users making purchases can result in big returns. Earlier this year, the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG) released a report stating that 52 percent of e-mail users had clicked on a spam e-mail, with 12 percent of those doing so because they were actually interested in the product or service being offered. “Although a small percentage of the computing population, these numbers still earn a significant enough return on investment to support a booming spam-driven underground economy,” wrote MAAWG.

October 9, 2009 at 7:34 pm 2 comments

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