Tech Today w/ Ken May

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Although the perennial buzz around 3D printing has yet to materialize into a proper industrial revolution, the increasingly powerful technology has gained some traction in the medical world, where customizability and on-site availability trump the constraints of cost and scale. It may come as no surprise, then, that one of the 2014 Core77 Design Awards honorees that caught our eye was developed by a previous winner, whose work we’d covered as far back as 2010, before the the inaugural awards program. This time around, Scott Summit took Professional Runner Up in the Social Impact category with the EKSO personal exoskeleton , a mecha-like medical device at the intersection of robotics, rehabilitation and digital fabrication. As a replacement for a wheelchair, the device has the potential to revolutionize mobility for paraplegic individuals. Summit shares credit with Gustavo Fricke, 3D Systems and Ekso Bionics, all of whom worked together to print parts that connect a person to their robot as naturally and respectively as possible. “This is an unusual design effort on every front, ” designer Scott Summit says. “We had challenges with the technical details, since these are massive files, and almost entirely organic, but very precise. It’s also very tricky to scan a paralyzed person, and expect the data to be exactly as desired. We found that even the slightest detail could lead to dangerous bruising.” All of that considered, the prototypes have been met with a great response. The test pilot loves it so much, she wants to use it all of the time. But like many of these things go, the team has to wait until the design is FDA certified to be worn daily. (more…)

Smoking Mothers May Alter the DNA of Their Children

Posted by kenmay on July - 29 - 2014

sciencehabit (1205606) writes “Pregnant women who smoke don’t just harm the health of their baby—they may actually impair their child’s DNA, according to new research. A genetic analysis shows that the children of mothers who smoke harbor far more chemical modifications of their genome — known as epigenetic changes — than kids of non-smoking mothers. Many of these are on genes tied to addiction and fetal development. The finding may explain why the children of smokers continue to suffer health complications later in life. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Self-driving mini truck put to the test by US Marines

Posted by kenmay on July - 29 - 2014

Automakers aren’t the only ones working to implement self-driving technology . The US Marine Corps has teamed up with TORC Robotics’ (among others) to work on a Jeep-esque option outfitted with the company’s Ground Unmanned Support Surrogate system — or GUSS to save the mouthful. Here, GUSS is used to power a self-driving version of the Marine two-seater truck dubbed the Internally Transportable Vehicle (ITV). As the name suggests, the compact option can be carried on a helicopter or plane for deployment, and its beacon can either send it to a specific location or maneuver it via remote control. As you may recall, TORC’s GUSS system was installed on a Polaris 6×6 ATV a few years back, so the tech has been through its share of tests. The goal is for the vehicle to be used to deliver supplies (up to 1, 600 pounds or evacuate wounded soldiers by determining its own route or being controlled from afar at a speed of 8 MPH. An unmanned ITV reamains in the testing phase, but the team sees similar options in the field in the next five years. [Photo credit: TORC Robotics] Filed under: Transportation Comments Via: Ars Technica Source: Fox News

Wiretapping used to be straightforward. Potential drug lord? Bug his phone! But the proliferation of online chat options is making it hard for law enforcement officials and intelligence agents to carry out court-ordered wiretaps. Read more…

Verizon Wireless One of the most common reactions to Verizon’s announcement that it will throttle the heaviest users of its “unlimited” 4G plans went something like this: “That’s the last straw, I’m switching to T-Mobile!” Unfortunately, switching to T-Mobile, AT&T, or Sprint won’t protect you from getting throttled, even if the carrier is claiming to sell you “unlimited” data. Let’s take a look at the relevant passages in each carrier’s terms and conditions. We’ll start with the Verizon Wireless announcement last week: Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

5 Essential Add-Ons For Dropbox

Posted by kenmay on July - 28 - 2014

Many of us rely on Dropbox for file syncing and backup, but you might not be aware of all the different extensions and services that you can plug into it. Here are our five favorite Dropbox add-ons to supercharge your storage. Read more…

Newly Discovered Virus Widespread in Human Gut

Posted by kenmay on July - 28 - 2014

A newly discovered virus has been found by a San Diego State University team to live inside more than half of all sampled human gut cells sampled. Exploring genetic material found in intestinal samples, the international team uncovered the CrAssphage virus. They say the virus could influence the behaviour of some of the most common bacteria in our gut. Researchers say the virus has the genetic fingerprint of a bacteriophage – a type of virus known to infect bacteria. Phages may work to control the behaviour of bacteria they infect – some make it easier for bacteria to inhabit in their environments while others allow bacteria to become more potent. [Study lead Dr. Robert] Edwards said: “In some way phages are like wolves in the wild, surrounded by hares and deer. “They are critical components of our gut ecosystems, helping control the growth of bacterial populations and allowing a diversity of species.” According to the team, CrAssphage infects one of the most common types of bacteria in our guts. National Geographic gives some idea why a virus so common in our gut should have evaded discovery for so long, but at least CrAssphage finally has a Wikipedia page of its own. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Find Out Your Uber Passenger Rating with this Script

Posted by kenmay on July - 28 - 2014

Uber is a great way to get a ride without having to hail a cab. When you finish a ride, you get a chance to rate your driver and your experience. However, the drivers get to rate you too. Here’s how to find out your rating, which is normally a closely-kept secret. Read more…

Virtually all of your gadgets tote lithium ion batteries—but while they’re the best you can hope for at the moment, new engineering means that pure lithium batteries are now a possibility , and they could double the life of your phone. Read more…

The recent death by overdose of Google executive Timothy Hayes has drawn attention to the phenomenon of illegal drug use (including abuse of prescription painkillers) among technology workers and executives in high-pay, high-stress Silicon Valley. The Mercury News takes a look at the phenomenon; do the descriptions of freely passed cocaine, Red Bull as a gateway drug, and complacent managers match your own workplace experiences? From the Mercury News article: “There’s this workaholism in the valley, where the ability to work on crash projects at tremendous rates of speed is almost a badge of honor, ” says Steve Albrecht, a San Diego consultant who teaches substance abuse awareness for Bay Area employers. “These workers stay up for days and days, and many of them gradually get into meth and coke to keep going. Red Bull and coffee only gets them so far.” … Drug abuse in the tech industry is growing against the backdrop of a national surge in heroin and prescription pain-pill abuse. Treatment specialists say the over-prescribing of painkillers, like the opioid hydrocodone, has spawned a new crop of addicts — working professionals with college degrees, a description that fits many of the thousands of workers in corporate Silicon Valley. Increasingly, experts see painkillers as the gateway drug for addicts, and they are in abundance. “There are 1.4 million prescriptions … in the Bay Area for hydrocodone, ” says Alice Gleghorn with the San Francisco Department of Public Health. “That’s a lot of pills out there.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.