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Paper screens could provide depth to computer display - tech - 03 December 2009 - New Scientist

The paper has targets that are reflective in the infrared, allowing the position and orientation of the paper to be tracked to within 1 cm. The positional data of the paper is then used to change the image being projected onto the paper, giving it the illusion of allowing you to see slices of a 3D space.

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BBC NEWS | Europe | Shedding light on the Catacombs of Rome

lyanna_beth pointed this story out to me last week, but I had forgotten to post it.

A team of 10 Austrian and Italian archaeologists, architects and computer scientists are engaged in a three-year project to create the first fully comprehensive three-dimensional image of Rome's Catacombs using laser scanners. They recently started with the largest catacomb, Saint Domitilla, just outside the Italian capital.
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3-D light system revolutionizes way fingerprints are taken | NetworkWorld.com Community

University of Kentucky researchers have developed a system that can automatically acquire 10 fingerprints in high resolution in less than 10 seconds using a structured light system. The system captures a 3-dimensional image of the surface of each finger, then flattens them into a 2D virtual fingerprint. It can also capture fingerprints from the 5% of the population who have fingerprints too warn down to be reproduced using traditional ink-rolling.
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Docs implement 3D journals

IBM's research arm in Zurich has developed a way to represent patient data by linking it to a 3D view of the body that is hoped to help doctors in better assessing a patient's status. The system allows doctors to rotate the body and zoom inon regions of interest. These regions are linked by arrows to relevant medical information.
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Google has introduced a few new software "toys" recently

1) FOXNews.com - Where Are Your Friends and Family? Check Google Maps - Science News | Science & Technology | Technology News
"Latitude" allows users to let themselves be tracked by other users so that an icon of them shows up on their friend's Google Maps view.

2) New Google Mars Reveals the Red Planet in 3-D
Google Earth recently announced a module called Virtual Mars that lets you visit Mars, even soar through canyons and mountain ranges. The offering is based on 3D data of the Martian surface that has been made available to the public.

3) New Google Ocean Takes Google Earth Beyond the "Dirt"
Space may be one "final frontier", but not the only one. Google Earth has also released a module called Ocean that lets users visit Earth's aquatic depths, even soar through canyons and mountain ranges. Yes, I meant to say it again. The offering is holed to raise awareness of the beauty and fragility of our oceans.

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BBC NEWS | Technology | Do-it-yourself 3D movies at home

This odd-looking device is the Minoru which allows people to shoot 3D webcam movies. The software provided with the device converts the image pairs into anaglyphs which appear as 3D images if you wear glasses that filter red and blue to each eye.

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According to Wired, Battlestar Galactica fans will be interested to learn that many of the props used on the show will be available for sale in January, including a full-sized Viper fighter and various costumes.

PhysOrg presents and interesting article on the challenges involved in generating a high-resolution 3D model of the Palazzo Medici in Italy.

University of Laval researchers have developed an adaptive mirror made from iron particles suspended in antifreeze (what is referred to a a ferrofluid) and coated with silver grains. The resulting mirror can be reshaped using a magnetic field, allowing it to quickly compensate for distortion in fields like astronomy and opthomology.

A recent study by the University of Nevada has concluded that, contrary to popular belief, static stretching of muscles before exercising may, in fact, weaken them, sometimes by as much as 30 percent. They recommend a brief, no more than 5 or 10 minute, aerobic warm-up to raise muscle temperature before stretching, something many modern coaches now advise, but suggest recommend dynamic, rather than static stretches to avoid the inhibitory response that causes muscle weakness.

Forensic investigators' work may just have gotten harder with a new breed of cleaners that use oxygen rather than chlorine. It seems that the oxygen will destroy hemoglobin. Chlorine has been used to remove bloodstains but the hemoglobin was still detectable after more than 10 washings.

Ottawa graffiti artists have taken to acid-etching their work into glass surfaces around the city, presenting a new and expensive headache for the city and store owners who must replace entire sheets of glass to remove the artwork.

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3D is becoming big business, so I'm devoting this post to the plethora of 3D-related technologies that are emerging. I have a particular interest in this area, given that I am a researcher in 3D measurement technologies.

Images under the cut )
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A new type of holographic display material has been developed that can be refreshed in minutes. The developers hope to be able to reduce the refresh rate to the 30 frames-per-second required for video. If they achieve this goal, holography could become a viable alternative to current 3D displays that often require the use of special glasses. LCD displays have also been developed to display video  information in 3D (there was one on display at the Electronic Imaging conference I attended last week... very cool but the image was distorted from some viewpoints). Moreover, they claim that the material can also be used storing large amounts of information. They use a photoreactive polymer to which they apply a 9000 volt charge during the writing process. Once the information is written, a 4000 volt charge is required to maintain the image.
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Canadian songwriters propose collective licensing - This Slashdot article links to a proposal by the Songwriters Association of Canada in which each internet and wireless customer in Canada pays a $5 yearly fee, and in return can freely share any and all music they purchase as they see fit. They money would be distributed among songwriters, performers, music publishers and record labels.

Stanford offers free conversion of photos to 3D - Researchers at Stanford university have made available a new online service (http://make3d.stanford.edu/) to test drive a new process that attempts to infer 3D structures from a single 2D image. The process uses a Markov Random Field to infer the position and orientation of each a 3D patch corresponding to each point in the image, and from that generate a mesh model. The original image is then laid over the 3D mesh to allow you to perform a limited fly-through of the image.

You can save lives or save money - A research group in the Netherlands has determined that smokers and obese people cost less to a health care system in the long run because they die sooner. Meanwhile, thin and healthy people cost the system the most because they tended to live longest. The conclusion was that reducing smoking and obesity rates will increase, not decrease, overall health care costs.

US privacy board is running on empty - In 2007, the Privacy and Civil Liberty Oversight Board was created  to keep an eye on US anti-terrorist activities to ensure that the privacy and civil liberties of US citizens were being safeguarded. The terms for all members of the board expired on January 30th, but no candidates have yet been nominated to sit on the board.

Shapeshifting robots from magnetic swarms - New Scientist reports on attempts by US researchers to build "claytronic" robots that cling together, allowing them to assume any shape. Follow the link to view a video of what they envision to be the outcome of this research. In larger test robots, electromagnetism was used to share power, communicate, move, and sense their environment. The test robots had wheels, but they were unpowered so they could only maneuver using their electromagnets and by working together.
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The 3D Cap is a lens that splits an image to generate a stereoscopic image. For those who don't know what a stereoscopic image is, it consists of two images of the same scene, slightly offset from each other to represent the view from each eye.
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Peter Plantec, a psychologist, writes an interesting article on the "Uncanny Valley" with respect to movies like Final Fantasy, Polar Express, Pirates of the Carribean, and Beowulf. The article introduces six attributes that distinguish cartoon from realistic, and how pushing them too far results in cognitive dissonance.

Found on Neil Gaiman's Blog
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Physics Org
Texas Begins Desalinating Sea Water - On a one-acre site alongside a string of shrimp boats docked on the Brownsville ship channel stands a $2.2 million assembly of pipes, sheds, and humming machinery - Texas' entree into global efforts to make sea water suitable to drink. The plant is a pilot project for the state's $150 million, full-scale sea water desalination plant slated for construction in 2010.
Bright future for nanowire light source - A bio-friendly nano-sized light source capable of emitting coherent light across the visible spectrum, has been invented by a team of researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the University of California at Berkeley. Among the many potential applications of this nano-sized light source, once the technology is refined, are single cell endoscopy and other forms of subwavelength bio-imaging, integrated circuitry for nanophotonic technology, and new advanced methods of cyber cryptography.
New, invisible nano-fibers conduct electricity, repel dirt - Tiny plastic fibers could be the key to some diverse technologies in the future -- including self-cleaning surfaces, transparent electronics, and biomedical tools that manipulate strands of DNA. In the June issue of the journal Nature Nanotechnology, Ohio State University researchers describe how they created surfaces that, seen with the eye, look as flat and transparent as a sheet of glass. But seen up close, the surfaces are actually carpeted with tiny fibers.
Nanosoccer debuts at RoboCup 2007 - Imagine a mechanical Pelé or David Beckham six times smaller than an amoeba playing with a “soccer ball” no wider than a human hair on a field that can fit on a grain of rice. Purely science fiction? Not anymore. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) organizes the first nanoscale soccer games at the 2007 RoboCup in Atlanta, Ga., on July 7-8, 2007. The glass microchip on the left measures 3 centimeters across - more than the diameter of a quarter on the right - and is divided into sixteen 2.5 millimeter by 2.5 millimeter nanosoccer playing fields.

Flight Log: The First Private Expedition to the Moon - You don't have to pack your bags quite yet, but passenger travel to the Moon is on the flight manifest of a space tourist company. The price per seat will slap your wallet or purse for a swift $100 million - but you'll have to get in line as the first voyage is already booked. Space Adventures, headquartered in Vienna, Virginia, is in negotiations with the customers who will fly the first private expedition to circumnavigate the Moon.
Oceans from Space - Water. It's essential for life as best we know it. Almost three-fourths of the Earth is covered with water. We live on the pale blue dot, and our lives depend fundamentally on water. Yet, just after Earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago, the surface was mostly dry. "So, where did the water come from?" (Bonus science experiment: how to make your own comet)

Backlight Images - Backlight Images are three-dimensional solid-surface topographies created from digital images. Developed and manufactured by the R. D. Wing Company, the Backlight Image process transforms user-provided images into reliefs within the surface of 1/4-inch-thick, translucent DuPont Corian. The images are first converted to grayscale mode with 256 shades, and each shade effectively becomes a different height of contour.

Europe burns its wine lake - The European Commission is putting out to tender the opportunity to turn its excess wine into bioethanol. But if the commission gets its way, this will be the last time the European Union subsidizes such a move. The European Union currently spends 1.3 billion euros (US$1.75 billion) a year supporting the wine industry. Up to 7% of this, or 90 million euros, goes towards 'crisis distillation', where as much as 45 million litres of EU wine, often of undrinkably poor quality, is bought and distilled into ethanol for use as fuel.
Teams trail genes for human 'stemness' - A Japanese team led by the Kyoto University's Shinya Yamanaka first unveiled the technique last year (Cell 126, 663–676; 2006), using retroviruses to insert genes into the DNA of mouse fibroblasts. To the field's surprise—and initial skepticism—the team found that only four genes can, in combination, trigger a series of events that shunts cells back into an embryonic state, from which they are able to differentiate into any cell type in the body—an ability dubbed 'pluripotency'. Yamanaka dubbed the cells "induced pluripotent stem" (iPS) cells. But even elsewhere in the world, researchers are scrambling to improve upon the technique, which skirts the controversial use of human eggs and embryos.
Urine grows better fish food - Human urine could nourish the plankton used as food on fish farms. Plankton grown in diluted urine do better than those given other nitrogen-rich materials, ecological engineers have found.
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Source: BBC News
Indian researchers have developed a hand-held scanner that is able detect potentially dangerous blot clots on the surface of the brain. These clots often expand, putting pressure on the brain, leading to death if the problem is not detected quickly enough. The device has drawn the interest of the US Navy who hope to use it to diagnose similar injuries in the battlefield.

Source: BBC News
Russia is proceeding with the construction of the first floating nuclear power plant. More than a dozen countries have expressed interest in purchasing a similar plant to address their own demands for electricity. The 70-megawatt plant is expected to be completed by 2012 and will supply energy to a ship-building operation in the Russian Arctic that builds nuclear submarines. They are confident that, in the event of an accident, the radiation damage will be contained to a 1-kilometer radius.

Source: Globe and Mail
Australian researchers have succeeded in splitting the beer atom.... no, not really, but they have discovered a way to generate clean energy while brewing some good Aussie suds. The process uses waste material, generated when beer is brewed, to power a microbial fuel cell. The 2,500 litre cell then converts the waste into electricity and clean water. The system is expected to generate two kilowatts of power, which is small, but can be used to reduce the electrical demands of the brewery. More importantly, the system eliminates the waste material that would otherwise have to be processed using more expensive methods.

Source: Coolest Gadgets
IdeaLab's Desktop Factory is a 3D printer that fits on a desktop and can generate plastic 3D parts from model schematics supplied by a PC. The system costs about $7,000(US), not too much more than a specialty printer. The device is well suited to places like tech schools where students can design and build low-cost prototypes and mock-ups.

Source: Sci Fi Tech
When making microchips, capacitance is your enemy. IBM is proposing a new process that uses self-generating polymers to create vacuum pockets around wiring, thus, eliminating the problem of capacitance. They expect to see a speed increase of 35% and a increase in energy efficiency of 15%. This means cooler, faster chips. They hope to have the process up to commercial scale by 2009.

Edit: Found a better picture for the 3D printer at Engadget.
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Source 1: http://www.polarimage.fi/stereo/stereo.htm

The instructions to make this work are to stare at the left image with your right eye and the right image with your left eye and, as a result, the images will appear to "drift" into a single 3D image. Personally I just sort of "will it" into correct focus. There are more images on the Source 1 page.

Source 2: http://www.usm.maine.edu/~rhodes/0Help/StereoView.html#con
This is also applied to computer-generated data (see the Source 2 page for instructions on how to set these up). The Source 2 site has many suggestions for how to trick your eyes into seeing the images in 3D. Headaches are free of charge.

Have fun!
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Source: PhysOrg
Iran has recently completed a successful launch of a spacecraft. The launch is part of a drive to place their own private and commercial satellites into orbit without having to rely on other countries. In particular, they want to place more communications satellites into orbit so that they can expand the number of land and mobile telephone lines, and internet users, in the next five years.

Source: UC Davis News & Information
Researchers have proposed that certain types of bacteria could be used to turn deep, sandy soil into something more like cement. Bacillus pasteurii generates calcite that bond to soil, turning it into a cement-like material. By injecting these bacteria into the soil and feeding them properly, soil that would formerly collapse during an earthquake remains rigid.

Source: SlashDot
An interesting article by Eric Flint which postulates that the current structure of DRM actually sets up a situation that encourages piracy. Like SlashDot, I'll simply quote a part here: "Electronic copyright infringement is something that can only become an 'economic epidemic' under certain conditions. Any one of the following: 1) The products they want... are hard to find, and thus valuable. 2) The products they want are high-priced, so there's a fair amount of money to be saved by stealing them. 3) The legal products come with so many added-on nuisances that the illegal version is better to begin with. Those are the three conditions that will create widespread electronic copyright infringement, especially in combination. Why? Because they're the same three general conditions that create all large-scale smuggling enterprises. And... Guess what? It's precisely those three conditions that DRM creates in the first place. So far from being an impediment to so-called 'online piracy,' it's DRM itself that keeps fueling it and driving it forward."

Source: PhysicsWeb
Researchers at Jerusalem University have developed a way to create 3D structures by chemically folding flat paper discs. The discs are treated with a monomer solution which is then heated, causing the paper disc to curl up in accordance with the pattern formed by the monomer solution. Regions of higher concentration shrink more than those of lower concentration so by varying the concentration over the surface of the disc, the final structure can be precisely controlled.

Source: Globe and Mail
A film crew claims to have identified the location of Jesus's ossuary, and has completed DNA analysis of it and its companion. The other ossuaries apparently contained the remains of Mariamne (Mary Magdelene), Matthew, and Yose (Jesus' brother). DNA testing showed that Yeshua (Jesus) and Mariamne were not related, indicating that they may, instead, have been married. The original bones were, apparently buried in unmarked graves long ago in accordance with Jewish custom. The ossuaries have been proven by archaeologists to be authentic and from the same time period, but there is no way to confirm that this is the same Yeshua on which the Christian Bible is based. Odds of it NOT being the same have been estimated at between 1 in 600 to 1 in 42 million. The documentary will air on the Discovery channel on March 4.
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Source: Engadget

The DAVID laser scanner (cool name, obvous sign of intelligence) is not so much a device as a way of using commonly available equipment and a bit of (free) software to perform 3D laser scanning. Instructions on how to do this are available at The Institute for Robotics and Process Control. They don't include a way to stitch different views together, but for those who are interested, search for an algorithm called ICP (Iterative Closest Point) and go from there.

The software has a few simple requirements: A webcam, a laser pointer (presumably with a beam spreader, which is just a strip of glass to convert the beam into a laser sheet), and a right-angle corner (easily available to those of you not living in igloos). The technology is simple and very well understood (line scanners have been used in industry for more than a decade). The software simply converts the line of red light cast on the object into a 3D surface map relative to the right-angle corner.
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Source: XYZ-RGB Corp

From their web site:
XYZ Imaging Inc. is the world’s first holographic printing bureau capable of creating production ready multi-resolution, full color, reflective holograms from pure digital media. This technology uses patented holographic technology developed over a 6 year timeframe at a cost of nearly $ 23 Million US dollars. Combined with a revolutionary emulsion that is more than 300 times finer than ISO 300 film on a super wide format that measures over 1 m wide, allowing for the production of never-before-seen large format holographic prints with a single sheet size of: 1m wide x 1.2m long or longer (based on the length of the film roll).

What is a hologram? A hologram is a three-dimensional scene with an incredible illusion of depth and motion that is unlike anything you've seen before. These holograms can be appreciated without glasses or a special viewing device. XYZ Imaging has created a new breed of large format, color static (non-rainbow) reflective holograms that astound viewers, gathers crowds and becomes the hot topic of conversation wherever they are displayed.

There's not much more to it except to say that it has to be seen to believed. A potential extension of this is to figure out how to replace the chemical emulsion with a digital display to animate it.  Check out the video of a soccer playing bouncing a ball and this advertisement for Final Fantasy.

January 2010

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