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Living in the future

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Tired hands when writing? Let a robot do it for you

We have all been there.

Whether it’s during an exam, writing a letter or simply doodling whilst you should have been paying attention, everybody’s hand cramps up from writing at some point or another.

There’s also the chore of having to find a stamp, locate the nearest post box and remind your fingers of those handwriting skills you learnt all those years ago.

Fortunately, a team in America have now combatted these issues and have developed robots that are able to mimic a person’s handwriting. Using an app, a message can be sent in and for a fee of £131, you can have your own personal handwriting copied.

The robots are, in effect, a high-tech update of the autopen machines used to recreate multiple signatures on documents. Now using updated software, the robots are able to write as quickly as humans, whilst mimicking their hand movements, but without the worry of getting tired or making mistakes.

Sonny Caberwal, founder of a New York City-based handwriting service, said, "We're not trying to fool people into believing that someone wrote the note for them. We're trying to give people a tool to express themselves in the way they want."

The robots aren’t necessarily confined to only personal letters either. Research suggests that they could also prove beneficial in the marketing world as well, following on from studies showing that people were much more likely to open handwritten letters.

To see the robot in action, click here.

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Giant beach art created by robots

A robotic beach artist has created a method for developing giant drawings in the sand. Researchers from both Disney Research Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have even developed the robot in such a way that it can recreate photos sent to it from a phone or tablet.

Using a rake at its rear end, the robot calculates a route across the sand before etching its pattern into it. This effectively allows the beach (as long as it is sandy) to act as a giant digitally controlled canvas.

The team are now hoping to add a number of tools to the robot to allow it to create different textures in the sand and erase previous markings.

The developer behind the idea, David Beardsley, said, “We would like to make huge sand art that amazes people, similar to the Nazca Lines in Peru.”

He and his team are certainly heading in the right direction to doing that.

To see the robot in action, click here.

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Google backs Parkinson’s spoon

Google is making a name for itself as an innovator of groundbreaking new technology. At first glance this makes their venture into the cutlery market surprising. But the new spoon being developed by Google-owned Lift Labs is not your average utensil. The spoon helps people with tremors eat more easily, by sensing movement in their hands and counteracting it.

Image: The Guardian

While the spoon handle doesn’t reduce tremors in the hand, it keeps the end of the spoon steady making for much easier mealtimes. According to Dr. Jill Ostrem, the spoon has even helped some patients who previously had to be fed by someone else to eat independently.

So it's a powerful spoon, but this is also reflected in the price. At $295 it’s far from cheap, but there’s no doubting the potential improvements in quality of life this device brings with it.

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Staples begin to stock 3D printers in America

3D printing is great. You can choose virtually any shape and simply print it using some clever technology and a bit of chemistry. But having a 3D printer for personal use always seemed way off  like 'oh yeah i'll just print off a new helmet so I can ride my hoverboard to work'. But as ever, the future decided not to wait for us and just arrived on the doorstep with no courtesy warning phonecall. Knock, knock - it's Staples, that big stationery place, and we're going to start selling 3D printers in America! To anyone!

And as we all know, what follows on from the US...us.

The printer system they've chosen as their starter is called Cube. They're quite snazzy looking, compact and will fit on your desk, next to your other, now more pathetic-looking printer. Oh and they come in a range of colours so your printer can co-ordinate with you magenta office.

But one of the more important factors - they come basically ready to use, no cryptic mensa-level instruction manual just load up your materials, choose a template (there's 25 free and you can download more via wi-fi) and you'll be one terrifying step closer to printing out a helmet for your hoverboard.

They're capable of printing objects 14 x 14 x 14cm and you can choose from 16 colours.

Our questions remain - when will we see them in the UK?

And...what would you print first?

Read more here.

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Living in the future: A world without passwords

Remembering a list of increasingly demanding passwords is no small feat: bits of lowercase, bits of upper case, 6 numbers, maybe an underscore - quick what's your mothers middle name!? Who was the second cousin to your youngest child's pet hamster!? WRONG. ACCESS DENIED. The smooth running of our technology often depends on passwords, passcodes, passphrases and pins and with constant whispered threat of identity theft or fraud we're encouraged to make our passwords as complex and intricate as possible. Dan Brown's next book may very well be an esteemed professor attempting to access his varying internet accounts.

However scientists at Berkley have been experimenting with a way to forget passwords altogether, instead trialling 'pass thoughts'. And yes by pass thoughts they mean a computer reading your mind to check it's you.

How does it work?

The team at Berkley attached sensory headsets to test subjects, and asked them to perform simple tasks, they then recorded their brain waves patterns storing them as 'pass thoughts'. When they later tested the same subjects computers could recognise with 99% accuracy the people according to their brain waves.

Obviously pass thought tech still remains at quite a conceptual level at least in terms of mass production, but fascinating to think that eventually just thinking will grant you access to your email or your bank account. Could this mean mind hacking will soon be a punishable offence? Could it mean completely contactless technology: no clicking or typing or tapping required? We will wait and see.

 

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Living in the future: Benetton's Mannequins

Technology has a way of sneakily wiring itself into your life (metaphorically of course - as if anyone uses wires anymore - jeez!) - before you know it you're walking round the streets guided by instructions from a little box held in your hand, or it's telling you when to wake up, or how to work out, or what to eat, or it's your mums birthday. In fact we spend more time looking at screens than each other. Quick, go look at a person!

In fact the 'future' has a way of creeping up on us and, without getting into any sort of time philosophy, we seem to end up living in it without realising what on earth happened - like waking up after a night out, and not really understanding who you are or what's going on.

So we're starting a regular feature called 'living in the future' which will catalogue the new technology that's bumping us a little closer towards having pet robots and predicting crime before it happens. This way when Skynet finally takes over and we find ourselves plugged into a matrix ruled by robotic overlords we have a blog that's essentially one big 'I told you so'.

To start it off this week is clothes store Benetton and their slightly 1984 mannequins...

Source: Mashable.

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