Researchers Design Bio-Bot Able To Move On Its Own


Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a so-called “bio-bot,” a 3D printed, 7-mm long biological machine. Made with hydrogel and rat heart cells, it can walk on its own. The project aims to imitate nature to create more efficient robots that have a variety of applications.

“The idea is that, by being able to design with biological structures, we can harness the power of cells and nature to address challenges facing society,” said Rashid Bashir, the project’s lead researcher. “As engineers, we’ve always built things with hard materials, materials that are very predictable. Yet there are a lot of applications where nature solves a problem in such an elegant way. Can we replicate some of that if we can understand how to put things together with cells?”

The robot has a long thin leg covered with rat heart cells, that rests on another rigid supporting leg. To move, the heart cells beat, causing the leg to pulse, which in turn springs the rest of the body forward. This technology can potentially be applied to medical sensors and toxin clean ups.

Check out the video, above, to see the bio-bot in action.

Image courtesy of Elise A. Corbin, University of Illinois

Read more:

Updated Facebook Messenger Likes Smileys, Hearts And Other Emoji


Just over a day after updating its official iOS client with better speed and performance, Facebook has also updated Facebook Messenger with a number of improvements.

Facebook Messenger is the popular social networking site’s standalone messaging app optimized for iPhone. It lets you send messages to a select group of Facebook friends or start a private conversation with just one.

One clear advantage of using the app is that you get to have access to Facebook’s messaging capabilities on your iDevice as well as on your computer. Also, since it’s an app dedicated to messaging, said access is made easier than in the main Facebook iOS app.

To be sure, this most recent update to Facebook Messenger pales in comparison to the app’s last couple of updates. Through those updates, such useful enhancements as read receipts and in-app notifications were introduced to the app.

That is not to say, though, that this current update is by no means useful.

Aside from bringing the obligatory bug fixes and an improved “new message” sound, the new version of Facebook Messenger delivers several new features.

Facebook Messenger now supports the insertion of smileys, hearts, and other emoji in messages. Just tap the plus button to access the app’s collection of special symbols.

Also in the new version of Facebook Messenger, clicking your friend’s name at the top of your conversation lets you view his or her Facebook Timeline. As well, the app now allows you to see who’s active, letting you and your friends know how soon to expect a reply.

The new version of Facebook Messenger is available now in the App Store, and it’s free.

Let’s hope the next version of Facebook Messenger finally brings native iPad support and video chat, among others.

This article originally published at AppAdvice

Read more:

Invest in Big Data, Industry Urges Government


Agencies should appoint a single official to explore how new methods of data mining could enhance their mission and save costs, perhaps following the Federal Communications Commission’s model of a chief data officer, an industry group recommended Wednesday.

Officials also should consider appointing a federal chief data officer to assess the use of big data governmentwide, according to the report from the TechAmerica Foundation.

In addition, the data officer should examine barriers to big data analysis in government, such as overly complex regulations related to data privacy, the report’s authors said. This process should be aimed at developing uniform and understandable privacy regulations across government agencies not at lowering overall privacy protections, members of TechAmerica’s Federal Big Data Commission said when they introduced the report.

The commissioners also urged the Office of Management and Budget to create a formal career track focused on data analysis for information technology managers.

Big data analysis refers broadly to new computer systems that can collect, analyze and spot patterns in much larger collections of data than machines could process a decade ago. These systems usually link multiple machines inside a computer cloud and coordinate them to work as a single device tackling a single problem.

Government agencies have been using big data analytics, mostly aimed at spotting common fraud patterns, for several years to avoid issuing Medicare and tax payments to fraudsters. Technology leaders have speculated the government ultimately will rely heavily on big data to better target grant funds and deliver services.

Among the greatest barriers to wider adoption of big data in government are low data quality, such as spreadsheets riddled with typos and inconsistent naming conventions; poor information sharing between federal agencies; and too few employees capable of effectively analyzing vast amounts of data from disparate sources, commissioners said.

TechAmerica’s report also urged the government to partner with universities to encourage more students to develop data analysis skills and to organize federal internships for new data scientists to lure them into public service.

Once big data analysis systems are up and running, commissioners said, agencies are likely to recoup their upfront investments by limiting fraud and making programs more efficient.

“Waste, fraud and abuse is a big challenge,” said Steve Mills, senior vice president at IBM and co-chairman of the commission. “With the size of the federal government, you’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars annually across a whole range of activities. That can be retrieved and put to better use for those who are more deserving.”

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, DHuss

This article originally published at Nextgov

Read more:

Wikipedia Gets a Makeover. Should It Look More Like Google?


We all love Wikipediasome of us more than others.

But have you ever felt like it could do with a redesign? Something to make it look a little easier on the eye, with more white space — you know, more Google-ish?

That’s exactly what designers at a Lithuanian creative agency called New! set out to do. You can see the results here, at a site called Wikipedia Redefined — and in the gallery below.

This isn’t an officially sanctioned redesign, and there’s no word on whether the Wikimedia Foundation (owners of the nonprofit site) have shown any interest. We’d like to think so, though, as this version of the site seems a lot more user-friendly. Not to mention a lot more research-friendly: check out the quoting, highlighting and article-tabbing options.

Check out the screenshots, and let us know in the comments: would you prefer Wikipedia if it looked this way?

Indiegogo’s New Logo Will Now Feature Different User Campaigns


Indiegogo’s new logo includes images of the site’s campaigns, even on employee business cards.
Image: Indiegogo

Lots of companies claim they put their users first, but Indiegogo is trying to prove it.

The crowdfunding platform is changing its website design and logo to feature a different Indiegogo campaign each time someone visits the site.

The new logo, which was first revealed last week at an event in San Francisco, is an attempt to put users at the forefront, says Shannon Swallow, head of marketing and communications at Indiegogo.

All campaigns that have been completed on the site, regardless of whether or not they hit their funding goal, may appear within the logo, which features a hot pink color the company calls “gogenta.” When the logo is seen offline (for example, at company headquarters) the square will be empty.

The campaign photos even appear as part of the logo on employee business cards.

“We really believe the customer is such a [huge] part of our identity,” says Swallow. “We started looking at ‘how do we make that more integrated with our site, our vision, our identity and our logo?'”

The logo is part of a much bigger rebrand that includes a completely redesigned webpage. The new look is more visual and less text-heavy than the site’s old look. It will appear, in near entirety, on Indiegogo’s mobile and tablet versions of the site as well. (Some text-heavy pages, like the consumer dashboard, will be optimized during a future update.)

Indiegogo Old

The old Indiegogo web page.

Image: Indiegogo

Indiegogo Homepage 1

The new Indiegogo web page.

Image: Indiegogo

Indiegogo began the rebranding process last summer, which involved all of the company’s leadership team, according to Swallow. Indiegogo has added a handful of new executives in the past 12 months, and it seemed best to reevaluate the company vision and logo with input from everyone on board.

The new website will be available to 10% of Indiegogo users starting on Tuesday. The company will roll out the new look to the rest of its users over the next two months.

window._msla=window.loadScriptAsync||function(src,id){if(document.getElementById(id))return;var js=document.createElement(‘script’);;js.src=src;document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0].parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);};

Read more:

Codeacademy Releases Free Ruby Development Courses


Codecademy is expanding its catalogue of free, interactive programming tutorials with the launch of five Ruby courses.

The New York-based startup has also brought its Python track out of beta and added two new courses on top of the original six it released this summer.

In response to user feedback about its Python program, Codecademy has also “entirely rebuilt” its site architecture for backend courses, co-founder Zach Sims told Mashable in an e-mail. Site visitors should find things faster and more reliable going forward, Sims said.

In addition to Python and Ruby, Codecademy also offers a few hundred user-created exercises in HTML, CSS, JavaScript and jQuery. All told, more than 100 million tutorials have been completed by millions of users.

Read more:

A 3D Printer Could Be Your Future Tattoo Artist

Ink junkies, take note— a machine could create your future tattoos.

Three French design students modified a MakerBot 3D printer to administer tattoos. One lucky volunteer is now the proud bearer of the world’s first 3D-printed tattoo — a perfect circle on his forearm.

Pierre Emm, Piotr Widelka and Johan Da Silveira modified the printer as part of a challenge from France’s Cultural Ministry and hosted through design school ENSCI Les Ateliers. For the challenge, the students had eight hours to create a project that remixes images, videos and sounds found in the public domain.

Though the original project used only a pen to create a temporary tattoo, the students worked in their spare time to create a printer that would create permanent tattoos.

The trio tested their machine using artificial skin before finding a volunteer and using a Scooter inner tube to the hold the skin taut.

A tutorial detailing the building process can be found online at Instructables.

Read more:

Data Analysis of David Bowie’s Career Expressed in ‘Sonifications’


David Bowie is the king of musical reinvention. For more than 40 years, he’s created a collection of music that is difficult to pigeon-hole.

Composer Alexis Kirke and electronic music pioneer Martyn Ware came together to analyze the data of Bowie’s shape-shifting oeuvre. They created musical sonifications — audio displays of non-sound data, such as heart rate monitors — from the data to gain a greater understanding of one of the music industry’s greatest chameleons.

Kirke and Ware searched for patterns in Bowie’s album sales and lyrics to translate them into music. They sifted through numerical data and did statistical analyses of elements, such as emotional content of lyrics and the usage of major and minor keys, to determine how the singer’s music has transformed emotionally over time.

The pair used a scientific database to search for positive and negative words in the lyrics, then expressed them through a hyperspeed piano. Kirke explained to Wired magazine:

The resulting music is almost textural in its effect — a little like “Flight of the Bumble Bee” for a robotic pianist! As the lyrics become more positive the pitch rises higher and higher, capturing the cycles of positivity.

Bowie’s international album sales data was translated into a electronic piece of music, with the pitch rising and falling in relation to the highs and lows of Ziggy Stardust’s career.

When listening to the sonification, Kirke insists you can hear and understand what represents the peak in sales, which is “an almost painfully high pitch,” while the lowest notes “make one cringe a little bit because of what they represent.”

The duo created the project as part of the Victoria and Albert’s latest exhibition, “David Bowie Is.”

Image via Alex Livesey/Getty Images

This article originally published at PSFK

Read more:

Magnetic ‘Micro-Robots’ Could Lead to Tiny Automated Factories


Robots assemble Porsche Macan cars in Leipzig, Germany, on Feb. 11, 2014.
Image: Jens Meyer/Associated Press

Remember those old electric football games that used a vibrating tabletop surface to send teams of tiny NFL players scrambling around the field?

Well, researchers at SRI International are developing a super-miniaturized, high-tech variation on the theme in which tiny worker robots shimmy around a circuit board in a micro assembly plant. The ‘bots are guided by magnets underneath the surface, and work in sync to assemble electronic parts and small mechanical systems.

The Diamagnetic Micro Manipulation (DM3) system uses magnets under the circuit board to guide the tick-sized robots in precise patterns. Because of their small mass, the bots can move very quickly and in the demo video below they appear to jump like fleas.

As with so many other things in life, cooperation is key. The circuit board is designed so that each tiny bot works in absolute synchronization with all the other bots — movements are precise down the the microsecond. The prototype system uses only a handful of microbots, but the idea is to scale the system up to employ thousands of mechanized blue-collar workers.

The DM3 concept is part of the DARPA Open Manufacturing program, which encourages lateral thinking in the manufacturing process. “Our vision is to enable an assembly head containing thousands of micro-robots to manufacture high-quality macro-scale products while providing millimeter-scale structural control,” according to the SRI project page.

The system has several potential applications, according to SRI. These include non-silicon-based electronics, prototyping of high-quality parts and — rather ominously — “tissue manufacturing.”

No word yet on the inevitable union issues, but it’s only a matter of time before the mechanical proletariat learn about collective bargaining.

This article originally published at Discovery News

Read more:

MeMini Is a Wearable Camera That Captures Moments After They Happen

Video can capture priceless moments — but not if you miss the shot.

meMINI is a wearable Wi-Fi-enabled camera with recall, which helps users save film-worthy moments in high-definition video after they’ve already come and gone.

Looping footage is captured every five seconds to five minutes. To permanently store the last recorded moment, users can press the recall button to transfer a file to cloud-based storage or the camera’s internal memory. The meMINI can loop video for three continuous hours on a full charge.

What’s more, users can attach the camera to their clothing via its magnetic back plates; this allows them to easily take it on the go.

An app compatible with iOS and Android can control the camera, the footage and how video is stored. It also lets users share moments they’ve recorded via email, social media or with the meMINI community.

meMINI co-developers Ben Bodley and Sam Lee are raising money for the device on Kickstarter. At press time, the device has already surpassed its original funding goal of $50,000.

“Technology changes—our memories should last forever,” the camera’s Kickstarter video explains. “Imagine if there was a device that captured our favorite moments that would otherwise be lost.”

Image: meMINI

Read more: