Tag Archives: wireless

Smart Dust: computers and people

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SMART DUST: People and computers living in perfect harmony?

COMPUTERS have advanced so splendidly in the past few years that electricians are now able to make micro-computers the size of pinheads. The proposed applications for computers of this size range from modifying the weather to controlling the electrical infrastructure of large cities. Of course, it is wise to be wary of anything that is powerful and to analyse critically the potential of such technology before it involuntarily becomes an integral part of our lives.

Smartdust

Dr Kristofer Pister demonstrating the size of smart dust particles (Images: newilluminati.blog-city.com)

Smart dust is one particular brand of microcomputers that has been hailed as a society-changing element that will greatly improve and change the way we live our daily lives. Devised by Dr Kristofer Pister from the University of California in 2001, smart dust is able to gather information from its surrounding environment and send this to people or other computers.

A smart dust particle or mote is a wireless sensor that has four basic functions — sensing, computation, communication and power — all built into one tiny package. With smart dust being so low powered and inexpensive, the idea is to spread it everywhere — in every building, on every street, in every electrical device and ultimately, in or on every human being.

What smart dust is able to do is create a large invisible network that, in theory, would be able to manage the infrastructure of even the largest city in the world. Streets and buildings would be able to recognise people and respond accordingly. Workplaces would recognise employees and buzz you into the building. Smart dust could even send a lift to your floor and boot up your PC.

Of course the major concern involves privacy. If all of this information about you is available and gathered by smart dust, who else has access to it? Smart dust would also allow certain people to know exactly where you are at all times and could quite easily turn on you and deny you freedom of movement and access. It may sound like something from a movie, but the amount of control that powerful people could have on the masses via smart dust is certainly something to be cautious of.

What is a good idea is having smart dust monitor our roadways and transport systems. Smart dust scattered on the roads would be able to report potholes and traffic jams to commuters, and smart dust on the railways would be able to accurately report late trains in an instant. Bridges coated in smart dust would be able to report stress fractures, helping to avoid collapse and prevent disaster.

Smartdust

The first smart dust particles created in 2001, which were about the size of a deck of playing cards.

But do we want such fabric dispersed everywhere? Smart dust may be evolving to the microscopic level, but it is by no means undeniably safe. Several news reports were released in the past decade about a similar substance known as global environmental sensors (GEMS) that had been released into the atmosphere to monitor weather conditions. There was very little thought given to these electrical particles being inhaled once they descended to Earth, nor any given to the fact that several micro-organisms could ingest smart dust and die as a result.

It almost seems worth having to boot up your work PC manually and save a termite population in the process.

The reality of the virtual – part I

As computer-processing power increases and even more realistic graphics are developed, the simulated environments produced by virtual reality systems will become even more believable than some already are.

I’ve always believed that, besides war, gaming (more generally – the entertainment industry) brings about the most innovative technological developments. In fact, the technology developed from military uses of virtual reality is finding application in several walks of life. For example:

  • Medical students are now operating on virtual patients rather than dissecting real, organic-smelling people
  • Architects are taking people on virtual tours of their dream home before finalising the design
  • I won’t even mention that heights that virtual reality gaming has reached
  • Business people are attending conferences and social events without having to board a plane
  • Chat rooms today mean much more than just email notice boards, which were all the rage a few years back
  • In this day and age consumers are even able to shop in 3D stores from the comfort of their armchair or beanbag

Twenty years ago few imagined that personal computers would soon be found in almost every home, classroom and office. In twenty years time, virtual reality may be just as central to our lives. Immersing ourselves in a virtual environment of our choice may become as commonplace as turning on the old television.

I’ve always had an interest in virtual reality. I wanted to know more about it. So I searched the interwebs to see what’s currently available on the market. Here are the cheapest and most expensive (i.e. most advanced) stuffs I came across:

The VisionDome
The VisionDome volume 5At the cutting edge of vitual reality – the VisionDome is a kind of half egg-shell that up to 45 people can sit/stand in and watch some pretty intense television, or lose themselves in some very life-like games.

At 5-meters in diameter, the V5 (the latest in the VisionDome family) provides a massive screen area and comfortable seating to give larger audiences a truly immersive and incredible experience.

It boasts a maximum resolution of 2048×1536 mega pixels, has 6 projector or lens options, and has a maximum output of 8000 ANSI Lumens. You would think that no one can live at that speed, which is why it sells for around
$345 500 (roughly R2 764 000).

3D GLASSES: What all the cool geeks are wearing
3D glasses possibly lie more within a South African’s budget. In the past decade, virtual reality glasses have improved in quality and become much lighter and cheaper thanks to the advancement of virtual reality technology and software.

Wireless options allow you to roam the room with your headset on, and almost all units plug into computers, DVDs and TVs. The option for a Stereo 3D input is also now available with Apple’s latest in the line of Intel Xenon driven processors.
Stylish
Change the way you see the world… and look pretty stylish too

Stereo 3D is just one step into the world of virtual reality. When connected to a video source with the correct software, amazing entertainment and good times in your living room are to be had by all.

As Fate would have it, it is estimated that this market will probably first be driven by adult entertainment (i.e. porn), then enhanced video games, then the major film industry.

E-DTM 3-D
Here’s a pair of 3D specs that I thought sounded rather appealing (exerpt taken from www.edimentional .com):

The E-DTM 3-D glasses instantly convert virtually all of your existing PC video game titles into true 3D. That means a real sense of depth and distance as you’re taking aim at the enemy battalion approaching, trying to find the apex of the next turn, or coming in for a carrier landing in your F-14. It’s why so many customers report improved game play performance when using our glasses in addition to stunning scenery and visuals

Note for interested buyers:
When researching a good pair of 3D goggles, make sure you know the difference between goggles that only enlarge a TV image and ones that actually provide a true 3D view. While more expensive models incorporate 3D technology, the basic models only enhance the viewing area to the size of a super-large television screen.

•Next time we will take a look at stereoscopic displays and haptics (force feedback devices). These are those appendages such as the cyber-glove, that take one’s virtual experience that much closer to reality.

See also: The reality of the virtual part II

Related posts:
The reality of the vitual
Experience the Internet in 3D
Too hot to handle: Future gaming and PC’s