Five years in development, Walt Disney's new interactive tour guide Pal Mickey operates off of an infrared wireless network that transmits information in order to help it triangulate its location and speak the appropriate audio message. (The receiver is in Mickey's nose.) The choice of infrared may seem surprising, given the need for line of sight and difficulties coping with direct sunlight (think crowded theme park in the Sunshine State). But Leslie Hartog, project manager for Pal Mickey, says that the entertainment giant is using a new, patent-pending outdoor infrared technology developed by its own engineers. "Even in bright sunlight, the technology is powerful enough that the toy will pick up the signals," explains Hartog. "Also, they bounce off of things like concrete and clothing." She says that Disney engineers actually preferred to use infrared over radio because of the greater accuracy and short transmission distances. The signals consist of mainly simple codes, with Pal Mickey having most of the smarts. In fact, it's programmed to speak some 700 different messages. As for delivering customized messages or using Pal Mickey to perform true traffic control in the park, though, Product Developer Kyle Poor says that's not in the plans—just yet.
From home enthusiasts to workers on the manufacturing floor, everyone's imagination is captured by the potential of 3D printing. Prototyping, spare parts creation, art delivery, human organ creation, and even mass product production are all being targeted as current and potential uses for the technology.
ABI Research, a firm based in the UK that specializes in analyzing global connectivity and other emerging technologies, estimates there will be 40.9 billion active wirelessly interconnected “things” by 2020. The driving force is the usual suspect: the Internet of Things.
Just in time for Earth Day, chemicals leader Bayer MaterialScience reported from the UTECH Europe 2015 polyurethane show on programs and applications using its materials to help reduce energy usage. The company also gave an update on its CO2-based PU as that eco-friendly material comes closer to production.
Solar and wind energy are becoming more viable as a source of energy on the electric grid. For decades, the major drawback to solar and wind was that they’re temperamental. A cloudy day kills solar and a still day renders the wind turbines useless. Automation tools, however, are providing a path to help these renewables become practical.
In honor of Earth Day, the National Security Agency has launched the STEM Recycling Challenge in Maryland schools to encourage kids to think about where the garbage they throw out every day actually goes. The agency has also introduced “Dunk,” a muscular blue cartoon recycling bin wearing shorts and sneakers.
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