The software may be the instrument, but at NIWeek, the hardware is the entertainer. Itís the hardware demos that help attract thousands of engineers to enjoy the 100 degree Texas heat. Software demos spark the mind, but the image of senior vice president of R&D Tim Dehne swinging a bat or test driving a virtual car while wearing a helmet prompt greater response.
Dehne demonstrated the performance of CompactDAQ by hitting a baseball. Using a bat equipped with an accelerometer, temperature and strain gauge sensors, he showed the 3 Msamples per second speed of the modular hardware without causing concern that he will be tested under baseballís steroid crackdown.
Another colorful demo showed NIís hardware in the loop testing capability. A compactRio-based antilock braking system was tied to a vehicle/road simulator. The vehicle skidded out during a turn made without the aid of the ABS hardware, courtesy of invisible black ice that was built into the program. When Dehne drove across the icy surface with the ABS unit enabled, the vehicle remained manageable until it stopped.
The hardware demos also included outsiders. Two recent grads from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute explained how they used NIís Graphical Design System concept to create a Human and Object Transport Vehicle thatís akin to the Segway People Mover.
The two created virtual sensors to test out the performance of the inclinometer and MEMS gyroscope that help keep the HOT-V upright as it travels. When they progressed to building hardware, they used the same software to run it through its paces. Reusing software let them focus on the higher level aspects of design, so finalizing the vehicleís operation required only three days.
Software reuse helped students develop the HOT-V during a single semester.
One way to keep a Formula One racing team moving at breakneck speed in the pit and at the test facility is to bring CAD drawings of the racing vehicleís parts down to the test facility and even out to the track.
Most of us would just as soon step on a cockroach rather than study it, but thatís just what researchers at UC Berkeley did in the pursuit of building small, nimble robots suitable for disaster-recovery and search-and-rescue missions.
Design engineers need to prepare for a future in which their electronic products will use not just one or two, but possibly many user interfaces that involve touch, vision, gestures, and even eye movements.
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