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Offbeat demos open NI Week

Offbeat demos open NI Week

If growth at National Instruments' NI Week is any indicator, the recent concerns about the recovering U.S. economy can be put aside. Attendance is surpassing 2,500, up substantially from around 2,000 last year, while 130 companies set up shop on the exhibit floor. Both figures are huge jumps from the first NI Week in 1995, when 300 attendees and 17 exhibitors can to Austin, TX.

One reason for the growth is the diversity of applications that can use the tools. That leads to some unusual product demonstrations, sparking plenty of interest in the crowd. CompactRIO, a reconfigurable technology for control functions, starred in video clips, as well as in a live demo on a motorcycle. Videos showed CompactRIO taking measurements while strapped to a skydiver's back, as well as surviving what might be an engineer's dream for some equipment. The hardware kept working when it was tossed off an 8-story building.

In the opening session of new product introductions, CompactRIO was used to control the engine on a motorcycle being customized by Drivven. The motorcycle customization company replaced the bike's standard controls, using CompactRIO hardware to adjust the engine so it purred smoothly all the way up to 15,000 rpm.

To demonstrate the 650 Mbyte data transfer rate of PCI Express, speakers tossed CD-ROMs to each other while noting that each disk held 650 Mbytes. A somewhat more serious demonstration began when a dart was fired into a balloon. Then the data captured using PCI Express boards was slowed so attendees could see that dart's path through the water, as well as the way the water held its shape before falling down.

Another demonstration showed how NI systems could not only help tune a guitar, but could keep up while an NI engineer played "Smoke On The Water." NI's senior VP for R&D noted that he was taking orders for people who wanted "a $4,000 guitar tuner."

NI's CompactRIO controlled the engine on this motorcycle.
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