Thursday, July 10, 2008

Volkswagen Shows Us Cars From the Future [Ego]


Volkswagen thinks they know what cars from 2028 will looks like (which is probably fair, since they can basically make the whole thing one big self-fulfilling prophecy). Still, it's exciting to see the designs. The one pictured here is Ego. It's a sporty two-seater without a front window (no, not because people in the future can see with their minds, but because it will be loaded with all sorts of cameras and sensors that are better than a window).

If you hop over to their site, you'll see how the display works to combine information from cameras, lasers, ultrasound and radar to warn you of upcoming problems on the road. The HUD is really not so dissimilar from modern day racing games.

Other touted features include intelligent navigation that borders on autopilot, but that's only if you're clever enough to get into a car with no door handles. For the full experience of 20 years in the future, head on over to the VW link (or, for the extremely patient, just wait 20 years). [VW via Yanko]


V12 Design Delivering Dual Touchscreen Laptop Within Two Years [Laptops]


It looks as though an Italian company named V12 Design might beat the OLPC's XO-2 laptop to the dual touchscreen punch with their dual LCD laptop called the Canova. According to Laptopmag, V12 developed its design four years ago and is currently working on a second generation version with a US manufacturer. The plan is to have the device on the market within 16 months.

An interview with Valerio Cometti, the founder and managing director of V12 Design, confirmed that the upcoming version would support multitouch input and that a microphone would be built into the design for voice commands. Unfortunately, the image pictured above is the first gen version and no images of the current Canova design have been released. However, if they are on target with their prediction, we could have one in our hands by 2010. [V12 Design via Laptop Mag]


Hiperspace Is the World's Highest Resolution Display [HIPerSpace]


A few weeks ago we brought you news about the Hyperwall-2 which was developed by NASA and dubbed the "world's highest resolution visualization system." However, it appears that that title has already fallen to the Hiperspace, or the "Highly Interactive Parallelized Display Space project" developed by UC San Diego. According to the press release, the display features nearly 287 million pixels of screen resolution—surpassing Hyperwall-2's record by about 10%. It is also about 30% bigger than the original Hiperspace Wall developed in 2006 at 31.8 feet wide and 7.5 feet tall.

The expanded system features "70 high-resolution Dell 30" displays, arranged in 14 columns of five displays each. Each 'tile' has a resolution of 2,560 by 1,600 pixels—bringing the combined, visible resolution to 35,640 by 8,000 pixels, or more than 286.7 million pixels in all." To power this beast, the system utilizes 18 Dell XPS 710/720 computers with Intel quad-core CPUs and dual Nvidia FX5600 GPUs. All in all we are talking about 100 processor cores and 38 GPUs cranking out 20 teraflops of peak processing power and 10 terabytes of storage (which increases due to the on and off campus OptIPuter infrastructure). Now, that is a geek orgasm.

Hiperspace is already being used for a wide array of research applications including seismic activity models, climate-change predictions, the structure of the human brain. The full details are available in the press release below.

UCSD News Release

July 9, 2008

UC San Diego Unveils World's Highest-Resolution Scientific Display System

Calit2 Also Relea! ses New Version of CGLX Cluster Visualization Framework

As the size of complex scientific data sets grows exponentially, so does the need for scientists to explore the data visually and collaboratively in ultra-high resolution environments. To that end, the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) has unveiled the highest-resolution display system for scientific visualization in the world at the University of California, San Diego.

The Highly Interactive Parallelized Display Space (HIPerSpace) features nearly 287 million pixels of screen resolution - more than one active pixel for every U.S. citizen, based on the 2000 Census.

The HIPerSpace is more than 10 percent bigger (in terms of pixels) than the second-largest display in the world, constructed recently at the NASA Ames Research Center. That 256-million-pixel system, known as the hyperwall-2, was developed by the NASA Advanced Supercomputing Division at Ames , with support from Colfax International.

The expanded display at Calit2 is 30 percent bigger than the first HIPerSpace wall at UCSD, built in 2006. That system was moved to a larger location in Atkinson Hall, the Calit2 building at UCSD, where it was expanded by 66 million pixels to take advantage of the new space. The system was used officially for the first time on June 16 to demonstrate applications for a delegation from the National Geographic Society.

"Amazingly it took our team less than a day to tear down the original wall, relocate and expand it," said Falko Kuester, principal investigator of the HIPerSpace system. "The higher resolution display takes us more than half-way to our ultimate goal of building a half-billion-pixel tiled display system to give researchers an unprecedented ability to look broadly at large data sets while also zooming in to the tiniest details."

Kuester is the Calit2 Professor of Visualization and Virtual Reality, and associate professor in the Jacobs School of Engineering's departments of ! Structur al Engineering as well as Computer Science and Engineering. He also leads the Graphics, Visualization and Virtual Reality Lab (GRAVITY), which is developing the HIPerSpace technology.

Calit2's expanded HIPerSpace is an ultra-scale visualization environment developed on a multi-tile paradigm. The system features 70 high-resolution Dell 30" displays, arranged in fourteen columns of five displays each. Each 'tile' has a resolution of 2,560 by 1,600 pixels - bringing the combined, visible resolution to 35,640 by 8,000 pixels, or more than 286.7 million pixels in all. "By using larger, high-resolution tiles, we also have minimized the amount of space taken up by the frames, or bezels, of each display," said Kuester. "Bezels will eventually disappear, but until then, we can reduce their distraction by keeping the highest possible ratio of screen area to each tile's bezel." Including the pixels hidden behind the bevels of each display, which give the "French door" appearance, the effective total image size is 348 million pixels.

At 31.8 feet wide and 7.5 feet tall (9.7m x 2.3m), the HIPerSpace is already being used by a wide range of research groups at UC San Diego, which want to be able to view their largest data sets while also drilling down to the smallest elements on the same screen. A team from the Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archaeology (CISA3) went to Florence to laser-scan the main hall of the Palazzo Vecchio, and the center's researchers at Calit2 can now manipulate the computer model, depicting all 2.5 billion data points and explore the space in real time. Other scientists model the impact of seismic activity on structures, climate-change predictions, the structure of the human brain, to name a few such applications.

In order to run simulations and explore data interactively, the developers of the HIPerSpace have built into the environment a large computer and graphics processing cluster. The wall is powered by 18 Dell XPS 710/720 computers with ! Intel qu ad-core central processing units (CPUs) and dual nVIDIA FX5600 graphics processing units (GPUs). A head node and six streaming nodes complete the hardware pool for a total of 100 processor cores and 38 GPUs. Thus the HIPerSpace system offers roughly 20 teraflops of peak processing power and 10 terabytes of storage, but its access to computing and storage capacity increases dramatically because the wall is an integral part of the National Science Foundation-funded OptIPuter infrastructure on, and beyond, the UCSD campus, including the so-called "OptIPortal" tiled display systems (some with as few as four tiles) that are the primary end-point for scientists using the infrastructure.

"The HIPerSpace is the largest OptIPortal in the world," said Calit2 Director Larry Smarr, a pioneer of supercomputing applications and principal investigator on the OptIPuter project. "The wall is connected by high-performance optical networking to the remote OptIPortals worldwide, as well as all of the compute and storage resources in the OptIPuter infrastructure, creating the basis for an OptIPlanet Collaboratory."

"We have full access to the OptIPuter resources, which drastically increase the CPUs, GPUs and storage at our disposal," added Kuester. "Nodes are interconnected via a dedicated gigabit subnet and tied into the OptIPuter fabric with a 10 Gigabits-per-second [Gbps] uplink."

In addition to 10Gbps connectivity to resources at nine locations on the UCSD campus, including Calit2 and the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), the OptIPuter provides the HIPerSpace system with up to 2Gbps in dedicated fiber connectivity with its precursor HIPerWall at Calit2 on the UC Irvine campus (and its roughly 205 million pixels). As a result, scientists can gather simultaneously in front of the walls in San Diego and Irvine and explore, analyze and collaborate in unison while viewing real-time, rendered graphics of large data sets, video streams and telepresence videoconferencing across nearly half a billion pix! els.

HIPerSpace is serving as a visual analytics research space with applications in Earth systems science, chemistry, astrophysics, medicine, forensics, art and archaeology, while enabling fundamental work in computer graphics, visualization, networking, data compression, streaming and human-computer interaction.

In particular, HIPerSpace is a research testbed for visualization frameworks needed for massive resolution digital wallpaper displays of the near future that will leverage bezel-free tiles and provide uninterrupted visual content.

Release of CGLX Version 1.2.1

The most notable of these frameworks is the Cross-Platform Cluster Graphics Library (CGLX), which introduces a new approach to high-performance hardware accelerated visualization on ultra-high-resolution display systems. It provides a cluster management framework, a development API as well as a selected set of cluster-ready applications. Coinciding with the launch of the expanded HIPerSpace system, Calit2 today announced the official release of CGLX version 1.2.1, available for downloading at . "There is no reason why you need to start from scratch every time you want to program an application for a visualization cluster," said CGLX developer Kai-Uwe Doerr, project scientist in Kuester's lab. "CGLX was developed to enable everybody to write real-time graphics applications for visualization clusters. The framework takes care of networking, event handling, access to hardware-accelerated rendering, and some other things. Users can focus on writing their applications as if they were writing them for a single desktop."

With the emergence of OptIPortal technology, ultra-high resolution multi-tile display environments are no longer limited to a few select research facilities with highly specialized research teams supporting them. As a result, an intuitive yet powerful development framework is needed that supports fundamental research while enabling experts as well as novice users to utilize th! ese syst ems. From a high-level view, CGLX creates a distributed, parallel graphics context and manages its state and events transparently - allowing the user to focus on content and context rather than how render nodes and displays are combined to show the final visual. CGLX enables OpenGL programs, developed for a single workstation, to be executed on a large-scale tiled visualization grid with minimal or no changes to the original code. The distributed nature of the framework supports and encourages the development of programs to generate visual analytics infrastructures, which enable researchers to collaboratively view, interrogate, correlate and manipulate data in real time with visual resolutions well beyond a single workstation. Key features of the framework include:

- Cross-platform, hardware-accelerated rendering (UNIX and Mac OSX support);

- Synchronized, multilayer OpenGL context support;

- Distributed event management; and

- Scalable multi-display support.

Applications using CGLX include a real-time viewer for gigapixel images and image collections, video playback, video streaming, and visualization of multi-dimensional models. The CGLX framework is already used by nearly all 90 megapixel-plus OptIPortals worldwide, and it is available for Linux (Fedora, RedHat, Suse), Rocks Cluster Systems (bundled in the hiperroll), and Mac OSX (leopard, tiger for ppc and Intel). CGLX is so flexible that it can even be scaled down to run on a commodity laptop. "With CGLX," explained Falko Kuester, "researchers can finally focus on solving demanding visualization and data analysis challenges on next-generation visual analytics cyberinfrastructure."

More than 800,000 frames from the Spitzer Space Telescope were stitched together to make this portrait of dust and stars radiating in the inner Milky Way. An application developed for the HIPerSpace wall allows Calit2 to display this and other large data sets locally while connecting to remote storage clusters.

Two researche! rs in Ku ester's lab - Kevin Ponto and So Yamaoka - are developing visual analytics techniques to display gigapixel imagery at interactive (real-time) speeds on ultra-high resolution displays, notably the HIPerSpace wall. In a forthcoming publication, Ponto and Yamaoka demonstrate an application they developed on top of CGLX for use on the HIPerSpace wall. It uses OptIPuter networking to connect to remote storage clusters hosting target data sets, including the Spitzer Space Telescope Survey (for which each image of the inner Milky Way is 24,752 by 13,520 pixels), and NASA's Blue Marble visualizations of the Earth at monthly intervals (86.4 million x 43.2 million pixels).

"These ultra-scale visualization techniques load data adaptively and progressively from network attached storage, requiring only a small local memory footprint on each display node, while avoiding data replication," explained graduate-student Ponto. "All data is effectively loaded on demand in accordance with the locally available display resources." Added fellow Computer Science and Engineering Ph.D. student Yamaoka: "A render node driving a single four-megapixel display, for example, will only fetch the data needed to fill that display at any given point in time. If the viewing position is updated, the needed data is again fetched, on demand."


Armchair UAV Pilots Striking Afghanistan in Las Vegas, Taco Bell Fueled Comfort [UAVs]


We all know about how the military is utilizing UAV's in an ever increasing amount of missions. And why not? Unmanned aircraft represent a safer and more cost efficient approach to aerial combat. However, we rarely get to see what it is like on the other side of these aircraft—to see the job through the eyes of a UAV pilot. Apparently, it's much like any other job—except you get to kill things in Afghanistan from the air-conditioned Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.

In an interview with CNN, Captain Matt Dean noted that "Seeing bad guys on the screen and watching them possibly get dispatched, and then going down to the Taco Bell for lunch, it's kind of surreal." In fact, their entire workday is fairly normal with shifts that rotate around the clock to prevent fatigue. Seems pretty cushy...if blowing terrorists up doesn't make you lose your appetite for the cheesy gordita crunch, that is. [CNN]


Kodak Zi6 Might Be Best Pocket Camcorder Yet [Camcorders]


Kodak's first entry into the pocket camcorder pool, the Zi6, may be the new king of cams. My lab assistants and I have done more scientific research in the field of cheap-ass camcorders than anyone we can name off the top of our heads. In my expert opinion, this is a winner, ready to unseat Pure Digital's original Flip Ultra. Why? 720p HD video!

Yes, the camera captures video in 60fps 720p HD, the highest quality of any pocket cam so far, and it looked great when I saw it projected on a 40" flat-panel TV. The Zi6 also shoots stills and lower quality VGA video for wannabe YouTubers. Its SDHC slot supports cards up to 32GB—if you can find one—and my favorite sleeper feature is its ability to shoot well in macro focus mode.

It's thicker than the Flip, more like the RCA Small Wonder EZ210, so it has a more sturdy feel. It runs on rechargeable Ni-MH AAs and will also take regular AAs, but I'm told that standard batteries won't last as long. That all makes me skeptical of the battery life altogether.

The unit is $180, the same price as the new Flip Mino, and it has much more functionality, and so far a better look and feel. Mark me down for one of these (in black, not pink, pictured below) when they arrive in September, so I can round up some lab assistants and put it through the paces.

Here's the press release:

Zi6 Pocket Video Camera Unveiled, Boasting HD Video Capture and Instant Uploading to YouTube™

ROCHESTER, NY, July 10 — Eastman Kodak Company (NYSE:EK) today announced its entry into the fast-growing pocket digital video camera market with the KODAK Zi6 Pocket Video Camera. This stylish HD video camera! makes i t fun and simple to shoot and share high-quality videos in moments, thanks to 720p HD video capture, a large 2.4-inch LCD screen, and easy-to-use software.

"Today's connected consumers increasingly turn to video to express themselves and connect with others. The KODAK Zi6 Pocket Video Camera satisfies their thirst for an HD video camera that is simple to use and can go anywhere life takes them," said John Blake, General Manager Digital Capture and Devices, Vice President, Eastman Kodak Company. "With the launch of the Zi6 Pocket Video Camera, consumers now have a high-quality solution from the trusted brand in digital imaging."

With the exploding popularity of video sharing sites such as YouTube, the demand for easy to use video devices is also growing rapidly. At the same time, the expanding penetration of HDTVs is driving consumer demand for HD quality personal content.

The KODAK Zi6 Pocket Video Camera is designed to meet these needs at the touch of a button — no lens cap, dials to turn or settings to adjust.

A range of advanced features enables consumers to:

Capture video in HD quality on this fun and super simple pocket video camera (720p at 60 fps with 16:9 aspect ratio).
Upload your videos to YouTube quickly and easily using the built-in USB and software.
Record hours of video with the expandable SD/SDHC card slot that can hold up to 32 GB.
Experience your videos on HDTV in stunning HD quality with included cables.
Edit videos, add pictures and music, and share your creation anywhere with the included video software CD.
Go green with included pre-charged AA Ni-MH rechargeable batteries and battery charger.
Watch videos on the vibrant 2.4" LCD screen.
Catch the highlights with slow motion playback right in the palm of your hand.

Uploading to YouTube
YouTube is the world's most popular online video community. The Kodak and YouTube relationship will enable consumers to quickly and easily upload videos to You! Tube dir ectly from the Zi6 Pocket Video Camera, or from the included simple and powerful video editing software (ARCSOFT MEDIAIMPRESSIONS for Kodak).

A range of accessories will be available for the KODAK Zi6 Pocket Video Camera:

KODAK 2GB and 4GB High Performance memory cards
1-hour battery charger with 4 AA pre-charged Ni-MH batteries
KODAK tripods
KODAK camera bags

Pricing and Availability
The KODAK Zi6 Pocket Video Camera will be available from late September 2008, retailing for US$179.95 MSRP.



Samsung's $280 SC-MX20 camcorder is YouTube-friendly


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We won't fault you for forgetting all about Samsung's SC-MX20 -- after all, it was crammed deep beneath a host of other Sammy camcorders when announced at CES earlier this year. Nevertheless, we've received a few more vital details about said shooter today, and aside from boasting a 680K pixel CCD sensor (720 x 480 resolution), this one also features a 34x optical zoom, Advanced Image Stabilization, face detection, an SD / SDHC card slot, a battery good for three hours, a 2.7-inch LCD monitor (on a swivel, no less) and ten automatic scene modes for extra good times. Additionally, the unit packs a special shooting mode that captures in a resolution and format perfect for YouTube, so those terrified of converting will surely be breathing a sigh of relief. Expect this one to land next month in red, white, black and blue for a very manageable $279.99.

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Neuros-powered WhereverTV brings international channels to your TV


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Not only is this thing powered by Neuros, it even resembles the Neuros OSD. Announced today at the SINO Consumer Electronics Show, the brashly named WhereverTV acts as a liaison between your internet-connected PC and TV, delivering "hundreds of live international television channels in more than 40 languages from almost 100 countries around the world." The 5- x 5- x 1-inch box must be simultaneously connected to your router and TV, and once the tele is flipped on, you'll be able to browse, manage and stream scads of international TV channels from wherever you are in the world. Granted, we still prefer the flexibility of the ZvBox (which allows you to tap into all facets of internet video, not just one segment), but for just $199.99 with no activation or recurring charges (available now at Amazon), this could be just the thing for foreign television junkies or folks currently living outside of their homeland.
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