Category Archives: Technology

Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones as Binaural Microphones

My Sony smartphone has an unusual TRRRS (Tip-Ring-Ring-Ring-Seal) connector, allowing it to use very reasonably priced noise cancelling headphones that have an extra microphone in each earphone.

I found that the Sony app Sound Recorder allows selecting recording directly from these two microphones, and are great for binaural recording, and I gave it a go walking along a few busy streets. You can listen on YouTube and Soundcloud:

Open Bionics robotic hand for amputees

“A prototype 3D-printed robotic hand that can be made faster and more cheaply than current alternatives is this year’s UK winner of the James Dyson Award.” (BBC News link)

This is a fantastic idea, which has so much value to people without limbs. Bionic prosthetics can cost up to £100,000, and £30,000 for a single hand.

The 3D-printed robotic hand in the article costs £2,000, which is the same price as a prosthetic hook, and offers similar functionality to the top-of-the-range options.

The designer gets to develop his interest in creating a product, while helping the estimated 11 million people who are hand amputees worldwide.

Open Bionics

Project Tango and Visual-Inertial Localization

This project entitled “Large-Scale, Real-Time, Visual-Inertial Localization” is interesting, using Google’s experimental ‘Tango’ hardware to improve real-time tracking of location and position.

The hardware is a tablet computer with a motion tracking camera, a 4 megapixel 2µp pixel camera, integrated depth sensing and a high-performance processor. This equipment aids in tasks like scanning rooms. A limited number of kits were produced and given or sold to professional developers with the intent of making technological developments.

One day we may see more accurate and interesting augmented reality. I’ve often thought overlaying information onto our current reality would be interesting. Walking down a street and seeing for-sale signs could be interesting. It may just being overloaded in advertising, making a virtual eyesore though.


Get Out of My Lab: Large-scale, Real-Time Visual-Inertial Localization
Simon Lynen, Torsten Sattler, Michael Bosse, Joel Hesch, Marc Pollefeys and Roland Siegwart.
Autonomous Systems Lab, ETH Zurich
Computer Vision and Geometry Group, Department of Computer Science, ETH Zurich

Smart scanning technology detects early signs of potholes

Smart scanning technology detects early signs of potholesInteresting work by a team led by Nottingham Trent University on making a mobile scanner that can detect early signs of potholes. It uses conventional cameras, 3D scanners and computer vision to detect ‘ravelling’. Moving this around at traffic speed mounted to a vehicle, and combining it with GPS and a suitable logging system, it could be used to improve road conditions.

Researchers are developing smart scanning technology using existing cameras to detect the early signs of potholes and determine their severity.

The technology, developed by a team led by Nottingham Trent University research fellow Dr Senthan Mathavan, scans roads for ravelling – the loss of aggregates from the asphalt which leads to potholes and cracks.

Ravelling - an early indication of potholes
Ravelling – an early indication of potholes – Source

Combined with 2D and 3D scanners on a pavement monitoring vehicle, a computer vision algorithm can examine the road with accuracy at traffic speed during day or night.

The system works by detecting different textures of the road to identify ravelling and distinguishes it from shadows and blemishes such as tire marks, oil spills and recent pothole repairs.

“It’s imperative for authorities across the world to be able to monitor road conditions efficiently and safely,” said Dr Mathavan, a research fellow of the School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment.

“For the first time, academic research has addressed the issue of detecting ravelling in an automated way, which has led to the development of this novel software which can be used across the industry.”

The research was published today in Transportation Research Record, a leading academic journal for transportation infrastructure research. It also involves Dr Mujib Rahman of Brunel University, Martyn Stonecliffe-Jones of Dynatest UK Ltd, and Dr Khurram Kamal of the National University of Sciences and Technology in Pakistan.

During the research, the team found that the technology detected road surfaces correctly in all 900 images tested. It took approximately 0.65 seconds to 3D process the ravelling measurements, but it is believed that this could be reduced further.

potholeDr Rahman added: “Potholes, in their worst potential form, can create dangerous driving conditions and cause costly damage to vehicles.

“What this technology allows us to do is capture better quality information on road conditions, without disrupting the flow of traffic or incurring unnecessary costs.

“This could be a significant step forward in the way that potholes are managed, helping improve the timeliness and efficiency of repairs.”