Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Fraunhofer

Fraunhofer has developed a solar-powered ski helmet-based communications system

It looks like the skiers’ communications systems from Buhel and Recon could soon be in for some solar-powered competition. Working with German tech company TEXSYS and the Technische Universität Berlin, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration have developed a communications module that can be integrated directly into a ski helmet. That module is powered by nothing but sunlight, and can be linked with the user’s mobile devices via a Bluetooth-enabled glove-based control unit.  Read More

An industrial robot has been modified to autonomously create pencil sketches of human subj...

Pity the poor industrial robot. It spends countless hours toiling away at mindless manual labor, never getting a chance to explore its creative side. Well, next month at the CeBIT digital technology trade show, one such robot will get the opportunity. When visitors to the Fraunhofer display take a seat on a provided stool, one of the company's industrial robots will create a pencil sketch of them, then hold up the finished product for everyone to see.  Read More

The pilot plant in Stuttgart that makes biogas out of waste from wholesale markets (Photo:...

Some readers might remember the Mr. Fusion unit in Back to the Future that Doc Brown fills with household garbage, including a banana peel and some beer, to power the iconic time-traveling DeLorean. While we're still some way from such direct means of running our cars on table scraps, researchers at Fraunhofer have developed a pilot plant that ferments the waste from wholesale fruit and veg markets, cafeterias and canteens to make methane, which can be used to power vehicles.  Read More

The Artguardian system monitors environmental conditions in galleries, to make sure that a...

While great works of art should be exhibited so the public can enjoy them, putting those pieces on display also puts them at risk. If environmental factors such as lighting intensity, temperature or humidity aren’t in the optimal range, for instance, works can prematurely deteriorate as a result. In order to minimize the risks, three of Germany’s Fraunhofer research institutes have collaborated to develop Artguardian, a system that monitors the conditions under which artworks are displayed.  Read More

A new nanosensor developed by Fraunhofer researchers could reduce the number of lab experi...

Animal testing is an area that elicits strong feelings on both sides of the argument for and against the practice. Supporters like the British Royal Society argue that virtually every medical breakthrough of the 20th century involved the use of animals in some way, while opponents say that it is not only cruel, but actually impedes medical progress by using misleading animal models. Whatever side of the argument researchers fall on, most would likely use an alternative to animal testing if it existed. And an alternative that reduces the need for animal testing is just what Fraunhofer researchers hope their new sensor nanoparticles will be.  Read More

Sleeves equipped with sensors have been developed to time the actions of factory workers, ...

In factories where products are mass-produced, it's extremely important to know how long the human workers take to perform certain tasks. This not only allows the pace of the assembly line to be set, but it also allows factory owners to identify time-wasting problems such as superfluous movements, overly frequent tool changes, or impractically-located components. Typically, workers are periodically timed by a stopwatch-wielding supervisor, or using a timer that they start and stop themselves. A new wearable time-keeping system, however, promises more accurate readings.  Read More

The dynamic luminous ceiling by Fraunhofer IAO recreates natural lighting conditions indoo...

The privilege of working under the open sky is reserved for just a few lucky professions. For the less fortunate majority, spending their working hours surrounded by gloomy office landscapes, the soothing sight of clouds drifting through the sky is unattainable. Setting up office cubicles in the open would do the trick but it's hardly a practical option, especially in places where the weather cannot be trusted. Fortunately, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering (IAO), based in Stuttgart, Germany, know what else can be done to bring a little outdoor comfort to the office-bound. They built a dynamic luminous ceiling which allows office dwellers to gaze at clouds without ever leaving their desks.  Read More

Creating a plastic bag as a bio-container using electrically-charged plasma (Photo: Fraunh...

The humble Petri dish may soon be a thing of the past. A team of researchers in Germany have developed a new technique for treating plastic bags with plasmas to turn them into sealed, sterile containers suitable for microbiology work with much less chance of contamination than traditional containers. This holds the promise of not only decreasing the possibility of contamination in stem cell and live-cell therapy techniques, but also the potential for cultivating whole human organs for transplant surgery.  Read More

The desCRY software solution uses complex algorithms to automatically scan and detect chil...

Surely one of the greatest fears of modern parents is that their child will fall prey to an online sexual predator. It's estimated that there are over 15 million photographs of child abuse victims in circulation online, and the very nature of the internet makes stemming the spread of such material a difficult and laborious task for criminal investigators. The development of an automated assistance system for image and video evaluation by Fraunhofer researchers is set to make that task a little easier, and a lot quicker. The desCRY software uses complex algorithms to determine if an image or video from a suspect's confiscated storage medium depicts child abuse, in a fraction of the time currently taken to manually trawl through the hundreds of thousands of files often stored on a typical computer's hard drive.  Read More

The eight-legged robot spider created by Fraunhofer researchers is made using a 3D printin...

When it comes to deciding on a form of locomotion for their creations, roboticists have plenty of options to choose from. While many go for the tried and tested tank-like tracks or wheels, nature is also a veritable treasure trove of inspiration. That's just where Fraunhofer researchers have turned with a new eight-legged robot modeled on the same principle that moves spider legs. Not only does the design give the spiderbot the agility and stability of real spiders when getting around on the ground, it also features special joints that allow it to jump.  Read More

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