face on my cellphone
The widespread availability of digital photography thanks to camera-equipped
cellphones opens the door to all manner of humor and hijinks. Aiding and
abetting wouldbe digital jokesters is software
that allows users to transform photographs of faces into animated 3D models.
The software, developed by researchers from Ericsson subsidiary
Ericsson Nikola Tesla, Kate-Kom d.o.o. and Zagreb University in Croatia,
allows people to send each other short animated clips featuring talking
heads complete with audio messages produced with speech synthesis technology.
For example, you could take a friend's picture, convert the image of his
face into a 3D model, type in embarrassing or humorous phrases, and send
the resulting animation clip to his girlfriend. This type of image capture
and animation technology has been around for years in laboratories. The
researchers fit the software on cellphones and created an easy-to-use
(LiveMail: Personalized Avatars for Mobile Entertainment, presented
at Mobile Systems, Applications and Services (MobiSys) 2005, Seattle,
Washington, June 6-8, 2005)
All plastic radio ID tags
One of the promises -- and perils -- of radio frequency identification
(RFID) tags is that when the chips can be made cheaply enough, anyone,
including manufacturers and governments will be able to tag, and therefore
track, everything under the sun.
Key to making them cheaply is making them entirely of plastic.
Researchers from Belgian microelectronics research laboratory IMEC and
the Catholic University at Leuven in Belgium have built a high-speed organic
diode that could be the last piece of the puzzle.
RFID tags don't require a power source. They are activated when
a tag reader hits them with radiowaves; the radiowaves provide the power
the tags need to transmit a signal back to the reader. Plastic transistors
are fast enough to carry out the task of transmitting a tag's ID codes,
but the rectifier, which converts alternating current produced by the
reader's radio signal to the direct current needed by the tag's circuits,
is another matter. The researchers' organic diode rectifier -- at 50 megahertz
-- is fast enough to do so.
(50 MHz rectifier based on an organic diode, Nature Materials,
DNA and electricity
The question of whether or not DNA molecules conduct electricity
has been the subject of a hot debate stoked by conflicting experimental
results. The tricky part of answering the question is it's extremely difficult
to connect individual molecules to circuit testers. Because of this, past
results have been all over the map.
Researchers from Hebrew University and the Weizmann Institute
of science in Israel have developed a more accurate test that shows that
conduct electricity. Key to the accuracy was a way to make the DNA
molecules stand up so that only one end was touching the surface, assuring
that nothing was interfering with or assisting the molecules' conductance.
The physics of how electricity moves through DNA remains an open question.
(Direct measurement of electrical transport through single DNA
molecules of complex sequence, Proceedings of the National Academy
Of Sciences, August 16, 2005)
Simpler nanotube circuits
Carbon nanotubes are the object of many a researcher's vision
for ultra miniaturized computer circuits. Among the many challenges to
making computer chips from nanotubes, however, has been finding a way
to connect millions of closely-packed nanotubes to metal electrodes to
Researchers from the University of California at San Diego and
Clemson University have sidestepped the problem by showing that Y-shaped
carbon nanotubes act as electrical switches all by themselves, removing
the need for the connections. Given a high enough voltage, the Y-shaped
nanotube blocks electrical current to turn the switch off. The researchers
are still working out the physics involved in the switching process.
(Novel electrical switching behavior and logic in carbon nanotube
Y-junctions, Nature Materials, August 14, 2005)