science + technology news

Virtual possessions have powerful hold on teenagers

May 10, 2011

Digital imagery, Facebook updates, online music collections, email threads, and other immaterial artifacts of today’s online world may be as precious to teenagers as a favorite book that a parent once read to them or a T-shirt worn at a music festival, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) researchers have found.

The researchers recruited nine girls and 12 boys, ages 12–17, from middle- and upper-middle-class families who… read more

Virtual pets can learn just like babies

March 31, 2008

Novamente has developed a demonstration of a synthetic character (a virtual pet) in a virtual world being controlled by an autonomous artificial intelligence (AI) program, which will be released to inhabitants of virtual worlds like Second Life later this year.

Their work, along with similar programs from other researchers, was presented at the First Conference on Artificial General Intelligence at the University of Memphis in Tennessee earlier this month.… read more

Virtual people help bridge digital divide

August 1, 2002

Web-based avatars are being developed in the U.K. as a simplified interface to computer systems that inform citizens about services.

Virtual patient under the knife on hi-tech operating table

May 28, 2012


Imperial College, a partner to St Mary’s Hospital, has purchased a £60,000 touchscreen “operating table” that could represent the future for teaching would-be doctors about anatomy and for preparing for real-life operations.

The same length and size as a normal operating table, a “cadaver” on the screen is a virtual body created using a mix of graphics and real CT scans of the body.

Students and surgeons can interact… read more

Virtual nanoscopy: like ‘Google Earth’ for cell biologists

August 8, 2012

Caption: Advances in “virtual nanoscopy” enable the generation of large-scale composite images of biological tissues, as described in The Journal of Cell Biology (JCB) and made accessible through an upgrade to JCB’s JCB DataViewer web application. Users can “zoom in” from a high-resolution, composite image of a zebrafish embryo (top) to detailed images of tiny subcellular structures (bottom). Credit: © Williams et al, 2012

Just as users of Google Earth can zoom in from space to a view of their own backyard, researchers can now navigate biological tissues from a whole embryo down to its subcellular structures thanks to recent advances in electron microscopy and image processing.

An upgrade to the JCB DataViewer, browser-based image presentation tool from the the Journal of Cell Biology (JCB), now also makes these data publicly accessible for exploration and… read more

Virtual music school becomes a reality

March 30, 2009

Students of popular musical instruments may soon be learning to play with the help of a new generation of intelligent, interactive computer programs.

‘Virtual’ mouse brains now available online

July 10, 2007

A multi-institutional consortium including Duke University has created startlingly crisp 3-D microscopic views of tiny mouse brains — unveiled layer by layer — by extending the capabilities of conventional magnetic resonance imaging to create images more than 100,000 times higher resolution than a clinical MRI scan.

High resolution magnetic resonance imaging — which the researchers call “MRI histology” — provides distortion-free 3-D images with superb ability to… read more


June 6, 2007

Imagine hitching a ride to the moon on a pint-sized space probe — and experiencing every high point of the flight in real time, thanks to virtual-reality technology, according to Pete Worden, the director of NASA’s Ames Research Center.

“For example, I can imagine a future robotic mission to the moon where we can all walk or fly along with the lunar rover as it makes its way over… read more

Virtual Maps for the Blind

April 9, 2007

Researchers in Greece have developed a new system that converts video into virtual, touchable maps for the blind.

The software tracks each structure and determines its shape and location. That data is used to create a three-dimensional grid of force fields for each structure. Two common-touch interfaces simulate the force fields by applying pressure to the user’s hand: the CyberGrasp glove, which pulls on individual fingers, and the Phantom… read more

Virtual maps for the blind

September 14, 2009

BlindAid, a virtual “”white cane” system that allows the blind to explore the world around them using a 3-D haptic device (a joystick that allows them to “feel” the world — it stiffens when the user meets a virtual wall or barrier, for example) has been developed by researchers at Tel Aviv University and MIT.

Virtual Iraq

May 12, 2008

The Department of Defense is testing Virtual Iraq, a virtual-reality program for treating post-traumatic stress disorder.

Virtual instruments can be played with haptic controllers

June 24, 2003

A virtual musical instrument capable of creating sounds not possible in the physical world has been developed Professor David Howard, Head of the Music Technology Group at York University, according to BBC News.

Cymatic is both a physical modelling sound synthesis environment and a musical instrument. It has a 3D user interface for the construction of virtual instruments that can be played with the aid… read more

Virtual Immortality for Virtual Eternity

June 12, 2007

The National Science Foundation has awarded a half-million-dollar grant to the universities of Central Florida at Orlando and Illinois at Chicago to explore how researchers might use artificial intelligence, archiving, and computer imaging to create convincing, digital versions of real people, a possible first step toward virtual immortality.

Virtual Humans Proposed As Space Travelers

September 2, 2004

A partnership between in-the-flesh space voyagers and virtual humans may make sense for a humans-to-Mars mission and other manned space exploration, says author Peter Plantec.

A virtual human could be set up to monitor highly complex systems in real time. It can interface with the human sojourner, easing that person’s workload, Plantec advised, by monitoring onboard systems and automatically make whatever critical adjustments it has been authorized to do.

Virtual humans edge closer

July 30, 2003

Avatars seem to be getting ever more lifelike, with more realistic visual appearance, speech, and body motion.

But as an avatar approaches reality, it could fall into the “Zombie Zone,” in which expectations that a character is actually human are suddently “violated by something that slightly wrong in the voice, or the face, or in the way it moves, and it gives you a horrible feeling that is not… read more

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