World Tech Update - Hacking planes, radioactive recon, smartphone stilts

IDG News Service | Apr 23, 2015

On WTU this week two US agencies warn airlines about hackers, a robot explores a crippled nuclear power plant in Japan and stilts give virtual worlds steps.

Thanks for joining us here on World Tech Update, I'm Nick Barber. Are you a nervous flyer, well here's one more thing to worry about: hackers. The FBI and TSA are advising airlines to look out for signs that passengers may be trying to hack into planes' navigation system via wifi or onboard entertainment systems. Both US agencies don't have evidence that this is happening, but are taking the claims seriously and issued a list of things to be on the lookout for.

Next up is video from a place where no human could venture. This video was taken by robots inside the pressure vessel of reactor 1 at the Fukishima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan - one of three reactors that suffered meltdowns after the devastating March 2011 tsunami. The white specks on the video aren’t interference, that’s radiation hitting the camera sensor. And look in the corner. 4 Sieverts is enough to cause almost certain death. Here you’d get that in less than 10 minutes. Normally, this area should be safe to walk around in. In 2007 our then Tokyo bureau chief Martyn Williams did just that at another plant run by the same company. The Fukushima accident caused nuclear fuel to melt through the bottom of the reactor, up there, into this area, contaminating it and making the clean-up much more complex.

Last week we took a look at the new DJI drone, this week a competitor from 3D Robotics which has some really cool features. The price is what caught my attention. For 1400 dollars you get a drone, stabilization gimble and GoPro 4 that can shoot 4K video. The drone uses 2 Linux computers to help you capture cinematic video without crashing. There are some useful preprogrammed flights like the selfie which flie away from you while keeping you in the frame, or the orbit shot which flies around a central point. The cable cam takes the thought and skill out of getting a smooth, moving shot. Set your start point and end point and drone flies in between them, moving the camera as you set it.

Imagine a trackpad on your fingernail. That's the idea behind NailO, a project from the MIT Media Lab. A small wireless trackpad is designed to attach to your nail almost like a stick on nail used as a fashion accessory.

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Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao
Ph.D. student, MIT Media Lab


The processor, battery, sensing chip and Bluetooth radio are all on a circuit board that sits under the capacitive trackpad. In a demo, the system was able to detect which direction a user was swiping. The team sees a number of potential applications for the technology including using it when you might need to descretely send a message or control a smart phone when your hands are busy doing something else. The researchers want to continue to shrink down the size of the controller in future iterations.

Forget Google Glass, BMW thinks aviator-inspired goggles are the future of augmented reality for drivers. The glasses project information about the car and its surroundings over two transparent displays. Called Mini Augmented Vision, the glasses pair up with BMW’s Mini cars and are meant to make driving safer.

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Patrick McKenna
Head of product planning, Mini USA
We want the driver to have more safety by keeping their eyes focused on the road.

Turn-by-turn driving directions show up right in front of your field of vision, so does your car’s current speed and speed limits up ahead. Using cameras on the outside of the car the googles let you see through parts of your care, a feature Mini calls Xray vision. Mini Augmented Vision is a research prototype and is still undergoing development. There isn’t a timeline for when these goggles will
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