Researchers at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver are working on a new kind of haptic feedback for touchscreens. Programmable friction uses small mechanical discs to make the display of a tablet or smartphone vibrate so that it feels more or less "sticky" depending on how you are interacting with objects on the screen, according to a report in NewScientist. One practical use of this technology could be moving folders around a desktop using touch. Friction on the screen increases when you hover over a folder to make it an easier touch target, and the screen oscillates when you hover over a trash bin as a kind of warning that you're about to discard a file.
NASA and General Motors are working on a humanoid robot designed to help astronauts carry out their tasks in space. The current iteration, Robonaut 2 (or R2), is a 300-pound bucket of bolts made to resemble a human torso.
R2 can lift up to 20 pounds and its arms have similar mobility to a human being's. The NASA/GM prototype left Earth in February to take up permanent residence at the International Space Station. R2 successfully moved aboard the ISS for the first time on October 13 and has since undergone tests on November 4 and December 15. You can follow R2's progress in space via Twitter and Facebook.
GM hopes to adapt research from R2 including advancements in controls, sensors, and vision technology into future vehicle safety systems.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is reportedly looking at "feasible designs" from AAI Corporation and Lockheed Martin for the agency's Transformer (TX) flying Humvee project, according to Aviation Week.
The project's goal is to create a dual-purpose military vehicle that can fly and also drive along a road. The flying Humvee must be able to seat four, survive small arms fire, and rapidly convert into an aircraft that does not require a qualified pilot to operate. Rumor has it, DARPA is also working on getting pigs to fly.