September 07, 2008
World's First All-Terrain Wheelchair — Off-Road Not Off Limits
I love stuff like this, that levels the playing field — as it were.
Adult swim is so last century — everybody in the pool, that's the way of the future.
Here's a September 3, 2008 Associated Press story about this remarkable invention (above).
- Florida Researchers Build Off-Road Wheelchair
When Travis Watkins was asked a few years ago to devise a college engineering project that would help people with disabilities, the first person who came to mind was his father, who once cherished walks along the beach.
The deadly illness known as Lou Gehrig's disease has left his father in a wheelchair, watching sailboats bobb up and down along the Gulf Coast from a distance.
But with the ingenuity of Watkins, 28, and the help of a southwest Florida university and fellow students, wheelchair users will have a new way to roam across uneven, rocky and sandy terrain.
The sturdy, two-wheeled platform that attaches to a wheelchair will soon be available for purchase through Rehab Ideas, a University of South Florida spinoff.
believes have mainstream potential.
Rather than have student ideas remain on the sketchpad, collecting dust, or purchased by someone else, Rehab Ideas is striving to put university-born inventions into working use.
"The measure of success used to be how many papers were published," Sundarrao said. "Now it's how much of what you produced at the university is in the community."
The products Sundarrao's students have created include:
— An aluminum crutch that folds up neatly to fit into a purse.
— A device with an extra set of wheels that, once attached to a wheelchair, enables side-to-side movement — good for those narrow spaces between tables at a restaurant.
— A mechanical retriever that can grab a backpack resting behind a wheelchair.
Rehab Ideas' products add to a commercial field that includes advanced prosthetics, swimming fins for amputees and adaptive equipment for hunting and fishing. And while there are other beach wheelchairs on the market, Rehab Ideas' product is unique in that users don't have to buy a separate wheelchair, they simply board the platform and ride into the sand.
Prices for the products will range from $695 for a tray that can be attached and folded into the side of a wheelchair to $4,495 for the off-road wheelchair kit. Sundarrao said students will get a cut — about 5 percent — of the profit.
The business incubator at the University of South Florida is one of many around the country where students, faculty and even community members pay a lease and have access to the school's resources and guidance on topics like intellectual property issues.
Across North America, more than 1,400 business incubators were in operation as of October 2006, up from 12 in 1980. About 20 percent of those are sponsored by academic institutions, according to a study published by the National Business Incubation Association.
"I think what universities recognized several years ago is, if you want to attract, retain and keep good faculty members, and bring new students in, you have to do what you can to support their research and ideas," said Mike Shipp, director of rehabilitation services at Louisiana Tech University. "Everyone gains from that."
Sundarrao, the head of Rehab Ideas, is an Indian-born son of a doctor and a nurse. He decided to pursue rehabilitation engineering after working on a prosthetics research project at a hospital and at a manufacturing company run by disabled employees in India.
He later enrolled as a graduate student at the University of South Florida in Tampa and has taught there for about five years.
Students meet people with disabilities and help find solutions in Sundarrao's class, which typically has a waiting list.
One of the clients Sundarrao brought into his class is Christopher Rhoades, a 19-year-old freshman who has a progressive form of muscular dystrophy. On a recent summer day at the Rehab Ideas lab, Rhoades' mother, Tracie Wiechmann, watched as Sundarrao lifted her son into the tall, off-road chair [below]
that was inspired by Watkins' father.
The teen adjusted his seat, put on a pair of shades and drove out of the lab and into the sun, somewhat hesitantly dropping off the sidewalk and into the grass. Slowly, he increased his speed, the chair's powerful wheels easily gliding over the grass.
When Rhoades came back into the lab, he showed his mother how to use the backpack retriever. She cried as he pulled a hardcover textbook out of his bag.
"I did not expect to feel so emotional," Wiechmann said. "It goes back to that dream, as a parent, to have your child be as independent as possible. It just seems so simple but yet its such a huge thing. One less thing that he has to ask someone else to do for him."
So Flautist, it might as well have her name embroidered on it.
From the website:
- Crown Hat
Hand-crocheted medium weight pink worsted yarn.
Great for dress up, Halloween and/or keeping warm in the upcoming winter months.
Can be made in different colors of your choice, with trim in different color of your choice.
Warning Label Generator
Here's Rob Kieswetter's August 19, 2008 review.
Since I started working in the shop about four months ago, I've been using The Tool fairly regularly, mostly to tighten or install fins with the flathead screwdriver and the Allen wrench. The little hook/prong tool is solid for jamming the string used to attach a leash to a board through a surfboard's leash plug.Though the Phillips rarely gets used in surf-related application, it's still handy to have for random, non-surfing needs.To buy all these tools separately, I guess you'd spend about 30 bucks, maybe less, so it's not a huge savings. But you have to factor in the convenience of the one-stop tool shop. That has value, to me, especially on the go, in the car, and on the beach. They're not flying off the shelves at our shop, but we have had several customers specifically request them and a few folks have been impressed after seeing them in action. I rarely use wax combs, but even if I did, I actually would hesitate to use this one, get it covered in wax, then throw it back in my pocket or bag. Once you get wax all over it, next comes sand, pet hair, you name it. Then again, carrying The Tool you'll always have a comb handy. In dire straits, you could use it and deal with the sticky aftermath.
Added Leckart, "'The Tool' is a minimalist stainless steel multi-tool intended for surfers. It has an Allen wrench, Phillips and standard screwdrivers, wax comb and a leash hook. I asked a friend who works in a surf shop in Venice, California if he'd heard of it. Turns out he uses it almost daily."
From the Corsurf (The Tool's creator) website:
Finally, one tool is all you need.
It has a tool to change any fin system on the market: Allen wrench, standard and Phillips screwdrivers, a built-in wax comb and an all-new "leash hook" for those micro leash cups.
The Tool is made of high-quality, non-plated stainless steel so it will not rust or strip.
The Tool also comes with a lanyard strong enough to double as a leash string for those overhead leash snapping days.
For those far away trips or your local break, never be without again.
Full disclosure: I haven't a clue what "micro leash cups" or "overhead leash snapping days" are — but you might.
Hawk-Eye is a simulation — and so are you
Long story short: In his fascinating column in today's Washington Post, Slate technology columnist Farhad Manjoo writes that "... the [Hawk-Eye] system's manufacturer reports its average error as 3.6 millimeters."
But wait, there's more.
"The International Tennis Federation ... allows for Hawk-Eye to be off by as much as 10 millimeters in some situations. This means that if a ball lands nine millimeters out, Hawk-Eye might call it in by one millimeter."
I can't speak for you but me, I find this astounding.
I'll be sure to keep it in mind during today's U.S. Open matches (during football time-outs and commercials, of course — I mean, come on).
Here's Manjoo's piece.
- Quiet, McEnroe. The Robot Called It.
Disputes over line calls used to be one of the main joys of tennis — this, after all, is John McEnroe's game. But fans rarely see players explode in rage anymore. In high-profile matches, human umpires have largely been replaced by a machine called Hawk-Eye, a kind of computerized ump that stitches together video footage from several high-speed cameras to produce a three-dimensional simulation of the ball. Hawk-Eye's decisions are final: When a player challenges an umpire's call, the system displays its view of what just happened, then displays a judgment on the screen — in or out — that the human umpires are compelled to accept.
Hawk-Eye represents one extreme in the growing adoption of technology to solve disputes in sports. On the other side, you've got Major League Baseball, which has long resisted any kind of instant-replay system. Pro baseball recently played its first games under a new rule that lets umpires review video in the limited scenario of "boundary calls" — essentially determining whether a home run was really a home run. Unlike tennis, MLB, the NFL, the NBA and the NHL all give human officials the final say in interpreting instant-replay footage.
The trouble is, technology can introduce as much uncertainty as it solves. For one thing, photography doesn't give clear-cut answers. From one angle, a ball may look in, while from another it looks out.
Hawk-Eye is also demonstrably fallible. According to a fascinating paper by Harry Collins and Robert Evans of Cardiff University, the system's manufacturer reports its average error as 3.6 millimeters. The International Tennis Federation, which tests the line-calling equipment, allows for Hawk-Eye to be off by as much as 10 millimeters in some situations. This means that if a ball lands nine millimeters out, Hawk-Eye might call it in by one millimeter.
It isn't terrible that Hawk-Eye is sometimes wrong — after all, humans often make mistakes too. What is odd is that the system's designer, Hawk-Eye Innovations, has never explained these failures. Hawk-Eye uses up to six cameras placed around the court, but the graphic that it shows to judges and TV viewers does not include actual footage from any of them. Instead, the system creates a composite of what it thinks happened to the ball. Collins and Evans argue that these composites subtly trick viewers. The simulation takes on an air of reality, even infallibility, when in fact it is only a statistical estimate. At the very least, the researchers say, Hawk-Eye should report its confidence — that it is X percent sure of its ruling. They also push for a more general "health warning": When CBS broadcasts Hawk-Eye simulations on TV, it should remind viewers: "This is only a virtual representation of reality. It's not what actually happened."
Tennis — with its two players, small field of play and bright-line demarcation between balls that are in and balls that are out — is a comparatively easy sport for computers to umpire. In other sports, refs have to take into account many more variables before making a call. To be able to tell whether a football runner is down before he fumbled, for example, a computer would have to somehow keep track of every player, which one has the ball, when the player with the ball gets hit, and when and how the ball comes loose. That task would likely require an array of sensors and sophisticated image-processing techniques — probably not yet a possibility.
Beyond the technological obstacles, the age of Hawk-Eye presents a larger philosophical problem. Sometimes the computer makes a call that no human — not the fans, not the umps, not the players — can quite understand. Late in the 2007 Wimbledon final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, Nadal hit a deep ball that Federer let go, thinking it was out. The umpire thought so too, and TV replays showing the ball from Federer's side seemed to confirm it — the ball looked a good half-inch out. But when Nadal challenged the call, Hawk-Eye called the ball in. On the Hawk-Eye Innovations Web site, the company's representatives posted an explanation that blames the dispute on the limited perceptive capacities of TV cameras and human eyeballs. When a tennis ball smashes into grass at high speeds, it compresses, skids for 10 centimeters or so and then takes off, the company said. Hawk-Eye's fast cameras were sensitive enough to see the ball just clip the base line, while TV cameras and viewers caught only a blur while the ball skidded away from the line, making them think the ball was out.
Got that? Because it's so perceptive, Hawk-Eye makes obsolete every assessment tool that humans have ever used to adjudicate sports disputes: our eyes, our TV cameras, even perceptible marks on the ground. In their paper, Collins and Evans argue that this is too precise. By erasing all of tennis's ties to human perception, Hawk-Eye renders the game interpretable only to computers. That's fairly ridiculous: After all, computers aren't paying to see two human beings hit a ball over a net. People are.
Buy Manjoo's book,
he needs the money.
It's the least I can do for him, what?
Panic Attack Intervention Candle
Stop and smell the fear.
Limited-Edition Pagani Zonda Cinque
Very limited — a total of five (5) cars will be made using a special carbon-titanium fiber created specifically for this vehicle, priced at €1,000,000 ($1,464,470; £805,774).
[via Edward Taylor and the Wall Street Journal]
From the website:
cookhook™ — clip it grip it hold it
The cookhook keeps a towel handy out by the grill, in the kitchen or wherever you go.
Just clip your favorite towel or cloth between the magnets and hook it just about anywhere.
To use, simply flex open the magnetic ends, clip your favorite towel between them, then place the hook end wherever you want it to go.
Some stuff you should know:
Hooks to grills, ovens, and drawer pulls, door knobs, belt loops, appliance handles, golf bags, etc.
Made from FDA-approved food-safe material
3.5"L x 2"W
White, Black or Gray.