Creepy Cat Eyes with a Microsoft Kinect

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Ever feel like someone is watching you? Like, somewhere in the back of your mind, you can feel the peering eyes of something glancing at you? Tapping into that paranoia, is this Computer Science graduate project that was created during a “Tangible Interactive Computing” class at the University of Maryland by two bright young students named [Josh] and [Richard], with the help of HCIL hackerspace.

Their Professor [Dr. Jon Froehlich] wanted the students to ‘seamlessly couple the dual worlds of bits and atoms’ and create something that would ‘explore the materiality of interactive computing.’ And this relatively simple idea does just that, guaranteeing some good reactions. 

As you’ve probably gathered from the title, this project uses a Microsoft Kinect to track the movement of nearby people. The output is then translated into actionable controls of the mounted eyeballs producing a creepy vibe radiating out from the feline, robot poster.

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Bicycle quadcopter flies for dozens of seconds

If you decide to fly into town on this bicycle-powered quadcopter your arms and legs really will be tired. That’s because this athlete had to give it his all to power the rotors through the foot pedals and the hand cranks. You can see just one of the rotors on the right side of the background. Yeah, this thing is big!

You’re looking at the Gamera II, a craft developed by students at the University of Maryland. About a year ago they were showing off the first version of the aircraft. With the passing of the year comes the breaking of world records as a different rider manages to keep it up for 50 seconds in the video after the break. Although the structure is huge (over 100 feet across) the building materials and techniques let it weigh in at only 71 pounds.

It still looks like way to much physical work for us. We’re sticking to the pedal-powered hydrofoil as our dream transport.

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Single-wing flight based on maple seed aerodynamics

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The Samara Micro-Air-Vehicle is a product of over three years of work at the University of Maryland’s Aerospace Engineering Autonomous Vehicle Laboratory. The Samara is an applicant in the DARPA nano air vehicle program. Unlike the ornithopter we saw in July, this vehicle uses only one wing for flight. A small propeller on a rod mounted perpendicular to the wing provides rotation. The pitch of the wing is changed to climb, descend, or hover.

You can see a video of the flight tests after the break. The sound the Samara makes reminds us of classic alien invasion movies and the use of Verdi’s Requiem for the background music during flight tests (2:43) seems quite fitting. At about 5:45 there is some on board video footage that is just a blur of the room spinning by. This would be much more useful if a few frames per second were snapped at exactly the same point in the vehicles rotation.

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