LED lights could become network devices, too

Today, you've got wireless networks that use radio waves and you've got optical networks that use light traveling in tiny glass fibers. Tomorrow, if Fraunhofer Institute research comes to fruition, a combination of the two could turn living-room lights into network devices.

The German applied-research lab has developed wireless networking that uses rapidly blinking LEDs to transmit data through the air. The technology can send data at speeds up to 1 gigabit per second -- and by using three colors of light, triple that data rate is possible, Fraunhofer said.

The technology could be useful in crowded, interference-prone … Read more

Need to lend your key? E-mail it, Fraunhofer says

HANOVER, Germany--You're traveling and your coworker needs your key to get into your office. Why not just e-mail it?

That's the idea behind Fraunhofer Institute's Key2Share technology, which the German research lab is developing in partnership with Bosch and showing off here at the CeBIT show.

Key2Share uses smartphones equipped with near-field communications (NFC) short-range wireless networking abilities to unlock phones. But because approval to use the key becomes digital data, a person can e-mail that approval.

It could be useful for other situations, too, said Ahmad-Reza Sadeghi, a researcher involved with the project. For example, a … Read more

Audi partners with Bang & Olufsen, Fraunhofer IIS for 3D Sound

LAS VEGAS--We're huge fans of Audi's Bang & Olufsen ultra-premium audio system, but the automaker is kicking things up another notch at CES 2013 with the announcement that it is developing a 3D Sound system in partnership with audio giants B&O and Fraunhofer IIS.

The automaker will be demonstrating the 3D Sound technology in its booth at the CES 2013 in an Audi Q7 playing a version of the "Iron Man 3" trailer with a sound mix that should highlight the system's abilities. The 3D Sound system features 23 speakers, each of which … Read more

New HEVC video compression wins big over today's standard

A new compression technology represents a significant improvement over today's standard, a new study found. The result could help pave the way for video with at least four times the pixels of today's 1080p standard.

The new compression technology, called HEVC or H.265, is significantly better than today's prevailing standard video codec, called AVC or H.264, researchers from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Lausanne, Switzerland, concluded.

"The test results clearly exhibited a substantial improvement in compression performance, as compared to AVC," the researchers said. "As ultra-high definition television has recently … Read more

HEVC, a new weapon in codec wars, to appear in September

A trade show in September will be the coming-out party for video technology called HEVC or H.265, a new arrival in a hotly contested market for the best approach to compression.

HEVC, short for High Efficiency Video Coding, is for encoding and decoding video streams so they can be stored or transmitted more economically than today's dominant H.264, aka AVC or Advanced Video Coding. Specifically, HEVC allies say it can deliver the same quality video as H.264 with half the network bandwidth.

The codec has been in the making for years, but it's now almost … Read more

Portrait-drawing robot shows CeBIT's artistic side

HANOVER, Germany--Who says robots don't have a sense of aesthetics?

Fraunhofer Institute showed off a robot that drew people's portraits here at the CeBIT tech show. It drew a big crowd, too--metaphorically speaking--with a steady throng watching its slow progress.

The robot actually didn't have a sense of aesthetics. Instead it had a camera, an algorithm to convert a digital photo into outlines, and an ability to draw those lines very precisely on a whiteboard.

Check the video below to see it in action. It's a thing of trigonometric beauty in its own way. … Read more

How fast is that soccer player? Fraunhofer can tell

HANOVER, Germany--Today, baseball is the statistician's playground, but telematics technology that tracks players and the ball could bring the same numeric precision to soccer as well.

At the CeBIT trade show here, the Fraunhofer Institute is showing technology that attaches chips with radio transmitters to soccer players and the ball. A collection of 12 receivers around a stadium measures the players' position 200 times a second and the ball's position 2,000 times a second, said Ingmar Bretz, a project leader.

"You can distinguish between good and bad players in real time," he said, by gauging … Read more

Watch the clouds go by--on your LED office ceiling

I love working at CNET. I get to write about urinal games and singing robot heads and work with smart, talented people who aren't afraid to be trapped inside iPads. I'm sure that sitting in a light-drenched office with giant windows overlooking San Francisco doesn't hurt either.

It's no secret that environmental factors like light can greatly influence mood and workplace productivity. Which is why researchers from the Stuttgart, Germany-based Fraunhofer Institute have crafted a "luminous ceiling" that simulates the lighting conditions of passing clouds. It's like working on Excel spreadsheets in the beautiful outdoors--from your dark, dank basement cubicle.

The Fraunhofer researchers collaborated with LED maker LEiDs to create a ceiling made of tiles measuring approximately 1.6 feet by 1.6 feet. Each tile comprises an LED board with 288 red, blue, green, and white light-emitting diodes that work in concert to produce the full light spectrum--millions of hues.

The boards are mounted on the ceiling, with a matte white diffuser film situated about 12 inches below the LEDs helping to illuminate the whole room. … Read more

Control this six-jointed robot by moving your arm

European research group Fraunhofer has developed an inertial sensor system which, together with a handheld remote control, lets people program the movement of a robotic arm simply by moving their own arms, in a sort of "follow the leader" fashion.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing, Engineering, and Automation in Stuttgart, Germany, devised algorithms governing the interactions of inertial sensors in the input device, which can be used to control the six-jointed robot arm.

The algorithms "fuse the data of individual sensors and identify a pattern of movement. That means we can detect movements in free space," the institute's Bernhard Kleiner said in a release.

Potential applications include easier programming of industrial robots: instead of teaching an assembly robot what to do by guiding it with a baton that it follows with laser tracking, workers could instruct the robot by simply moving their own arms.

A potential medical application is regulating the movements of active prostheses. The inertial sensor system could be attached to a patient's upper thigh and control the motors in a prosthetic foot to achieve a smoother gait.

The technology will be shown off at the Sensor +Test 2011 trade fair, June 7-9 in Nuremberg, where visitors will be able to control the robot using their arms, and make it catch a ball. … Read more

Meat and fish could get freshness status bar

Wouldn't it be great if pre-packaged meat and fish came with a health status bar like characters get in some video games?

It can be difficult to tell the difference between rotten and fresh meat or fish. Even after a couple of hours in the open air, meat can often look normal to cook, when in actuality it's teeming with bacteria that create toxins that can harm our health. A sensor film developed by the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Modular Solid State Technologies EMFT in Munich could change the way we judge meat freshness in the future.

The way the film works is simple, and only requires attaching the color-changing label to the packaging. When meat decays, it releases smelly amine molecules that the film reacts to by changing color. Bright yellow means everything is fresh, while blue indicates you may be on the next train to botulism. What makes this prospective technology so interesting is the fact that it's low cost (and therefore attractively scalable to the massive meat industry), and doesn't come in direct contact with the actual food.

"Food safety is ensured by a barrier layer between the sensor film and the product itself," explained Anna Hezinger, a scientist at EMFT. "This barrier is only permeable to gaseous amines. The indicator chemicals cannot pass through."

The sensor could revolutionize our grocery shopping experience by adding an additional peace of mind outside of the sometimes untrustworthy "best by" date found on most meat packaging. Now I just need to learn to cook. … Read more