What's the Buzz

What's the Buzz

Now, gloves that can sing with you

Scientists have designed a pair of musical gloves that can sing a duet with you, but you have to wave your hand to let your unusual partner croon. The gloves manipulate computerised sound to mimic the human voice.

Hand gestures replicate the movements of real vocal chords, allowing the gloves to produce a complex range of sounds, said Sidney Fels, a researcher at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, who led their development.  One problem is that, Fels says, it takes about 100 hours to learn how to play them.

“It’s very hard, it’s like trying to do your email while talking on the phone,” New Scientist quoted Fels as saying.

The working process is explained as: The right-hand glove contains motion sensors that detect the opening and closing of the wearer’s hand.  An open hand mimics the opening of the vocal tract, producing vowels, while a closed hand constricts the vocal tract to produce consonant sounds such as “sh” and “zz”.

Buttons on the left-hand glove activate stop consonants like “p” and “b”, normally produced by a sudden release of built-up pressure, which is difficult to simulate using the right-hand vocal tract controls.

A set of 3D position sensors on the right-hand glove locates the wearer’s hand in space, with different areas affecting pitch. A foot pedal controls volume.  The gloves were originally designed as a voice synthesiser to help people who have speech difficulties, but Fels and colleagues have now added the ability to sing.

Smokeless tobacco could help save lives
Replacing smoking products with e-cigarettes or modern, spit-free smokeless tobacco can greatly reduce risk of disease and death in smokers, say scientists. These products provide a much safer alternative for those smokers who are unable or unwilling to quit smoking because they continue to deliver nicotine without the harmful effect of smoking.

That is the message of Brad Rodu, professor of medicine at the University of Louisville (UofL) School of Medicine and the Endowed Chair in Tobacco Harm Reduction at UofL’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center at an annual science meet. 

“Quit or die: That’s been the brutal message delivered to 45 million American smokers, and it has helped contribute to 4,43,000 deaths per year, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Rodu said.  “The truth, however, is that total nicotine and tobacco abstinence is unattainable and unnecessary for many smokers.
 “Nicotine is addictive, but it is not the cause of any smoking-related disease. Like caffeine, nicotine can be used safely by consumers,” he stated.

Rodu’s findings were based on his almost 20 years of research. While no tobacco product is completely safe, smokeless products have been shown to be 98 percent safer than cigarettes.

Driverless cars to zoom in streets with no stoplights
Traffic red lights will soon be a history, says a computer scientist who is developing virtual intersection systems for fully autonomous vehicles. 

According to Peter Stone, a professor of computer science at The University of Texas at Austin, intersections of the future will not need stop lights or stop signs, but will look like a somewhat chaotic flow of driverless, autonomous cars slipping past one another as they are managed by a virtual traffic controller.

“A future where sitting in the backseat of the car reading our newspaper while it drives us effortlessly through city streets and intersections is not that far away,” said Stone.
Stone’s research focuses on creating artificially intelligent (AI) computing systems, and he is developing some of the systems that are needed to make autonomous driving a reality.

For example, Stone and his students created an autonomous car, named Marvin, in cooperation with Austin Robot Technology that competed in the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge competition.

Now, Stone is developing virtual intersection systems that will make auto travel safer and faster.