New Technique Reveals Angkor Wat’s Hidden Art

Angkor_WatEvery year, millions of visitors flock to Angkor Wat – an ancient temple in modern-day Cambodia and the heart of the one-time capitol of the Khmer Empire. There, they marvel at the 900-year-old towers, a giant moat and the shallow relief sculptures of Hindu gods, and the intricate architecture and carvings. However, until very recently, they were unaware of the paintings on the temple walls, representations of daily life that were hiding in plain sight.

Built between A.D. 1113 and 1150, Angkor Wat stood at the center of Angkor, the capital of the Khmer Empire. The 500-acre (200 hectares) complex, one of the largest religious monuments ever erected, originally served as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu, but was transformed into a Buddhist temple in the 14th century. Since that time, the temple has become a symbol of national pride for Cambodia and the source of much archaeological and historical research and speculation.

Angkor-Wat-1Thanks to digitally enhanced images, some tw0-hundred detailed murals have bee revealed that depict elephants, deities, boats, orchestral ensembles and people riding horses — all of which were invisible to the naked eye. According to the researchers who uncovered it, many of the faded markings could be graffiti left behind by pilgrims after Angkor Wat was abandoned in the 15th century. However, the more elaborate paintings may be relics of the earliest attempts to restore the temple.

The paintings were first noticed by  Noel Hidalgo Tan, a rock-art researcher of the Australian National University in Canberra, while he was working on an excavation at Angkor Wat in 2010. After first spotting the red and black pigment on the walls of the monument, he decided to investigate further. After scientists took pictures using an intense flash, they then used a tool from NASA to digitally enhance the colors of the images.

NW Corner Facing STo make these paintings visible, Tan and his associates used a technique called Decorrelation Stretch Analysis, which exaggerates subtle color differences. This method has become a valuable tool in rock-art research, as it can help distinguish faint images from the underlying rock. It has even been used to enhance images taken of the Martian surface by NASA’s Opportunity rover when conducting surface studies and geological analysis.

According to Antiquity, a quarterly archeology review, what they found was 200 depictions of ancient life. These included paintings of elephants, lions, the Hindu monkey god Hanuman, boats and buildings — perhaps even images of Angkor Wat itself. Tan went back to the site to conduct a more methodical survey in 2012 with his Cambodian colleagues from APSARA (Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap).

Some of the most detailed paintings, the ones located at the top of the temple, are passed by literally thousands of visitors every day, but the most elaborate scenes are effectively invisible to the naked eye.

SW Corner facing EOne chamber in the highest tier of Angkor Wat’s central tower, known as the Bakan, contains an elaborate scene of a traditional Khmer musical ensemble known as the pinpeat, which is made up of different gongs, xylophones, wind instruments and other percussion instruments. In the same chamber, there’s an intricate scene featuring people riding horses between two structures, which might be temples. As Tan explained:

A lot of the visible paintings on the walls have been previously discounted as graffiti, and I certainly agree with this interpretation, but there are another set of paintings discovered from this study that are so schematic and elaborate that they are likely not random graffiti, but an attempt to decorate the walls of the temple.

Christophe Pottier, an archaeologist and co-director of the Greater Angkor Project who was not involved in the new study, agreed that these more complex murals show deliberate intention and can’t be interpreted as mere graffiti. Pottier, however, added that the discovery of hidden paintings isn’t all that surprising. Though they haven’t been studied systematically before now, several traces of paintings have been found at the temple during the last 15 years.

Facing SAnd though researchers can’t be sure exactly when the paintings were created, Tan speculates that the most elaborate artworks may have been commissioned by Cambodia’s King Ang Chan, who made an effort to restore the temple during his reign between 1528 and 1566. During this time, unfinished carvings were completed and Angkor Wat began its transformation into a Buddhist pilgrimage site, which are confirmed by some of the newly revealed paintings that show Buddhist iconography.

Ultimately, getting an accurate look at ancient heritage sites and representations is only one of the benefits of this new process. In addition, there is the potential for heritage conservation. With countless sites around the world being threatened by war, environmental issues, and neglect, getting a digital record of pictures like these will ensure that the works of ancient peoples to chronicle their lives and express themselves artistically will be preserved, long after the physical objects are gone.

Sources: scientificamerican.com, time.com

The Future is Here: Smart Guns

smart gun 2010 internet 0009Not long ago, designer Ernst Mauch unveiled a revolutionary new handgun that grew out of a desire to merge digital technology with firearm safety. Known as the “smart gun” – or Armatix iP1 – this pistol comes with a safety feature designed to ensure that only the guns owner may fire it. Basically, the gun comes with a watch (the iW1) that it is synchronized to, and the weapon will only fire if it is within ten inches of it. So unless you’re wearing the iW1, the weapon will not fire in your hands.

The weapon is in part the result of attempts to find intelligent solutions to gun safety and gun violence. And Mauch’s design is one of several proposed innovations to use digital/smart technology for just such a purpose. Back in January, the Smart Tech Challenges Foundation launched the first of four $1 million challenges aimed at inspiring the kinds of innovation that could help lead to safer guns – and a reduction in the number of tragic deaths and injuries that make the headlines nearly every day.

Armatix-Smart-SystemGiven the recent failures to reach a legislative solution to the ongoing problem of gun-violence, these efforts should come as no surprise. And Mauch, the lead designer of the iP1, claimed in a recent op-ed piece with the Washington Post that the number of gun enthusiasts will rise as the result of its enhanced safety. As a designer who’s patents include the USP family of pistols, the HK416 assault rifle, G36 assault rifle and XM25 grenade machine gun – he is a strong advocate of a market-based solution.

The gun has already sparked a great deal of controversy amongst gun advocates and the National Rifle Association. Apparently, they worry that legislation will be passed so that only smart guns can be sold in gun stores. This is largely in response to a 2002 New Jersey law that stipulated that once the technology was available, that smart guns be sold exclusively in the state. As a result, the NRA has been quite vocal about its opposition to smart guns, despite offers made to repeal the law in exchange for them easing their position.

gun-lock-inlineAs already noted, the iP1 is not the only smart technology being applied to firearms. Sentini, a Detroit-based startup founded by Omer Kiyani, is designing a biometric gun lock called Identilock. Attaching to a gun’s trigger, it unlocks only when the owner applies a fingerprint. As an engineer, a gun owner, a father, and the victim of gun violence (he was shot in the mouth at 16), he too is committed to using digital technology and biometrics to make firearms safer.

An engineer by training, Kiyani spent years working as a software developer building next-generation airbag systems. He worked on calibrating the systems to minimize the chance of injury in the event of an accident, and eventually, he realized he could apply the same basic concepts to guns. As he put it:

The idea of an airbag is so simple. You inflate it and can save a life. I made the connection. I have something in my house that’s very dangerous. There’s got to be a simple way to protect it.

biometric_gunlockInitially, Kiyani considered technology that would require installing electronic locking equipment into the guns themselves, similar to what the iP1 employs. But as an engineer, he understood the inherent complications of designing electronics that could withstand tremendous shock and high temperatures, not to mention the fact it would be incredibly difficult to convince gun manufacturers to work with him on the project.

As a result, he began to work on something that anyone could add to a gun. Ultimately, his creation is different in three ways: it’s optional, it’s detachable, and it’s quick. Unlike biometric gun safes and other locking mechanisms, the Identilock makes it as easy to access a firearm as it is to unlock an iPhone. He pitched hundreds of gun owners a variety of ideas over the course of his research, but it was the biometric lock they inevitably latched onto

gun-lock-inline1The Identilock is also designed using entirely off-the-shelf components that have been proven effective in other industries. The biometric sensor, for example, has been used in other security applications and is approved by the FBI. Cobbling the sensor together from existing technologies was both a cost-saving endeavor and a strategic way to prove the product’s effectiveness more quickly. Currently, the project is still in the prototype phase, but it may prove to be the breakout product that brings biometrics and safety together in recent years.

And last, but certainly not least, there is the biometric option that comes from PositiveID, the makers of the only FDA-approved implantable biochip – which is known as the Verichip. In the past, the company has marketed similar identity-confirming microchips for security and medical purposes. But this past April, the company announced a partnership with Belgium-based gun maker FN Manufacturing to produce smart weapons.

VERICHIPThe technology is being marketed to law enforcement agencies as a means of ensuring that police firearms can never be used by criminals or third parties. The tiny chip would be implanted in a police officer’s hand and would match up with a scanning device inside a handgun. If the officer and gun match, a digital signal unlocks the trigger so it can be fired. Verichip president Keith Bolton said the technology could also improve safety for the military and individual gun owners, and it could be available as early as next year.

Similar developments are under way at other gun manufacturers and research firms. The New Jersey Institute of Technology and Australian gun maker Metal Storm Ltd. are working on a prototype smart gun that would recognize its owner’s individual grip. Donald Sebastian, NJIT vice president for research and development and director of the project, claims that the technology could eventually have an even bigger impact on the illegal gun trade.eri

An employee of Armatix poses for photographers as he presents the ÒSmartGun Concept".Regardless of the solutions being proposed and the progress being made, opposition to these and other measures does not appear to be letting up easily. New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg recently announced that she would introduce a bill to reverse the 2002 New Jersey “smart gun” law if the National Rifle Association would agree not to stand in the way of smart gun technology. The NRA, however, has not relented in its stance.

In addition, biochips and RFID implants have a way of making people nervous. Whenever and wherever they are proposed, accusations of “branding” and “Big Brother” monitoring quickly follow. And above all, any and all attempts to introduce gun safety are met with cries of opposition by those who claim it infringes on citizen’s 2nd Amendment rights. But given the ongoing problem of gun violence, school shootings, and the amount of violence perpetrated with stolen weapon, it is clear that something needs to change.

guns1In 2011 in the United States, roughly 3.6 people per 100,000 were killed with a firearm – which amounts to 32,163 people. In addition, of the 15,953 homicides committed that year, 11,101 were committed using a gun; almost 70% of the total. And not surprisingly, of those 11,101 gun-related homicides, more than half (An6,371) were committed using a handgun. And though exact figures are not exactly available, a general estimates indicates that some 90% percent of murders are committed with stolen guns.

As a result, it is likely just a matter of time before citizens see the value in biometric and smart gun technology. Anything that can ensure that only an owner can use a firearm will go a long way to curbing crime, accidents, and acts of senseless and unmitigated violence.

Sources: cnet.com, theverge.com, (2), wired.com, (2), msnbc.com, gunpolicy.com

2013, As Imagined By 1988

bladerunnerTwenty-five years ago, Los Angeles magazine envisioned what the world would look like in the current decade. And unlike Blade Runner, they avoided the cool but standard science fiction allegories – like massive billboards, flying cars and sentient robots – and went straight for the things that seemed entirely possible by contemporary standards.

The cover story of the magazine’s April 3, 1988 edition showed a futuristic downtown L.A. crisscrossed with electrically charged, multi-tiered freeways permeated by self-driving cars. The article itself then imagined a day in the life of the fictional Morrow family of the L.A. suburb Granada Hills, as “profiled” by the magazine in 2013 by science fiction writer Nicole Yorkin.

LAtimes_2013aIronically, the magazine did not envision that it would one day go out of business, or that print media would one day be lurching towards extinction. Nevertheless, the fictional article and the world it detailed were interesting reading. Little wonder then why, earlier this month, the LA Times along with an engineering class at USC, revisited the archives to assess what it predicted correctly versus incorrectly.

Together, pro­fess­or Jerry Lock­en­our and his class made a list of the hits and misses, and what they found paints a very interesting picture of how we predict the future and how its realization so often differs from what we expect. Of the major predictions to be found in LA of the 2013, as well as in the lives of the Morrow family (get it?), here is what they got right:

Smart-Houses:
smart-house_vCe6I_25016In the article, the Morrows are said to begin every morning when their “Smart House” automatically turns on. This consists of all the appliances activating and preparing them breakfast, and no doubt turning on all the environmental controls and opening the shades to get the temperature and ambient lighting just right.

While this isn’t the norm for the American family yet, the past few years have proved a turning point for home devices hooking up with the Internet, to become more programmable and serve our daily needs. And plans are well under way to find a means of networking them all together so they function as one “smart” unit.

Self-Driving Cars:
chevy_env_croppedThe writers of the article predicted that by 2013, cars would come standard with computers that control most of the settings, along with GPS systems for navigation. They also predict self-driving cars, which Google and Chevy are busy working on. In addition to using clean, alternative energy sources, these cars are expected to be able t0 self-drive, much in the same way a pilot puts their plane on auto-pilot. Drivers will also be able to summon the cars to their location, connect wirelessly to the internet, and download apps and updates to keep their software current.

But of course, they got a few things wrong as well. Here they are, the blots on their predictive record:

Homeprinted newspapers:
news_appThe article also predicts that each morning the Morrows would begin their day with a freshly printed newspaper, as rendered by their laser-jet printer. These would be tailor-made, automatically selecting the latest news feeds that would be of most interest to them. What this failed to anticipate was the rise in e-media and the decline of printed media, though hardly anyone would fault them for this. While news has certainly gotten more personal, the use of tablets, ereaders and smartphones is the way the majority of people now read their selected news.

Robot servants and pets:
kenshiro_smallIn what must have seemed like a realistic prediction, but which now comes across as a sci-fi cliche, the Morrows’ home was also supposed to come equipped with a robotic servant that had a southern accent. The family’s son was also greeted every morning by a robot dog that would come to play with him. While we are certainly not there yet, the concept of anthropomorphic robot assistants is becoming more real every day. Consider, for example, the Kenshiro robot (pictured at right), the 3D printed android, or the proposed Roboy, the Swiss-made robotic child. With all of these in the works, a robotic servant or pet doesn’t seem so far-fetched does it?

Summary:
Between these four major predictions and which came to be true, we can see that the future is not such an easy thing to predict. In addition to always being in motion, and subject to acceleration, slowing and sudden changes, the size and shape of it can be very difficult to pin down. No one can say for sure what will be realized and when, or if any of the things we currently take for granted will even be here tomorrow.

Alpha Moon Base at http://www.smallartworks.ca
Alpha Moon Base at http://www.smallartworks.ca

For instance, during the 1960’s and 70’s, it was common practice for futurists and scientists to anticipate that the space race, which had culminated with humans setting foot on the moon in 1969, would continue into the future, and that humanity would be seeing manned outposts on the moon by and commercial space flight by 1999. No one at the time could foresee that a more restrictive budget environment, plus numerous disasters and a thawing of the Cold War, would slow things down in that respect.

In addition, most predictions that took place before the 1980’s completely failed to predict the massive revolution caused by miniaturization and the explosion in digital technology. Many futurist outlooks at the time predicted the rise in AI, but took it for granted that computers would still be the size of a desk and require entire rooms dedicated to their processors. The idea of a computer that could fit on top of a desk, let alone on your lap or in the palm of your hand, must have seemed farfetched.

CyberspaceWhat’s more, few could predict the rise of the internet before the late 1980’s, or what the realization of “cyberspace” would even look like. Whereas writer’s like William Gibson not only predicted but coined the term, he and others seemed to think that interfacing with it would be a matter of cool neon-graphics and avatars, not the clean, page and site sort of interface which it came to be.

And even he failed to predict the rise of such things as email, online shopping, social media and the million other ways the internet is tailored to suit the average person and their daily needs. When it comes right down to it, it is not a dangerous domain permeated by freelance hacker “jockeys” and mega-corporations with their hostile counter-intrusion viruses (aka. Black ICE). Nor is it the social utopia promoting open dialogue and learning that men like Bill Gates and Al Gore predicted it would be in the 1990’s. If anything, it is an libertarian economic and social forum that is more democratic and anarchistic than anyone could have ever predicted.

But of course, that’s just one of many predictions that came about that altered how we see things to come. As a whole, the entire thing has come to be known for being full of shocks and surprises, as well as some familiar faces. In short, the future is an open sea, and there’s no telling which way the winds will blow, or what ships will make it to port ahead of others. All we can do is wait and see, and hopefully trust in our abilities to make good decisions along the way. And of course, the occasional retrospective and issue congratulations for the things we managed to get right doesn’t hurt either!

Sources: factcoexist.com, LATimes.com

The Future is Here: The Magic Forest LED Wall

magic_forest1In an attempt to address the sterile feel of lobbies and waiting rooms in hospitals and clinics, a London design studio recently unveiled a very cool concept. Essentially, it’s an interactive wallpaper that turns clinical corridor walls into a magical forest which engages and distracts kids as they journey toward their procedure. Known as Nature Trail, the installation is a 50 meter (165 feet) long corridor that walls part of the Mittal Children’s Medical Centre at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Jason Bruges, head of the Jason Bruges Studio and creator of the installation, claims that “the idea came from remembering walks in my childhood. I loved spotting and following things, those stolen glances and glimpses… I was trying to re-create this with the idea of digital lookout points along the corridor.” Relying on a series of 70 LED panels that house a total of 72,000 LEDs, the walls are triggered by motion sensors and reveal animated patterns in the shape of horses, deer, hedgehogs, birds, and frogs peeking through the foliage and trees.

magic_forestThe studio modeled the critters in 3D before translating them to low resolution to give the creatures an aesthetic similar to an old-fashioned video game character. The creators then placed the LED panels at various heights so kids of all ages, and to take into account being bedridden or in a wheelchair, can access the animals at eye level. The hospital says its young patients have been so entranced by the nature canvas that it will grow to fill more walls by 2017.

magic_forest2As it stands, doctor’s offices, dental clinics and medical centers rely on aesthetics to combat what can only be described as the “clinical feel”. But this concept just may offer them a high-tech option that will put patients at ease through the illusion of a natural setting that is dazzling the eyes. Some might accuse men like Bruges of using technology to anesthetize, but for anyone who has had sick children, its likely to be seen as a godsend!

Source: news.cnet.com

More Future Phones

Paper-Thin-Pamphlet-Smartphone-Concept-2The last decade has seen some real interesting developments in the field of digital technology and telecommunications. Perhaps too interesting! When one considers the kind of over-saturation  that has taken place with smartphones in recent years, not to mention the cavalcade of proposed concepts that are expected to take the field in the next few, one could get the impression that were moving too fast.

But that’s the nature of technological progress, it’s an iterative process that’s subject to acceleration. And of course, just because we’re being bombarded with countless proposals doesn’t mean they are all going to come true.  But what is clear is that the smartphones of the next generation are going to have a few things in common.

For example, flexible concepts are likely to be all the rage, as are touchscreens which have become the current mainstay. In addition, the phones are likely to be miniaturized even farther, some to the point of being paper thin and even collapsible. Transparencies are also a common concept, as are holographics and the ability to morph into other shapes.

In the end, its an open sea, and people will be free to pitch any and all combinations of these basic ideas. And there’s no telling which one’s will catch on and which one’s won’t. But one thing is clear. The end results are likely to be mighty cool and are sure to complicate our lives much, much more! And here are just some of the proposed concepts that are we likely to be seeing in the next few years…

Cobalto:
cobalto_phoneMac Funamizu’s “Cobalto” has taken the cell phone concept way into the future, with an almost all-glass design. The phone would feature 3D imaging that could make Google Maps even more useful, as demonstrated here.

Dial:
dial_phoneJung Dae Hoon’s “Dial” concept takes the rotary phone of the ‘good ol’ days’ and combines it with mobile technology and modern jewelry sensibilities.


Kambala:

kambalaA pop-up phone! Ilshat Garipov’s “Kambala” is a fascinating concept that features a center piece that can pop out to fit into your ear, making it an earphone. In theory, it will also have the ability to match your skin tone, rendering it almost invisible.

The Leaf:
leaf_phoneAnastasia Zharkova’s organic “Leaf Phone” melds aesthetic creativity with functionality. The winding stem of the leaves could be wrapped around a user’s arm, wrist, neck, or other body part.

Mobile Script:
mobile_scriptAleksander Mukomelov’s “Mobile Script” phone starts with a stylish and sleek small screen, then reveals a larger touchscreen hidden within the phone’s body to meet all of your media device needs.

Morph:
morph_phoneNokia’s “Morph” phone uses nanotechnology to create a flexible body and transparent screen that can be molded to whatever shape is the most convenient for its user. The nanotech could even clean itself.

Packet:
packet_phoneEmir Rifat’s “Packet” phone won first place at the Istanbul Design Week 2007. The tiny phone starts off at 5 cm square, then folds out as needed for different functions.

Pebble:
pebble_phoneAt first glance, this entrant into Fujitsu’s cell phone design contest looks like an ordinary paperweight. Actually, it’s a cleverly disguised phone. As the picture shows, the small black dot can be transformed into a keypad, media panel or web browser depending on what corner of the plastic handset you drag it to.

Sticker Phone:
sticker_phoneLiu Hsiang-Ling’s “Sticker Phone” has a solar panel on the back of the phone and a curved surface that will allow it to stick to a window via suction to charge. Plus, you won’t lose your phone somewhere on your desk.

Visual Sound:
visual_soundSuhyun Kim’s stylish “Visual Sound” voice-to-text concept phone for deaf people is a huge step from current systems like teletypewriters.

Window Phone:
window_phoneDesigned by Seunghan Song, this “window phone” concept will reflect current weather conditions on the screen. To input text, you just blow on the screen to switch modes, then write with your finger as a stylus.

Source: Huffington Post.com