Concept cars of yesteryear

Yesterday, Rick DeMeis of Automotive Design Line posted some cool concept car images on his blog. But if you're looking for next-gen electric models, forget about it: These babies are pure, vintage Detroit, dating back to the 1950s and earlier. Consider, for example, this prototype Buick Wildcat:

Photo copyright 2008, Gene Ritvo

Comments on Rick's blog don't seem to be working this morning; otherwise, I'd have asked him to post more images. Rick, if you're reading this, how about it? :-)

To see the blog entry, click here.


Keeping intersections safe with QNX

The incident occurred more than 20 years ago, but I'm still ****ed off about it. My wife had just stepped into an intersection when, suddenly, a car came screaming around the corner. It missed her by inches. The driver, in his infinite wisdom, had decided to run a red light, without checking to see whether any pedestrians or vehicles were nearby.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

My wife narrowly missed becoming a statistic. Not everyone is so lucky. In fact, accidents at intersections account for 30% of vehicle crashes in the US. These accidents contribute to 50% of all traffic injuries and 25% of all traffic fatalities.

Still, it would be misleading to suggest that careless, arrogant drivers cause the majority of intersection accidents. Studies indicate that, in many cases, drivers simply misjudge gaps in traffic. For instance, a driver sees an oncoming vehicle, but miscalculates how fast it is approaching. Seconds later, passersby are calling 9-1-1.

Enter the Minnesota Rural Intersection Decision Support system (IDS) system. Designed by experts from the University of Minnesota, this QNX-controlled system aims to reduce accidents by providing drivers at rural intersections with better information about oncoming traffic.

To determine the state of an intersection, the IDS relies on several subsystems, including radar sensors, laser scanners, and a communications subsystem. It then uses a “driver interface” to display the information to drivers.

The designers chose the QNX Neutrino RTOS to control several of the system’s components, including the radar stations, the lidar stations, and the main controller computer.

To learn more about the IDS, click here.


This week's random hits

Check back every Friday for more random hits.


Using proton beams to treat cancer

Earlier today, CERN's Large Hadron Collider fired its first protons around a 27 kilometer tunnel. The news got me thinking of a QNX-based system that also fires protons — not to unlock the secrets of the universe, as in the case of the CERN collider, but to address a far more immediate problem: cancer.

To treat cancer, doctors have long depended on various forms of radiotherapy. While often effective, these techniques can damage healthy, cancer-free tissues that are located near or behind the tumor.

Enter proton therapy. Using this approach, a radiotherapist can precisely restrict cell damage to where the tumor is located, even if the tumor resides deep within the body. The radiotherapist can even "bend" the proton beam into the same shape as the tumor. This accuracy makes proton therapy useful for treating tumors located near vital organs. It can also reduce long-term effects sometimes associated with conventional forms of radiotherapy, particularly in children.

Mind you, there is a drawback: the equipment required to deliver proton therapy typically weighs hundreds of tons. Still, a growing number of proton therapy centers are opening in North America, Europe, and Asia.

One such center is the Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute (MPRI). Their proton therapy system (PTS), designed by Indiana University, consists of four main subsystems: beam delivery, dose delivery, patient positioning, and treatment control.

The dose delivery subsystem (DDS), which represents the business end of the PTS, runs on the QNX RTOS. It controls devices on the end nozzle and ensures that the patient receives the correct radiation dose. In fact, the DDS is responsible for performing several operations, such as manipulating the magnet controller, recording data from the nozzle’s beam detectors, and monitoring beam properties.

For more information on the PTS architecture, read this whitepaper.

For more information on proton therapy, check out this wikipedia article.

QNX gets Elektra-fied

Last week, I told you that a QNX-based media server took home an EISA Best Product award. At the risk of turning this blog into a trophy case, allow me to mention that QNX Software Systems has also been shortlisted for a 2008 Elektra award.

No, not this Electra:

And not this Elektra, either:

Rather, this Elektra:

Okay, so it isn't the sexiest Elektra. But it does honor hi-tech companies that make a difference. This year, the Elektra judges have chosen the QNX Aviage Acoustic Processing Suite as a finalist in the Embedded Systems category.

If you've never heard of QNX Aviage, it's a software library that eliminates the dedicated hardware typically used to reduce noise and echo in automotive hands-free systems. By reducing hardware costs, QNX Aviage allows more cars to ship with handsfree systems as standard equipment. And that means more people who insist on driving with a coffee cup in one hand and a cellphone in the other can now keep one hand on the wheel. The benefits of this cannot be underestimated.

Winners of the Elektra awards will be announced November 10, at the Electronica conference in Munich. For the complete list of Elektra finalists, click here.


This week's random hits

Check back every Friday for more random hits.

QNX-based media server takes home EISA award

I know that it may come as a shock, but often, judges hand out industry awards without laying their hands on a single product. They simply review the written award submissions and dole out prizes based on what they’ve read.

The European Imaging and Sound Association (EISA) takes a different approach. It insists that the products submitted for its annual awards are made available for detailed, hands-on evaluation. And this year, the evaluation process resulted in an EISA Best Product award for the QNX-based Harman Kardon DMC 1000 media server.

Equipped with a 250GB internal hard drive, the DMC 1000 can digitize and catalogue more than 60,000 songs. It comes with USB jacks and memory-card slots, so you can quickly stock up the hard drive with music, movies, and photos from all your personal devices: iPods, cell phones, digital cameras, camcorders, thumb drives, etc. Other features include a 1080p upscaling DVD player and the ability to distribute 4 audio streams throughout your home.

I’m in the process of digitizing analog tapes that I recorded almost 30 years ago. If someone told me in 1980 that I would eventually digitize this material and play it on a home media server or handheld MP3 player, I’d have stared at them as if they had 3 heads. (A tape deck with 3 heads, on the other hand, I would have gladly welcomed.) Things have changed since then, and thank goodness for that: I'll take a single, sleek DMC 1000 over a wall of cassettes any day.

For more info on the DMC 1000, check out the Design News article, "New Media Center Stops Blue Screen of Death."