Drudge reports that Honeywell is developing an unmanned aerial drone for domestic law enforcement use.

Robot helicopters have been mentioned here before, and in an admittedly positive light. Those were cool robot helicopters, though; using them for law enforcement raises entirely different questions … 🙂


Google print is yet another out-freeking-standing new tool from the google people. Literate people of the world, rejoice!


woah: a lifelike android


The UltraSwarm project, from the University of Essex, sounds really neat:

British researchers are turning to Linux and embedded processors to build a fleet of tiny, robotic helicopters capable of swarming like angry bees and evaluating their surroundings with a single hive mind.

But wait, there’s more:

If all goes according to plan, the helicopters will communicate with one another over Bluetooth, allowing them to move as one entity, and even to carry out sophisticated computation-heavy tasks using distributed computing techniques.

“We’ll have a flock of helicopters; they will be autonomous individually and as a swarm, and they will be gathering and processing visual data in distributed way,” says Owen Holland, project director and deputy head of the university’s computer science department.

If anyone is looking for birthday ideas, an intelligent swarm of robotic helicoptors is always a nice gift…



Police in the UK have successfully tested a 160 MPH helicopter that can read license plates from as much as 2,000 feet in the air. The Eurocopter EC135 is equipped with a camera capable of scanning 5 cars every second…

The use of Automated Plate Number Recognition (ANPR) is growing. ANPR devices photograph vehicles and then use optical character recognition to extract license plate numbers and match them with any selected databases. The devices use infrared sensors to avoid the need for a flash and to operate in all weather conditions.

The stated intent of the system is, predictably, “denying criminals the use of the road”. Just as predictably, other uses are already in the works:

Within the U.S., two cities are using the technology in a device called “Bootfinder” to identify and tow vehicles with unpaid parking tickets or even overdue library books. One woman’s car in Connecticut was towed out of her driveway because she had $85 in unpaid parking tickets.

and even more insidiously:

One of the companies that sells the camera scanning equipment touts it’s potential for marketing applications. “Once the number plate has been successfully ‘captured’ applications for it’s use are limited only by imagination and almost anything is possible,” Westminister International says on its website. UK police also envision a national database that holds time and location data on every vehicle scanned. “This data warehouse would also hold ANPR reads and hits as a further source of vehicle intelligence, providing great benefits to major crime and terrorism enquiries,” a Home Office proposal explains.


I wonder if things like this or this work against such a system. (If they do, presumably it will then become illegal to obscure the overhead view of your license plate…)

(Via Schneier.)



Given that they bought keyhole.com, it is very far from surprising that google has integrated its satellite imagery fu with its already excellent map service.

Given that google generally and consistently does things well, it is far from surprising that the result is impressive.

Still, I’m pretty blown away. Try the “satellite” link from any page of google maps, and you’ll see the from-space version of the map view (or the directions view!) you were previously looking at. Awesome. Even better, defining maps.google-isms like the pretty shadowed pinpoints and the no-page-reload-required APEX that drives the zoom control work in satellite view.

If it’s not clear, I’m excited by this. Sorry things have been quiet here lately — I was in Savannah, GA for a long weekend / mini-vacation. Had a good time enjoying spring, friends and family (was there for a wedding), and Savannah’s food and drink. A and I went here on Sunday night — I’d greatly recommend the scored flounder if you’re ever in the neighborhood.


I want to know how this supercool trick is done.


Lawrence Lessig points out that Yahoo unveiled a creative commons aware search engine last night. He explains the point clearly:

This is exciting news for us. It confirms great news about Yahoo!. I met their senior management last October. They had, imho, precisely the right vision of a future net. Not a platform for delivering whatever, but instead a platform for communities to develop. With the acquisition of Flickr, the step into blogging and now this tool to locate the welcome mats spread across the net, that vision begins to turn real.


MJP pointed me to this very cool demonstration of CSS capabilities. As I mentioned recently while lamely defending my crappy markup, I don’t have much HTML / CSS fu, but I know nifty when I see it.

If you’re running a current-ish browser, check this out if only for the oohs and ahhs.


c|net’s news.com reports that Yahoo has purchased Flickr and its parent company.

Flickr, for the unfamiliar, is a relatively new and nifty (though apparently somewhat slashdotted at the moment) tag-based photo sharing site. It has also spawned some very cool applications like Mappr, which throws geography into the mix and demonstrates some really excellent web UI fu in the process.

It’s not the least bit surprising that Flickr was acquired, though I must admit it felt like more of a google thing than a Yahoo thing to me…

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