By Matt Kelly, Ithaca Journal
ITHACA — The future is here at Cornell University.
Undergraduate and graduate students from Cornell Computing and Information Science, and the College of Engineering dazzled visitors with cutting-edge inventions at the 2014 BOOM — Bits On Our Minds — technology showcase Wednesday at Cornell’s Duffield Hall.
Anil Aksu, left, a first year civil engineering Ph.D. student feels an assisted navigational device that allows visually impaired individuals to find their way through the use of ultrasonic and infrared sensors held by Shane Soh, a senior in computer engineering, at BOOM 2014 at Cornell’s Duffield Hall. / ED DITTENHOEFER/CORRESPONDENT PHOTO
Projects at this year’s showcase reflected areas that dominate our daily modern lives. From health and media to drone technology and recreation, this year’s collection of projects placed a heavy emphasis on interpreting data into visible interaction.
“Anytime you have some sort of project or app that’s going out, you have some aspect of data collection with it,” said Saba Alemayehu, project manager from Cornell Computing and Information Science. “Big data is the big thing.”
One of the more practical projects for Ithacans is a bus-tracking mobile phone application that could simplify public transportation downtown. The app enables users to select a numbered bus route and instantly find out where the bus will stop, what time it will arrive and even track its location on a map.
Alex Kittelberger and Christopher Jonathan, graduate students in the Cornell Master of Engineering program in Computer Science, showed off the app’s capabilities using real-time data from the Chicago Transit Authority. Kittelberger said the biggest challenge of implementing the application in Ithaca would be installing GPS tracking information on the TCAT buses. However, he said he does envision the app being practical for the local community.
“Buses usually start at one spot at a specific time, but then those middle stops make it so that you don’t know if it’s going to be two minutes late or two minutes early,” Kittelberger said. “If it’s freezing outside, like this winter has been in Ithaca, and I don’t want to wait 15 minutes out in the cold, this mobile app can help me check.”
Other projects contained technology that could potentially have an impact around the globe. Joel Heck, a student in the Master of Engineering program, is a member of CUAir, a group that competes annually in unmanned aircraft competitions. Heck said his team’s aircraft could be valuable in search-and-rescue missions.
“Our plane has an autopilot program that flies itself; we just tell it to go to different GPS wave points,” Heck said. “For instance, with the Malaysian aircraft that went down, you’re looking for a debris field, and there’s a lot of manned aircraft that only have a certain amount of time that they can be out there. If you have a computer looking at those images, you’d be able to find those things much faster.”
Other inventions on display included a scale and accompanying mobile app that enabled users to track vitals like weight, heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol; a digital platform that tracks reader analytics for news media publishers; and sensors that convert the body’s electromagnetic pulses into colored lights that indicate stress levels.
This year’s BOOM showcase was sponsored by several giants in the technology industry such as Facebook, eBay, Google and Yahoo!, who had representatives on hand to speak with students about internship opportunities.
While the technology at this year’s BOOM showcase appeared futuristic, many of these inventions may be out in the world sooner rather than later.
“It’s about how we can communicate to the public and let them know about a really cool app that you can use in your daily life,” Alemayehu said. “A lot of these projects can be applicable to our daily lives and actually mirror what we’re projecting into the future.”