Matt’s Favorites: Green Car Tech Fascinates, Gilmour Gives Back Big Time, And Much More

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He's Kirobo and he's going to space. He comes in peace for all robotkind.

He’s Kirobo and he’s going to space. He comes in peace for all robotkind.

So what’s the newest and coolest in the always amazing world of high tech? Well, try a couple of local items on for size before we take off on the Intertubes…

* Had a great time Wednesday moderating a panel discussion at Oakland University on greening auto manufacturing. The Suppliers Partnership for the Environment, the Alianza Verde Automotriz in Mexico and the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, the organization linking environmental regulators in Canada, Mexico, and the United States, sponsored the event. So what did I learn about? Oh, nothing much: Just advanced paint processes that slash electric and natural gas usage in assembly plants. And a new process that turns paint sludge into energy and recyclable paint raw materials. And advanced air and water filters that take the metal shavings and metalworking fluids — toxic, nasty stuff — out of the air and water in auto plants. And software that automates environmental compliance for auto suppliers. All of it with Michigan, or at least Midwest, ties, all produced by some really clever companies that virtually nobody in Michigan (outside a very small corner of the auto industry) has ever heard of. But you will, in the days and weeks ahead, read about ‘em right here in your WWJ Technology Report. Because green technology means innovation and innovation means jobs and by golly that’s what we’re all about around here. The bottom line is that the auto industry appears to be taking its environmental responsibilities seriously these days — in part because the public is taking environmental concerns more seriously these days. More information at http://cec.org/ or http://www.supplierspartnership.org/.

* Major kudos to Wayne State University president Allan Gilmour, who Wednesday announced a gift to the university of $1 million. The gift will be in the form of an endowment, 25 percent of which will be in the name of Gilmour’s partner, Eric Jirgens.
 By design, the $1 million gift is somewhat greater than the total after-tax compensation Gilmour earned as President during his tenure. The endowment will pay out at a rate of 4.5 percent annually.  In a prepared statement, Gilmour said: “Being President has been a fascinating and rewarding experience. My three years have convinced me of the value of Wayne State — to the community, the state and, most of all, the students. It is unique among Michigan’s public universities and a valuable state asset. I am honored to be part of it and delighted I am able to give back.”

* Okay, this is cool on so many levels: Japan is planning to launch a talking robot into space. The 13-inch-tall humanoid, named Kirobo, will be sent to space to give astronaut Koichi Wakata a partner to chat with on the International Space Station, the AFP reports. Wakata will be the first Japanese astronaut to command the ISS. Kirobo will also be the first robot to visit the space station. Kirobo’s features include voice and facial recognition and natural language processing. He will also have a video camera. It has a counterpart named Mirata that will remain on Earth for troubleshooting.

* Experimental technology from Ford Motor Co. attempts to notify drivers behind you when you’re braking, even if they can’t see you.

* Seven months after the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft can finally confirm that Facebook will bring an official version of its social-networking application to the platform. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made the announcement during his keynote address at the company’s Build 2013 developer conference in San Francisco, though he didn’t provide timing on the pending release. (Maybe I can shout a question at him about that when he shows up to cut the ribbon on the new Microsoft store Friday in Troy, since they aren’t providing any time for Ballmer to meet with a certain tech reporter. Pout. Whine.)

* The Internet Hall of Fame Wednesday announced its 2013 inductees. Thirty-two tech luminaries will be honored at the second annual event to take place Aug. 3. Among the pioneers inducted was the late Aaron Swartz, who co-authored an early version of Rich Site Summary (RSS) and was an early architect of Creative Commons. Swartz, who was known to shy away from the spotlight, came to international attention following the news of his suicide in January.

* Throwing seems such a natural movement. But about two million years ago, long before Sandy Koufax started mowing down opposing hitters or Joe Montana connected with Dwight Clark with a Hail Mary to capture the 1982 Superbowl for the San Francisco 49ers, throwing was impossible. It took an anatomical evolution to get us to the World Series and snowball fights we so love.

* The worn-down flat stones of an ancient Roman road have been unearthed in Jerusalem, the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced. About 1,800 years ago, the road was one of two imperial arteries that connected Jerusalem to the ancient coastal city of Jaffa, now part of Tel Aviv. A well-preserved section of the path was exposed in northern Jerusalem during an excavation ahead of the installation of a drainage pipe, excavators say.

* Pacific neighbors Australia and Japan are battling in the International Court of Justice, as Australia urges the United Nations to ban Japan’s yearly whale hunt. The annual hunt is carried out in the icy waters of the Southern Ocean, an area Australia declared a whale sanctuary in 1999. Tokyo is defending the program as culturally and scientifically important.

* The need for speed will soon be satiated for mobile device owners in South Korea. The Asian country’s largest mobile operator, SK Telecom Co. is this week launching what it says is the world’s fastest wireless network. With a transfer rate of 150 megabits per seconds, the network can download an 800 megabyte movie in just 43 seconds.

* Get used to more of this: In the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, Smith Island is only reachable by boat. While the area used to be booming, the population and habitable area on the island is dwindling. Scientists at the University of Maryland say the water level is rising, in part, because of climate change.

* Frustrated with Verizon’s smartphone lineup? You’re not alone.

* Here’s a cool application for 3D printing — helping a disabled duck.

* They probably aren’t very hospitable to life, but imagine the night skies from a planet inside a star cluster. NASA says they’ve found some.

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