Technology Bulletin

Prototype brings UNIX to blind users

For blind or visually impaired computer users, the buttons and icons of a graphical user interface can make a software program impossible to use. A new auditory interface system developed by engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, NASA, and Sun Microsystems solves that problem for the most widely used UNIX graphical interface, X-Windows. The Mercator prototype substitutes sounds for the visual cues that help sighted users to navigate a program. The system will allow sighted and blind computer users to work side-by-side on UNIX workstations, using the same applications software. For details, fax the Georgia Institute at (404) 894-6983.

OEM partnership to develop low-cost sensors

An OEM partnership called the Uncooled Low-cost Technology Reinvestment Alliance (ULTRA) will develop and manufacture advanced industrial and military infrared heat-detecting sensors and components. Conventional thermography systems use mechanical scanners and detectors that must be cooled to cryogenic temperatures. In contrast, ULTRA sensors will use silicon microbolometer uncooled focal plant array detectors made using standard silicon semiconductor processes, and will operate at room temperature. The ULTRA effort will reduce the costs of infrared radiometric and imaging sensors by a factor of eight, predict engineers. Partners include Inframetrics, Rockwell International, and Honeywell. For more information, fax Inframetrics at (508) 667-2702.

Time to enter R&D 100 awards

R&D MAGAZINE is accepting entries for the annual R&D 100 awards. The award is an international competition that recognizes innovators and organizations for outstanding applied sciences developments and technological advancement. The winning products will be honored in a four-week exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago from September 15 through October 14. Past winners include the electronic video recorder (1969), the automatic teller (1973), the fax machine (1975), and the digital compact cassette (1993). For an application, fax "R&D 100 Entry Forms" at (708) 390-2618.

System brings automated refueling down to earth

Engineers at Robosoft S.A. in France have developed OSCAR, a 24-hour robotic refueling system specifically designed for fleets of vehicles. Among OSCAR's features is a robotic sensing device that locates the vehicle's fuel-tank filler cap, unscrews it, and replaces it when the tank is full. An electronic on-board label system captures data such as vehicle ID, date, and location of the tank filler. Engineers have tested prototypes for three years, and the company plans to commercialize the technology in France this year.

NASA and Ford to transfer technology

NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, and Ford Motor Co., Dearborn, MI, have agreed to a two-year cooperative agreement that will allow Ford engineers to use NASA-developed technology to improve the design and engineering of new vehicles. NASA and Ford designated eight technology areas after assessing more than 60 Langley technologies. Among them: computational fluid dynamics, flow measurement techniques, antenna measurements, and advanced materials to improve manufacturing processes. The agreement marks the first broad technology transfer between NASA and any automaker. For details, fax NASA at (202) 358-2983.

Million-mile, ten-year auto radiators?

New technologies such as no-flux brazing and inno-vative tube and fin designs may yield copper and brass automotive radiators that

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