Armchair recliner turned fitness trainer and rowing machine

Researchers have created a prototype armchair designed to take care of the elderly by giving them health and fitness advice … and even a workout. Developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (IIS) in Germany, the GEWOS…armchair looks like an ordinary, comfortable chair. The difference is that it contains sensors built into the seat cushions, backrest and armrest that measure the heartbeat and oxygen saturation of the seated person, along with an integrated rowing machine that can get you exercising on the spot.

Sven Feilner, from the Image Processing and Medical Technology Department at IIS, says that using the GEWOS “fitness assistant” is simple – just sit down, relax and put your hands on the sensors…“The sensors are integrated into the chair,’’ Feilner says. “You just have to lay down your hands on the armchair and you will get the data of ECG, heart rate or oxygen saturation…”

A tablet attached to the chair wirelessly transmits data on pulse rate, blood oxygen saturation, blood pressure and weight to a TV so trends can be viewed over time. There’s also a “virtual health assistant” which analyzes the data and suggests tailored exercise plans.

“The fitness assistant gets all the data from the chair and the person sitting there so it can figure if there are any problems,’’ Feilner says. “It can motivate them to exercise rowing using the in-built machine, or go out and take a walk around the block.”

Feilner says the chair…was specifically designed for senior citizens to keep them active and healthy in their own homes, prevent disease and monitor health…“It has the function of primary prevention and it also motivates them to do more exercises,’’ he says. ”Senior citizens should be able to get around independently in their own four walls as long as possible. For that to succeed they have to stay healthy. The exercise armchair gives them an easy and motivating way to stay fit…“

Researchers are continuing to fine-tune the capabilities of the fitness assistant chair. “It needs further work,’’ Feilner says. “The next step will be an evaluation with the elderly so that they can test it in normal circumstances and we can figure out if there is anything we have forgotten and identify any problems.”

I can think of two things missing: a built-in remote for the TV…and easy access to beer.

Truther attempts to deface a symbol of the French Republic


Click to enlarge

A woman has defaced Eugene Delacroix’s painting “Liberty Leading the People” with a black marker as it hung in an outpost of the Louvre gallery in northern France.

Police arrested a 28-year-old woman on Thursday for writing “AE911” across the bottom of a painting so closely identified with the French Republic that its image once graced the 100-franc note and it has been reproduced on postage stamps.

Painted in 1830, the work was on loan from the main Louvre in Paris to the new Louvre-Lens gallery in northern France inaugurated last December by President Francois Hollande.

“AE911Truth” is the name of a website called “Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth” whose backers say they are seeking to establish the truth of the September 11, 2001 suicide airliner attacks on New York’s Twin Towers.

Cripes. A nutball.

“It had really become an icon, a sort of symbol of the Republic which has remained famous throughout the ages,” said Vincent Pomarede, head of the Louvre’s painting department.

“We have a very passionate relationship with all our paintings and when something like this happens it’s really hard to handle,” he said.

Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People” was painted after the 1830 July Revolution as a symbol of reconciliation following the overthrow of Bourbon King Charles X and the ascent to the throne of his cousin Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orleans.

The work, depicting a bare-breasted woman brandishing a tricolor flag and leading her people over the bodies of the fallen, was later adopted as a revolutionary emblem in the 1848 uprising which overthrew the Orleans monarchy…

The Louvre confirmed on Friday it had managed to save the painting as the black marker had not penetrated the upper layer of varnish and has been successfully removed.

Grafitti in and of itself is sufficiently stupid and destructive to rarely justify the practice. Attempting to deface a work of art dedicated to liberty and democracy to advance the babble of insignificant paranoids is inexcusable.

She should do her penance cleaning the floors of the museum of the dirt tracked into the museum by those who love and appreciate art. She should be allowed a new toothbrush monthly – for the task.

A manmade island for pumped storage of wind energy

Perhaps it’s not surprising that people from countries with experience holding back the sea see the potential of building an artificial island to store wind energy.

Belgian cabinet member, Johan Vande Lanotte, has introduced a planning proposal for a man-made atoll placed in the North Sea to store energy.

The idea is to place the island a few kilometers off shore near a wind farm, according to Vande Lanotte’s office. When the wind farm produces excess energy for the local electricity grid, such as off-peak times in the overnight hours, the island will store the energy and release it later during peak times.

It would use the oldest and most cost-effective bulk energy storage there is: pumped hydro. During off-peak times, power from the turbines would pump water up 15 meters to a reservoir. To generate electricity during peak times, the water is released to turn a generator, according to a representative.

The Belgian government doesn’t propose building the facility itself and would rely on private industry instead. But there is sufficient interest in energy storage that it should be part of planning exercises and weighed against other activities in the North Sea, the representative said. It would be placed three kilometers offshore and be 2.4 kilometers wide, according to a drawing provided by Vande Lanotte’s office.

The plan underscores some of the challenges associated with energy storage for the electricity grid. Pumped hydro, which contributes a significant portion of energy supply in certain countries, is by far the cheapest form of multi-hour energy storage. It costs about $100 per kilowatt-hour, a fraction of batteries, flywheels, and other methods, according to the Electricity Storage Association. And grid storage is a considered critical to using intermittent solar and wind power more widely.

Most New Englanders – especially anyone who spent time in New Hampshire – are already familiar with pumped storage. There are facilities decades old still providing affordable electricity 24/7.

Toyota recycles old hybrid batteries into energy-storage systems


Cripes. The sexy lines of the Prius Gen 1.

How’s this for a “willing buyer”? Toyota is going to recycle nickel-metal hydride batteries from old hybrids into energy management systems and will then sell those systems to Toyota dealerships in Japan.

Starting in April, the company’s Toyota Turbine and Systems will sell an Electricity Management system to dealers as part of its effort to get those dealers to cut energy consumption costs. Toyota is also getting its distributors to move towards solar power, LED lighting and other tree-hugging energy policies.

The recycled-battery systems can story up to 10 kilowatt hours (kWh) of power…The systems can be used for backup power and can cut costs by, for instance, being deployed as a primary energy source during peak usage and pricing hours of energy consumption.

By the way, those systems weigh about 2,100 pounds each (not all that much lighter than the early Prius models, actually), and are small enough that about six of them can fit into a typical parking space.

I love easy-as-pie solutions for repurposing items like used batteries from hybrids. We still bump into ivory tower undergraduate analysis from folks who believe solutions to recycling problems stop with production of the original product. No one is ever going to support a new remedy – it’s all wasted investment.

Really?