What is this HMI telling me? Part I

Don't know about you, but when I spellcheck a file in Word or PowerPoint, I often click the Ignore All button to tell the spellchecker to skip URLs or technical terms. I was doing exactly that a few minutes ago when, suddenly, I got this warning:

Now, does this mean that the spellchecker has hit some kind of internal limit? Or is it telling me that I'm playing too fast and loose with the Ignore button? More importantly, what am I supposed to do with this message?

Moral: When designing an HMI, always remember that someone like me is at the receiving end of equation. Someone who doesn't know everything you do. Someone who would appreciate just a little more (unambiguous) information.

Video Interview: Intel C++ Optimizing Compiler for QNX Neutrino RTOS

Here's an interview with Uli Dumschat, a product manager for Intel Germany, on the Intel C++ Optimizing Compiler for the QNX Neutrino RTOS. Among other things, Uli discusses the compiler's performance boost for Intel Atom processors, and the connection between increased performance and lower power consumption.


More QNX fastboot for Intel Atom videos

I was browsing YouTube this morning when I discovered that a colleague had posted a couple of videos on QNX fastboot technology. If you haven't read my previous posts on this topic, QNX fastboot technology allows x86 systems, including those based on the Intel Atom processor, to boot wicked fast. Often a second or less.

Here's the first video, which features QNX fastboot on the LiPPERT Embedded Core Express Eco board:

Here's the second video, which features QNX fastboot on the Kontron nanoETXexpress board:

And here's an older QNX video, posted back in October, that features a QNX engineer discussing fastboot technology:

Of course, I couldn't get this far without plugging a whitepaper. So if you're interested, download QNX's fastboot of x86 whitepaper here.


Meet Hiro, the QNX-controlled humanoid robot

Got US $77,000 burning a hole in your pocket? If so, you can now buy your very own QNX-controlled humanoid robot.

Or perhaps not. The robot, dubbed HIRO, is designed primarily for research and teaching programs in college and university labs. So chances are, you don’t want to bring this guy home. Unless, of course, programming robots to clean dishes and do the laundry is your thing.

Kidding aside, HIRO is a pretty serious piece of robotics, with a total of 15 degrees of freedom, stereo vision camera, two robotic hands, two hand-mounted cameras, and a repeat positioning accuracy of less than 20 micrometers. It also has a serious purpose, allowing researchers to study how robots work in real-world environments.

If you still want one, but don't have the cash, relax: You have buy the starter version for $57,000. Mind you, for that money, you could buy a 2009 BMW 320i. Decision, decisions...

HIRO was co-developed by Kawada Industries and General Robotix (GRX). For more information, check out the articles published by Tech-On and Engadget.


Totally random


Follow QNX developments on Twitter

Press releases are a great way for a company to tell the world what it's doing, but they only scratch the surface. So I've created a Twitter account to keep everyone informed on interesting developments — new technologies, new source code projects, new customers, etc. — that don't make it into official QNX announcements.

This is still a work in progress. If it gains traction, I may eventually split it into several Twitter streams, perhaps by industry (automotive, industrial). That way, people can keep up to date on what interests them most.

Until then, visit http://twitter.com/QNX_News and start following. :-)


Next-gen digital speedometer versus 1939 safety speedometer

Now, this is cool. A few weeks ago, I discussed how a digital instrument cluster can provide visual cues to help drivers avoid speeding. For instance:

Well, guess what. Engineers for Chryler's now-defunct Plymouth division came up with this concept years ago — in 1939, to be exact. That's the year Plymouth introduced its "safety speedometer" in the P8 model line.

From what I've read, these speedometers switch from green to amber to red, depending on the car's speed. I've only seen still photos of these speedometers, but allow me to invoke the magic of PhotoShop and reconstruct how I think they work.

The safety speedometer has a rotating bezel. Embedded in this bezel is a small glass bulb. At speeds from 0 to 30 mph, the bulb glows green:

At speeds from 30 to 50 mph, the bulb turns amber:

And at over 60 mph, the bulb turns red:

Of course, given the limitations of 1939 technology, the Plymouth safety speedometer can't take driving conditions or the current speed limit into account. The speedometer glows amber at 30 mph, regardless of whether you're driving down a quiet neighborhood or on a busy highway.

Compare this to a software-controlled digital speedometer, which can take input from multiple sources, both within and outside the car, to provide feedback that dynamically changes with driving conditions. For instance, a digital speedometer can acquire the current speed limit from a navigation database and change its display accordingly.

Also, a digital speedometer can intelligently deemphasize unnecessary information to reduce driver distraction. For instance, it can dim any gauge that is displaying values in the normal operating range. Like so:

Mind you, I'm just scratching the surface of what a digital instrument cluster can do. Check out Andy Gryc's new whitepaper to get a better idea of how automakers can implement — and benefit from — this technology.

p.s. I can't locate the website that contains the original, pre-PhotoShopped photo of the safety speedometer depicted in this blog post. If you recognize the photo and it's yours, let me know, and I'll give you the photo credit and link to your page.