Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Local developments recognised

Local developments recognised

This year Thai developers showed their capabilities on the world stage and won awards in various competitions. It is hoped their talents will build a foundation for the future.

Published on December 25, 2007

First Prize : World Rescue Robot 2007

Project : Independent

King Mongkut Institute of Technology North Bangkok, Prachinburi Campus

Five engineering students at King Mongkut Institute of Technology North Bangkok Prachinburi Campus won the World RoboCup Rescue 2007 after winning the same competition the year before.

Independent, which was named the best in the world rescue robot competition this year, comes with new features which help humans accurately perform hazardous work.

Designed as a 10-wheel robot with caterpillar tracks, Independent became stronger, more stable and has better balance than its predecessor, especially when it comes to surveys in rough or steep terrain. As the robot is used to replace humans, the team also built in a high-resolution digital camera to substitute for human eyes to relay images back to the control centre and importantly, capture clearer images, even in dim light.

The team also used ultrasonic and infrared sensors to allow the robot to detect objects and their distance while measuring the temperature of objects in its sight. Information from these sensors will help rescue teams get the overall situation to make decisions for further planning. By adding a carbon-dioxide sensor to detect the gas around the area, it also allows officials at the centre to know the concentration of the gas and evaluate the situation. If the system detects more carbon dioxide, it can assume that there are people in the area and that they are still alive.

Pinpointing the exact location of the victims is also a mission for the rescue robot. The developers adopted laser-scan technology to generate the shape of objects and when this information is combined with information from the digital compass and encoder to provide distance information, they know not only the exact location of the object but what the object looks like.

When all systems are integrated and work together, the team said the robot would perform much more accurate survey and rescue tasks.

Winner: Research and Development APICTA Awards 2007

Project: AR Studio

Larngear Technology

Putting imaginary three-dimensional objects out in the real world is no longer difficult, thanks to a new development tool called AR Studio, which allows designers and artists to build 3D objects within 10 minutes with no need to have a computer or technical knowledge. As the tool is easy to use and changes the whole way of developing imaginary 3D objects - which previously took several months - it won the first prize in the research and development category of the Asia Pacific ICT Alliance (APICTA) awards this year.

Developed by a start-up company named Larngear Technology, the tool assists designers and artists to create computer-generated objects. Built upon Overlaid Environment (OE) technology, it brings 3D objects created from AR Studio to life, allowing users to interact with them as if there actually is a physical object in front of them.

As the technology allows people to see actual 3D objects appearing out in the real world, a camera, processing software and display screen are required.

The 3D objects are overlaid on a real environment. To see the objects, people just wear a head-mounted display device which is equipped with a camera, or use a camera to capture a chessboard pattern, and then they see the objects lying in front of them on the display screen.

Apinand Dabpetch, one of the developers, said the camera sends the captured picture to the software to process and display the image of the 3D model overlaid on the environment. The objects can be moved or rotated to allow users to see different views and this makes them feel that there are real objects appearing in front of their eyes, although they are untouchable.

The development could be used to enhance people's experience in advertising, electronic books, product catalogues and handbills in three dimensions. OE can be applied in many businesses such as learning centres, restaurants, retail shops, supermarkets and advertising. The company is now using the technology to assist in the learning of chemistry.

By using a camera focused on a chessboard pattern, students can see what a molecule looks like as a 3D picture and once they combine different chessboard patterns, they see the combination of each molecule which could be formed into a new substance.

Winner: Tourism and Hospitality APICTA Awards 2007

Project: +IBE

AI Soft

+IBE is an Internet booking engine that allows travel and hospitality agencies to transform their traditional business into an online business. As it's an easy tool to convert a regular business into an online travel agency, it was recognised as the best tourism and hospitality software at the APICTA Awards 2007.

AI Soft developed the software to be integrated into any website and provide online booking services. The engine can move airline reservation departments into websites and integrate all the online bookings back to a central office without changing the back-office procedure on the travel agency side. It allows travellers to reserve hotels, rental cars, airline seats and package tours online in real time.

The system can be customised to support any agency in their business processes and can sign in remotely to any Amadeus office around the world. It now supports multiple languages such as Thai, English, Chinese and Arabic.

+IBE is a tool to help travel businesses jump into the online travel business within a short time with a lower investment cost.

Winner: Secondary Student Project APICTA Awards 2007

Project: Tanjai OCR - input at the speed of thought

Natt Piyapramote

Forget about scanners. If you have just a digital camera you can capture any printed text documents and convert them into text files for further editing. This is the idea behind the development of Tanjai OCR, a kind of optical character recognition (OCR) software and the winner of the Secondary Student Project at APICTA Awards 2007.

Developed by Natt Piyapramote, the software utilises a binary technique to convert document images captured from a conventional digital camera into a black-and-white image file for use with OCR software which then transforms the document image file into a text file, allowing users to edit and alter information in the document.

Natt said the entire process is done automatically by the software. It's easy to use - just put the image file into a computer and have the software proceed, and users get the outcome automatically with no need for manual control.

The software can recognise printed Thai text with 90-per-cent accuracy. Natt also plans to develop software to support other languages.

Winner: World Imagine Cup 2007

Project: Life Book - making books accessible to many

3KC Team

To help people who are not keen on English understand English text, a group of developers from Kasetsart University and Chulalongkorn University, formed under the 3KC Team, developed an application which makes reading English much easier.

Called Life Book, the software allows people to read a book - or any text document - with more fun. They can also learn the meaning of each word as it is shown in pictures.

Awarded the first prize in World Imagine Cup 2007, the world's software competition hosted by Microsoft, the software is used to adapt OCR technology, which converts scanned documents into text files, and then, using text-to-speech technology, turn the text from paper-based documents into sound.

Users can see a three-dimensional book page consisting of many pictures on top of many words, while their ears receive the synthesized voice to guide them on how to read the passage. The program can also read human handwriting and then convert it to text files as well as help users pronounce correctly.

For example, if there are three words such as "tree", "tea" and "three", the program helps users to know the different pronunciations and meanings by showing them the different pictures.

The Nation

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