BuzzBites: Brokeback Biometrics

Tracking cattle with retina scanning technology. And could technology keep the best and brightest students engaged in science?

July 28, 2006

2 Min Read
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Brokeback Biometrics

Branding bovines with hot irons is so old hat. Today's ranchers can take advantage of Optibrand's OptiReader, which uses LEDs to scan a farm animal's retina, then sends the data at 19 fps (frames per second) to a handheld computer using IOGear's Bluetooth adapter. The handheld contains a GPS satellite receiver, so latitude, longitude and a time/date stamp are encrypted and become part of the image record.

A cow's retina is as unique as a human fingerprint. If an animal with a retinal scan on file contracts bovine spongiform encephalopathy--mad cow disease--authorities can track the affected animal and quarantine it. Time to quit the branding irons. --Lorna Garey [email protected]

A Picture's Worth A Thousand Textbooks

Can technology keep the best and brightest students engaged in science? Nearly half the incoming students who come to college interested in science lose that passion before their junior year, according to a recent Harvard University study. Robert Lue, senior lecturer in molecular and cellular biology, attributes some of the brain drain to the, well, boring way introductory courses are taught.

So Harvard turned to technology to help illustrate complex biological and chemical processes using streaming video and Flash and 3-D animations. Faculty separated students into two groups to learn a complex concept. Half had a textbook with assigned readings and two hours to study, the other half had notes augmented by animation and just one hour to study. Test results were striking: The animation group scored an average of 93 percent on a written test, compared with 79 percent for textbook learners.

Enterprises trying to teach employees complex processes--or even relatively simple ones--take heed: A book can't compare with rich media illustrations. --Lorna Garey [email protected]


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