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New laser design could dramatically shrink autonomous-vehicle 3-D laser-ranging systems

September 4, 2015

This self-sweeping laser couples an optical field with the mechanical motion of a high-contrast grating (HCG) mirror. The HCG mirror is supported by mechanical springs connected to layers of semiconductor material. The red layer represents the laser’s gain (for light amplification), and the blue layers form the system’s second mirror. The force of the light causes the top mirror to vibrate at high speed. The vibration allows the laser to automatically change color as it scans. (credit: Weijian Yang)

UC Berkeley engineers have invented a new laser-ranging system that can reduce the power consumption, size, weight and cost of LIDAR (light detection and ranging, aka “light radar”), which is used in self-driving vehicles* to determine the distance to an object, and in real-time image capture for 3D videos.

“The advance could shrink components that now take up the space of a shoebox down to… read more

Toyota invests $50 million in intelligent vehicle technology at Stanford, MIT AI research centers

September 4, 2015

MIT's Stata Center, which houses the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (credit: MIT)

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) announced today (Fri. Sept. 4) that it will be investing approximately $50 million over the next five years to establish joint research centers at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab (SAIL) and MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).

Toyota also said Dr. Gill Pratt, former Program Manager at DARPA and leader of its recent Robotics Challenge, has joined Toyota to… read more

A user-friendly 3-D printing interface for customizing designs

Design tool lets novices do in minutes what would take experts in computer-aided design hours
September 4, 2015

A new Web-based interface for design novices allows a wide range of modifications to a basic design — such as a toy car or a black-and-white "yin-yang" cup — that are guaranteed to be both structurally stable and printable on a 3-D printer. (credit: Courtesy of the researchers (edited by MIT News))

Researchers at MIT and the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel have developed a system that automatically turns CAD files into visual models that users can modify in real time, simply by moving virtual sliders on a Web page. Once the design meets their specifications, they can hit the print button to send it to a 3-D printer.

Currently, 3-D printing an object from any but the simplest designs requires… read more

The Holy Grail: Machine Learning + Extreme Robotics

September 3, 2015


Two experts on robotics and machine learning will reveal breakthrough developments in humanlike robots and machine learning at the annual SXSW conference in Austin next March, in a proposed* panel called “The Holy Grail: Machine Learning + Extreme Robotics.”

Participants will interact with Hanson Robotics’ forthcoming state-of-the-art female Sophia robot as a participant on the panel as she spontaneously tracks human faces, listens to… read more

Carbon dioxide capture by a novel material that mimics a plant enzyme

Could allow for dramatic reductions in the overall energy cost of carbon capture in power plants or the atmosphere
September 3, 2015

Atomic structure of the adsorbed carbon dioxide (grey sphere bonded to two red spheres) inserted between the manganese (green sphere) and amine (blue sphere) groups within the novel metal-organic framework, forming a linear chain of ammonium carbamate (top). Some hydrogen atoms (white sphere) are omitted for clarity. (credit: Image courtesy of Thomas McDonald, Jarad Mason, and Jeffrey Long)

A novel porous material that achieves carbon dioxide (CO2) capture-and-release with only small shifts in temperature has been developed by a team of researchers at the Center for Gas Separations Relevant to Clean Energy Technologies, led by the University of California, Berkeley (a DOE Energy Frontier Research Center), and associates.

This metal-organic framework (MOF) structure, which adsorbs* CO2, closely resembles an… read more

AI authors crowdsourced interactive fiction

Achieves near-human-level authoring
September 3, 2015

The Scheherazade-IF Architecture (credit: Matthew Guzdial et al.)

GVU Center at Georgia Tech | A new Georgia Tech artificial intelligence system develops interactive stories through crowdsourced data for more robust fiction. Here (in a simplified example), the AI replicates a typical first date to the movies (user choices are in red), complete with loud theater talkers and the arm-over-shoulder movie move.

Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have developed a new artificially intelligent system that crowdsources plots… read more

Silk bio-ink could help advance tissue engineering using 3-D printers

Could allow for printing tissues loaded with pharmaceuticals or for use in biomedical implants and tissue engineering
September 3, 2015

Scientists have developed a silk-based, 3-D printer ink for use in biomedical implants or tissue engineering. (credit: American Chemical Society )

Tufts University scientists have developed a silk-based bio-ink that could allow for printing tissues that could be loaded with pharmaceuticals, cytokines (for directing stem cell functions), and antibiotics (for controlling infections), for example, or used in biomedical implants and tissue engineering.

Current 3-D printing processes are limited to simple body parts such as bone. And most inks currently being developed for 3-D printing are made of thermoplastics, silicones, collagen,… read more

Intel invests US$50 million in quantum-computing research

September 3, 2015

(credit: Intel)

Intel announced today (Thursday Sept. 3) an investment of $50 million and “significant engineering resources” in quantum computing research, in a 10-year collaborative relationship with the Delft University of Technology and TNO, the Dutch Organisation for Applied Research.

“A fully functioning quantum computer is at least a dozen years away, but the practical and theoretical research efforts we’re announcing today mark… read more

Completely paralyzed man voluntarily moves his legs, UCLA scientists report

In 1998, athlete Mark Pollock became the first blind man to race to the South Pole; now "Iron ElectriRx" man is making history again --- in a robotic exoskeleton
September 2, 2015

Mark Pollock and trainer Simon O’Donnell (credit: Courtesy of Mark Pollock)

A 39-year-old man who had been completely paralyzed for four years was able to voluntarily control his leg muscles and take thousands of steps in a “robotic exoskeleton” device during five days of training, and for two weeks afterward, UCLA scientists report.

This is the first time that a person with chronic, complete paralysis has regained enough voluntary control to actively work with a robotic device designed… read more

First US patients treated with noninvasive focused ultrasound for Parkinson’s disease

September 2, 2015

University of Maryland medical doctors monitor focused ultrasound treatment for essential tremor, guided by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) (credit: University of Maryland School of Medicine)

Researchers at the University of Maryland have performed the first focused ultrasound treatments on a deep structure within the brain related to Parkinson’s disease* called the globus pallidus.

These treatments are part of international pilot studies of 40 patients assessing the feasibility, safety, and preliminary efficacy of focused ultrasound treatments for Parkinson’s disease, guided by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).… read more

Life expectancy climbs worldwide but people spend more years living with illness and disability

Global life expectancy has risen by more than six years since 1990
September 2, 2015

Life expectancy at birth, both sexes, 2013 (credit: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation)

The good news: as for 2013, global life expectancy for people in 188 countries has risen 6.2 years since 1990 (65.3 to 71.5). The bad news: healthy life expectancy (HALE) at birth rose by only 5.4 years (56.9 to 62.3), due to fatal and nonfatal ailments (interactive visualization by country here).

In other words, people are living more years with illness and disability. Ischemic heart disease, lower… read more

Magnetic fields provide a lower-power, more secure wireless body network

September 1, 2015

This is a prototype of the magnetic field human body communication, developed in Mercier's Energy-Efficient Microsystems Lab at UC San Diego, consists of magnetic-field-generating coils wrapped around three parts of the body, including the head, arm and leg. (credit: Jacobs School of Engineering, UC San Diego)

A new wireless communication technique that works by sending magnetic signals through the human body could offer a lower power and more secure way to communicate information between wearable electronic devices than Bluetooth, according to electrical engineers at the University of California, San Diego.

While this work is still a proof-of-concept demonstration, researchers envision developing it into an ultra low power wireless system that can easily transmit… read more

Lack of sleep connected to catching a cold, new research confirms

If you sleep six hours a night or less, you are 4 times more likely to catch a cold
September 1, 2015

(Credit: iStock)

If you sleep six hours a night or less a night, you are 4.2 times more likely to catch a cold (five hours or less, 4.5 times more likely) compared to those who sleep more than seven hours in a night.

That’s the finding of a study by  Carnegie Mellon University’s Sheldon Cohen, the Robert E. Doherty University Professor of Psychology in the… read more

World’s most powerful, largest digital camera will image 37 billion stars and galaxies

3.2-gigapixel digital camera will take digital images of the entire visible southern sky every few nights, producing 15 Terabytes of data
September 1, 2015


The Department of Energy has approved the start of construction for a 3.2-gigapixel digital camera — the world’s largest — at the heart of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), revealing unprecedented details of the universe and helping unravel some of its greatest mysteries.

Assembled at the DOE’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, the camera will be the eye of LSST.

Starting in… read more

A high-efficiency, sustainable process using solar and carbon dioxide to produce methane for natural gas

Replaces fossil fuel with solar and uses C02 instead of generating it
September 1, 2015

Artificial photosynthesis used to produce renewable molecular hydrogen for synthesizing carbon dioxide into methane. (credit: Berkeley Lab)

A team of researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has developed a hybrid system that produces hydrogen and uses it (via microbes) to synthesize carbon dioxide into methane, the primary constituent of natural gas.

“We can expect an electrical-to-chemical efficiency of better than 50 percent and a solar-to-chemical energy conversion efficiency of 10 percent if our system is coupled with state-of-art solar panel and electrolyzer,”… read more

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