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lidar-equipped autonomous wheelchairs roll out in singapore and japan

photo: panasonic the uber of wheelchairs: at haneda airport in tokyo, people with disabilities will be able to hail autonomous wheelchairs using a smartphone app that lets them select a destination, sit back, and relax. autonomous vehicles can add anew member to their ranks—the self-driving wheelchair. this summer, two robotic wheelchairs made headlines: one at a singaporean hospital and another at a japanese airport.the singapore-mit alliance for research and technology, or smart, developed the former, first deployed in singapore’s changi general hospital in september 2016, where it successfully navigated the hospital’s hallways. it is the latest in a string of autonomous vehicles made by smart, including a golf cart, an electri...




for the first time, signal transfer between molecules has been achieved

the history of molecular computing and electronics has been a long and twisting road—one that was meticulously catalogued on the pages of ieee spectrum two years ago. while the future of molecular electronics and computing remains somewhat up in the air, a great deal of research is still being focused on the field.there have been proof-of-concept molecular switches, molecular data storage bits, and diodes.  however, one fundamental issue that has not been resolved is the transfer and exchange of signals between molecular devices for complex signal processing at room temperature.now researchers at nanchang university in china have described, in the journal nature nanotechnology, a device that uses a particular kind of molecule that takes...




carbon nanotube thread could generate electricity from the bloodstream

to power wearable electronics, engineers have for years been tinkering with ways to generate electricity from our bodies. they’ve cooked up schemes to convert heartbeats, footsteps, and muscle motions into electricity.now a team from fudan university in china has come up with a method for generating electricity from blood flow using a tiny fiber spun from carbon nanotubes. the idea is that the fiber could be implanted in a blood vessel to harvest the energy from flowing blood. they’ve presented the rudimentary concept in angewandte chemie, and haven’t tested the device in animals yet.to make the 0.8-millimeter-diameter fibers, they either wrap a plastic fiber with an ordered array of carbon nanotubes, or simply twist a carbon nanotu...




startup: lppfusion embraces instability - ieee spectrum

photos: lppfusion (almost) tabletop fusion: the heart of lppfusion’s device is a vessel filled with gaseous fuel at low pressure [top]. inside, a blast of current down a set of electrodes turns the gas into plasma. instabilities fuse plasma atoms [bottom]. since nuclear fusion’s earliest days, the sun has served as the ultimate prototype. it’s the closest continuously functioning large-scale fusion reactor, after all. why not copy from the best? so tokamaks, stellarators, and laser ignition facilities all strive to create high-pressure and high-temperature plasmas that behave like microcosms of the sun’s core.one of the biggest challenges these systems face is achieving the tight control they require over the plasma fuel they s...




video friday: anymal robot, jibo unboxing, and anki overdrive fast & furious

video friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your automaton bloggers. we’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next two months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):roscon – september 21-22, 2017 – vancouver, b.c., canadaieee iros – september 24-28, 2017 – vancouver, b.c., canadarobobusiness – september 27-28, 2017 – santa clara, calif., usabts maritime robotics – october 1-8, 2017 – biograd na moru, croatiadrone world expo – october 2-4, 2017 – san jose, calif., usahai 2017 – october 17-20, 2017 – bielefeld, germanylet us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.this video shows some impress...




superaccurate gps chips coming to smartphones in 2018

we’ve all been there. you’re driving down the highway, just as google maps instructed, when siri tells you to “proceed east for one-half mile, then merge onto the highway.” but you’re already on the highway. after a moment of confusion and perhaps some rude words about siri and her extended ai family, you realize the problem: your gps isn’t accurate enough for your navigation app to tell if you’re on the highway or on the road beside it.those days are nearly at an end. at the ion gnss+ conference in portland, ore., today broadcom announced that it is sampling the first mass-market chip that can take advantage of a new breed of global navigation satellite signals and will give the next generation of smartphones 30-centimeter acc...




smartphone heart monitor beats doctors at diagnosing atrial fibrillation

“doc, how’s my ticker?” in olden days (like 5 years ago), patients went to their general practitioners with such anxious inquiries, looking for cardiac checkups and reassurances. these days, consumers can buy a heart monitor that’s about the size of a piece of gum and stick it on the back of their smartphone, then check their heart rate as often as they like. but how good are the results from such a consumer gadget? a new study that tested the kardia mobile heart monitor, made by alivecor, found that the device detected more cases of the dangerous heart condition atrial fibrillation than general practitioners offering routine care. for the study, published in the journal circulation, researchers in wales enrolled 1000 patients aged...




make the web better for everyone

illustration: edmon de haro the web has serious problems: peddler of unreliable information, haven for criminals, spawning ground for irrational conspiracy fears, and tool for destructive people to broadcast their violence in real time and with posted recordings.no doubt your list of web pathologies is different from mine. but surely you agree that the web disappoints as much as it delights.now the hard part—what to do about it?starting over is impossible. the web is the ground of our global civilization, a pillar of contemporary existence. even as we complain about the excesses and shortcomings of the web, we can’t survive without it.for engineers and technovisionaries, the solution flows from an admirable u.s. tradition: building ...




using vr to diagnose concussions

jamshid ghajar once asked a nfl football “spotter”—a person who watches games for possible brain injuries—how he recognized a player with a concussion. the spotter replied, “well, if he kneels down and shakes his head, he may have a concussion.”as a neurosurgeon and director of the stanford concussion and brain performance center, ghajar was more than a little dismayed with that answer. “spotting” and other sideline assessments for concussions—such as having players memorize and recall words, or track a moving finger with their eyes—are “just okay,” ghajar described on tuesday to a small crowd at the mit media lab in cambridge, massachusetts, during a technology conference hosted by applysci. such techniques are “n...




a bittersweet milestone for the world’s safest nuclear reactors

photo: imaginechina/ap false start: installation of the containment dome at china’s haiyang nuclear plant in august 2015 was the end of the beginning of this ap1000 facility’s problems. by late this year or early in 2018, two nuclear reactorscould start operating in china—an event that might be a lifesaver for the units’ crippled builder and designer, westinghouse electric co., and for the technology they represent. both westinghouse and its prized ap1000 reactor design have suffered a series of humbling setbacks this year.the ap1000 is arguably the world’s most advanced commercial reactor. it is designed to passively cool itself during an accidental shutdown, theoretically avoiding accidents like those at ukraine’s chernob...




zizmos continues its quest to create an iot earthquake-warning network

update 20 september 2017:a few smartphone users in the mexico city area were running the zizmos app, described below, when this week’s magnitude-7.1 earthquake struck, zizmos founder battalgazi yildirim reports, but not enough to issue a warning, although zizmos did register the shaking.yildirim says he’d like to be able to get 50 fixed sensors installed in mexico city—enough to reliably give warnings of aftershocks. the design, however, is still at the prototype stage, so each costs about $500 to build. he only has 10 on hand to donate, and would need funding to produce 40 more and local volunteers to install them.meanwhile, since the mexico city earthquake, he says, another 5,000 smartphone users around the world have started running...




tiny laser device predicts cardiac arrests

a laser-based device has shown it can predict cardiac arrests in rats during open-heart surgery—and it could someday raise the standard of medical care by doing the same for human patients. the amazing predictive quality comes from determining whether or not living cells are receiving enough oxygen to remain healthy and function properly. no one had previously achieved the tricky task of monitoring oxygen delivery within the living tissue of blood-filled organs, let alone providing predictions about whether a heart might stop beating in the next 10 minutes because the organ’s cells have been starved of oxygen. lack of oxygen matters because living cells contain mitochondria—the biological equivalent of tiny power plants—that require ...




inception drive: a compact, infinitely variable transmission for robotics

last year, sri’s alexander kernbaum introduced us to abacus drive, a new kind of rotary transmission based on pure rolling motion that promises to be much cheaper and much more energy efficient than harmonic gears, which are the current (quite expensive) standard. now kernbaum is back with another ingenious—and cleverly named—transmission design. it’s called inception drive, and he describes it as “an ultra-compact infinitely variable transmission based on a novel nested pulley configuration” that’s designed to make robots, and all kinds of other things, safer, more affordable, and vastly more efficient.in an infinitely variable transmission (ivt), which is a specific kind of continuously variable transmission, the transmi...




the language of the dark web

illustration: dan page every aspect of human technology has a dark side, including the bow and arrow. —margaret atwoodpart of the mythology of the early internet was that it was going to make the world a better place by giving voice to the masses and leveling playing fields. lightwas the metaphor of choice. for example, apple cofounder steve wozniak once said that “when the internet first came, i thought it was just the beacon of freedom.”you can easily make a case for how much “brighter” the world is now, thanks to ubiquitous connectivity shining a light on misbehavior and malfeasance, but the internet has a dark side as well.for example, when you enter a search term into google and it spits out the results, you might th...




super-accurate gps chips coming to smartphones in 2018

we’ve all been there. you’re driving down the highway, just as google maps instructed, when siri tells you to “proceed east for one-half mile, then merge onto the highway.” but you’re already on the highway. after a moment of confusion and perhaps some rude words about siri and her extended ai family, you realize the problem: your gps isn’t accurate enough for your navigation app to tell if you’re on the highway or on the road beside it.those days are nearly at an end. at the ion gnss+ conference in portland, ore., today broadcom announced that it is sampling the first mass-market chip that can take advantage of a new breed of global navigation satellite signals and will give the next generation of smartphones 30-centimeter acc...




smartphone heart monitor beats doctors at diagnosing atrial fibrillation

“doc, how’s my ticker?” in olden days (like 5 years ago), patients went to their general practioners with such anxious inquiries, looking for cardiac checkups and reassurances. these days, consumers can buy a heart monitor that’s about the size of a piece of gum and stick it on the back of their smartphone, then check their heart rate as often as they like. but how good are the results from such a consumer gadget? a new study that tested the kardia mobile heart monitor, made by alivecor, found that the device detected more cases of the dangerous heart condition atrial fibrillation than general practioners offering routine care. for the study, published in the journal circulation, researchers in wales enrolled 1000 patients aged 65 ...




off-grid electrification financing is failing

for all of the excitement about using solar power to bring electricity to the more than 1 billion rural poor worldwide living without it, big picture trends provide a sobering reality check. in spite of innovative off-grid technology and business plans and high profile initiatives aiming to power remote villages in subsaharan africa, for example, electrification there is still falling behind population growth. in 2009 there were 585 million people in sub-saharan africa without power, and five years later that figure had risen to 632 million, according to the latest international energy agency (iea) statistics.a first-of-its-kind deep-dive analysis of the flow of capital, released by the united nation’s sustainable energy for all (seforall...




modeling of electromechanical sensors & systems

if you are interested in modeling electromechanical devices, including piezoelectric materials, then tune into this webinar to learn how pzflex helps fortune100 companies optimize device designs.understanding the complex, highly coupled behavior of electromechanical sensors (e.g. piezoelectric transducer arrays, saws, and electrostatic muts) and their performance in a system as a whole is critical in the development of innovative technologies (e.g. ultrasonic fingerprint sensors, medical imaging, and rf filters).due to the anisotropic materials, complex coupling effects, and multi-physics (piezoelectric, electrostatic, structural, thermal, and acoustic) involved in a single device design numerical simulation using finite element analysis (fe...




starting a robotics company? sell a service, not a robot

if you want to start a robot company, plan to kick off by selling a service performed by robots, not the robots themselves.that was the message of robot startup founders and investors speaking at hax demo day this week. hax is a five-year-old hardware accelerator based in shenzhen, china, and san francisco.“i’m a big fan of going out and doing a service with a robot, competing with other businesses that provide that service, rather than trying to sell a $100,000 robot,” said nathan harding, co-founder of ekso bionics and now co-founder and ceo of wink robotics, a still-mostly-stealthy company intending to bring robotics technology into the beauty salon industry. photo: tekla perry speaking at hax accelerator's september 2017 d...




stretchy, waterproof solar cells to power wearables

organic solar cells that are waterproof and stretchable could someday be sewn into washable electronic clothing. researchers in japan describe fabricating and testing several of these cells today in the journal nature energy.the group, led by takao someya at the riken center for emergent matter science in saitama, japan, says such cells could be used in health monitors woven into a patient’s clothing to analyze their heartbeat and body temperature, and help spot early warning signs of medical problems.wearable devices need a steady power supply of several milliwatts or more to continuously collect data. ideally, such power sources would be woven into wearable textiles to harvest solar and other forms of energy from the environment, say som...