Object Recognition for Robots

SLAM, or simultaneous localization and mapping, enables mobile autonomous robots to map their environments and determine their locations. SLAM can be used to improve object-recognition systems, a vital component of future robots that have to manipulate the objects around them in arbitrary ways. A new system developed at MIT uses SLAM information to augment existing object-recognition algorithms. And because a SLAM map is three-dimensional, it does a better job of distinguishing objects that are near each other than single-perspective analysis can.

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Researchers Print Glass Structures in 3D

A new system from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) creates strong, solid glass structures from computerized designs. The 3D-printing method allows researchers to construct optically transparent objects.

Posted in: News, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling
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NASA’s Wi-Fi Reflector Chip Speeds Up Wearables

Whether you're tracking your steps, monitoring your health, or sending photos from a smart watch, you want the battery life of your wearable device to last as long as possible. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is working on microchips for wearable devices that reflect wireless signals instead of using regular transmitters and receivers. Their solution transmits information up to three times faster than regular Wi-Fi.

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Small, Modular Fusion Plant Brings Power Source Closer to Reality

Advances in magnet technology have enabled researchers at MIT to propose a new design for a practical compact tokamak fusion reactor — and it’s one that might be realized in as little as a decade, they say. The era of practical fusion power, which could offer a nearly inexhaustible energy resource, may be coming near.

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New Technology Could Reduce Wind Energy Costs

Engineers from the University of Sheffield have developed a novel technique to predict when bearings inside wind turbines will fail, which could make wind energy cheaper. The method uses ultrasonic waves to measure the load transmitted through a ball bearing in a wind turbine. The stress on wind turbine is recorded and then engineers can forecast its remaining service life.

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NASA Flight-Tests Sample Return Capsule

A prototype capsule that one day will return science experiments to Earth was tested by releasing it from a high-altitude balloon. Technology like this capsule could one day return biological samples and other small payloads from space in a relatively short time. The balloon was launched to an altitude of about 20 miles. The capsule was released and descended at a velocity similar to what it would experience during an actual entry from space.

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Paper-Based Test Quickly Diagnoses Ebola in Remote Areas

To facilitate diagnosis in remote, low-resource settings, researchers have developed a paper-based device that changes color, depending on whether the patient has Ebola, yellow fever, or dengue. The test takes minutes and does not need electricity to work.

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Design Tool Converts CAD Files into Visual Models

A new system from researchers at MIT and the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel automatically turns CAD files into visual models that users can modify in real time. Once the design meets the user’s specifications, he or she hits the print button to send it to a 3D printer.

Posted in: News, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling
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New Technology Can Expand LED Lighting

Highly efficient, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) could slash the world’s electricity consumption. They are already sold in stores, but more widespread adoption of the technology has been hindered by high costs due to limited availability of raw materials and difficulties in achieving acceptable light quality. But researchers recently reported at a meeting of the American Chemical Society that they have overcome these obstacles and have developed a less expensive, more sustainable white LED.

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What Makes Quantum Dots Blink?

Quantum dots are nanoparticles of semiconductor that can be tuned to glow in a rainbow of colors. Since their discovery in the 1980s, these remarkable nanoparticles have held out tantalizing prospects for all kinds of new technologies, ranging from paint-on lighting materials and solar cells to quantum computer chips, biological markers, and even lasers and communications technologies. But there’s a problem – quantum dots often blink.

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