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Is a full digital map of the human visual cortex possible within ten years?

Consisting of 16,000 computer processors, an "unsupervised," self-learning neural network from Google is capable of hierarchically arranging data, removing duplicate similar features, and grouping certain images together. The network, which simulates the human brain, was able to recognize the image of a cat without being prompted to do so. Some say that the scale of modeling the full human visual cortex may be within reach before the end of the decade.

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Will wireless bracelet monitors be a useful way to assess student engagement?

Creators of an experimental bracelet, the Galvanic Skin Response monitor, want to use their device to assess student engagement in the classroom, and then use that information to inform teaching methods. The wireless-sensor technology, worn by a student, analyzes electrical impulses in the body to potentially determine whether a person enjoys a lesson or is bored by it. The GSR project has attracted the attention of education-focused organizations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has pledged money to determine if the GSR is useful.

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Do you trust a V2V car to prevent accidents?

A recent transportation conference demonstrated a possible advancement in automotive safety: cars that communicate with each other and warn drivers of impending collisions. Later this summer, the government will begin a year-long test involving nearly 3,000 vehicles. The vehicles will be equipped to continuously “talk” over wireless networks, exchanging information on location, direction, and speed with other similarly equipped cars within about 1,000 feet. After analyzing the data, a computer issues danger warnings to drivers, often before they can see the other vehicle. This vehicle-to-vehicle communication, or V2V, could even be used to take control of a car or prevent an accident by applying brakes when the driver reacts too slowly to a warning.

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Would you wear "electric clothes?"

Wake Forest University physicists have developed a "Power Felt" fabric that doubles as a spare outlet. When used to line a shirt, for example, it converts subtle differences in temperature into electricity. The technology could be used to power up devices, including MP3 players and cell phone batteries. According to the fabric’s inventor, a cellphone case lined with the material could use the heat absorbed from a pant pocket to boost a device's battery charge by 10 to 15 percent over eight hours.

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Are you hopeful about NASA's new ventures with private companies?

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) made history last week when its Dragon spacecraft became the first commercial vehicle in history to successfully attach to the International Space Station. Although the spacecraft was unmanned, the capsule held about 1,000 pounds of non-essential rations, including clothing, food, computer equipment, and student experiments.

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Would you want a computer that can be controlled with hand motions?

A host of companies, including Microsoft, have been working to create a new way of interacting with computers: motion sensing technology. With everyday movements like drawing, waving, and rotating, users can control functions on their computers. Many are entering the field; a company called Leap Motion, for example, has created technology that converts any screen into one that can be controlled by waving all ten fingers. The device can be useful, some say, for surgeons that want to interact with 3D medical data, engineers who want to mold an object, or everyday users who just wants to sit back and scroll.

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Will these types of "private space station" boost space tourism?

Rather than participate in fly-by suborbital flights, which are being offered by companies like Virgin Galactic, SpaceX Corp. has teamed up with Bigelow Aerospace to offer an experience in a microgravity living environment. The plan, laid out in a jointly issued news release, calls for clients to go into orbit via SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft, and link up with Bigelow's BA 330 inflatable space habitat. Each BA 330 private space station houses up to six adults, and the modules can also be strung together to create a larger space station complex. Solar arrays power each unit, and the modules will feature four large observation windows coated with UV protection film. Astronaut training programs will also prepare passengers for the rigors of space travel and microgravity living.

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