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In five years, will light-enabled Wi-Fi "find a home?"

This week’s Question: A PhD student at Eindhoven University of Technology has developed a way of using infrared rays to carry wireless data to a laptop or smartphone. The wireless data comes from central "light antennas" that could, for example, be mounted on a ceiling to direct the rays of light supplied by an optical fiber. With no moving parts, the system requires no power. Project head Tom Koonen estimates that the technology could be installed in homes and stores in five years. What do you think? In five years, will light-enabled Wi-Fi "find a home?"

Posted in: Question of the Week, Communications, Wireless

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Is 3D printing the future of construction?

This week's Question: San Francisco-based startup Apis Cor recently used its giant 3D printer to build a small home — in under 24 hours, according to the company. The mobile technology printed out the house's walls, partitions, and building envelope; then, a group of contractors installed insulation, windows, appliances, and a roof. Apis Cor says the homes can be built for a cost of approximately $10,000. What do you think? Is 3D printing the future of construction?

Posted in: Question of the Week

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Will robotic voice assistants improve children's ability to learn?

This week's Question: Toymaker Mattel recently announced the introduction of a smart baby monitor; The voice-controlled "Aristotle" uses artificial intelligence (AI) to automate functions like changing lights, playing lullabies, or triggering white noise. With an estimated 25 million voice assistants expected to sell this year — like Amazon's Alexa, Google Home, and Microsoft's Cortana — some researchers believe that the technology will impact its young users. Supporters of voice assistants say children have always used mainstream technology as learning tools. Opponents, however, suggest that the gadgets are another device that de-emphasizes the importance of interpersonal skills. What do you think? Will robotic voice assistants improve children's ability to learn?

Posted in: Question of the Week, Data Acquisition, Sensors

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Can augmented reality reduce "road rage?"

This week’s Question: A new "CarNote" app from the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands aims to use augmented reality to improve the driving experience and reduce "road rage." CarNote's driver-facing periscope lens and transparent display projects information from a smartphone, allowing users behind the wheel to communicate and signal intentions. For example, a driver in a rush to a hospital could notify those in nearby vehicles, potentially reducing aggressive behavior like confrontations or honking the horn. The technology even has a "like" system that allows drivers to register or rate fellow travelers on the road. What do you think? Can augmented reality reduce "road rage?"

Posted in: Question of the Week, Simulation Software, Automotive

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Will packages be effectively delivered by parachute?

This week's Question: Amazon recently filed a patent for parachute-aided delivery of packages. The proposed idea imagines drones releasing parcels from the sky, deploying parachutes to slow their descent and ensure the valuables inside remain intact. To address gusts of wind or unexpected obstacles, a drone will hover nearby, monitoring a package as it falls. If the parcel moves off course, the drone can deploy methods (like bursts of compressed air!) to correct its descent. What do you think? Will packages be effectively delivered by parachute?

Posted in: Question of the Week, Aviation

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Will "$100-per-killowatt-hours" batteries boost wind and solar energy efforts?

This week’s Question: The Department of Energy (DOE) has set a goal of building a battery that stores energy for less than $100 per kilowatt-hour, making stored wind and solar energy competitive with energy produced from traditional power plants. Today’s lead INSIDER story featured a new flow battery that offers the potential to significantly decrease the costs of production. "If you can get anywhere near this cost target then you change the world," said researcher Michael Aziz. "It becomes cost effective to put batteries in so many places. This research puts us one step closer to reaching that target." What do you think? Will "$100-per-killowatt-hours" batteries boost wind and solar energy efforts?

Posted in: Question of the Week, Energy, Energy Storage

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Will telepresence drones take off?

This week’s Question: According to a recent application made public last week, Google is hoping to patent a "mobile telepresence system." The proposed drone is designed for collaboration with colleagues from remote locations. The technology will fly indoors and move from room to room, adjusting to unpredictable floor plans. What do you think? Will telepresence drones take off?

Posted in: Question of the Week, Robotics

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