Special Coverage

Technique Provides Security for Multi-Robot Systems
Bringing New Vision to Laser Material Processing Systems
NASA Tests Lasers’ Ability to Transmit Data from Space
Converting from Hydraulic Cylinders to Electric Actuators
Automating Optimization and Design Tasks Across Disciplines
Vibration Tables Shake Up Aerospace and Car Testing
Supercomputer Cooling System Uses Refrigerant to Replace Water
Computer Chips Calculate and Store in an Integrated Unit
Electron-to-Photon Communication for Quantum Computing

Will you watch drone racing?

This week's Question: The Drone Racing League announced on Wednesday that it had signed deals to broadcast a 10-episode season on ESPN and ESPN2, along with the European stations Sky Sports Mix and 7Sports. According to league officials, stationary pilots will use headsets and joysticks to steer the drones through obstacle-filled courses — at up to 80 miles per hour. Tiny cameras mounted on the drones offer the human controllers a cockpit-like view. What do you think?

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Can AI be used to make a good movie?

This week's Question: In early September, Concourse Media and Productivity Media, Inc. (PMI) announced the acquisition of Impossible Things, a feature-length film with a screenplay written via artificial intelligence. Greenlight Essentials, a company founded by Jack Zhang, uses AI software to create plot frameworks for target markets within the entertainment sector. What do you think?

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Will "cool" clothes catch on?

This Week's Question: Today's lead INSIDER story highlighted a low-cost, plastic-based textile that could cool the body efficiently when woven into clothing. What do you think? Will "cool" clothes catch on?

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Would you ride in an autonomous taxi?

This month, Singapore unveiled the world's first self-driving taxis. Select passengers hailed free rides last Thursday through their smartphones. While multiple companies, including Google and Volvo, have been testing self-driving cars on public roads for several years, nuTonomy, an automonomous vehicle software startup, says it is the first company to offer rides to the public. The taxis are currently only running in a 2.5-square-mile business and residential district, and pick-ups and drop-offs are limited to specified locations. What do you think?

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Is space mining viable?

NASA announced this month that its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) will proceed to the next phase of design and development ahead of a planned launch in late 2021. ARM will demonstrate a solar electric propulsion system as a robotic spacecraft travels to a near-Earth asteroid (NEA). After collecting a multi-ton boulder from the asteroid, the spacecraft will redirect and place the rock in orbit around the Moon. NASA’s announcement raises the possibility of mining rare earths and precious metals in space. Miners will be challenged, however, with getting to space, identifying and mining the correct samples, and returning home safely.

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Will security concerns prevent widespread adoption of wearables and IoT devices?

This week's Question: In the paper "Friend or Foe?: Your Wearable Devices Reveal Your Personal PIN" scientists from Binghamton University and the Stevens Institute of Technology combined data from embedded sensors in wearable technologies, such as smartwatches and fitness trackers, along with a computer algorithm to crack private PINs and passwords. By using data from “accelerometers, gyroscopes, and magnetometers inside the wearable technologies regardless of a hand’s pose,” the researchers could record a hand’s fine-grained movements. The researchers then used a “Backward PIN-sequence Inference Algorithm” to crack the codes.

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Will VR be the new way to watch sports?

This week's Question: Fox Sports offered virtual-reality streams from last week's U.S. Open, a major golf championship in Oakmont, PA. Sports fans who owned the right devices could watch the golf event on the television while using VR for enhancements: game recaps, highlights of a particular play, features, and brief cut-ins to live play. Virtual reality still faces adoption challenges. Viewers need to buy special equipment to view the broadcast, and the users may find the devices too inconvenient and cumbersome to wear regularly. What do you think? Will VR be the new way to watch sports?

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Will AI improve vehicle safety by 2020?

This week's Question: As the competition to develop self-driving cars intensifies, Toyota Motor Corp. announced that over the next five years the company will spend $1 billion on the integration of artificial intelligence (AI). Gill Pratt, CEO of Toyota Research Institute, recently said Toyota aims to improve car safety by enabling vehicles to anticipate and avoid potential accident situations. While today's driver assistance systems largely use image sensors to avoid obstacles within the car’s lane, Pratt said TRI was looking at AI solutions to enable "the car to be evasive beyond the one lane."

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Will flying cars catch on (beyond the 1 percent)?

This week's Question: Google co-founder Larry Page reportedly has invested millions of dollars in two startups that are developing flying cars. Bloomberg reports that Page has spent more than $100 million on Silicon Valley's Zee.Aero, and is also funding a similar firm called Kitty Hawk. Zee.Aero's plans have included building a prototype flying car capable of taking off and landing vertically. Werner Goertz, a research director at market research firm Gartner, said that the flying car is unlikely to catch on with the general population but may become a reality for "the 1 percent of the wealthiest people." Aside from socio-economic barriers, he said companies would have to design a cost-effective battery that would carry a charge strong enough to lift a flying car for an extended period of time.

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Would you like to have a voice-based personal assistant?

This week's Question: Google, Amazon, and Apple have developed — or are in the process of developing — voice-based personal assistants that "listen" and respond to verbal commands. The Amazon Echo, a 9-inch tall, voice-operated cylindrical speaker powered by an artificial-intelligence agent, was released last year; Google launched its Home speaker at the company's I/O event last month; and Apple is opening its Siri voice assistant to outside app developers. With the technologies, a user's verbal commands could soon initiate a variety of actions: controlling the lights in your home, turning on your car, playing video on your TV, or accessing the Internet, for example. The assistants could also provide increasingly personalized information based on one's specific commands and actions.

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