Special Coverage

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
Mechanoresponsive Healing Polymers
Variable Permeability Magnetometer Systems and Methods for Aerospace Applications
Evaluation Standard for Robotic Research

Is "neuromarketing" valuable for consumers?

This week’s Question: Last week, Japanese retailer Uniqlo debuted UMood, a brain-wave analysis system designed to match the right T-shirt to a specific customer. After the shopper puts on an electroencephalography (EEG) headset, the technology's algorithm employs five metrics — interest, like, concentration, stress, and drowsiness — to measure the user's response to a set of videos, and tries to best find a design that corresponds with the user's mood. Uniqlo used surveys to map its more than 600 T-shirt styles and colors to various mood territories.

What do you think? Is “neuromarketing” valuable for consumers?

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Are video games good for the brain?

This week’s Question: A new study published from the Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences found action video games—which require players to navigate complex 3D settings, account for quick-moving targets, and switch between focused and distributed attention—are most beneficial to cognitive abilities. Another early 2015 study, however, published by the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, showed that while video game players exhibit more efficient visual attention abilities, they are also much more likely to use navigation strategies that rely on the brain's reward system (the caudate nucleus) and not the brain's spatial memory system (the hippocampus). What do you think? Are video games good for the brain? 

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Will telemedicine improve health care delivery?

This week's Question: Telemedicine Services like American Well, a Boston, MA-based service, allow smartphone or Web users to have a video consultation with a physician. According to a July report by investment bank RBC Capital markets, telemedicine technology has the potential to save more than $40 billion annually by cutting nearly two-thirds of unnecessary emergency room visits, and save nearly $20 billion a year by replacing one-third of physician visits. The move toward telemedicine options, like apps and video conferencing, however reduce face-to-face care. What do you think? Will telemedicine improve health care delivery?


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Is AI good for management?

This week's Question: The Japanese electronics maker Hitachi Ltd. said it has developed a new artificial intelligence program that will enable robots to deliver instructions to employees based on analyses of big data and the workers’ routines. According to a Hitachi spokesperson, the AI program improved a warehouse work efficiency by 8%. Tests showed that artificial intelligence could accurately issue work orders for employees at the warehouse, instructing them on the most efficient route to pick up a product. The software, however, removes human intervention from the work processes.

What do you think? Is AI good for management? 

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Will virtual reality apps catch on?

This week's Question: After its acquisition of Oculus VR, the social network Facebook is working on a stand-alone video app that would support 360-degree, or "spherical" videos. CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has called virtual reality the next "computing platform" after mobile devices, imagines that the Oculus headset will enable many new immersive experiences, from virtual doctors’ appointments to live events like basketball games and concerts. The mobile-video app would offer less of an immersive experience than the Oculus headset, but may introduce the technology to larger audiences. Google and Samsung Electronics Co. have also unveiled virtual-reality viewers this year.

What do you think? Will virtual reality apps catch on?

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Will an aquatic barrier clean up the ocean?

This week's Question: According to recent research from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, there are currently 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in the world's oceans. The Ocean Cleanup, an organization seeking to rid waters of plastic waste, has plans to build a massive aquatic "barrier" in the ocean that would corral trash into a concentrated area for collection and disposal. The barrier, which will appear as a large "V" shape in the water, will "take advantage of the natural movement of ocean currents," drawing debris to the center of the structure. The team plans to build the wall in the water between Hawaii and California by 2020. What do you think? Will an aquatic barrier clean up the ocean?


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Will we colonize Mars by 2039?

This week's Question: Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, is teaming up with the Florida Institute of Technology to develop a "master plan" to colonize Mars within 25 years. Aldrin envisions using Mars’ moons, Phobos and Deimos, as preliminary stepping stones for astronauts. The program would culminate with a landing at a Mars base that had been prepared with robots tele-operated by astronauts on Phobos. A spacecraft would travel between Earth and Mars on a continuous basis using “cycling orbits,” with astronauts boarding them from space shuttles and riding across interplanetary space and then leaving the spacecraft behind at the destination. Aldrin hopes that the plan will lead to the first Mars settlement by 2039, the 70th anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing. What do you think? Will we colonize Mars by 2039?


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Will elevators take us to the edge of space?

This week's Question: Last month, the Canada-based company Thoth Technology received a US patent for its 12-mile space elevator design. The elevator, enclosed in a tunnel, includes a landing pad on its roof. Spacecraft would refuel and take on passengers and cargo from the pad. Some of the elements of the elevator, however, have yet to be invented, including a tether cable that is lightweight and can withstand the tension of the lift technology. There is also concern about high winds and the possibility of the tower buckling under its own weight.

What do you think? Will elevators take us to the edge of space?


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Are Internet-connected cars worth the risk?

This week's Question: Last week, researchers from the University of California - San Diego discovered a vulnerability that allowed a 2013 Corvette to be hacked. The security flaw was found in dashboard hardware commonly used by insurance firms and transportation companies to monitor location, speed, and efficiency. By sending carefully crafted SMS messages, the hackers were able to control the vehicle's driving components, including its wipers, locks, and even brakes (when driving at slow speeds). The Corvette hack is one of a recent string of vulnerabilities found in vehicles, including cars from automakers like Tesla, GM, and Jeep. What do you think? Are Internet-connected cars worth the risk?


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Can an app improve your mood?

This week's Question: Smartwatches allow users to track exercise, heart rate, and other health factors, but what about mood? The design studio Ustwo has a new app that aims for a more approachable model of delivering psychological therapy. The technology, called Moodnotes, acts as a basic journaling app. The user responds to Moodnotes prompts, such as "How are you?" and "What's happening at the moment?" The entries are archived and shown in a "Moodtrends" chart, which potentially reveals thinking patterns. If a thought pattern is determined to be affecting a user’s mood, the technology encourages the person to rethink a situation. What do you think? Can an app improve your mood?


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