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New Algorithms Enable Self-Assembling, Printable Robots

In two new papers, MIT researchers demonstrate the promise of printable robotic components that, when heated, automatically fold into prescribed three-dimensional configurations.One paper describes a system that takes a digital specification of a 3-D shape — such as a computer-aided design, or CAD, file — and generates the 2-D patterns that would enable a piece of plastic to reproduce it through self-folding.The other paper explains how to build electrical components from self-folding laser-cut materials. The researchers present designs for resistors, inductors, and capacitors, as well as sensors and actuators — the electromechanical “muscles” that enable robots’ movements.“We have this big dream of the hardware compiler, where you can specify, ‘I want a robot that will play with my cat,’ or ‘I want a robot that will clean the floor,’ and from this high-level specification, you actually generate a working device,” said Daniela Rus, the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT.SourceAlso: Learn about Self-Assembling, Flexible, Pre-Ceramic Composite Preforms.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Electronic Components, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling, Motion Control, Motors & Drives, Power Transmission, Sensors, Software, Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Mathematical/Scientific Software, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, News

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Motion-Sensing Keyboard Lets Users Hover and Swipe

Microsoft engineers have developed a new type of augmented mechanical keyboard, sensing rich and expressive motion gestures performed both on and directly above the device. A low-resolution matrix of infrared (IR) proximity sensors is interspersed with the keys of a regular mechanical keyboard. This results in coarse, but high frame-rate motion data.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, PCs/Portable Computers, Mechanical Components, Sensors, Software, Mathematical/Scientific Software, News

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Cyberlearning Platforms Improve Design Collaboration

Two new "cyberlearning" platforms allow non-artists to create illustrations rivaling the work of expert designers. The platforms sidestep a key creative barrier by eliminating the need for drawing skills in developing new designs. "Non-experts are becoming more empowered and interested in means of creative self-expression," said Karthik Ramani, Purdue University's Donald W. Feddersen Professor of Mechanical Engineering. "More importantly, I think this is the beginning of a new field of computer-supported creativity where you are extending the human mind." The new platforms — called skWiki (pronounced squeaky) and Juxtapoze — may usher in a new era of digital-scribbling and creative collaboration. The platforms operate on servers and do not require users to install any software. The skWiki platform allows collaboration with multimedia, including text, sketches, photos and "vector images" important for computer-aided design and other applications. Source Also: Learn about a Workflow-Based Software Development Environment.

Posted in: Software, Computer-Aided Design (CAD), News

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Big Ideas for Small Spaces

Over 24 hours from April 4 to 5, six top French design studios conceived and presented new product concepts for urban environments during the Small Spaces Design Hackathon, presented by Cut&Paste in partnership with Hewlett-Packard. In dense city neighborhoods, homes are small and office space is at a premium, so urban dwellers must be more creative in how they use their space. The design concepts were presented at Cyclone Le Studio as part of ZED, HP’s creative popup space.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Power Management, PCs/Portable Computers, Imaging, Displays/Monitors/HMIs, Software, Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE), Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM), Energy, Lighting, Test & Measurement, Monitoring, News

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Remote Sensing Moisture Model Could Aid Farmers

Global farmers could get better decision-making help as refinements are made to North Alabama soil moisture modeling research being done by an atmospheric science doctoral student at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. The models indicate how much added moisture would be needed in a given area versus historical data to achieve various crop yields, and they could aid in making expensive infrastructure investments by helping to determine their economic viability.

Posted in: Sensors, Software, Mathematical/Scientific Software, RF & Microwave Electronics, News

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NASA Model Provides 3-D View of L.A. Earthquake

On March 28, residents of Greater Los Angeles experienced the largest earthquake to strike the region since 2008. The magnitude 5.1 quake was centered near La Habra in northwestern Orange County about 21 miles (33 kilometers) east-southeast of Los Angeles, and was widely felt throughout Southern California. There have been hundreds of aftershocks, including one of magnitude 4.1.Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., have developed a model of the earthquake, based on the distribution of aftershocks and other seismic information from the U.S. Geological Survey.A new image based on the model shows what the earthquake may look like through the eyes of an interferometric synthetic aperture radar, such as NASA's Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR). JPL scientists plan to acquire UAVSAR data from the region of the March 28 quake, possibly as soon as this week, and process the data to validate and improve the results of their model. The UAVSAR flights serve as a baseline for pre-earthquake activity. As earthquakes occur during the course of this project, the team is measuring the deformation at the time of the earthquakes to determine the distribution of slip on the faults, and then monitoring longer-term motions after the earthquakes to learn more about fault zone properties. SourceAlso: Learn about QuakeSim 2.0.

Posted in: Imaging, Software, Mathematical/Scientific Software, Test & Measurement, Monitoring, RF & Microwave Electronics, News

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Engineers Design Software Tools to Secure Tactical Smartphones

Suraj Kothari's talk of smartphone security quickly took a turn toward sabotage and worst-case scenarios. What happens, he asked, if a soldier's smartphone is hacked for its GPS data? What happens if an attacker drains the battery in a general's phone and essential communication is cut off? Or, what happens if a hacked phone provides false information during a military mission?

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, PCs/Portable Computers, Software, Defense, News

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