This column presents technologies that have applications in commercial areas, possibly creating the products of tomorrow. To learn more about each technology, see the contact information provided for that innovation.

Neuromorphic Chip for AI on the Edge

A team of researchers has developed a chip that runs computations directly in memory and can run a wide variety of AI applications — all at a fraction of the energy consumed by computing platforms for general-purpose AI computing. The NeuRRAM neuromorphic chip brings AI a step closer to running on a broad range of edge devices, disconnected from the cloud, where they can perform sophisticated cognitive tasks anywhere and anytime without relying on a network connection to a centralized server. In addition, the chip is highly versatile and supports many different neural network models and architectures. As a result, it can be used for many different applications, including image recognition and reconstruction as well as voice recognition. Applications range from smart watches to VR headsets, smart earbuds, smart sensors in factories, and rovers for space exploration.

Contact: Ioana Patringenaru
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Reflection-Reducing Imaging System

NASA researchers have developed a compact, cost-effective imaging system using a co-linear, high-intensity LED illumination unit to minimize window reflections for background-oriented schlieren (BOS) and machine vision measurements. The imaging system can reduce or eliminate shadows that occur when using many existing BOS and photogrammetric measurement systems; these shadows occur in existing systems for a variety of reasons, including the severe back-reflections from wind tunnel viewing port windows and variations in the refractive index of the imaged volume. Due to its compact size, the system can easily fit in the space behind a typical wind tunnels view port. The technology could be deployed for use in BOS, photogrammetric, and general machine vision applications. The technology can also be used in wind tunnel testing, thermal systems management, gas flow imaging, and heat transfer

Contact: NASA’s Licensing Concierge
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Toothbrushing Micro-Robots

A multidisciplinary team at the University of Pennsylvania has created micro-robots that can automatically brush and floss teeth. The technology has the potential to provide a brand-new, automated method for carrying out the repetitive but important daily duties of brushing and flossing. The building blocks of these microrobots are iron oxide nanoparticles that have both catalytic and magnetic activity. Using a magnetic field, researchers could direct their motion and configuration to form either bristle-like structures that sweep away dental plaque from the broad surfaces of teeth, or elongated strings that can slip between teeth like a length of floss. In both instances, a catalytic reaction drives the nanoparticles to produce antimicrobials that kill harmful oral bacteria on site. This system could be extremely helpful for people who lack the manual dexterity to efficiently clean their teeth alone.

Contact: Katherine Unger Baillie
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