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.

Spoofing Device

Modern cars and autonomous vehicles use millimeter wave (mmWave) radio frequencies to enable self-driving or assisted driving features. This connectivity, however, can also expose them to potential cyberattacks. Attackers driving ahead of an autonomous unit can engage in “spoofing,” an activity that involves interfering with the vehicle’s return signal to trick it into registering an obstacle in its path. The vehicle may then brake suddenly, increasing the risk of an accident. To address this, UCSD researchers devised a novel algorithm designed to mimic a spoofing attack. Previous attempts to develop an attacking device to test cars’ resistance have had limited feasibility, either assuming the attacker can synchronize with the victim’s radar signal to launch an assault, or assuming both cars are physically connected by a cable. The device can also be used for preventing dangerous tailgating.

Contact: Xochitl Rojas-Rocha
858-534-3120
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Deployable Electrode

EPFL scientists have developed electrode arrays that can be funneled through a small hole in the skull and deployed over a relatively large surface over the brain’s cortex. The first prototype consists of an electrode array that fits through a hole 2 cm in diameter, but when deployed, extends across a surface that’s 4 cm in diameter. Somewhat like a spiraled butterfly intricately squeezed inside its cocoon before metamorphosis, the electrode array, complete with its spiraled arms, is neatly folded up inside a cylindrical tube, i.e., the loader, ready for deployment through the small hole in the skull. Thanks to an everting actuation mechanism inspired from soft robotics, each spiraled arm is gently deployed one at a time over sensitive brain tissue. The electrode pattern is produced by evaporation of flexible gold onto very compliant elastomer materials. The technology may be particularly useful for providing minimally invasive solutions for epileptic patients.

Contact: The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne
+41 21-693-2222
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Snake Robot

An autonomous robot that would map, traverse, and explore previously inaccessible destinations is being put to the test at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Called EELS (short for Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor), could pick a safe course through a wide variety of terrain on Earth, the Moon, and far beyond, including undulating sand and ice, cliff walls, craters too steep for rovers, underground lava tubes, and labyrinthine spaces within glaciers. Because of the communications lag time between Earth and deep space, EELS is designed to autonomously sense its environment, calculate risk, travel, and gather data with yet-to-be-determined science instruments. When something goes wrong, the goal is for the robot to recover on its own, without human assistance. It has been put to the test in sandy, snowy, and icy environments, from the Mars Yard at JPL to a “robot playground” created at a ski resort.

Contact: Melissa Pamer
626-314-4928
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