Special Coverage

NASA Supercomputer Simulations Reveal 'Noisy' Aerodynamics
Robotic Gripper Cleans Up Space Debris
Soft Robot “Walks” on Any Terrain
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
Using Microwaves to Produce High-Quality Graphene
Transducer-Actuator Systems for On-Machine Measurements and Automatic Part Alignment
Wide-Area Surveillance Using HD LWIR Uncooled Sensors
Heavy Lift Wing in Ground (WIG) Cargo Flying Boat
Technique Provides Security for Multi-Robot Systems
Bringing New Vision to Laser Material Processing Systems
NASA Tests Lasers’ Ability to Transmit Data from Space

Will UAVs improve how we monitor the environment?

This week's Question: Last week's TechBriefs.com story from the SPIE Defense + Commercial Sensing 2017 conference in Anaheim revealed new ways of detecting leaks in natural gas pipelines. Panelists from industry, academia, and government demonstrated how miniaturized sensing platforms, and the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) hosting them, can improve the detection of hazardous gas leakage. What do you think? Will UAVs improve how we monitor the environment?

Posted in: Question of the Week, Aerospace, Aviation, Fiber Optics, Lasers & Laser Systems, Optical Components, Optics, Photonics, Data Acquisition, Sensors
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Will shape memory polymers play a prominent role in non-aerospace applications?

This week's Question: A featured Tech Brief in today's INSIDER highlighted a shape memory polymer from Langley Research Center. Designed initially for morphing spacecraft, the material changes shape when temperature shifts; the thermosetting polymer than returns to its original form once normal conditions are reached. The technology may also have applications in self-deployable structures, smart armors, intelligent medical devices, and other various morphing structures. What do you think? Will shape memory polymers play a prominent role in non-aerospace applications?

Posted in: Question of the Week, Materials
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Will 3D printing of tissue revolutionize healthcare?

This week’s Question: Our lead stories today featured interviews with Chuck Hull, inventor of the 3D printer, and industry expert Terry Wohlers. Though the medical applications for additive manufacturing are still in their early stages, organizations around the world have printed both hard and soft tissue.

"The idea is that if you lose a finger, or have a damaged liver or heart, living cells are taken from you and used to produce the replacement," said Wohlers in the Tech Briefs Q&A. "I think someday, perhaps in our lifetime, we’ll be able to benefit from a more fully developed version of this technology."

What do you think? Will 3D printing of tissue revolutionize healthcare?

Posted in: Question of the Week, Consumer Product Manufacturing, Custom & Contract Manufacturing, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling, Implants & Prosthetics
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Can hybrid systems become a mainstream trucking technology?

This week's Question: A lead INSIDER story today focused on an add-on system from Hyliion, based in Pittsburgh, PA, that will help truck fleets to reduce gas emissions and fuel costs. Can hybrid systems become a mainstream trucking technology?

Posted in: Question of the Week, Automotive, Alternative Fuels, Energy, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, Renewable Energy
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Should Pluto be restored as a planet?

This week’s Question: Last week at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Johns Hopkins University's Kirby Runyon reignited an often fierce debate within the scientific community: Pluto’s planetary status.

Posted in: Question of the Week, Physical Sciences
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In five years, will light-enabled Wi-Fi "find a home?"

This week’s Question: A PhD student at Eindhoven University of Technology has developed a way of using infrared rays to carry wireless data to a laptop or smartphone. The wireless data comes from central "light antennas" that could, for example, be mounted on a ceiling to direct the rays of light supplied by an optical fiber. With no moving parts, the system requires no power. Project head Tom Koonen estimates that the technology could be installed in homes and stores in five years. What do you think? In five years, will light-enabled Wi-Fi "find a home?"

Posted in: Question of the Week, Communications, Wireless
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Is 3D printing the future of construction?

This week's Question: San Francisco-based startup Apis Cor recently used its giant 3D printer to build a small home — in under 24 hours, according to the company. The mobile technology printed out the house's walls, partitions, and building envelope; then, a group of contractors installed insulation, windows, appliances, and a roof. Apis Cor says the homes can be built for a cost of approximately $10,000. What do you think? Is 3D printing the future of construction?

Posted in: Question of the Week
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Will robotic voice assistants improve children's ability to learn?

This week's Question: Toymaker Mattel recently announced the introduction of a smart baby monitor; The voice-controlled "Aristotle" uses artificial intelligence (AI) to automate functions like changing lights, playing lullabies, or triggering white noise. With an estimated 25 million voice assistants expected to sell this year — like Amazon's Alexa, Google Home, and Microsoft's Cortana — some researchers believe that the technology will impact its young users. Supporters of voice assistants say children have always used mainstream technology as learning tools. Opponents, however, suggest that the gadgets are another device that de-emphasizes the importance of interpersonal skills. What do you think? Will robotic voice assistants improve children's ability to learn?

Posted in: Question of the Week, Data Acquisition, Sensors
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Can augmented reality reduce "road rage?"

This week’s Question: A new "CarNote" app from the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands aims to use augmented reality to improve the driving experience and reduce "road rage." CarNote's driver-facing periscope lens and transparent display projects information from a smartphone, allowing users behind the wheel to communicate and signal intentions. For example, a driver in a rush to a hospital could notify those in nearby vehicles, potentially reducing aggressive behavior like confrontations or honking the horn. The technology even has a "like" system that allows drivers to register or rate fellow travelers on the road. What do you think? Can augmented reality reduce "road rage?"

Posted in: Question of the Week, Simulation Software, Automotive
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Will packages be effectively delivered by parachute?

This week's Question: Amazon recently filed a patent for parachute-aided delivery of packages. The proposed idea imagines drones releasing parcels from the sky, deploying parachutes to slow their descent and ensure the valuables inside remain intact. To address gusts of wind or unexpected obstacles, a drone will hover nearby, monitoring a package as it falls. If the parcel moves off course, the drone can deploy methods (like bursts of compressed air!) to correct its descent. What do you think? Will packages be effectively delivered by parachute?

Posted in: Question of the Week, Aviation
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