Engineers at MIT are developing wearable tactile displays that may someday replace maps and GPS for their use in navigation. Using the skin as a medium of communication, vibrations from a wearable GPS-linked device would tell the wearer when and where to turn and when to stop. The researchers are currently testing the displays on various parts of the body to assess accuracy. These vibrotactile displays could help direct the visually or hearing impaired, firefighters in burning buildings, or even drivers and joggers in unfamiliar territory.
|Check out the latest issue of IEEE Spark!|
In this issue of IEEE Spark join us on an exciting voyage into space. Learn how engineering, technology and computing professionals advance space exploration, design a foldable solar panel and get tips on navigating the wide world of online career resources.
|Archimedes World Conference|
The Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences will host “Archimedes in the 21st Century” on Fri., May 31 and Sat., June 1. The conference will pay tribute to Archimedes—regarded as the greatest mathematician, engineer, and scientist of antiquity—2,300 years after his birth. The Saturday session—“Teaching Archimedes”—is designed for high-school and university instructors of STEM subjects and will focus on how Archimedes’ laws (of the lever, buoyancy, centers of gravity, equilibrium/stability, floating objects, engineering works and others) can be taught in today’s classrooms. The event is free and open to the public.
|Invisibility Cloak May Someday be More than Just Fiction|
The invisibility cloak featured in the Harry Potter series is closer to becoming a reality, thanks to the work of researchers at Stanford University. The researchers developed a theoretical metamaterial that can interact with a wide range of light wavelengths and colors. Metamaterials are artificial materials that have been designed at the atomic level to interact with light, magnetism, or other natural phenomena in unusual ways. The researchers focused on creating a material with a negative refraction index, that would refract light “the wrong way”. By changing the index of a material, one can change how it interacts with light or even prevent it from interacting with light at all, which is the basis for an invisibility cloak. Next, the researchers hope to fabricate an actual metamaterial based on their design.
|Enter the Imagine Mobile Concept Video Competition|
Entries are now being accepted for the Imagine Mobile Concept Video Competition. Teams of middle and high school students are invited to submit a short video describing their vision of the future of mobile apps and devices. Two winning teams will receive US$1,000 scholarships.
Entries can be submitted here by 20 May 2013.
|German Engineers Develop Robotic Dragonfly|
Engineers at the Germany company Festo have developed a flying robot inspired by the dragonfly. Like the dragonfly, the BionicOpter can maneuver in all directions, glide, hover, make sharp turns, accelerate and decelerate quickly, and fly backwards. The robot’s agility is the result of being able to move and twist each wing independently, allowing it to fly in almost any direction in space. The device has a lightweight design which integrates sensors, actuators, mechanical components, and open and closed-loop control systems of communication. The BionicOpter can be steered remotely via a smartphone. Watch the BionicOpter in action:
|Light Pulses May be the Future of Communication|
Engineers at Purdue University are researching the use of ultra-fast light pulses to increase the speed and bandwidth of technology. As technology gets smaller and smaller, there will come a point where the components cannot be reduced any further. The advantage of using ultra-fast light pulses, is that they operate at the atomic scale. The team is working to reduce the pulses of light waves down to the size of the photons themselves. Short pulses of light are preferred because they allow for greater optical bandwidth. A main focus of the team’s research is on micro-ring resonators, where light is passed through a ring only a few hundred nanometers wide. As the light continues around the ring, its intensity grows exponentially producing several frequencies of light at one time. The use of ultra-fast light pulses in communication may someday enable technology smaller than ever dreamed possible.
|Peru Engineers Conjure Water Out of Thin Air|
For the people of Lima, Peru access to reliably clean water is a challenge. To address this issue, some innovative engineers at Peru’s University for Engineering and Technology have developed a novel solution. They created a potable water generator that can produce 100
liters of clean water per day. The machine is sandwiched between two billboards advertising that the water is available for free to anyone who wants it. The water generator pulls moisture from the air, filters and condenses it, and then stores it in a large tank at the base of the billboard. Residents can then access the clean water dispensed at the bottom of the structure. A humid environment is required for the machine’s operation, which isn’t usually a problem in a city whose humidity averages over 80 percent. The water generator has already produced 9,450 liters of water in just three months — enough to provide clean water to hundreds of families per month.
|Caltech Engineers Develop the Chip that Keeps on Ticking|
Ever had to bring a smartphone or computer in for repair due to a faulty chip? Inconveniences like this could be a thing of the past thanks to some engineers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). The research team developed an integrated circuit that can self-diagnose and develop solutions to problems that previously would have meant total failure. These “smart chips” are equipped with sensors that monitor current, voltage, power, and temperature. This data is analyzed by an application-specific integrated-circuit (ASIC), which develops a workaround solution when a problem arises. The chips are designed to find the optimum state for all of their actuators, so they don’t require algorithms for every possible thing that could go wrong. Even after the researchers blasted the chips with a laser, they were still able to function. Someday these chips could be put into consumer electronics, like phones to create virtually indestructible technology.
|Smarter Nets Could Save Fish|
Smart fishing nets being tested at Denmark’s North Sea Centre are aimed at reducing wasteful fishing practices. Nets currently used in the fishing industry are inefficient, causing many small fish and sea creatures to be killed unnecessarily. They also disturb seabeds, create pollution, and require a lot of fuel to drag across the ocean floor. The new net designs being tested employ wheels, making them less costly to pull, and less damaging to the environment. A built-in sorting mechanism enables only the largest fish to be caught while smaller organisms are released back into the ocean. These new fishing technologies may help to address widespread fish shortages occurring across Europe.