We're in the beginning of a world in which everything is connected to the Internet and with one another, while powerful yet relatively cheap computers analyze all that data for ways to improve lives. At least that's the vision presented this past week at the Mobile World Congress wireless show in Barcelona, Spain, and some of that vision is already available or promised by the end of the year.
Samsung Electronics Co. has beefed up the camera in its Galaxy S5 smartphone due for April release and added smarter camera software, following Sony and Nokia in their upgrades of handset cameras. The tweaks mean smartphone photos, ubiquitous nowadays because of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, will be closer in quality to images captured by digital single-lens reflex cameras, also known as DSLR.
Univ. of Washington computer scientists have built a low-cost gesture recognition system that runs without batteries and lets users control their electronic devices hidden from sight with simple hand movements. The prototype, called “AllSee,” uses existing TV signals as both a power source and the means for detecting a user’s gesture command.
Tear apart an electric car's rechargeable battery and you'll find a mineral normally associated with No. 2 pencils. It's graphite. And experts say the promise of expanded uses for "pencil lead" in lithium-ion batteries, as well as a decrease in supply from China, has helped touch off the largest wave of mining projects in decades.
Cornell Univ. researchers have recently led what is probably the most comprehensive study to date of block copolymer nanoparticle self-assembly processes. The work is important, because using polymers to self-assemble inorganic nanoparticles into porous structures could revolutionize electronics.
Last year, a physicist and a mechanical engineer at Northeastern Univ. combined their expertise to integrate electronic and optical properties on a single electronic chip, enabling them to switch electrically using light alone. Now, they have built three new devices that implement this fast technology: an AND-gate, an OR-gate and a camera-like sensor made of 250,000 miniature devices.
Every second, your computer must process billions of computational steps to produce even the simplest outputs. Imagine if every one of those steps could be made just a tiny bit more efficient. A Northeastern Univ. team has developed a series of novel devices that do just that. The team combined their expertise to unearth a physical phenomenon that could usher in a new wave of highly efficient electronics.
Mottronics is a term seemingly destined to become familiar to aficionados of electronic gadgets. Named for the Nobel laureate Nevill Francis Mott, Mottronics involve materials that can be induced to transition between electrically conductive and insulating phases. If these phase transitions can be controlled, Mott materials hold promise for future transistors and memories that feature higher energy efficiencies and faster switching speeds.
Here's the rub for companies: A good part of the key markets they serve already own smartphones and use them to connect various Internet services. How do you grow from there? Companies from Facebook to Firefox are looking to emerging markets for the next few billion people. They are not only targeting the obvious high-population countries...
Engineers like to make things that work. And if one wants to make something work using nanoscale components, the size of proteins, antibodies and viruses, mimicking the behavior of cells is a good place to start since cells carry an enormous amount of information in a very tiny packet.
A multi-university team of engineers has developed what could be a promising solution for charging smartphone batteries on the go, without the need for an electrical cord. Incorporated directly into a cell phone housing, the team's nanogenerator could harvest and convert vibration energy from a surface, such as the passenger seat of a moving vehicle, into power for the phone.
While pursuing the goal of turning a cloud of ultracold atoms into a completely new kind of circuit element, physicists at NIST have demonstrated that such a cloud, known as a Bose-Einstein condensate, can display a sort of "memory." The findings pave the way for a host of novel devices based on "atomtronics," an emerging field that offers an alternative to conventional electronics.
A team of Belgian researchers have made what may be the first optical circuit that uses interconnections that are not only bendable, but also stretchable. These new interconnections, made of a rubbery transparent material called PDMS, guide light along their path even when stretched up to 30% and when bent around an object the diameter of a human finger.
A team of researchers has demonstrated a new type of holographic memory device that could provide unprecedented data storage capacity and data processing capabilities in electronic devices. The new type of memory device uses spin waves, a collective oscillation of spins in magnetic materials, instead of the optical beams.
A research collaboration consisting of IHP-Innovations for High Performance Microelectronics in Germany and the Georgia Institute of Technology has demonstrated the world's fastest silicon-based device to date. The investigators operated a silicon-germanium (SiGe) transistor at 798 GHz fMAX, exceeding the previous speed record for silicon-germanium chips by about 200 GHz.
There is a big effort in industry to produce electrical devices with more and faster memory and logic. Magnetic memory elements, such as in a hard drive, and in the future in what is called MRAM (magnetic random access memory), use electrical currents to encode information. However, the heat which is generated is a significant problem, since it limits the density of devices and hence the performance of computer chips.
Computer chips keep getting faster because transistors keep getting smaller. But the chips themselves are as big as ever, so data moving around the chip, and between chips and main memory, has to travel just as far. As transistors get faster, the cost of moving data becomes, proportionally, a more severe limitation. So far, chip designers have circumvented that limitation through the use of “caches”.
Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have made a low-powered, high-speed, head-mounted display device they are calling K-Glass. This wearable electronic display has an augmented reality processor that enables users to do things like browse the menu, food and available tables of a restaurant simply by walking up to it and looking at its name.
One of the main challenges for engineers trying to make practical terahertz wave devices is making the lasers powerful and compact enough to be useful. Engineers in the U.K. have reported their new quantum cascade terahertz laser exceeds 1 W output power. The new record more than doubles landmarks set by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and subsequently by a team from Vienna last year.
For aspiring electrical engineers, New Jersey Institute of Technology has pulled together in one “tall” infographic a brief history of the breakthroughs and impact of electrical engineering advances since the 1830s, when the telegraph marked the first time that electric currents were used to transmit messages. Since then, electrical devices have a dramatic effect on our daily lives.
Nokia is selling a new Windows phone that promises enhanced video-recording capabilities. The new Lumia Icon sports four microphones, compared with the one or two typically found in smartphones. The two on the front are activated when making phone calls, while the two on the rear are used when taking video.
Modern electronics relies on utilizing the charge properties of the electron. The emerging field of atomtronics, however, uses ensembles of atoms to build analogs to electronic circuit elements. Physicists have built a superfluid atomtronic circuit that have allowed them to demonstrate a tool that is critical to electronics: hysteresis. It is the first time that hysteresis has been observed in an ultracold atomic gas.
New research at the Univ. of Arkansas reveals a novel magnetoelectric effect that makes it possible to control magnetism with an electric field. The novel mechanism may provide a new route for using multiferroic materials for the application of RAM (random access memories) in computers and other devices, such as printers.
Legislation unveiled in California would require smartphones and other mobile devices to have a "kill switch" to render them inoperable if lost or stolen. State Sen. Mark Leno, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and other elected and law enforcement officials say the bill, if passed, would require mobile devices sold in or shipped to California to have the anti-theft devices starting next year.
It's not quite the bionics of science fiction, but European researchers have created a robotic hand that gave an amputee a sense of touch he hadn't felt in a decade. The experiment lasted only a week, but it let the patient feel if different objects were hard or soft, slim or round, and intuitively adjust his grasp.