An App-Led Walk Down Memory Lane
Memoir, a new iPhone app, is meant to call up your digital memories at convenient times and places.
Identifying Signs of Chronic Brain Injury in Living Football Players
A new brain-imaging technology may reveal the true risk of repetitive head injury in contact sports.
Eight former pro football players learned this year that they have signs of a degenerative brain disorder called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition linked to depression, dementia, and memory loss. These somber findings were uncovered using a new method of brain imaging that, for the first time, enables researchers to spot signs of the condition in the living brain. Previously CTE could only be identified after a victim died.
An Artificial Hand with Real Feelings
A new nerve interface can simulate a sense of touch from 20 spots on a prosthetic hand.
There have been remarkable mechanical advances in prosthetic limbs in recent years, including rewiring nerve fibers to control sophisticated mechanical arms (see “A Lifelike Prosthetic Arm”), and brain interfaces that allow for complicated thought control (see “Brain Helps Quadriplegics Move Robotic Arms with Their Thoughts”). But for all this progress, prosthetic limbs cannot send back sensory information to the wearer, making it harder for them to do tasks like pick up objects without crushing them or losing their grip.
Colored Plastic Doubles Solar Cell Power
Using plastic to absorb light could lower the cost of solar power.
A thin sheet of dyed plastic could cut the cost of solar power, particularly for applications that require solar cells to be highly efficient and flexible.
Separating Hype from Reality on Amazon’s Drones
Amazon says it wants to offer 30-minute drone delivery. But companies actually working on the technology outline the limitations.
Amazon’s plans to deliver packages by drones, which it predicts “will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today,” has been widely dismissed as little more than clever self-promotion.
Diagnosis for Healthcare.gov: Unrealistic Technology Expectations
The website for the Affordable Care Act was doomed by an inordinately complex setup that tried to link disparate databases in real time.
The fiasco with the $600 million federal health insurance website wasn’t all bureaucratic. Forcing slow and disparate databases run by government and insurance companies to work together in real time—and then launching the service all at once—would have challenged even technology wunderkinds.
The Continuous Productivity of Aaron Levie
The CEO of Box is building an online file storage system designed to reshape industries.
Aaron Levie bounds onstage with the swagger of a standup comic. But he’s not performing at the Comedy Store. He’s in the Grand Ballroom at San Francisco’s Hilton Union Square kicking off BoxWorks, his company’s annual customer conference. Steve Jobs had his black turtleneck, Mark Zuckerberg has his gray hoodie; Levie’s uniform is a staid black suit, a capitulation to the buttoned-down enterprise software market he aims to conquer. But he spices it up with a cheeky pair of colorful sneakers. Today they’re bright red.
Company Makes CO2 into Liquid Fuel, with Help from a Volcano
An Icelandic company figures out how to make methanol from waste carbon dioxide, but the economics may not work without a nearby volcano.
When a geothermal power plant started spewing hot water into the barren, volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Southern Peninsula in 1976, the locals turned the steaming lake into a health spa that’s now frequented by half a million people a year. Now a small Icelandic company is hoping to turn a profit from waste carbon dioxide from the same plant.
Fitness Trackers Still Need to Work Out Kinks
The latest fitness-tracking wristbands need to get in better shape before they’ll earn a spot on my wrist.
At 11:30 last Friday night I was frantically doing jumping jacks in my living room, trying to hit my activity goal for the day: 4,000 points. The more I moved, the more points I got from the Nike+ Fuelband SE fitness tracker on my wrist—and at nearly midnight I had 3,957.
Are Electric Vehicles a Fire Hazard?
Lithium-ion batteries have risks, but they can be managed to prevent fires in EVs.
In the past two months, three Tesla Motors Model S electric cars have caught fire after their lithium-ion battery packs were damaged. Last week the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it would investigate whether Tesla’s Model S needs to be modified to prevent further fires.
New inks and tools allow 3-D printing of lithium-ion technology.
By making the basic building blocks of batteries out of ink, Harvard materials scientist Jennifer Lewis is laying the groundwork for lithium-ion batteries and other high-performing electronics that can be produced with 3-D printers.
Xbox vs. PlayStation: Beginning of the End for Consoles?
Sony and Microsoft release their first video-game consoles in seven years, but they’re battling for a world of play that is rapidly changing.
This month marks a milestone in the turf war for the space beneath our television sets: it’s the first time that Sony and Microsoft have released new video-game consoles within a week of one another. The PlayStation 4 launched in the U.S. a week ago (and launches in Europe next week), while Microsoft’s Xbox One is available around the world as of today. Both systems are Blu-ray-playing supercomputers squeezed into similar-looking black plastic casing; both are designed to usher in a new era of high-definition, online-enabled video games.
A Trick for Making Batteries Safer Could Also Make EVs Affordable
SolidEnergy says its new battery materials store more energy and won’t catch fire.
Bulky and expensive batteries are the bane of electric vehicles. A new MIT spinoff company, SolidEnergy, says it has a solution: materials that can increase the amount of energy that lithium-ion batteries store by 30 percent or more and lower costs enough to make electric vehicles affordable.
Ink-Jet Printing Could Be the Key to Next-Generation OLED Displays
Kateeva says its new manufacturing equipment can produce affordable displays based on organic light-emitting diodes.
Color-rich, energy-efficient, and flexible displays based on organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) could soon be churned out more economically on giant ink-jet printers.
Someday Your EV Charger May Be the Roadway Itself
A researcher envisions the ultimate cure for “range anxiety”: roadway-powered vehicles with modified on-board power receivers.
One way to extend the range of electric vehicles may be to provide power wirelessly through coils placed under the surface of a road. But charging moving vehicles with high-power wireless chargers below them is complex.
A Gooey Cure for Crack-Prone High-Capacity Batteries
Polymer glue helps fracture-prone high-capacity batteries last through more charges.
If electric cars are ever to drive hundreds of miles between charges—as they must to compete with gas-powered cars—their batteries will need to store much more energy. Unfortunately, several of the most promising high-capacity battery materials are prone to breaking in ways that would cut an electrified road trip short.
How Toyota Will Be First With a Fuel-Cell Car
Toyota says it has reduced the cost of fuel cells significantly enough to sell hydrogen cars for under $100,000.
Toyota says it’s made several advances to hydrogen fuel cells that will make them significantly cheaper, and will allow the company to sell a car using the low-pollution technology in 2015—years before its competitors.
Lurking Inside the iPad Is the Future of High-Def Displays
The appearance of indium gallium zinc oxide transistors in iPads shows that the display industry is poised to begin churning out a new breed of high-performance screens.
One of the most important innovations in Apple’s latest iPads lies behind the screen. In many of the tablets, the pixels in the display are controlled by transistors made of a material called indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO), a promising replacement for the conventional amorphous silicon.
Three Questions for Computing Pioneer Carver Mead
Carver Mead christened Moore’s Law and helped make it come true. Now he says engineers should experiment with quantum mechanics to advance computing.
Computer scientist Carver Mead gave Moore’s Law its name in around 1970 and played a crucial role in making sure it’s held true in the decades since. He pioneered an approach to designing complex silicon chips, called very large scale integration (VLSI), that’s still influential today. Mead was responsible for a string of firsts in the semiconductor industry, and as a professor at the California Institute of Technology he taught many of Silicon Valley’s most famous technologists. In the 1980s, frustration with the limitations of standard computers led him to begin building chips modeled on mammalian brains—creating a field known as neuromorphic computing, which is now gaining new momentum. Now 79, Mead retains an office at Caltech, where he told MIT Technology Review why computer engineers should be investigating new forms of computing.