Could swarms of these wasp-like drones one day fill the skies?
From Popular Mechanics:
Drones are amazing and cool and powerful, but traditionally they can be thwarted by an impenetrable obstacle that has vexed drone creators and pilots for years: doors. Because, you know, drones crash into doors. But scientists at Stanford University and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne have built a micro-drone that can open doors and move objects 40 times their own weight. They catchily call it the FlyCroTug.
Like many complex robots, the FlyCroTug’s abilities are rooted in the natural world. Its creators were inspired by the common wasp’s ability to transport heavy items across great distances.
“Wasps can fly rapidly to a piece of food, and then if the thing’s too heavy to take off with, they drag it along the ground. So this was sort of the beginning inspiration for the approach we took,” Mark Cutkosky, the Fletcher Jones Chair in the School of Engineering at Stanford, said in a statement.
While studying the wasp’s ratio of flight-related muscle to its total mass, Cutkosky and the rest of the team determined that any drone designed to imitate the insect would need multiple carrying options. The FlyCroTug has three: winches, gecko grippers and microspines.
A neurotracking system that predicts hit TV shows
From Fast Company:
What if TV networks could know whether they have a hit before a show airs? That’s the promise being made by Immersion Neuroscience, which launched the initial version of a neurotracking platform to measure people’s immersion in video content and live experiences via a small wearable that straps onto the forearm. In a new study released November 6, the company claims to be able to classify whether a show would be top-rated with an 84 per cent accuracy, using only neurological data.
Immersion Neuroscience conducted the study to test whether its platform could be used to successfully predict if a show would receive high ratings. It asked Dorsey Pictures, a television production company, to choose 25 shows for them to test retroactively — with half the shows rated as top-rated and the other half as bottom-rated, based on data obtained from Nielsen and networks.
Eighty-four participants between the ages of 25-58 watched the first act of 25 different shows in random order while hooked up to a neurosensor that measured their immersion in the show, based on heart rate and oxytocin levels. Immersion Neuroscience then used participants’ immersion levels to predict the probability that the show would fall into the top-rated category or not.
Surprisingly, self-reports by participants on how likely they’d be to watch the show only predicted top-rated shows with a 17 per cent accuracy — in contrast to the 84 per cent accuracy from neurological data alone. According to Immersion’s CEO and co-founder, Paul Zak, someone’s neurological response to a TV show is a much better predictor than whether they think they like it or not.
GaN could replace silicon and make charging devices smaller
From The Verge:
Anker recently debuted a tiny new power brick, crediting its small size with the component it uses instead of silicon: gallium nitride (GaN). It’s the latest example of the growing popularity of this transparent, glass-like material that could one day unseat silicon and cut energy use worldwide.
For decades now, silicon has been the backbone of the technology industry, but we are “reaching a theoretical limit on how much it can be improved,” says Danqing Wang, a doctoral candidate at Harvard University who conducts GaN research. All materials have a “band gap,” which is related to how well they can conduct electricity. GaN has a wider band gap than silicon, which means it can sustain higher voltages than silicon can survive, and the current can run through the device more quickly, says Martin Kuball, a physicist at the University of Bristol who leads a project on GaN in power electronics.
As a result, GaN electronics are far more efficient than their silicon counterparts, and they lose less energy. “You can make things very small, or you can pack more GaN in the same area,” says Wang. “The performance is better.” And when you lose less energy, not only can you make charging devices smaller, but you can also use less power in the first place. According to Kuball, replacing all current electronics with GaN could potentially cut power use by 10 or 25 percent.
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