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Updated: 26 min 25 sec ago

Increasingly, Robots of All Sizes Are Human Workmates

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 13:00

Even conventional industrial robots are becoming safer to work around, making them more likely to collaborate with humans.

Most industrial robots are far less friendly than the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner, which is safe enough to be a surprisingly popular means of feline transportation. Industrial robots often sit behind metal fences, their mechanical arms a blur of terrific speed and precision; to prevent serious injury to humans (or worse), these robots are normally shut down when anyone enters their workspace.

Genome Editing

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 00:05

The ability to create primates with intentional mutations could provide powerful new ways to study complex and genetically baffling brain disorders.

Oculus Rift

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 00:05

Thirty years after virtual-reality goggles and immersive virtual worlds made their debut, the technology finally seems poised for widespread use.

Brain Mapping

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 00:05

A new map, a decade in the works, shows structures of the brain in far greater detail than ever before, providing neuroscientists with a guide to its immense complexity.

Smart Wind and Solar Power

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 00:05

Big data and artificial intelligence are producing ultra-accurate forecasts that will make it feasible to integrate much more renewable energy into the grid.

Agile Robots

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 00:05

Computer scientists have created machines that have the balance and agility to walk and run across rough and uneven terrain, making them far more useful in navigating human environments.

Agricultural Drones

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 00:05

Relatively cheap drones with advanced sensors and imaging capabilities are giving farmers new ways to increase yields and reduce crop damage.

Neuromorphic Chips

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 00:05

Microprocessors configured more like brains than traditional chips could soon make computers far more astute about what’s going on around them.

Microscale 3-D Printing

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 00:05

Inks made from different types of materials, precisely applied, are greatly expanding the kinds of things that can be printed.

Ultraprivate Smartphones

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 00:05

New models built with security and privacy in mind reflect the Zeitgeist of the Snowden era.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2014

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 00:05

Mobile Collaboration

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 00:05

The smartphone era is finally getting the productivity software it needs.

SpaceX Brings a Booster Safely Back to Earth

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 13:25

The successful test of a soft touchdown demonstrates a capability that could cut the cost of space launches significantly.

Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, took a step toward making spaceflight less expensive by reusing its rocket boosters during a mission on Friday to the International Space Station. The Falcon 9 rocket used for the mission, dubbed Commercial Resupply-3, or CRS-3, was the first to fly with landing legs, and was the first to successfully perform a controlled ocean splashdown.

A Better Breed of News App

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 00:00

Mobile news curation uses human editors and good design to improve the experience of reading the news on smartphones.

In 1704, John Campbell, Boston’s postmaster, turned his handwritten newsletter into a printed half-sheet, called it the Boston News-Letter, and founded the first continuously published newspaper in the Colonies. He soon found a circulation of around 250 eager subscribers. “Royal proclamations and international news appeared first, followed by news from other colonies, and finally local news,” writes the journalist Tom Standage in Writing on the Wall: Social Media—the First 2,000 Years. “Campbell gathered information by talking to sailors, travelers, local officials, and visitors to his post office, and via handwritten newsletters from other postmasters. But most of the stories in the Boston NewsLetter were simply copied from the London papers.” Campbell had been writing a kind of blog, which he made into a business that curated the news.

Enlightened Spaces

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 00:00

For almost half a century, James Turrell has been working with light in a way that merges art and technology.

Imagine a painting by Mark Rothko transformed into a movie. In a space behind a glass panel, fuzzy clouds of color slowly morph from one configuration to another. A golden patch may appear in a field of crimson and slowly expand like a rising sun, suffusing the whole zone. Then around the edges a filament of green appears, spreading almost imperceptibly. This, in turn, shifts and modulates. And on and on. This is the experience of looking at works in James Turrell’s Tall Glass and Wide Glass series,some of which are on displayat the Pace Gallery in London and (with other works) at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

The Cost of Limiting Climate Change Could Double without Carbon Capture Technology

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 15:13

The economics of combating climate change may depend on an underfunded technology.

When it comes to technology for averting climate change, renewable energy often gets the limelight. But a relatively neglected technology—capturing carbon dioxide from power plants—could have a far bigger impact on the economics of dealing with climate change, according to a U.N. report released earlier this week.

Shape-Shifting Touch Screen Buttons Head to Market

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 09:00

An iPad accessory launching later this year will bring transparent morphing buttons to the device’s screen to aid touch-typing.

As they peck out text on the featureless glass surface of their phone or tablet, some people still mourn the passing of the physical keyboard. Now technology is heading to mass production that can offer the best of both worlds: a featureless surface for watching video and buttons that rise out of it when you need to type.

Selling Teslas in China Won’t Do Much for the Environment

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 00:00

Because China relies so heavily on coal for power, electric vehicles aren’t necessarily an improvement over gasoline-powered cars.

Sales of electric vehicles in China, the world’s largest auto market, have been minuscule despite government incentives meant to put five million of the cars on the nation’s roads by 2020. Tesla Motors hopes to begin changing that as it makes its first deliveries of Model S sedans to customers in China this month.

Microrobots, Working Together, Build with Metal, Glass, and Electronics

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 13:45

Tiny robots that work together like ants could lead to a new way to manufacture complex structures and electronics.

Someone glancing through the door of Annjoe Wong-Foy’s lab at SRI International might think his equipment is infested by ants. Dark shapes about a centimeter across move to and fro over elevated walkways: they weave around obstacles and carry small sticks.

The Limits of Social Engineering

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 00:00

Tapping into big data, researchers and planners are building mathematical models of personal and civic behavior. But the models may hide rather than reveal the deepest sources of social ills.


In 1969, Playboy published a long, freewheeling interview with Marshall McLuhan in which the media theorist and sixties icon sketched a portrait of the future that was at once seductive and repellent. Noting the ability of digital computers to analyze data and communicate messages, he predicted that the machines eventually would be deployed to fine-tune society’s workings. “The computer can be used to direct a network of global thermostats to pattern life in ways that will optimize human awareness,” he said. “Already, it’s technologically feasible to employ the computer to program societies in beneficial ways.” He acknowledged that such centralized control raised the specter of “brainwashing, or far worse,” but he stressed that “the programming of societies could actually be conducted quite constructively and humanistically.”

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