Posted on April 21, 2016 By Larry Hardesty   |  MIT News

Robotic consensus.

Control algorithm for teams of robots factors in moving obstacles.

Planning algorithms for teams of robots fall into two categories: centralized algorithms, in which a single computer makes decisions for the whole team, and decentralized algorithms, in which each robot makes its own decisions based on local observations.

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Posted on April 12, 2016 By Carrie Kirby   |  Stanford News


A team of researchers tracks disease the way naturalists track animals in the wild.

Wang, a professor of materials science and engineering and of electrical engineering, explains with his ever-ready chuckle that his students coined the phrase both as a rebellion against their graduate student workload and as a pledge to focus on practical applications of magnetic nanotechnologies, not just pure research.

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Posted on October 27, 2015 By Precourt Institute for Energy   |  Stanford News


Arctan, a solar-powered car built by undergraduate members of the Stanford Solar Car Project, placed sixth in the 2015 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, a nearly 2,000-mile race across the Australian outback.

Stanford was among 30 teams from around the world that competed in the Challenger Class, single-passenger cars built for sustained endurance and total energy efficiency. Other U.S. competitors came from MIT, the University of Michigan and Principia College.

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Posted on October 15, 2015 By Tom Abate   |  Stanford News


Stanford engineers have created a plastic skin-like material that can detect pressure and deliver a Morse code-like signal directly to a living brain cell. The work takes a big step toward adding a sense of touch to prosthetic limbs.

Stanford chemical engineering Professor Zhenan Bao and her team have created a skin-like material that can tell the difference between a soft touch and a firm handshake. The device on the golden "fingertip" is the skin-like sensor developed by Stanford engineers. (Bao Lab) Stanford engineers have created a plastic "skin" that can detect how hard it is being pressed and generate an electric signal to deliver this sensory input directly to a living brain cell.

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Posted on Sep 03, 2015 By Larry Hardesty   |  MIT News Office

Customizing 3-D printing.

Design tool lets novices do in minutes what would take experts in computer-aided design hours.

The technology behind 3-D printing is growing more and more common, but the ability to create designs for it is not. Any but the simplest designs require expertise with computer-aided design (CAD) applications, and even for the experts, the design process is immensely time consuming.

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Posted on August 31, 2015 By Bjorn Carey   |  Stanford News


As scientists zero in on the skull motions that can cause concussions, David Camarillo's lab has found that many commercially available sensors worn by athletes to gather this data are prone to significant error.

Amid growing concern about sports-related concussions, some athletes are beginning to wear head-mounted sensors that gauge the speed and force of impacts they receive during competition. Scientists are still working on identifying baseline parameters for injury, but research suggests that certain skull motions can contribute to concussions, and constant in-game monitoring of those motions promises to help limit injuries.

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Posted on June 29, 2015 By Larry Hardesty   |  MIT News Office

Automatic bug repair.

System fixes bugs by importing functionality from other programs — without access to source code.

At the Association for Computing Machinery’s Programming Language Design and Implementation conference this month, MIT researchers presented a new system that repairs dangerous software bugs by automatically importing functionality from other, more secure applications.

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Posted on June 22, 2015 By Larry Hardesty   |  MIT News Office

Toward tiny, solar-powered sensors.

New ultralow-power circuit improves efficiency of energy harvesting to more than 80 percent.

The latest buzz in the information technology industry regards “the Internet of things” - the idea that vehicles, appliances, civil-engineering structures, manufacturing equipment, and even livestock would have their own embedded sensors that report information directly to networked servers, aiding with maintenance and the coordination of tasks.

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Posted on March 24, 2015 By Tom Abate   |  Stanford News

Stanford engineers' new manufacturing process could yield better solar cells, faster chips.

Silicon isn't the only chip-making material under the sun, just the cheapest. But a new process could make the alternative material, gallium arsenide, more cost effective.

Computer chips, solar cells and other electronic devices have traditionally been based on silicon, the most famous of the semiconductors, that special class of materials whose unique electronic properties can be manipulated to turn electricity on and off the way faucets control the flow of water. There are other semiconductors. Gallium arsenide is one such material, and it has certain technical advantages over silicon - electrons race through its crystalline structure faster than they can move through silicon.

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Posted on February 2, 2015 By Jennifer Chu   |  MIT News Office

Wrinkle predictions.

New mathematical theory may explain patterns in fingerprints, raisins, and microlenses.

As a grape slowly dries and shrivels, its surface creases, ultimately taking on the wrinkled form of a raisin. Similar patterns can be found on the surfaces of other dried materials, as well as in human fingerprints. While these patterns have long been observed in nature, and more recently in experiments, scientists have not been able to come up with a way to predict how such patterns arise in curved systems, such as microlenses.

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Posted on January 29, 2015 By Vignesh Ramachadran   |  Stanford News


National Science Foundation grant allows Stanford Engineering team to experiment with a way to combine online learning with hands-on experience.

Stanford educators have designed a do-it-yourself kit that gives online learners hands-on experience by bringing haptics into virtual classrooms.
Haptics refers to the sense of touch. The hands-on teaching tool is called Hapkit. Hapkit has a sensor, motor and controller board that can be programmed using a personal computer. Learners can program Hapkit to produce specific sensations. For instance a user should be able to touch the device and feel what it's like to run his or her hand against a wall or click a ballpoint pen.

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Posted on January 15, 2015 By Bjorn Carey   |  Stanford News


A new device invented by Assistant Professor David Lentink will answer long-held questions about the forces birds generate while flying and could lead to the development of innovative, efficient unmanned aerial vehicles.

It's easy to look at a bird and deduce that it flies by flapping its wings, but understanding exactly how a bird generates lift has long eluded scientists. Now engineers at Stanford have developed a device that precisely and humanely measures the forces generated by a bird's wings while in flight. The work, published in the Royal Society journal Interface, promises to answer many mysteries of bird flight, providing aid in the design of innovative and efficient unmanned aerial vehicles, known as UAVs or, more recently, drones. Measuring the lift forces of a bird in free flight has been a holy grail for biomechanical engineers, said David Lentink, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford and lead author on the new paper. But every technique developed so far has provided uncertain results.

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Posted on January 12, 2015 By Larry Hardesty   |  MIT News Office

Vision system for household robots.

New algorithm could enable household robots to better identify objects in cluttered environments.

For household robots ever to be practical, they'll need to be able to recognize the objects they're supposed to manipulate. But while object recognition is one of the most widely studied topics in artificial intelligence, even the best object detectors still fail much of the time.
Researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory believe that household robots should take advantage of their mobility and their relatively static environments to make object recognition easier, by imaging objects from multiple perspectives before making judgments about their identity. Matching up the objects depicted in the different images, however, poses its own computational challenges.

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Posted on December 15, 2014 By Tom Abate   |  Stanford News


Stanford researchers are building layers of logic and memory into skyscraper chips that are smaller, faster, cheaper – and taller.

For decades, the mantra of electronics has been smaller, faster, cheaper.

Today, Stanford engineers add a fourth word – taller.

At a conference in San Francisco, a Stanford team will reveal how to build high-rise chips that could leapfrog the performance of the single-story logic and memory chips on today's circuit cards.

Those circuit cards are like busy cities in which logic chips compute and memory chips store data. But when the computer gets busy, the wires connecting logic and memory can get jammed.

The Stanford approach would end these jams by building layers of logic atop layers of memory to create a tightly interconnected high-rise chip. Many thousands of nanoscale electronic "elevators" would move data between the layers much faster, using less electricity, than the bottleneck-prone wires connecting single-story logic and memory chips today.

The work is led by Subhasish Mitra, a Stanford associate professor of electrical engineering and of computer science, and H.-S. Philip Wong, the Williard R. and Inez Kerr Bell Professor in Stanford's School of Engineering and a professor of electrical engineering. They describe their new high-rise chip architecture in a paper being presented at the IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) on Dec. 15-17.

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Posted on December 15, 2014 by David L. Chandler   |  MIT News Office

New findings could point the way to "valleytronics".

Researchers clear hurdles toward a new kind of 2-D microchip using different electron properties.

New findings from a team at MIT and other institutions could provide a pathway toward a kind of two-dimensional microchip that would make use of a characteristic of electrons other than their electrical charge, as in conventional electronics. The new approach is dubbed “valleytronics,” because it makes use of properties of an electron that can be depicted as a pair of deep valleys on a graph of their traits.

The findings are described in a paper appearing in the journal Nature Materials, co-authored by MIT graduate student Edbert Jarvis Sie, MIT associate professor Nuh Gedik, and five others.

The material the team studied is called tungsten disulfide (WS2), which belongs to a class of 2-D crystals known as transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs). Like the single-layer carbon material called graphene, TMDs form thin films with a hexagonal, chicken-wire-like structure just a few atoms in thickness. (In the case of graphene, it is just a single atomic layer, while the TMDs are three atoms thick.)

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Posted on November 26, 2014   |  Oxford News

Oxford to lead UK quantum computer drive.

A consortium of academic and industrial partners led by Oxford University will deliver quantum technologies including building a fully-functional prototype quantum computer..

The Oxford-led Hub for Networked Quantum Information Technologies (NQIT) will look to combine state of the art systems for controlling particles of light (photons) together with devices that control matter at the atomic level to develop technologies for the future of communications and computing.

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Posted on November 20, 2014 by David L. Chandler   |  MIT News Office

Controlling a material with voltage.

Technique could let a small electrical signal change materials’ electrical, thermal, and optical characteristics.

A new way of switching the magnetic properties of a material using just a small applied voltage, developed by researchers at MIT and collaborators elsewhere, could signal the beginning of a new family of materials with a variety of switchable properties, the researchers say.

The technique could ultimately be used to control properties other than magnetism, including reflectivity or thermal conductivity, they say. The first application of the new finding is likely to be a new kind of memory chip that requires no power to maintain data once it’s written, drastically lowering its overall power needs. This could be especially useful for mobile devices, where battery life is often a major limitation.

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Posted on November 3, 2014 by Alissa Mallinson   |  MIT News Office

Team of MechE and CSAIL students wins grand prize in Maritime RobotX Challenge.

Students partnered with Olin College of Engineering students to build an unmanned surface vehicle.

An MIT-Olin team took home the grand prize this October from the 2014 Maritime RobotX Challenge in Marina Bay, Singapore. The team was comprised of students from MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) as well as students from Olin College of Engineering.

The Maritime RobotX Challenge, which was funded by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), invited 15 student teams from five countries to build an unmanned surface vehicle that could best address real-world problems such as search-and-rescue missions, shipping security, environmental monitoring, fishery management, and marine science.

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Posted on October 13, 2014 by Mark Shwartz   |  Stanford News

Stanford scientists create a 'smart' lithium-ion battery that warns of potential fire hazards.

Stanford's Yi Cui and colleagues have created a lithium-ion battery that alerts users to potential overheating and fire.
Stanford University scientists have developed a "smart" lithium-ion battery that gives ample warning before it overheats and bursts into flames. The new technology is designed for conventional lithium-ion batteries now used in billions of cellphones, laptops and other electronic devices, as well as a growing number of cars and airplanes. "Our goal is to create an early-warning system that saves lives and property," said Yi Cui, an associate professor of materials science and engineering. "The system can detect problems that occur during the normal operation of a battery, but it does not apply to batteries damaged in a collision or other accident."

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Posted on September 26, 2014 by Larry Hardesty   |  MIT News Office

Underwater robot for port security. Football-size robot can skim discreetly along a ship's hull to seek hollow compartments concealing contraband.

Last week, at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, MIT researchers unveiled an oval-shaped submersible robot, a little smaller than a football, with a flattened panel on one side that it can slide along an underwater surface to perform ultrasound scans.

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Posted on September 19, 2014 by Larry Hardesty   |  MIT News Office

Fingertip sensor gives robot unprecedented dexterity. Equipped with a novel optical sensor, a robot grasps a USB plug and inserts it into a USB port.

Researchers at MIT and Northeastern University have equipped a robot with a novel tactile sensor that lets it grasp a USB cable draped freely over a hook and insert it into a USB port.


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Posted on September 15, 2014 by Adam Conner-Simons   |  MIT News Office

Will tomorrow's robots move like snakes?. Made completely of rubber, CSAIL team's robotic arm can slither through 'pipes'.

Over the last few years, researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) have developed biologicallyВ inspired robots designed to fly like falcons, perch like pigeons, and swim like swordfish. The natural next step? Slithering like snakes.


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