Technology Blast!

Today, I learned something new about technologies! I am extremely outdated here in terms of technology! Ask me something about the latest gadget and I will go Ermmm..Ummmm..Well…

NO more of that! LOL. >.<

I am actually going through my e-mail when I saw the weekly IEEE Spectrum Tech Alert in my Inbox. I seldom go through the Spectrum because the terms used makes me go dizzy and the website of IEEE is so vast that I got lost most of the time. >.< But this week I decided otherwise for a couple of reasons.

One is that my membership is going to expire this 31st December and I don’t plan to renew it anymore since I am no longer studying Engineering and as I mentioned above, it makes me go dizzy. I only plan to subscribe back when I have started working – subscribing in the Aviation section. And as for the second reason, the title of this particular Spectrum caught my attention – How We Found the Missing Memristor

I for one do not know what is a Memristor. >.<

Anyway, the Spectrum this week does lead me to some amazing discovery! First up – Tabletop Computers!

We have seen this in movies and I remember it very well particularly in the movie – Minority Report.


SURFACE COMPUTING 2008: At the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, bar customers can use the surfaces of their cocktail tables to chat and flirt with customers at other tables, design and order drinks, and play interactive games with groups of friends. In several AT&T stores, visitors can place a mobile phone model on a table to automatically bring up information about the phone’s features, or place two phones side by side for an instant comparison. And at the Innoventions Dream Home at Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, the kitchen counter recognizes ingredients placed on it and suggests recipes for using them. This is surface computing, circa 2008. The technology, also called tabletop computing, seems to have come out of nowhere, but it has actually been brewing in research laboratories for the past 15 years. Watch a demonstration here.


MICROSOFT SURFACE: Microsoft made headlines last year when it announced Microsoft Surface, which is the platform used at the Rio, the AT&T stores, and at Disneyland. Surface is a bottom-projected display that can recognize multiple simultaneous touches, as well as objects with special bar codes, by using cameras beneath the tabletop. Currently, Microsoft Surface is being sold directly to commercial partners. In this prototype application shown, Surface recognizes that a user has placed a camera phone on top of it and, using a Bluetooth connection, pulls the photos from the phone. The images seem to spill onto the desk. The user can resize or crop photos and then may either print locally or order prints from an online photo service.

For the curious souls, click here for more

Source : IEEE Spectrum

Pretty cool isn’t it! I for one want one for myself!!

Secondly, about the Memristor. Well what can it do? Read the bold lines below!


Image: Bryan Christie Design

THINKING MACHINE: This artist’s conception of a memristor shows a stack of multiple crossbar arrays, the fundamental structure of R. Stanley Williams’s device. Because memristors behave functionally like synapses, replacing a few transistors in a circuit with memristors could lead to analog circuits that can think like a human brain.

It’s time to stop shrinking. Moore’s Law, the semiconductor industry’s obsession with the shrinking of transistors and their commensurate steady doubling on a chip about every two years, has been the source of a 50-year technical and economic revolution. Whether this scaling paradigm lasts for five more years or 15, it will eventually come to an end. The emphasis in electronics design will have to shift to devices that are not just increasingly infinitesimal but increasingly capable.

Earlier this year, I and my colleagues at Hewlett-Packard Labs, in Palo Alto, Calif., surprised the electronics community with a fascinating candidate for such a device: the memristor. It had been theorized nearly 40 years ago, but because no one had managed to build one, it had long since become an esoteric curiosity. That all changed on 1 May, when my group published the details of the memristor in Nature.

Combined with transistors in a hybrid chip, memristors could radically improve the performance of digital circuits without shrinking transistors. Using transistors more efficiently could in turn give us another decade, at least, of Moore’s Law performance improvement, without requiring the costly and increasingly difficult doublings of transistor density on chips. In the end, memristors might even become the cornerstone of new analog circuits that compute using an architecture much like that of the brain.

For nearly 150 years, the known fundamental passive circuit elements were limited to the capacitor (discovered in 1745), the resistor (1827), and the inductor (1831). Then, in a brilliant but underappreciated 1971 paper, Leon Chua, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, predicted the existence of a fourth fundamental device, which he called a memristor. He proved that memristor behavior could not be duplicated by any circuit built using only the other three elements, which is why the memristor is truly fundamental.

Memristor is a contraction of “memory resistor,” because that is exactly its function: to remember its history. A memristor is a two-terminal device whose resistance depends on the magnitude and polarity of the voltage applied to it and the length of time that voltage has been applied. When you turn off the voltage, the memristor remembers its most recent resistance until the next time you turn it on, whether that happens a day later or a year later.

Think of a resistor as a pipe through which water flows. The water is electric charge. The resistor’s obstruction of the flow of charge is comparable to the diameter of the pipe: the narrower the pipe, the greater the resistance. For the history of circuit design, resistors have had a fixed pipe diameter. But a memristor is a pipe that changes diameter with the amount and direction of water that flows through it. If water flows through this pipe in one direction, it expands (becoming less resistive). But send the water in the opposite direction and the pipe shrinks (becoming more resistive). Further, the memristor remembers its diameter when water last went through. Turn off the flow and the diameter of the pipe “freezes” until the water is turned back on.

That freezing property suits memristors brilliantly for computer memory. The ability to indefinitely store resistance values means that a memristor can be used as a nonvolatile memory. That might not sound like very much, but go ahead and pop the battery out of your laptop, right now—no saving, no quitting, nothing. You’d lose your work, of course. But if your laptop were built using a memory based on memristors, when you popped the battery back in, your screen would return to life with everything exactly as you left it: no lengthy reboot, no half-dozen auto-recovered files.

But the memristor’s potential goes far beyond instant-on computers to embrace one of the grandest technology challenges: mimicking the functions of a brain. Within a decade, memristors could let us emulate, instead of merely simulate, networks of neurons and synapses. Many research groups have been working toward a brain in silico: IBM’s Blue Brain project, Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm, and Harvard’s Center for Brain Science are just three. However, even a mouse brain simulation in real time involves solving an astronomical number of coupled partial differential equations. A digital computer capable of coping with this staggering workload would need to be the size of a small city, and powering it would require several dedicated nuclear power plants.

Source : IEEE Spectrum

Artificial Intelligence at its best!

Finally, Paper-Thin Speakers Made From Carbon Nanotubes! WTF?!?!?!

10 December 2008—Earlier this year, scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign demonstrated the first radio receiver made from carbon nanotubes (CNTs)—those impossibly thin tubes of carbon that are the darlings of nanotechnology research.Now Chinese researchers have built the speakers to go with it—out of the same material.

Researchers led by KaiLi Jiang, an associate professor at Tsinghua University, in Beijing, along with collaborators from the nearby Beijing Normal University, have developed CNT speakers that can reproduce music as well as the loudspeakers in your stereo. Jiang and his colleagues describe their unusual acoustic instruments in the current issue of the journal Nano Letters.

“The structure is extremely simple,” Jiang explains. He and his colleagues started with a very thin film of CNTs to make a device that’s probably less complex than a conventional speaker, which uses a vibrating diaphragm to produce sound. The diaphragm has a coil attached at its base, and when an audio-encoded electrical signal is passed through the coil in the presence of an electromagnet, the diaphragm vibrates, setting off sound waves. “Our CNT loudspeaker is magnet free—just a piece of CNT thin film with two electrodes to feed in audio-frequency currents,” Jiang says. The films are transparent, and they can be made of various sizes and shapes.

The sound produced by the nanotube speakers has low distortion and high quality, rivaling that of conventional loudspeakers, says Jiang. But the mechanism by which they make sound is totally different. Instead of using electromagnetically induced vibrations, they operate by what’s called the thermoacoustic effect.

“The alternating current periodically heats the CNT thin films, resulting in a temperature oscillation,” explains Jiang. “The temperature oscillation of thin film excites the pressure oscillation in the surrounding air, resulting in the sound generation.”

The CNT loudspeakers can’t just be plugged into, say, your stereo without some modification. The commercial audio amplifiers in consumer devices are tuned to drive conventional loudspeakers. When used to drive a CNT film, they make music and human voices sound much higher pitched. But Jiang says that a simple amplifier circuit tuned for CNT speakers fixes this problem.

Jiang has big dreams for the new speakers. “Our CNT loudspeaker is transparent and can be directly mounted in front of flat-panel displays,” he says. Other potential applications include speakers on clothing, windows, and flags. Some of those applications might be possible because the CNT films continue to produce sound even if they’re torn, unlike a torn diaphragm in a conventional loudspeaker.

There will be some challenges in commercializing the technology, say experts. The biggest is probably the lack of an industrial process to create thin films of CNTs. Jiang thinks this will be overcome soon. “The fabrication process is very simple,” he says. First you have to produce arrays of nanotubes on which they all face in one direction. Next, the arrays are drawn out into thin films. Then you attach two electrodes, and you’re done. As for mass production, Jiang and his team have made CNT arrays on 4-inch wafers in large numbers in a manner that lends itself to an industrial batch process, such as the one used in the semiconductor industry. One 4-inch wafer can produce 6 square meters of the thin film, he claims.

On the whole, CNT researchers seem to think that the prospects for the new loudspeaker technology are rather bright.

“I think it’s very cool,” says John Rogers, who led the development of the nanotube radio. “It caps off a remarkable year in CNT research, in which people have been able to demonstrate realistic devices—speakers, transparent conductors, digital circuits, transistor radios—formed in manufacturable ways and with properties that can be benchmarked in a meaningful way against existing technologies.”

Source : IEEE Spectrum

This is all just way too cool!

I am particularly interested in technology this week because I am trying to learn about the Mac OS. Trying to see how it is different from Windows OS. Why am I learning it? Well because I plan to switch to the Mac OS in the future. The design is very nice, but most of all is the technology that is being put into it! I love it and it suits me for how I want my computer to perform.

Anyway thats all for today. Hope you guys learned something useful from reading this. ^^,


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