This week’s top 5 engineering technology articles take us from virtual reality to engineering greener cars to wearable tech to the world of robots. Enjoy!
- Virtual reality programs could help paralyzed patients walk again
- These Engineering Tricks Are Helping Automakers Build Greener Cars
- MIT’s DuoSkin turns temporary tattoos into on-skin interfaces
- How E-Textiles Could Engineer a New Era of Smart Materials
- Robot companions are coming into our homes. How human should they be?
Earlier this week, Scientific Reports journal published an abstract from researchers who have figured out a way to improve mobility in paraplegic patients through the use of virtual reality and motorized exoskeltons.
Researchers studied the patient’s brain way using an Oculus Rift, measuring the vibrating tactical feedback of the patient with a device attached to their forearms. By having the patients play soccer in virtual reality, they found they could activate areas of the brain associated with leg movement. Next, they were hooked up to a robotic exoskeleton enabling them to walk on a treadmill. By combining these two actions, they were basically controlling the robotic legs with their mind.
While this isn’t the first experiment of this kind, it holds great promise. The research is part of the Walk Again Project, a program involving scientists from 25 countries that focuses on helping people with spinal cord injuries regain strength and mobility.
These Engineering Tricks Are Helping Automakers Build Greener Cars
MIT Technology Review
As automakers use engineering to increase the efficiency of our cars, recent government reports that the 54.5 mpg CAFE standards may not be achievable by 2025. In fact, they suggest that we could see 50 mpg at best.
There are a number of ways to attack this problem. From technologies that make the vehicle powertrain more fuel efficient, such as turbochargers, direct injection engines and innovative efficient transmission to the focus of this particular review, reducing the weight of vehicles and juicing up electrical systems.
MIT Review Editor, Jamie Condliffe, closes his argument saying “Cars may increasingly be built by software developers, but electrical and mechanical engineers still have a big role to play in making our vehicles more efficient.” I couldn’t agree more!
In fact — a little shameless self-promotion — this is a topic my colleagues have been talking about for quite a while now. Check out the infographic ANSYS released in 2013 to discover additional ways engineering can help solve this problem.
Personally, I’ve never seriously considered getting a tattoo, but this looks pretty intriguing. Function and art combined? MIT Media Lab, in partnership with Microsoft Research, unveiled DuoSkin, a project that uses temporary tattoos as connected interfaces that can be used in a variety of ways.
These temporary tattoos are made out of gold metal leaf due to their cost and skin-friendly material. Seems there are three ways these can be used, as an input interface, an output interface or a communication interface.
Would this replace that snazzy new smartwatch you’ve been eyeing?
While we’re on the topic of “wearables”, it’s interesting to note that we are in contact with textiles for up to 90% of our lives, from fibers and yarns to inks and more. The market sector is both large and diverse as seen in this chart, released by IDTechEx.
According to Digital Editor, Ryan Bushley, “researchers at Ohio State have tested how silver metal wires woven into fabric could boost your cellphone reception whereas other organizations are exploring the concept of morphing human skin into a live computer screen.Engineers are exploring how to incorporate”. Better cell phone reception because of the clothing I’m wearing is something I can get on board with.
Robot companions are coming into our homes. How human should they be?
World Economic Forum
Do the words “robot companions” sparks images of Rosie the Robot, Model XB-500, serving the Jetson family? Or was your first introduction the Roomba? We’ve certainly come a long way, haven’t we? As robot companions are being designed to help older people, autistic children or the disabled, I think it’s very fair to ask the question “how human should they be”?
Adeline Chanseau, PhD Researcher in Human Robot Interaction from the University of Hertfordshire, wrote a compelling piece doing just that. As artificial intelligence and technology progress, these types of conversations should not be ignored.
Robots and androids have frequently been depicted or described in works of fiction, and while I’m not sure I’m worried they will accidentally wipe out humanity, I’d rather be safe than sorry.
That’s it for my Top 5 Engineering Technology Articles picks for this week. Enjoy your weekend!