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Hotspot: DARPA's brain-inspired chip

Tue, 08/12/2014 - 8:54am
Eric Sorensen, Coordinator of Multimedia Development

This week on WDD's HotSpot:

  • To help fight drug counterfeiting, doctoral student Terry Shyu demonstrated a new high-tech label that uses nanopillars to reveal hidden images via condensation of fluid on the structures. The method requires access to sophisticated equipment that can create very tiny features, roughly 500 times smaller than the width of a human hair. But once the template is made, labels can be printed in large rolls at a cost of roughly one dollar per square inch. Counterfeit drugs, which at best contain wrong doses and at worst are toxic, are thought to kill more than 700,000 people per year. While less than 1 percent of the U.S. pharmaceuticals market is believed to be counterfeit, it is a huge problem in the developing world where as much as a third of the available medicine is fake.
  • Researchers at MIT, Microsoft, and Adobe have developed an algorithm that can reconstruct an audio signal by analyzing minute vibrations of objects depicted in video. They were able to recover intelligible speech from the vibrations of a potato-chip bag photographed from 15 feet away through soundproof glass. They’ve also extracted useful audio signals from videos of aluminum foil, the surface of a glass of water, and even the leaves of a potted plant. To reconstruct audio from video requires the frequency of the video samples be higher than the frequency of the audio signal. In some of their experiments, the researchers used a high-speed camera that captured 2,000 to 6,000 frames per second. That’s much faster than the 60 frames per second possible with some smartphones, but well below the frame rates of the best commercial high-speed cameras, which can top 100,000 frames per second.
  • DARPA-funded researchers have developed a complex computer chip whose architecture is inspired by the neuronal structure of the brain and requires only a fraction of the electrical power of conventional chips. The chip is loaded with more than 5 billion transistors and boasts more than 250 million “synapses,” or programmable logic points, analogous to the connections between neurons in the brain bringing ultra-high performance, low-power neuro-inspired systems a reality.
  • A recent AP article reports how researchers have created complex machines that transform themselves from little more than a sheet of paper and plastic into walking automatons. According to the AP, MIT and Harvard researchers developed self-assembling, paper robots, using the ancient Japanese art of origami. After the installation of tiny batteries and motors, the robots are able to move, making them a great potential for space exploration and other dangerous environments, and for cramped places for search-and-rescue missions.
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