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Weekly Tech Recap - № 160 - Robofish, world’s smallest computer, Apple MicroLED, Xbox controller, etc.

SoFi the robofish



Developed by a team at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, SoFi is a soft-bodied robotic fish that can swim independently alongside real fish in the ocean. Its main use is as a research tool to observe marine life without disturbing it. In order to do this, SoFi’s appearance and behaviour mimics that of real fish as closely as possible. The robot is controlled remotely via ultrasounds and it can swim autonomously for 40 minutes. Its main propulsion is done with its tail, which is driven hydraulically by pumping oil from one side of the tail to the other. The tail moves back and forth at a frequency of 0.9 to 1.4 Hz, which provides a maximum speed of 21.7 cm per second. The system will work at depths of up to 18 metres. In the video, you can see tests undertaken in the magnificent coral reefs in Fiji.

IEEE Spectrum, “MIT’s Soft Robotic Fish Explores Reefs in Fiji.”

MIT News, “Soft robotic fish swims alongside real ones in coral reefs.”


The world’s smallest computer

World’s smallest computer.

Silicon support with no less than 64 computers. © IBM.

IBM has unveiled the world’s smallest computer — a device the size of a grain of salt. Presented at the Think 2018 conference in Las Vegas, the chip measures only 1x1mm, but has the processing power of an x86, i.e. that of the first IBM desktop computers from the 1990s, altogether respectable, given its size. This complete system on a chip (SoC) — with a processor, memory, a photovoltaic cell for power supply, a communication unit that uses an LED and a photo-detector to communicate with the outside world — was developed as an anti-fraud device. It could be built into price tags or product packaging, allowing data to be recorded during transit and stocking, and for example, it would show if the product was handled correctly in transit, all to improve supply chain security. It will cost less than 10 cents to make. Still in the prototype stage, these chips could also be used to authenticate products that were bought online, such as food, pharmaceuticals and luxury items to ensure they haven’t been altered.

Circuit Breaker, “IBM just unveiled the ‘world’s smallest computer’.”


Apple’s secret facility is developing MicroLEDs

Apple Watch.

Apple Watch. © iStock.

Bloomberg has revealed that Apple has a secret manufacturing plant in Santa Clara, California, where it designs and creates its own screens using MicroLED technology. It’s likely doing this to sidestep Samsung and its OLED screens in future devices. It’s well known that the company wants to diversify its suppliers: Apple has spent billions of dollars to help LG ramp up its OLED production and rumour has it that LG screens will feature on the iPhone X’s successor. Remember that in 2014, Apple was already super interested in MicroLED technology, and bought LuxVue Technology, which was developing low-power ultra-bright MicroLED screens. Odds are good that the first Apple product to feature a MicroLED screen will be the Apple Watch.

Bloomberg Technology, “Apple is secretly developing its own screens for the first time.”


This week’s bad idea


Edge. © Microsoft.

Microsoft is trying a new way to push Windows 10 users into using the Edge browser: web links clicked on in Windows Mail will only open in Edge. Normally, links open in the default navigator, which can be something other than Edge, depending on the user’s preferences. But in the latest preview of the fall Windows update (1809), it’s Edge or nothing at all. “We will begin testing a change where links clicked on within the Windows Mail app will open in Microsoft Edge, which provides the best, most secure and consistent experience on Windows 10”, states an article published on the company’s blog. It’s a fact that Edge hasn’t had much success with Windows 10 users, and its use is declining. The article’s authors added, “As always, we look forward to feedback from our WIP [Windows Insider Program] community.” If this feedback is anything like what I’ve heard at Spiria, it would go from “stupid” to “inept,” and those are the most polite words I heard.

Computerworld, “Microsoft tries out new must-use-Edge ploy in Windows 10 preview.”


Xbox controller 20,000 leagues under the sea

Lt. Anthony Matus uses an XBox controller to maneuver the photonic mast.

Lt. Anthony Matus uses an XBox controller. Jeffrey M. Richardson / U.S. Navy.

The new American submarine USS Colorado, which is 115 metres long, features a next-generation tool onboard: an Xbox controller. The controller steers the movements of two photonic masts (modern equivalents of the traditional periscopes), which house digital cameras (visible spectrum and infrared) on telescoping arms. Commander Reed Koepp told the Associated Press that two factors came into play: Xbox controllers are cheap, and younger sailors are familiar with their operation.

Cnet, “US Navy launches submarine maneuvered by Xbox controller.”


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This entry was posted in Weekly recap
by Laurent Gloaguen.
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