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Living in the Future: August 12, 2013

This Week: A ruler that measures angles, new computer structure requires new programming languages, and robotic plants!

Remember in Math class, when you’d see an angle that you had to measure using a protractor, and then draw its compliment? Thanks to a new digital ruler from MIT’s Media Lab, that task just got a lot easier. The new ruler prototype, called “Glassified”, has a clear screen on one end that can be used to interact with drawn lines, measuring angles, and even projecting dots and lines against the same area – allowing for simulations against hand-drawn lines. It may not be in everyone’s pocket – but it seems like a useful tool for people who like to build things in the real world, but want precise measurements!

Traditional computing relies on information flowing between a processor and memory in separate areas in the computer, but the organic design of brains works differently, with processing, memory, and communication distributed throughout the structure. Newly designed neurosynaptic cores take their cues from the brain’s structure, instead of centralizing all of the components. These structures allow for the DARPA and IBM designed neurocomputers to be better at creative activities – at least in theory – but also requires a new programming technique to take advantage of the different computing structure. An additional benefit of this computing style is efficiency – and it may be that computers of the future will be simultaneously more powerful, as well as incredibly more efficient as a result.

Speaking of technology inspired by natural organic design, a new robotics project in Italy is attempting to make a robotic plant. That is, the goal of the Italian Institute of Technology’s PLANTOID project is to build a machine that grows roots and draws power from the soil without needing other sources, like solar or wind. The challenge lies in getting a robot to build itself using available resources – and may lead to research into health sensors and pieces that can use the resources in the body to grow in place as needed for individual patients.