Spectrum: Driverless Cars Take the Racetrack, MIT Media Lab Turns Foot Movements into Smartphone Commands

Plus, North Carolina State University researchers developed a device that tracks and shares guide dogs' health-related data with their blind owners, and researchers in France have created rechargeable batteries using sodium ions.

by / February 2, 2016
RoboRace

Off to the Roboraces: Starting this year, autonomous vehicles will get a new driving platform: racing. Driverless electric cars will take to the track in the Roborace, with 10 teams competing in one-hour races. While each team will use the same type of car, the competition requires using real-time computing algorithms and artificial intelligence to maneuver the vehicle to victory. Source: Formula E

Step to It: Ever wanted to answer your phone with your foot? Researchers at the MIT Media Lab are developing a wearable device that turns foot movements into commands for smartphones. The KickSoul system, which uses a gyroscope and accelerometer sewed into the shoe’s insole, analyzes motions and sends the data to a phone via Bluetooth. By pushing an imaginary item away or pulling it closer, users can accept or reject a call, scroll, zoom in and out on a map, or save or delete a file. Source: New Scientist


Powering Up with Sodium: Based on batteries used by the Tesla Model S, laptops and LED flashlights, a team of researchers in France has created rechargeable batteries using sodium ions in the 18650 industry format. Traditional batteries use lithium, which is lighter than sodium but also more rare. In contrast, sodium is abundant, making up more than 2.6 percent of the Earth’s crust. The proof of concept, announced in November, could mark a revolution in batteries as the researchers hope to bring an inexpensive sodium-ion option to the European market as soon as possible. Source: Gizmag

Sit. Stay. Breathe. To help people who are blind more easily monitor the well-being of their guide dogs, North Carolina State University researchers developed a device that tracks and shares the four-legged companions’ health-related data with their owners. “Our goal is to let guide dog handlers know when their dogs are stressed or anxious,” says Ph.D. student Sean Mealin, who is blind. A specialized handle equipped with two vibrating motors attaches to the dog’s harness — one motor vibrates in sync with the dog’s heartbeat and the other with its breathing, helping the handler to know if the animal is stressed or potentially experiencing other health issues. Source: Treehugger