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Showing posts from August, 2014

Innovation Cycle: Divining reality from the hype

OVER the past few decades it has become clear that innovation—more than inputs of capital and labour—is what drives a modern economy. In the developed world, the application of technological know-how and scientific discoveries by companies, institutions and government establishments accounts for over half of all economic growth. Because of its seminal influence on wealth-creation in general and employment in particular, the manner in which innovation functions—especially, the way it comes and goes in Darwinian bursts of activity—has emerged as a vital branch of scholarship. What researchers have learned is that waves of industrial activity, first identified by the Russian economist Nikolai Kondratieff in 1925, have a character all of their own. Typically, a long upswing in a cycle starts when a new set of technologies begins to emerge—eg, steam, rail and steel in the mid-19th century; electricity, chemicals and the internal-combustion engine in the early 20th century. This upsurge in i…

A thousand robots assemble into shapes

The madmen at Harvard have finally done it: they’ve simulated real life swarms with tiny robots, thereby bringing the coming robot apocalypse that much closer.
Or maybe they just created some really cool proof-of-concept robotic self-assembly systems. Either way, what you’re seeing is a set of a thousand “kilobots” that can self-assembled into shapes and patterns. The first few bots create a seed and then the other bots fall into line, positioning themselves perfectly among their peers.
The process they use is actually quite amazing. The seed bots gather together and send out little blasts of IR light. The dimmer the light the further away, so the other robots begin moving towards the seed. Finally, once they get enough robots in one place, the robots communicate with each other to position themselves properly. These robots could also be charged via IR or an internet power network that activates when the robots chain up.

The robots can even tell …