February 23/
March 2, 2005   

   Humanoid robots walk naturally
Walking humanoid robots are marvels of engineering and computer science. Most are also expensive, heavy, and power hungry. A trio of skeleton-like robots show that walking -- robot and human -- is mostly a matter of how the thigh bone is connected to the knee bone...
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Software gives descriptive directions
Ask a person for directions and you are likely to hear about landmarks. Computer-generated directions, on the other hand, can give you precise distances but rarely include landmarks. Given that people prefer to be told to turn left at the elevators rather than being told to walk east for 50 paces, route planning software has room for improvement. A system that has a sense of place is a big step in the right direction.

Springs simplify micromirror arrays
Taking the twinkle out of stars allows astronomers to see them better. Such sharpening is also important for optical applications ranging from retinal imaging to spy satellites. Arrays of tiny movable mirrors make it possible to restore distorted light waves. A control system based on the stiffness of springs promises to make those arrays cheaper, smaller and tougher.

Impact Assessment: Roadside Eye Catchers
Is the new direction in outdoor ads a moving violation or just moving product?

Process yields semiconductor foam... Rod arrays focus sound... Metal atoms make silicon magnetic... Speech software makes concept maps... Tiny transistors sniff chemicals... Plastic changes color in heat... Light writes data in electrons.

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