August 21/28, 2006


RFID tag spotter

How often do you lose your keys? A combination radio frequency identification tag reader and digital camera that displays the location of tagged objects is poised to help. Camera phones with the technology onboard would locate tagged items like keys. The device could also track real objects in virtual and augmented reality environments. (Ferret: RFID Localization for Pervasive Multimedia, UbiComp 2006, September 17-21, 2006)

Chip runs on radio

A tiny computer with no batteries or wires is powered remotely by radio waves. The chip, powered and read by radio frequency identification tag readers, could be used to make lightweight, inexpensive sensors. (A Wirelessly-Powered Platform for Sensing and Computation, UbiComp 2006, September 17-21, 2006)

Muscling up color displays

A diffraction grating made from electrically-driven artificial muscle turns white light into a wide range of colors. The device could be used to make high-fidelity displays that more accurately reproduce the colors humans perceive. Today’s displays are less accurate because they generate colors by mixing red, green and blue. (Polymeric, Electrically Tunable Diffraction Grating Based on Artificial Muscles, Optics Letters, September 1, 2006)

Microfluidic refrigerator

A set of tiny gas- and fluid-filled channels cools chips as fast as 40 degrees Celsius per second. The microfluidic device could be used to cool high-performance computer chips and scientific equipment. (Evaporative Cooling in Microfluidic Channels, Applied Physics Letters, August 14, 2006)


A microfluidic channel with a built-in laser is a key advancement in making chip-size laboratory equipment. The device could be used for positioning and analyzing cells and other particles in biochips. (Monolithic Integration of Microfluidic Channels and Semiconductor Lasers, Optics Express, August 21, 2006)

Sensitive foam

A thin-film transistor with a layer of special rubber foam that produces an electric field when deformed makes for a touch or pressure sensor. The sensor could be used to make sensor skins for robots and smart rooms, and microphones. (Flexible Ferroelectret Field-Effect Transistor for Large-Area Sensor Skins and Microphones, Applied Physics Letters, August 14, 2006)


View from the High Ground: ICL's John Pendry
Physics as machine tool, negative refractive index, metamaterials, shattered wine glasses, higher capacity DVDs, scientific backwaters, risk perception and practice, practice, practice.

How It Works: Quantum computing: qubits
Photons, electrons and atoms, oh my! These particles are the raw materials for qubits, the basic building blocks of quantum computers.

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August 8th, 2006
Highlights from Siggraph
The red-eye removal feature in Photoshop, which uses object recognition technology to identify eyes, was Adobe’s first foray into working with the content of images. Automatic content analysis is a major focus of computer vision and image processing research......

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"Physics is to the rest of science what machine tools are to engineering. A corollary is that science places power in our hands which can be used for good or ill. Technology has been abused in this way throughout the ages from gunpowder to atomic bombs."
- John Pendry, Imperial College London

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