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Researchers Take Biomimetic Inspiration from Plant

University of Michigan and Penn State University researchers say their studies of a plant that changes shape adaptively might aid the development of adaptive materials. Plants such as the mimosa are able to visibly change shape through an osmotic process that these researchers are seeking to replicate in artificial cells the size of a human palm. They are striving to reduce the cell size such that these materials can be constructed with microstructures and nanofibers to create bio-inspired cellular structures with circulatory networks. The researchers say adaptive materials could eventually be applied in robotics --  for example, allowing a robot to change shape to pass through a tunnel, then changing to a rigid structure to grasp an item. It might also be used in aeronautics, where an aircraft constructed from such materials could have wings able to change shape and stiffness in flight. The full results were presented at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Washington DC. (redOrbit)(AFP)(American Association for the Advancement of Science)(University of Michigan)

Smithsonian Set to Exhibit Video Game Art

An exhibition devoted to the art and visual effects found in gaming, reputedly the first such display, will be shown at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. "The Art of Video Games" exhibit plans to show “the evolution of video games as an artistic medium, with a focus on striking visual effects and the creative use of new technologies.” Throughout the exhibit, there will be prints of enlarged screen shots, historic game consoles, and video interviews with select developers and artists. In addition, there will also be five games available for visitors to briefly play at the exhibit. There will also be 80 games chosen by the public via online voting that will be displayed during the show. Chris Melissinos, founder of Past Pixels and collector of video games and gaming systems, is the curator of the exhibition. "The Art of Video Games" will open 16 March 2012 and run through 30 September 2012. (redOrbit)(Smithsonian American Art Museum)

Toshiba Announces New Energy-Saving Circuit

Toshiba announced it has developed a new flip-flop circuit that helps mobile devices reduce their power consumption. They redesigned a conventional flip-flop circuit and manufactured the new circuit using a 40nm CMOS process. The new circuit reduces the power used by the clock buffer by wholly eliminating it. Adaptive coupling circuitry was added to the flip-flop. This combination of an nMOS transistor and a pMOS transistor adaptively weakens state-retention coupling and prevents data collisions. Toshiba says the new device reduces the transistor count in the new circuit from 24 to 22 and also reduces the cell area. Toshiba claims the circuit dissipates 77 percent less power than a conventional flip-flop with a total power consumption reduction of 24 percent. The data was gathered from using the new flip-flop in a wireless LAN chip. The research will be presented 23 February at the 2011 IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) now being held San Francisco, California. (PhysOrg.com)(ISSCC 2011)(Toshiba Worldwide)

Drone Software Adds Ability to Detect Life Jackets

Sentient, a Melbourne, Australian-based maker of computer vision and AI software for defense and civilian projects, has enhanced its Kestrel Maritime automated target detection software such that small, high visibility objects such as life jackets can be spotted, allowing drones to  assist in maritime search and rescue operations. Kestrel Maritime is designed to process electro-optical and infrared full motion video from manned and unmanned vehicles. It was originally designed to automatically detect small objects such as pirate or illegal fishing vessels and objects in real time despite challenging visibility that might result from conditions including whitecaps or sun glare. The company is demonstrating the enhanced software at The International Defence Exhibition & Conference (IDEX) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (SlashDot)(small Unmanned Aerial Systems News)(Sentient)

Watson to be Tested in Two Hospitals

After the fun and games of "Jeopardy!" IBM’s Watson has had job offers as a medical assistant in two hospitals that will test the artificial intelligence application’s ability to understand human language and return answers to queries. The IBM technology will be tested at the Columbia University Medical Center and the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Applying the technology in a healthcare setting will be challenging because Watson will be required to supply multiple possible diagnoses or answers to medical queries rather than the single correct answers it returned on "Jeopardy!." The first task is to train Watson. It could be at least two years before it will be used with patients. IBM will reportedly be working with Nuance Communications “to explore, develop and commercialize the Watson computing system's advanced analytics capabilities in the healthcare industry.” IBM has yet to disclose prices for the commercial sale of Watson. (Associated Press)(Pharmaceutical Business Review)(IBM Research)

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