Cambridge, MA, United States

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, MA, United States

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1861 in response to the increasing industrialization of the United States, MIT adopted a European polytechnic university model and stressed laboratory instruction in applied science and engineering. Researchers worked on computers, radar, and inertial guidance during World War II and the Cold War. Post-war defense research contributed to the rapid expansion of the faculty and campus under James Killian. The current 168-acre campus opened in 1916 and extends over 1 mile along the northern bank of the Charles River basin.MIT, with five schools and one college which contain a total of 32 departments, is traditionally known for research and education in the physical science and engineering, and more recently in biology, economics, linguistics, and management as well. The "Engineers" sponsor 31 sports, most teams of which compete in the NCAA Division III's New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference; the Division I rowing programs compete as part of the EARC and EAWRC.MIT is often cited as among the world's top universities. As of 2014, 81 Nobel laureates, 52 National Medal of Science recipients, 45 Rhodes Scholars, 38 MacArthur Fellows, and 2 Fields Medalists have been affiliated with MIT. MIT has a strong entrepreneurial culture and the aggregated revenues of companies founded by MIT alumni would rank as the eleventh-largest economy in the world. Wikipedia.

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News Article | May 17, 2017

In the heavily fished waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the red snapper has made a notable comeback. Strict US government regulations have helped to rebuild its stocks after overfishing caused a population crash in the 1980s and 1990s. Now the fish faces a new challenge: President Donald Trump, a Republican who wants to cut roughly US$50 billion from the government’s civilian agencies in 2018. Trump’s plan would eliminate the Missi-ssippi-based Sea Grant programme that is poised to oversee a $12-million study of red-snapper stocks. Its findings are meant to guide future management decisions, and to protect a fishery that hauls in billions of dollars per year for the Republican-dominated gulf states. Now the study’s fate is uncertain — along with those of many other government science programmes, including some that largely benefit the voters who propelled Trump into office. In 2014, about $35 billion — or nearly one-third of all federal research dollars — flowed to states that voted Republican in the most recent presidential election, a Nature analysis found (see ‘Red state, blue state’). Economists have documented how this type of government investment shores up local economies, says Mark Muro, a senior fellow and policy analyst at the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington DC. “Many smaller communities have a huge amount to lose,” he says. US politicians have long worked to spread federal research and development (R&D) largesse around the country. In 1862, Congress established the land-grant system of universities to teach agriculture and engineering, with many institutions located in newly established states. After the Second World War, politicians created a network of national labs, including facilities in rural areas that had secretly worked on the atomic bomb during the war. Today, some federal agencies deliberately distribute funds to parts of the country beyond the elite research powerhouses. The National Science Foundation sets aside $160 million from its $6-billion research budget to award university grants to states that routinely receive less than 0.75% from the agency’s ordinary funding channels. In recent years, the programme has seeded an optics industry in Montana and carbon-cycle research in Alaska. And in 2014, former US president Barack Obama created a national network of institutions to develop advanced manu-facturing technologies. Manufacturing jobs in the United States fell by 32% between March 1989 and September 2016, particularly in midwestern and ‘rust belt’ states. There are now 14 institutes in the ‘Manufacturing USA’ network, including a 3D-printing group in Youngstown, Ohio, and a lightweight-metals institute in Detroit, Michigan. An advanced-composites institute in Knoxville, Tennessee, works with wind-turbine and car manufacturers to make their products lighter and stronger. “It’s given us access to tools and resources and people we didn’t have before,” says Gregory Haye, general manager of Local Motors in Knoxville, which made the first 3D-printed car. In January, an independent analysis by the Deloitte consulting firm found that Manufacturing USA is bringing together companies that would not otherwise connect. The US National Academy of Sciences is intrigued enough to plan a 23 May workshop that will assess the institutes’ successes and where they should go next. Yet their funding remains uncertain, because they were a pet project of Obama’s — and because the programme’s cost is expected to reach nearly $1.9 billion as more institutes launch. A related programme, the $130-million Manufacturing Extension Partnership for small manufacturers, is already on Trump’s chopping block, notes William Bonvillian, who studies innovation policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. So far, Trump has suggested only broad cuts to the federal budget; he is expected to release a more detailed 2018 spending proposal next week. But the president’s themes are clear: even as he speaks about bolstering blue-collar jobs, he suggests cutting some research that underpins rural economies. “The current priorities are very much at odds with our view of what R&D and innovation strategies would benefit the economy,” says Scott Andes, an analyst at Brookings. It is not clear to what extent Congress will go along with Trump’s plan, however. In the meantime, federal scientists in Colorado are in the middle of a ten-year experiment that could improve the profitability of a quintessentially American activity: ranching. Government researchers have been working on the prairies here since 1939, after overploughing and drought led to devastating dust storms. Now they are exploring whether beef producers and conservation biologists can develop grazing practices that benefit them both. Beginning in 2012, the group split ten short-grass pastures in half. On one side, ranchers graze cattle as they have traditionally. The other half is controlled by scientists, who manage the land for plant and bird biodiversity; they aim to establish a variety of range grasses and to help livestock better weather difficult years. So far, the cattle on the traditionally managed pastures are gaining weight faster than those on the scientifically managed pastures. But the real test of the experiment, which has cost a little over $3 million since 2012, will come if Colorado experiences a severe drought. That will show which of the two approaches works better to feed cattle through hard times. “The whole idea is to use science to inform management,” says Hailey Wilmer, a rangeland scientist with the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service in Fort Collins, Colorado, which oversees the work. This sort of federal investment could help the cattle country of the American West. “I’d take anything into consideration,” says Jeff Wahlert, a rancher in Grover, Colorado, who runs cattle on the test pastures. “There’s always something that you can try to help your operation.”

News Article | May 10, 2017

Almost every culture from the past 5,000 years has shown some evidence of decorative skin tinkering. As we move into the 21st century, tattoo culture, much like everything else, is being fused with technology. From tattoos that act as embedded sensors to high-tech ink that can be easily removed, tattoos in the new millennium may look similar to how they have in the past, but they may also boast some added functionality. Scheduled to launch in July 2017, Soundwave tattoos are designs based on waveforms uploaded to the company's website. Be it the laugh of your baby or your favorite song quote, a short waveform design is generated and can be tattooed onto your body. The image and associated audio is uploaded to a database and can be accessed using the Soundwave app by scanning the tattoo. Due to the intricacy and complexity in the data an actual waveform contains, it seems the system doesn't actually read the waveform off the skin, but rather uses the corresponding image to reference an audio file from its database. Maybe in the future we'll be able to print detailed enough waveforms on our skin to actually hold complete audio data, but right now on just a visual design level this seems like an appropriately modern aesthetic choice for the 21st century. Imagine a stylish tattoo that also functioned as a touch-based interface for controlling your computer, TV or smart device. In 2016 Microsoft and MIT joined forces to develop a fabrication process that turned gold leaf temporary tattoos into just such a touch-sensitive interface. With wireless communication capabilities, the DuoSkin design can function essentially as a skin-based remote control for whatever can be remotely controlled. The gold leaf technology can also be used to track body temperature or embed an NFC chip, so paying for a coffee or opening your car door could be achieved with the wave of a hand. Wearable sensor technology has been fusing with tattoo culture for a few years now, and much innovation has occurred in the medical monitoring world. From a temporary tattoo that can monitor your glucose levels to a transdermal sensor that picks up alcohol levels in the wearer's sweat, embedding body sensors into stylish tattoos is an obvious fit. Electronic tattoo developer Chaotic Moon has been working on a project called TechTats for several years. Its system embeds electrodes onto a tattoo template that sits on a person's skin and tracks biometric data, such as body temperature or heart rate. The data can then be transmitted wirelessly to a nearby device. The current technology is a little cumbersome, looking like a weird stick-on tattoo at this stage, but it isn't too difficult to see this evolving in the future into nano-laden inks that are embedded into the skin in more traditional tattoo-like ways. The permanent nature of a tattoo is probably the biggest psychological challenge someone faces when getting inked. Is this a design you want to have on your body for the rest of your life? Up until recently the only options for the hesitant were superficial temporary tattoos, or possibly painful laser removal if they decided to forge ahead and ended up regretting things down the track. But now a company has devised a series of inks that can be easily flushed out of your skin after just a few months. Ephemeral Tattoos, set to publicly launch sometime in 2018, are offering three, six or 12 month tattoos made up of a patented ink containing smaller molecules than standard tattoo dyes. This means that when you are ready to get rid of the tattoo, you just go over the original design with a special removal solution that flushes the ink molecules out of your skin. Researchers at the University of California have developed bio-inks that contain specific enzymes that can detect certain chemicals. For example, one of the bio-inks is designed to measure glucose levels beneath the skin, while other inks can detect pollutants in the air. The early incarnation of the technology has the ink only functioning as a sensor, so an external device is still needed to process the data, but the team is currently working on inks that can communicate wirelessly with a monitoring device. This would point us to a future where a diabetic could possibly get a tattoo that contains a glucose sensing bio-ink. No more fiddly finger-prick tests, but rather a hi-tech tattoo that constantly monitors and communicates the wearer's glucose levels. There's seemingly no industry that won't be touched by 3D printing technology, so why would tattooing be any different? In the quest for machine-based tattooing, France-based company Appropriate Audiences has created a 3D printer that could successfully tattoo a human arm. The early demonstrations of the machine only offered simple designs on limited parts of the body, but the ability to precisely and repeatedly tattoo a specific design cheaply and quickly makes it not unreasonable to imagine a future where tattoo parlors are just automated robotic spaces where tattoos are mechanically inked at the push of a button. So really, the future of tattoos offers something for everyone. A tattoo that can disappear after a year for the indecisive types, a tattoo that works as a medical monitor for those with a complex chronic illness, or even a tattoo that can be used as a remote control for the TV – perfect for those that keep losing the remote. Tattoos have well and truly moved into the mainstream in recent times, and blending the yearning for self-decoration and self-expression with modern technology is likely to make them even more popular – not to mention more functional.

News Article | February 3, 2016

In 2007, Cecilia Laschi asked her father to catch a live octopus for her seaside lab in Livorno, Italy. He thought she was crazy: as a recreational fisherman, he considered the octopus so easy to catch that it must be a very stupid animal. And what did a robotics researcher who worked with metal and microprocessors want with a squishy cephalopod anyway? Nevertheless, the elder Laschi caught an octopus off the Tuscan coast and gave it to his daughter, who works for the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, Italy. She and her students placed the creature in a saltwater tank where they could study how it grasped titbits of anchovy and crab. The team then set about building robots that could mimic those motions. Prototype by prototype, they created an artificial tentacle with internal springs and wires that mirrored an octopus's muscles, until the device could undulate, elongate, shrink, stiffen and curl in a lifelike manner1. “It's a completely different way of building robots,” says Laschi. This approach has become a major research front for robotics in the past ten years. Scientists and engineers in the field have long worked on hard-bodied robots, often inspired by humans and other animals with hard skeletons. These machines have the virtue of moving in mathematically predictable ways, with rigid limbs that can bend and straighten only around fixed joints. But they also require meticulous programming and extensive feedback to avoid smacking into things; even then, their motions often become erratic or even dangerous when dealing with humans, new objects, bumpy terrain or other unpredictable situations. Robots inspired by flexible creatures such as octopuses, caterpillars or fish offer a solution. Instead of requiring intensive (and often imperfect) computations, soft robots built of mostly pliable or elastic materials can just mould themselves to their surroundings. Although some of these machines use wires or springs to mimic muscles and tendons, as a group, soft robots have ditched the skeletons that defined previous robot generations. With nothing resembling bones or joints, these machines can stretch, twist, scrunch and squish in completely new ways. They can transform in shape or size, wrap around objects and even touch people more safely than ever before. Building these machines involves developing new technologies to animate floppy materials with purposeful movement, and methods for monitoring and predicting their actions. But if this succeeds, such robots might be used as rescue workers that can squeeze into tight spaces or slink across shifting debris; as home health aides that can interact closely with humans; and as industrial machines that can grasp new objects without previous programming. Researchers have already produced a wide variety of such machines, including crawling robotic caterpillars2, swimming fish-bots3 and undulating artificial jellyfish4. On 29–30 April, ten teams will compete in Livorno in an international soft-robotics challenge — the first of its kind. Laschi, who serves as scientific coordinator for the European Commission-backed sponsoring research consortium, RoboSoft, hopes that the event will drive innovation in the field. “If you look in biology, and you ask what Darwinian evolution has coughed up, there are all kinds of incredible solutions to movement, sensing, gripping, feeding, hunting, swimming, walking and gliding that have not been open to hard robots,” says chemist George Whitesides, a soft-robotics researcher at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “The idea of building fundamentally new classes of machines is just very interesting.” The millions of industrial robots around the world today are all derived from the same basic blueprint. The metal-bound machines use their hefty, rigid limbs to shoulder the grunt work in car-assembly lines and industrial plants with speed, force and mindless repetition that humans simply can't match. But standard robots require specialized programming, tightly controlled conditions and continuous feedback of their own movements to know precisely when and how to move each of their many joints. They can fail spectacularly at tasks that fall outside their programming parameters, and they can malfunction entirely in unpredictable environments. Most must stay behind fences that protect their human co-workers from inadvertent harm. “Think about how hard it is to tie shoelaces,” says Daniela Rus, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. “That's the kind of capability we'd like to have in robotics.” Over the past decade, that desire has triggered an increased interest in lighter, cheaper machines that can handle fiddly or unpredictable situations and collaborate directly with humans. Some roboticists, including Laschi, think that soft materials and bioinspired designs can provide an answer. That idea was a tough sell at first, Laschi says. “In the beginning, very traditional robotics conferences didn't want to accept my papers,” she says. “But now there are entire sessions devoted to this topic.” Helping to fuel the surge in interest are recent advances in polymer science, especially the development of techniques for casting, moulding or 3D printing polymers into custom shapes. This has enabled roboticists to experiment more freely and quickly with making soft forms. As a result, more than 30 institutions have now joined the RoboSoft collaboration, which kicked off in 2013. The following year saw the launch of a dedicated journal, Soft Robotics, and of an open-access resource called the Soft Robotics Toolkit: a website developed by researchers at Trinity College Dublin and at Harvard that allows researchers and amateurs to share tips and find downloadable designs and other information (see Still, says Rebecca Kramer, a mechanical engineer at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, “I don't think the community has coalesced on what a soft robot should look like, and we're still picking out the core technology.” Perhaps the most fundamental challenge is getting the robots' soft structures to curl, scrunch and stretch. Laschi's robotic tentacle houses a network of thin metal cables and springs made of shape-memory alloys — easily bendable metals that return to their original shapes when heated. Laid lengthwise along the 'arm', some of these components simulate an octopus's longitudinal muscles, which shorten or bend the tentacle when they contract. Others radiate out from the tentacle's core, simulating transverse muscles that shrink the arm's diameter. Researchers can make the tentacle wave — or even curl around a human hand — by pulling certain combinations of cables with external motors, or by heating springs with electrical currents. A similar system helps to drive the soft-robotic caterpillars that neurobiologist Barry Trimmer has modelled on his favourite experimental organism, the tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta). At his lab at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, 20 hornworms are born each day, and Trimmer 3D prints a handful of robotic ones as well. The mechanical creatures wriggle along the lab bench much like the real ones, and they can even copy the caterpillar's signature escape move: with a pull here and a tug there on the robot's internal 'muscles', the machine snaps into a circle that wheels away5. Trimmer, who is editor-in-chief of Soft Robotics, hopes that this wide range of movements could one day turn the robot into an aide for emergency responders that can rapidly cross fields of debris and burrow through rubble to locate survivors of disasters. Whitesides, meanwhile, is pioneering robots that are powered by air — among them a family of polymer-based devices inspired by the starfish. Each limb consists of an internal network of pockets and channels, sandwiched between two materials of differing elasticity. As researchers pump air into different parts of the robot, the arms (or legs or fingers) inflate asymmetrically and curl. Whitesides' team has even built one device that can play 'Mary Had a Little Lamb' on the piano6. One of the team's four-legged creations has mastered a robot obstacle course: ambling towards an elevated partition with a clearance of about 2 centimetres, the machine drops down and shimmies underneath, demonstrating the potential of soft robots to tackle complex terrains7. Although most soft robots remain in the lab, some of Whitesides' creations are venturing out to feed industrial demand for adept robotic hands. Conventional grippers require detailed information about factors such as an object's location, shape, weight and slipperiness to move each of its joints correctly. One system may be specialized for handling shampoo bottles, whereas another picks up only children's toys, and yet another is needed for grabbing T-shirts. But as manufacturers update their product lines, and as e-commerce warehouses handle a growing variety of objects, these companies need to swap in customized grippers and updated control algorithms for each different use — often at great cost and delay. By contrast, grippers that are made mainly of soft, stretchy materials can envelop and conform to objects of different shapes and sizes. Soft Robotics, a start-up company in Cambridge, Massachussetts, that spun out of Whitesides' research in 2013, has raised some US$4.5 million to develop a line of rubbery robotic claws. “We use no force sensors, no feedback systems and we don't do a lot of planning,” says the company's chief executive, Carl Vause. “We just go and grab an object”, squeezing until the grip is secure. Made entirely of elastic polymers, the claws curl when air pumps through their internal channels. Whereas stiff robotic hands must carefully compute each finger's movements, the new gripper's softness enables it to drag along or deform around an object's surface until it grabs hold, without causing damage. It can even pick up mushrooms and ripe strawberries, as well as plump tomatoes off a vine — tasks that have historically required the delicate touch of human workers. Soft Robotics released its first gripper for sale in June 2015, and it is running pilot programmes with six client companies involved in packaging and food-handling. Empire Robotics in neighbouring Boston has taken a radically different approach, by marketing a robotic 'hand' that resembles a squishy stress ball. Sandlike particles inside the ball flow freely at first, allowing it to deform as it presses firmly into an object. Then, a valve sucks air out of the ball so that the grains inside are forced tightly against each other, causing the ball to harden its grip. Based on research8 by Heinrich Jaeger at the University of Chicago in Illinois, and Hod Lipson at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, the 'Versaball' can pick up objects in about one-tenth of a second and lift up to about 9 kilograms. As robotic octopuses, caterpillars, starfish and other malleable machines come to life, some scientists have begun to focus on better ways to control the devices' actions. “We're talking about floppy, elastic materials,” says Kramer. “When something moves on one side, you're not quite sure where the rest of the machine is going to end up.” That is why many applications will probably require extra sensors to monitor movement. Yet conventional position and force sensors — rigid or semi-rigid electronic components — don't always work well with soft robots that undergo extreme shape changes. Engineers such as Yong-Lae Park are tackling this problem by developing stretchable electronic sensors. At Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Park works on gummy patches that contain liquid-metal circuits sandwiched between sheets of silicone rubber. Poured in a variety of patterns, including spirals and stripes, these liquid circuits can be customized to sense when the device is squished or stretched, and in what direction9. “Stretchable sensors can be as sensitive as skin, depending on how you design them. You can tune them to respond to a slight brush of a finger or to a 30-pound weight,” says mechanical engineer Robert Shepherd at Cornell, who has developed methods for 3D printing stretch-sensitive 'skins' directly onto soft robots10. Alternating layers of conductive and insulating material produce an electrical signal when prodded or pulled. Stretchy sensors could have an important role in the growing field of wearable robotics. Funded by the US military, Conor Walsh at Harvard University has spent years developing and honing a soft 'exosuit' for soldiers — a comfier analogue to earlier 'Iron Man'-type exoskeletons, meant to help fighters to carry heavy loads over long distances. Users can still feel the device aiding their movement, but walking in the suit feels “pretty natural”, says Walsh — a big improvement from conventional exoskeletons. Instead of bulky, rigid casings, Walsh's suit uses straps made from nylon, polyester and spandex placed strategically along the legs. And a smattering of position and acceleration sensors — standard rigid devices for now — helps to monitor the wearer's gait and to deliver assistance at the optimal times.The next step, says Walsh, is to incorporate stretchy sensors for a softer, more comfortable experience. Meanwhile, Kramer has created a robotic fabric that moves in response to electrical current11. The muslin sheet, which has shape-memory-alloy coils sewn in, can scrunch by up to 60% in length when stimulated. Smart 'threads' keep tabs on the fabric's movements; Kramer weaves in stretch-sensitive silicone filaments filled with liquid metal. The concept could be used one day for sleeves or cuffs to help injured or elderly people to move. Kramer also hopes that the material might be used to assemble robots in space. Astronauts could simply drape an active skin around a piece of foam, for example, to turn it into a working robot. But before soft robots can fly to space, much foundational work must be done on the ground. Relatively little is known about how squishy materials deform in response to external forces, and how movements propagate through soft masses. In addition, most soft robots remain attached or tethered to hard energy sources, such as batteries or compressed-air tanks. Some researchers are already eyeing the potential of biochemical or renewable sources of energy for soft robots. The RoboSoft challenge in April could help to spur development. There, the entries will be put through their paces: challenges include racing across a sand pit, opening a door by its handle, grabbing a number of mystery objects and avoiding fragile obstacles under water. The goal, says Laschi, is to demonstrate that soft robots can accomplish some of the same tasks that stiff robots do, as well as others that they cannot. “I don't think soft robotics is going to replace traditional robotics, but it will be combination of the two in the future,” says Laschi. Many researchers think that rigid robots might retain their superiority in jobs requiring great strength, speed or precision. But for a growing number of applications involving close interactions with people, or other unpredictable situations, soft robots could find a niche. At Kings College London, for example, Laschi's collaborators are developing a surgical endoscope based on her tentacle technology. And her team in Italy is developing a full-bodied robot octopus that swims by fluid propulsion, and could one day be used for underwater research and exploration. The prototype already pulses silently through a tank in her lab, as the real octopuses swim in the salty waters just outside. “When I started with the octopus, people asked me what it was for,” says Laschi. “I said, 'I don't know, but I'm sure if it succeeds there could be many, many applications'.”

News Article | December 11, 2016

An abandoned military village in Germany could get a new lease of life as a hippy commune fit for the 21st Century. Patrick Henry Village, near the German city of Heidelberg, was not born to hippy ideals. In fact, it was opened by the US Army as a military base after World War Two, and was described by those who lived and worked there as a tiny slice of 1950s American transported to Europe. It was closed in 2013, and since then the German government has pondered what to do with it. The vision, says Prof Carlo Ratti - who runs the design company Carlo Ratti Associati and heads up the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Senseable Cities lab - is to transform it into an "experiment for future living". "We need to try out different things - that is important as architects and engineers - because it is how human society progresses," he tells BBC News. "We started this project with a question, 'What would a commune based on digital sharing look like?' And an island of America in Europe seemed like a good test bed." If the vision becomes reality, residents will share accommodation and workspace and produce their own food and goods. It aims to accommodate 4,000 people in a 1-sq-km (0.4-sq-miles) site. "It may resonate with a certain demographic, such as students and entrepreneurs, of which Heidelberg has many," says Prof Ratti. But it will be open to everyone, and potential residents are likely to be invited to submit their reasons for wanting to join online, with the community voting on who comes to stay. At the heart of the commune will be the Maker Square, an area dedicated to digital fabrication. The maker movement is a trend for individuals and groups to create products from recycled electronics or other raw materials. Increasingly, it is making use of modern technology such as 3D printing to create cottage industries that can mass produce. For Prof Ratti, a communal way of life is not just more sustainable but more sociable. "If you live in a big city, you have access to lots of like-minded people, but in smaller communities you may only have a few thousand," he says. "So why not create a like-minded community where it is easy to connect with people and sharing is the glue?" His ideas were recently presented at German design exhibition Internationale Bauassstellung. IBA, the group that will ultimately decide what happens on the site, also heard proposals from other groups, including a car-sharing service to connect the site to Heidelberg using self-driving shuttles. "It's about a process of transformation that we want to trigger," says Prof Kees Christiaanse, who works on the project. "Today, we are experiencing an atomisation of economic activity in ever smaller units that work complementary to large global firms. "Increasingly, we are depending on highly specialised small-scale enterprises. "Carlo proposes a kind of infrastructure for these cross-fertilisations to take place, which will be of great value for developing the site." Whether the project can create a truly sharing community remains to be seen, but marketing expert Prof Russell Belk thinks it is important to work out why people want to share in the first place. "A sharing economy is more about short-term rental, via services like Uber, Airbnb or Zipcar," he says. "True sharing is more like what happens within the family and in some non-profit communal sites like CouchSurfing and Majorna [a volunteer car-sharing service in Gothenburg]." "Part of the difference is whether there is a sense of community and caring rather than simply convenience. "The commune sounds to be somewhere in-between. "Most sharing ventures are not long-term operations unless they have economic as well as social incentives."

News Article | September 23, 2016

3D Printing Technology And 3D Printers - How They Are Changing The World Top Scientific Minds You Probably Never Heard Of The 26th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony has concluded, honoring 10 eccentric projects that made people laugh first then think. The ceremony is held every September in Harvard University's Sanders Theatre, where the awards are physically handed out by real Nobel laureates, much to the amusement of everyone involved and the presenters themselves. Last Sept. 22, the 2016 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony saw the following winners: In Reproduction - Ahmed Shafik; Studied the effects of wool, cotton, or polyester trousers on rat sex life and conducted similar tests involving human males. In Economics - Shelagh Ferguson, Sarah Forbes and Mark Avis; Assessed the perceived personalities of rocks using a sales and marketing standpoint. In Physics - Hansruedi Wildermuth, Péter Malik, Susanne Åkesson, Róbert Farkas, Balázs Gerics, Ramón Hegedüs, György Kriska, Miklós Blahó and Gábor Horváth; Discovered why white-haired horses are horsefly-proof and why dragonflies are highly attracted to black-colored tombstones. In Chemistry - Volkswagen; Solved the problem of excessive car emissions by electromechanically producing fewer emissions when vehicles are tested. In Medicine - Andreas Sprenger, Silke Anders, Thomas Münte, Carina Palzer and Christoph Helmchen; Discovered that an itch on one side of the body can be remedied by looking into a mirror and scratching the spot on the opposite site. In Biology - Charles Foster and Thomas Thwaites; To Foster, for having lived in the wild as a bird, fox, deer, otter and badger at different times, and to Thwaites, for making prosthetic limb extensions that gave him the mobility of a goat, which allowed him to spend time in the hills with, well, goats. In Psychology - Bruno Verschuere, Kristina Suchotzki, Gordon Logan, Maarten De Schryver and Evelyne Debey; Asked a thousand liars how often they tell lies and decided whether to believe those answers. In Peace - Jonathan Fugelsang, Derek Koehler, Nathaniel Barr, James Allan Cheyne and Gordon Pennycook; Carried out a study titled "On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit." In Literature - Fredrik Sjöberg; Produced a three-volume autobiography on the pleasures of collecting flies, dead or otherwise. In Perception - Kohei Adachi and Atsuki Higashiyama; Investigated how things look differently when viewed from between the legs and bent over. The Ig Nobel Prize is brought together by the Annals of Improbable Research, with the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association and the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students sponsoring the ceremony. Since 1991, the award-giving body has been recognizing 10 projects every year. Many of the winners also give short, free public lectures to discuss their projects. Each lecture lasts about 5 minutes, plus time for answering questions. This year's Ig Informal Lectures will be held on Sept. 24 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology | Date: 2016-05-20

A transformable material and comprising a base material having a natural shape, with a second material disposed on the base material in a particular pattern so as to impose a transformed shape on the base material, the transformed shape being different than the natural shape. More particularly, the base material is a stretchable 2-dimensional material, and is subjected to pre-stressing before and during disposition of the second material, whereupon after release of the stress, the stretchable base material with the disposed second material thereon automatically transform into a predetermined 3-dimensional manufactured shape.

Claims which contain your search:

33. The method of claim 31, wherein depositing the one or more physical constraints comprises 3D printing the one or more physical constraints in a predetermined pattern onto or within the pre-stressed stretchable base material, laminating or adhering the one or more physical constraints in a predetermined pattern onto or within the pre-stressed stretchable base material, or knitting, weaving, stitching, or injecting the one or more physical constraints in the predetermined pattern onto or within the pre-stressed stretchable base material.

4. The transformable material of claim 1, wherein the one or more physical constraints comprise 3D printed physical constraints.

40. The method of claim 20, wherein the transformed shape is the shape of footwear, clothing, an architectural structure, furniture, a wall partition, a window treatment, a compression garment, an automotive interior structure, or an aerospace interior structure.

42. The 3-dimensional transformed shape of claim 41, wherein the predetermined transformed shape is in the shape of footwear, clothing, an architectural structure, furniture, a wall partition, a window treatment, a compression garment, an automotive interior structure, or an aerospace interior structure.

12. The method of claim 9, wherein depositing the one or more physical constraints comprises 3D printing the one or more physical constraints in the predetermined pattern onto or within the pre-stressed stretchable base material, laminating or adhering the one or more physical constraints in the predetermined pattern onto or within the pre-stressed stretchable base material, or knitting, weaving, stitching, or injecting the one or more physical constraints in the predetermined pattern onto or within the pre-stressed stretchable base material.

23. The method of claim 20, wherein depositing the one or more physical constraints comprises 3D printing the one or more physical constraints in the predetermined pattern onto or within the pre-stressed stretchable base material, laminating or adhering the one or more physical constraints in the predetermined pattern onto or within the pre-stressed stretchable base material, or knitting, weaving, stitching, or injecting the one or more physical constraints in the predetermined pattern onto or within the pre-stressed stretchable base material.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: INTERFAC PROCESSES & THERMODYN | Award Amount: 419.98K | Year: 2011

The goal of this research grant is to elucidate the mechanism and predictively understand the physics of coiling patterns obtained when thin flexible elastic filaments (rods) are deposited onto rigid substrates. The investigation requires the complementary interplay between high-precision model experiments and computational geometric mechanics codes. An important aspect of the project is the porting of techniques from the field of computer graphics as predictive engineering tools. The first stage of research examines the base configuration, in which a rod is injected onto a static or moving conveyor belt, generating a series of coiling patterns. The transitions between coiling phases are mapped and rationalized through mathematical modeling. The second stage of research examines more complicated forms of loading of the thin rod including (a) torsion as a control parameter to precisely generate the coiling patterns, (b) aerodynamic drag of the hanging filament, and (c) adhesion onto the substrate. The third stage studies coiling over non-flat complex topographies, seeking to develop a generalized statistical description of the resulting coiling trajectories.

The construction of more predictive models for the motion of flexible filaments will help addressing engineering problems spanning a wide range of physical scales: from micro-fabrication of electronic components using the coiling of nanotubes, serpentine interconnects for stretchable electronics, and 3D-printing technologies, to the laying down of transoceanic cable and pipelines onto the seabed in a more efficient and resilient manner. A mathematical, physical and scalable understanding of the deformation of filaments is also a step towards addressing the fundamental question of how geometry governs the mechanics of thin structures; a topic that is currently receiving interest from both the physics and mechanics communities. The computational codes developed in this project will be broadly disseminated. These, together with the gained fundamental understanding, will serve as new design tools for engineers and physicists who deal with slender filaments in diverse fields including automotive-, aerospace-, biomedical-, civil-, environmental-, geological-, and mechanical-engineering.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ALGORITHMIC FOUNDATIONS | Award Amount: 155.00K | Year: 2015

3D printing has revolutionized the ability to fabricate complex solid objects at the macroscopic scale using simple Computer-Aided Design (CAD) files as input. In this process, the user specifies the solid object using simple geometric primitives or surface-based meshes. Recent applications of this revolutionary technology include printing limb prosthetics and implants and tissue engineering scaffolds, as well as rapid prototyping of products in industries ranging from apparel and eyeware to automotive, aerospace, and art. A similar transformation in automated fabrication began in the 1970s using CAD for the design of complex electronics using very large scale integration (VLSI) to design circuits consisting of thousands of transistors. This CAD revolution also dramatically increased and broadened the participation of designers without detailed technical know-how needed to design and synthesize custom electrical circuits for diverse applications in industries ranging from mobile devices to biomedical implants. At the nanometer-scale, programmed self-assembly of synthetic DNA offers a similar ability to print complex 3D nanometer-scale objects with precisely defined 3D structural features. While the field of structural DNA nanotechnology is considerably younger than the preceding examples, recent technological and scientific advances have enabled the low-cost and reproducible synthesis of diverse structured DNA nano-objects, enabling numerous technological innovations including casting metallic nanoparticles for photonics and light-harvesting devices, fabricating therapeutic vectors that mimic viruses for drug and gene delivery, and developing nanoscale sensors for biomarker detection in disease diagnosis.

Structural DNA nanotechnology currently faces a similar bottleneck in the broad participation of designers due to the need for automated CAD-based design software for these nano-objects. Here, development of a next-generation CAD framework is proposed to enable the fully automated design of structured DNA assemblies at the nanometer scale. As a starting point, the development of a CAD program is proposed here for the synthesis of a unique class of DNA-based objects called DNA nanocages. DNA nanocages can be programmed to adopt nearly arbitrary symmetries and sizes on this scale. Further, these DNA-based particles may be functionalized chemically with proteins, RNAs, chromophores, and other small molecules for diverse applications in biomolecular science and technology. In addition, these nanoscale materials can be transformed into structured inorganic materials including metals and silicon dioxide. To realize the aim of transforming the ability to design and fabricate DNA-based nanomaterials, an open-source software package will be developed to prescribe geometrically from the top-down nanocage size and symmetry using a simple high-level language and CAD environment that is distributed worldwide through the world-wide web. Synthetic DNA sequences that self-assemble to form these CAD-specified structures will be automatically generated for nanocage fabrication. Validation of nanocage synthesis will be performed experimentally using high-resolution structural and folding assays. This work forms the starting point for a new high-level programming language to print 3D objects at the nanometer-scale using synthetic DNA that will broadly enable the use and application of these assemblies across diverse research and industrial applications. Future work may extend this framework to arbitrary 2D and 3D DNA-based assemblies, as well as molecularly functionalized DNA-assemblies that mimic, as well as extend far beyond, natures evolutionary designs.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Cyber-Human Systems (CHS) | Award Amount: 606.00K | Year: 2014

In addition to being the essential fabric of the worlds fashion industry, textiles are important components for automotive, aeronautical, architectural, and defense applications. Yet textile prototyping and design (whether for garments, upholstery or composite materials) is an arduous and expensive process. This research project seeks to understand and advance the role of new additive manufacturing technologies (commonly referred to as 3D printing) in the design and prototyping of textile products. The PIs goal is to develop 3D printing hardware and computer software that enable engineers to prototype textile designs more quickly and economically, and with greater control over a broad gamut of mechanical, optical, and electrical characteristics such as aerodynamic drag, adhesion, heat regulation, friction, elasticity, porosity, density, electrical conductivity, and visual appearance. Beyond individual textiles, project outcomes will support the fabrication of complete products that do not require considerable stitching and assembly, and which may include curved shapes too difficult to cut from flat panels and/or complex composite assemblies too costly to fabricate via traditional methods. To achieve these objectives, the PIs will develop: a library of highly-optimized textile units that can be combined using a new language of textile functionality to form a vast array of possible textiles; computer optimization software that enables precise control of textile properties; a computer program that allows users to visually and interactively design complex textile products; and a specialized 3D Printer that is able to precisely fabricate textiles involving multiple materials.

Technically speaking, this project will create the first complete hardware/software pipeline for digital design and fabrication of textiles using multi-material 3D printing. The first fundamental step in this pipeline is constructing parameterized meta-material templates that provide users with high-level knobs for tuning the behavior and large-scale properties of a textile. Next, the ability to interactively simulate the behavior of a virtual textile will be achieved by combining continuum homogenization and data-driven methods; the PIs will develop an interactive design tool that employs first order sensitivity analysis tied to the physical simulation, to enable designers to navigate the huge space of possible designs at both the micro and macro levels. A new language for functionally specifying textile designs that employs a reducer-tuner model will allow engineers and designers to specify meta-materials in terms of desired behavior and performance, enabling designs with guarantees on their characteristics and compliance with standards. Printing volumes for current 3D printers are limited; however, by incorporating computational textile folding into the pipeline, the PIs system will be able to print very large designs in much smaller folded configurations. Solution of the folding problem will involve nonlinear, non-convex, optimization with unilateral contact constraints. Finally, textiles and garments will be printed using both off-the-shelf 3D printers and a novel low-cost, high-resolution, modular 3D printing platform that is capable of printing with up to 12 different materials that vary in mechanical and appearance properties. In addition to photopolymer materials, the PIs plan to extend hardware capabilities to 3D print structures using co-polymers and solvent-based materials. More information about this project is available online at

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