Blog / Tech roundup: Digital doppelgangers, diagnostic clothes and processors inspired by brains

June 16, 2020

We keep an eye on the latest technology developments so you don’t have to. Here are some of the digital and high-tech product developments that have been making the headlines over the last week or two.

Lifelike robots take one step closer

Today’s robots tend to be nightmarish, metallic creations:the advent of androids based on humans relies on the creation of materials and processes that largely do not exist yet. Now, researchers at Columbia University have invented a type of super-strong artificial tissue that can be 3D-printed into muscles, with the capacity lift up to 1,000 times its own weight. https://mashable.com/2017/09/20/artificial-muscle-lifelike-robots

Electric vehicle chargers in every petrol station

As governments seek to restart their economies, boosting car sales is high on many countries’ agendas. Germany is among several countries using the opportunity to encourage drivers to buy new electric vehicles. One of the reasons people give for sticking with traditional petrol or diesel cars is “range anxiety” - the fear that they will drive somewhere and not be able to recharge. Germany’s solution is to propose new legislation that will force all petrol stations to provide electric vehicle charging stations: https://futurism.com/the-byte/germany-gas-stations-electric-car-chargers

Computer processors that act like biological brains

Finding the right balance between speed and energy efficiency is one of the challenges facing processor manufacturers. Computer modelling by researchers at Washington University has shown that getting processors to act more like human brains, by creating simulated silicon neurons, can improve speed without also increasing energy. Essentially, information can be communicated even without the neurons being directly connected with each other, by way of the energy spikes experienced by the other neurons nearby. “They learn to form a network on the fly.”, explains Shantanu Chakrabartty, whose lab produced the research. You can read more about it here: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/06/200604152125.htm

Digital doppelgangers banned

As technology advances, legislators are engaged in a constant battle of wits to keep ahead of fraudsters, particularly in the area of identity fraud. The German government has now acted to bring in specific legislation around the submission of passport photographs, following the realisation that facial recognition technology can be gamed by morphing two photographs together and thus allowing two different people to use the same travel documents. Weirdly, the two individuals whose identities are morphed do not even need to look particularly similar in order to become digital doppelgangers: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-tech-morphing/germany-bans-digital-doppelganger-passport-photos-idUSKBN23A1YM

Screenprinted health monitoring

Monitoring your health could soon be as simple as pulling on your favourite T-shirt or dress. Biologically activated silk-based inks developed at Tufts University can be modified with active molecules such as chemically sensitive dyes, enzymes or antibodies in such a way that when these inks are screen-printed on to fabrics, garments will react to changes in temperature and sweat composition to provide valuable insights into the wearer’s health. Previously, the development of wearable sensors was concentrated in the area of electronics, but having sensor capability literally imprinted in soft, wearable fabric could be a game-changer for health diagnoses and performance monitoring. https://techxplore.com/news/2020-06-bioactive-inks-wearable-textiles-conditions.html