R&D Roundup: Smart chips, dream logic and crowdsourcing space

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I see far more research articles than I could possibly write up. This column collects the most interesting of those papers and advances, along with notes on why they may prove important in the world of tech and startups.

This week: crowdsourcing in space, vision on a chip, robots underground and under the skin and other developments.

The eye is the brain

Computer vision is a challenging problem, but the perennial insult added to this difficulty is the fact that humans process visual information as well as we do. Part of that is because in computers, the “eye” — a photosensitive sensor — merely collects information and relays it to a “brain” or processing unit. In the human visual system, the eye itself does rudimentary processing before images are even sent to the brain, and when they do arrive, the task of breaking them down is split apart and parallelized in an amazingly effective manner.

Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien) integrate neural network logic directly into the sensor, grouping pixels and subpixels into tiny pattern recognition engines by individually tuning their sensitivity and carefully analyzing their output. In one demonstration described in Nature, the sensor was set up so that images of simplified letters falling on it would be recognized in nanoseconds because of their distinctive voltage response. That’s way, way faster than sending it off to a distant chip for analysis.

Source: TechCrunch

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