Apr 17th 2017

Innovators in the House: Watch 5 Tech Stars Light Up YouTube

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Behind Jennifer Lewis’s unassuming smile is a woman who’s rocking the world of 3-D printing and material science.

Lewis has opened up bold, new avenues for design engineers working as innovators in electronics and medical device development.

Jennifer A. Lewis (Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences)

Answering the question, “What would you do if you could 3-D print electronics?”, Lewis’s Voxel8 created a multimaterial 3-D printer capable of fabricating embedded electronics, sensors and antennas. Some hot prototypes coming out of the Voxel8 lab include a 3-D printed digital watch, a 3-D printed quadcopter, custom hearing aids and athletic shoes that improve energy absorption.

3-D Everything

The Harvard-lab start-up digitally prints electronics using its proprietary, highly conductive “silver ink” with a conductivity reportedly 5,000 times greater than that of the carbon-based inks used in additive manufacturing.

3-D printing of electrical, in-circuit test fixtures for PCBs and semi-conductors is certainly an electrifying development for industrial designers and engineers in consumer electronics, automotive and telecom industries. And Voxel8 can fabricate more than just parts. The company can digitally print the plastic body and metal circuitry of a UAV drone all at once!

As with this printed drone, multimaterial digital manufacturing eliminates the need for flex circuits by routing traces out from PCB directly within structural parts.

Watch Lewis explain how at Voxel8, “disruptive innovation is at the heart of what we do.”

Polymer Skaters

Using carbon fiber in a skateboard is nothing new, but two brothers from Huntington Beach, California, have developed a skateboard with two layers of carbon fiber and their innovative Hybrid-Polymer™ tip-fill. The Hybrid-Polymer™ tip-fill is made of a proprietary blend of plastics with a high durometer that gives it incredible impact strength, wear resistance and impressive adhesion to the maple wood.

Cofounders Mark and Greg Rosolowski’s company — Lithe Skateboards — is still on its way up the half-pipe, but they have some backing through a recent Indiegogo campaign and they are poised to enter production mode.

Lithe Skateboard (litheskateboards.com)

They have blended their engineering and craftsmen backgrounds to design the ultimate in durable decks that are virtually impossible to chip, they claim. Watch as they throw one of their Lithe boards off a roof.

Mark, an engineer with experience in product design and manufacturing, worked with Greg — a passionate skateboarder and designer — to begin developing the board five years ago. The brothers claim their board is six times more durable than average maple board. Two layers of carbon fiber increase resilience and strength to protect against fraying while reducing weight and thickness of the deck.

A Mobile Mind

Nick Sampson helped build what some insiders call the “Tesla Killer,” but don’t say he works for an auto company; Sampson insists Faraday Future is all tech.

Sampson describes the company he helped found as “a tech company reformatting the future of mobility.” As SVP of R&D and Engineering, Sampson is not just the brain behind Faraday Future and its FF91 electric supercar — he’s the voice.

Watch his razzle-dazzle presentation at the recent 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) as he explains why “disruption is what this world needs.”

FF 91 (Faraday Future)

Sampson — who has also worked for Jaguar, Lotus and, yes, Tesla — told the CES audience that Faraday Future is “reformatting” the future of the auto industry and the future of mobility.

That’s because the company’s first production offering is more about complete connectivity to the digital world (360-degree mapping technology) and ergonomics (a NASA-inspired zero-gravity driving seat) than it is to speed (although 0 to 60 mph in 2.39 seconds isn’t too shabby).

Billed as the world’s fastest and most connected self-driving supercar, the FF91 is all about the cool factor. LED lights along the car will glow when recharging and pulse when driving in autonomous mode. Factor in its facial recognition technology, high-definition cameras, intuitive user system and ultrasonic sensors and radars throughout, and you might just have — as Nick Sampson says — a new future to mobility.

From Human Dream to Humanoid Reality

To be the brains and force behind the most sophisticated and successful humanoid artificial intelligence project in the world, you’d probably need advanced degrees in electronic engineering, computing and cognitive robotics.

Giorgio Metta is Vice Scientific Director at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT)

Check, check and check for Giorgio Metta — not to mention he can quote from Isaac Asimov’s “I, Robot.” From an avid science fiction reader as a child, to the director of the open-source iCub humanoid project at the Italian Institute of Technology in Italy, Metta has far-reaching experience under his belt. He has studied and taught at the University of Genoa, Italy, the University of Plymouth in the UK and the MIT AI-Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

iCub is a full humanoid with 53 degrees of freedom, an articulated upper body and dexterous hands. The size of a five-year-old, iCub can crawl on all fours, walk and sit up to manipulate objects. The humanoid is made up of 5,000 parts — the same as a small car — including human-like tactile sensors, custom electronics and hands with five fingers, 19 joints and nine degrees of freedom each.

Watch iCub in action as he manipulates objects autonomously.

So why is Metta spearheading the creation of an AI robot that looks human? He cites research that shows that people respond better to a human-shaped robot in a human environment. And that’s the goal of this AI project — to bring robots into our daily working and living human environment.

It’s a possibility that’s not too far off. Fast approaching are autonomous humanoid robots of moderate intelligence (some human programming needed). And soon approaching are fully intelligent robots that can adapt and learn from experience (no human tinkering needed).

The immediate challenge with AI is that the intelligence is clearly inhuman. But as Metta sees it, soon AI — humanoid AI, to be exact — will have both artificial intelligence and human intelligence. The result will be an “improvement on human possibilities,” Metta says in this YouTube video.

Should we be scared? According to Metta, we should only be afraid of the misuse of supertechnologies like AI. “Be afraid of people, not the robots,” Metta says in the video.

Yikes! Sounds like Westworld might not always just be a good show on HBO.

Cars Are People Too

Roboticist Carol Reiley has repeatedly said that the self-driving car “will be the first social robot.”

That doesn’t mean it will chit chat with you about politics on your drive into work — well, maybe someday — but it does mean autonomous cars are on their way to becoming human-like in their interactions with pedestrians and other drivers.

Watch as Reiley explains how her Silicon Valley startup — Drive.ai — is using a deep-learning algorithm to bring human-centered AI to self-driving cars.

Her team of AI researchers from Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Lab aren’t building cars; they’re building the AI software system that will give a self-driving car the ability to deal with unpredictable humans.

Sensing a pedestrian trying to cross in front of your car, a display of text, lights, sounds or motion would let that pedestrian know when it’s safe to pass.

But you might want to give a friendly smile and a wave to the pedestrian too — because that’s also the human thing to do.

These star innovators shine through creative thinking and strategic pursuit of their passions — pursue yours at Northrop Grumman.

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