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Automatons on Tap

Explore and interact with a world of robots through IEEE Spectrum’s first iPad app

1 min read
photo of app
Photo: Bridget Collins

Brought to you by the editors behind IEEE Spectrum’s award-winning Automaton blog, the Robots iPad app (US $5, available on iTunes) is a celebration of mindful machines. Using hundreds of photos and videos, the app has detailed entries for 126 of the most notable robots built from 1961 to today. The first industrial robot, Unimate, the Mars rover Curiosity, and Honda’s Asimo are included, alongside a host of other machines from 19 countries.

Yes, we’re shamelessly tooting our own horn here. But we’re proud of this app, because it captures the passion that animates Spectrum’s robotics coverage and distills it into a rich collection that goes beyond our day-to-day reporting. The highlight of Robots is its collection of interactive graphics. These allow users to rotate a robot through 360 degrees or see it perform an action, such as having NASA’s Robonaut lift weights. The interface is structured so that someone with a casual interest in robotics can easily find plenty of entertainment (such as rating the creepiness factor of various androids), while robot mavens can drill down for things like power requirements.

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From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
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Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush
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Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

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