The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

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iCandy October 2010: Broadcasting Live From Above Your Ear

This month's images include a broadcast tower that fits in your pocket, an ear-mounted camcorder, and a plug-in solar motorcycle

1 min read

Photo: Yoshihazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images
Engineers have yet to devise an electronic replacement for hair stylists, but they have come up with a way to save time on your next visit to the salon. Panasonic has unveiled a prototype hair-washing machine that begins with a 3-D scan of the user’s head, then lathers, rinses, and repeats. Panasonic says the machine, which uses 16 mechanical fingers to massage in the shampoo and help wash it out, will be available for sale in 2012.

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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
Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush

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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