The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

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iCandy: Robots and Us

A smart prosthesis, a robotic brain surgeon, and an exoskeleton

1 min read
iCandy: Robots and Us
Photo: John Gress/Reuters

Photo: John Kuntz/The Plain Dealer/Landov
The tool used to etch the words “micro plasma laser” onto this chip is the same one that researchers at Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, use to produce nanoelectromechanical systems with features smaller than 100 nanometers. The “lead” in this fancy pencil is a controllable plasma made by ionizing argon gas as it is pumped out of a tube. Electrons from the plasma travel through a stencil and into the flexible polymer substrate, where they turn metal salts into wires and structures.

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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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