Project Ara: Google Wants Your Phone to Go to Pieces

Google’s modular smartphone will let users swap parts like screens and cameras on the fly

8 min read
Project Ara: Google Wants Your Phone to Go to Pieces
Illustration: Matthew Hollister

The modern smartphone is a masterpiece of adaptability. It lets you talk, snap photos, and tote around sprawling media collections. Downloadable apps let you do lots of other things, too, like track your workouts, monitor your diet, or remix a song. There’s even an app that helps you find hidden treasure, thanks to software that turns your device into a metal detector using the magnetic-field sensors that make up your smartphone’s compass.

But don’t let this apparently awesome adaptability bamboozle you. For all its vaunted versatility, a smartphone is still only as good as its hardware. Though hundreds of new apps appear every day, your phone’s hardware is unchangeable beyond perhaps the option of swapping in a more spacious memory card.

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IEEE Spectrum Wins Six Neal Awards

The publication was recognized for its editorial excellence, website, and art direction

1 min read
A group of smiling people holding two award placards in front of a backdrop for the Jess H. Neal Awards

The IEEE editorial and art team show off two of their five awards.

Bruce Byers/SIIA

IEEE Spectrum garnered top honors at this year’s annual Jesse H. Neal Awards ceremony, held on 26 April. Known as the “Pulitzer Prizes” of business-to-business journalism, the Neal Awards recognize editorial excellence. The awards are given by the SIIA (Software and Information Industry Association).

For the fifth year in a row, IEEE Spectrum was awarded the Best Media Brand. The award is given for overall editorial excellence.

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Hydrogen Helps Make Topological Insulators Practical

This trick could open a path toward practical quantum computing and dissipationless electronics

2 min read
Rendering shows a clear beaker with rendering suspended in liquid of atomic-scale model featuring red and white connected dots floating in liquid. Two  connect above them.

In this image, a beaker of hydrochloric acid (HCl) contains an enlarged model of a submerged sample of a topological insulator. Hydrogen atoms from the HCl [blue dots] bind to the insulator [red and white circles], in the process retaining the insulator’s useful electronic properties while also becoming stable at room temperature.

Lukas Zhao

Future microchips that require far less energy than present-day devices may rely on exotic materials known as topological insulators, in which electricity flows across only surfaces and edges, with virtually no dissipation of energy. However, it can prove tricky developing such materials for real-world applications. Now a new study reveals that simply incorporating hydrogen into topological insulators may control their electronic properties to help make them useful.

Topology is the branch of mathematics that investigates what features of shapes may survive deformation. Material science has emerged in recent decades as an unexpected but compelling application of topology. The insights from topological models, scientists have discovered, help to understand and predict some materials’ unusual properties. These include electromagnetic effects beyond those explained by Maxwell’s Equations as well as quantum particles that could yield new kinds of electronic and optical devices.

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Reduce EMI and EMC Issues with Engineering Simulation Software

Save time and money all while delivering accurate and reliable results

1 min read
Reduce EMI and EMC Issues with Engineering Simulation Software

Electronic components and systems exist today in nearly all consumer and industrial products. A major design consideration in all electronics is electromagnetic interference (EMI) and compatibility (EMC). EMI and EMC issues are complex. They can be hard to detect and can be taxing to a design. With the use of engineering simulation software, design engineers can mitigate issues before entering the prototype testing phase. Avoiding the test-retest cycle with simulation can help save time and money all while delivering robust and reliable products.