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Radios With Micromachined Resonators

Future wireless designs will replace electronics with precision mechanical components

12 min read
Radios With Micromachined Resonators
Illustration: Harry Campbell

We do love our cellphones. And we hate them, too, of course—when they drop a call, go dead in the middle of a conversation, or simply fail to work in another country. Soon we’ll probably be complaining about other things—perhaps that our handsets can’t receive satellite TV broadcasts or last more than a week on a single charge.

You might guess that better microelectronics will soon provide higher data rates, lower power consumption, and greater flexibility in the types of communication that our handsets can manage. To some extent, that’s true. But transistor advances alone will probably not be enough. The Moore’s Law world of regularly doubling transistor densities has brought us cheap PCs that outperform the multimillion-dollar mainframes of 30 years ago, but those incredible shrinking transistors might not do much to eliminate dropped calls. In this respect, the most significant improvements may, in fact, come from what seems a bizarre source: better mechanical components.

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Artificial Synapses 10,000x Faster Than Real Thing

New protonic programmable resistors may help speed learning in deep neural networks

3 min read
Conceptual illustration shows a brain shape made of circuits on a multilayered chip structure.
Ella Maru Studio and Murat Onen

New artificial versions of the neurons and synapses in the human brain are up to 1,000 times smaller than neurons and at least 10,000 times faster than biological synapses, a study now finds.

These new devices may help improve the speed at which the increasingly common and powerful artificial intelligence systems known as deep neural networks learn, researchers say.

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Amazon to Acquire iRobot F​or $1.7 Billion

The deal will give the e-retail behemoth even more access to our homes

4 min read
A photo of an iRobot Roomba with an Amazon logo digitally added to it
Photo-illustration: iStockphoto/Amazon/IEEE Spectrum

This morning, Amazon and iRobot announced “a definitive merger agreement under which Amazon will acquire iRobot” for US $1.7 billion. The announcement was a surprise, to put it mildly, and we’ve barely had a chance to digest the news. But taking a look at what’s already known can still yield initial (if incomplete) answers as to why Amazon and iRobot want to team up—and whether the merger seems like a good idea.

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As 5G evolves into 6G networks, it will be critical that it adopt the most energy-efficient technologies to reduce carbon emissions and our dependence on non-renewable resources.

In terms of increased sustainability, 6G will need to aim directly at lessening its overall environmental impact, including water consumption, raw material sourcing, and waste handling. But it is also important to consider the indirect impact of 6G networks can have on sustainability by conserving resources and minimizing waste in either existing use-cases or novel use-cases.

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