5 Things You Missed This Week at IEEE Spectrum: Velodyne's Lidars, Crowdfunding Neurotech, and More

1. Velodyne Plans a Lidar Megafactory

It wasn’t long ago that Google was paying Velodyne $73,000 for each of the automotive lidar units it added to the roofs of its self-driving vehicles. But advances in the technology and the entry of competing lidar makers into the market have combined to put strong downward pressure on prices. Enough that last month, Velodyne claimed a “breakthrough” with a solid-state design that, with mass production, should drop the unit price below $50. Before its competitors can gain too great a foothold in the automotive lidar market, Velodyne is looking to start cranking out a million units a year at a megafactory in San Jose, Calif.


2. Can a Self-Steering Antenna Fix Wi-Fi and TV Reception Issues?

CES 2017 won’t be remembered as the moment when a new product category made a big splash. But a few gadget makers caught the attention of techies with ways to sidestep problems with the things we have now. The fact that Wi-Fi that isn’t always there, fast, and reliable is a big enough frustration that two router companies made the final round of the annual “Last Gadget Standing Event”: Ignition Design Labs, with its Portal home Wi-Fi system, and Linksys, with its Velop home mesh network. A third company, antenna designer Ethertronics, suggested yet another approach: an automated antenna optimization technology that can generate multiple radiation patterns from a single antenna and figure out on its own which one to use.


3. “Neural Tourniquet” Zaps a Nerve to Stop Bleeding

Scientists have known for a while that, by stimulating a nerve, you can stop tremors of the kind seen in Parkinson’s patients. But what if doctors could stimulate the same nerve to control bleeding? Too fantastical, right? Nope. Researchers have proved it’s possible to stop severe hemorrhaging with neural stimulation. Now, this type of bioelectronic medicine is moving to clinical trials in humans.


4. The Cautionary Tale of "No More Woof," a Crowdfunded Gadget to Read Your Dog's Thoughts

When Scandinavian engineers launched their crowdfunding campaign for “No More Woof” in December 2013, they talked a good game. Slip their wearable gadget onto your dog’s head, and it will read the pooch’s doggy brainwaves and translate its mental state into human language. It may not shock you, savvy reader, to learn that the campaign never delivered. What happened? No More Woof shows the particular perils of trying to crowdfund neurotech gadgets. Neurotech is a hot new area for startups, since the gear needed to read out brain patterns and to electrically stimulate the brain only recently became cheap and mobile. And because everybody wants Jedi powers.


5. How Does Geography Figure Into the Full Cost of Electricity?

The levelized cost of electricity, or LCOE, helps utilities or governing agencies decide which types of power plants to build. LCOE is the estimated amount of money that it takes for a particular power plant to produce a kilowatt-hour of electricity over its expected lifetime, all other things being equal. But all other things are rarely equal. One of the myriad products churned out by The Full Cost of Electricity (FCe-) study coordinated by the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, is a detailed examination of location-based factors such as fuel delivery costs, construction costs, capacity factors, utility rates, financing terms, and other geographically distinct items.


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