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Techno Cops: Los Angeles Sheriff's Department Explores Less-Lethal Options

The LASD is creating a test bed for advanced police technology

15 min read
Photo of police captain aiming a less-lethal weapon.
Big Gun: Captain Charles (“Sid”) Heal of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) has created a technology exploration and development program for law enforcement. The impressive looking pistol he’s holding is in fact a less-lethal weapon that the LASD helped Jaycor Tactical Systems (San Diego, Calif.) to develop: its plastic pellets burst on impact, releasing eye- and lung-stinging pepper powder.
Photo: David Butow/Corbis Saba

It’s a clear, cool morning, a perfect day for hiking or sailing or just about anything except what I’m doing, which is standing in the parking lot of a strip mall in East Los Angeles. Strip malls are never lovely, and this one only reinforces the stereotype: a squat and sleepy line of stuccoed buildings, whose tenants reflect a cross-section of life on the margins—Dutch’s Liquor, Ernie’s Escrow, T’s Check Cashing, a bar called The Bear Pit.

But today there’s an uncharacteristic buzz in the air. Word has it that two robbery suspects have taken a woman hostage and are now holed up inside. The police have been notified, and a SWAT (short for Special Weapons and Tactics) team from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) is suiting up to intervene.

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Paying Tribute to 1997 IEEE President Charles K. Alexander

The Life Fellow was a professor at Cleveland State University

4 min read
portrait of man smiling against a light background
The Alexander Family

Charles K. Alexander, 1997 IEEE president, died on 17 October at the age of 79.

The active volunteer held many high-level positions throughout the organization, including 1991–1992 IEEE Region 2 director. He was also the 1993 vice president of the IEEE United States Activities Board (now IEEE-USA).

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Robot Learns Human Trick for Not Falling Over

Humanoid limbs are useful for more than just manipulation

3 min read
A black and white humanoid robot with a malfunctioning leg supports itself with one arm against a wall

This article is part of our exclusive IEEE Journal Watch series in partnership with IEEE Xplore.

Humanoid robots are a lot more capable than they used to be, but for most of them, falling over is still borderline catastrophic. Understandably, the focus has been on getting humanoid robots to succeed at things as opposed to getting robots to tolerate (or recover from) failing at things, but sometimes, failure is inevitable because stuff happens that’s outside your control. Earthquakes, accidentally clumsy grad students, tornadoes, deliberately malicious grad students—the list goes on.

When humans lose their balance, the go-to strategy is a highly effective one: use whatever happens to be nearby to keep from falling over. While for humans this approach is instinctive, it’s a hard problem for robots, involving perception, semantic understanding, motion planning, and careful force control, all executed under aggressive time constraints. In a paper published earlier this year in IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, researchers at Inria in France show some early work getting a TALOS humanoid robot to use a nearby wall to successfully keep itself from taking a tumble.

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Get the Coursera Campus Skills Report 2022

Download the report to learn which job skills students need to build high-growth careers

1 min read

Get comprehensive insights into higher education skill trends based on data from 3.8M registered learners on Coursera, and learn clear steps you can take to ensure your institution's engineering curriculum is aligned with the needs of the current and future job market. Download the report now!