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The 2021 Hackaday Game is Afoot!

Get your imagination revving if you hope to win Hackaday's $25,000 Prize

2 min read
BYTE mouth-operated computer interface
Winner of the 2020 Hackaday Prize, the "BYTE" mouth-operated computer interface helps those with severe disabilities.
Hackaday

Today the folks at Hackaday announced the 2021 Hackaday Prize, a hardware design challenge for DIYers, which this year goes by the theme “Rethink, Refresh, Rebuild.” The capital-P-Prize is actually a group of awards that range from a USD $25,000 grand prize to a set of $500 prizes given to the 50 top finalists.

This year the competition includes five separate “challenges”:

  • Rethink Displays
  • Refresh Work-From-Home Life
  • Reimagine Supportive Tech
  • Redefine Robots
  • Reactivate Wildcard

These short descriptions don’t always tell the whole story. For example, while “Rethink Displays” is pretty much what it says, “Reimagine Supportive Tech” isn’t just for projects like the one that won last year’s Hackaday Grand Prize—a mouth-operated interface to assist people with disabilities that prevent them from using other means to control a computer or wheelchair. This category also includes strategies for making hacking more accessible to, say, people who are too young to safely wield a soldering iron.

The “Refresh Work-From-Home Life” category anticipates that many of us will continue working from home, even after the pandemic becomes a distant memory. As somebody who has worked from home for more than a dozen years, I’m eager to see what the hackersphere comes up with in this realm.

“Redefine Robots” challenges contestants to come up with robotic companions or helpers that do something novel, including ones that are completely virtual. After the introduction of GPT-3, I’m a little worried about what hackers might be able to invent here.

“Reactivate Wildcard” is for projects that meet the general theme of reinvention, but don’t fit into the other categories.

Judging for the prize will take place in November, with the winners to be announced on November 19th. So you’ll have plenty of time to brainstorm and tinker.

If you want to compete, read over the official rules, fire up your design tools, and get hacking. Should you become stuck along the way, the good folks at Hackaday are even providing a mechanism to request some one-on-one mentoring. After a year in which many of us have been especially isolated, this seems a wonderful way to rethink, refresh, rebuild—and reconnect.

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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
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Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush
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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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