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Vehicular Vending Machine

A robot delivers new cars in Volkswagen's twin garage towers at the automaker's Wolfsburg, Germany, factory

1 min read
Vehicular Vending Machine

vehicular vending machine

Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Click on the image for a larger view.

They say that the difference between men and boys is the size of their toys. Here’s the man-size version of the Matchbox car garage, which turned legions of lads into gearheads. It’s one of two 60-meter-tall glass towers connected by an underground tunnel to Volkswagen’s vehicle production facility in Wolfsburg, Germany. Each tower stores 400 cars. A European car buyer, having chosen to pick up a new vehicle at the factory, can watch as a robotic arm snatches the car from a shelf and brings it to the ground. The car arrives without being driven so much as a meter.

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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
Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush

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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