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Simple robots, smart algorithms

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When sensors, communication, memory and computation are removed from a group of simple robots, certain sets of complex tasks can still be accomplished by leveraging the robots' physical characteristics, a trait that a team of researchers led by Georgia Tech calls "task embodiment." CREDIT
Shengkai Li, Georgia Tech
When sensors, communication, memory and computation are removed from a group of simple robots, certain sets of complex tasks can still be accomplished by leveraging the robots’ physical characteristics, a trait that a team of researchers led by Georgia Tech calls “task embodiment.” CREDIT
Shengkai Li, Georgia Tech

Abstract:
Anyone with children knows that while controlling one child can be hard, controlling many at once can be nearly impossible. Getting swarms of robots to work collectively can be equally challenging, unless researchers carefully choreograph their interactions — like planes in formation — using increasingly sophisticated components and algorithms. But what can be reliably accomplished when the robots on hand are simple, inconsistent, and lack sophisticated programming for coordinated behavior?

Simple robots, smart algorithms


Atlanta, GA | Posted on April 30th, 2021

A team of researchers led by Dana Randall, ADVANCE Professor of Computing and Daniel Goldman, Dunn Family Professor of Physics, both at Georgia Institute of Technology, sought to show that even the simplest of robots can still accomplish tasks well beyond the capabilities of one, or even a few, of them. The goal of accomplishing these tasks with what the team dubbed “dumb robots” (essentially mobile granular particles) exceeded their expectations, and the researchers report being able to remove all sensors, communication, memory and computation — and instead accomplishing a set of tasks through leveraging the robots’ physical characteristics, a trait that the team terms “task embodiment.”

The team’s BOBbots, or “behaving, organizing, buzzing bots” that were named for granular physics pioneer Bob Behringer, are “about as dumb as they get,” explains Randall. “Their cylindrical chassis have vibrating brushes underneath and loose magnets on their periphery, causing them to spend more time at locations with more neighbors.” The experimental platform was supplemented by precise computer simulations led by Georgia Tech physics student Shengkai Li, as a way to study aspects of the system inconvenient to study in the lab.

Despite the simplicity of the BOBbots, the researchers discovered that, as the robots move and bump into each other, “compact aggregates form that are capable of collectively clearing debris that is too heavy for one alone to move,” according to Goldman. “While most people build increasingly complex and expensive robots to guarantee coordination, we wanted to see what complex tasks could be accomplished with very simple robots.”

Their work, as reported April 23, 2021 in the journal Science Advances, was inspired by a theoretical model of particles moving around on a chessboard. A theoretical abstraction known as a self-organizing particle system was developed to rigorously study a mathematical model of the BOBbots. Using ideas from probability theory, statistical physics and stochastic algorithms, the researchers were able to prove that the theoretical model undergoes a phase change as the magnetic interactions increase — abruptly changing from dispersed to aggregating in large, compact clusters, similar to phase changes we see in common everyday systems, like water and ice.

“The rigorous analysis not only showed us how to build the BOBbots, but also revealed an inherent robustness of our algorithm that allowed some of the robots to be faulty or unpredictable,” notes Randall, who also serves as a professor of computer science and adjunct professor of mathematics at Georgia Tech.

###

The collaboration is based on experiments and simulations also designed by Bahnisikha Dutta, Ram Avinery and Enes Aydin from Georgia Tech, as well as on theoretical work by Andrea Richa and Joshua Daymude from Arizona State University, and Sarah Cannon from Claremont McKenna College, who is a recent Georgia Tech graduate.

This work is part of a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) funded by the Army Research Office (ARO) to study the foundations of emergent computation and collective intelligence.

Funding: This work was supported by the Department of Defense under MURI award no. W911NF-19-1-0233 and by NSF awards DMS-1803325 (S.C.); CCF-1422603, CCF-1637393, and CCF-1733680 (A.W.R.); CCF-1637031 and CCF-1733812 (D.R. and D.I.G.); and CCF-1526900 (D.R.).

####

About Georgia Institute of Technology
The Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is a top 10 public research university developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition. The Institute offers business, computing, design, engineering, liberal arts, and sciences degrees. Its nearly 40,000 students, representing 50 states and 149 countries, study at the main campus in Atlanta, at campuses in France and China, and through distance and online learning. As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech is an engine of economic development for Georgia, the Southeast, and the nation, conducting more than $1 billion in research annually for government, industry, and society.

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Jess Hunt-Ralston
Communications – College of Sciences
(404) 385-5207

@GeorgiaTech

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With a zap of light, system switches objects’ colors and patterns: “Programmable matter” technique could enable product designers to churn out prototypes with ease

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Home > Press > With a zap of light, system switches objects’ colors and patterns: “Programmable matter” technique could enable product designers to churn out prototypes with ease

A new system uses UV light projected onto objects coated with light-activated dye to alter the reflective properties of the dye, creating images in minutes. CREDIT
Image courtesy of Michael Wessley, Stefanie Mueller, et al
A new system uses UV light projected onto objects coated with light-activated dye to alter the reflective properties of the dye, creating images in minutes. CREDIT
Image courtesy of Michael Wessley, Stefanie Mueller, et al

Abstract:
When was the last time you repainted your car? Redesigned your coffee mug collection? Gave your shoes a colorful facelift?

With a zap of light, system switches objects’ colors and patterns: “Programmable matter” technique could enable product designers to churn out prototypes with ease


Cambridge, MA | Posted on May 6th, 2021

You likely answered: never, never, and never. You might consider these arduous tasks not worth the effort. But a new color-shifting “programmable matter” system could change that with a zap of light.

MIT researchers have developed a way to rapidly update imagery on object surfaces. The system, dubbed “ChromoUpdate” pairs an ultraviolet (UV) light projector with items coated in light-activated dye. The projected light alters the reflective properties of the dye, creating colorful new images in just a few minutes. The advance could accelerate product development, enabling product designers to churn through prototypes without getting bogged down with painting or printing.

ChromoUpdate “takes advantage of fast programming cycles — things that wouldn’t have been possible before,” says Michael Wessley, the study’s lead author and a postdoc in MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

The research will be presented at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems this month. Wessely’s co-authors include his advisor, Professor Stefanie Mueller, as well as postdoc Yuhua Jin, recent graduate Cattalyya Nuengsigkapian ’19, MNG ’20, visiting master’s student Aleksei Kashapov, postdoc Isabel Qamar, and Professor Dzmitry Tsetserukou of the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology.

ChromoUpdate builds on the researchers’ previous programmable matter system, called PhotoChromeleon. That method was “the first to show that we can have high-resolution, multicolor textures that we can just reprogram over and over again,” says Wessely. PhotoChromeleon used a lacquer-like ink comprising cyan, magenta, and yellow dyes. The user covered an object with a layer of the ink, which could then be reprogrammed using light. First, UV light from an LED was shone on the ink, fully saturating the dyes. Next, the dyes were selectively desaturated with a visible light projector, bringing each pixel to its desired color and leaving behind the final image. PhotoChromeleon was innovative, but it was sluggish. It took about 20 minutes to update an image. “We can accelerate the process,” says Wessely.

They achieved that with ChromoUpdate, by fine-tuning the UV saturation process. Rather than using an LED, which uniformly blasts the entire surface, ChromoUpdate uses a UV projector that can vary light levels across the surface. So, the operator has pixel-level control over saturation levels. “We can saturate the material locally in the exact pattern we want,” says Wessely. That saves time — someone designing a car’s exterior might simply want to add racing stripes to an otherwise completed design. ChromoUpdate lets them do just that, without erasing and reprojecting the entire exterior.

This selective saturation procedure allows designers to create a black-and-white preview of a design in seconds, or a full-color prototype in minutes. That means they could try out dozens of designs in a single work session, a previously unattainable feat. “You can actually have a physical prototype to see if your design really works,” says Wessely. “You can see how it looks when sunlight shines on it or when shadows are cast. It’s not enough just to do this on a computer.”

That speed also means ChromoUpdate could be used for providing real-time notifications without relying on screens. “One example is your coffee mug,” says Wessely. “You put your mug in our projector system and program it to show your daily schedule. And it updates itself directly when a new meeting comes in for that day, or it shows you the weather forecast.”

Wessely hopes to keep improving the technology. At present, the light-activated ink is specialized for smooth, rigid surfaces like mugs, phone cases, or cars. But the researchers are working toward flexible, programmable textiles. “We’re looking at methods to dye fabrics and potentially use light-emitting fibers,” says Wessely. “So, we could have clothing — t-shirts and shoes and all that stuff — that can reprogram itself.”

The researchers have partnered with a group of textile makers in Paris to see how ChomoUpdate can be incorporated into the design process.

###

This research was funded, in part, by Ford.

Written by Daniel Ackerman, MIT News Office

####

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Graphene key for novel hardware security

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Home > Press > Graphene key for novel hardware security

A team of Penn State researchers has developed a new hardware security device that takes advantage of microstructure variations to generate secure keys. CREDIT
Jennifer McCann,Penn State
A team of Penn State researchers has developed a new hardware security device that takes advantage of microstructure variations to generate secure keys. CREDIT
Jennifer McCann,Penn State

Abstract:
As more private data is stored and shared digitally, researchers are exploring new ways to protect data against attacks from bad actors. Current silicon technology exploits microscopic differences between computing components to create secure keys, but artificial intelligence (AI) techniques can be used to predict these keys and gain access to data. Now, Penn State researchers have designed a way to make the encrypted keys harder to crack.

Graphene key for novel hardware security


University Park, PA | Posted on May 10th, 2021

Led by Saptarshi Das, assistant professor of engineering science and mechanics, the researchers used graphene — a layer of carbon one atom thick — to develop a novel low-power, scalable, reconfigurable hardware security device with significant resilience to AI attacks. They published their findings in Nature Electronics today (May 10).

“There has been more and more breaching of private data recently,” Das said. “We developed a new hardware security device that could eventually be implemented to protect these data across industries and sectors.”

The device, called a physically unclonable function (PUF), is the first demonstration of a graphene-based PUF, according to the researchers. The physical and electrical properties of graphene, as well as the fabrication process, make the novel PUF more energy-efficient, scalable, and secure against AI attacks that pose a threat to silicon PUFs.

The team first fabricated nearly 2,000 identical graphene transistors, which switch current on and off in a circuit. Despite their structural similarity, the transistors’ electrical conductivity varied due to the inherent randomness arising from the production process. While such variation is typically a drawback for electronic devices, it’s a desirable quality for a PUF not shared by silicon-based devices.

After the graphene transistors were implemented into PUFs, the researchers modeled their characteristics to create a simulation of 64 million graphene-based PUFs. To test the PUFs’ security, Das and his team used machine learning, a method that allows AI to study a system and find new patterns. The researchers trained the AI with the graphene PUF simulation data, testing to see if the AI could use this training to make predictions about the encrypted data and reveal system insecurities.

“Neural networks are very good at developing a model from a huge amount of data, even if humans are unable to,” Das said. “We found that AI could not develop a model, and it was not possible for the encryption process to be learned.”

This resistance to machine learning attacks makes the PUF more secure because potential hackers could not use breached data to reverse engineer a device for future exploitation, Das said. Even if the key could be predicted, the graphene PUF could generate a new key through a reconfiguration process requiring no additional hardware or replacement of components.

“Normally, once a system’s security has been compromised, it is permanently compromised,” said Akhil Dodda, an engineering science and mechanics graduate student conducting research under Das’s mentorship. “We developed a scheme where such a compromised system could be reconfigured and used again, adding tamper resistance as another security feature.”

With these features, as well as the capacity to operate across a wide range of temperatures, the graphene-based PUF could be used in a variety of applications. Further research can open pathways for its use in flexible and printable electronics, household devices and more.

###

Paper co-authors include Dodda, Shiva Subbulakshmi Radhakrishnan, Thomas Schranghamer and Drew Buzzell from Penn State; and Parijat Sengupta from Purdue University. Das is also affiliated with the Penn State Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the Materials Research Institute.

####

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814-865-5544

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180 Degree Capital Corp. Reports +14.2% Growth in Q1 2021, $10.60 Net Asset Value Per Share as of March 31, 2021, and Developments From Q2 2021

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Home > Press > 180 Degree Capital Corp. Reports +14.2% Growth in Q1 2021, $10.60 Net Asset Value Per Share as of March 31, 2021, and Developments From Q2 2021

Abstract:
180 Degree Capital Corp. (NASDAQ:TURN) (“180” and the “Company”), today reported its financial results as of March 31, 2021, and additional developments from the second quarter of 2021. The Company also published a letter to shareholders that can be viewed at https://ir.180degreecapital.com/financial-results .

180 Degree Capital Corp. Reports +14.2% Growth in Q1 2021, $10.60 Net Asset Value Per Share as of March 31, 2021, and Developments From Q2 2021


Montclair, NJ | Posted on May 11th, 2021

“I am pleased to report continued growth in our net asset value per share (NAV) as of March 31, 2021, to $10.60, the highest level in over six years,” said Kevin M. Rendino, Chief Executive Officer of 180. “This growth was powered by our continued strong performance in our public market investment strategy that generated a gross total return of +28.3% in the first quarter of 2021.1 Our separately managed account (SMA) had strong performance as well, generating a gross total return of +20.7%. If this were the end of 2021, we would generate approximately $2 million in carried interest from the SMA, and net performance for the SMA would be 14.5%.2 I remind investors that this potential carried interest is not included in our reported NAV as of the end of the first quarter of 2021. We ended the quarter with approximately $114 million in assets under management in aggregate in 180 and our SMA, available to be deployed in our public market investment strategy. I am proud of this 5.5x increase in scale we have built at 180 since starting in 2017. We continue to believe our Graham and Dodd investment philosophy, coupled with our activist approach, will lead to enhanced shareholder value creation for all of our TURN shareholders.”

“Q2 2021 has started off positive for 180 and our SMA,” added Daniel B. Wolfe, President of 180. As of May 10, 2021, 180’s cash3 and securities of publicly traded companies increased to approximately $77.0 million, or $7.42 per share, and our SMA increased to approximately $41.5 million in asset value. These increases bring our current assets to be deployed in our public market investment strategy to approximately $118.5 million. We remind investors that it remains too early to know where 180’s NAV and the net assets of our SMA will end up as of the end of Q2 2021 or the end of 2021.”

The table below summarizes 180’s performance over periods of time through the end of Q1 2021:

Quarter 1 Year 3 Year Inception to Date
Q1 2021 Q1 2020-Q1 2021 Q1 2018-Q1 2021 Q4 2016-Q1 2021
TURN Public Portfolio Gross Total Return (Excluding SMA Carried Interest) 28.3% 110.0% 169.7% 351.2%
TURN Public Portfolio Gross Total Return (Including SMA Carried Interest) 31.8%3 124.5% 188.3% 382.3%

Change in NAV 14.2% 66.7% 33.8% 51.0%

Change in Stock Price 11.1% 81.6% 32.6% 78.7%

Russell Microcap Index 23.9% 120.3% 58.2% 80.5%
Russell Microcap Value Index 30.7% 120.5% 49.9% 68.2%
Russell 2000 12.7% 94.8% 51.0% 73.0%
Mr. Rendino and Mr. Wolfe will host a conference call tomorrow, Wednesday, May 12, 2021, at 9am Eastern Time, to discuss the results from Q1 2021 and the developments during Q2 2021. The call can be accessed by phone at (712) 770-4598 passcode 415049 or via the web at https://www.freeconferencecall.com/wall/180degreecapital. Additionally, slides that will be referred to during the presentation can be found on 180’s investor relations website at https://ir.180degreecapital.com/ir-calendar.

####

About 180 Degree Capital Corp.
180 Degree Capital Corp. is a publicly traded registered closed-end fund focused on investing in and providing value-added assistance through constructive activism to what we believe are substantially undervalued small, publicly traded companies that have potential for significant turnarounds. Our goal is that the result of our constructive activism leads to a reversal in direction for the share price of these investee companies, i.e., a 180-degree turn. Detailed information about 180 and its holdings can be found on its website at www.180degreecapital.com.

This press release may contain statements of a forward-looking nature relating to future events. These forward-looking statements are subject to the inherent uncertainties in predicting future results and conditions. These statements reflect the Company’s current beliefs, and a number of important factors could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed in this press release. Please see the Company’s securities filings filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a more detailed discussion of the risks and uncertainties associated with the Company’s business and other significant factors that could affect the Company’s actual results. Except as otherwise required by Federal securities laws, the Company undertakes no obligation to update or revise these forward-looking statements to reflect new events or uncertainties. The reference and link to the website www.180degreecapital.com has been provided as a convenience, and the information contained on such website is not incorporated by reference into this press release. 180 is not responsible for the contents of third-party websites.

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Tiny, Wireless, Injectable Chips Use Ultrasound to Monitor Body Processes

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Chips shown in the tip of a hypodermic needle. Chen Shi/Columbia Engineering
Chips shown in the tip of a hypodermic needle. Chen Shi/Columbia Engineering

Abstract:
Columbia Engineers develop the smallest single-chip system that is a complete functioning electronic circuit; implantable chips visible only in a microscope point the way to developing chips that can be injected into the body with a hypodermic needle to monitor medical conditions.

Tiny, Wireless, Injectable Chips Use Ultrasound to Monitor Body Processes


New York, NY | Posted on May 12th, 2021

Widely used to monitor and map biological signals, to support and enhance physiological functions, and to treat diseases, implantable medical devices are transforming healthcare and improving the quality of life for millions of people. Researchers are increasingly interested in designing wireless, miniaturized implantable medical devices for in vivo and in situ physiological monitoring. These devices could be used to monitor physiological conditions, such as temperature, blood pressure, glucose, and respiration for both diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.

To date, conventional implanted electronics have been highly volume-inefficient—they generally require multiple chips, packaging, wires, and external transducers, and batteries are often needed for energy storage. A constant trend in electronics has been tighter integration of electronic components, often moving more and more functions onto the integrated circuit itself.

Researchers at Columbia Engineering report that they have built what they say is the world’s smallest single-chip system, consuming a total volume of less than 0.1 mm3. The system is as small as a dust mite and visible only under a microscope. In order to achieve this, the team used ultrasound to both power and communicate with the device wirelessly. The study was published online May 7 in Science Advances.

Chips shown in the tip of a hypodermic needle.

Chen Shi/Columbia Engineering

“We wanted to see how far we could push the limits on how small a functioning chip we could make,” said the study’s leader Ken Shepard, Lau Family professor of electrical engineering and professor of biomedical engineering. “This is a new idea of ‘chip as system’—this is a chip that alone, with nothing else, is a complete functioning electronic system. This should be revolutionary for developing wireless, miniaturized implantable medical devices that can sense different things, be used in clinical applications, and eventually approved for human use.”

The team also included Elisa Konofagou, Robert and Margaret Hariri Professor of Biomedical engineering and professor of radiology, as well as Stephen A. Lee, PhD student in the Konofagou lab who assisted in the animal studies.

The design was done by doctoral student Chen Shi, who is the first author of the study. Shi’s design is unique in its volumetric efficiency, the amount of function that is contained in a given amount of volume. Traditional RF communications links are not possible for a device this small because the wavelength of the electromagnetic wave is too large relative to the size of the device. Because the wavelengths for ultrasound are much smaller at a given frequency because the speed of sound is so much less than the speed of light, the team used ultrasound to both power and communicate with the device wirelessly. They fabricated the “antenna” for communicating and powering with ultrasound directly on top of the chip.

The chip, which is the entire implantable/injectable mote with no additional packaging, was fabricated at the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company with additional process modifications performed in the Columbia Nano Initiative cleanroom and the City University of New York Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) Nanofabrication Facility.

Shepard commented, “This is a nice example of ‘more than Moore’ technology—we introduced new materials onto standard complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor to provide new function. In this case, we added piezoelectric materials directly onto the integrated circuit to transducer acoustic energy to electrical energy.”

Konofagou added, “Ultrasound is continuing to grow in clinical importance as new tools and techniques become available. This work continues this trend.”

The team’s goal is to develop chips that can be injected into the body with a hypodermic needle and then communicate back out of the body using ultrasound, providing information about something they measure locally. The current devices measure body temperature, but there are many more possibilities the team is working on.

####

About Columbia Engineering
Columbia Engineering, based in New York City, is one of the top engineering schools in the U.S. and one of the oldest in the nation. Also known as The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School expands knowledge and advances technology through the pioneering research of its more than 220 faculty, while educating undergraduate and graduate students in a collaborative environment to become leaders informed by a firm foundation in engineering. The School’s faculty are at the center of the University’s cross-disciplinary research, contributing to the Data Science Institute, Earth Institute, Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, Precision Medicine Initiative, and the Columbia Nano Initiative. Guided by its strategic vision, “Columbia Engineering for Humanity,” the School aims to translate ideas into innovations that foster a sustainable, healthy, secure, connected, and creative humanity.

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