Popular Science: The Brilliant Ten of 2014 List
IEEE Member Nicole Abaid studies how animals such as bats travel in swarms to help scientists better understand how to control a large number of robotic drones. A mechanical engineer and mathematician at Virginia Tech, Abaid is now designing bat-inspired ultrasonic sensors to improve communications among robots and hopes to some day help translate her findings to improve artificial swarms as well.
IEEE Member Prabal Dutta is helping to usher in the Internet of Things. In his lab at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, Dutta used small wireless sensors that keep tabs on energy usage and harvest their own power from their surroundings, such as the slight magnetic field generated by an electrical wire. This has led to using the sensors in surprising ways, such as absorbing the energy available from the audio jack of a smartphone to power items like mobile credit card readers. These same sensors were also used to measure radiation levels after the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan and sent that information to the cloud to help produce data and visualizations of the amount of radiation emitted.
Jonathan Viventi, an affiliate member of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, has built brain implants that can decode thoughts. These implants could one day prevent epileptic seizures, allow amputees to control prostheses with their minds, and restore hearing to those with auditory nerve damage. A bioengineer at New York University’s Polytechnic School of Engineering, in New York City, he designs electrode arrays that make detailed recordings of brain activity, which helps researchers spot subtle brain signals that give rise to seizures. He also made MIT’s “35 Innovators Under 35” list (see below).
IEEE Member Limor Fried is the founder of Adafruit, a company that sells open-source hardware kits and provides tutorials to let just about anyone—tech gurus and hobbyists alike—design their own products. Products can include MP3 players, wearables, and even miniature arcade games. Last year, her company earned more than US $22 million in revenue. She was also the first female engineer ever to appear on the cover of Wired.
MIT Technology Review: 35 Innovators Under 35
IEEE Member Tanuja Ganu helped develop a device called the nPlug, which is small enough to fit between an electrical socket and appliance, and can collect data on energy usage. This is especially useful in India where the power grid often gets overloaded and can cause outages. Her device can schedule appliances, such as dishwashers and washing machines, to run during low-peak hours in order to reduce the pressure on the grid. (Read our profile of Ganu in November.)
IEEE Member Duygu Kuzum has designed electronic devices that mimic the behavior of synapses, or the connections between neurons in the brain. She designed a computer chip that can operate more like a dimmer switch as opposed to one that turns on or off. Along with her colleagues at Stanford, where she was a graduate student, she created miniaturized computer circuits that can understand and recall sophisticated patterns, which opens the door to the development of small, portable, and energy-efficient computers that can process complex sources of data. They can also be used to potentially design neural implants and prosthetic devices that serve as interfaces between computer controls and living brain tissue.
IEEE Graduate Student Member Quoc Le was frustrated by machine learning software, which often needs a lot of assistance from humans. So while at Stanford, he worked on a strategy that let software learn things itself by building simulated neural networks 100 times larger than they currently were that could process thousands of times more data. This strategy is known as deep-learning research. His system learned how to detect cats, people, and more than 3,0000 other objects. That type of research landed him a job at Google, and his technique is now used by the company’s image search and speech-recognition software. His system sparked a race at Facebook, Microsoft, and other companies to invest in this type of research.
IEEE Associate Member Julia Shah is an MIT engineering professor who is turning robots into colleagues. She is working on creating robots that can make decisions and change their course of action when necessary. Her goal is to create better human-machine teamwork in any setting, including on the manufacturing floor, in operating rooms, and for military applications.
IEEE Member Maryam Shanechi is developing brain-machine interfaces that record the activity of neurons, which could help patients with disabilities move just by thinking about doing the action. Her work, based on insight from control theory, can map the thoughts of something an individual wants to do, such as taking a step forward or reaching for a glass of water. A part of the Obama BRAIN initiative, a project to advance treatments for neuropsychiatric disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, Shanechi is working to create an interface to decode the neuropsychiatric state of the brain, and decide on a set of electrical stimulation patterns to alleviate the symptoms in real time.
IEEE Members Make Top Technology Lists
Accolades come from Popular Science, Glamour, and MIT Technology Review31 October 2014