The Institute’s Top 10 Most Popular Tech Articles of 2015

A mobile app for sleep apnea, 3-D printing skills, and augmented reality make the list

15 December 2015

This year, The Institute reported on new skills that engineers must have in today’s job market, startups founded by IEEE members, and an augmented reality system that can help children with autism. We also featured several light-based technologies such as lasers used for eye surgery treatments and digital cameras to commemorate the International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies. Read on for our most popular articles of the year.

  • 1. Smartphone App Detects Sleep Apnea

    Loud snoring, restless sleep, morning headaches, and changes in mood are signs that someone may have sleep apnea. This disorder in which people stop breathing repeatedly throughout the night can increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Sufferers are often unaware they have the condition and go undiagnosed. To help solve this problem, a Ph.D. student developed an app for mobile devices to help detect sleep apnea.  

  • 2. How DIY Electronics Startup Adafruit Industries Became a Multimillion-Dollar Company

    IEEE Member Limor Fried’s do-it-yourself electronics company for hobbyists has carved out a category all its own. Adafruit Industries makes hundreds of different kits and manufactures and sells more than 2,600 electronic parts. Kits for electronics experimentation are built around an open-source prototyping platform to make gadgets such as smartphones, handheld video games, and wearables. Fried calls her company a “wonderland of electronics.”

  • 3. Powering Africa: It Takes a Smart Village

    Of the 20 countries with the lowest supplies of electricity in the world, 19 are in sub-Saharan Africa, where on average fewer than one in three people have electricity. IEEE Smart Village works with local entrepreneurs in several countries, including Cameroon and Nigeria, to help them set up micro-utilities, using renewable energy technology like solar panels to power nearby homes, businesses, and schools. “Our goal is to provide electricity for 50 million people in 10 years, and that’s conservative,” says IEEE Fellow Robin Podmore, cofounder of IEEE Smart Village.

  • 4. Thirty-Five Percent of Engineering Jobs Now Require 3-D Printing Skills

    A report from data company Wanted Analytics found that in one month 35 percent of engineering job listings from a variety of fields including biomedical, software, and transportation industries required applicants who were familiar with 3-D printing and its additive manufacturing processes. But it discovered that companies were having a difficult time finding candidates with the right skills. That’s why this article gives tips on how to land jobs that require 3-D printing skills.

  • 5. Special Report: Startups

    We reported on what IEEE is doing to attract more entrepreneurial types to the organization and to support members’ startups. Included was advice from a venture capitalist whose companies have never failed about how engineers can turn their product ideas into reality. We also featured several members behind some of today’s hottest startups. And we gave the history of the humble beginnings of Microsoft, HP, and other multibillion-dollar companies founded by members.

  • 6. The Evolution of Today’s Most Popular Laser Eye Surgeries

    Eyeglasses and contact lenses have become a thing of the past for more than 20 million people thanks to laser eye surgery—a procedure that takes less than an hour and sends patients home the same day. Today’s popular methods, including photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) and laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) came from the development of the excimer laser, a device that can make a precise incision in human tissue while not damaging surrounding cells. Two IEEE members discovered how to use the excimer for relatively safe, efficient surgery.

  • 7. The Psychology Behind Wearables

    While at least 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 18 owns a tracking device like the Fitbit or Nike Fuelband, more than a third of them abandon the trackers within a few months. The reasons given include meaningless stats, poor design, and loss of interest.

    A specialist in user experience with a background in experimental psychology is studying how to go beyond the data wearables gather to motivate people on a subconscious level to take charge of their health. “Humans have complex motivational systems,” says Elizabeth Churchill, a user experience specialist. “If designers of wearables don’t understand people on a holistic level, then they create devices that won’t work over the long term for the majority of users.”

  • 8. The Light-Based Technologies Inside Your Favorite Digital Camera

    If you’ve ever admired a photo that captures stunning details of a moving object seemly frozen in midair, you have IEEE Fellow Harold E. “Doc” Edgerton to thank. He invented the electronic stroboscope, the electronic flash, and slow-motion photography, as well remote-controlled deep-sea cameras.

    And it was in the 1990s that IEEE Fellow Eric R. Fossum was working to make miniature high-quality cameras to fit into small spacecraft, developed his active pixel sensor now called a CMOS image sensor. This camera-on-a-chip technology is used in nearly all of today’s cellphone cameras, medical devices, surveillance systems, and even GoPro.

  • 9. 3-D Hologram Technology Will Make it Possible to Virtually Connect With People After They’re Gone

    Pinchas Gutter has many stories to tell about his life during World War II. Now 82, he and survivors like him won’t be around much longer to talk of their experiences, which is why researchers at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies have made a virtual replica of Gutter so that those in the future can meet him and engage him in conversation.

    The team combined 3-D, hologram, and natural-language techniques to realize this idea, long popular in science fiction. The hologram looks and acts almost like a human being; it talks and exhibits emotion.

  • 10. Augmented Reality Can Help Children With Autism Tap Into Their Imaginations

    Playing pretend as a child is more than just for fun. It is also an essential developmental activity that teaches children social and emotional skills and builds their self-esteem. However, most children with autism—a neurodevelopmental condition that affects the ability to communicate and interact with others—are less engaged in this type of play and it can have a profound impact on them into their adult lives. That’s why Ph.D. candidate Zhen Bai designed an augmented reality system she hopes will nudge such children toward more imaginative play.

What was your favorite tech story of the year? Share it with us in the comments section below.

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