Technologies of the future?

Since in my last article I posted about Moore’s law which states an exponential growth of computing power in microprocessors, the question remains as to what extent other technologies will develop within the years to come.

The driverless Google car:

“The system combines information gathered from Google Street View with artificial intelligence software that combines input from video cameras inside the car, a LIDAR sensor on top of the vehicle, radar sensors on the front of the vehicle and a position sensor attached to one of the rear wheels that helps locate the car’s position on the map. As of 2010, Google has tested several vehicles equipped with the system, driving 1,609 kilometres (1,000 mi) without any human intervention, in addition to 225,308 kilometres (140,000 mi) with occasional human intervention. Google anticipates that the increased accuracy of its automated driving system could help reduce the number of traffic-related injuries and deaths, while using energy and space on roadways more efficiently.”

Autonomous car by Google

The Iron Man

“It’s fantasy versus reality, and the spread is shrinking. The latter, the XOS, is the latest and arguably most advanced exoskeleton in existence, developed by one-man idea factory Steve Jacobsen and the engineers at Sarcos, a robotics company he started in 1983 that was recently purchased by the defense giant Raytheon. […] In the past seven years, a handful of engineers have taken the military’s 40-year-old fantasy of mechanically enhanced soldiers that can carry heavy loads and begun to make it real. Funded with millions from the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), Jacobsen and others have finally begun marrying artificial muscles and control systems into suits that could soon be available to soldiers, firemen and the wheelchair-bound.”

Exoskeleton by Stephen Jacobson

I would love to try out one of those technologies or even both! They will both surely open lots of new opportunities in many different areas.
If you have any other interesting technologies, please post them!

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Integrated Circuits

A few days ago I gave a presentation about Integrated Circuits. Here are some interesting facts about them that you might not know:

  • Modern microprocessors have up to 2.6 billion transistors on an area of only 512mm² and the numbers are still increasing. The transistors are printed on a single semiconductor device through a process called photolithography, similar to creating photographic films.
  • When Jack Kilby created the first Integrated Circuit in 1958, the prototype already worked perfectly.
  • Computer chips are made on the base of silicon which is made of sand. Theoretically every type of sand could be used, but usually only very pure forms of sand, called silica sands, are used.
  • At the time the silicon is ready to be manufactured to computer chips, it has a purity of 99.999999%. This can be compared to having only one grain of sugar in 10 buckets of sand.
  • The room in which the chips are created is called the “clean room”. It has a very tightly controlled environment, the air is filtered and people are only allowed to walk in with special overalls that cover all body parts.  The cleanliness is higher than in an operating room in a hospital.
  • After the manufacturing of a silicon wafer only ~60% of the chips (called dies) are properly functional (estimated number). Partially working dies are sold as lower-specification products. Intel used to make key chains out of the non-functional dies.

Intel key chain made of discarded CPU

Intel key chain (close up)

For those who want to have more detailed information: Here is the complete documentation about my presentation (it’s in English):
Integrated Circuits