5 Things You Missed: Data Storage Obsolescence, X-Rays Map Out Chips, and More

Highlights for the week of 24 April 2017

Photo: USC Shoah Foundation

1. The Lost Picture Show: Hollywood Archivists Can’t Outpace Obsolescence

These days, the major studios and film archives largely rely on a magnetic tape storage technology known as LTO, or linear tape-open, to preserve motion pictures. The good news: Because an older generation of LTO becomes obsolete when a new generation is introduced, film archivists with perhaps tens of thousands of LTO tapes on hand must invest millions of dollars in the latest format of tapes and drives every few years, and then migrate all the data on their older tapes—or risk losing access to the information altogether.


2. 3D X-ray Tech for Easy Reverse Engineering of ICs

A team of researchers based in Switzerland is on the way to laying bare much of the secret technology inside commercial processors. They pointed a beam of X-rays at a piece of an Intel processor and were able to reconstruct the chip’s warren of transistors and wiring in three dimensions. In the future, the team says, this imaging technique could be extended to create high-resolution, large-scale images of the interiors of chips.


3. DARPA to Use Electrical Stimulation to Enhance Military Training

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) wants to shorten the time it takes to train people in skills including speaking foreign languages, analyzing surveillance images, and marksmanship. It plans to use electrical stimulation to enhance the brain’s ability to learn. The Defense Department’s research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, wants to see a 30 percent improvement in learning rates by the end of the four-year program. 


4. How to Build Your Own Amazon Echo

Amazon has released programming interfaces for Alexa, the company’s intelligent personal assistant, and uploaded free source code and tutorials to Github. Now, anyone can use these to make their own homebrew version of Echo, the smart speaker that was the hot holiday gift of 2016.


5. Robotic Construction Platform Creates Large Buildings on Demand

The MIT Media Lab’s paper introduces the Digital Construction Platform (DCP), which is “an automated construction system capable of customized on-site fabrication of architectural-scale structures.” In other words, it’s a robot arm that uses additive construction techniques to build large structures safely, quickly, and even (in some cases) renewably.

Source: Spectrum Tech Talk 5 Things You Missed: Data Storage Obsolescence, X-Rays Map Out Chips, and More