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Grand challenges to to niggling nettles in 2010

Posted: 05 Jan 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:challenges? lithography? EUV? smart grid? interface?

Time for Apollo 2.0
The United States and American engineers can again lead the world into a new Golden Age of manned space exploration.

NASA recently issued a solicitation to engineering students to come up with new concepts for the systems needed for a new lunar habitat. The requirements include environmental controls, power generation, even air to breath. NASA said it will award paid internships to the best proposals. Future engineers can propose a full system design, not just an incremental improvement to a chip design.

The economic reality is that the best way to explore the solar system these days is to send machines. One need only note the remarkable achievements of the Mars Rovers to see that a real-time OS and some solar panels, along with a launch vehicle to get to Mars, can greatly expand the boundaries or human knowledge. But as the moon walker Buzz Aldrin notes, machines can't pick up heavy objects, nor can they discriminate between one interesting rock and another.

Human beings are the best explorers, and exploration is in our DNA.

The global engineering community needs to work together to explore the solar system. We need to overcome political differences to reach and probe new worlds. Engineers who helped mankind get to the moon, allowing us to look back on a fragile, precious Earth, can again expand mankind's knowledge by reaching for the planetsand the stars.

- George Leopold

Easier to use ease-of-use
Everyone in the electronics industry pays lip service to the importance of the user interface, but on most consumer devices the UI looks more like an afterthought.

I can't tell you how often I've been stumped by incomprehensible messages that pop up on a device's screen. I assume the device wants me to do something for it, but there aren't enough clues to know what that might be. So I sit there, looking into abyss, and the abyss looking back, abysmally.

This issue is growing worse as more devices from TVs to washing machines connect to the Net. I fear the result will be more messages on more screens, offering me more clues to more choices for what I can do to make life better for all those interconnected devices that seem to have become my new dependents.

As a technology reporter, I understand the UIs on most consumer devices aren't as elegant as that of Apple's iPhone. Not every consumer device comes with enough processing power or memory to do what an iPhone can do. Not every manufacturer has access to font or rendering technology, essential to create the clean and sophisticated look many consumers have come to expect. As fragmented as the embedded system market is, there is no single, one-size-fits-all simple UI a manufacturer can deploy for every product.

Help may be on its way. Monotype Imaging, a provider of text rendering technology with access to more than 10,000 typefaces, recently announced its acquisition of Planetweb, a developer of embedded UI software. Together, they will offer UIs that can be ported to different devices, including those with limited computing power and memory.

Such collaborations could make interfaces are more readable, but not necessarily more intelligent. I live in fear of hearing my devices, one by one, look me in the eye and say, "I'm sorry, Dave. I can't do that for you."

- Junko Yoshida


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