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Gizmorama - January 9, 2017

Good Morning,


AI is going to be the biggest part of this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. With 2017 comes the robots. That sounds like a good tagline to a bad sci-fi movie.

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,
Erin


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*-- Scientists create tiny laser using silver nanoparticles --*

ESPOO, Finland - Scientists in Finland have paved the way for a new breed of ultrafast nanoscale lasers. Researchers at Aalto University have created a laser that works at such minuscule scales, the light can bounce back and forth just a few hundred times.

The plasmic laser generates visible light waves using dark lattice modes, a first.

Most lasers rely on mirrors to generate the feedback signal necessary for laser light. The nano laser uses radiative coupling between silver nanoparticles, instead. The laser-generating nanoparticles are arranged in a periodic array, each particle -- measuring just 100 nanometers across -- acts as a tiny antenna.

The input energy necessary to trigger laser light is provided by organic fluorescent molecules. Because the laser light wavelengths and the spacing between nanoparticles match, the array radiates in unison.

Tiny lasers can be tremendously useful in science, but they can also be extremely difficult to work with. In this case, laser light created at such small scales can be too short-lived to be useful.

Researchers skirted the problem by using what are called "dark modes."

"A dark mode can be intuitively understood by considering regular antennas: A single antenna, when driven by a current, radiates strongly, whereas two antennas -- if driven by opposite currents and positioned very close to each other -- radiate very little," researcher Paivi Torm said in a news release. "A dark mode in a nanoparticle array induces similar opposite-phase currents in each nanoparticle, but now with visible light frequencies."

Researchers also found a unique way to let light escape the confines of the tiny array.

"By utilizing the small size of the array, we found an escape route for the light," explained Ph.D. student Heikki Rekola. "Towards the edges of the array, the nanoparticles start to behave more and more like regular antennas that radiate to the outer world."

Researchers detailed their new laser in the journal Nature Communications.



*-- Smart tech: This year's CES big on artificial intelligence --*

LAS VEGAS - The first week of every new year brings a slew of eye-opening technology for gadget lovers at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and the 2017 edition will open Thursday.

The exhibition provided a preview on Tuesday, which revealed that this year's show will concentrate on the growing use of artificial intelligence in consumer devices.

The following are some of the splashes set to mark the four-day event:

New Realities

For more than a year, electronic devices featuring all-artificial virtual reality (VR) and part-artificial augmented reality (AR) technology have been wildly popular. At CES this year, this corner of the computing market is expected to skyrocket.

Companies like HTC, Cardboard, KwikVR and Pimax are expected to announce new entries into the VR niche -- but the long-awaited Oculus, owned and funded by Facebook, will not.

On the AR side of things, where virtual elements are composited with reality, Microsoft is expected to debut its HoloLens technology and Intel its Project Alloy.

Personal Assistants

For decades, prognosticators have been laying out a vision of the future in which we are all aided by personal robots. This year's CES is set to show off some of the latest technology in this arena.

Google and Amazon are promoting such personal smart helpers, the Home and the Echo Dot, this year. The Dot is the latest version of Amazon's Echo assistant, which uses voice technology facilitated by Alexa. The new version is much smaller.

Google's Home boasts it own similar features and are integrated into other services like its Play Music, YouTube and Spotify.

Asus is also slated to unveil its robotic assistant, which is closer to the type envisioned by future-seers decades ago.

Self-Driving Vehicles

Automated vehicles are skyrocketing in popularity, although they are still mostly in development.

Honda is expected to unveil its NeuV, a vehicle that relies heavily on intelligence and promises to revolutionize the way humans interact with automobiles. Toyota is also planning to show off a concept car, but details are scarce.

Other automakers plan to exhibit new electric vehicles -- like Chrysler, which will unveil its new all-electric vehicle, reported to be a variant of the Pacifica.

BMW will reveal its HoloActive Touch technology and Audi will introduce a new crash avoidance system.

Wireless Wonders

Devices sans cord are always popular entries at CES, and this year more products will be coming down that pipeline.

Newer versions of wireless headphones -- competitors to Apple's AirPods -- will be put on display, and more tech-savvy adapters and dongles will also get a look at this year's show.

Televisions

Some of the most popular revelations at CES are TVs, and 2017 will be no different. Multiple industry leaders are expected to reveal new television technology that boast better resolution, more interactivity and less cost.

Companies like LG, Samsung, Sony, and Panasonic are all expected to have dramatic 4K-resolution TV reveals during press events Wednesday, the day before the show opens.

***

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