Friday, September 29, 2017

BMI research by UCB faculty/TerraSwarm PI's Carmena and Maharbiz

In the Fall 2017 issue of California Magazine, Professors Jose Carmena and Michel Maharbiz were interviewed about their work with brain-machine interfaces (BMI). a system that connects the brain to a machine. The first component of a BMI is the neural interface, sensors that read the firing of neurons in the brain. Secondly, the information from the sensors is sent to an external decoder that translates brain activity to output signals. The signals are then used used to control the third component of a BMI, the "machine," e.g., a prosthetic arm or leg.

The first component had been a bottleneck in the system, which was eventually resolved by using ultrasound instead of wired connections or radio frequencies for power and for getting the data in and out of the body.

“The physics of ultrasound are perfect,” says Maharbiz, “because our body will let pressure waves travel through it fairly well” and with much less energy than radio frequencies need. At its current size, neural dust already has potential for a variety of clinical applications, such as providing real-time monitoring of areas of the body like the peripheral nervous system and organs.

Carmena says that neural dust will eventually replace wire electrodes we use today. Progress on BMI and neural dust technologies has advanced at an astounding pace.

“When I came [to Berkeley] in 2005 there was no one here working on neuroengineering, neurotechnology, or BMI,” remembers Carmena. Now, with an expanded team, “We do lots of wacky stuff,” says Maharbiz. “We have a project where we are looking at how you could take microbes with flagella and marry them to chips to build 1mm swimming robots. … You sort of create your own reality, that’s one of the beauties of working at Berkeley."

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Terraswarm PI Anthony Rowe joins colleagues as Carnegie Mellon Engineering Professors work on developing firefighter location system

As one of several Engineering faculty at Carnegie Mellon University, Professor Anthony Rowe is working on a tracking system to locate firefighters inside a burning building.
“We want to create a system that allows firefighters and first responders to find themselves inside a burning structure,” said Rowe. “Systems like GPS don’t actually work indoors, and fire and smoke make it harder for traditional RF systems to accurately locate people within a structure. The system we’re developing combines emerging technologies that will not only accurately reveal where firefighters are in a building, but also their orientation (i.e., direction they are facing).”
The research team met with firefighters to learn about their operational procedures and analyzed various positioning technologies.
"We need this technology. Too many times we hear stories about first responders getting lost inside of a structure, meters from potential safety, but they did not know which way to go,” said Rowe. “We believe the combination of these new and emerging technologies will lead to an accurate indoor locationing system that could save lives.”
For more information, see Fire Engineering,

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

$10 million awarded to UC San Diego study co-lead by TerraSwarm PI and computer scientist Tajana Rosing

IBM has given UC San Diego a $10 million contract to look for ways to maintain people's ability to think and remember things clearly, especially to help seniors live in their own homes late into life, possibly until they die.

The funds are targeting a problem that trips up many older adults - mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition that makes it difficult to remember simple things, like a name or a basic task. UC San Diego intends to make it easier to recognize MCI, whose symptoms can be hard to distinguish from the natural decline in thinking and memory as a part of aging.

“If you can detect it in time, there are ways to dramatically slow MCI down,” said Tajana Šimunić Rosing, a UC San Diego computer scientist who will help lead a five year study of the matter. “The bad news is that by the time most people go see a doctor they’re already experiencing more severe stages of cognitive decline.”

Much of the $10 million contract that UC San Diego will receive from IBM will be used to study about 50 people who are 65 and older.

Ten of those people will have their homes outfitted with an assortment of sensors and electronic devices that will monitor their daily habits and behavior, which provide clues to how clearly people are thinking and remembering things. See The San Diego Union-Tribune article for more information.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Prof. Jan Rabaey of UC Berkeley and TerraSwarm PI wins Aristotle award

The Aristotle Award was authorized by the Board of Directors of the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) in 1995 to commend professors who best contribute to the development of the industry's most valuable resource, its human resource. The award recognizes SRC-supported faculty whose deep commitment to the educational experience of SRC students has had extensive and sustained impact on their professional performance.

The awards have been made to some of the most outstanding university faculty in this country, and this year's award preserves that tradition. Professor Jan Rabaey of the University of California/Berkeley is markedly qualified to receive the 2017 Aristotle Award.

See Aristotle Award Presentation TECHCON 2017 for more on Professor Rabaey's remarkable accomplishments.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

UC Berkeley Ph.D. student designs new medical device in TerraSwarm PI's Design course

A medical device designed to diagnose pneumonia was named winner of the student category of Fast Company's 2017 Innovation by Design Award. The device, called Tabla, was created as a classroom project during the Interactive Device Design course taught by TerraSwarm PI and Director of Berkeley's Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation, Professor Bjoern Hartmann. This low-cost alternative to chest X-rays was the biggest winner in the 2017 Big Ideas at Berkeley competition. See more at Berkeley News.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

LIME , new and better machine-based malware analysis tool

Developed by researchers at the University of Washington, including TerraSwarm PI Carlos Guestrin, a new tool - Local Interpretable Model-Agnostic Explanations (LIME) addresses the shortcoming of deep learning models providing effective malware web page detectors but not providing information about why the sample is detected as malicious. Being able to answer the "why" question is critical for security researchers to be able to build better defenses in the future.

For more information see nakedsecurity by Sophos and Introduction to Local Interpretable Model-Agnostic Explanations (LIME)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Professor and TerraSwarm PI Anthony Rowe wants bikes to talk to cars

An article released by NPR's all tech considered concerns the issue of the safety of bicyclists around cars and autonomous vehicles.

The technology that makes self-driving cars unemotional (they don't get angry or have road rage) is showing up in human-driven cars with forward collision warning and automatic braking systems. However, Professor Rowe believes cars could use some help with detecting cyclists.

"Cars have a very regular pattern with the way they move, whereas when people are riding bicycles they change between either acting like cars on the side of the road," says Rowe, an associate engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University. "They might switch and become pedestrians and go up on the sidewalks. They tend to move in a slightly more erratic way. It's much harder to predict."

Rowe would like to endow bikes with the ability to feed information to cars, now and in the completely sutonomous future.

"What we're trying to do is put as much instrumentation on a bike as we can to see if we can predict how it's going to move in the future, so that it could, for example, signal a collision warning system on a car," he says.
While Prof. Rowe thinks self-driving cars will make the future a lot safer for cyclists and pedestrians, he thinks a little help from bikes could compensate for weaknesses while humans are the primary pilots.