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MM: Superhuman Color Glasses, And Magnetically Controlled Soft Robots

In this episode, we examine superhuman color vision glasses and magnetically controlled soft robots.

Superhuman Color Vision Glasses

Typically it’s hard to see any difference between two samples of the same color side by side because humans are trichromatic — meaning they only process three color channels, those in the red, blue and green wavelengths. But that may change soon after Mikahil Kats, an assistant professor of Engineering and Computer Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison asked the question “How can we see more?” The answer might be special glasses that gives people superhuman color vision.

The idea behind the glasses is simple: to try and trick the eyes to see different colors. To achieve this, researchers created glasses with two color filters, one for each eye, which strips out specific parts of the blue light spectrum. With each eye perceiving slightly different spectral information, the team figured that any subtle differences in color would be more pronounced. And it turns out they were correct.

While their work focused on the blue spectrum, their success means that different filters would have to be used to see metamers of other hues, such as green or red, but the researchers are currently working on these.

It’s believed that new tech could be established to see small differences between colors, for example, in camouflage, meaning that while under normal circumstances an object may blend in perfectly, under the filters they would obviously stand out or to help people with color deficiency see the world as others do. While their research continues, the team has submitted their work for review.

Could this research lead to a bigger color spectrum for humans? How could this research be used in an industrial setting? Tell us what you think by leaving your comments below.

Magnetically Controlled Soft Robots

Scientists believe that robots comprised of soft, stretchy materials could complement humans even more than conventional devices made of metal or plastic.

This week, engineers from North Carolina State University detailed a potentially breakthrough method for controlling these "soft robots" by manipulating magnetic fields.

Their study added iron micro-particles to a liquid polymer mixture, then formed the iron particles into parallel chains by introducing a magnetic field. Once dried, the mixture became an elastic polymer film with aligned magnetic chains. Scientists could then apply a magnetic field in varying directions and strengths — and make the polymer film line up in the same direction.

N.C. State researchers used their system to create a structure that can lift up to 50 times its own weight, another device that mimics muscle movements and a tube that functions as a pump. Early applications likely include drug delivery, but the system could also be used to remotely deploy novel structures.

How could soft, magnetically controlled robots affect the factory floor or other manufacturing operations? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

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