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MM: Depth-Sensing IR Cameras; Graphene-Fed Spiders Spin Super Silk

In this Manufacturing Minute episode, Depth-Sensing IR Cameras and Graphene-Fed Spiders Spin Super Silk.

Depth-Sensing IR Cameras

If Qualcomm gets its way, Android phone cameras could gain the ability to sense depth with the company’s next flagship Snapdragon processor thanks to new features being added to the second-generation image signal processor named Spectra.

Among the improvements with the new processor beyond noise reduction and video stabilization, Spectra will include support for several new camera modules with advanced sensing features including one with iris scanning, one with passive depth sensing and one with active depth sensing.

The passive depth sensor uses two camera lenses to compare two images and piece together the depth of objects in stereo. This is similar to how human eyes can tell how near or far away something is.

On the other hand, the active depth sensor uses an infrared illuminator to shine a pattern of thousands of infrared dots a sensor can then view. The phone can then determine dot pattern distortions, in turn, mapping depth way more accurately than the passive depth sensor.  By then using the phone’s normal camera, color is provided to the image to create an accurate 3D image.  

Qualcomm hopes that cellphone manufacturers will use the new sensors to further augmented and virtual reality on cellphones, as well as provide better and more secure face unlocking than what’s currently available.


Is this a step in the right direction for better imaging? What other applications could this technology be used for? Tell us what you think by leaving your comments below.

Graphene-Fed Spiders Spin Super Silk

This isn’t the first time we’ve discussed researchers taking a que from nature to create the latest and greatest in materials, and it probably won’t be the last either.

Once again we’re looking at spider silk, which on a per-weight basis is stronger that steel. Scientists in Italy have discovered a way to make naturally spun spider silk stronger by incorporating different nanomaterials into the silk’s biological protein structures.

This was done by adding carbon nanotubes or graphene to the spiders’ water.

After harvesting the enhanced silk from the three species of spider, testing showed the material had three times the strength and 10 times the toughness of the regular material. Researchers say the silk is the highest fiber toughness discovered to date and could have real-world uses such as in parachutes.

Researchers also say the proof of concept of natural integration of reinforcements into biological structural materials could be applied to other animals and plants leading to new innovative applications.


In what ways could this enhanced spider silk be used? What other animal or plant materials could also be improved by this discovery? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below. 

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