For the fifth year in a row, computer maker IBM has earned more U.S. patents than any other organization. Of the 120,000 utility patents the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued last year, 1,724 went to IBM inventors. The company says more than 500 of the inventions are already in products. Among them: U.S. Patent 5,675,329, which doubles the usefulness of each computer keyboard key depending on how hard the key is struck. Force sensors attached to the keys can differentiate between a normal level of force and a greater force, performing two different functions with each different depression. Behind IBM in the number of patents received in 1997 are Canon with 1,378, NEC with 1,095, Motorola with 1,058, and the U.S. government with 923.
If you see a hitchhiker along the road in Canada this summer, it may not be human. That’s because a robot is thumbing its way across our neighbor to the north as part of a collaborative research project by several Canadian universities.
Stanford University researchers have found a way to realize what’s been called the “Holy Grail” of battery-design research -- designing a pure lithium anode for lithium-based batteries. The design has great potential to provide unprecedented efficiency and performance in lithium-based batteries that could substantially drive down the cost of electric vehicles and solve the charging problems associated with smartphones.
Robots in films during the 2000s hit the big time; no longer are they the sidekicks of nerdy character actors. Robots we see on the big screen in recent years include Nicole Kidman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Eddie Murphy. Top star of the era, Will Smith, takes a spin as a robot investigator in I, Robot. Robots (or androids or cyborgs) are fully mainstream in the 2000s.
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