Each week, we review the press, highlighting and responding to interesting and relevant articles in the news.

Source: iStock Photo.

Time to Zoom-Out

A year into lockdown restrictions and working from home, the Zoom-fatigue is real. However, a recent study led by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University revealed that videoconferencing may not be as productive as many think. Looking at nonverbal cues such as facial expression synchrony and prosodic synchrony (speech tone and rhythm), researchers found that video cues reduced collective intelligence and problem solving while disrupting conversational flows, considerably lower than that of audio-only calls. This is not the first study on videoconferencing, as a Stanford University study found that videoconferencing uniquely exhausting and should only be conservatively used. Though many companies, like Pinterest, traded their pricey office spaces for permanent work, this likely won’t be the norm for a post-COVID workplace. Rather, flexible, hybrid working arrangements will probably define the next coming years of work.

Check out the study here.

Source: Christopher Moore, Georgia Tech

Go-Go 5G Power

A team of researchers at Georgia Tech has developed a way to turn 5G networks into “wireless power grids” to power Internet of Things devices. 5G is designed for fast and low-latency communication, using millimetre-wave frequencies with high power. Now, this power can be harvested without bulky antennae, capturing energy that would otherwise be wasted with a thin, 3D-printed rectenna the size of a credit card. This discovery could have critical impacts on both telecom companies and the energy crisis. One of the researchers involved, Emmanouil Tentzeris, predicts that on-demand wireless power could be harnessed by telecom companies, just as data overtook cellular as primary revenue. In terms of the energy crisis, this invention could eliminate our reliance on batteries by employing energy that is already emitted. This could have positive implications for the environment by reducing the extraction costs and waste that batteries produce.

Check out the research here.

Source: Boston Dynamics

Dances with Robots

Earlier this week, 60 minutes provided a look into the elusive Boston Dynamics headquarters and the company’s pioneering advances in robotics. You may have seen YouTube videos of their robots doing the Mashed Potato, but this was just the tip of the iceberg for the company’s robotic capabilities. What sets Boston Dynamics apart is the emphasis on athletic intelligence, the management of its balance, posture, and movement. The 60 Minutes feature coincided with the company’s release of its commercial warehouse robot, Stretch, to the public for the first time. Boston Dynamics sees warehouses as the next frontier for robotics. Stretch can move up to 800 boxes in an hour for up to 16 hours without a break, radically accelerating efficiency of logistics. The applications for Boston Dynamics’ research and development are far-reaching, with over 400 robots already involved in police work, construction, and utility management. According to the company, the future of robotics is collaborative and interconnected with our own lives, in which “they work next to us, in ways where we help them but they also take some of the burden from us.”