CMU Research Briefs

Automated cars let you drink (coffee) and drive

Collaborative efforts between Carnegie Mellon?s Electrical and Computer Engineering department and General Motors have given new meaning to the words ?smart car.? Not only will future drivers be able to safely reach destinations, they can talk on the phone and check their investments online while their ride offers suggestions about where to stop for lunch. Lead by Rajkumar Ragunathan, the ECE?GM Collaborative Research Lab has developed a dynamic V2V (vehicle to vehicle) network that allows vehicles to deliver and receive information from each other including traffic, weather conditions, where the nearest gas station is or if there are accidents ahead.
Improved driver and passenger safety is a large benefit of the V2V network. Not only will vehicles keep tabs on themselves, but they will also monitor the speed and location of surrounding vehicles, thus anticipating when to speed, when to brake and, if necessary, when to swerve out of the way.
Industry analysts also report that greater automation will help create more fluid and efficient traffic patterns. For example, where before an average highway could handle up to 2000 vehicles per hour, the V2V network will increase that number to 6000 vehicles per hour. Enhancing the driving experience without compromising safety is the larger goal of the collaboration. This includes vehicle-PDA communication; so don?t be surprised if, the next time you get into your car, it reminds you that you forgot your
mother?s birthday.

Source: Carnegie Mellon Today

Neurons help us understand behavior in mice

Neuroscientist Nathan Urban received $1 million from the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) to decipher how neuron clusters perceive odors in a mouse brain. This project will be the first to explore the issue at the neuron to neuron level, employing a highly regulated module comprising a group of these neurons. The module, in turn, will help illuminate how specific genes and cells affect the behavioral response of a mouse to an odor. Once perfected, this approach of studying the intermediary steps between a gene and a behavior can be applied to other areas of the brain, including those controlling higher thought processes. Urban says that ?connecting the dots from cell activity to animal behavior will have a profound impact on our ability to understand the brain and to diagnose and treat neural diseases in humans.?

Source: Carnegie Mellon press release July 5, 2005

Video games collide with theater techniques

As graphic media become more advanced, creating believable characters and relationships becomes increasingly necessary. Project Improv, conducted out of Carnegie Mellon?s Entertainment Technology Center, is tackling this problem by incorporating elements of stage acting and improvisation into its game designs. Not only is this kind of thinking well in keeping with how games are made and played:it will create realistic dialogue, behavior and relationships, and ultimately, story.

Source: Entertainment Technology Center

New research center puts theory into practice

Universities are not only places to learn, they are ?economic engines,? according to Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell in reference to Carnegie Mellon?s newest enterprise, the Collaborative Innovation Center (CIC). Located on Forbes Avenue in Junction Hollow, the recently-completed CIC is now home to some of the most cutting-edge technological companies in the nation. Tenants include Intel Research Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon CyLab, CERT Coordination Center and most recently, Apple Computers.
Built using green design, the CIC is Carnegie Mellon?s message of integration and collaboration actualized as it will allow research and industry to directly impact each other on campus, creating new technologies and jobs. In another collaborative gesture, Apple and Intel are both tenants on the fourth floor.

Source: Carnegie Mellon Today

Compiled by
Radha Chitale