Advances offer path to shrink computer chips again

Scientists at Rice University and Hewlett-Packard are reporting this week that they can overcome a fundamental barrier to the continued rapid miniaturization of computer memory that has been the basis for the consumer electronics revolution, reports the New York Times. In recent years, the limits of physics and finance faced by chip makers had loomed so large that experts feared a slowdown in the pace of miniaturization that would act like a brake on the ability to pack ever more power into ever smaller devices like laptops, smart phones, and digital cameras. But the new announcements, along with competing technologies being pursued by companies like IBM and Intel, offer hope that the brake will not be applied any time soon. In one of the two new developments, Rice researchers are reporting in Nano Letters, a journal of the American Chemical Society, that they have succeeded in building reliable small digital switches—an essential part of computer memory—that could shrink to a significantly smaller scale than is possible using conventional methods. More important, the advance is based on silicon oxide, one of the basic building blocks of today’s chip industry, thus easing a move toward commercialization. Separately, HP is to announce that it will enter into a commercial partnership with a major semiconductor company to produce a related technology that also has the potential of pushing computer data storage to astronomical densities in the next decade. HP and the Rice scientists are making what are called memristors, or memory resistors, switches that retain information without a source of power. “There are a lot of new technologies pawing for attention,” said Richard Doherty, president of the electronics market research company Envisioneering Group. “When you get down to these scales, you’re talking about the ability to store hundreds of movies on a single chip.”

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Is there art on YouTube? Guggenheim wants to find out

The Guggenheim Museum is teaming up with YouTube in partnership with HP to discover the art of YouTube videos, ReadWriteWeb reports. Tasked with uncovering the “most creative video in the world,” the companies have launched an international search by way of YouTube Play, a specially branded YouTube channel that will feature the entries in this new competition. Anyone is invited to submit a video to YouTube Play, and the submission deadline is July 31. The videos may consist of animation, motion graphics, narrative, non-narrative, or documentary work, music videos, and even “entirely new art forms” that challenge the perception of what’s possible to do with video, says a blog post about the project. Two hundred of the leading videos will be selected for further attention by an international jury of experts from the worlds of art, design, film, and video. Twenty of those initial 200 videos then will be presented at the Guggenheim and will be made available for the world to see on the youtube.com/play channel. The winning videos won’t receive a cash prize or other physical reward—but having a video showcased internationally in one of the world’s most famous art museums is a reward in and of itself, most would agree…

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Printing in a smart-phone age

This week, Hewlett-Packard will introduce a fleet of printers with web access, their own eMail addresses, and touch screens—opening up new ways for people to print from web services such as Google Docs, and from smart phones and devices such as Apple’s iPad, reports the New York Times. The new printers will range in price from $99 to about $400. Every one will come with what HP executives billed as a breakthrough feature: its very own eMail address. HP’s engineers hit on the eMail address as an easy, familiar way for people to send print jobs to the web-ready printers. You can, for example, take a photo with a phone, eMail it to your printer’s address, and have the printout waiting for you at home. Or, you can share the printer’s eMail address with family and friends. This means that someone can buy Grandma a web-ready printer and have it pump out photos of the grandchildren without Grandma having to do much of anything (except buy that pricey ink). HP is also lining up partners for a web site, the ePrintCenter, which the company envisions as the kind of app store that Apple, Google, and others have for their smart phones. The idea is that the partners can build software and services for HP’s web printers. For example, children and their parents could print out coloring books from Crayola, and Dora the Explorer birthday activity packs from Nickelodeon…

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