The magazine Popular Science has been around for a while: Since 1872, it has been a leading source of science and technology news. So when the magazine issues its annual “Best of What’s New List,” folks pay attention. Among its most recent list of “extraordinary” contributions to humanity are breakthroughs from the Carnegie Mellon community:

  • 360fly (profiled by this magazine in the January 2015 issue) offers a consumer-friendly waterproof camera that allows users to take 360-degree horizontal and 240-degree vertical videos of the world. The camera idea came from Michael Rondinelli (CS’01) who is the company’s CTO.
  • 3D Object Manipulation Software “enables users to perform the full range of 3D manipulations, including scaling, rotation, translation, and nonrigid deformations, to an object in a photograph.” In other words, it’s possible to edit photographs through flipping objects in the image, even exposing surfaces not visible in the original photograph. The 3D research team was led by CMU robotics professor Yaser Sheikh, while CMU PhD student Natasha Kholgade was lead author on the study.
  • Flex System, a “surgical snake robot,” aims to revolutionize the way we conduct minimally invasive surgery, says CMU Robotics Professor Howie Choset. Working with physicians, he created a surprisingly simple creation—that uses conventional motors and cables—that enables physicians to reach deep into intra-cavity spaces within the human anatomy far more easily than ever before. The surgical tool is already in use in Europe.
  • LiveLight, a software program, began out of frustration. New father Eric P. Xing, CMU professor of machine learning, had difficulty distilling the hours of video footage of his baby into smaller clips; you know, those cutest-of-the-cute moments. He and Bin Zhao, a PhD student in his department, built software that creates instant highlight reels by editing out the boring stuff. This ability to identify noteworthy footage is also being used for security cameras, serving as a perpetual watchdog in real time.

—Elizabeth Shestak (DC’13)