Sunrise recently expanded its line card by adding semiconductor supplier UltraRF, Sunnyvale, Calif., a $30 million supplier of specialty RF parts for the telecommunications market.

Also, there’s an open SDK (Software Developer’s Kit), which allows you to create your own applications. Apart from anything else, this concept is so open-ended that it can spark” all sorts of ideas. With regard to simply making the ball roll around the floor, for example, one scenario is reasonably obvious (tilting the controller causes the ball to roll in that direction, and the amount of tilt controls the speed of the ball). But if you visit the Apps page on the GoSphero site, you’ll see an app called Sphero Draw N’Drive in which you use your finger to trace a path on your phone/tablet’s screen and the ball then replicates this track in the real world. Just seeing this app made me wonder how many other ways there would be to control these little rapscallions.

Sad to relate, these little beauties are a tad expensive at $129.99 (plus shipping), but maybe the price will fall over time. In the meantime I will content myself by watching the videos on YouTube and pondering the tricks I could play…

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The Fourier transform is one of the most fundamental concepts in the information sciences. It’s a method for representing an irregular signal — such as the voltage fluctuations in the wire that connects an MP3 player to a loudspeaker — as a combination of pure frequencies. It’s universal in signal processing, but it can also be used to compress image and audio files, solve differential equations and price stock options, among other things.

The reason the Fourier transform is so prevalent is an algorithm called the fast Fourier transform (FFT), devised in the mid-1960s, which made it practical to calculate Fourier transforms on the fly. Ever since the FFT was proposed, however, people have wondered whether an even faster algorithm could be found.

At the Association for Computing Machinery’s Symposium on Discrete Algorithms (SODA) this week, a group of MIT researchers will present a new algorithm that, in a large range of practically important cases, improves on the fast Fourier transform. Under some circumstances, the improvement can be dramatic — a tenfold increase in speed. The new algorithm could be particularly useful for image compression, enabling, say, smartphones to wirelessly transmit large video files without draining their batteries or consuming their monthly bandwidth allotment.

Like the FFT, the new algorithm works on digital signals. A digital signal is just a series of numbers — discrete samples of an analog signal, such as the sound of a musical instrument. The FFT takes a digital signal containing a certain number of samples and expresses it as the weighted sum of an equivalent number of frequencies.

Weighted” means that some of those frequencies count more toward the total than others. Indeed, many of the frequencies may have such low weights that they can be safely disregarded. That’s why the Fourier transform is useful for compression. An eight-by-eight block of pixels can be thought of as a 64-sample signal, and thus as the sum of 64 different frequencies. But as the researchers point out in their new paper, empirical studies show that on average, 57 of those frequencies can be discarded with minimal loss of image quality.

The primary contributors to the new RFFE spec include Analog Devices Inc., Fujitsu Limited, National Semiconductor, Nokia Corporation, NXP Semiconductors, Panasonic Corporation, Peregrine Semiconductor, Qualcomm Incorporated, RF Micro Devices, Skyworks Solutions, Inc., ST-Ericsson and WiSpry Inc.

Are they worried about LTE-Advanced? By all accounts, there is great industry uptake of the MIPI Alliance recommendations, but what's next? LTE-A is a hot topic, so you can bet that the MIPI Alliance is already working on it. Wenzel notes that part of the challenge is that the LTE-A topologies are still being defined. He expects that the MIPI Alliance will be able to formally address LTE-A with DigRF in the next one to two years. Technical discussions are ongoing within the organization in order to identify clear requirements. Right now they expect that there will be different versions of RF transceiver topologies, and that needs to be addressed by the spec.

As for RFFE, Ross says that for now the group has identified some nice to have” features, but haven't identified any show stoppers for LTE-A. The group is still looking at the evolving requirements. We should satisfy LTE-A given what we know, but we are still investigating what might be a must have in the near future,” says Ross. Given that this is still a fairly new specification (only a year and a half old), he notes that the group is still working with the user community to see what new features they could use to help their devices.

For more on the MIPI Alliance: MIPI Alliance website

M-PHY benefits and challenges

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