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Special Reports

Fire and water, two of nature’s basic forces, are each capable of sustaining or destroying life and property. Research projects in California and Hawaii are, respectively, helping displaced families cope with devasting wildfires, and investigating a way to increase water supply availability on isolated islands. Both projects are relying on signal processing to help them meet their goals.
Robots are rapidly becoming an integral part of daily life. The mechanizing of routine tasks has been underway for decades, with development making particularly remarkable progress over the past several years. Now, with the development robots that can closely interact with humans, sensing users’ needs and often relieving people of dangerous tasks, robotic technology is entering a new phase of intimacy and practicality.
In an age when signal processing lies at the core of so many different technologies, nothing is more important than its contribution to health care. From improved cardiac patient support to enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and advanced diagnostics, signal processing is helping physicians work more safely, efficiently, and accurately. Here is a look at three important research projects that are using signal processing to assist both patients and health-care providers.
Researchers in an almost endless number of fields are embracing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to develop tools and systems that can predict and adapt to a wide range of changing situations, optimize system performance, and intelligently filter signals. In areas as diverse as firefighter protection, solar power optimization, and exoplanet discovery, researchers are turning to AI, ML, and signal processing to help them achieve breakthroughs that were unimaginable only a few years ago.
Big data can be a blessing: with very large training data sets it becomes possible to perform complex learning tasks with unprecedented accuracy. Yet, this improved performance comes at the price of enormous computational challenges. Thus, one may wonder: Is it possible to leverage the information content of huge data sets while keeping computational resources under control? 
Smart home technologies, designed to make users happier, healthier, and wealthier, are rapidly becoming a mainstay of everyday life. In most cases, signal processing is essential to the devices' operation and performance. These days, a variety of intelligent automated devices can be found in nearly every home. The trend is accelerating so rapidly that it now appears inevitable that smart technology will soon be integrated into virtually every facet of daily life.
Despite the impressive technological strides made over the years, human lives still depend very much on the natural environment. Fortunately, technology can now be used to help address critical environmental concerns in air quality, soil condition, and weather events.
The old adage "you are what you wear" is taking on an entirely new meaning as smart watches, fitness trackers, and a rapidly expanding array of other wearable devices flood onto the market, enabling users to monitor their exercise progress, retrieve critical health data, and accomplish a wide range of other useful and informative tasks.

A new generation of exponentially more intelligent and capable robots is on the way, helped along by talented and imaginative engineers and heavy doses of signal processing. In fields spanning almost every aspect of human professional and personal life, robots are ready to perform tasks faster, better, and more efficiently than their human counterparts. Even major sports organizations are now looking into the possibility of replacing human referees and umpires with robot arbiters.

In an increasingly networked world, signal processing is leading the way to innovations that promise to raise data throughput and capacity to levels scarcely dreamed of a decade ago.

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