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Microsoft’s ‘Ink to Code’ builds an app UI from your sketches

Sometimes, inspiration strikes in inconvenient places, and the best you can do to make sure the idea doesn’t escape you is to write it down on scraps of paper or a napkin. The latest experimental project out of Microsoft’s Garage program, which encourages employees to work on their innovative ideas, wants to make it easier to turn those “napkin sketches” into real products… for developers, at least. Called “Ink to Code,” the Windows application takes rough notes and drawings and turns them into real code for Universal Windows and Android apps’ user interfaces.

It can’t magically turn your doodles into full-fledged working apps, but it can turn handwriting into text and transform boxes into buttons, text boxes and even image placeholders without you having to write code at all. According to Microsoft, the application uses Windows 10’s Smart Ink to recognize objects and uses the tech titan’s Visual Studio to digitize your sketches. It probably helps that Windows 10 Fall Creators Update gave Smart Ink’s object recognition capabilities a boost.

Alex Corrado, one of the project’s originators, explained the idea behind it:

“Getting your ideas for a new app or feature onto paper is one of the fastest, most natural parts of the brainstorming. But then, you ultimately need to turn that sketch into code and sooner than you know it, 10, 20, 30 iterations of a sketch really add up.”

Ink to Code is in its very early stages, and the tech titan calls it a “prototype for prototypes.” Microsoft believes, however, that the app can eventually serve as a “more productive canvas in brainstorm meetings” and can even encourage collaboration between people with different levels of design or technical knowledge. You can now access the Ink to Code Windows app if you’re in the US and Canada — unfortunately, it’s unclear if and when it will make its way to other regions anytime soon.

Via: Ars Technica

Source: Microsoft

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Existing EV batteries could be recharged five times faster

Lithium-ion batteries have massively improved in the last half-decade, but there are still issues. The biggest, especially for EVs, is that charging takes too long to make them as useful as regular cars for highway driving. Researchers from the University of Warwick (WMG) have discovered that we may not need to be so patient, though. They developed a new type of sensor that measures internal battery temperatures and discovered that we can probably recharge them up to five times quicker without overheating problems.

Overcharging a lithium-ion battery anode can lead to lithium buildup, which can break through a battery's separator, create a short-circuit and cause catastrophic failure. That can cause the electrolyte to emit gases and literally blow up the battery, so manufacturers impose strict charging power limits to prevent it.

Those limits are based on hard-to-measure internal temperatures, however, which is where the WMG probe comes in. It's a fiber optic sensor, protected by a chemical layer that can be directly inserted into a lithium-ion cell to give highly precise thermal measurements without affecting its performance.

The team tested the sensor on standard 18650 li-ion cells, used in Tesla's Model S and X, among other EVs. They discovered that they can be charged five times faster than previously thought without damage. Such speeds would reduce battery life, but if used judiciously, the impact would be minimized, said lead researcher Dr. Tazdin Amietszajew.

Faster charging as always comes at the expense of overall battery life but many consumers would welcome the ability to charge a vehicle battery quickly when short journey times are required and then to switch to standard charge periods at other times.

There's still some work to do. While the research showed the li-ion cells can support higher temperatures, EVs and charging systems would have to have "precisely tuned profiles/limits" to prevent problems. It's also not clear how battery makers would install the sensors in the cells.

Nevertheless, it shows a lot of promise for much faster charging speeds in the near future. Even if battery capacities stayed the same, charging in 5 minutes instead of 25 could flip a lot of drivers over to the green side.

Via: Clean Technica

Source: University of Warwick

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