To do anything with information, machines first have to bring it in; they need to sense the world. Over the past 100 years, computer sensing has gone from touching to hearing to seeing—and beyond.


For 60 years, punched cards—relying on a sense of touch in computers—reigned as the way to input information.

In the wilds of central Kenya, there are zebras that have become part of an exclusive, striped, peer-to-peer computer network. Scientists have fitted the animals with leather necklaces embedded with computerized sensing and transmitting devices. GPS chips in the devices allow the scientists to track each zebra’s movements, from short ...

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