“The auto insurance industry is having its Napster moment. Like record companies at the dawn of online music file sharing, Allstate, Geico, State Farm, and others are grappling with innovations that could put a huge dent in their revenue. As carmakers automate more aspects of driving, accidents will likely plunge and car owners will need less coverage.”
Earlier this week NASA brought together “a broad international and U.S. audience of government and civilian representatives including leaders from industry, and academia to discuss, understand, and define the UAS impact and challenges ahead.”
John Payne's insight:
YouTube user TilTuli has assembled a playlist of the event:
“Facebook has revealed its first full-scale drone, which it plans to use to provide internet access in remote parts of the world. Code-named ‘Aquila’, the solar-powered drone will be able to fly without landing for three months at a time, using a laser to beam data to a base station on the ground.”
Operating between 60,000 and 90,000 feet, Facebook's drone will follow a flight path much like that of the submersible robots that glide between shallow and deep water by altering their buoyancy, but do it in the air, above the altitudes used by commercial airliners, and on a daily cycle driven by the availability of sunlight for power.
“Our founders share the story of the creation of Anki, bringing artificial intelligence and robotics into everyday life with consumer robotics products. We are excited about taking technology previously restricted to science labs and research institutes, and making it accessible to everyone.”
John Payne's insight:
My intuition says this is a company that can't be judged by their initial products. They plainly have ambitions that reach far beyond what they've chosen as a means of bootstrapping a solvent enterprise.
“John Leonard’s group in the MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering specializes in SLAM, or simultaneous localization and mapping… Last week, at the Robotics Science and Systems conference, members of Leonard’s group presented a new paper demonstrating how SLAM can be used to improve object-recognition systems… The system uses SLAM information to augment existing object-recognition algorithms. … Despite working with existing SLAM and object-recognition algorithms, however, and despite using only the output of an ordinary video camera, the system’s performance is already comparable to that of special-purpose robotic object-recognition systems that factor in depth measurements as well as visual information.”
“One of the holy grails of robotic surgery is the ability to perform minimally invasive procedures guided by real-time scans from a magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, machine. The problem is the space inside MRI scanners is tight for a person, let alone a person and a robot. What’s more, these machines use very strong magnetic fields, so metal is not a good thing to place inside of them, a restriction that is certainly a problem for robots. Now researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) are developing a MRI-compatible robotic surgery tool that can overcome those limitations. Their system isn’t made of metal, but instead has plastic parts and ceramic piezoelectric motors that allow it to work safely inside an MRI.”
As drought strikes broad regions of the world, farmers are focusing on the crops that can feed people—not the crops that can power their cars. But what if there was an energy crop that could grow where traditional crops can’t? Even in a drought? Enter the cactus.
John Payne's insight:
There's no obvious connection to robotics here, until you look at the problem of harvesting the seeds. Solve that and the rest is easy.
“The Boston-based Future of Life Institute (FLI) today announced the selection of 37 research teams around the world to which it plans to award about $7 million from Elon Musk and the Open Philanthropy Project as part of a first-of-its-kind grant program dedicated to “keeping AI robust and beneficial”.”
“Having taken on everyone from chess grandmasters to chefs, computers are further exploring their artistic side with computer scientists demonstrating how artificial neural networks can create works of art reminiscent of William Blake on opium using a technique called ‘Inceptionism’.”
“Statistically, the least reliable part of the car is ... the driver. Chris Urmson heads up Google's driverless car program, one of several efforts to remove humans from the driver's seat. He talks about where his program is right now, and shares fascinating footage that shows how the car sees the road and makes autonomous decisions about what to do next.”
For any of the VR headsets coming to market to succeed, there needs to be VR content to immerse ourselves in. Nokia is hoping to fill this burgeoning need with Ozo, the world's first commercially available VR camera aimed at content creation professionals.
John Payne's insight:
A likely early application for this device is on telepresence robots, but before long they'll probably also be used to provide sensory data for mapping and navigation. They'll probably be at their best suspended from balloons in still air.
“To jump, a water strider rises upward while smoothly pushing the water surface downward and closing four of its legs inward… The 68 milligram robot (with a 2-cm body) that the researchers designed to mimic this behavior is based closely on real water strider: the wire legs are coated with a superhydrophobic material, and curve up at the toes, just like the real insect.”
A startup called Deep Genomics plans to use deep learning to usher in a new era of personalized medicine by building a huge database that identifies gene variants and mutations never before observed or studied and determines how these link to various diseases.
“This study’s primary purpose was to assess the feasibility of new approaches for achieving our national goals in space. NexGen assembled a team of former NASA executives and engineers who assessed the economic and technical viability of an 'Evolvable Lunar Architecture' (ELA) that leverages commercial capabilities and services that are existing or likely to emerge in the near-term. We evaluated an ELA concept that was designed as an incremental, low-cost and low-risk method for returning humans to the Moon in a manner that directly supports NASA’s long-term plan to send humans to Mars. The ELA strategic objective is commercial mining of propellant from lunar poles where it will be transported to lunar orbit to be used by NASA to send humans to Mars.”
“Science fiction usually narrates how man created the AI monster that would almost wipe it out of existence, but it isn't the act of creating AI itself that would send man's history on a downward spiral. It would be the use of such artificial intelligence that is the more imminent danger. Forget Skynet or the Matrix. AI in the hands of man is already enough to wipe out mankind when it comes down to it. In short, it could be the irresponsible, not to mention unethical, use of artificial intelligence that could eventually lead to a future as dark or even darker than Terminator.”
“Join the Wyss Institute Popup Challenge, a design contest based around the laminate design techniques outlined at popupcad.org. We hope to grow the community of people who can design, build, and operate laminate devices and micromechanisms. If you are a student considering using popups for a class project, a researcher who has an application for a new robot, or simply want to learn about the process, then consider submitting your design to the contest! For more information please visit www.popupcad.org”
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