It's probably not something you'd say to a person writhing in agony on the floor, but physical pain can have its benefits. It is after all how kids learn to be wary of hot surfaces and carpenters to hit nails on the head. Researchers are now adapting this exercise in self-learning to an artificial nervous system for robots, a tool they believe will better equip these machines to avoid damage and preserve their – and our – well-being.
We send robots into all kinds of situations we wouldn't dare set foot in ourselves. From Fukushima's melted down nuclear plants to landmine-littered conflict zones, their insensitivity to pain and danger is indeed what can make them so useful. Flipping this on its head and making them feel as we do seems counter-productive, but scientists from Leibniz University of Hannover believe it could make robots more durable and safer for us to be around.
Researchers Johannes Kuehn and Professor Sami Haddadin have developed a pain-reflex controller for a BioTac fingertip sensor fitted to a Kuka robotic arm. They built a nervous robot-tissue model that is based on human skin, which helps the system determine how much pain should be felt by the machine in response to differing levels of force.
Visitors to a Pizza Hut in Asia will soon be able to place an order, ask about nutritional info and pay for their meal without even speaking to a member of staff, or at least a human one. A robot that can interact with customers, like a glorified self-checkout, is to be piloted at the restaurant.
While we've seen promising prototypes of computers that conform to the contours of human wrists and forearms, the technology isn't quite ready for mainstream adoption yet. But this hasn't stopped one forward-thinking team of researchers from coming up with a new way to power these wearable electronics, developing a soft, millimeter-scale battery that can be stretched over the skin like a band-aid.
Smartwatches are often criticised for their fiddly, hard to control interfaces. Now, a lab at Carnegie Mellon University has found a solution – a device that means the wearer's skin can be used as the touchscreen.
The Future Interfaces Group, part of the university, have created 'SkinTrack', which "enabled continuous tracking on the skin".
A ring, worn on the non-watch hand, emits a "high frequency AC signal" that connect to a sensing wristband, much like the strap of a traditional smartwatch, which is fitted with electrodes.
When the ring finger touches the watch-wearing hand, a signal is sent to the watch and allows wearers to navigate their device using their skin.
A number of commands are also possible - you can sign documents, for example, and tracing particular letters will bring up particular apps, for example ('E' for email or 'F' for Facebook). Users can also drag apps off of their device and onto their skin, creating "spatial shortcuts", as well as play games, using their finger and arm as controls.
Google knows the questions that people wouldn’t dare ask aloud, and it silently offers reams of answers. But it is a mistake to think of a search engine as an oracle for anonymous queries. It isn’t. Not even close.
In some cases, the most intimate questions a person is asking—about health worries, relationship woes, financial hardship—are the ones that set off a chain reaction that can have troubling consequences both online and offline.
All this is because being online increasingly means being put into categories based on a socioeconomic portrait of you that’s built over time by advertisers and search engines collecting your data—a portrait that data brokers buy and sell, but that you cannot control or even see. (Not if you’re in the United States, anyway.)
Consider, for example, a person who googles “need rent money fast” or “can’t pay rent.” Among the search results that Google returns, there may be ads that promise to help provide payday loans—ads designed to circumvent Google’s policies against predatory financial advertising. They’re placed by companies called lead generators, and they work by collecting and distributing personal information about consumers online. So while Google says it bans ads that guarantee foreclosure prevention or promise short-term loans without conveying accurate loan terms, lead generators may direct consumers to a landing page where they’re asked to input sensitive identifiable information. Then, payday lenders buy that information from the lead generators and, in some cases, target those consumers—online, via phone, and by mail—for the very sorts of short-term loans that Google prohibits.
Facebook has added options to its On This Day tool, giving users more control over things they'd rather not have dredged up from their past.
The new preferences tab lets users edit memories and decide which people, events and time periods the social network should serve up -- and which it should leave well and truly in the past.
Since launching in March, On This Day has come under fire for casually forcing its users to relive sad, and sometimes even traumatic, memories they thought they'd left behind. But now Facebook seems to be taking cues from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by giving its users more control over what they see.
An over-reliance on using computers and search engines is weakening people's memories, according to a study.
It showed many people use computers instead of memorising information.
Many adults who could still recall their phone numbers from childhood could not remember their current work number or numbers of family members.
Maria Wimber from the University of Birmingham said the trend of looking up information "prevents the build-up of long-term memories".
The study, examining the memory habits of 6,000 adults in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, found more than a third would turn first to computers to recall information.
The UK had the highest level, with more than half "searching online for the answer first". Outsourcing memory
But the survey suggests relying on a computer in this way has a long-term impact on the development of memories, because such push-button information can often be immediately forgotten.
"Our brain appears to strengthen a memory each time we recall it, and at the same time forget irrelevant memories that are distracting us," said Dr Wimber.
COLLEGE students tell me they know how to look someone in the eye and type on their phones at the same time, their split attention undetected. They say it’s a skill they mastered in middle school when they wanted to text in class without getting caught. Now they use it when they want to be both with their friends and, as some put it, “elsewhere.”
These days, we feel less of a need to hide the fact that we are dividing our attention. In a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center, 89 percent of cellphone owners said they had used their phones during the last social gathering they attended. But they weren’t happy about it; 82 percent of adults felt that the way they used their phones in social settings hurt the conversation.
I’ve been studying the psychology of online connectivity for more than 30 years. For the past five, I’ve had a special focus: What has happened to face-to-face conversation in a world where so many people say they would rather text than talk? I’ve looked at families, friendships and romance. I’ve studied schools, universities and workplaces. When college students explain to me how dividing their attention plays out in the dining hall, some refer to a “rule of three.” In a conversation among five or six people at dinner, you have to check that three people are paying attention — heads up — before you give yourself permission to look down at your phone. So conversation proceeds, but with different people having their heads up at different times. The effect is what you would expect: Conversation is kept relatively light, on topics where people feel they can drop in and out.
We first saw WowWee's Miposaur robot at the London Toy Fair in January where it was self-balancing on two wheels similar to its older android sibling MiP. We recently tested out this T-rex's new features, which include an indoor GPS system for its TrackBall, a new phone app that extends the robot's abilities, and backwards compatibility with the old MiP to duke it out, virtual-laser-style.
In a world where machines can do many things as well as humans, one would like to hope there remain enclaves of human endeavour to which they simply cannot aspire.
Art, literature, poetry, music - surely a mere computer without world experience, moods, memories and downright human fallibility cannot create these.
Meet Aaron, a computer program that has been painting since the 1970s - big dramatic, colourful pieces that would not look out of place in a gallery.
The "paintings" Aaron does are realised mainly via a computer program and created on a screen although, when his work began being exhibited, a painting machine was constructed to support the program with real brushes and paint.
Aaron does not work alone of course. His painting companion is Harold Cohen, who has "spent half my life trying to get a computer program to do what only rather talented human beings can do".
A painter himself, he became interested in programming in the late 1960s at the same time as he was pondering his own art and asking whether it was possible to devise a set of rules and then "almost without thinking" make the painting by following the rules.
The programming behind Aaron - written in LISP, which was invented by one of the founding fathers of artificial intelligence, John McCarthy, back in the 1960s - attempts to do just that.
Some of Aaron's knowledge is about the position of body parts and how they fit together, while some of the other rules are decided by the machine.
It actually "knows" very little about the world - it recognises the shape of people, potted plants, trees and simple objects such as boxes and tables. Instead of teaching it ever more things, Mr Cohen has concentrated on making it "draw better".
And it has been a great pupil.
"The machine had become a world-class colourist - it was much more adventurous in terms of colour than I was," he told the BBC.
When we talk about artificial intelligence (AI) – which we have done lot recently, including my outline on The Conversation of liability and regulation issues – what do we actually mean?
AI experts and philosophers are beavering away on the issue. But having a usable definition of AI – and soon – is vital for regulation and governance because laws and policies simply will not operate without one.
This definition problem crops up in all regulatory contexts, from ensuring truthful use of the term “AI” in product advertising right through to establishing how next-generation automated weapons systems (AWSs) are treated under the laws of war.
True, we may eventually need more than one definition (just as “goodwill” means different things in different contexts). But we have to start somewhere so, in the absence of a regulatory definition at the moment, let’s get the ball rolling. Defining the terms: artificial and intelligence
For regulatory purposes, “artificial” is, hopefully, the easy bit. It can simply mean “not occurring in nature or not occurring in the same form in nature”. Here, the alternative given after the “or” allows for the possible future use of modified biological materials.
This, then, leaves the knottier problem of “intelligence”.
From a philosophical perspective, “intelligence” is a vast minefield, especially if treated as including one or more of “consciousness”, “thought”, “free will” and “mind”. Although traceable back to at least Aristotle’s time, profound arguments on these Big Four concepts still swirl around us.
In 2014, seeking to move matters forward, Dmitry Volkov, a Russian technology billionaire, convened a summit on board a yacht of leading philosophers, including Daniel Dennett, Paul Churchland, and David Chalmers.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, no consensus was reached, and Chalmers suggested that it was unlikely to emerge within the next century.
Fortunately for would-be regulators, though, the philosophical arguments might be sidestepped, at least for a while. Let’s take a step back and ask what a regulator’s immediate interest is here?
I would say that it is the work products of AI scientists and engineers, and any public welfare or safety risks that might arise from those products.
Logically, then, it is the way that the majority of AI scientists and engineers treat “intelligence” that is of most immediate concern.
Two experts on robotics and machine learning will reveal breakthrough developments in humanlike robots and machine learning at the annual SXSW conference in Austin next March, in a proposed* panel called “The Holy Grail: Machine Learning + Extreme Robotics.”
Participants will interact with Hanson Robotics’ forthcoming state-of-the-art female Sophia robot as a participant on the panel as she spontaneously tracks human faces, listens to speech, and generates a natural-language response while participating in dialogue about the potential of genius machines.
This conversation on the future of advanced robotics combined with machine learning and cognitive science will feature visionary Hanson Robotics founder/CEO David Hanson and Microsoft executive Jim Kankanias, who heads Program Management for Information Management and Machine Learning in the Cloud + Enterprise Division at Microsoft. The panel will be moderated by Hanson Robotics consultant Eric Shuss.
While your smartphone is an easy conduit for all-emoji conversation, things get a little tough when you find yourself at a regular old laptop. Sure, keyboard shortcuts can get you there, but PC-made discussion is still dominated by… you know, words. Until now! Emoji Key is a set of stickers you can throw on top of your lettered keyboard. Then you just have to install the emoji keyboard on your laptop (the site includes instructions), and boom: You are typing in nothing but emoji. And yes, this would probably get confusing eventually.
Lots of prosthetic feet are available, but most are built to fit men’s shoes, and none can adjust to a heel more than 2 inches high. That’s less than the average women’s heel height in the US, according to the creators of a new, taller option.
Five mechanical engineering students from Johns Hopkins University and their advisors have developed what would be the first non-custom-made prosthetic foot on the market that can adapt to heels 4 inches or higher.
Some 2,100 American women have lost a leg or foot in military service, and more are entering combat assignments, so the demand for a prosthesis that accommodates a range of shoes is expected to grow. The team—who created what they call the Prominence as their senior project—hope their work can help.
Facebook has apologized for banning a photo of a plus-sized model and telling the feminist group that posted the image that it depicts “body parts in an undesirable manner”.
Cherchez la Femme, an Australian group that hosts popular culture talkshows with “an unapologetically feminist angle”, said Facebook rejected an advert featuring Tess Holliday, a plus-sized model wearing a bikini, telling the group it violated the company’s “ad guidelines”.
After the group appealed against the rejection, Facebook’s ad team initially defended the decision, writing that the photo failed to comply with the social networking site’s “health and fitness policy”.
“Ads may not depict a state of health or body weight as being perfect or extremely undesirable,” Facebook wrote. “Ads like these are not allowed since they make viewers feel bad about themselves. Instead, we recommend using an image of a relevant activity, such as running or riding a bike.”
In a statement on Monday, Facebook apologized for its original stance and said it had determined that the photo does comply with its guidelines.
“Our team processes millions of advertising images each week, and in some instances we incorrectly prohibit ads,” the statement said. “This image does not violate our ad policies. We apologize for the error and have let the advertiser know we are approving their ad.”
Does your car “not want” to start on cold mornings? And does your toaster “like” burning your toast? This kind of intentional language is natural to us and built into the way we interact with the world – even with machines. This is because we have evolved to become extremely social animals, understanding others by forming mental models of what they are thinking. We use these skills to understand the behaviour of anything complicated we interact with, especially robots.
It’s almost like we believe that machines have minds of their own. And the fact that we perceive them as intelligent is partly why they have such potential. Robots are moving beyond industrial, commercial and scientific applications, and are already used in hospitals and care homes. Soon it will be normal to interact with robots in our daily lives, to complete useful tasks. Robots are also being used as companions, particularly for elderly patients with cognitive impairment such as dementia. After years of scientific study, this has proven very successful at improving long-term quality of life.
However, there are ethical concerns about vulnerable people forming relationships with machines, in some cases even believing them to be animals or people. Are robot designers intending to deceive patients? As robots become more important to us, how can we trust them not to mislead us, indeed should we trust them at all?
Chat bots are the tech du jour, and for good reason. No one likes the frustrating parts of customer service: the long hold times, multiple transfers, repeated requests for information, and unresolved issues. Bots offer the promise of personalized service — at lower cost and larger scale — by removing humans from the equation.
There’s huge potential upside for brands and consumers alike, especially now that Facebook is in the game, bringing with it the developer ecosystem and user base to make chatbots mainstream. That said, we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking chatbots, and more broadly, AI, will replace humans — despite dystopian fantasies that machines will soon rule the world. If you’ll recall, mobile apps were going to kill the Web, just as email and online forms were going to kill the phone call. Neither has proven true.
Chatbots will change how consumers and brands do business, but they won’t make humans obsolete. In fact, I believe quite the opposite: that bots have the potential to help us improve the customer experience precisely by letting humans do what we do best. There’s a time and a place for bots
For the foreseeable future, bots will be most useful as shortcuts for simple interactions — for example, to get a quick response with limited input-output options. So, we might chat with a bot to check when a package will arrive, to buy a toaster based on recent user reviews, or to set up a recurring snack delivery for the office. We’ll knowingly talk to brands via Facebook Messenger (or LINE, WhatsApp, and so forth), but only for specific actions.
Gmail users are set to benefit from Google's machine learning research with Smart Reply. The system will use a deep neural network to not only analyze incoming emails for what information is required to form an appropriate response, but to propose three likely replies, with the end result enabling mobile users to respond quickly to emails.
Google's research blog details the initial challenge and the science that went into creating the technology. Crucial is a concept called sequence-to-sequence learning, already used in Google translation and a chatbot the search giant released earlier this year.
In sequence-to-sequence learning, two neural networks fuse both understanding a language and synthesizing language. The decoding network creates a thought vector by transcribing each word individually into a number, based on its context within the rest of the text. This grants the network the "idea" of the email.
The encoding network then generates potential responses, obviously not knowing which the human user might be partial to, but all of them making sense in the context of the decoded message and presenting suitable alternatives.
A realistic 3D-printed robotic finger using a shape memory alloy (SMA) and a unique thermal training technique has been developed by Florida Atlantic University assistant professor Erik Engeberg, Ph.D.
“We have been able to thermomechanically train our robotic finger to mimic the motions of a human finger, like flexion and extension,” said Engeberg. “Because of its light weight, dexterity and strength, our robotic design offers tremendous advantages over traditional mechanisms, and could ultimately be adapted for use as a prosthetic device, such as on a prosthetic hand.”
Most robotic parts used today are rigid, have a limited range of motion and don’t look lifelike.
In the study, described in an open-access article in the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, Engeberg and his team used a resistive heating process called “Joule” heating that involves the passage of electric currents through a conductor that releases heat.
How to create a robotic finger
The researchers first downloaded a 3-D computer-aided design (CAD) model of a human finger from the Autodesk 123D website (under creative commons license). With a 3-D printer, they created the inner and outer molds that housed a flexor and extensor actuator and a position sensor. The extensor actuator takes a straight shape when it’s heated and the flexor actuator takes a curved shape when heated. They used SMA plates and a multi-stage casting process to assemble the finger. Electric currents flow through each SMA actuator from an electric power source at the base of the finger as a heating and cooling process to operate the robotic finger.
Results from the study showed a rapid flexing and extending motion of the finger and ability to recover its trained shape accurately and completely, confirming the biomechanical basis of its trained shape.
Technology plays a key role in teenage romance from initial encounters to eventual break-ups, says a US study.
Teenagers rarely meet online but do use technology for flirting, asking out, meeting up and parting, American think tank, the Pew Research Center, found.
A survey of 1,060 US teenagers aged 13 to 17 revealed that technology brings them closer but also breeds jealousy.
"Digital platforms are powerful tools for teens," said Amanda Lenhart, lead author of the report from Pew.
"But even as teens enjoy greater closeness with partners and a chance to display their relationships for others to see, mobile and social media can also be tools for jealousy, meddling and even troubling behaviour." Digital romance, broken down
Of the 1,060 teenagers surveyed:
35% said they were currently dating and 59% of that group said technology made them feel closer to their partner For boys who were dating, 65% said social media made them more connected to a significant other while it was 52% for girls 27% of dating teenagers thought social media made them feel jealous or insecure in relationships 50% of all teens surveyed, dating or not, said they had indicated interest by friending someone on Facebook or other social media and 47% expressed attraction by likes and comments Texting is king - 92% of teens who were dating said they texted a partner, assuming the partner would check in with "great regularity" Jealousy happens, but not as much as flirting does - 11% of teenage daters reported accessing a partner's online accounts and 16% reported having a partner asking them to de-friend someone
What gets discussed during all those frequent social media enabled check-ins?
According to the survey, it is mostly "funny stuff" followed by "things you're thinking about" as well as other information such as where they are and what their friends have been doing.
And forget having to meet up to resolve a conflict - 48% of dating teenagers said that could be done by texting or talking online.
One of the best scenes from Larry David’s tour-de-neuroses Curb Your Enthusiasm opens with Larry sitting at a restaurant. As cheesy music plays, the camera pans out, revealing the guy at the table next to him. He’s sitting alone, but jabbering loudly, reminding someone we can’t see that “on no planet is a shoe caddy a good gift.”
Then comes the reveal: Cut to the other side of this joker’s head, and there’s his Bluetooth headset. Larry, tired of his crap, starts talking loudly to himself. Eventually he fights with the guy next to him, and then they both go back to complaining to the empty chairs in front of them. Jerks.
The episode aired in 2007. Mercifully, the “Bluedouche” problem went away for a while after that—it was replaced by people sitting in silence, staring into their screens, which is at least easier to sit next to. Things are changing again: As we become more reliant on Siri, Google Now, Cortana, and the world of virtual assistants and voice-based apps and platforms, we’re starting to talk to our phones again. But this time, it should be way better.
Right now, we really only had one way to talk to our gadgets: We tap a button, bring the bottom half of our phone to our mouth, and speak extra-clearly into it. But few believe that’s how it’ll always be—and they have plenty of pop culture examples of this future. The earbud from Her, the screens-everywhere world of Total Recall, or the computer in Star Trek. But mostly it’s the earbud from Her.
Everywhere you turn, there’s a company working on this kind of wireless, unobtrusive, forget-it’s-in-there earpiece. Bragi’s Dash is probably the most commonly-cited example, but there’s also the Pearbuds, the OwnPhones, the Motorola Hint, the HearNotes, the Earin buds, the Truebuds, and countless others from companies big and small.
One of the ultimate aims of artificial intelligence is to create machines we can chat to.
A computer program that can be trusted with mundane tasks - booking our holiday, reminding us of dentist appointments and offering useful advice about where to eat - but also one that can discuss the weather and answer offbeat questions.
Alan Turing, one of the first computer scientists to think about artificial intelligence, devised a test to judge whether a machine was "thinking".
He suggested that if, after a typewritten conversation, a human was fooled into believing they had talked to another person rather than a computer program, the AI would be judged to have passed.
These days we chat to machines on a regular basis via our smart devices.
Whether it be Siri, Google Now or Cortana, most of us have a chatbot in our pockets.
Anyone who's had to take on job responsibilities from someone who left the company months ago will appreciate this robotic system designed with the International Space Station (ISS) in mind. With the design challenge of retaining important experiential information between rotating crews of astronauts, French researchers used the popular Nao robot to form an "autobiographical memory" of human interactions and pass on the know-how to new crew members.
Led by Peter Ford Dominey, the team at the French Institute of Health and Medical Research chose the Nao humanoid robot because its programmable platform makes it one of the most evolved robots available on the market. With the system, humans can teach the Nao new actions through directly manipulating its joints, allowing it to mimic them by capturing their movements via a Kinect, or using voice commands. The Nao stores these interactions along with the context, such as who else was involved, when it took place, and a video of the demonstration.
In a video of sample interactions (shown below), a technician first teaches the Nao some basic interactions, like how to hold a smart card, and creates a plan for repair by syncing up commands and instructions for the Nao, including tipping its head forward to record the interaction. He then proceeds through a sample repair with Nao's assistance.
The way you experience YouTube may be dramatically different before the end of the year. According to multiple sources, the world’s largest video-sharing site is preparing to launch its two separate subscription services before the end of 2015 — Music Key, which has been in beta since last November, and another unnamed service targeting YouTube’s premium content creators, which will come with a paywall. Taken together, YouTube will be a mix of free, ad-supported content and premium videos that sit behind a paywall.
With the exception of a few video rentals, YouTube has always been a free, ad-supported service. But the company is about to get serious about subscription services, offering new ways for the users that create videos to make money. While two subscription offerings for the same service might seem odd to some — with one music industry source calling it "strange on top of strange" — YouTube’s thinking was likened to that of a cable company offering different packages for sports and movies.
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