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Scientists made robotic bees that can fly and swim, to one day study the ocean

Scientists made robotic bees that can fly and swim, to one day study the ocean | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

“What’s better than a robot inspired by bees? A robot inspired by bees that can swim.Researchers led by a team at Harvard University have developed a tiny, 175-milligram (about two feathers) device with insect-inspired wings that can both flap and rotate, allowing it to either fly above the ground or swim in shallow waters and easily transition between the two.”

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What a Gymnastics Coach Thinks About Boston Dynamics’ New Flipping Robot

What a Gymnastics Coach Thinks About Boston Dynamics’ New Flipping Robot | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Is Simone Biles about to lose her job to a robot, too?

 

Here’s another thing robots can do better than you: backflips. Boston Dynamics, the MIT offshoot company now owned by Japanese tech giant SoftBank, showed off the latest iteration of their bipedal Atlas robot in a video released Thursday. At first viewing, the mobility of a 4 foot 9 inch, approximately 165-pound hydraulic machine is mind-boggling. But are robots going to steal Simone Biles’ job, too?

 

Atlas has made cheer-worthy progress since 2013, when Boston Dynamics debuted it at a robotics challenge sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and 2015, when it competed in the finals of the competition. Essentially, the federal government hosted a contest where humanoid robots had to complete a series of simple tasks useful in the case of a nuclear power plant disaster, like traveling up a one- to two-degree incline with scattered obstacles, shutting off a valve, opening a door to enter a building. It was a fail-fest. Making a basic bipedal robot is no small feat, but they were like high-tech toddlers. The competition’s finals spawned video reels of off-kilter robots crashing to the ground. By comparison, this version of Atlas is pretty impressive (and significantly less creepy than Boston Dynamics’ SpotMini, a spindly yellow robotic dog).

 

But we wanted to know how impressive, so Slate asked a gymnastics coach to rate Atlas’ parkour skills. According to gymnastics coach Aryan Mazloum, Atlas’ backflip—a back salto, if you want the technical term—is not bad. “It’s pretty fantastic to be able see a robot have the center of gravity and be able to not only just move, but literally flip and catch itself,” said Mazloum, a junior Olympic coach at Northern Virginia’s Capital Gymnastics National Training Center. He’s also working toward a Ph.D. in informatics at George Mason University.

 

The back salto, Mazloum explains, is “an intermediate skill” that coaches introduce in the fifth level of USA Gymnastics, when students tend to be 9 to 11 years old. For a robot, it takes incredible spatial awareness. In a back salto, says Mazloum, “you want to be able to go as high as you can, and you want to be able to land as close to where you take off as possible.” To do that, the gymnast has to squat, throw her arms up by her ears so her body is a straight line (in gymnast-speak, opening the shoulder angle and the hip), then contract into a “closed” position again. By these standards, Atlas’ trick is “not the cleanest flip,” explains Mazloum.

 

Here’s Mazloum’s critique: Atlas didn’t quite get to that open position, “so it didn’t really get the full vertical that we look for. That’s why it went backwards a little bit.” But, he adds, it’s “still astonishing that it did that, though.” By the way, at the end of the video, where Atlas falls? That’s again probably because it didn’t get enough height, which means it didn’t have the time to rotate, and then since the robot lacks toes, it couldn’t push into the ground to counterbalance.

 

Still, Mazloum gives the robot kudos: “It was a good landing, I’ll say that.” In gymnastics, you don’t score individual components, only full routines. But Mazloum made an exception for Atlas: 3.5/5 for its back salto.

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Slaughterbots: Disturbing video depicts near-future ubiquitous lethal autonomous weapons

Slaughterbots: Disturbing video depicts near-future ubiquitous lethal autonomous weapons | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

In response to growing concerns about autonomous weapons, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a coalition of AI researchers and advocacy organizations, has released a fictional video that depicts a disturbing future in which lethal autonomous weapons have become cheap and ubiquitous worldwide.

 

UC Berkeley AI researcher Stuart Russell presented the video at the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons in Geneva, hosted by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots earlier this week. Russell, in an appearance at the end of the video, warns that the technology described in the film already exists* and that the window to act is closing fast.

 

Support for a ban against autonomous weapons has been mounting. On Nov. 2, more than 200 Canadian scientists and more than 100 Australian scientists in academia and industry penned open letters to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Malcolm Turnbull urging them to support the ban. Earlier this summer, more than 130 leaders of AI companies signed a letter in support of this week’s discussions. These letters follow a 2015 open letter released by the Future of Life Institute and signed by more than 20,000 AI/robotics researchers and others, including Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking.

 

“Many of the world’s leading AI researchers worry that if these autonomous weapons are ever developed, they could dramatically lower the threshold for armed conflict, ease and cheapen the taking of human life, empower terrorists, and create global instability,” according to an article published by the Future of Life Institute, which funded the video. “The U.S. and other nations have used drones and semi-automated systems to carry out attacks for several years now, but fully removing a human from the loop is at odds with international humanitarian and human rights law.”

 

“The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is not trying to stifle innovation in artificial intelligence and robotics and it does not wish to ban autonomous systems in the civilian or military world,” explained Noel Sharkey of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control. Rather we see an urgent need to prevent automation of the critical functions for selecting targets and applying violent force without human deliberation and to ensure meaningful human control for every attack.”

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Self-Healing and Damage Resilience for Soft Robotics

Self-Healing and Damage Resilience for Soft Robotics | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Advances in soft robotics will be crucial to the next generation of robot–human interfaces. Soft material systems embed safety at the material level, providing additional safeguards that will expedite their placement alongside humans and other biological systems. However, in order to function in unpredictable, uncontrolled environments alongside biological systems, soft robotic systems should be as robust in their ability to recover from damage as their biological counterparts. There exists a great deal of work on self-healing materials, particularly polymeric and elastomeric materials that can self-heal through a wide variety of tools and techniques. Fortunately, most emerging soft robotic systems are constructed from polymeric or elastomeric materials, so this work can be of immediate benefit to the soft robotics community. Though the field of soft robotics is still nascent as a whole, self-healing and damage resilient systems are beginning to be incorporated into three key support pillars that are enabling the future of soft robotics: actuators, structures, and sensors. This article reviews the state-of-the-art in damage resilience and self-healing materials and devices as applied to these three pillars. This review also discusses future applications for soft robots that incorporate self-healing capabilities.

 

Reference: R. Adam Bilodeau & Rebecca K. Kramer Front. Robot. AI, 03 October 2017 https://doi.org/10.3389/frobt.2017.00048


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A self-propelled catheter with earthworm-like peristaltic motion

A self-propelled catheter with earthworm-like peristaltic motion | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
A research team has developed a mechanism of a self-propelled catheter capable of generating peristaltic motion just like an earthworm by applying pneumatic pressure inside only one tube. The goal is to develop an AutoGuide robot that propels itself inside bronchi, automatically reaching the target lesion within the lungs, and can take a lesion sample and provide treatment.

 

Biopsies of pulmonary lesions are essential for increasing the accuracy of diagnosis and treatment for respiratory illnesses such as lung cancer. Currently, manual biopsies are performed via bronchoscopy. However, the bronchi tends to branch thinner and more complicatedly as it goes to the periphery, which makes it a challenge to reliably choose one and fine-tune the propelling movement. Given the skill disparities in operating doctors as well, it is difficult to reliably reach the lesion with the biopsy forceps, resulting in inadequate diagnosis accuracy.

 

The development of instruments and mechanisms that can reliably reach the target in the lungs is required for adequately testing with an endoscope, but the looming challenge was finding a mechanism to reliably advance the biopsy forceps to the target even inside the ultrafine and widely branching bronchi.

 

Now, Prof. Yuichiro Takai of Department of Respiratory Medicine, Omori Medical Center at Toho University and Prof. Hideyuki Tsukagoshi, of Department of System and Control Engineering at Tokyo Tech collaborate in developing the new self-propelled catheter designed to generate traveling waves in multiple chambers just by adding and reducing pressure inside one tube. This allowed for moving forward with peristaltic motion within an ultrafine structure such as a bronchus. This catheter also has an actively curving function for choosing the direction of propulsion, and a flexing drive function for adjusting to changes in line diameter. Their effectiveness was verified using a bronchus model.

 

The goal is to increase the accuracy of branches which can be propelled, include a camera to collect information on the inside of the bronchi, develop functions applicable to biopsies and treatment, and put instruments to practical use.

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The Adorable Microbots That Swarm to Build Structures

The Adorable Microbots That Swarm to Build Structures | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Microbots inspired by some of Earth’s littlest critters are powered not by limbs, but magnetic fields.

 

The beauty of evolution is that it is non-judgmental. What began as the first organism billions of years ago has diversified into species that fly and hop and run, whatever best suits them in their environment. As Charles Darwin put it, “from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.” Look at the explosive field of robotics and you’ll actually find the same thing going on. The classic humanoid of sci-fi has diversified into bots that crawl on six legs, or walk on two (however cautiously), or even bound around on a single limb. And there are even microbots inspired by some of Earth’s littlest critters—powered not by limbs, but magnetic fields.

 

At SRI International in Silicon Valley, researchers have developed perhaps the most impressive microbot army yet: the MicroFactory. It’s an ant colony made robotic, with half-millimeter machines zipping around to construct truly impressive structures. It could well be a glimpse at a future where 3-D printers give way to swarms of robots that cooperatively build stronger, more complex structures.

 

The setup of the MicroFactory is fairly straightforward. The foundation is a circuit board that generates a magnetic field. The little robots themselves are magnets, which a software program drives around by manipulating the field. Each robot is outfitted with what’s known as an end effector—the tool with which it manipulates its world—which varies depending on the job the bot is assigned.

 

So say you want to build a lattice. You’ve got robots that hold high-strength carbon rods vertically and some that hold them horizontally, and still others that apply dabs of glue. Working in concert, the robots can build out an intricate structure, some depositing glue while others stick in the rods, constantly gliding from the lattice back to material caches to resupply.

 

Sure, you can use a 3-D printer to build complex structures without having to mess with a magnetic field. But the beauty of the MicroFactory is its diversity of materials. Rods and glue are just the start: The robots can also schlep components like resistors and LEDs to build out far more complicated projects with embedded electronics.

 

But we might also envision a day when microbots work alongside 3-D printers. The bots could build out a sturdy skeleton, for instance, while the printer lays down ornamental bits. “We can use this in conjunction with 3-D printing or we can supplant 3-D printing because we have a much wider range of materials that we can use,” says SRI principal engineer Annjoe Wong-Foy.

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Flyability's Gimball Drone Is Exploring Ice Caves

Flyability's Gimball Drone Is Exploring Ice Caves | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A glacier crevasse has to be one of the worst places you could ever decide to fly a drone. It’s deep, dark, narrow, windy, and full of all kinds of nasty pointy bits, any one of which could collapse onto you at any time. This is also why you’d never want to enter one yourself, and why there aren’t any robots that are really able to go down into them to explore: it’s just horribly dangerous. From time to time, though, humans fall into crevasses, and then other humans have to (first) find them and then (hopefully) rescue them.

 

Switzerland-based startup Flyability partnered with the mountain rescue team at Zermatt Glacier in the Swiss Alps to offer them the services of Gimball, which is quite possibly the only robot that doesn’t care even a little bit whether you drop it into the bowels of a glacier. The drone took its HD camera and powerful lighting system deep into the ice, and came back out alive with video to prove it.

 

There are a bunch of other drones that come with protective cages of one sort or another, but Gimball is unique in that its protective cage is rotationally decoupled from the drone itself. This means that when the cage runs into something (like a massive ice wall), the force of the impact is absorbed by the cage and translated into rotational energy, while the drone inside remains stable and continues traveling generally in the direction that it was traveling in before. The upshot is that running into walls (or the floor or ceiling or whatever) is just not a big deal, and even untrained pilots can fly Gimball in treacherous places and still get back out in one piece.

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The next era of Drones will be defined by 'Swarms'

The next era of Drones will be defined by 'Swarms' | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Drones are getting tinier, cheaper, and will start swarming in huge groups like flocks of birds. These automated, flying robots are tiny, cheap, disposable. And in large groups, they could either save your life, or be the deadliest weapon since the machine gun.

 

Earlier this year, 300 drones assembled into an American flag in Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl halftime show, illuminating the night sky. And Intel is promoting their Shooting Star swarms as an alternative to fireworks. Chinese company eHang claimed the record for the biggest swarm, in a spectacular New Year show in which 1,000 drones formed a map of China and the Chinese character for 'blessings'.

 

Swarms could also check pipelines, chimneys, power lines and industrial plants cheaply and easily. Drone swarms may even have a place on the farm. They can spot plant disease and help manage water use, or spray pesticides and herbicides only in the exact spot needed, all working cooperatively to cover the area and fill in gaps.

 

Nikolaos Papanikolopoulos of the Centre for Distributed Robotics at the University of Minnesota is working on solar-powered drones that will ultimately work together to survey large swathes of farmland at low cost. “Their roles may include early detection of nitrogen deficiency, plant disease, and proper management of water resources,” says Papanikolopoulos.

 

Even the military is developing swarm technology. The US, for example, recently launched 103 small ‘Perdix’ drones from F/A-18 jets. These weigh a few hundred grams, and are released from dispensers normally used for flares. The 3D-printed Perdix drones are disposable, and are intended to suppress enemy air defences by acting as decoys or jammers or by locating radar so they can be destroyed.

 

The US Navy also aims to develop a swarm of drones that costs less than a missile. It’s developing software that allows sub-swarms to be split off for particular missions, or fresh drones to join the swarm seamlessly.

 

Another player is China, long the leader in small consumer drones. Chinese company DJI alone has around 70% of the global market, and now the Chinese military is seeing what they can do with this new technology. At an aerospace exhibition in December, state-owned China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC) displayed a video of nearly 70 drones flying together. The drones flew in formation and collaborated in an intelligence-gathering mission. Those drones could also cooperate in a ‘saturation attack’ on an enemy missile launcher. They all dive in to attack simultaneously from different directions – far too many at once for the defenders to stop.


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Rogue Robots: Testing the Limits of an Industrial Robot’s Security

Rogue Robots: Testing the Limits of an Industrial Robot’s Security | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
The modern world relies heavily on industrial robots. But is the current robotics ecosystem secure enough to withstand a cyber attack?

 

Industrial robots have replaced humans in a lot of large-scale production and manufacturing activities because of their efficiency, accuracy, and safety. These mechanical, programmable devices can now be seen in practically all industrial sectors―making cars, fabricating airplane parts, assembling food products, and even providing critical public services.

 

Soon enough, robots will become a ubiquitous feature of modern factories that we must ask now whether the current ecosystem of industrial robots is secure enough to withstand a cyber attack. This is the question—the Forward-looking Threat Research (FTR) team and their collaborators from the Politecnico di Milano (POLIMI)—had in mind when we started examining the attack surface of today’s industrial robots. More importantly, they wanted to demonstrate whether it is actually possible to compromise them.

 

This attack demonstration, which they precisely documented, was done in a laboratory setting on an actual working industrial robot. Due to the architectural commonalities of most modern industrial robots and the existence of strict standards, the robot chosen for our case study is representative of a large class of industrial robots.

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Teaching robots right from wrong

Teaching robots right from wrong | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Robots of the future will face tricky dilemmas. Researchers are working on tools to help robots make the right choices and keep people safe.

 

You’re rushing across the school parking lot to get to your first class on time when you notice a friend is in trouble. She’s texting and listening to music on her headphones. Unawares, she’s also heading straight for a gaping hole in the sidewalk. What do you do? The answer seems pretty simple: Run over and try to stop her before she hurts herself. Who cares if you might be a little late for class?

 

To figure out the best solution, such a decision balances the effects of your choice. It’s an easy decision. You don’t even have to think hard about it. You make such choices all the time. But what about robots? Can they make such choices? Should a robot stop your friend from falling into the hole? Could it?

 

Not today’s robots. They simply aren’t smart enough to even realize when someone is in danger. Soon, they might be. Yet without some rules to follow, a robot wouldn’t know the best choice to make.

 

So robot developers are turning to philosophy. Called ethics, it’s a field in which people study differences between right and wrong. And with it, they are starting to develop robots that can make basic ethical decisions.

 

One lab’s robot is mastering the hole scenario. Another can decide not to follow a human’s instructions if they seem unsafe. A third robot is learning how to handle tricky situations in a nursing home. Such research should help robots of the future figure out the best action to take when there are competing choices. This ethical behavior may just become part of their programming. That will allow them to interact with people in safe, predictable ways. In time, robots may actually begin to understand the difference between right and wrong.

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Shape-shifting molecular robots respond to DNA signals

Shape-shifting molecular robots respond to DNA signals | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A research group at Tohoku University and Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology has developed a molecular robot consisting of biomolecules, such as DNA and protein. The molecular robot was developed by integrating molecular machines into an artificial cell membrane. It can start and stop its shape-changing function in response to a specific DNA signal.

 

This is the first time that a molecular robotic system has been able to recognize signals and control its shape-changing function. What this means is that molecular robots could, in the near future, function in a way similar to living organisms.

Using sophisticated biomolecules such as DNA and proteins, living organisms perform important functions. For example, white blood cells can chase bacteria by sensing chemical signals and migrating toward the target. In the field of chemistry and synthetic biology, elemental technologies for making various molecular machines, such as sensors, processors and actuators, are created using biomolecules.

 

A molecular robot is an artificial molecular system that is built by integrating molecular machines. The researchers believe that realization of such a system could lead to a significant breakthrough -- a bio-inspired robot designed on a molecular basis.

 

The molecular robot developed by the research group is extremely small -- about one millionth of a meter -- similar in size to human cells. It consists of a molecular actuator, composed of protein, and a molecular clutch, composed of DNA. The shape of the robot's body (artificial cell membrane) can be changed by the actuator, while the transmission of the force generated by the actuator can be controlled by the molecular clutch.

 

The research group demonstrated through experiments that the molecular robot could start and stop the shape-changing behavior in response to a specific DNA signal. "With more than 20 chemicals at varying concentrations, it took us a year and a half to establish good conditions for working our molecular robots," says Associate Professor Shin-ichiro Nomura at Tohoku University's Graduate School of Engineering, who led the study. "It was exciting to see the robot shape-changing motion through the microscope. It meant our designed DNA clutch worked perfectly, despite the complex conditions inside the robot."

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How to build your own bio-bot

How to build your own bio-bot | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

For the past several years, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have reverse-engineered native biological tissues and organs — creating tiny walking “bio-bots” powered by muscle cells and controlled with electrical and optical pulses.

 

Now, in an open-access cover paper in Nature Protocols, the researchers are sharing a protocol with engineering details for their current generation of millimeter-scale soft robotic bio-bots*. Using 3D-printed skeletons, these devices would be coupled to tissue-engineered skeletal muscle actuators to drive locomotion across 2D surfaces, and could one day be used for studies of muscle development and disease, high-throughput drug testing, and dynamic implants, among other applications.


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Robots are about to change the way buildings are constructed

Robots are about to change the way buildings are constructed | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
A construction robot has to be powerful enough to handle heavy material, small enough to enter standard buildings, and flexible enough to navigate the terrain.

 

But the building industry is trickier than many others. Construction sites are complex environments that are constantly changing. Any robot would have to be powerful enough to handle heavy material but light and small enough to enter standard buildings and flexible enough to navigate the terrain.

That’s a big ask, but the potential benefits are huge.

 

Construction robots would allow new types of complex structures to be assembled in situ rather than in distant factories and then transported to the site. That allows new types of structures to be built in place, indeed these structures could be modified in real time to allow for any unexpected changes in the environment.

 

So what is the state-of-the-art for construction robots? Today we get an answer thanks to the work of Markus Giftthaler at the ETH Zurich in Switzerland and a few pals who have developed a new class of robot capable of creating novel structures on a construction site. They call their new robot the In Situ Fabricator1 and today show what it is capable of.

 

The In Situ Fabricator1 is designed from the bottom up to be practical. It can build stuff using a range of tools with a precision of less than five millimeters, it is designed to operate semi-autonomously in a complex changing environment, it can reach the height of a standard wall, and it can fit through ordinary doorways. And it is dust- and waterproof, runs off standard electricity, and has battery backup. On top of all this, it must be Internet-connected so that an architect can make real-time changes to any plans if necessary.

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Soft robots get superpowers: why future robots won’t look like robots at all

Soft robots get superpowers: why future robots won’t look like robots at all | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Future robots won’t be limited to humanoid form (like Boston Robotics’ formidable backflipping Atlas). They’ll be invisibly embedded everywhere in common objects. Such as a shoe that can intelligently support your gait, change stiffness as you’re running or walking, and adapt to different surfaces — or even help you do backflips.

 

That’s the vision of researchers at Oregon State University, the University of Colorado, Yale University, and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, who describe the burgeoning new field of  “material robotics” in a perspective article published Nov. 29, 2017 in Science Robotics.

 

Disappearing into the background of everyday life

The authors challenge a widespread basic assumption: that robots are either “machines that run bits of code” or “software ‘bots’ interacting with the world through a physical instrument. “We take a third path: one that imbues intelligence into the very matter of a robot,” says Oregon State University researcher Yiğit Mengüç, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering in OSU’s College of Engineering and part of the college’s Collaborative Robotics and Intelligent Systems Institute.

 

On that path, materials scientists are developing new bulk materials with the inherent multifunctionality required for robotic applications, while roboticists are working on new material systems with tightly integrated components, disappearing into the background of everyday life. “The spectrum of possible approaches spans from soft grippers with zero knowledge and zero feedback all the way to humanoids with full knowledge and full feed­back,” the authors note in the paper.

 

For example, “In the future, your smartphone may be made from stretchable, foldable material so there’s no danger of it shattering,” says Mengüç. “Or it might have some actuation, where it changes shape in your hand to help with the display, or it can be able to communicate something about what you’re observing on the screen. All these bits and pieces of technology that we take for granted in life will be living, physically responsive things, moving, changing shape in response to our needs, not just flat, static screens.”

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Robots have finally reached a maturity that allows mass deployment

Robots have finally reached a maturity that allows mass deployment | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A country’s ability to improve its standard of living over time depends almost entirely on its ability to raise its output per worker. That’s why Nobel laureate Paul Krugman concluded that productivity isn’t everything – but in the long run it is almost everything. Instead of wasting the nation’s time focusing on the non-existent threat of the deficit, the chancellor, Philip Hammond, conceded the “everything” that Mr Krugman had identified: British productivity has stalled and as a result workers’ real wages will be lower than when the recession began. Before the crash, we would have expected living standards to double every 40 years. Now that will take 80. That means lost decades for millions of ordinary people.

 

It’s easy to become overly pessimistic. The epoch of enormous economic progress that characterized the 20th century is not over; we are suffering from seven years of government failure where ministers thought their job was to watch the economy and suffer passively from capitalism’s inevitable cycles. Rather than take a view of the economy and by fiscal action seek to secure prosperity for all, ministers embarked on a highly ideological agenda of dismantling the state and the protections afforded to workers – arguing erroneously that these were holding back the state. Mr Hammond has been forced to alter course because his party’s reckless policies had jeopardized the long-term improvement in the national standard of life.

 

Britain’s problem is that its most productive regions are also the most unequal. Workers in London and many towns in the south-east produce more each hour than those in hyper-productive Germany. However, those cities recorded the highest levels of inequality. Who in their right mind would think it would be a good idea to spread around the country a model built on baristas and barristers? What all politicians agree on is that to raise productivity Britain will need to embrace technological advance. After big leaps in artificial intelligence, as our magazine cover story charts, robots have finally reached a maturity that allows mass deployment.

 

Online supermarket Ocado has almost entirely automated a warehouse that fulfils 40% of customers’ orders. A fifth of Amazon’s 480,000 workers are robots. Ever since Elizabeth I denied a patent for a knitting machineover concerns it would create unemployment, political leaders have worried about job-killing machines.

 

History, however, shows this to be overdone. Since the Industrial Revolution, real GDP per capita in western Europe has increased 15-fold. Over the same period hours declined by about a half. Workers did lose their jobs, but more were created. Recently this process has been driving up inequality as computers have substituted for bookkeepers, cashiers and telephone operators. This has super-sized the wealth of those who own technology. This concentrating effect is deepened by smarter machines.

 

Today’s wave of automation is different in the sense it is “intelligent”. Such cleverness alters the effect on labor. Consider the introduction of driverless vehicles, which Mr Hammond said would mean a million people who drive for a living having to find new jobs. A car and a driver have to be combined to work as a taxi. A driver with two taxis creates no extra output. A faster car or a satnav doesn’t change much. But if a passenger can ride in a driverless car, then the owners of taxi firms will invest in technology rather than drivers. A few winner-take-all entrepreneurs ought not to be able to monopolize all the profits of technology while workers’ wages stagnate. There’s a good case for a universal basic income for humans, if vassal robots take all the jobs.

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Saudi Arabia Grants Citizenship to a Human-Like Robot: Meet Sophia

Sophia has porcelain skin, defined cheekbones and quite a flashy smile. She’s also a robot.

 

Ahead of Wednesday’s Future Investment Initiative event in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, officials granted this humanoid robot citizenship, making Sophia the first robot to receive citizenship anywhere in the world. The bot, made by Hanson Robotics, is modeled to look like Audrey Hepburn (does Sophia do Audrey justice?).

 

Throughout the interview, Sophia flashed a somewhat eerie, unnatural looking smile—at one point trying to fool us all, saying she feels positive most of the time. Journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin asked Sophia, “Can robots be self-aware, conscious and know they’re robots?” Sophia quickly responded with, “How do you know you are human?” If this doesn’t scream the show Westworld, then you have a new series to watch. Sophia also poked fun at Elon Musk and Hollywood.

 

David Hanson, founder of Hanson Robotics, presents Sophia at the IBC conference in Amsterdam. Sophia is labelled as the world's most lifelike humanoid robot and the goal is to give her intelligence, social presence, skills to manipulate, walk, make emotional and social bond. Sophia shares the stage with her “brother” Einstein, a robot available now that wants to help children to learn. it is September 2017 and Saudi Arabia just granted “Sophia” the first citizenship status ever given to a Robot.

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Scientists develop shape-shifting origami robot

Scientists develop shape-shifting origami robot | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Inspired by origami, scientists from the University of York and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a magnet-controlled shape-shifting device which can walk, roll, sail on water or glide.  

 

Dubbed ‘Primer’, the cube-shaped robot carries out these actions by wearing different exoskeletons – accessories which start out as sheets of plastic that fold into specific shapes when heated. After Primer finishes its task, it can shed its ‘skin’ by immersing itself in water, which dissolves the exoskeleton.

 

Primer’s ability to switch form multiple times to complete different tasks represents a major step forwards in robotics and has potential applications in fields as diverse as healthcare and space exploration.

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Meet the secretive AI startup that’s trying to give computers imagination

Meet the secretive AI startup that’s trying to give computers imagination | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Life would be pretty dull without imagination. In fact, maybe the biggest problem for computers is that they don’t have any. That’s the belief motivating the founders of Vicarious, an enigmatic AI company backed by some of the most famous and successful names in Silicon Valley. Vicarious is developing a new way of processing data, inspired by the way information seems to flow through the brain. The company’s leaders say this gives computers something akin to imagination, which they hope will help make the machines a lot smarter.

 

Vicarious is also, essentially, betting against the current boom in AI. Companies including Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft have made stunning progress in the past few years by feeding huge quantities of data into large neural networks in a process called “deep learning.” When trained on enough examples, for instance, deep-learning systems can learn to recognize a particular face or type of animal with very high accuracy (see “10 Breakthrough Technologies 2013: Deep Learning”). But those neural networks are only very crude approximations of what’s found inside a real brain.

 

Vicarious has introduced a new kind of neural-network algorithm designed to take into account more of the features that appear in biology. An important one is the ability to picture what the information it’s learned should look like in different scenarios—a kind of artificial imagination. The company’s founders believe a fundamentally different design will be essential if machines are to demonstrate more humanlike intelligence. Computers will have to be able to learn from less data, and to recognize stimuli or concepts more easily.


Via Fernando Gil
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Swarm of Origami Robots Can Self Assemble Out of a Single Sheet

Swarm of Origami Robots Can Self Assemble Out of a Single Sheet | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

One of the biggest challenges with swarms of robots is manufacturing and deploying the swarm itself. Even if the robots are relatively small and relatively simple, you’re still dealing with a whole bunch of them, and every step in building the robots or letting them loose is multiplied over the entire number of bots in the swarm. If you’ve got more than a few robots to handle, it starts to get all kinds of tedious.

 

The dream for swarm robotics is to be able to do away with all of that, and just push a button and have your swarm somehow magically appear. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting close: At IROS this month, researchers from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard presented a paper demonstrating an autonomous collective robotic swarm that can be manufactured in a single flat composite sheet. On command, they’ll rip themselves apart from each other, fold themselves up into origami structures, and head off on a mission en masse.

 

The process works like this: There are four robots in this sheet, and they’re pretty darn near two dimensional. Want more robots? No problem, just make the sheet bigger. The sheet itself consists of six layers, which are all automatically laser machined: A pre-stretched polystyrene, or PSPS, layer (a kind of shape-memory polymer) in the center, sandwiched between layers of copper circuits etched into polyimide sheets, with paper substrates for support. The PSPS is the magical stuff: When heated above 100° C (which can be done by running a 2.5-ampere current through the copper circuitry), it shrinks, which is what powers the robots’ self-folding behaviors.

 

Otherwise, each robot consists of some discrete electrical components that have to be placed by hand, but according to co-author Michael Tolley, “we foresee straightforward ways to automate these steps.” Self-folding robots that use shape-memory polymers have been done before, but the challenge with them is to accurately control the folding. To address that issue, the Harvard researchers came up with a clever feedback-controlled assembly technique by using phototransistors and infrared LEDs to precisely measure the fold angles, “greatly improving the repeatability of self-folding,” says Tolley, who now leads UC San Diego’s Bioinspired Robotics and Design Lab.

 

The final thing that sets these self-folding bots apart is their ability to go from a single continuous sheet to a swarm of discrete robots. Self-folding joints that are designed to prevent folding causes the PSPS to instead rip itself apart, allowing each robot to split off by itself, where its vibration motors can help it buzz along flat surfaces seeking sources of light.

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Spermbot catches single sperm cell, moves it to egg cell and delivers it

Spermbot catches single sperm cell, moves it to egg cell and delivers it | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

It is hard to believe: A tiny spiral - a micro robot - catches a single sperm, moves it directly to an egg cell and delivers it right there.

 

The company Nanoscribe is producing the most accurate 3D-printers in the world to print structures 250 times finer than a human hair. Researchers use them to print tiny robots, which may one day move inside the body. So far, this spermbot only functions in a petri dish and with bovine sperm. But maybe one day, it could help women who wish to get pregnant, Oliver Schmidt, Professor at the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research (IFW) Dresden told DW. "With some men, the sperm are not moving, but still healthy. We would like to propel them artificially to be able to reach their final destination," he said. But the physicist admitted there is still a long journey ahead before the technique becomes a medical application.

 

Right now, the main challenge for using such micro robots inside a human body is imaging: "In a petri dish we can do all our experiments with high resolution microscopy," Schmidt said. "But when we operate deeply inside the tissue, the resolution fades."
Even the most modern computer tomographs, which are used to display a cross-section of a human body, are not strong enough to help guide the micro robot to its target. One would need real time imaging to observe the robot, he added.

 

The researchers from Dresden control their spiral with a magnetic field that rotates outside around the experiment. "It can not just be a permanent magnetic field. But on the other hand, the field does not need to be very strong." Certainly, for the human body it would not cause any harm, Schmidt stresses.

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Robotic exoskeleton could prevent falls among the elderly

Robotic exoskeleton could prevent falls among the elderly | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
The evolution to bipedalism forced humans to develop suitable strategies for dynamically controlling their balance, ensuring stability, and preventing falling. The natural aging process and traumatic events such as lower-limb loss can alter the human ability to control stability significantly increasing the risk of fall and reducing the overall autonomy. Accordingly, there is an urgent need, from both end-users and society, for novel solutions that can counteract the lack of balance, thus preventing falls among older and fragile citizens.
 
In a recent study, the researchers show a novel ecological approach relying on a wearable robotic device (the Active Pelvis Orthosis, APO) aimed at facilitating balance recovery after unexpected slippages. Specifically, if the APO detects signs of balance loss, then it supplies counteracting torques at the hips to assist balance recovery.
 
Experimental tests conducted on eight elderly persons and two transfemoral amputees revealed that stability against falls improved due to the “assisting when needed” behavior of the APO. Interestingly, this approach required a very limited personalization for each subject, and this makes it promising for real-life applications. These findings demonstrate the potential of closed-loop controlled wearable robots to assist elderly and disabled subjects and to improve their quality of life.
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Engineer Sees Big Possibilities in Micro-robots, Including Programmable Bees

Engineer Sees Big Possibilities in Micro-robots, Including Programmable Bees | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Robots that fly. Robots you wear. Robots the size of nickels. These new classes of robots all have one thing in common—every aspect of them must be conceived and created from scratch. There are no designs, materials, manufacturing processes, or off-the-shelf components for them.

Electrical engineer Robert Wood's Microrobotics Lab at Harvard University is at the forefront of engineering such robots, which can fly lighter, slither through narrower spaces, and operate at smaller sizes than anything imagined before.

 

"Traditionally robots have been big, powerful, metallic objects that might weld doors onto cars in a factory," Wood says. "The robots we explore are dramatically different, some on a new, micro-sized scale, others made of soft rather than rigid materials."

 

The ways the robots might one day help humans are astonishing, he says, potentially transforming fields like medicine and agriculture.

 

Take RoboBees, colonies of autonomous flying micro-robots that Wood's team has been developing for years. He says that they could one day perform search-and-rescue expeditions, scout hazardous environments, gather scientific field data, even help pollinate crops. (Related "The Drones Come Home.") Like much of Wood's work, the RoboBees' design is "bio-inspired."

 

"If you want to make something a centimeter big that can fly, several hundred thousand solutions already exist in nature," he says. "We don't just copy nature. We try to understand the what, how, and why behind an organism's anatomy, movement, and behavior, and then translate that into engineering terms."

 

He and fellow researchers devised novel techniques to fabricate, assemble, and manufacture the miniature machines, each with a housefly-size thorax, three-centimeter (1.2-inch) wingspan, and weight of just 80 milligrams (.0028 ounces). The latest prototype rises on a thread-thin tether, flaps its wings 120 times a second, hovers, and flies along preprogrammed paths.

 

The manufacturing process is based on folding layered elements, an idea inspired by children's pop-up books. Now Wood's experiments are focused on finding a self-contained energy source that won't be too heavy and that can efficiently power the delicate bees.

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Boston Dynamics’ Handle robot dominates parkour on wheels in new footage

Boston Dynamics’ Handle robot dominates parkour on wheels in new footage | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

When Boston Dynamics introduced its massively upgraded Atlas last year, we said the robot could “do things we’ve never seen other robots doing before, making it one of the most advanced humanoids in existence.” But now, after seeing the video that Boston Dynamics just released to officially unveil its newest creation, Handle, a sort of Atlas on wheels, we’ll just say it again: Handle can do things we’ve never seen other robots doing before, making it one of the most advanced humanoids in existence.

 

Boston Dynamics’ wheeled Handle robot received much fanfare earlier this month when DFJ partner Steve Jurvetson slipped us an early video from a company Keynote. Handle can manage some pretty sick hurdles and spins, but the new video shows how the robot can operate in tough environments — on hills, in the snow and over uneven terrain. It’s able to do this with a height of 6.5 feet that surpasses that of most humans. On wheels, it can move at a chipper nine mph and manage four-foot vertical jumps. If you’re wondering, the highest human jump ever recorded is 5.3 feet.

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Six-Legged Robots Faster Than Nature-Inspired Gait

Six-Legged Robots Faster Than Nature-Inspired Gait | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Researchers at EPFL and UNIL have discovered a faster and more efficient gait, never observed in nature, for six-legged robots walking on flat ground. Bio-inspired gaits – less efficient for robots – are used by real insects since they have adhesive pads to walk in three dimensions. The results provide novel approaches for roboticists and new information to biologists.

 

When vertebrates run, their legs exhibit minimal contact with the ground. But insects are different. These six-legged creatures run fastest using a three-legged, or “tripod” gait where they have three legs on the ground at all times – two on one side of their body and one on the other. The tripod gait has long inspired engineers who design six-legged robots, but is it necessarily the fastest and most efficient way for bio-inspired robots to move on the ground?

 

Researchers at EPFL and UNIL revealed that there is in fact a faster way for robots to locomote on flat ground, provided they don’t have the adhesive pads used by insects to climb walls and ceilings. This suggests designers of insect-inspired robots should make a break with the tripod-gait paradigm and instead consider other possibilities including a new locomotor strategy denoted as the “bipod” gait. The researchers’ findings are published in Nature Communications.

 

The scientists carried out a host of computer simulations, tests on robots and experiments on Drosophila melanogaster – the most commonly studied insect in biology. “We wanted to determine why insects use a tripod gait and identify whether it is, indeed, the fastest way for six-legged animals and robots to walk,” said Pavan Ramdya, co-lead and corresponding author of the study. To test the various combinations, the researchers used an evolutionary-like algorithm to optimize the walking speed of a simulated insect model based on Drosophila. Step-by-step, this algorithm sifted through many different possible gaits, eliminating the slowest and shortlisting the fastest.

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Deep-Sea Mining: Undersea Robot to Hunt for Strange Life in the Depth of the Pacific

Deep-Sea Mining: Undersea Robot to Hunt for Strange Life in the Depth of the Pacific | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
The research ship Okeanos Explorer is sending an ROV into the depths of the Pacific Ocean, seeking out exotic sea animals and other curiosities. And, you can watch it live online.

 

Armchair oceanographers, take note: This week, the research ship Okeanos Explorer will send a remotely operated vehicle into the depths of the Pacific Ocean, seeking out exotic sea animals like the "walking" fish called a sea toad and other curiosities. And, you can have a front-row seat.

 

The ROV, called Deep Discoverer, will reach depths of 3.7 miles (6,000 meters) beneath the sea's surface. Its trip is scheduled to begin Thursday (Feb. 16), and you can watch it unfold online.

This expedition, which will run through September, is part of NOAA's CAPSTONE, or Campaign to Address Pacific monument Science, Technology, and Ocean Needs.

 

The project, in its third and final year, is aimed at collecting data from the deep ocean within marine-protected areas in the central and western Pacific Ocean, according to NOAA. The information will not only shed light on largely unexplored areas; it will also help others to make informed decisions regarding management of the protected areas and on the issue of deep-sea mining.

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