Issue #124

This week – the giant robot battle; real-life cyborgs; DeepMind’s new AI is better than AlphaGo; China’s AI Awakening; and more!


More than a human

The Future is Here: Six Of Today’s Most Advanced, Real-Life Cyborgs

Here are six of the most striking examples of this cyborg present – from a man who can hear colours to bionic arms to a man with a camera instead of an eye. They show us how far we have already come, and how far we could go in the future.

 

Christian Transhumanism is the Next Reformation

When technology meets religion, or why some believe Christian Transhumanism is the Next Reformation.

 

Meet Daisy Robinton, The Woman Trying To Stop Us Ageing Through Stem Cell Research

Not every day you can find an article describing a scientist working on curing aging published on Elle. Meet Daisy Robinton – a Harvard University scientist who focusses on gene editing and developmental biology and tries to end ageing.

 

Artificial Intelligence

AlphaGo Zero: Learning from scratch

DeepMind published a paper describing an AI system that learned how to play Go from scratch. AlphaGo Zero didn’t know anything about the game and in short amount of time learned how to play the game and even beat AlphaGo (the same one that defeated Lee Sedol).

 

China’s AI Awakening 中国 人工智能 的崛起

Artificial intelligence may have been invented in the West, but you can see its future taking shape on the other side of the world. China is now embarking on an unprecedented effort to master artificial intelligence. Its government is planning to pour hundreds of billions of yuan (tens of billions of dollars) into the technology in coming years, and companies are investing heavily in nurturing and developing AI talent.

 

Intel working with Facebook on chips for AI

Intel got left behind by NVidia in producing chips for AI and now has to catch up. Intel will supply Waymo (Google’s self-driving cars) with AI chips and recently it announced a partnership with Facebook to deliver super-fast chips designed specifically for artificial intelligence.

 

Put Humans at the Center of AI

“If you look at where we are in AI, I would say it’s the great triumph of pattern recognition. It is very task-focused, it lacks contextual awareness, and it lacks the kind of flexible learning that humans have.”, says Fei-Fei Li, a chief scientist of Google Cloud.

 

But what *is* a Neural Network?

Here’s a great explanation how neural networks and deep learning works. There is also a second part to the video explaining the gradient descent algorithm that allows neural networks to learn.

 

Robotics

The Giant Robot Duel

In case you missed this week’s fight between giant robots build by Megabots and Kuratas, here’s a video recap of the fight. Megabots brought two robots. Kuratas only one. The first fight was easily won by Kuratas. For the second and third fight, Megabots switched to another robot. The second fight ended up in a tie. The third fight was won by Megabots.

 

The ‘Live’ Giant Robot Battle Was Edited and ‘Filmed Over a Number of Days’

It turns out that this “live” giant robot battle took place over a number of days and what we’ve got was an edited stream, choreographed to “to create the most entertaining fight possible”. I will leave it up to you to decide what we’d like to see from this new “sport” – entertainment or real fights.

 

This Robotics Startup Wants to Be the Boston Dynamics of China

Inspired by Boston Dynamics, Chinese roboticist Xing Wang founded his own robotics company, called Unitree Robotics. Recently, the company showed its first robot named Laika. Looks very similar to four-legged robots made by Boston Dynamics, but I hope as time goes by the company will come up with their own unique designs.

 

Are We Ready for Intimacy With Androids?

Hiroshi Ishi­guro builds androids. Beautiful, realistic, uncannily convincing human replicas. Academically, he is using them to understand the mechanics of person-to-person interaction. But his true quest is to untangle the ineffable nature of connection itself.

 

Google Has Made a Mess of Robotics

Some time ago, Google wanted to step into robotics, so it bought a lot of startups and companies building them. Fast-forward to the present day and many of these companies don’t exist or left Google. Google’s scattered, ambiguous, frequently abandoned objectives for its string of big acquisitions have hurt the whole field.

 

Armed Ground Robots to Fight in the Ukrainian Conflict, Ushering in a New Age of Warfare

Ukrainian military and defence leaders demonstrated a ground robot that might soon join soldiers fighting in eastern Ukraine against Russian-backed forces. While armed drones have been used for some time, fighting with armed ground robots has not been a common feature of warfare.

 

This organic robot could save lives

Stanford University researchers created this vine-like robot that can move around by growing and shrinking. Inspired by natural organisms like fungi, this polyethylene robot can grow up to 72 meters long and move at 35 km/h just by inflating and deflating its limbs. It can lift a 100 kg crate, crawl under small gaps, create a free-standing structure and navigate difficult spaces thanks to the camera on its arm/tentacle.

 

Biotechnology

The E in E. coli now stands for electronics

A team at Duke University has engineered a bacterial population that uses engineered genetic circuitry to express a protein only in specific locations. The researchers then printed these bacteria onto a surface and processed them to coat the protein in gold. The result is a tiny gold dome that makes a great pressure sensor.

 

6 Amazing Things to Watch in Synthetic Biology

From instant vaccines to meatless meat to biofactories – synthetic biology is a field full of potential and worth keeping an eye on.