Issue #155

This week – the life of Aaron Traywick; Uber ends self-driving car program in Arizona; Google’s quest to make you a cyborg; Microsoft’s AI can also make phone calls; and more!


More than a human

Death of a Biohacker

The life and legacy of Aaron Traywick, a controversial biohacker who died last month, as seen by his family, co-workers and other biohackers.

 

Bring on the Post-Human Future

15 years ago, Gregory Stock envision in his book a world where we can “manipulate human genetics to alter our biology in meaningful, predictable ways”. This interview with him starts with his “precision wellness” idea but later goes into bioethics where Stock has some interesting views (tl;dr – allow risky tests on a small scale where failure is an opportunity to learn).

 

Google Wants to Turn You Into a Cyborg

The recent demo of Google Assistant making phone calls made everyone talking about it. This article is reserved about the new shiny toys from Google. It centres around the idea of creating “an extended you” with a set of AI agents and more deeply connect you with the services provided by Google.

 

Artificial Intelligence

London hospitals to replace doctors and nurses with AI for some tasks

The three-year partnership between University College London Hospitals (UCLH) and the Alan Turing Institute aims to bring the benefits of the machine learning revolution to UK’s health system on an unprecedented scale. Will see if it ends up better than the last time, where the privacy concerns torpedoed a similar project with DeepMind.

 

Microsoft just demoed its own AI having a full-on phone call

Microsoft announced back in April that its popular in China chatbot, XiaoIce, could speak and listen simultaneously (known as full duplexing), but didn’t provide a demo at the time. That has changed. At a recent event in London, Microsoft showed the system in action.

 

Robotics

Uber ends self-driving program in Arizona after fatal crash

Uber is pulling its self-driving cars out of Arizona, a reversal triggered by the recent death of woman who was run over by one of the ride-hailing service’s robotic vehicles while crossing a darkened street in a Phoenix suburb. The decision announced Wednesday means Uber won’t be bringing back its self-driving cars to the streets to Arizona, eliminating the jobs of about 300 people who served as backup drivers and performed other jobs connected to the vehicles.

 

Self-driving car caught on camera running red light

Oh, you naugthty robotic car. It happened in Jerusalem, where a self-driving car built by Intel-owned Mobileye ignored the red light and drove through an intersection. The company said that a GoPro the cameraman had attached to the car interfered with the car’s sensors and they took steps to avoid this issue in the future.

 

At Boston restaurant Spyce, robots have replaced the chefs

Started by a group of 20-something robotics engineers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology who partnered with Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud, the new restaurant in downtown Boston replaced human chefs with seven automated cooking pots that simultaneously whip up meals in three minutes or less.

 

Stickman is Disney’s new headless acrobatic robot

Researchers from Disney Research presented a new robot that can do some stunts in the air. The robot, named Stickman (a very appropriate name), has two degrees of freedom and a pendulum it uses to launch itself in the air after swinging on a rope. The relatively simple robot tucks and folds, somersaulting in the air before landing on the padding below.

 

The Shape-Shifting Robot That Evolves by Falling Down

Dyret is a four-legged robot that learns how to walk by trial and error. In the beginning, it has a very vague idea how to walk and fails miserably at standing still. But after a couple of generations and experiments, it learns how to walk and it is quite good at it. It is a good example how evolutionary algorithms can be applied to robotics.

 

The Swedish Designer Creating Edible Robots

Meet Erika Marthins. She combines robotics and food to create robots that you can eat, like soft robots shaped like gummies made from gelatin that wiggle on the plate.

 

Biotechnology

How Far Should Science Go to Create Lifesaving Replacement Organs?

Researchers are devising a new way to grow human organs inside other animals, but the method raises potentially thorny ethical issues. Other conceivable futuristic techniques sound like dystopian science fiction. As we envision an era of regenerative medicine decades from now, how far is society willing to go to solve the organ shortage crisis?