Issue #176

In this week’s issue – Boston Dynamics’ Spot inspects a building and then dances; Pepper the robot speak in UK Parliament; biologists grew a human retina in a dish; how genetic engineering affect space exploration; and more!


More than a human

Mind Machines

This article dissects an extract from The University of Cambridge, UK, about a recent development in brain-computer interfaces research and asks “what could go wrong?”

 

Robotics

UpTown Spot

Robots from Boston Dynamics can run, jump, do parkour, and now they can dance.

 

Spot Robot Testing at Construction Sites

When he’s not dancing, Spot inspects construction sites. In this video, Boston Dynamics shows a possible application of Spot ahead of it becoming available to purchase.

 

Drone putting out a building fire

Here’s a video showing a drone putting out a fire in China. It could be very useful in putting out fires in the high-rise building.

 

You’re Expecting Too Much Out of Boston Dynamics’ Robots

Robots from Boston Dynamics jump and run so effortlessly that one might think you just need to tell it what to do and it will do it without failure on the first try. Boston Dynamics boss Marc Raibert says that’s not the case. Sometimes for one successful run, there are 20 failed ones and the company only shows the best attempts. Maybe we need a fail compilation from Boston Dynamics?

 

Pepper the robot spoke in the British Parliament

Pepper – the first robot to appear before a Parliamentary select committee – answers MPs’ questions about helping to care for older people. The resident robot from Middlesex University was asked by chairman Robert Halfon to explain the artificial intelligence (AI) Careses project, which promotes independent living and aims to reduce pressure on health care services. MPs smiled when the robot was wheeled in, although both questions and answers were pre-arranged.

 

Why we love robotic dogs, puppets and dolls

According to the author of this article, it is because of the attraction might be explained through humanity’s longstanding connection with various forms of puppets, religious icons, and other figurines. The entire article is an interesting take on human-robot interactions from a sociological and cultural point of view.

 

This Robotic Warehouse Fills Orders in Five Minutes, and Fits in City Centers

CommonSense Robotics announced the launch of its first autonomous robotic micro-fulfillment center in Tel Aviv. The company claims the facility is the smallest of its type in the world at 6,000 square feet (around 550 square meters). For comparison’s sake—most fulfillment hubs that incorporate robotics are at least 120,000 square feet (~11100 m2). Amazon’s upcoming facility in Bessemer, Alabama will be a massive 855,000 square feet (~80000 m2).

 

Biotechnology

Biologists Grew a Human Retina in a Dish

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University replicated a human retina in a dish to explore how the eye’s color-detecting cells develop. Well, they haven’t grown a retina exactly as the one you and I have. Scientists grew an organoid – a small piece of tissue developed from stem cells to replicate part of a larger organ. For this study, the organoid was made up of the cells that respond to light and communicate that information back to the brain. Their findings could help premature babies better develop eyesight, and the elderly keep theirs for longer.

 

How Could Genetic Engineering Affect Space Exploration?

Could we engineer new life forms for space travel? How does real-world gene editing technology like CRISPR relate to the ideas portrayed in science fiction? Two scientists were asked to say likely are we going to see the genetic engineering as portrayed in the film Alien: Covenant. It’s one of those “how does the science from the movie match with reality” type of discussions.