Issue #166

This week – OpenAI beats DotA; drone attack in Venezuela; Anki’s new robot; exoskeletons at Ford factories; robots can manipulate our emotions; and more!

More Than A Human

Can we engineer the end of ageing?

Daisy Robinton is a scientist at Harvard University researching mechanisms of stem cell identity at the intersection of cancer and developmental biology. She asks is ageing just an engineering problem? If so, can we solve it?

Exoskeletons debut at Ford factories

Following successful trials, Ford will now offer employees the use of exoskeletons to reduce the strain of factory work. Last year, the US automaker began trials at select factories that revolved around the use of the EskoVest, an exoskeleton designed by Ekso Bionics. Ford piloted the EksoVest in two US plants successfully and now plans to launch the exoskeleton in facilities worldwide in 15 factories.

The Genetics (and Ethics) of Making Humans Fit for Mars

Space is not a friendly place for humans. We did not evolve to live there. But we want to go there, to colonize Moon, Mars and other planets, or even stars. This dream might require modifying would-be astronauts on the genetic level or even engineering entire new human races. But would humanity accept such radical changes?

Elon Musk Urges for Human-Machine Brain Link After OpenAI’s ‘Dota’ Win

Shortly after OpenAI’s bots won against best DotA players (more on that in Artificial Intelligence section below), Elon being Elon tweeted that we “need the neural interface soon to enable human/AI symbiosis”.

The Bionic Lens and the human visual experience

Have you ever dreamt about superhuman vision? Dr Garth Webb works on the Bionic Lens, a technology launching to improve vision beyond current limitations, ultimately enhancing the human visual experience.

Artificial Intelligence

OpenAI Five Benchmark: Results

After weeks of training, OpenAI’s team of five AI agents faced the best humans in DotA, adding it to the list of games in which machines are better than humans. As OpenAI wrote, “is a step towards advanced AI systems which can handle the complexity and uncertainty of the real world.”.

Applications of Reinforcement Learning in Real World

Is reinforcement learning, the powerful learning technique that allowed DeepMind to master Atari games and Go, used elsewhere other than making AIs good at playing games? Yes, and here are eight ways reinforced learning is being used in the wild (plus some backstory and tips for engineering such systems).


Alleged drone attack like the one in Venezuela was just a matter of time

Security experts warned for years that it is a matter of time when someone takes an easily accessible drone and transforms it into a weapon. Such thing happened recently in Venezuela, where someone allegedly used an explosives- laden drone in the attempted assassination of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Anki has sold 1.5 million robots

Anki, a robotic startup behind adorable Cozmo robots, reported a sale of 1.5 million robots, of which “hundreds of thousands” were Cozmos.

Vector is Cozmo for grownups

Anki also showed a new robot – Vector. It looks almost exactly the same as Cozmo (the only difference is that Vector is painted black) but inside it has more powerful processor allowing it to do more things. The idea for Vector is to be your personal robot helping in your everyday life.

Engineers teach a drone to herd birds away from airports autonomously

Many airports use birds of prey to keep other birds away from aeroplanes but they might be replaced with drones. Engineers at Caltech have developed a new control algorithm that enables a single drone to herd an entire flock of birds away from the airspace of an airport.

Humanoid Robots Can Manipulate Our Emotions When We Least Expect It

After letting a group of people play with more or less social humanoid robots, researchers asked humans to switch robots off. Some robots went off silently but others were programmed to plead for mercy. When the robot objected, people took about three times as long to decide whether they should turn it off and some people left the robot on.

The Robot Revolution: Automation Comes into Fashion

Wall Street Journal checks how the robotic revolution is affecting the fashion industry and what it means for the 60 million people who work in the garment industry.

Asia’s 25 Most Innovative Robotics Startups


Successfully Transplanted Lab-Grown Pig Lungs Take Us Closer to Custom Organs

Growing organs in pigs and then transplanting them into humans is an idea that was around for a while now. Recently, scientists made a little step closer to make it a feasible idea by taking lungs from a pig and growing new lungs that were later transplanted into another pig.

How to build synthetic DNA and send it across the internet

In this TED Talk, Dan Gibson shares his vision of beaming new medicines across the globe fully automated and on demand, saving lives. It calls this “biological transportation”. To make this vision come true he and his team built a DNA printer – a machine which turns DNA stored in digital format into living cells.

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