Issue #188

This week - UK vs drones; could we ever eat sunlight; World Bank says fears of a robot takeover are "unfounded"; Hyundai's walking car; and more!

More Than A Human

► Could We Ever Eat Sunlight? Kleptoplasty And Human Photosynthesis

This video explores the idea of humans being able to feed just like plants - with sunlight, water and CO2. It looks if it is possible to engineer animals (which includes humans) that can produce food with photosynthesis.

Watch a RoboCop-Like Exoskeleton Help Paralyzed People Walk Again

Cyberdyne, a Japanese robotics company, was testing the last nine months in collaboration with Brooks Rehabilitation in Florida their new robotic exoskeleton, the Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL). HAL determines that someone is trying to walk by picking up nerve signals through electrodes on the back of their legs. It analyzes that signal and determines where that person’s brain is trying to tell their legs to go. Normally, an assistive exoskeleton would just take a step at a pre-defined gait, but HAL is more fluid — it merely helps your legs reach the point your brain wants them to.

► Swimming with a Prosthetic Leg: The Fin

Meets Kevin Vaughan, a 28-year-old veteran and amputee as he tries his new amphibious water prosthetic, "The Fin,” a 3D printed prosthetic engineered for swimming.

UK vs Drones

Heathrow airport: Drone sighting halts departures

Heathrow Airport was shut down for about an hour on January 8th after a drone was spotted around the airport. This event comes just weeks after Gatwick Airport was shut down between 19th and 21st December last year when unidentified drones were sighted.

Police to get new powers to tackle illegal drone use

After the chaos at Gatwick Airport caused by drones flying around the airport, the British police will be given new powers to tackle the illegal use of drones, the government has announced. The government proposes to extend no-fly zones, registration of drone operators, as well as giving the police the power to land drones and to search premises and seize drones - including the electronic data stored within the device - where a serious offence has been committed and a warrant is secured.

Airport drone disruption: All major UK airports to have 'military-grade' protection

All major UK airports now have or will soon have military grade anti-drone equipment, the British government says. It comes after the military was called in to help when drone sightings caused delays for around an hour at Heathrow on Tuesday. Earlier, the defence secretary said it would "not be right" to ask the RAF to respond to similar incidents in future and said that all commercial airports need to invest in anti-drone technology.

Artificial Intelligence

To save us from a Kafkaesque future, we must democratise AI

As machine learning systems decide more and more about our daily lives, we need to open access to the technology to everyone, this article argues. It points out that the opaqueness and complexity of AI systems combined with biases in input data marginalised people and exacerbate existing biases. The proposed solution - ensure diverse voices are involved in its development and deployment of AI systems.

► DeepMind’s Take on How To Create a Benign AI

This video briefly explains a recent paper from DeepMind about their research into making AI agents that are more aligned with what we want. DeepMind showed how they created AIs that can delay short-term solutions for long-term rewards by putting a human into the learning loop to "align" AI and to make it behave according to our expectations.


World Bank: Fears of a Robot Takeover Are “Unfounded”

In a recently released report about the changing nature of work, the World Bank addressed the growing concerns about automation and the future of work. According to its research,  the number of jobs lost to automation is about equal to the number of jobs created, even if the technology is changing the nature of those jobs in several ways. The full report can be found here.

Hyundai shows off 'walking car' at CES

At CES 2019, Hyundai showed a concept of a mix between a car and a mech. Named Elevate, this car drives normally on four wheels but if it is needed it can deploy its robotic legs and walk or climb difficult terrain.

‘ANYmal’ robot stalks dark sewers to test its navigation

Four-legged robots are leaving labs and slowly learning to work in real-life environments. One of them, ANYmal, was recently tested in Zurich, where it was inspecting the sewers and tunnels under the city.

A Tesla-Robot ‘Crash’ Stunt Shows We Need Robocar Schooling

There is a video showing how Tesla in “full self-driving capability” hits a robot during CES. The more people looked into this event, the more it looked staged and made as a PR stunt. This article from Wired uses this event to highlight how confusing the public is about what "self-driving" means. It also informs about the creation of Partnership for Automated Vehicle Education, or PAVE - a group of automated vehicle developers, suppliers, and advocacy groups whose goal is to educate the public on automated vehicles.


Biotech Firm to Launch Pay-As-You-Go Gene Therapy

Biotech company Bluebird Bio Inc. wants to sell its genetic therapy through a five-year pay-as-you-go model within the next few years. Customers would pay annual instalments instead of an unsurmountable lump sum, The Wall Street Journal reports.

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