Issue #321

This week - the possibility of gene doping; a bipedal robot completes 5K run; an AI for cheating in online shooters; a robot taught to insert USB stick; and more!


More Than A Human

NYC Brain Computer Startup Announces FDA Trial Before Elon Musk

Synchron received a green light from FDA to test its device in human patients in the US. The company plans to place a device called Stentrode, which is smaller than a matchstick, in the brain to help paralyzed patients control digital devices like computer cursors through their thoughts. The implant works by communicating via a tiny wire with a second implant in the chest. A transmitter then sends signals to a computer outside the body, near the patient.

Dad builds robotic exoskeleton to help son walk

French dad and robotics engineer Jean-Louis Constanza has built a robotic suit for his 16-year-old son Oscar that allows him to walk. Oscar, a wheelchair user, activates the suit by saying "Robot, stand up" and it then walks for him. Jean-Louis co-founded the company that builds the suit, which can allow users to move upright for a few hours a day.

21st Century Olympic Doping

World Anti-Doping Agency has already banned any gene-editing based doping methods and hasn't caught any cases of gene doping yet. But as genetic engineering makes quick progress, sooner or later there will be someone who enhanced themselves by tinkering with their genes.

Artificial Intelligence

Cheat-maker brags of computer-vision auto-aim that works on “any game”

Someone built an AI-based cheating software for multiplayer shooters that plays with superhuman speed and does not trigger existing anti-cheat software. The author of the software said to Ars Technica he created it "to give console players a chance in [games] that are already overrun with hackers".

South Africa issues world's first patent listing AI as inventor

South Africa has become the first country to award a patent that names an artificial intelligence as its inventor and the AI’s owner as the patent's owner. The patent was secured by University of Surrey professor Ryan Abbott and his team, who have been at odds with patent offices around the world for years over the need to recognise artificial intelligences as inventors.

Artificial Intelligence Is Learning to Manipulate You

This article describes two papers in which researchers explored the idea of an AI capable of manipulating humans. Both papers have proved it is possible. "Now that we know what’s possible, we can guard against nefarious behavior", said one researcher. But if the ideas from the research find their way into sales and marketing (or worse), it might be exploiting humans left and right.

Enabling the 'imagination' of artificial intelligence

A team of researchers at USC is helping AI imagine the unseen, a technique that could also lead to fairer AI, new medicines and increased autonomous vehicle safety.

Robotics

► DeepMind’s Robot Inserts A USB Stick (5:32)

Researchers from DeepMind got a robotic arm and trained it to grab objects by learning the movements from a human. The robot then was able to generalise the skill and be able to grab and manipulate objects it never saw or with distractions. It also learned how to correctly insert a USB stick which makes it the most useful robot ever.

Bipedal robot makes history by learning to run, completing a 5K

Cassie is the first bipedal robot to successfully complete a 5K run. It did it in 53 minutes (for comparison, the human world record is 13:30 for men and 14:48 for women), completely untethered and on a single battery charge.

New Algorithm Flies Drones Faster than Human Racing Pilots

Thanks to researchers of the University of Zurich, we can now add drone racing to the list of things machines can do better than humans. Their new algorithm was able to beat the fastest lap of two world-class human pilots on an experimental race track. Researchers hope their work will help improve drones' performance in situations where speed and precision matters, like searching for survivors on a disaster site, inspecting a building or delivering cargo.

Biotechnology

DNA Has Four Bases. Some Viruses Swap in a Fifth

There are viruses that don't use A, T, C and G bases in their DNA and swap T with Z. This improves the DNA's stability and rigidity, and perhaps influence some of its other physical properties. Researchers are looking if those changes could carry advantages beyond hiding from bacterial defenses and could make such modifications more broadly significant.

Genetic engineering test with mosquitoes ‘may be game changer’ in eliminating malaria

Scientists have successfully wiped out a population of malaria-transmitting mosquitoes by using a radical form of genetic engineering to render the females infertile – in the most advanced and largest ever test of use of the technology to fight the disease.

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