This week - made for work robot from Agility Robotics; CAD for genomes; mycelium-based packaging is coming; what is Biological Singularity; and more!
More Than A Human
X, Alphabet's research and development division, is famous for its moonshot projects and for their secrecy. But sometimes the company gives a little sneak peek into what it is being researched there. One of the projects engineers at X worked on was a robotic exosuit named Smarty Pants designed to predict movement in order to anticipate where force needs to be applied to help with tasks like walking up stairs.
Singularity is a moment when AI can make itself smarter and can do that faster and faster, eventually surpassing human intelligence. The question is what biological intelligence can do about that. According to his article, the answer is Biological Singularity - a combination of biotech and brain-enhancing technologies that together expands human intelligence, culmination in eventual human superintelligence.
AI research and development is built on open-source libraries and that, according to this article, either flies under the radar of people trying to regulate the use of AI or they don't know how to deal with it. Policymakers focus on big companies while leaving most AI developers and open-source projects alone. One of the possible solutions this article proposes is to improve best practices for AI developers to make sure the code and data the code uses is fair and unbiased as much as possible - no need for heavy-handed lawmakers or regulators.
We have machine learning and now we might also have machine unlearning. AI researchers are working on methods to selectively remove data from neural networks without retraining the system from scratch or without compromising AI's performance. This could open a possibility to remove someone's private data from the AI on request or to remove problematic data leading to bias and algorithmic unfairness.
I just want to highlight the conclusion of this paper: "Current evidence for AI does not yet allow judgement of its accuracy in breast cancer screening programmes, and it is unclear where on the clinical pathway AI might be of most benefit. AI systems are not sufficiently specific to replace radiologist double reading in screening programmes. Promising results in smaller studies are not replicated in larger studies."
In this video, Agility Robotics shows how Digit - their humanoid robot - can be used in warehouses and work with humans. This slim robot can detect obstacles and navigate safely around them for everyone nearby to complete whatever it was tasked with. The video only shows how Digit can be used in moving boxes. Maybe more use cases are to come.
NASA is looking into how robots can make life in space easier and safer. One of those experimental robots is Astrobee. It looks like one of those floating robotic assistants we have seen in sci-fi movies. It can navigate around International Space Station on its own and was tested in looking for problems. NASA's plan with these experiments is to learn how to best use robots to maintain future space stations and help make space safer for humans.
Imagine being able to design a new organism as easily as you can design a new integrated circuit. That’s the ultimate vision behind the computer-aided design (CAD) program being developed by the GP-write consortium. “We’re taking the same things we’d do for design automation in electronics, and applying them to biology,” says Doug Densmore, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Boston University. That vision is already being fulfilled by many companies, both startups and established, that offer genetic CAD software or services.
The first CRISPR experiment to take place in space shows that DNA can repair itself in microgravity. Astronauts created breaks in the DNA of a common yeast, and then analyzed how it repaired itself. During the investigation, the yeast's DNA was cut across both strands to create significant damage. The introduction of CRISPR in space and the first successful genome manipulation on the ISS extends the possibilities for future DNA repair experiments. It also opens a possibility for genetic therapies designed to fix human DNA damaged by life in space.
This article brings attention to a silent revolution which results you might experience next time you order something online. Soon, we might ditch plastic packaging and replace it with mycelium-based alternatives. Not only is mycelium packaging resilient, insulated, safe, breathable, and water-resistant, but it also biodegrades in the soil within just 45 days. Giants such as IKEA and Dell are already planning to move to mycelium-based packaging and more companies will follow soon.