Issue #329

This week - NASA checks if Spot can go to explore Mars; GitHub's Copilot generates code with bugs; bioengineering meets gaming PCs; how bringing dinosaurs back could look like; lab-grown coffee; and more!

More Than A Human

Tiny Neural Implant Could Give Spinal Injury Patients Control Over Their Own Limbs Again

A team of scientists recently published research on a tiny, splinter-like brain implant that doctors can slide deep into the folds of the brain and use to restore both muscular control over and sensation from a paralysis patient’s limbs. The implant can record and decode the brain’s activity, route it through a computer instead of the damaged spinal cord, and use it to stimulate muscles directly — essentially bypassing a patient’s damaged nervous system and letting them control their hand again. Inside the article, there is also an interview with the scientist leading the research about his goals and vision for the neural implant.

Universal Blood by Mid-Century?

The new stem cells cultivation technologies can open the doors for universal red blood cells production. Following the example of the lab-grown meat industry, the companies working on universal blood hope to be able to grow blood on demand and help increase the chances of survival for those who would need a blood transfusion.

Artificial Intelligence

AI Can Write Code Like Humans—Bugs and All

GitHub's Copilot - a code autocomplete tool powered by OpenAI GPT-3 - has been found by researchers from NUY to generate code that contains security flaws around 40 percent of the time. GitHub and OpenAI say the tool will be getting better over time and that security is one of the top priorities but that does not stop some cybersecurity researchers from imagining a scenario where bad actors inject vulnerable code for Copilot to learn and propagate further.

UK announces a national strategy to ‘level up’ AI

The UK government has announced a national AI strategy — its first dedicated package aimed at boosting the country’s capabilities in and around machine learning technologies over the longer term. It says it hopes the strategy will lead to an increase in the number and types of AIs being developed and commercialized in the UK over the next 10 years. Whether there’s much of policy substance here, as yet, looks debatable, argues Techcrunch and looks closer into the plan.


► How Wheels May Soon Become Obsolete For Mars Exploration (11:20)

So far, every mobile robot we sent to explore extraterrestrial bodies moved using wheels. But a recent collaboration between NASA and Boston Dynamics explored the possibility of sending a four-legged robot like Spot to explore Mars and go where no wheeled robot could ever go.

Your Guide to the DARPA SubT Finals: Meet the Teams

DARPA SubT challenge finals are happening this week and the winners should be known just after I send this newsletter (I'll share who was the winner next Friday so stay tuned!). In the meantime, here is a showcase of all eight teams and their robots competing in Systems Track (aka with physical robots). It is interesting to see all kinds of robots - wheeled, quadruped and even drones - the teams brought to the finals.

Researchers developing fully autonomous robot chef

Researchers from Creative Machines Lab have made a step forward towards robotic chefs by using lasers to cook 3d printed food. The test on 3d printed pureed chicken have shown that laser-cooked meat shrinks 50% less, retains double the moisture content, and shows similar flavour development to conventionally cooked meat.


► The Bioluminescent Gaming PC (17:16)

It has happened - biotech met gaming. In this video, Linus from Linus Tech Tips fills a waterloop with E.coli bacteria genetically engineered to glow. And it looks glorious.

► What If We Brought Dinosaurs Back To Life? – Novosaurs Explained (15:08)

Novosaurus is a project imagining what would happen if we could activate dormant genes in birds to make them look like dinosaurs. It takes us to the 2030s when AIs powered by quantum computers allowed bioengineers to turn birds into dinosaurs and imagines how different species of birds could look like after dinosaurification.

Novel method of bioprinting neuron cells

Adding lasers makes everything cooler. This includes bioprinting adult neuron cells. A new method of bioprinting neurons that uses lasers to inject cells into biocompatible substrate. The team hopes to get approval to continue their research into cell grafting, which can assist greatly in drug discovery, such as for nerve recovery medicines.

In Finland, scientists are growing coffee in a lab

There is a company in Finland that grows coffee in a lab. The researchers are using the same techniques to make coffee that others are using to make “lab-grown,” or cultivated, meat. Coffee plant cells were cultured in the lab, and then placed in bioreactors filled with nutrient medium to grow. The scientists recently brewed their first cups of the lab-grown coffee, which they say tastes and smells like ordinary coffee.

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