Issue #76

Terminally ill teen won historic ruling to preserve body. Flying an airplane using only a brain. CRISPR gene-editing tested in a person for the first time. Augmented spinach as a bomb detector. A balloon with robotic legs and more!


More Than A Human

Terminally ill teen won historic ruling to preserve body

A 14-year-old girl who wanted her body to be preserved, in case she could be cured in the future, won a historic legal fight shortly before her death. The girl, who was terminally ill with a rare cancer, was supported by her mother in her wish to be cryogenically preserved – but not by her father. She wrote to the judge explaining that she wanted “to live longer” and did not want “to be buried underground”. The girl, who died in October, has been taken to the US and preserved there.

Bionic Eyes Are Coming, and They’ll Make Us Superhuman

Would you like to upgrade your eyes? The implants we know from cyberpunk stories aren’t here yet, but there are already companies offering bionic eyes for people suffering from visual impairment.

How I Flew a Plane Using Only My Brain

Without a pilot’s license, or frankly, any experience, WIRED’s Jack Stewart flew a plane using just his thoughts. Thanks to new technology developed by Honeywell Aerospace, a King Air C90 can be controlled, in simple terms, by the human brain.

Brain implants allow paralysed monkeys to walk

Neuroscientist Grégoire Courtine and his team reported the results of experiments in Beijing, in which a wireless brain implant — that stimulates electrodes in the leg by recreating signals recorded from the brain — has enabled monkeys with spinal cord injuries to walk. The video in the article shows the monkey before and after turning on the implant. The difference is clearly visible.

Scientists get us a step closer to graphene implants

There is a small problem when you try to connect graphene to a human body. It is the heat generated by the flow of electricity through the graphene that was frying surrounding cells. In a recent simulation by teams from MIT and Bejing’s Tsinghua University, however, scientists believe they’ve hit upon a solution: water. A thin wall of the stuff separating graphene from tissue.

Artificial Intelligence

The real risks of artificial intelligence

You should stop worrying about the Terminator-like scenario. The thing that you should be more concern about is that a machine learning system involuntary makes a wrong decision because the data it was fed with was biased or incomplete. And with more and more services depending on AI systems it becomes a more pressing issue to solve.

Google DeepMind’s AI learns to play with physical objects

DeepMind is learning about the real physical world just like a child would do – by experimenting and trial and errors. It was learning how to determine the mass of virtual blocks and then learned how to stack them into a tower.

New AI algorithm taught by humans learns beyond its training

AI researchers designed an algorithm that learns directly from human instructions, rather than an existing set of examples, and outperformed conventional methods of training neural networks by 160%. But more surprisingly, their algorithm also outperformed its own training by 9%—it learned to recognize hair in pictures with greater reliability than that enabled by the training, marking a significant leap forward for artificial intelligence.

Not Human: Major News Outlets Were Using AI to Cover the 2016 Elections

If you read news about recent elections in the USA on sites like New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and NBC, the chances are that they were written not by a human, but by an algorithm.

Why the Artificial Intelligence Community Doesn’t Like Elon Musk

Elon Musk is known for his fears when it comes to AI and some AI researchers say he’s doing more harm than good to the community.

Robotics

Should Robots Feel Pain?

Here’s a 12-minutes long video made by researchers from Cambridge that tackles this problem. Programming “pain” into our robots will help them avoid damages, but will also make some people ask questions like “if you kick a robot, is it ok?”.

Interactive robot befriends hospital’s youngest patients to soothe away their anxiety

How do you calm the scared children in the hospital in the 21th century? Give them a robot, of course! In Broward Health Children’s Hospital a little robot tries to calm down the young patients by explaining what the doctors are doing or just by being with the patient. The article does not have images of the robot, but from what I’ve found MEDi (the name of the robot) is a Nao robot.

Drone and plane in ‘very near miss’ over central London

Please, if you have a drone, be responsible when you use it. These kinds of incidents might cause serious legal consequences for every drone owner, so think twice before your reckless behavior cause a tragedy.

BALLU: Buoyancy Assisted Lightweight Legged Unit

BALLU (short for Buoyancy Assisted Lightweight Legged Unit) is an interesting robot. Basically, it is a balloon with attached robotic legs. It can walk, jump, hop and even dance. Check the video, it is an interesting design.

Biotechnology

CRISPR gene-editing tested in a person for the first time

A Chinese group has become the first to inject a person with cells that contain genes edited using CRISPR. A team led by oncologist delivered the modified cells into a patient with aggressive lung cancer as part of a clinical trial at the West China Hospital in Chengdu.

Nanobionic Implant Transforms Spinach Into a Bomb Detector

By embedding nanoscale carbon microtubes into the leaves of ordinary spinach plants, an MIT team of bioengineers transformed the Popeye staple into 3-in-1 bionic sensors. The plants automatically soak up explosives in the ground water, concentrate and analyze the sample and relay the data wirelessly to camera-equipped smartphones, while alerting the user with an email.

Implanting Embryonic Neurons Repairs Brain Damage in Mice

A team of researchers from German showed that newly-transplanted foreign neuron stem cells have the potential to successfully integrate themselves into a host’s visual brain region giving hope to the possibility of repairing a degenerating human brain by replacing the old neurons with new ones.

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