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Researchers have made great progress in prosthetics development in recent years, and a team in Korea and the United States have pushed things even further. Amputees will be able to better experience the world around them by using prosthetics equipped with "smart skin," able to allow them to feel sensations.
The unique elastomer soft polymer has integrated temperature, pressure and humidity sensors, along with electrodes that are able to stretch and stimulate the patient's existing nerves. Trying to develop technology able to send control commands from the nervous system to the prosthetic - and sensory feedback from the prosthetic back to the nervous system has proven to be difficult.
"Previously, these robots or prosthetic arms/legs did not have skins that enable high resolution/sensitivity sensing of pressure, strain, temperature, humidity," said Kim Dae-Hyeong, author co-study, in a statement to CBS News. "We focused on this point by developing high density/sensitivity sensor array that is similar with the real human skin."
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given permission to four companies now able to operate drones for commercial purposes, granting five new exemptions. Specifically, UAS, Woolpert, Clayco, and VDOS Global will fly drones to help conduct oil rig flare stack inspections, aerial surveying, and monitoring construction sites. All flying drones must be within visual sight of the operator and weigh less than 55 pounds, according to the FAA.
"Unmanned aircraft offer a tremendous opportunity to spur innovation and economic activity by enabling many businesses to develop better products and services for their customers and the American public," said Anthony Foxx, Transportation Secretary. "We want to foster commercial uses of this exciting technology while taking a responsible approach to the safety of America's airspace."
The FAA granted seven exemption waivers to movie studios earlier in 2014, and has received 167 requests.
Researchers from Singapore have demonstrated a unique robotic eel that is able to travel through the water in a similar fashion as a real eel. The prototype is able to move quietly and could become an excellent stealth tool to sneak up on ships and other water-based vehicles.
Militaries are interested in using underwater robots to help conduct research, map the sea floor, check for mines, and other operations. The eel robot should prove to be adaptable to varying environments, such as hulls, reefs, and other geological formations.
"Anguilliform [eel like] fish consume less energy when on a long distance journey than regular autonomous underwater vehicles," said Jianxin Xu, a researcher from Singapore, in a statement to Defense One. "They are highly maneuverable and flexible, making them more suitable than Gliders for navigation... they're less detectable than robot subs that propel themselves the same way as conventional subs."
Real estate agents are increasingly using drones to help sell homes and commercial properties, giving prospective buyers an extremely unique view. Being able to capture aerial photographs and record video is proving popular among buyers unable to visit locations in-person.
Using drones also allows real estate agents an opportunity to scout out potential development opportunities, looking at buildings that can be redeveloped or vacant sites that can be purchased.
The price of drones continues to decrease, and as governments try to determine how to create drone flying guidelines, will only increase in popularity in the real estate industry.
Samsung is best known for its consumer electronics products, but the South Korean technology giant has shown increased interest in robotics development. The company has filed a large number of patents related to robotics technology, designed for government, military and consumer use. Samsung will continue dumping large amounts of resources into research and development of robotics, as the autonomous industry continues to mature at a rapid pace.
The Samsung SGR-1 robotic military sentry already is in use in the tense Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea - and has the ability to identify targets up to two miles away, with weaponry that includes a machine gun and a grenade launcher.
Many Japanese companies are developing robots that can be used in the consumer market, but Samsung appears more interested in creating solutions for professional use. Using the Internet of Things infrastructure, expect new generations of Samsung-created robotics to use the SmartThings platform.
The European Southern Observatory's Council has announced that it has approved plans to start construction of the world's largest telescope, which will be built-in Chile, and completed by 2024.
Tim de Zeeuw, the Director General of the ESO said in a statement: "The decision taken by Council means that the telescope can now be built. Major industrial construction work for the E-ELT is now funded and can proceed according to plan". The ESO will build the massive telescope on top of a mountain in Chile called Cerro Armazones, in Chile's Atacama Desert.
Back in mid-2012, the telescope was approved, but construction could only start once 90% of the funding required had been secured. This has now obviously happened, with de Zeeuw adding: "the most powerful of all the extremely large telescope projects currently planned". How big will the telescope be? We should see it featuring a 39m aperture optical and infrared telescope, which means we should see scientists capable of seeing the details of Earth-sized exoplanets, and study star populations in nearby galaxies. de Zeeuw added: "the next few years will be very exciting".
Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) is drafting legislation that would create laws focused on drone flight safety, asking the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to "aggressively confront" the rise in "highly-capable, inexpensive drones" that are being operated by private citizens. The vocal California Senator wants the FAA to make it clear to drone operators that they are responsible for their actions, including ensuring privacy rights are upheld - and that drones don't get too close to aircraft.
"It is my intent to introduce legislation to codify and expand the moratorium on private drone use without specific authority from the FAA that is already in place," the Feinstein letter wrote. "This expanded moratorium would cover any such use that could threaten the airspace, it would require a safety certification for expansions of private drone use, and it would be backed up by substantial criminal penalties if manned aircraft or people are put at risk."
Sen. Feinstein isn't a big fan of drone use in the United States, and previously voiced privacy concerns as the small flying aircraft hit the skies.
Professor Stephen Hawking is concerned that artificial intelligence development will evolve to the point of AI being able to not only match - but surpass - human capabilities, opening up the door to potentially aid in the end of mankind.
"The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race," Hawking recently told BBC. "It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete, and would be superseded."
Despite the concerns shown by Hawking, not everyone is worried about AI: "I believe we will remain in charge of the technology for a decently long time and the potential of it to solve many of the world problems will be realized," said Cleverbot creator Rollo Carpenter.
Nestle will call upon a fleet of Pepper androids made by SoftBank to help sell coffee machines in its Japanese retail stores. Pepper will "help us discover consumer needs through conversations between our customers and Pepper," Nestle and SoftBank said in a joint statement.
SoftBank has received up to 400 inquiries from other companies regarding the Pepper robot, as additional sales announcements are expected in the future. The 4-foot-tall robot is able to predict human emotions based on facial expressions, dance, make jokes, and communicate with customers. Each device retails for around $1,900 - plus additional monthly fees.
SoftBank already is deployed in its retail Japanese phone stores, helping gauge customer opinions.
The cheetah robot developed by the MIT biomimetics lab is able to run more than 10 mph, jump over 16 inches high and run for more than 15 minutes using its own power source. The robot uses lightweight yet powerful motors and a customized algorithm to help it decide how much force it should exert while running and jumping.
The MIT project is being funded by DARPA, which also is providing money to Boston Dynamics for a similar robot design. It took more than five years of designing, testing and modifications to the electrical motor and sensors for MIT to create its current prototype.
"This is kind of a Ferrari in the robotics world, like, we have to put all the expensive components and make it really that instinctive," said Sangbae Kim, MIT associate professor and Biomimetics Robotics Lab team leader. "That's the only way to get that speed."