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Robotics research is a major effort among private companies and universities, with much of the attention on Japanese research and development, but there is a major effort underway in the United States. Technology is progressing and researchers hope to see robots take a prominent role in the household, helping humans carry out regular tasks.
The Kodiak robot is being developed by a team of researchers from the Cornell University Personal Robotics lab, in an effort to help owners use a robot to conduct basic household tasks. "The real high level goal for this project is basically just to have a robot do all those little things in your house that you don't want to do, said Ian Lenz, researcher and PhD student.
Kodiak is intuitive with the ability to learn tasks that it has never done before, able to manipulate a dynamic environment. Meanwhile, Japanese scientists hope robots can assist an aging population, easing the burden on caretakers and family members.
The Gigi robot is using its high-powered ultraviolet lights to help combat the spread of Ebola, able to blast UV light 25,000 times more powerful than natural sunlight, researchers say. Priced at $104,000 per robot, there are only a few units currently available, but has great potential in killing DNA in the virus. The robot uses xenon light rather than mercury bulbs, providing a healthier, more environmentally friendly solution.
"We can clean and disinfect a room (by hand) to an 85% level, but when we use the ultraviolet light we can clean that room to 99.9%," said Dr. Ray Casciari, St. Joseph Hospital pulmonary disease specialist. "This is the future of hospitals because 85% is not enough."
Due to Ebola cases in the United States, along with thousands of patients dying in West Africa, medical researchers hope technology can help prevent widespread infection. Created by Xenex Disinfection Services, a Texas-based company, Gigi was used in a Texas patient's treatment area to help prevent Ebola from spreading to other locations of the hospital.
The Boeing High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD) successfully shot UAV drones and 60mm mortars from the sky, with tests done in less than ideal weather conditions. Using a 10-kilowatt laser, HEL MD was able to shoot down or disable 150 targets in foggy and windy weather, and a more powerful laser will be used in the future.
Researchers hope to push the laser cannon power up to 50 or 60 kilowatts, which will be used to defend against UAV attacks, mortars, rockets and enemy artillery. Boeing and the U.S. military don't expect to roll out official HEL MD units for a few more years, if testing continues to go well.
"With capabilities like HEL MD, Boeing is demonstrating that directed energy technologies can augment existing kinetic strike weapons and offer a significant reduction in cost per engagement," said Dave DeYoung, Boeing Directed Energy Systems director. "With only the cost of diesel fuel, the laser system can fire repeatedly without expending valuable munitions or additional manpower."
Scientists have created lab-grown penises and expect a clinical trial to be conducted within the "next four to five years," with the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine providing additional funding for the project. Wake Forest researchers were able to first grow penile erectile tissues in 2009 for rabbits, and exploring possible human tests were considered.
Researchers rely on a donated penis organ that is broken down to its structural cells, with medical patient cells used to help grown prior to a surgery. The surgery requires a patient's own penile cells, so it will not work for transgender men trying to undergo confirmation surgery - but could help men with erectile dysfunction, penile cancer, or congenital abnormalities.
"Think of it like a building," said Dr. James Yoo, a collaborator on the project, in a statement to The Guardian. "If you remove all the furniture and the people, you're still left with the main structure of the building. Then you replace the tenants with new ones. That's the whole idea. It's just that the building is a penis and the tenants are cells."
The mysterious U.S. Air Force X-37B space plane returned back to Earth, landing at the Vandenberg Air Force Base after a 674-day mission in space. The aircraft is 9.5-foot tall and is over 29-feet long, and its wingspan is slightly less than 15-feet.
This was the third flight of the X-37B spacecraft, marking the longest stretch in space for the Air Force aircraft. Its X-37B has solar panels that allow it to recharge its wings after it already is in orbit. It remains unknown what the Air Force was doing with X-37B in space, as exact mission details remain classified.
"The 30th Space Wing and our mission partners, Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, Boeing, and our base support contractors, have put countless hours of hard work into preparing for this landing and today we were able to see the culmination of that dedication," said Colonel Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, in a press statement.
A surprising 16 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds might suffer from Internet addiction, according to a survey conducted by the Digital Clarity marketing agency. Most of the 16 percent suffering addiction-related problems spend at least 15 hours per day using the Internet.
The Digital Clarity survey took a look at the following characteristics: how many hours were spent online, whether or not they became irritable if they weren't using the Internet, if they felt guilty spending so much time online, possible isolation due to online activity, and noting a sense of euphoria if using the Internet.
Researchers are most interested to see if dopamine in the brain is released the same way for Internet addicts as alcoholics or drug addicts. However, critics of trying to label Internet addiction believe the problem could be related to other psychological issues - and is becoming a more talked about debate in the mental health community.
The U.S. Navy has developed a new solution to better combat radio-controlled improvised explosive devices (IEDs), a popular attack method used by terrorists in the Middle East and Africa. The new electronic jamming system was developed with help from the Northrop Grumman Information Systems, with the Joint Counter Radio-Controlled Improvised Explosive Device Electronic Warfare (JCREW) including three different versions.
The dismounted system is a mobile unit that can be carried in a backpack, with a mounted variant attached to military vehicles. The third version is a fixed variant that can be installed at fixed locations, such as forward operating bases (FOBs) or camps.
"This is an important system for force protection and we are very pleased with its progress," said Capt. Aaron Peters, Navy Expeditionary Mission Program Office program manager. "I look forward to the prospect of getting this robust capability into the hands of our warfighters."
Technological advances have allowed researchers to create prosthetic limbs that are able to better mimic the natural movement of human limbs, with medical patients able to regain their sense of touch. In one study, researchers in the United States manufactured a prosthetic hand that uses electric signals sent into a medical patient's harm and brain, providing a sense of "feel."
"The sense of touch is one of the ways we interact with objects around us," said Dustin Tyler, Case Western Reserve associate professor of biomedical engineering and the study's author. "The work reactivates areas of the brain that produce the sense of touch. When the hand is lost, the inputs that switched on these areas were lost."
A group of Swedish scientists created a mind-controlled prosthetic arm that connects to the medical patient's arm, nerves and muscles. This type of research has great potential for those injured in serious incidents, and will continue to be a topic of focus for researchers.
Toshiba recently showed off Aiko Chihira, the humanoid communication robot that is able to communicate via sign language. Dressed in a pink blouse and white skirt, the robot can lip sync to a recorded message while translating the message into Japanese sign language.
"We wanted to develop a sign-language robot because it's challenging technologically, requiring speed and precision movements," said Hitoshi Tokuda, from the Toshiba New Business Development Division. "It needs a humanlike appearance and expression because a C-3PO appearance wouldn't work."
Toshiba received help from the Shonan Institute of Technology and Shibaura Institute of Technology, as both universities provided robot driving solutions and sensor-based motion-teaching technology. Japan remains a leader in humanoid robotics research, with universities and companies developing life-like technologies able to provide assistance in day-to-day activities.
The focus of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology remains on military aircraft launching strikes, but there is a booming private sector in the United States. As the government considers opening up airspace for drone flight, farmers across the country are benefitting from using small drones for crop scouting and other once-difficult tasks.
Instead of investing millions in technology, farmers can spend significantly less - and can use something as simple as a quad copter and GoPro camera - to more expensive winged drone aircraft to photograph larger crops.
"That's the beauty of UAV," said Chad Colby, experienced UAV user recently noted. "You pull off on the side of the road and you have images of an entire field in a matter of 10 minutes. If this industry can save farmers just 1% on inputs, then it becomes a $1 billion industry overnight."