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NASA has announced that it will be providing MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) with one of its huge 6-foot, 290-pound humanoid robots. MIT will use it to test and develop for future space missions to Mars, and beyond.
CSAIL Principal Investigator Russ Tedrake will work on algorithms for the robot, which is known as "Valkyrie" or "R5". Tedrake's work will be part of NASA's upcoming Space Robotics Challenge, with its missions to create more dexterous autonomous robots that will help, or one day replace humans on "extreme space" missions.
NASA says that it's interested in humanoid robots because they can assist, or replace humans working in extreme space environments. For future missions, humanoid robots can do tasks that humans simply can't do - like out in space itself, where humans die with a lack of oxygen - and that little thing called gravity.
Associate Administrator for the Space Technology Mission DiDirectorateSTMD) at NASA HQ in Washington, Steve Jurczyk, said: "Advances in robotics, including human-robotic collaboration, are critical to developing the capabilities required for our journey to Mars. We are excited to engage these university research groups to help NASA with this next big step in robotics technology development".
Last week, Google's DeepMind AI beat the European champion of the board game Go. Following that, it promptly set its sights on world champion Lee Sedol. Happily, you'll be able to watch the upcoming match on YouTube, where it will be broadcast live.
A date has been set, too: March 9 through March 15 is when the $1 million match will go down.
Of the match, Sedol says, "I have heard that Google DeepMind's AI is surprisingly strong and getting stronger, but I am confident that I can win, at least this time," indicating he's taken note of the rapid progress Google has made and expects it will continue to make.
Fusion power is seen as the holy grail for renewable and clean energy sources. Harnessing the power of the stars would propel mankind to extraordinary heights, and instantly resolve our growing energy crises to boot. Now thanks to the nuclear fusion experiments conducted by the Max Planck Institute of Physics in Germany, we're one step closer to unlocking the secrets of fusion power.
The world's largest nuclear fusion stellarator, the Wendelstein 7-X, has just made history by being the first stellarator-type fusion device to produce hydrogen plasma. Hydrogen plasma is vital to re-creating and molding the specific conditions of our Sun, thus facilitating fusion reactions.
"It's a very clean source of power, the cleanest you could possibly wish for. We're not doing this for us, but for our children and grandchildren," Karlsruhe Institute of Technology physicist John Jelonnek said.
Normal silicon circuits that use electricity aren't fast enough for NASA and the future of laser communication. So now NASA is looking to test a true photonic based modem to ensure the fastest, and most reliable, form of communication between space and the ground.
Photonic based computers and chips can provide an incredible amount of bandwidth, which can be crucial when communicating data, like how a modem just needs to pass data through as fast as possible. And they'll be applying this to their new laser communication system, the Laser Communication Relay Demonstration (LCRD).
This is a huge step in researching realistic and usable fast communication methods that can be used in space to travel long distances. This is almost an evolution of NASA's own OPALs, which is another laser communications experiment that's on the ISS. Essentially, the shot a high-powered laser beam at a tiny target on Earth to transmit packets of data. This new solution should be far faster and show that photonics can be an actual viable solution.
One of Google's DeepMind AI software programs AlphaGo has beaten the European champion of the board game Go. More than that, it beat him -- Fan Hui -- soundly: 5-0. The fear marks a major AI breakthrough pros predicted wouldn't happen for another decade.
"The technical idea that underlies it is the idea of reinforcement learning - getting computers to learn to improve their behaviour to achieve goals," said Prof Zoubin Ghahramani, of the University of Cambridge. "That could be used for decision-making problems - to help doctors make treatment plans, for example, in businesses or anywhere where you'd like to have computers assist humans in decision making."
The future holds a lot of technological marvels, but what happens when perfect robots make humans redundant in the workforce? It's actually already happening, says Neil deGrasse Tyson, and as long as we're more "intellectually nimble" going forward, we don't have to worry about it.
"Yes, robots have already taken over our jobs. So what it means is...If all you think about is the jobs today, and you project forward, there might be a day when robots take over every job we have today," Dr. deGrasse Tyson said. "Is that the future that will come? No, because we have innovative people in society, and we invent new things all the time. These require new jobs to manage them, to invent them, to conceive them, to engineer them."
The World Economics Forum already predicts that 5 million existing jobs will be lost to robots by 2020. That's a pretty big economic disruption, and generally seen as a warning sign by most hard-working people. But deGrasse Tyson says that humanity will be okay, as long as we keep stimulating ourselves intellectually.
Wireless Power Transfer, of Tesla fame, is about to become a reality. His vision of actually transmitting power to charge devices is almost here.
Tesla's original design
Wireless charging is currently limited to simply not having to plug something physically into your phone. You still need to make contact with something, like a pad, to charge that battery. But soon, we'll have true wireless charging, where that precious power is beamed through the air to your device. From a distance.
Scientists from ITMO University and the Giricond Research Institute have just made a pretty substantial breakthrough in transferring power over distances of around 20cm. That might not seem like much, but it's a far cry from having to put your phone down on a Qi pad. And their methods have only a small decrease in power efficiency, with over 80% of the power transmitted being transferred.
Strong evidence suggests a new planet 10 times the size of Earth has been hiding out at the edge of our solar system for...quite some time now. Tentatively named "Planet Nine", it would found in the outer darkness 30.5 billion kilometers from the sun, or about five times farther than Pluto.
Evidence for this possible planet surfaced in 2014 but wasn't strong enough to be taken too seriously. Recently, scientists Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown at the California Institute of Technology uncovered "anomalies in the orbits of a handful of smaller bodies they can see", indicating they were being "shepherded" by the gravity of a planet. As a result, the likelihood Planet Nine does indeed exist has majorly increased, and the scientific community at large is taking note.
Neurosurgeons and engineers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have just created an exciting new medical device. An tiny sensor that can send life-saving information wirelessly, then dissolve completely, not requiring surgery to take out.
Their device is made of a polylactic-co-glycolic acid and silicon mixture, making it very safe for humans. It's a huge breakthrough because cranial surgery can be dangerous and risky. Now this tiny little device, which is smaller than the tip of a pencil, can be implanted into key areas in your head to monitor intracranial pressure and temperature, and then just be completely absorbed by the body.
Since these new devices dissolve over time, they avoid a lot of the common complications that can occur. There's very little worry of infection, inflammation or any other kind of triggered immune response that can occur with implants of this kind. That means it can help more people more readily. A lot of lives could potentially be saved by using this device. There's a quoted 50,000 people that die of traumatic brain injuries that go undetected or aren't properly monitored.
Robots are slowly taking over the human population, in factories, retail and service industries - slowly, but surely. But, how much worse can it get? The World Economic Forum has now weighed in, with some estimates.
The WEF says that over 5 million jobs will be lost to robots, with the white-collar workers (admin/office jobs) being the ones most at risk. The WEF surveyed 15 countries that have over 1.9 billion workers - including China, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the UK and the US. These 1.9 billion workers make up 65% of the global workforce, with hope that robots won't take over all of our jobs - as people will need to adapt to technology as it arrives.
WEF founder Klaus Schwab and board member Richard Samans explained: "To prevent a worst-case scenario -- technological change accompanied by talent shortages, mass unemployment and growing inequality -- reskilling and upskilling of today's workers will be critical". You can read their full report "The Future of Jobs" here.