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The US Air Force is interested in preparing itself for the next level of warfare, and that includes possible electronic warfare needs. Instead of focusing on the EA-18G Growler and other older planes, the USAF has turned its attention to the super pricey F-35 platform from Lockheed Martin.
The F-35 provides "some pretty impressive" capabilities that include jamming enemy signals and other electronic warfare tools, according to Air Combat Command Commander General Herbert Carlisle. Considering the overall price of the F-35 program, and countless delays and setbacks, it's incredible lawmakers and military officials think American taxpayers won't notice.
"With the limited (budget), you've got to think harder about buying brand new legacy airplanes versus the next generation as we go forward," Carlisle recently said during a press conference. Boeing wants to receive enough orders to help ensure its F/A-18E/F and EA-18G fighter manufacturing plant in St. Louis can remain open.
Earlier in the year, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) met to discuss the use of lethal and potentially autonomous robots on the battlefield. Researchers are careful not to urge for a worldwide ban of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS), though urge caution - and much more research - that must be conducted by multiple nations.
The argument of maintaining human control over robotics systems on the battlefield is for moral and legal reasons that robots likely couldn't perceive. However, some wonder if the argument has started too late, as there is increased research in non-human solutions conducting military operations.
"Almost all states who are party to the CCW agree with the need for 'meaningful human control' over the targeting and engagement decisions made by weapons," said Stuart Russell, professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, in a statement published by Nature. "Unfortunately, the meaning of 'meaningful' is still to be determined."
Researchers are creating robotic technology that can help faster automate food processing, using technology that could have major long-term ramifications. Working with the FTNON food-processing equipment manufacturer, new technology could be used in chillers to help process lettuce, cabbage, and other vegetables prior to packaging.
"In industry, only humans can do that at the moment," confirmed van der Linde, co-founder and CEO of Lacquey, in a statement published by the MIT Technology Review.
One robot can successfully manipulate a chicken, able to slice shoulder tendons before breasts and wings are cut in a processing plant. The new automated system can match the same speed as humans, and developers want to see the speed increase. Also inside of a food processing facility, the Baxter robot from Rethink Robotics are tasked with putting chicken carcasses onto a holder before they are shipped elsewhere in the plant.
Researchers want to develop next-generation robots able to naturally interact with humans, hoping their creations are able to intuitively act on instinct. Researchers from the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies and Institute for Systems Research want to revolutionize how robots are able to function in the real-world.
Ideally, it'll be possible to teach robots common sense and general awareness of their surroundings, so they can play a wider role in the human world. ARC researchers previously showed off a robot that can learn how to cook after watching YouTube culinary videos.
"We're trying to build the next generation of robots," said Yiannis Aloimonos, an experienced computer science professor, in a statement released by the University of Maryland. "There are robots that can interact with people naturally and do a variety of useful things."
The Titan Aerospace Solara 50 drone that Google wants to use as a platform to help deliver Internet service to users across the world has unfortunately crashed. The US National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash which took place in New Mexico on May 1.
Google purchased Titan Aerospace in 2014, and hopes the drone, which can operate at 65,000 ft. altitude, can carry up to 70 pounds of telecom equipment. Solara 50 can produce up to seven kilowatts of power using 3,000 enclosed solar cells, and features a wingspan up to 164 feet.
"Although our prototype plane went down during a recent test, we remain optimistic about the potential of solar-powered planes to help deliver connectivity," said Courtney Hohne, Google spokeswoman, in a statement to Bloomberg News. "Part of building a new technology is overcoming hurdles along the way."
The cheetah-inspired robot created by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has an innovative new skill: it can successfully jump over obstacles. The robot, which can run a maximum 10 miles per hour, is becoming even more impressive ahead of the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals next month.
Researchers equipped the robot with a LiDAR system that uses laser to detect items, with the cheetah quickly creating a virtual map of its surrounding area.
"It's the first legged robot to be able [to] leap hurdles like this autonomously," said Sangbae Kim, MIT research team lead, in a statement. "Many other robots can move faster on wheels, or maybe jump higher, but they can't do it on their own."
The use of virtual reality can help medical patients suffering from strokes and other major brain conditions regain control over themselves, researchers believe.
The Virtual Reality Medical Center is using VR to help medical patients re-learn motor functions, such as walking, sitting, or holding an item. Letting patients work in a virtual environment is a great first step, helping ease embarrassment or discomfort before they physically try to move again.
"What we do first is teach a person how to control their body and thought process," said Brenda Wiederhold, EVP of the Virtual Reality Medical Center, in a statement to CNBC. "Then we put them in VR and have them practice those skills in the virtual world so they feel confident they can use them in the real-world."
It's possible 47 percent of jobs in the United States could be at risk because of robotics taking over, according to a report from Citigroup and the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford. Trying to find solutions to better train and educate employees will be required, and humans in the workforce must be willing to expand their skills.
The education system's poor preparation of workers transitioning from high school or university in the workforce has to be changed. Automation is expected to displace even more workers in the future, according to Joe Seydl, senior associate of the Citi Global Economics Team.
"This time, bigger portions of our economy are being disrupted by new technology," Seydl said in a statement to the Christian Science Monitor. "I think it's going to come down to policy: supply-side and demand-side policies. Supply-side means making sure workers have the skills to compete for jobs in the 21st century. This is going to come down to education and whether we can upgrade workers' skills fast enough."
Unmanned drones and other military vehicles aren't new, and it looks like robots and autonomous hardware could be the future. However, there are legal and ethical questions when it comes to weapons systems that are able to identify and engage targets with no human interaction.
The idea that a robot or drone can detect its target and begin firing at the target without a human operator is frightening - but something that more researchers believe is feasible. There is a concern, however, that robots would be unable to accurately identify enemy combatants and civilians. Though there is a counter-argument that robots would cause less collateral damage than humans remotely operating the drones.
"Technologies have reached a point at which the deployment of such systems is - practically, if not legally - feasible within years, not decades," said Stuart Russell, an AI researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, in a commentary published in "Nature." The AI weapons "have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms."
Senior citizens are finding motivation and entertainment out of a 22-inch humanoid robot leading physical therapy classes. The Zora robot was originally poised to become an assistant in hotels, but designers and programmers found a more appealing market in healthcare.
Previously, Zora has been used to interact with young children, helping teach them basic motor function and keep them stimulated. There are more than 6,000 elderly citizens in Belgium, France and the Netherlands use the robot to stay engaged, listening to news articles, weather forecasts, and following dance and exercise routines.
"A lot of elderly people are actually feeling alone. Solitude is something which is horrible for the moment for a lot of elderly people," said Fabrice Goffin, co-creator of the Zora robot, in a statement to Washington Post. "People don't have all the time to visit their families and they can find some kind of relationship with the robot and that is a nice thing to do."