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The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is embracing unmanned ground vehicles and robots, expecting the newer technologies to have a major role on the battlefield.
G-NIUS Autonomous Unmanned Ground Vehicles is expanding away from the Guardium, promoting the Border Patroller UGV. The ground vehicles will be deployed to patrol the border with Gaza, able to detect and identify insurgent activity - and inform manned patrols.
"Its communications systems will be improved [compared to those of the Guardium], and the control aspect will be different," said Maj. Lior Tarbelsi, director of the Robotics Division in the Ground Forces Command's Weapons Department, in a statement published by The Jerusalem Post. "A robot can be risked, and it doesn't have to deal with a lack of lighting. It doesn't have to breathe, and it won't have to worry about getting shot."
More jobs and human workers are at risk of robots one day taking over their roles in the workplace, and much of the concern has focused on low-tech workers. However, researchers from Columbia University and Boston University are worried that high-tech employees could also be at risk as demand for robots accelerates in the years to come.
Supporters note that humans are needed to help program the robots and carry out required maintenance - but there is growing criticism that much-needed jobs are at risk. However, researchers note that sophisticated code writing may be necessary at first, but legacy code will grow while these robots are able to autonomously learn tasks.
Companies have embraced robotics technology in manufacturing facilities to help streamline operations, reduce labor costs, and maintain high-levels of production.
There is a blend of technology and modern medicine helping save lives, as smart medical implants are being used in select cases.
The US government is throwing its weight behind smart implant research, with the DARPA Electrical Prescriptions (ElectRX) program. University researchers also have received additional financial support to develop smart implants that can be used to enhance medicine. Doctors and researchers have successfully created hardware for the human heart, esophagus and other critical areas - but trying to make implants for the brain remains extremely tricky.
"We're like the Wright brothers at the stage where they were first trying to build an airplane," said Tim Denison, director of the Medtronic neuromodulation division, in a statement published by NBC News. "Before they could do it, they had to build a wind tunnel to understand the principles of flight."
Researchers are looking forward to the future of medical technology that could have major life-changing impact, with great breakthroughs in bionic vision. During the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference last week, medical researchers discussed everything from telescopic contact lenses to prototype bionic prosthetics.
New technology developments greatly aid patients suffering from vision impairments - and varying levels of blindness - giving them the chance to better distinguish the world around them.
"Retinal implants have moved from sci-fi into reality over the last few years," said Daniel Palanker, professor of ophthalmology at Stanford University, in a statement to the San Jose Mercury News. "Now we are in the race of improving resolution, improving image processing, dynamic range (of light intensity) and levels of gray - and will keep improving."
DARPA is constantly working on various things that we'll see in the next couple of decades, but one of them is something that started out as "supervision" contact lens for soldiers. But as things progressed, it was looking like it was better suited to age-related macular degeneration.
The latest version of the 'supervision' contact lens has bulked up a bit from its first iteration which was 1.17mm, to 1.55mm. The added thickness could have something to do with adjusting the reflective bits inside of the lens itself, or that there's a different material used in its construction.
When asked about the added thickness, researcher Eric Tremblay said that out of the five patients that have used the lens, said it was light enough and more than comfortable to wear around for daily use. The contact lens itself works as a pair of liquid crystal glasses that the user wears, where winking your right eye turns on the magnification, while winking the left eye turns it off. Blinking, does nothing. The big issue now is getting oxygen through the lens, and to the users' eye. Without oxygen to the eye, the contact can only be worn for around half an hour. The team is already working on fixing this, with current experiments leading them to use tiny channels cut into the contact that feed oxygen as well as add reservoirs of oxygen-rich fluids.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) shook up the aviation industry by making commercial drone flights acceptable with a few requirements: operators must be at least 17 years old, pass a written exam covering FAA rules, and operators will need to observe safety requirements.
Drones must be less than 55 pounds, fly below 500 feet, and travel less than 100 mph, while being operated within sight of the primary drone operator. In addition, the FAA said drone flights cannot take place near airports or over private citizens not involved in the commercial flight of the drone.
"We have tried to be flexible in writing these rules," said Michael Huerta, FAA Administration, in a statement published by USA Today. "We want to maintain today's outstanding level of aviation safety without placing an undue regulatory burden on an emerging industry."
The Canadian government is becoming increasingly concerned that China or Russia could encroach on the Canadian Arctic region. It's a startling concern for the Canadian government, which unlike the United States, UK and other allies, cannot develop and acquire UAVs as quickly.
Canada is unable to acquire drones at a rapid pace, while there is concern the Chinese and Russian governments could launch drones to conduct surveillance operations. The Canadian government is concerned that Russia and China could launch UAVs from ice floes, long-range bombers or submarines - with the Russian military creating small research stations throughout the region.
"Russia and China do not currently possess land-based UAVs capable of conducting (intelligence, surveillance reconnaissance) against the Canadian Arctic," according to an assessment that was released in April 2013. "This limitation could change should UAVs gain aerial refueling capabilities."
Adoption of industrial robots will increase 10 percent per year in the 25 largest export nations over the next 10 years, a drastic increase from the 2 to 3 percent growth rate currently, according to the Boston Consulting Group.
Robots are becoming cheaper to purchase, while hardware and software advancements make them more intuitive and functional in the workplace. BCG anticipates up to 1.2 million advanced robots being deployed in the United States alone through 2025, with China, Canada, and other nations also benefitting from automated solutions.
"As labor costs rise around the world, it is becoming increasingly critical that manufacturers rapidly take steps to improve their output per worker to stay competitive," said Harold Sirkin, senior partner of Boston Consulting Group and report co-author, in a statement published by CBC. "Companies are finding that advances in robotics and other manufacturing technologies offer some of the best opportunities to sharply improve productivity."
A Southwest Airlines flight landing at the Los Angeles International Airport reported a close call with a small drone as it prepared to land.
"Hey, there was just one of those radio-controlled helicopter things that went right over the top of us at 4,000," the pilot said after the near-miss. "One of those remotely piloted deals... [a] little bitty one, red in color."
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is increasingly concerned that private drone operators aren't respecting airspace around commercial and private airports. There have been a growing number of incidents that pose significant danger to aircraft, and the problem is likely to get worse before it gets better, air safety experts warn.
The development of robotics and big data are putting pressure on the US workforce, with almost half of US jobs facing pressure from robots, according to a report issued by Citigroup and University of Oxford researchers.
Robots and automated technology have had an impact in factories and mid-level positions, but developments could lead to increased pressure on low-skill occupations, the report notes. To make matters worse, manufacturers are adopting the use of more robots in factories and offices, with the humanoids able to better complete tasks.
"The bulk of service occupations, where the most US job growth has occurred over the past decades, are now at risk," according to the report. "Already the market for personal and household service robots is growing by about 20 percent annually - a trend that is likely to continue."