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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."
The researchers of blue light-emitting diode (LED) are the recipients of the 2014 Nobel Prize in physics. The winners are Isamu Akasi, a professor at Meijo University and Nagoya University, Hiroshi Amano, also a professor at Nagoya University and Shuji Nakamura who is a professor at the University of California. Along with the Nobel Prize, the scientists will also be splitting $1.1 million award money.
The three scientists were the ones who found a way to produce blue light beams in the early 1990s, but the red and the green light diodes were produced by others. According to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in its prize citation that white light couldn't have been invented if it wasn't for the blue LED invention. The invention of blue LED is 20 years old, but has been used in multiple electronic appliances, devices, day-to-day electronic equipment, traffic signals, headlights and even PCs.
The main advantage of LEDs is that it significantly reduces the consumption of electricity in comparison with incandescent and fluorescent lights. The widespread adoption of the practical invention, and the versatility in other fields is what makes them deserve this award. LEDs are used in smart bulbs that are made by few companies like GE and Phillips.
As NASA ramps up research efforts to one day send a manned crew to Mars, putting the spaceflight crew in stasis would allow for better mission logistical support. The use of therapeutic torpor has occurred for up to one week, but would require intravenous feeding as a one-way trip to Mars could take more than 180 days, researchers note.
"We haven't had the need to keep someone in (therapeutic torpor) for longer than seven days," said Mark Schaffer, aerospace engineer for SpaceWorks Enterprises. "For human Mars missions, we need to push that to 90 days, 180 days. Those are the types of mission flight times we're talking about."
Using stasis allows mission planners to cut supply requirements down from 400 tons to around 220 tons, with less consumables such as food and water needed.
With Mars being orbited by India's satellite Mangalyaan, it has spurred scientists back here on Earth for their next mission, with NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) signing a new agreement to work together on the future exploration of Mars.
The two space agencies also agreed to collaborate on observations and scientific analysis from their respective satellites that are orbiting Mars. With India now the first Asian nation to research to reach Mars, and the only country in the world that succeeded on its first attempt. NASA has its own Maven satellite that entered Mars' orbit two days before Mangalyaan arrived, with Maven the first spacecraft to explore the upper atmosphere of Mars, and Mangalyaan studying the surface of the planet, in search for evidence of methane, and more.
NASA spent north of $740 million on its latest journey to Mars, with India spending just a tenth of that, at a cost of $74 million. Analysts have said that this puts India directly into the big league when it comes to space, nudging out China and Japan in space exploration in one small step for the country. So far, Chinese and Japanese missions to orbit Mars have failed. In six more years, the two space agencies hope to launch NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar, or NISAR. NISAR will observe the Earth, measuring changes in our land surface. NASA said in a statement: "Nisar will improve our understanding of key impacts of climate change and advance our knowledge of natural hazards".
The United States military has slowed down efforts to dismantle some of its aging nuclear warheads, just in case they are needed for use against asteroids that threaten the Earth. Until an evaluation is conducted to determine "their use in planetary defense against earth-bound asteroids," according to officials.
Nuclear weapons could be used to strike asteroids to either knock them off course - or detonate asteroids to create smaller fragments - that would no longer pose a threat to the planet. Of course, such controversial research has garnered some criticism, including the idea that this is just an excuse for the U.S. military to keep a functional nuclear arsenal.
NASA previously outlined its interest in trying to capture an asteroid which could be used by researchers for further studies. The U.S. space agency will test capabilities by 2030 as part of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), and it could also be used to help manned missions reach Mars.
Over a decade of conflict has left thousands of U.S. personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and why President Barack Obama is relying heavily on drone and fighter jet airstrikes to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria. However, drone operators responsible for monitoring targets and launching strikes also can suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - and the PTSD, depression and anxiety levels of drone operators can match traditional pilots.
"I would go to sleep and dream about work, the mission, and continuously see the people I'd watch on the screen earlier now in my own head repeatedly being killed," said Brandon Bryant, who spent five years operating drone cameras in New Mexico and Nevada. Bryant witnessed at least 13 direct killings, while his squad tallied more than 1,626 combatants.
As medical researchers struggle to address PTSD among ground troops returning home, there is growing concern that drone operators - which continue to be relied upon for reconnaissance and precision strikes - could also face the same type of mental health problems. A frightening thought as drones have also been used in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, with strikes expected to continue against suspected terrorists.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has given the Boston University Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering funding to help design a cloud-based "smart-city" platform. The so-called Smart-city Cloud-based Open Platform & Ecosystem (SCOPE) could one day help improve social services, transportation, energy, public safety, and other infrastructure for Boston residents.
The state of Massachusetts has a large number of colleges and universities, along with a booming tech sector, which helps spur innovation. If successful, similar programs could be launched in major metropolitan areas throughout the United States, as cities, counties, and states try to operate on mismanaged - and sometimes out of control - budgets that only balloon further.
"The SCOPE project highlights the collaborative efforts between the state, industry and academia that help make Massachusetts the leading innovation state," said Governor Deval Patrick. "Through our Massachusetts Big Data Initiative, we've made open government a priority, opening data sets across multiple state agencies, improving access by researchers and the public."
As the United States continues another complicated military and political battle in the Middle East, the problem-plagued F-22 Raptor is seeing its first tour of combat. The radar-evading F-22 Raptor didn't conduct attack missions in Iraq or Afghanistan, but is now being used to conduct airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) in Syria.
The Lockheed Martin-developed aircraft is a single-seat fighter jet able to evade radar - but at a $190 million cost per aircraft, it's rather expensive - with almost 200 fighter jets manufactured. After years of budget problems and delays, including an oxygen-related issue in which pilots reported in-flight oxygen deprivation, the U.S. Air Force looks ahead to using the aircraft for future strikes.
"The flight of the F-22s delivered GPS-guided munitions, precision munitions targeting only the right side of the building," said Lt. Gen William Mayville, during a recent presentation how the aircraft is being used to fight ISIS terrorists in Syria. "And you can see that the control - the command and control center where it was located in the building was destroyed."
Japanese researchers from the Okinawa National College of Technology have developed a Skeletonics exoskeleton suit that measures more than eight feet in height. Wearers climb into the giant suit and use it operating their own arms and legs, with no power to assist in movement. It has mainly become popular for public entertainment, as it can be used at events, parades, and to grab attention.
"We didn't think about creating anything useful," said Reyes Tatsuru Shiroku, Skeletonics researcher. "That's probably why we were able to develop a unique thing."
There has been an increase in exoskeleton research, with the military and private sector interested in using them to help reduce physical labor loads.