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An engineer at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) has created a long-range iris scanner that can accurately and quickly identify people up to 12 meters away. The scanner is able to capture a person's full face and both irises, even if they are simply walking by the scanner.
There are a number of potential use cases, ranging from police and military deployment, to possibly one day replacing identification scanners. If implemented, it could also remove the need for a traditional fingerprint biometrics login with notebooks and computer systems.
"Fingerprints, they require you to touch something," said Marios Savvides, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University, in a statement published by The Atlantic. "Iris, we can capture it at a distance, so we're making the whole user experience much less intrusive, much more comfortable."
Drone technology is advancing rapidly, and it may not be too much longer when humans will no longer need to directly control them, according to Intel.
During the Intel Future Showcase in the UK, Intel and Ascending Technologies showed off a drone that uses six Intel RealSense Cameras - that power the drone so it can fly by itself. Using the onboard cameras, a drone can create a real-time 360-degree map of the world, supporting depth and distance analyzing functionality. The idea of a self-navigating drone might be frightening to some, but appears to be a small glimpse of the future.
"Ultimately it will make for a safer and more useful robot... it can avoid people for example, so we can be less likely the drone will run into someone and cause harm," said Scott Dwyer, product and marketing manager at Intel, in a statement published by BT.
A once-massive Antarctic ice shelf could be gone within the next 10 years, according to NASA researchers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Large pieces of the Larsen B Ice Shelf are moving at a faster rate of speed, and are splintering after cracks began to form - while two tributary glaciers are continuing to thin, according to researchers.
"These are warning signs that the remnant is disintegrating," said Ala Khazendar, from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in a statement published on CBS News. "Although it's fascinating scientifically to have a front-row seat to watch the ice shelf becoming unstable and breaking up, it's bad news for our planet. This ice shelf has existed for at least 10,000 years, and soon it will be gone."
Researchers point towards mounting ice melt in Antarctica as one clear sign of global warming, which is reportedly having major implications on Earth. The increase in greenhouse gas emissions, which are generated from fossil fuel usage, are leading to increasing temperatures - and posing significant issues to glaciers.
According to British philosopher Nick Bostrom, the reality that surrounds us is thanks to a highly-advanced computer program, similar to the events of The Matrix.
Dr Bostrom proposed his theory in a paper that he wrote, saying that an evolved race of aliens have "imprisoned the human race" in what Bostrom refers to as "digital imprisonment". You might think he is crazy, but NASA scientist Rich Terrile agrees with Bostrom in a way. Terrile is the director of the Centre for Evolutionary Computation and Automated Design at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Terrile spoke with VICE, where he said: "Right now the fastest NASA supercomputers are cranking away at about double the speed of the human brain. If you make a simple calculation using Moore's Law [which roughly claims computers double in power every two years], you'll find that these supercomputers, inside of a decade, will have the ability to compute an entire human lifetime of 80 years - including every thought ever conceived during that lifetime - in the span of a month".
He continued: "In quantum mechanics, particles do not have a definite state unless they're being observed. Many theorists have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how you explain this. One explanation is that we're living within a simulation, seeing what we need to see when we need to see it. What I find inspiring is that, even if we are in a simulation or many orders of magnitude down in levels of simulation, somewhere along the line something escaped the primordial ooze to become us and to result in simulations that made us - and that's cool".
The use of robots and remote control underwater vehicles are nothing new for ocean exploration, but researchers at MIT want to take things a step further: allow robots to think for themselves, so they can have cognitive capabilities.
Operators are able to program the robots to complete a high-level task, and the underwater robots are able to figure out what they are doing once submerged. It can be a helpful feature so researchers can monitor what is happening below the surface, but the customized craft will be responsible to determine what they should be doing.
"We wanted to show that these vehicles could plan their own missions, and execute, adapt, and re-plan them alone, without human support," said Brian Williams, mission planning principal developer at MIT. "We can give the system choices, like, 'Go to either this or that science location and map it out,' or 'communicate via an acoustic modem, or a satellite link."
Bill Nye "the Science Guy" believes that aliens are out there somewhere, even though no one is really sure where they will be found. With so many undiscovered galaxies in space, it seems only logical that some form of alien life exists, even if we haven't found one another yet.
"It's gotta exist outside the solar system," Nye recently said while speaking with HuffPost Live. "I mean there's 200 billion stars in this galaxy alone. Then you start talking about the hundreds of billions of galaxies. Hundreds of billions of galaxies, which in turn have hundreds of billions of stars, which in turn have tens of hundreds of billions - trillions - of planets. Come on!"
When it comes to the Earth's solar system, Mars and Jupiter's moon of Europa seem like the most likely places to search for alien life. Last year, NASA scientist Kevin Hand said humans would find some form of alien life within the next 20 years, while Nye said that could take up to 30 years.
IBM CEO Ginni Rometty believes artificial intelligence can be used by humans for our own benefit, despite some outcry that AI poses a threat to mankind. During the World of Watson event, aimed at promoting IBM Watson, Rometty promised a "bold prediction."
"In the future, every decision that mankind makes is going to be informed by a cognitive system like Watson... and our lives will be better for it," Rometty said.
IBM Watson is a custom cognitive system that the company promotes as a "new partnership between people and computers that enhances and scales human expertise." The supercomputer has already been used for cancer research - among other breakthrough scientific purposes - but IBM wants to push things even further. Watson was able to beat Jeopardy! king Ken Jennings in 2011, and has been used more recently to help chefs find new recipes.
Yotel New York is making use of a customized ABB IRB 6640 robot from MFG Automation, using the custom "Yobot" that handles around 300 pieces of luggage per day. Hotel guests can actually check-in using kiosks, give their luggage to the robot, and go straight to their rooms with minimal worker contact.
The robot traditionally was designed for an industrial workplace, so it can spot weld or transport manufacturing materials, but the hotel uses it so employees can conduct other tasks.
"It also allows our staff to focus on the guest and focus on their needs instead of just the simple task of storing a piece of luggage," said Claes Landberg, general manager of YOTEL New York, in a statement to CNBC.
When it comes to artificial intelligence and the way it is advancing, physicist Stephen Hawking is concerned humans could one day lose control. He has spoken out against AI on numerous occasions in the past, and recently shared his thoughts about why humans must be vigilant regarding AI:
"Computers will overtake humans with I at some [time] within the next 100 years," Hawking recently said while speaking at the Zeitgeist 2015 conference. "When that happens, we need to make sure the computers have goals aligned with ours."
Even if AI doesn't evolve to become a major threat to mankind, Hawking - and a growing number of major tech and science leaders - want a fair and open discussion regarding AI research. There is major concern over who controls AI, though with self-awareness and learning protocols in place, full artificial intelligence could allow the robots to disregard human operators.
Scientists and researchers have great use for robotics development, with a number of different models currently in development. The use of micro-robotics, however, provides an interesting scenario in which researchers study small insects and wildlife for their natural inspiration.
When most people think of robots, they immediately think of large, metallic creations that can be used in factories - but micro-sized robots are proving increasingly popular. If implemented, micro-robots can assist in agriculture, medicine, and other industries, according to supporters.
"If you want to make something a centimeter big that can fly, several hundred thousand solutions already exist in nature," said Robert Wood, electrical engineer at Harvard University's Microrobotics Lab, in a statement to National Geographic. "We don't just copy nature. We try to understand the what, how, and why behind an organism's anatomy, movement, and behavior, and then translate that into engineering terms."