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There are a growing number of companies in the United States fighting for lucrative government contracts focused on disaster recovery. The Pentagon is hosting a multi-million-dollar competition that will have robots compete in a rigorous series of tests to gauge how developed this technology is at its current level.
"We don't know what the next disaster will be, but we know we have to develop the technology to help us address these kinds of disasters," said Gill Pratt, program manager at DARPA, when speaking with reporters.
Even though DARPA - and governments across the world - are developing robots that could be deployed for disaster recovery, there is some concern that autonomous robots could be used for rather devious purposes.
Robots aren't just going to one day take over manufacturing jobs, but could also replace lawyers, grocery store clerks, teachers, and other positions in the service sector, according to an author with a background in robots and automation.
There are a number of different focuses for robotics, with companies expanding outside of just manufacturing - with the new generation of robots able to work in fast food restaurants, hotels, retail stores, farms, and other common workplace tasks.
"As we look forward from this point, we need to keep in mind that this technology is going to continue to accelerate," said Martin Ford, Silicon Valley executive and author, in a statement to NPR. "So I think there's every reason to believe it's going to become the primary driver of inequality in the future, and things are likely to get even more extreme than they are now."
The Ocumetics Bionic Lens could one day transform the eye-care world, as the custom lenses can provide three times better than 20/20 vision. Instead of needing eye glasses or contacts, the surgically-implanted lenses would be able to improve a person's vision regardless of how poor their vision was beforehand.
"This is vision enhancements that the world has never seen before," said Dr. Garth Webb, Canadian optometrist and CEO of Ocumetics Technology, in a statement published by CBC. "If you can just barely see the clock at 10 feet, when you get the Bionic Lens you can see the clock at 30 feet away."
The surgery takes around eight minutes, with the procedure similar to a cataract surgery, and would immediately improve vision. Dr. Webb showed his technology to ophthalmologists prior to the start of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery - with clinical trials involving international surgeons expected down the road.
The US Navy and Lockheed Martin want to attach a Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) to the F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet, so it has greater range when identifying and attacking targets. The LRASM has undergone three tests by the Navy, DARPA and Air Force, with operational deployment expected by 2019.
The autonomous missile has a range up to 200 nautical miles, though additional information regarding its guidance systems and seeker technology are classified. However, the missile should be able to identify - and dodge - any obstacles en route to its target.
"We wanted to make sure it can exit the canister when the booster lights up and the missile stays intact," said Hady Mourad, program manager at Lockheed Martin Missiles, in a statement to Military.com. "We're furthering the maturity of our surface launched integration and planning on doing a few flight tests in the near future."
Researchers from the University of Surrey in the UK have developed an interesting new, noninvasive drug test that can detect cocaine in your system through your fingerprints. The system looks for two common cocaine metabolites: benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine.
These two metabolites can be found in blood, sweat, and urine using a "mass spectrometry technique known as Desorption Electrospray Ionisation (DESI)", reports Engadget. Metabolites dissipate from our sweat much quicker than they do in blood and urine, so law enforcement will one day in the near future be able to know if a suspect is high right then and there, or was high a few nights ago.
The study's lead author, Melanie Bailey, told Motherboard: "We can distinguish between cocaine having been touched and cocaine having been ingested". With fingerprints being unique, it's hard to swap out a urine sample or test, which will make this type of technology fast-tracked beyond belief. The team has added that their research is still in its early stages, as they'll need to secure much more data on the effects of dosage and timing before they can move to more reliable testing. They still say that this technology will be made available to law enforcement within 10 years.
Researchers have created a new robotic device that is able to mimic octopus tentacles, with the hope that surgeons can carry out surgeries in a faster, safer manner.
Ideally, surgeons will be able to check parts of the human body that are normally difficult to access without major interference - and part of the robotic arm can assist with the surgery without hurting the medical patient. The octopus-themed arm is able to bend up to 255 degrees, increase stiffness up to 200 percent and stretch up to 62 percent - giving doctors and surgeons much more flexibility.
"The potential is to allow the performance of current minimally invasive procedures in an easier way for the surgeon, as well as to enable them to perform procedures that are currently not possible in a minimally invasive way with the instrumentation surgeons have today," said Tommaso Ranzani, lead author and researcher at the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, in a recently published story.
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".