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What's New in Robotics this Week - Oct 21

Emmet Cole
by Emmet Cole.
Posted on Oct 21, 2016 7:00 AM. 7 min read time

Sweaty robots; robot arm returns sense of touch to paralyzed man; Hawking opens UK AI research lab; Japan's robo-babies; aircraft automation, and much more! Find out what's happening in our robotics universe this week. We hope that the news we have selected will interest and amuse you. Enjoy! 

This Robot Can Do More Push-Ups Because it Sweats (IEEE Spectrum

Researchers from Japan have developed a new, biologically-inspired technique for cooling humanoid robots' motors. The technique involves  using the robot's structure (its skeleton-like metal frame) as a coolant-delivery system. 

As IEEE Spectrum explains: "The approach goes way beyond just running water channels through the frame and circulating water through them, since that wouldn’t have solved the problem of needing to place a radiator in there somewhere. The researchers instead decided to try a passive technique, allowing the water to seep out through the frame around the motors to cool them evaporatively. In other words, Kengoro sweats." 

The robot's frame is made from aluminum powder using an additive manufacturing technique that allows various complex designs to be constructed:

" get an enormous amount of control over the printing process, and by altering the energy density of the laser during fabrication, you can selectively vary the permeability of the metal that you’re making. A low permeability piece of metal would be something like a solid brick of aluminum, while a high permeability piece of metal would have a structure full of tiny gaps and tunnels, like a sponge. The laser sintering technique is precise enough to build up aluminum structures with areas of both low and high permeability, letting you make seamless metal components that have micro channels embedded in them through which water can flow." 

Pretty ingenious stuff. Makes you wonder what's coming next though.. humanoid robots with bad breath?  

Robotic Arm Delivers Sense of Touch Straight to the Brain (MIT Technology Review

A paralyzed man's sense of touch has been returned thanks to electrical signals sent directly from a robot arm to the sensory cortex of his brain. 



Nathan Copeland, the subject of the study, had four electrodes implanted in his brain --two in the motor cortex and two in the sensory cortex. 

As MIT Technology Review explains: "In training sessions over the course of six months, those electrodes were connected to sensors in a robotic hand that would supply electrical signals when they detected pressure. Copeland felt nothing at first, because the electrical signals were kept intentionally small. But over time they were increased, and he began to sense something. “It felt like I was getting my fingers touched or pushed,” he says in a video made by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center." 

Stephen Hawking Opens British Artificial Intelligence Hub (Yahoo!

Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking opened a new artificial intelligence research center at the University of Cambridge (UK on Wednesday. 

The Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, which is funded by a STG10 million (USD$12.3-million) grant from the Leverhulme Trust, will explore a range of AI applications from increasingly "smart" smartphones to robot surgeons, elder care robots, and lethal autonomous robots. The aim of the center is to ensure that AI is used to benefit humanity. 

Yahoo! News reports: "Opening the new centre, Hawking said it was not possible to predict what might be achieved with AI.

"Perhaps with the tools of this new technological revolution, we will be able to undo some of the damage done to the natural world by the last one -- industrialization. And surely we will aim to finally eradicate disease and poverty. Every aspect of our lives will be transformed. "In short, success in creating AI could the biggest event in the history of our civilization," Hawking said. 

Hawking hit the headlines last year (along with Elon Musk and Bill Gates) when he warned about some of the issues that AI could present in future. 

And that future is not so very far away. Just in the past few days, TechRepublic reported that Microsoft's AI can now understand speech better than humans.  

Last week, Obama laid out a US government plan for the development of AI and explained that he expects the new wave fo AI technology to create as many jobs as it eliminates. And this week, AI experts have been reacting to the plan... and Obama's comments. 

Robot Babies From Japan Raise Questions About How Parents Bond with AI (UPI

As robot "babies" designed to encourage humans to have children of their own become more popular in Japan, this UPI piece explores some of the issues that arise from the psychological implications of the bonds humans make with robots to ethical issuesa round what form the robot baby itself should take. 



Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (DARPA)

US research agency DARPA has created an "Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS)" program designed to increase automation in airplane cockpits and reduce the number of crew members required to fly military missions.   



In a press release, DARPA explained: 

"As an automation system, ALIAS aims to support execution of an entire mission from takeoff to landing, even in the face of contingency events such as aircraft system failures. ALIAS system attributes, such as persistent-state monitoring and rapid recall of flight procedures, would further enhance flight safety. Easy-to-use touch and voice interfaces would facilitate supervisor-ALIAS interaction. ALIAS would also provide a platform for integrating additional automation or autonomy capabilities tailored for specific missions." 

It’s Not Only Engineers Who Work in Robotics (Robohub

"Robotics has always been an interdisciplinary field – one that integrates knowledge from computer science, mechanical, electrical, controls, and other areas of engineering. But as robots move out of factories and research labs, and into our homes and workplaces, another breed of robotics expert is emerging – and an engineering or computer science degree is not necessarily part of their resume."


And Finally... 
















The Massachusetts Robotics Cluster Report (Massachusetts Technology Collaborative)
Meet the Growing Family of Space Station Robots (Seeker)
Kobi The Robot Can Cut Yard Grass And Get Rid Of Snow Autonomously (TechTimes)  
Robot journalists to start writing news and sports stories for Britain and Ireland's national news agency (Mirror
Global Collaborative Robotics Market Outlook 2025 (EIN News
Hitachi taps mania for robotic vacuum cleaners(Japan Times)
Tesla now installing self-driving hardware on all new vehicles (Silicon Angle
Robot Death Matches: A New Sport for the 21st Century (Wall Street Journal)
Meet the Giant Robot That Builds Boeing’s Wings (Wired
Making Collaborative Robotics Safer (HuffingtonPost)

("What's New In Robotics This Week" is compiled from Wed-Wed each week and is published on Fridays.) 

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Emmet Cole
Written by Emmet Cole
A freelance robotics writer since 2006, Emmet is an Economist contributor, and a regular contributor to Robotics Business Review and Robotics Trends. His writing on robots has also appeared in Wired, BBC Future, BBC Focus magazine, Space Quarterly, and numerous other outlets.
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