Category: Robots & Machines

Robots and Humans Need to Learn How To “Talk” to One Another

Robots Among Us

The rise of automation is prompting all kinds of questions about the future of work for human employees, but there’s also another important consideration at hand — how are we to interact with robots as they become more commonplace in our day-to-day lives?

As robots become more capable of performing tasks independently, it’s crucial that they’re taught how to communicate with the humans that they cross paths with, whether they’re co-workers or complete strangers. Natural language will play an important role, but it’s only one part of a greater whole.

More Than Words

When humans talk to one another, what’s said only comprises a small amount of the information being relayed. Everything from facial expressions to the intonation of a person’s voice might give extra context or added insight into the topic at hand.

This is something that the scientists and engineers constructing the robots of tomorrow are careful to consider. A full vocabulary isn’t necessarily enough — there’s more to conveying a message than just finding the right words.

A project known as Baxter being developed by Rethink Robotics uses a pair of eyes on a screen to let people know what the robot is going to do next. The display is on a swivel, meaning that it can direct its attention to one of its two arms before it performs an action, making sure that any bystanders are well aware of what kind of motion is coming.

This is a two-way street. As well as being able to signal their intentions to human onlookers, robots will need to be able to pick up of social cues dropped by others in order to be effective in their roles.

We’ve all been locked in a “hallway dance” when trying to give way to another human walking the opposite direction down a corridor. Nine times out of ten, it’s no big deal — but in a busy hospital ward, when one dance partner is a bulky robot, it could cause some problems.

A team at MIT’s Interactive Robotics Group led by Dr. Julie Shah has used machine learning techniques to teach a robot to observe anticipatory indicators from a human that can reveal which way they’re planning to turn. We know how to pick up on these cues from experience, but machines need to be taught the basics from scratch.

Customer Service

At present, we tend to think of robots as being good at manual labor. They can be built strong, so it makes sense to think of them lifting heavy loads and doing other physically intensive tasks.

Further advances in helping robots to interact with humans will allow them to take on a much wider range of vocations. Customer service positions, especially those where there’s a limited range of responsibilities, will be a perfect fit for machines once they’re able to hold a natural, productive conversation reliably.

Robot Companions: A New Breed of Social Machines [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

A robot named Mario has already been trialled as a concierge in Belgium, handing out room keys and ingratiating himself with guests via a high-five. A project called RAVE is creating a robot that can teach young children without human input, holding their attention for six minutes at a time.

Robots excel in certain tasks because of their non-human qualities — they don’t tire, and they won’t turn their nose up at unpleasant or unfulfilling tasks.

However, as they take on a more diverse set of roles, they’ll need to learn some distinctly human skills. Being able to communicate with people is a key part of all kinds of vocations, and it doesn’t come naturally for a robot.

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China is Leading the Next Revolution in Mobile Technology

From 4G to 5G

The creation and subsequent adoption of 5G is seemingly inevitable, and like 4G, it will eventually become the leading mobile connection. That said, when the next generation of mobile technology arrives, it won’t be the U.S. or Japan leading the world in 5G users. It will be China.

That’s according to a report published by CSS Insight this week. The mobile industry analysts predict that 1 billion people will be using 5G connections by 2023, with China accounting for more than half of all 5G users as early as 2022. The country is expected to maintain a sizable hold until 2025, when it may still represent 40 percent of global 5G connections.

“China will dominate 5G thanks to its political ambition to lead technology development, the inexorable rise of local manufacturer Huawei, and the breakneck speed at which consumers have upgraded to 4G connections in the recent past,” Marina Koytcheva, VP Forecasting at CCS Insight, told CNBC.

While China will take the lead in 5G users, the analysts predict South Korea, Japan, or the U.S. will launch the first commercial 5G network, with Europe trailing behind by at least a year.

Changing Connections

While CCS Insight expects 1 billion people to utilize 5G by 2023, they don’t foresee it having a dramatic presence in the Internet of Things (IoT). How it will affect autonomous cars is also unknown, with CSS stating that such “mission critical” services will “have to wait even longer to come to the fore.”

There are also a number of uncertainties related to 5G’s overall adoption, including factors like how and where network operators will deploy new base stations, the lack of clear business cases for operators, and consumers’ willingness to upgrade their smartphones. If people aren’t buying new devices that take advantage of 5G, why continue investing in it?

Europe is expected to face its own set of problems stemming from market fragmentation, the availability of spectrum, and the influence of regulators.

Of course, a 5G network doesn’t even exist yet, and CSS Insights’ predictions on 5G users won’t come into play for several years. However, development on 5G is ramping up.

Last year, AT&T began work on 5G mobile networks, and Nokia started on the development of 5G network infrastructure in April. Qualcomm Technologies is also worth keeping an eye on as they just successfully tested a 5G data connection on a 5G modem chipset.

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AR Startup Magic Leap Is Looking to Raise Another Billion Dollars

Magic leap has been touted as the future of augmented reality (AR). By superimposing advanced images into your “normal” field of vision, it has been adored and supported by many for it’s promised “magic” quality.

It might become even more “magical” if it receives the $1-billion investment that the company is reportedly raising. Investors in this most recent development haven’t been named, but previous investors like Google, Alibaba, and Qualcomm have helped to support the technology thus far.

This call for increased investment, which would put Magic Leap at $6.5 billion in valuation if this recent investment is solidified, is happening in advance of “Magic Leap One” — the company’s highly-anticipated initial device. So far, no one really knows any specifics about the device, but many have made exciting claims of its ability to incorporate virtual imagery with vision. But it is possible, despite such hefty investments and impressive claims, that the hype will outweigh the final product. Hopefully, this is not the case. Consumers, and likely the high-level investors, anxiously anticipate the tech and hope that the billions of dollars used in support of its development will allow for the creation of a truly game-changing technology.

 

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New FDA Approved Tech Moves Us Closer to a Robotic Future

FDA Wants Life-Saving Robots

Much negativity surrounds the public perception of our robot-ridden future. Indeed, sensationalist fears about thousands or millions of jobs undergoing ruthless robotic appropriation spread like wildfire. But the advancement of intelligent machines isn’t all that miserable. Indeed, some advancements presently making waves will save lives. Enter the Senhance System, a surgical robot recently cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in minimally-invasive surgeries.

Developed by medical device company TransEnterix, Senhance is a robotically-assisted surgical device (RASD) that lets surgeons use computer and software technology to move and control surgical instruments in procedures involving one or more tiny incisions in a patient’s body. Surgeons operate Senhance through a console unit or cockpit with a 3-D high-definition view of the surgical field, where they remotely control three separate arms, each equipped with a surgical instruments.

“Minimally[-]invasive surgery helps reduce pain, scarring and recovery time after surgery,” Binita Ashar, director at the Surgical Devices Division of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a press release. “RASD technology is a specialized innovation in minimally invasive surgery designed to enhance the surgeon’s access and visualization within confined operative sites.”

Man and Machine Working Together

Amid rumors of ineluctable robot oppression, it’s easy to assume the robot-human work dynamic would be based on conflict, instead of mutual beneficence. Senhance-based robotic surgery could enhance the survival rate of surgeries that otherwise remain infamously dangerous. “The clearance of the Senhance System in the US is a milestone in the progress of robotics and is expected to deliver improvement in the efficacy, value and choices offered to patients, surgeons and hospitals,” TransEnterix president and CEO Todd M. Pope said in a statement.

Pill Robots: The Future of Non-Invasive Surgery [INFOGRAPHIC]
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Robotic surgery isn’t new, although the technology behind it has continually improved over the past couple of years. The principle remains the same: these robot surgeons are designed to improve precision and safety during procedures. It’s meant to assist surgeons and not take away their control, so there’s still a human behind every procedure.

“Millions of surgical procedures in the US are performed each year laparoscopically with basic manual tools that limit surgeons’ capability, comfort and control,” Pope added. “New choices are needed that enhance the senses, control and comfort of the surgeon, minimize the invasiveness of surgery for the patient, and maximize value for the hospital. Senhance is this new choice.”

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The International Robot Duel Is Set for October 17

Transform and Duke It Out

Two years ago, a team of U.S. engineers going by the name MegaBots Inc. challenged their Japan counterparts, Suidobashi Heavy Industry, to a duel involving giant robots. After a lot of work and some back-and-forth between the two teams, the long-awaited duel will finally take place on Tuesday, October 17. It was initially set for sometime in August, but delayed for unknown reasons. We suspect it’s because robots take a long time to build and test.

The international robot duel will stream on Twitch for all to see, though the fight itself won’t be a live event. You see, the fight between MegaBots’ Eagle Prime and Suidobashis’ Kuratas already happened, held at an abandoned steel mill in Japan. What viewers will be watching will, presumably, be an edited version; the duel consisted of multiple rounds, with repairs between rounds requiring multiple days to complete.

There was no audience to witness the fight when it took place, save for the two teams of engineers and the commentators: Mike Goldberg of the MMA and robotics expert Saura Naderi. MegaBots’ Gui Cavalcanti explained to The Verge that the duel was fought on a knockdown system, meaning a team could only win if they knocked down or disabled the other team’s bot.

Fighting Machines

Specifications for the robots, including weight, size, and weapons, were all left up to the two teams, though weapons were required “to not cut through metal, but instead to damage it.” It’s a sensible decision when you consider the fact that both robots have pilots inside, who would be susceptible to anything that could penetrate their robot’s body or the cockpit.

Be prepared for a relatively slow fight, though. As you can see in the video above, the states’ Eagle Prime doesn’t move very fast, weighing in at 12 tons (24,000 lbs.). That said, people are probably more excited to see both robots torn apart than gracefully dodging and parrying attacks.

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Russia’s Next-Gen Combat Suit is Getting Tech That’s Resistant to Nuclear Blasts

Stormtrooper Chic

Russia has a new battle suit that seems to be visually inspired by Star Wars’s Imperial Shadow Stormtroopers. While Russia’s version likely doesn’t come with a cloaking device, the high-tech armor does have a few tricks up its sleeves, including nuclear blast resistant tech.

The suit was developed by Rostec and is called the Ratnik-3. The latest upgrade to the new armor includes a reportedly nuclear blast resistant watch. According to a statement released by the press office, the Chief Designer for the Life Support System of the Soldier Combat Outfit at the Central Scientific Research Institute for Precision Machine Engineering, Oleg Faustov, says “The watch, which we have included in the Ratnik outfit, retains its properties upon the impact of radiation and electromagnetic impulses, for example, upon a nuclear blast.”

The watch also features a self-winding mechanism and operates under water.

Other perks of the 59 items Rostec has included in the suit include a powered exoskeleton, which is said to give soldiers greater strength and stamina; the latest in bulletproof body armor tech; and a full face-covering visor and helmet equipped with a video game-esque heads-up display (HUD). According to Russian state-owned media outlet Tass, the weight of the completed combat gear will be reduced by 30% when it is released for use in the field.

The Ratnik 3 is expected to be ready for use by 2022.

Next-Gen War

The future of how we will one day wage war is being developed now. The United States is also working on a high-tech combat suit of its own. The suit, inspired by pop culture, has been dubbed the Iron Man.

Weapons are also getting next-gen upgrades, with laser weapons currently being deployed in various forms around the world. The United States Navy has the Laser Weapons System (LaWS) mounted on the USS Ponce, an amphibious naval transport dock, to defend against drone strikes and eventually incoming missiles. China has also previously given its soldiers laser weapons designed to blind opponents

Warfare 2040: The Future of Military Technology [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

In the sky, killer drones the size of a quadcopter have been developed to carry weapons. The Air Force is even training soldiers to get the military ready for combat in space with extraterrestrials or other hostile interests.

Of course, with all these developments, it maybe good to be reminded what a nuclear showdown would do to the planet—and hope that these future technologies rarely have to be put to use.

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Quantum Computing Will Change Everything, and Sooner Than You Expect

When we say an emerging technology represents a “paradigm shift,” it’s often hyperbole. In the case of quantum computers, it’s an understatement.

In traditional computing—everything from PCs to ATMs to smartphones—all data is represented in bits that exist in one of two states: 0 or 1, off or on. In quantum computing, bits can be 0, 1 or both at the same time. That might not seem significant, but it means quantum computers can perform vastly more complex computations. For example, quantum computers can debug millions of lines of software code in seconds, making reliable aircraft, cars, MRI scanners, etc. more efficient to produce.

Scientists are eager to use quantum computers to analyze microbes so they can create new vaccines, which quantum computers could then be used to optimize to reduce unwanted side effects. Some scientists believe that quantum computers are essential for achieving breakthrough preventative and treatments protocols for healthcare. According to Donald Parsons, a New York State Department of Health research physician, “Without quantum computers, new DNA sequencing data, the learning of the specific activities of the folded conformations of proteins, and the search for new drugs by docking algorithms, are being held back from full clinical application.”

Volkswagen is working on a quantum computing platform capable of alerting drivers to traffic jams, 45 minutes before they occur. Traditional computers lack the processing power necessary to quickly analyze and accurately predict phenomena with as many variables as urban traffic. Think of the implications! Governments could pinpoint exactly which roads need to be upgraded to minimize gridlock, leading to more efficient and effective use of tax revenue. Reducing the number of traffic jams would decrease air pollution, potentially alleviating asthma and reducing our contributions to climate change.

Quantum computing will also complement other emerging technologies. Take Volkswagen’s research and the Internet of things (IoT), for example. Ten thousand Beijing taxis would be the things, constantly feeding their location information into a database that quantum computers analyze to understand that city’s traffic flows. The combination of quantum computing and IoT could produce a wide variety of “smart cities” applications. IoT sensors in electric vehicles would make it possible to identify where they’re most frequently driven and charged. A smart city could use quantum computing to analyze that data to determine where to install public charging stations.

Quantum computing enables models that can more accurately predict future demand. Sticking with our smart cities example, brownouts and blackouts are complex phenomena with dozens of variables. In part, they are caused by utilities’ reliance on limited historical data and traditional computer models to allocate tax dollars to grid upgrades. What if cities could predict which neighborhoods will have households with one or two electrical vehicles (drawing 10 kW or more at night, five times the current average) years in advance? That would give utilities a much-needed head start on funding, designing and deploying the additional infrastructure.

Defining the Future

Quantum computing has the potential to change the world. Two years ago there were already 7,000 researchers in the field globally, with a collective budget of about $1.5 billion according to McKinsey analysts. Along with advances in related fields such as material science, this level of investment is why quantum computing is closer to reality than many people assume, perhaps three to five years rather than a decade or more.

The new IEEE P7130™—Standard for Quantum Computing Definitions project will help accelerate development by standardizing the language and definitions associated with fundamental quantum concepts (e.g., quantum tunneling, superposition, quantum entanglement).

Alan Turing: The Father of Computer Science [Infographic]
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If you were to shop for a quantum processor today, one vendor might advertise that its model has 2048 qubits, while another says its equivalent model has 50 qubits. “Confusions exist on what quantum computing or a quantum computer means,” says Hidetoshi Nishimori, a Tokyo Institute of Technology professor and a member of the IEEE P7130 working group. “This partly originates in the existence of a few different models of quantum computing. It is urgently necessary to define each keyword.”

A lack of common definitions for fundamental terms such as “qubit” isn’t just a comparison-shopping headache. Competing to own the lexicon wastes time and resources that would be better-spent refining and applying quantum computing technologies. A set of common definitions puts the world one big step closer to enjoying the innovations that quantum computing can enable.

By Whurley (William Hurley), chair, IEEE Quantum Computing Working Group.

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After 12 Years, Sony’s First Robotics Project Will Be a New Robotic Pet

The New Aibo

Sony recently announced plans to re-enter the world of robotics with the creation of a new development team to help head its first project: a robotic pet dog.

As reported by Nikkei earlier this week, Sony’s decision comes after a twelve year absence from the robotics industry following a series of setbacks that go back as far as the early 2000s. The unexpected growth of the internet, as well as 2008’s global financial crisis, the massive 2011 earthquake that rocked Japan, and the selling of a “vehicle-like robot” (and its team) to Toyota in 2006, were all contributing factors.

Sony is now preparing to re-enter the market with a new robotics project similar to the Aibo robotic pet, which was popular several years ago. In fact, the team behind the new project is made up of several former Aibo engineers. The new robotic pet will move and act like a real dog — albeit one that can also control home appliances and respond to voice commands. Nikkei compares it to the Amazon Echo or the Google Home speaker, which come equipped with artificial intelligence and internet capabilities. It’s currently unclear if this new robotic pet will have the same.

The operating system that will be at the center of the pet’s functionality will also be open to developers who want to add new features. Plans are also underway to give it dog-like behavior, which could make it more popular among children.

From Industrial Robots to House Pets

Interestingly enough, a robot pet was not Sony’s original plan to foray back into the market: Nikkei writes that, in June 2016, President and CEO Kazuo Hirai suggested the company focus on industrial robots or automation, instead of something “capable of forming an emotional bond with customers.” In the relatively short time since, however, it’s become increasingly more difficult to become a key player in the industrial robot marker. Breaking into the home market, on the other hand, is much more achievable.

“By combining its strength in mechanical engineering and AI, which has come a long way since Aibo, the company hopes to elevate its new robot business beyond that of merely controlling household electronics,” explains Nikkei. “It will determine what technology should be pursued as it refines its robotic dog.”

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Politicians in San Francisco Want to Extend Payroll Taxes to Include Robots

Tax on Robots

More and more jobs are being automated, with robot workers replacing swathes of the human workforce. Much has been said about how the labor of robots will affect individuals being let go, but now we’re seeing more discussion about the broader economic effect in terms of lost tax money.

Now, Jane Kim of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is attempting to do something about this problem. She’s established a committee dubbed the Jobs of the Future Fund, which will serve to explore how best to smooth the transition toward more automation.

“We’re exploring continuing the payroll tax and extending it to robots that perform jobs humans currently do,” said Kim in an interview with CNBC. The money could be used to train displaced workers to fill other roles, fund free community college programs, or to foster the creation of new jobs in industries where automation is less viable.

Automated Payments

Kim’s stance on the taxation of an automated workforce echoes comments made by Bill Gates earlier this year.

“Certainly there will be taxes that relate to automation,” Gates argued in an interview with Quartz. “Right now, the human worker who does, say, $50,000 worth of work in a factory, that income is taxed and you get income tax, social security tax, all those things. If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level.”

The Laws of Robotics [INFOGRAPHIC]
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Automation seems poised to have a huge economic impact. It remains to be seen whether the advantages it brings in terms of increased productivity and the potential for new jobs outweigh its drawbacks. At this point, a sensible tax code seems to be the most sensible way of ensuring that everyone gets to reap the benefits, rather than just the business owners.

Too Much Tax?

The other side of the argument warns that enforcing a tax as this technology is starting to flourish will discourage widespread adoption. “Why would we want to put disincentives on companies using the best technology available?” asked Jeff Burnstein, president of the Association for Advancing Automation, in response to Kim’s stance.

Automation is already revolutionizing the way various industries operate. It’s clear that we should make full use of this technology, but it’s high time that we figure out a way to do so that takes into account all the possible pitfalls for our economy and our society.

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Google Just Revealed How They’ll Build Quantum Computers

Next Stop: Quantum Supremacy

Quantum computing: it’s the brass ring in the computing world, giving the ability to exponentially outperform and out-calculate conventional computers. A quantum computer with a mere 50 qubits would outclass the most powerful supercomputers in the world today. Surpassing the limits set by conventional computing, known as achieving quantum supremacy, has been a difficult road. Now, a team of physicists at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) and Google have demonstrated a proof-of-principle for a quantum computer that may mean quantum supremacy is only months away.

Quantum states are difficult to isolate and sustain, so the practical task of isolating quantum processing machinery from outside interference has proved to be the sticking point in pushing quantum supremacy out of reach. However, to demonstrate quantum supremacy, a computer system doesn’t need to be an all-purpose quantum dynamo; it just needs to show one quantum capability that is beyond the capacity of conventional systems.

A diagram of the mockup nine-qubit system the Google team says demonstrates proof of principle for achieving quantum supremacy.
Image Credit: Google

To do that, the Google and UCSB team’s strategy comes down to qubits. Qubits are different from ordinary bits (the smallest unit of data in a computer) because they can exist in superposition. Each ordinary bit can be either a 1 or a 0 at any given time, but a qubit can be both at once. Two ordinary bits have 2² potential positions, but again, only one at a time. Two qubits have that same potential all at once. Adding qubits expands potential exponentially, so 50 qubits represent 10,000,000,000,000,000 numbers — an amount a traditional computer would need a memory on the petabyte-scale to store.

Quantum Supremacy In Action

The team’s plan, then, isn’t to create a fully functional quantum computer, but to instead create a system that can support 49 qubits in superposition reliably. If it can do that, so the theory goes, the rest is relatively easy.

Their system is a series of nine superconducting qubits, consisting of nine metal loops cooled to a low temperature with current flowing through them in both directions simultaneously. They were able to show that the supported qubits represented 512 numbers at once, and that the results were reliable, without an accompanying exponential increase in errors.

This is much lower than the number of qubits needed to declare supremacy, but it’s a promising result. The next step will be to create a 50-qubit chip and test if its errors increase at the manageable pace seen in the nine-qubit experiment. 

The Dawn of the Singularity: A Visual Timeline of Ray Kurzweil’s Predictions
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If the team is right, they may achieve quantum supremacy in a matter of months. If they do, the applications will be staggering. We can expect to see machine learning take place exponentially faster, and artificial intelligence progress much more rapidly. If it does, we may see the singularity approaching long before most predicted.

Quantum computers will make personalized medicine a reality, parsing out the function of every protein in the human genome and modeling their interactions with all possible complex molecules very quickly. We will see simulation-based climate change solutions come to light, and find new chemistry-driven solutions to carbon capture. We are likely to see huge leaps in material science and engineering that allow us to create better magnets, better superconductors, and much higher energy density batteries. And we are almost certainly going to see more technological advances through biomimetics as we find ourselves achieving more insights into natural processes, such as photosynthesis.

In other words, the idea that quantum supremacy will change everything isn’t just hype.

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IT Experts Foresee 60 Percent of Businesses Affected by Automation Within Five Years

Thoughts On Automation

There are growing concerns that artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics will slowly take more jobs away from people as they are further developed and become more complex. A recent study from Redwood Software and Sapio Research seems to support these worries, revealing that information technology (IT) leaders believe nearly 60 percent of businesses can be automated within the next five years. That’s much higher and sooner than The University of Oxford’s prediction saying at least 47 percent of jobs were at risk of automation in the coming decades, according to TechRepublic.

500 IT leaders evenly split between the US and the UK were surveyed, and in addition to the aforementioned percentage, an average of 70 percent said robotics have become more of a priority in the last year. The U.S. alone has already invested over $700 billion in robotics stocks, and the study shows the U.S. is more accepting of the change than the UK.

“There is no question that the US is currently the world leader in robotics automation. From heavy manufacturing to retail giants to tech innovators, the US has implemented automation solution and is seeking others,” says Redwood Software President Dennis Walsh. “While the UK has shown an openness to adopt the same automation mindset, it still lags in the US. Post-Brexit, UK companies may need to up their game in automation in order to remain competitive with their US, European and global competitors.”

Highs and Lows

There are benefits to incorporating robotics into the workforce, of course, such as a reduction in manual labor, less mundane work, and an increased speed with which jobs are completed. However, it also brings with it an increased risk to security and the price of its implementation and maintenance. That’s all before the possibility of automation leading to a workless future for society.

Such a future may not be so bad, though. It would enable former workers to spend their time elsewhere, such as with family, learning a new skill, or simply living a comfortable life. Providing people with the resources to do any of these would be key, of course, like the concept of a universal basic income (UBI), which continues to gain support from the likes of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Nobel Prize winners, and several Silicon Valley executives.

“I don’t think we’re going to have a choice,” said Musk on UBI back in February. “I think it’s going to be necessary. There will be fewer and fewer jobs that a robot cannot do better.”

Automation isn’t decades away from happening. It’s not something we can simply ignore until a more appropriate time. Automation, however slowly, is happening now, and real discussions need to be held as more people accept its existence and impact. Much like AI, Automation can be a incredibly beneficial if adopted and used correctly.

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New “Adaptable” Drones Could Alternate Between Fixed-Wing and Rotary-Wing Flight

Adaptable UAVs

BAE Systems has teamed up with students from Cranfield University to develop a new kind of drone that can quickly transition between flight modes mid-mission without affecting its overall top speed and range.

The conceptual aircraft, currently being referred to as an Adaptable UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), would operate with both its motor and propeller units facing forward when in fixed-wing mode and traveling at high speeds.

However, when it needed to land or take off, one of its propellers would rotate backward to transition the craft into rotary-wing mode. This mode would allow the drone to spin around and rise or descend vertically.

The hole in the center of the craft is designed specifically for take-off and landing purposes. In both instances, the drone would utilize a stationary pole installed on a vehicle or building. This pole would be gyroscopically stabilized to keep it from moving around while on a moving truck or ship, and multiple drones could stack themselves on a single pole for easy storage.

Coming Soon?

According to a news release, BAE Systems sees numerous benefits to their Adaptable UAVs: “This novel technology could allow UAVs to better adapt to evolving future battlefield situations and through working together in a swarm, tackle sophisticated air defenses, as well as operating in complex and cluttered urban environments.”

Warfare 2040: The Future of Military Technology [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

As for a timeframe for adoption, the company believes military forces could be using their UAVs “within the next few decades,” though they’ve yet to set a specific date for the official debut of their aircraft.

These futuristic flying drones aren’t the only crafts BAE Systems is working on, according to company Futurist and Technologist Nick Colosimo. “The Adaptable UAVs concept and related technologies are one of a number of concepts being explored through close collaboration between industry and students in academia,” he notes in the news release.

Whether the Adaptable UAVs or any of BAE Systems’ other concepts come to fruition, the military of the future will undoubtedly feature tech unlike anything currently on the battlefield.

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Google’s New Earbuds Can Translate 40 Languages Instantly in Your Ear

Google is not far from the heels of Apple and is rapidly gaining ground. The internet and tech giant has just announced a new addition to their device family and it comes with some pretty neat features. The Google Pixel Buds are similar to Apple’s AirPod headphones with a few notable exceptions, including the remarkable ability to live translate 40 languages with just the touch of a button or speaking a prompting phrase, like “help me speak Spanish.”

Image credit: Google
Image credit: Google

This functionality is only available when the headphones are paired with a Google Pixel 2 phone, further demonstrating how Google is looking to directly compete with Apple in the mobile field. The earphones are able to utilize Google’s AI-powered, voice-activated assistant, Google Assistant. According to Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s statement to investors, “We have improved our translation ability more in one single year than all our improvements over the last 10 years combined.”

Mobile technologies are increasingly developing to integrate into new areas of our lives. Devices are even able to turn your phone into a mobile lab. Pairing machine learning and mobile devices will only continue to expand the possibilities of our mobile devices.

The earbuds will cost $159 when they become available in November. Preorders have just begun on the Google store website.

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The DOE Is Giving Berkeley Lab $3 Million Annually for Quantum Computing Research

The U.S. Department of Energy has allocated $3 million in annual funding to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) for quantum computing research expected to “solve some of science’s hardest problems,” according to a Berkeley Lab press release.

The money will be split between a hardware and a software team, with the former expected to have the funding renewed for five years and the latter for three. However, renewal is contingent upon the DOE’s future budget, according to Jonathan Carter, Berkeley Lab’s computing sciences area deputy.

Quantum computers are worlds ahead of the kind you probably use daily. Instead of encoding information in bits representing specific states, quantum computers encode information in qubits, which can represent multiple states simultaneously. As Carter explained to The Daily Californian, if traditional bit encoding is analogous to walking 50 paces and traversing 90 ordinary feet, qubit encoding is like taking a three-foot step, then a nine-foot step, then a 27-foot step, and so on.

This $3 million in annual funding from the DOE will go a long way toward making this geometric analogy a quantum computing reality. Berkeley Lab’s hardware team will use their half to focus on constructing a physical quantum computer. Meanwhile, the software team will use their $1.5 million annually to construct algorithms and investigate optimal methods of programming a quantum computer.

“I am confident that quantum computing will become a reality,” Head of Computational Chemistry Bert de Jong told The Daily Californian, and if the DOE funding is renewed as expected, he has every right to be.

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Meet the Hive of Insect-Like Machines That Can Assemble Virtually Anything

The Microfactory

Silicon Valley’s SRI International has developed what may be the most amazing microbot army ever: the MicroFactory. This robotic hive of insect-like machines was designed to build almost any kind of structure. In fact, the 3D printer of the future might not be a printer at all; it might instead be a swarm of tiny robots that build tough, complex structures cooperatively.

The MicroFactory’s foundation is a magnetic field generated by a circuit board. A software program manipulates the field in order to move the miniature robots, which are themselves magnets. Being part of a collective, every robot has a specialized task, which it undertakes with its “end effector,” a tool it can use to manipulate the world around it. What that end effector does depends on the job of the robot.

The design of this collective was inspired by ant colonies, where every individual has a task working towards a larger goal.

Image Credit: SRI
Image Credit: SRI

SRI’s micro-robots and their platform technology are also teaming up with the DARPA Open Manufacturing program, creating innovative new products across a wide range of manufacturing verticals. SRI’s robots can assemble almost anything, whether it’s massive or tiny, regardless of its components and complexity—and they can do it rapidly. They’re also different from more traditional autonomous systems in that they’re not so space-limited; if their magnetized build surface is mobile, they can be moved anywhere. This makes them extremely versatile, and it also means gigantic swarms of the bots could collaborate on projects.

Applications of Microbots

In practice, WIRED describes how MicroFactory robots would collaborate to build a lattice: “You’ve got robots that hold high-strength carbon rods vertically and some that hold them horizontally, and still others that apply dabs of glue. Working in concert, the robots can build out an intricate structure, some depositing glue while others stick in the rods, constantly gliding from the lattice back to material caches to resupply.”

So, why is this superior to a 3D printer? It’s because the robots can use any kinds of materials and components such as LEDs and resistors to embed electronics in more complicated projects. Or, these kinds of microbots could work in tandem with 3D printers, supplementing their work with a far broader array of materials.

SRI’s microbots are hardly the last word in tiny robots; medical nanobots have been in development for a long time. Since machines this small are subject to Brownian forces—random motions caused by collisions with molecules in the surrounding fluid—magnetic fields are usually the control mechanism of choice. In a recent study from Duke University, researchers used a magnetic field to manipulate a team of microbots so they would function like tweezers, trapping single yeast cells. This kind of research signals the possibilities for these kinds of robots, which might some day be used to track down disease agents or malicious cells inside the body.

Meanwhile, SRI’s microbots could be scalable enough to one day even be used by small businesses and hobbyists on smaller projects. Eventually they could be sold on the shelf for those kinds of uses, with more advanced versions for industrial, scientific, and medical applications.

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New Gesture Control Tech Turns Anything Into a Remote

Gesture Control

Those of you who remember playing with Wii consoles might be familiar with the excitement — and pitfalls — of gesture control technology. While this field has long had its issues, a new product promises to finally deliver on the possibility of seamless interaction with all of your smart devices.

The new tech, described as “revolutionary,” promises to turn any object into a remote control. You might cast channel-changing spells with your finger, adjust the volume with your desk lamp, or even alter the settings with a guitar string.

Researchers from Lancaster University will present their paper “Matchpoint: Spontaneous spatial coupling of body movement for touchless pointing” this month at the UIST2017 conference in Quebec City. This paper details the technique innovated to allow for the interaction between movement (whether it be human movement of the movement of an object) and screens, making this technology possible.

Changing Interface

The Matchpoint technology is relatively simple to operate. Like its glitchy predecessors, it requires a webcam. To operate, a user interfaces with the screen which will display a circular widget with menu items around the circle. This interaction between movement and display is being described as  “spontaneous spatial coupling.”

8 Everyday Items Reinvented by Technology
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What sets this tech apart from previous iterations is that it doesn’t look to interact with specific body parts. It instead targets and identifies rotating movement. This allows the tech to operate without calibrating or registering specific objects. It can be used with televisions, computers, and other devices that use screens.

Christopher Clarke, a Ph.D. student at Lancaster University’s School of Computing and Communications who worked to develop the technology, said in a press release, “Spontaneous spatial coupling is a new approach to gesture control that works by matching movement instead of asking the computer to recognize a specific object.”

“Our method allows for a much more user-friendly experience where you can change channels without having to put down your drink, or change your position, whether that is relaxing on the sofa or standing in the kitchen following a recipe,” Clarke went on to say. “You could even change the channel with your pet cat.”

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This Simulation Shows What Would Happen if a Nuclear Bomb Dropped Near You

Nuclear Explosion

Imagine that a 150-kiloton nuclear bomb exploded in the city closest to you.

Do you know how the city, surrounding region, and its inhabitants would be affected? If you can’t think of much more than “a lot of people would die,” you’re not alone.

“We live in a world where nuclear weapons issues are on the front pages of our newspapers on a regular basis, yet most people still have a very bad sense of what an exploding nuclear weapon can actually do,” Alex Wellerstein, a historian of science at Stevens Institute of Technology, wrote on his website NuclearSecrecy.org.

To help the world understand what might happen if a nuclear weapon exploded, Wellerstein created an interactive browser app called Nukemap.

“Some people think [nuclear bombs] destroy everything in the world all [at] once, some people think they are not very different from conventional bombs. The reality is somewhere in between,” he wrote.

To illustrate that reality, Nukemap lets you build a hypothetical nuclear bomb and drop it anywhere on Earth. The software uses declassified equations and models about nuclear weapons and their effects — fireball size, air-blast radius, radiation zones, and more — to crunch the numbers, then renders the results as graphics inside Google Maps.

Image Source: Rodong Sinmun

Preset options let you pick historic and recent blasts, including the recent North Korean test explosion and Tsar Bomba — the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated. The tool can even estimate fatalities and injuries for a given weapon yield, altitude, and location.

The first version of Wellerstein’s tool came out in February 2012, but he upgraded it to version 2.5 this month. Users thus far have set off more than 124 million explosions in Nukemap.

Nukemap 2.5’s new features let you see where a cloud of radioactive fallout might drift based on local weather conditions. Fallout refers to the dirt and debris that get sucked up by a nuclear blast, irradiated to dangerous levels, pushed into the atmosphere, and sprinkled over great distances. The updated tool also lets you export your scenarios, load them into mapping software like Google Earth, and explore them in 3D.

“I hope that people will come to understand what a nuclear weapon would do to places they are familiar with, and how the different sizes of nuclear weapons change the results,” Wellerstein wrote on his site.

Picking a Bomb and a Target

We decided to test Nukemap 2.5 using its preset for the North Korean government’s Sept. 3 underground test blast.

Some experts believe that device, perhaps a thermonuclear bomb, yielded an explosion of roughly 150 kilotons’ worth of TNT. This is the country’s most powerful nuclear explosion to date about 10 times as strong as the Hiroshima bomb blast of 1945, which caused some 150,000 casualties.

We started with San Francisco, since according to Missilemap — Wellerstein’s companion tool to Nukemap — the city is within the estimated range of Hwasong-14, North Korea’s newest and farthest-reaching intercontinental ballistic missile.

Misslemap 1.0 Image Source: Alex Wellerstein

Blast Effects

By default, Nukemap assumed a 150-kiloton-yield warhead would explode 1.03 miles above the city.

An aerial detonation maximizes a nuclear bomb’s destructive power, since it allows the blast’s energy to spread out. If a bomb is detonated on the ground, the soil absorbs more of that energy.

Nukemap 2.5 Image Source: Alex Wellerstein; Google Maps; Business Insider

The main effects of the nuclear blast display as four coloured zones:

  • Fireball (0.56 miles wide) — In the area closest to the bomb’s detonation site, searing flames incinerate most buildings, objects, and people.
  • Radiation (1.24 miles wide) — A nuclear bomb’s gamma and other radiation are so intense in this zone that 50% or more of people die within “several hours to several weeks,” according to Nukemap.
  • Air blast (4.64 miles wide) — This shows a blast area of 5 pounds per square inch, which is powerful enough to collapse most residential buildings and rupture eardrums. “[I]njuries are universal, fatalities are widespread.”
  • Thermal radiation (6.54 miles wide) — This region is flooded with skin-scorching ultraviolet light, burning anyone within view of the blast. “Third degree burns extend throughout the layers of skin, and are often painless because they destroy the pain nerves. They can cause severe scarring or disablement, and can require amputation.”

Clicking the “Radioactive fallout” option didn’t produce any exposure zones for this hypothetical explosion. A note toward the bottom of our Nukemap results explained: “Your choice of burst height is too high to produce significant local fallout.”

Casualties and Radioactive Fallout Zones

When we switched the height to surface burst, a very different picture emerged: The thermal and airblast zones shrank, but the fireball nearly doubled in area and the radiation zone nearly tripled.

We also enabled the new, local-weather-based radioactive fallout settings. And to see the human effects, we ticked the “Casualties” option, too.

 

Nukemap 2.5 Image Source: Alex Wellerstein; Google Maps; Business Insider

Luckily, local winds in this hypothetical scenario were moving west-southwest, blowing most radioactive fallout into the Pacific Ocean. If a person were to stand outside in a 100-rad-per-hour zone for four hours, they would get 400 rads of radiation exposure, which is enough to kill 50% of people by acute radiation syndrome.

According to Nukemap’s casualty estimator, however, this blast would still kill about 130,000 people and injure 280,000 over the next 24 hours. The tool notes that this does not include radioactive fallout effects, among other caveats.

“Modelling casualties from a nuclear attack is difficult,” it states. “These numbers should be seen as evocative, not definitive.”

Google Earth’s View

We were eager to try the export feature, but it appears to need some work.

For example, the fallout zone appeared in a totally different area — almost due-south of San Francisco, instead of west-southwest — compared to the in-browser calculation.

Nukemap 2.5 Alex Wellerstein; Google Earth

But it was still useful — in a gut-wrenching way — to see the size of a nuclear fireball (the yellow half-dome in the image below) in 3D as it related to a major city, engulfing entire neighbourhoods.

Nukemap 2.5 Image Source: Alex Wellerstein; Google Earth

You can create your own nuclear blast scenario and explore Nukemap 2.5’s options at nuclearsecrecy.com/nukemap.

Wellerstein and others at Stevens Institute of Technology — an institution based in Hoboken, New Jersey — are working on a related project, called Reinventing Civil Defence. That effort aims to “develop new communication strategies regarding nuclear risk that have high potential to resonate with a public audience.”

The project was awarded a $US500,000 grant and is expected to debut in 2019.

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The Eight Most Powerful Supercomputers in the World

Competitive Computing

The experience of using a computer today is nothing like it was a few decades ago. The sheer speed of computer systems has nearly doubled each year; transistors, once as big as a pencil eraser, have become so small that billions could fit on a fingernail. The average central processing unit (CPU) inside a current-day laptop can perform roughly 21 billion instructions per second—a number exponentially higher than even the most sophisticated computers in the 1970s.

But as computing power has grown, so too has the need to perform increasingly complex computations. We are collecting more and more data, all of which needs to be processed. New scientific fields, such as advanced weather forecasting, nuclear test simulations, cell modeling at the molecular level, and even simulating the human brain, have also become more complicated, warranting the need for even faster, more powerful supercomputers.

Where there is innovation, there is also competition. Organizations seek to create machines that can outdo one another in how many operations they can perform per second, a metric called floating-point operations per second (FLOPS). In the process, engineers swap out and engineer components of the computers so that they can race like Formula 1 cars. Some of these components (very much like a standard desktop computer) include:

  • Transistors: Electronic circuits require the fast and precise movement of electronic signals. Transistors allow these signals to be either amplified or switched to complete different types of operations of varying complexity. The more transistors on an integrated circuit, the greater its processing power and ability to perform a greater number of operations.
  • CPUs: A Central Processing Unit is, as the name suggests, the heart of a computer’s operations. It executes all instructions detailed in a computer program by running through a set list of operations at a specific speed (clock rate). Early supercomputers took advantage of a small number of CPUs working in parallel. Modern supercomputers have taken this idea to groundbreaking levels, often hooking together tens of thousands of consumer-grade processors into massive arrays.
  • Cooling: Supercomputers suck up a lot of energy—the Tianhe-2 consumes 24 MW of power, which is enough to power 24,000 average U.S. homes for a whole month. Some of that energy is released as heat, so supercomputers need to be kept cool enough for components to work efficiently. Once one of the biggest operational challenges for early, pre-silicon transistor supercomputers, overheating is now a minor concern thanks to the use of sophisticated liquid cooling, low power processors, and industrial air-conditioning.
Supercomputers: To Moore’s Law and Beyond
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These materials have become much more advanced in a very short period. Up until the early 2000s, China did not have a single supercomputer in the TOP500, the definitive ranking of the world’s most powerful supercomputers. In 2017, it holds almost a third of the TOP500 spots. The following list of the eight most powerful supercomputers in the world is based on the most up-to-date TOP500 ranking.

(Note: a computer’s real performance often falls short of its theoretical performance, which is calculated according to the Linpack benchmark for the TOP500. It’s more expensive to power a supercomputer than to deck it out with more processing components, so modern supercomputers are designed to contain more nodes than they could run. The theoretical peak performance is the upper limit of a computer’s performance. The Linpack benchmark approximates that, along with standardized, arithmetic speed tests.)

8. Fujitsu’s K

Image Credit: Fujitsu

Fujitu’s K computer was the first supercomputer to have ever broken the ten petaFLOPS barrier in November 2011. The K in its name refers to the Japanese word “kei,” or 10 quadrillion—a reference to the number of FLOPS. To compute at this level, the K combines the power of 80,000 separate CPUs through specialized connectors designed to transmit data at high speeds. A water-cooling system makes individual CPU cores less likely to overheat.

7. Oakforest-PACS

Image Credit: JCAHPC

Resulting from a collaboration between the University of Tokyo, the University of Tsukuba and Fujistu Limited, the supercomputer dubbed Oakforest-PACS broke the 25 petaFLOP barrier thanks to Intel’s latest generation of Xeon Phi processors, making it the fastest supercomputer in Japan. The system is made up of 8,208 computational nodes, and is used for furthering computational science research and teaching young researchers how to conduct high-performance computing.

6. Cori (NERSC)

Image Credit: NERSC

The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center near Oakland, California named its newest supercomputer creation “Cori,” after Gerty Cori, the first American woman to win a Nobel Prize. The system is a Cray XC40, manufactured by the company responsible for major breakthroughs in supercomputer performance during the 1970s. Cori can theoretically achieve a processing speed of 29.1 petaFLOPS. It achieves this through the use of Haswell architecture Intel Xeon and Xeon Phi processors.

5. Sequoia

Image Credit: Bob Hirschfeld/LLNL

The Sequoia is a supercomputer built to measure the risks of nuclear warfare by making advanced weapons science calculations. It’s owned by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. With 98,304 nodes, it’s ranked as the fifth most powerful supercomputer on the planet. According to the Linpack benchmark, it has a speed of 17.2 petaFLOPS.

4. Titan

Image Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Perhaps one of the best-known supercomputers in the Western world, Titan at Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory was the fastest supercomputer on the planet until the Tianhe-2 (below) jockeyed it out of first place in 2013. Titan is the first supercomputer to combine AMD Opteron CPUs and NVIDIA Tesla GPUs, bringing its total theoretical peak output to 27 petaFLOPS (Linpack approximates its output at 17.6). This kind of power enables researchers to perform the complex simulations needed in climate science, astrophysics, and molecular physics.

3. Tianhe-2

Image Credit: National University of Defense Technology

The Tianhe-2, also known as MILKYWAY-2, is a supercomputer developed by China’s National University of Defense Technology. It became the world’s fastest supercomputer in June 2013 with a peak performance of 33.86 petaFLOPS (although peak theoretical performance could be much higher), though it has slid down to third place in the years since. 16,000 computer nodes, made up of Intel Ivy Bridge and Xeon Phi processors, enable simulations of government security applications. It also serves as an open research platform for scientists in southern China.

2. Piz Daint (2017)

Image Credit: hpc-ch

In late 2016, the Piz Daint supercomputer in Lugano, Switzerland gained a huge hardware upgrade. That new power tripled its computing performance and brought its theoretical peak performance up to 19.6 petaFLOPS (their own measurements pin it currently at 25.3), making it the fastest supercomputer outside Asia. Named after a mountain in the Swiss Alps, the Piz Daint also creates advanced visualizations and high-resolution imaging simulations. It will soon provide processing power to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, helping it analyze huge amounts of data.

1. Sunway TaihuLight

Image Credit: NSCW

Currently ranked as the fastest supercomputer in the world, the Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer measures in at 125 petaFLOPS (theoretical peak)—five times as fast as the supercomputer in second place. Housed in the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, it is comprised of 10.6 million cores and is being used for climate research, earth systems modeling and data analytics. On top of being the fastest supercomputer in the world, the Sunway TaihuLight is currently ranked as the fourth most energy-efficient one as well, requiring substantially fewer megawatts per megaFLOPS.

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Matternet Is Expanding Drone Delivery to Hospitals in Switzerland

Hospital Delivery

Delivering our online orders and groceries are one application of drone technology, but while that’s still farther off than we may like, it should be noted that drones are already being used for deliveries in other areas, such as moving blood and other medical resources between hospitals.

Matternet is one such company providing this service in Switzerland, even though it’s based out of California. Matternet built its own drone base station to automate ground operations as well as air traffic, and they’re currently testing their drone network throughout the country.

As explained by Wired, packages are placed in a shoebox-size storage container, then scanned using a QR reader. The package is then transferred to one of Matternet’s drones, and the delivery begins. According to the company, the drones can travel about 12 miles while carrying around 4 pounds, and are capable of finding the safest path through the air — they use the same airspace as emergency helicopters and constantly broadcast their locations.

Prior to the introduction of the drones, hospitals would use third-party couriers to get supplies around. The problem with that, however, was price and trustworthiness.

“We have a vision of a distributed network, not hub and spoke, but true peer-to-peer,” says Matternet CEO Andreas Raptopoulos.

Expanding Services

Zipline is another company using drones to deliver medical supplies to remote health workers in Rwanda and Tanzania, starting in 2018. Workers text their order to the company, who then prepare the items before sending them off. Within fifteen minutes, the drone will drop the package attached to a parachute, with the worker being notified throughout the entire process.

Going forward, Matternet has plans to expand beyond remote locations. The company wants to bring their drone network to more populated areas in Switzerland before the end of 2017, then branch out to the rest of Europe, followed by the U.S. and Japan. If everything goes well, the California-based company hopes more people will use their drones. The speed of their deliveries will be a huge benefit to those requiring medical attention, and knowing help is quickly on the way could provide some much needed solace amidst traumatic injuries.

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Microsoft and Facebook’s 4,000-Mile-Long Subsea Cable Has Been Completed

Under the Sea

Work on Marea, a high-capacity subsea cable spanning the 6,437 kilometers (4,000 miles) between Bilbao, Spain, and Virginia Beach, Virginia, has been completed. Microsoft and Facebook collaborated on the development, design, and implementation of the cable, while a third partner, global communication infrastructure specialist Telxius, was responsible for its construction and will take care of maintenance.

The cable is the first link of its kind between Virginia and Spain. In total, it weighs more than 5,125 tons and has a capacity of 160 TB of data per second — the highest of any subsea cable to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

A project of this scope offers up considerable challenges during construction. While coastal sections of Marea were buried under sand for protective purposes, the majority of the cable rests on the ocean floor at an average depth of nearly 3,352 meters (11,000 feet). Planners had to route the cable so that it avoided such obstacles as earthquake zones, coral reefs, and even active volcanoes.

Aquatic Assembly

Whether we’re using WiFi or mobile data plans, internet access has become indispensable in recent years. However, much of our online connectivity relies on infrastructure like Marea, and when Hurricane Sandy hit, it caused widespread interruptions to internet and phone service due to the number of cables located in the storm’s path.

This is the Fastest Internet on Earth
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“It was a major disruption,” Frank Rey, director of global network strategy for Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure and operations division, explained in a blog post published on the company’s website.

“The entire network between North America and Europe was isolated for a number of hours. For us, the storm brought to light a potential challenge in the consolidation of transatlantic cables that all landed in New York and New Jersey.”

The companies are hopeful that Marea will help prevent such a lack of connection in the future. Facebook is even attempting a similar project on the West Coast, partnering with Google on a cable that will link Los Angeles with Hong Kong.

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New Lego-Inspired Electronics Could Make the Field More Accessible and Efficient

High-Tech Legos

As satirically demonstrated by Derek Zoolander with his minuscule cell phone, a lot of technological advancements are emerging in tiny packages. And, while this is not always the case, when technologies are downsized, there exists a host of logistical issues. One such difficulty is in aligning and piecing together tiny electrical components. This level of accuracy and precision can be impossible for human hands and even difficult for robot digits. So, to creatively remedy this persisting problem, a team of researchers, led by Muhammad M. Hussain at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia, developed a way to convert integrated circuits into “Lego-electronics.”

As with the popular building block toys, this new development hinges on a basic lock-and-key design. A design that is so simple and easy to piece together that, in the study, a blindfolded participant could assemble the technology. They demonstrated this technology and its ease of use in an upcoming issue of Advanced Materials Technologies.

Image Credit: Shaikh et al. ©2017 Wiley-VCH
Image Credit: Shaikh et al. ©2017 Wiley-VCH

Simpler, More Effective Design

While this technology has been demonstrated to be simple and easy to assemble by hand, robots will most likely take on a large percentage of this work. So, what’s so important about this design?

One major aspect of this improvement is that it could create a space in the electronics industry for the visually-impaired or who have dexterity issues. This could create job opportunities for them as well as give them the ability to build their own electronics where they might not have been able to before.

The Evolution of Brain-Computer Interfaces [INFOGRAPHIC]
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Additionally, this could make manufacturing easier, faster, and reduce the rate of failure of micro-scale connections. The design is simple, but it is sound, and because the connection between each piece is so straight-forward, there is a minimized room for error.

According to Hussain, “The demonstration decisively increases throughput and yield in CMOS manufacturing systems, especially the emerging area of flexible electronic system production…By providing geometrical identities to modules, we have demonstrated that a blind person can also assemble it, which may lead to the disruption in employment of blind personnel in the manufacturing and fabrication industry—traditionally believed to have no room for blind individuals.”

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Researchers Claim They Just Invented The “Ultimate” Method for Quantum Computing

Around and Around

Today’s working quantum computers are already more powerful than their traditional computing counterparts, but a pair of researchers from the University of Tokyo think they’ve found a way to make these remarkable machines even more powerful. In a research paper published in Physical Review Letters, Akira Furusawa and Shuntaro Takeda detail their novel approach to quantum computing that should allow the machines to perform a far greater number of computations than other quantum computers.

Future Moonshots [INFOGRAPHIC]
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At the center of their new method is a basic optical quantum computing system — a quantum computer that uses photons (light particles) as quantum bits (qubits) — that Furusawa devised in 2013.

This machine occupies a space of roughly 6.3 square meters (67 square feet) and can handle only a single pulse of light, and increasing its capabilities requires the connecting of several of these large units together, so instead of looking into ways to increase its power by expanding the system’s hardware, the researchers devised a way to make one machine accommodate many pulses of light via a loop circuit.

In theory, multiple light pulses, each carrying information, could go around the circuit indefinitely. This would allow the circuit to perform multiple tasks, switching from one to another by instant manipulation of the light pulses.

The Power of Qubits

Unlike traditional binary bits that are either a one or a zero, qubits are entangled particles that can be either a one, a zero, or both at the same time. These qubits allow quantum computers to perform computations much faster than regular computers can, but most quantum computing models today can manipulate only a dozen or so qubits. Earlier this year, a team of Russian researchers revealed their quantum computer that could handle 51 qubits, and that was a huge breakthrough in the field.

Furusawa and Takeda believe they’ve managed to go well beyond this, asserting in a press release that one of their circuits is theoretically capable of processing over a million qubits. That sort of computing power is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before. It would be enough to solve the greatest computing problems of today, facilitating breakthroughs in medical research or handling large datasets to improve machine learning models.

The next step is for Furusawa and Takeda to translate their theory into a working model. “We’ll start work to develop the hardware, now that we’ve resolved all problems except how to make a scheme that automatically corrects a calculation error,” Furusawa said, according to The Japan Times. If it works as expected, this system will truly live up to its moniker as the “ultimate” quantum computing method.

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A Smartphone Made in Russia Claims to be “Surveillance-Proof”

Security in the 21st Century

As the little computing devices in our hands become smarter and connectivity becomes simpler, it’s no surprise security breaches have become more common. While most smartphones generally promise security, none perhaps can compare to Russian IT-security firm InfoWatch Group and their newest device.

The TaigaPhone, unveiled on Friday by InfoWatch president Natalya Kaspersky at the 2017 Business Information Security Summit (BIS) held in Moscow, promises to be surveillance-proof. “We have created it for the corporate market,” the Kaspersky Lab co-founder said at the event.

InfoWatch CEO Alexei Nagorniy said that TaigaPhone users have the ability to “fully control all the information which goes through this mobile device,” thanks to a system developed by mobile cybersecurity solutions firm Taiga System. InfoWatch’s firmware protects it from “an unauthorized remote connection to the phone’s data as well as the information capture,” he added.

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Anti-Spyware Device

InfoWatch claims that the TaigaPhone guarantees total user confidentiality, device location tracking, and protection from data leaks. “Half of all data loss in Russia happens on mobile devices, we intend to fix that problem with the TaigaPhone,”  said InfoWatch representative Grigoriy Vasilyev, speaking to investors at BIS.

With a five-inch touchscreen, the TaigaPhone is currently at the final stages of production. It’s expected to cost somewhere between 12,000 to 15,000 rubles. That’s around $200 to $260 — not that it matters, since it’s uncertain whether this device will make it to the U.S. In July, Kaspersky Lab was removed from the list of accredited vendors in the country, and in September all of its products were banned from government computers. Allegations of working with Russian intelligence have plagued the company, which Kaspersky Lab has repeatedly denied.

Whether or not it’ll be sold in the U.S., the TaigaPhone promises to provide mobile security like no other. Given how most people put almost all of their relevant information to their smartphones, such security will continue to be increasingly necessary.

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How Fake Fingers Could Improve Touch ID Security

Fake Fingers

If you’ve ever seen a grisly spy movie (or the most recent season of Orange is the New Black) you might be familiar with the concept of cutting off or otherwise erasing one’s fingerprints in order to outwit a fingerprint scanner. Whether it be the entrance to a top-secret lair containing priceless research and intel, or simply the fingerprint scanner on your iPhone, we often trust our digits to provide a unique signature capable of securing our most priceless information. While the method of severing fingers or fingerprints is not the most typical and preferred method of most identity-thieves, fingerprint scanners remain susceptible to hacking.

To determine how secure fingerprint scanners really are — and potentially improve them — a team of researchers at Michigan State University, lead by biometric expert Anil Jain, have designed fake fingers (known as “spoofs”) to test the two most common types of fingerprint readers’ ability to prevent what is known as “spoof attacks.”

These fake fingers are made of conductive silicone, silicone thinner, and pigments. The team also designed the entire fabrication process in hopes that their unique materials and model could help improve the quality assurance of fingerprint scanners.

According to Jain, “What makes our design unique is that it mimics a real finger by incorporating basic properties of human skin…This new spoof has the proper mechanical, optical and electrical properties of a human finger. Compared to current fake fingers that only contain one or two of these properties, our new version could prove much more challenging to detect. It will help motivate designers to build better fingerprint readers and develop robust spoof-detection algorithms.”

Future Security

As our devices improve, the different technological aspects of our life — everything from our phones to our cars — will grow in their capacity to hold information. Every detail of our personal, financial, and professional lives are contained in ways that we typically trust to be secure. But often, when we find that our information is not as secure as we had hoped, it is because it has been stolen or compromised. Methods like those innovated by Jain’s research team could help to monitor and test security systems such as fingerprint scanners to continually ensure that they are, in fact, keeping our information safe. 

Some fingerprint scanners use optical sensors and light rays, while others use capacitive sensors and electrical currents, to create images. The technique of using specially designed fake fingers will test both types of sensors, covering the entire spectrum of scanners that currently exist.

Jain emphasized the importance of this research to all who hold their information dear, “Given their unique characteristics, we believe our fake fingers will be valuable to the fingerprint recognition community…Consumers need to know their fingerprints and identity are secure, and vendors and designers need to demonstrate to the consumers the technology is not only accurate but also resilient to spoof attacks.”

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A Chinese Robot Dentist Operated on a Human Patient for the First Time Ever

The Robot Will See You Now

A robot dentist in China has successfully operated on a human patient without human input and, more importantly, without any harm coming to the patient.

The South China Morning Post reports the procedure lasted about an hour, and involved the implanting of two teeth into a woman’s mouth. The artificial teeth, created using 3D printing technology, were fitted within a margin of error of 0.2 – 0.3 mm — the standard required for the type of surgery the robot was performing.

The robot dentist implanting the artificial teeth. Image Credit: South China Morning Post
The robot dentist implanting the artificial teeth. Image Credit: South China Morning Post

Prior to the beginning of the operation, human medical staff positioned orientation equipment onto the patient. They also programmed the robot’s movements, as well determined the angle and depth needed to properly implant the teeth. So while the robot did perform the operation on its own, it still needed people to set things up.

The Need for Robotic Assistants

The Chinese robot dentist was created in response to a shortage of qualified human dentists and the disconcerting number of human-made errors. Dentists are always working within a small space within the mouth, and are sometimes unable to see what they’re doing.

According to the South China Morning Post, a survey discovered over 400 million people are in need of new teeth, and of the one million implants performed each year, a number of low quality dental surgeries can cause more problems for the patient.

The robot dentist’s success will go a long way to support the development of other such robotics and reduce the number of issues that arise as a result of mishandled operations. Over the years, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic assistants have been used to aid dentists with other procedures like root canal surgery and orthodontic operations as well as training students. In March, a dental assistant known as Yomi received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is also expected to improve the success of dental procedures.

Outside of dentistry, AI and robots have also been used to successfully complete brain surgery and operate inside the human eye. They may still need our help getting started and require our presence alongside them, but it’s only a matter of time before we can simply sit down and let them do all of the work.

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Fermilab is Looking for New, Practical Uses for Particle Accelerators

Accelerator Access

Particle accelerators have proven to be invaluable to the attempts of science to answer some of the most complex questions offered up by the field of physics. Now, the Department of Energy’s Fermilab facility is set to embark on a project that will hopefully offer up various other useful applications.

The Accelerator Application Development and Demonstration program will help Fermilab scientists collaborate with various partners to investigate new ways to utilize compact particle accelerators.

“A2D2 has two aspects: One is to investigate new applications of how electron beams might be used to change, modify or process different materials,” read a statement from Fermilab’s Tom Kroc “The second is to contribute a little more to the understanding of how these processes happen.”

Anyone who has a novel idea of how to apply the technology will be able to submit their proposal to Fermilab. The end goal is to convert established tools and concepts into useful commercial applications — and there are already some interesting plans being put in motion.

Paving the Way

One of the first projects will use accelerators to create pavement that won’t be damaged by extreme heat or cold. Instead of asphalt, this process would use a material that could be strengthened by passing an accelerator over it.

Accelerators can be used to drive chemical reactions using electron beams, which is much quicker and more efficient than conventional methods.

Additionally, the Chicago Metropolitan Water Reclamation District is scheduled to test out the technology’s capacity to overhaul water purification techniques, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is also set to test out its capabilities.

More potential uses are going to be facilitated by an even smaller, portable accelerator currently in development. For the portable version, environmental cleanup is one such potential application currently being touted by Fermilab.

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One of China’s Supercomputers Has Nearly Doubled its Power

One of China’s supercomputers, Tianhe-2, just received a major upgrade, nearly doubling its power. An announcement from the head of Matsuoka Lab, Satoshi Matsuoka, was made during the International HPC Forum (IHPCF) via a series of tweets. The upgraded computer now performs at a staggering 94.97 petaflops, or 949.7 trillion calculations per second, compared to its previous peak performance of 54.9 petaflops.

Image credit: Sam Churchill/Flickr
Image credit: Sam Churchill/Flickr

The upgrade came from replacing coprocessor chips installed in 2013 and replacing them with domestic chips. The 2013 installation used chips developed by Intel, called Knights Corner Xeon Phi coprocessors, and the original plan was to upgrade the system with upgraded Intel chips. However, the United States issued an embargo blocking the export of these chips to specific supercomputing sites, including the home of the Tianhe-2. In response, China was forced to begin building their own chips. They succeeded in matching the power of the Intel chips with the Matrix-2000 GPDSP accelerators.

There is a major race for nations to expand their supercomputing power to the exascale (1,000,000,000,000,000 calculations per second). Right now, China holds a significant lead by being home to the two fastest supercomputers; the United states comes in fourth (behind Switzerland) with its Titan machine.

Supercomputers have the potential to transform law enforcement, national defense, scientific research, and even human life expectancy. The first nation to break into the exascale will be far ahead of the rest.

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Google’s New Dashboard Makes It Easier to See What the Company Knows About You

Google Knows

Google is making it easier for you to find out what it knows about you.

In a blog post on Friday Google said it has redesigned its privacy and security dashboard “from the ground up” to better integrate it into other privacy controls and to make it more touchscreen-friendly.

google artificial intelligence neural network neural machine translation
Image Source: VC/Futurism

The main dashboard was created in 2009 and contains the “My Activity” and “My Account” tools that let you view all your Google activity, and see things like how many emails and photos you have stored.

Update

The update won’t be rolling out until next week, but from the images, it looks like Google is using graphics to better itemize all the services you use, and make it clear where you spend the most time and what data is there. The current version is a bit more difficult to navigate, and requires you to go through multiple screens in order to change or view your privacy settings.

Along with the update, Google released new numbers on just how popular its privacy features are. More than 150 million people have used the My Activity feature to track down old links and videos, and “tens of millions” have used the Privacy Checkup tool to change their preferences. The “Takeout” feature lets your export your data out of Google, and has been used to export one exabyte of data since its creation in 2011.

The update doesn’t by any means change the way Google follows you around the internet, but it does make it a whole lot easier to see everything the company knows about you.

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Google Just Announced a $1.1 Billion Deal with HTC to Challenge the Apple Empire

Google’s Emerging Hardware Business

In a joint statement Wednesday evening, Google and HTC announced their $1.1 billion cooperation agreement. Google will pay $1.1 billion in cash and receive a non-exclusive license for HTC’s intellectual property and about 2,000 HTC employees, of which many are already working with Google to develop the Pixel smartphones. The deal will provide HTC with a much-needed infusion of cash after years of dropping market value.

The deal was widely rumored to happen this week, and the Taiwan stock exchange even suspended trading of HTC’s stock leading up to the announcement. The move signals Google’s growing interest in expanding its consumer hardware strategy — Google’s hire of former Motorola executive Rick Osterloh, who now runs its hardware division, is part of this strategy. Although Google does not acquire any manufacturing assets as part of the agreement, it signals the search engine juggernaut’s ambitious plans for Android-powered smartphones as a competitive force against Apple products which currently dominate the market. The announcement comes just before new product launches in early October that should include two Pixel phones.

Image Credit: HTC
Image Credit: HTC

“HTC has been a longtime partner of Google and has created some of the most beautiful, premium devices on the market,” Google Senior Vice President of Hardware Rick Osterloh said in a statement. “We’re excited and can’t wait to welcome members of the HTC team who will be joining Google to fuel further innovation and future product development in consumer hardware.”

Shared History, Compatible Future

Although Google failed with its acquisition of Motorola’s mobile division, divesting it not long after the purchase when Motorola failed to produce smartphones that could compete with Apple, the collaboration with HTC offers a second chance for Google — one not burdened with manufacturing facilities. HTC has helped to create several Google devices, manufactured the Pixel smartphone, and built the most recent 6P Nexus.

HTC has placed recent emphasis on its growing virtual reality (VR) business, including the HTC Vive headset. This agreement will allow the company to reduce development costs while continuing to grow the VR division. And, while HTC has not been a market leader in smartphones for some time, this collaboration may give Google the opportunity to control hardware for its other devices, from Chromebooks to Google Home.

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Nations Race to Build a Computer With the Power to Predict the Future

Unbelievably Fast

The two fastest supercomputers in the world right now are in China, and they possess 93 and 33 petaflops of processing power. A single petaflop equates to 1,000,000,000,000,000 calculations per second. That’s a lot of zeros, but even China’s 93 petaflop machine will seem pretty slow in comparison to the world’s first exascale computer — once someone finally builds it.

An exascale computer would possess 1,000 petaflops of computing power. That would make it about a trillion times faster than your gigascale consumer laptop, which is capable of 1 billion calculations per second. Building such a powerful computer would be far too much for a single company to take on, but various nations think they may be up to the task.

Right now, the fastest computer in the U.S. is Titan, which runs at about 18 petaflops per second. The government plans to unveil a new supercomputer by next year at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, and at peak performance, that machine should be capable of around 200 petaflops per second. However, both will seem downright slow if the nation’s plans for a exascale computer come to fruition.

This summer, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) gave $258 million to six different companies — Advanced Micro Devices, Cray, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, and Nvidia — as part of their Exascale Computing Project. The hope is that these individual companies will be able to develop the various components necessary for an exascale system that would be operational by 2021.

The U.S. isn’t the only nation aggressively pursuing this next level in processing, however. According to Meng Xiangfei, a director at China’s National Supercomputer Center in Tianjin, their Tianhe-3 supercomputer will be able to hit the exascale milestone sometime in 2018. Meanwhile, Japan believes its first exascale machine, Post-K, will be ready by early 2022.

Predicting a Brighter Future

So, what’s the point of having a supercomputer that fast? Computing power is directly correlated with realistic modeling, and the more powerful a computer, the better its predictive power. Exascale systems should have sufficient computing power to model even complex biological systems with enough precision to make massive logistical endeavors feasible.

The DOE’s exascale initiative includes a project to develop predictive wind energy models that will be ready to work on an exascale system by 2022. Right now, wind energy meets only about 5 percent of the nation’s energy needs, mostly because wind farms aren’t consistently more cost effective when factoring out subsidies. Exascale supercomputers can change this by more accurately modeling how wind flows through plants and pouring that data into better industrial designs and cost reduction strategies for sustainable energy systems.

More powerful computers also mean smarter engineering of biofuels and drought-resistant plants. Understanding how and why plants experience stress in droughts depends on the ability to model multiple microscopic processes that take place simultaneously — something exascale systems will be well-suited for.

An exascale computer would even be capable of predicting crime. It would enable full-scale analysis of surveillance data, even on a global scale. Right now, a massive amount of data is being collected and stored, but not really analyzed or put to use fast enough to prevent attacks. An exascale system could scan social media and other data sources in real-time.

Whichever country meets the exascale milestone first will have a powerful tool at its disposal, one that could truly transform our world, so these projects are a wise investment for all the nations and companies involved.

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A Stretchy New Superconductive “Skin” Can Give Robots a Sense of Touch

You Got the Touch

A team of researchers from the University of Houston have created a new type of “skin” that allows robotic limbs to feel hot and cold. While still in development, it could potentially give those with prosthetic limbs the ability to feel again, as well as lead to more advanced medical equipment.

Assistant Professor of mechanical engineering Cunjiang Yu and his team worked on the project, with their findings published in the journal Science Advances.

As the team explains, most semiconductors — both organic and inorganic — are mechanically nonstretchable, which makes this discovery all the more impressive. Their research has produced “the first semiconductor in rubber composite format that enables stretchability without any special mechanical structure,” said Yu.

The artificial skin was made using a silicon-based polymer known as polydimethylsiloxane, or PDMS, and a hardened material made from small nanowires that’s capable of transporting an electrical current. The team’s process is relatively easier and more stable than a process using traditional semiconductors, which are brittle and more complicated to work with.

The robotic hand designed by Yu and his team. Image Credit: University of Houston

“Our strategy has advantages for simple fabrication, scalable manufacturing, high-density integration, large strain tolerance and low cost,” said Yu.

In a demonstration to show its effectiveness, the robotic hand covered in the skin was able to sense hot and iced water temperatures. Another test had the hand receive computer signals, which it then translated into American Sign Language.

The artificial skin is just one way to use the material. As work on the stretchable electronic progresses, its expected to be able to positively impact the development of other wearable electronics, eventually leading to more sophisticated health monitors, surgical gloves, medical implants, and human-machine interfaces.

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A New Computer Chip Can Store Quantum Information in the Form of Light

Saving Data in Light

The age of quantum computers is drawing ever more near, and now, a team of researchers led by engineers at Caltech have developed a computer chip that puts us one step closer to that new era in computing.

Traditional and quantum computers both store data as binary code. However, while traditional computers store information in bits as either a 1 or 0, quantum computers store data in qubits as either a 1, a 0, or both simultaneously.

Because protons lack charge and mass, they are an exceptionally secure and efficient medium for quantum data storage, but figuring out how to use single protons for quantum data storage and transmission has proven difficult. Doing so on-chip at the nanoscale had seemed impossible, but the Caltech researchers have figured it out.

An artist's representation of Caltech's quantum memory chip. Image Credit: Ella Maru Studio
An artist’s representation of Caltech’s quantum memory chip. Image Credit: Ella Maru Studio

Their chip is the world’s smallest example of an optical quantum memory device. It was made by creating memory modules measuring 700 nanometers wide by 15 microns long — roughly the same size as red blood cells — out of optical cavities made from crystals doped with rare-earth ions. These ions allowed each module to more effectively absorb the individual photon pumped into it via a laser.

A New Era

During initial testing, the chips were able to store data for 75 nanoseconds before release, with only a 3 percent failure rate. However, in order to be a viable component in quantum networking, the chips will need to be able to retain the information for one millisecond. Fortunately, meeting this requirement is one of the team’s goals as they move forward. They also plan to work out the best way to incorporate their chips into complex quantum circuits.

Though already looking ahead to what’s next, the team is pleased with everything they’ve accomplished so far.

“Such a device is an essential component for the future development of optical quantum networks that could be used to transmit quantum information,” Andrei Faraon, assistant professor of applied physics and materials science at Caltech and corresponding author of the study, explained in a Caltech news release.

“This technology not only leads to extreme miniaturization of quantum memory devices, it also enables better control of the interactions between individual photons and atoms,” added Caltech postdoctoral scholar Tian Zhong, lead author of the study.

Caltech isn’t the only organization with researchers working on quantum technology.

MIT recently proposed a new way to mass produce qubits, while researchers at EPFL’s Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements are looking into using graphene to construct a quantum capacitor that can create qubits that are more stable. Researchers from the University of New South Wales in Australia have designed an entirely new kind of qubit altogether.

These and other recent developments in the world of quantum computing are exciting, and many will undoubtedly play a significant role in shaping our future with quantum computers. Some predict we may be using these powerful devices to cure diseases and combat cyber hacking as soon as next year.

That said, the widespread adoption of quantum computers is still far off. Some experts have predicted the devices won’t be consumer-ready for another 20 years or so, and once they do arrive, ensuring they are used for creation and not destruction will present its own set of challenges.

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Samsung Plans to Release a Folding Screen Smartphone Next Year

Next-Gen Flip Phones

Samsung hasn’t been extremely forthcoming with updates about its foldable screen since it debuted the technology at 2013’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES). We finally have something a little bit more concrete as Dongjin Koh, president of mobile business at Samsung, told reporters that the company is planning to release a foldable phone in its Galaxy Note line in 2018.

Samsung does have a little bit of wiggle room with the unveiling of their first bending screens as Koh added, “When we can overcome some problems for sure, we will launch the product,” he said. “We are digging thoroughly into several issues we must overcome, as we don’t want to just make a few, sell a few and be done. We want to hear that Samsung made a very good product.” He doesn’t go into detail about what those hurdles might be.

Phoning in the Future

Samsung has begun to integrate similar tech in their phones since the last generation of the Galaxy S series. The phones have a curved “infinity” display that allow the screen to take up more of the phone’s real estate. The implementation of this less advanced technology bring up some questions for the promised screens of the future. App-makers haven’t exactly embraced the potential of the screen curvature in current models, so it will be interesting to see what functionality such a major leap forward would lead to.

A Brief History of Technology
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Other electronics companies are also working on bending and folding screens. Lenovo displayed their Folio tablet that can fold into a smartphone sized device at this year’s Lenovo’s Tech World conference in July. The company made no promises for delivering a product at the time, so not much is known about the progress of their tech.

Smartphones have increasingly improved their versatility in terms of functionality with each new generation. It looks like folding screens will be the start of adding physical versatility to our pocket computers.

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LIVE Updates: Everything You Need to Know From Apple’s iPhone Keynote

Today’s The Day

After months of rumors, today is the day Apple presumably sets the record straight on their new iPhone. Starting at 1:00 pm EST (10:00 am PST), the company will be live streaming a special event from the brand-new Steve Jobs Theater on their Apple Campus in Cupertino, California, and we’ll be providing real-time updates from the keynote as they happen.

While Apple hasn’t confirmed exactly what they plan to reveal during this event, details on new iPhone models are practically a given at this point.

Late last night, credit card company Discover updated their website to include three new editions of the smartphone: iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X Edition. Apple Watch Series 3 and Apple TV (2017) were also mentioned on the site before all references to the new Apple products were removed.

As for what we can expect from new iPhone line, a leak back in July suggested the new devices will support augmented reality (AR). They may also be larger than the previous model, and Apple could completely eschew a home button.

About two months prior to that, an anonymous informant claimed that Apple is working on an artificial intelligence (AI) chip for the new iPhone line. According to the source, this chip, referred to as the “Apple Neural Engine,” would increase the phone’s battery life and perform tasks currently handled by humans, so perhaps more details on that will be included in today’s event.

Straight From the Steve Jobs Theater

Wireless charging, edge-to-edge displays, vertically aligned rear cameras, 3D facial recognition…the possibilities for the new iPhone are seemingly as plentiful as the number of devices in circulation.

But, of course, we needn’t speculate much longer. Apple CEO Tim Cook is about to take the stage and confirm all the details on the new iPhones and everything else that the industry-leading company is ready to share with the world.

We will be updating this article live as the conference continues.

  • Apple kicks off their livestream with a visual love letter to their sleek new Steve Jobs Theater, complete with a backing soundtrack from The Beatles.
  • CEO Tim Cook offers a touching tribute to Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
  • Cook offers an overview of Apple Park, which he says was “built to reflect Apple’s values for both technology and the environment” and is powered 100 percent by renewable energy.
  • First update is on Retail with Angela leading the talk. She overviews the new features found at Apple’s largest stores (“townsquares”) and shares a video about “Today at Apple.”
  • Apple’s newest flagship store will open in Chicago on October 20.
  • Cook returns and begins his updates with Apple Watch, which he reveals is now the #1 watch in the world.
  • Apple Watch updates are led by Jeff. He reveals Watch OS4 will have a completely redesigned workout app.
  • Health-related updates for Apple Watch include enhancements to the heart rate app, the addition of a notification feature for an elevated heart rate when the wearer doesn’t appear to be active, and the announcement of the Apple Heart Study — a partnership with Stanford Medicine focused on irregular heartbeats.
  • Apple Watch OS4 will be available on September 19.
  • Cellular will be built into Apple Watch.
  • Apple Watch Series 3 and Apple Music will allow you to “stream 40 million songs on your wrist.”
  • Series 3 will have a new dual core processor that’s 70 percent faster, enough to allow Siri to talk via the Watch.
  • Watch will include W2, a custom chip that is 50 percent more power efficient.
  • Apple was able to give Watch cellular capabilities without increasing the size of the case from Series 2 to Series 3.
  • Series 3 comes in a variety of cases and bands, including a new band known as the “sport loop” and a new grey ceramic finish.
  • Series 3 without cellular will cost $329 and with cellular will cost $399. Series 1 will be $249. Orders begin September 15, and Series 3 Watches will be available September 22.
  • Cook returns to introduce Apple TV 4K and invite Eddie to the stage to overview its features.
  • Two big advancements in picture quality: 4K and High Dynamic Range (HDR).
  • Whole Apple UI has been redone in 4K.
  • New Apple TV’s CPU performance is twice as fast.
  • 4K movies will be the same price as HD. Any past iTunes HD purchases will be updated to 4K HDR at no extra charge.
  • The Apple TV app is expanding from just the U.S. to seven additional countries by the end of the year.
  • Live sports and live news features are being added to Apple TV app.
  • Jenova Chen from That Game Company takes the stage to share details on their new game, Sky, a “romantic social adventure game” that can be played with one finger on the Siri remote.
  • The game will be available exclusively via Apple devices this winter.
  • Apple TV starts at $179, can be ordered starting September 15, and ships September 22.
  • Cook returns to talk about the iPhone.
  • After reviewing the technological milestones hit by previous iPhone versions, Cook says he has “huge iPhone news for you today.”
  • Tim says iPhone 8 is “a huge step forward for iPhone” before inviting Phil to the stage.
  • The design is all new with glass in front and back. It comes in silver, space gray, and gold. It’s made from aerospace-grade aluminum, and the glass is “the most durable ever in a smartphone.”
  • Microscopically sealed for water and dust resistance.
  • The first display with “true tone” technology.
  • Stereo speakers that are 25 percent louder with a deeper bass than iPhone 7.
  • iPhone 8 will feature a new chip: A11 bionic. It will have a six-core CPU, including two performance cores that are 25 percent faster than the A10.
  • iPhone 8 features the first-ever Apple-designed GPU, which is 30 percent faster.
  • For the first time ever, the iPhone camera has hardware-enabled noise reduction.
  • The iPhone 8 has two new sensors in its dual camera.
  • iPhone 8+ will ship with a new feature called “portrait lighting” that uses machine learning to change the lighting over the contours on a subject’s face.
  • iPhone 8 has the highest quality video capture ever on a smartphone.
  • The iPhone 8 has an Apple-designed video encoder that does real-time image and motion analysis.
  • The new iPhone doubles the frame rate for slow motion videos to 240 fps.
  • Augmented reality is officially coming to the iPhone, and Phil offers several examples of how ARKit and the iPhone can be used together.
  • Atli Mar of Directive Games previews The Machines, an AR game designed to be played using the iPhone 8.
  • Wireless charging is a feature of iPhone 8.
  • iPhone 8 will incorporate Qi wireless charging.
  • iPhone 8 will come in 64GB and 256GB, starting at $699. iPhone 8+ will come in 64GB and 256GB starting at $799. Preorders begin September 15, with devices available September 22. Upgrades to IOS 11 will be available on September 19.
  • Cook returns to talk about “the future of the smartphone” and reveal a product “that will set the path for technology for the next decade” — iPhone X.
  • Cook says this is “the biggest leap forward since the original iPhone.”
  • Phil returns to share the details. The display on the X is edge to edge and it has glass on the front and back.
  • The X comes in space gray and silver.
  • The X’s “super retina display” is 5.8 inches on the diagonal. It is the highest resolution in pixel density ever in an iPhone, and the device supports Dolby Vision and HDR10.
  • You can simply tap the screen to wake up the phone.
  • The X doesn’t have a home button. You swipe from the bottom to go to the home screen from any point in the system or to switch between apps.
  • To talk to Siri, you can press the side button or simply talk.
  • Face ID will be used to unlock the iPhone X using Apple’s new TrueDepth Camera System.
  • Face ID technology will run on the A11 Bionic neural engine processing system, which can perform 600 billion operations per second.
  • All the processing for Face ID is done on the device and not sent to a server for added security.
  • The chance that a person could unlock your iPhone using Touch ID was 1 in 50,000. For Face ID, it’s 1 in 1,000,000.
  • Face ID also works with Apple Pay and third-party apps that work with Touch ID.
  • The TrueDepth Camera System is useful for more than Face ID. It also enables “animojis” — animated emojis that you control with your face.
  • Craig takes the stage to provide the first live look at iPhone X. He has a little trouble opening up the first device, but no problem with the second.
  • You can also move between apps by swiping along the bottom of the screen.
  • Craig demonstrates the abilities of Face ID, from unlocking the iPhone X to using Apple Pay.
  • He shares his impressions of a cat, monkey, and unicorn using the iPhone X’s animoji feature.
  • iPhone X has 12MP dual cameras, larger and faster sensors, dual optical image stabilization, and more.
  • The iPhone X is “tuned for AR applications,” according to Phil, and is a “breakthrough” for selfies.
  • The X’s battery life will be two hours longer than iPhone 7.
  • Like the iPhone 8, the X is “built for a wireless world.”
  • Phil offers a “sneak peak” of the future of charging: AirPower, a mat large enough for you to charge your iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods on at the same time.
  • The AirPower charger should be ready in 2018.
  • The iPhone X will come in 64GB and 256GB versions starting at $999. Orders begin on October 27, with the devices shipping on November 3.

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Expert: The U.S. Needs to Do More to Prepare for Autonomous Warfare

Arms Race

Modern warfare is set to undergo major changes, thanks to new technologies springing forth from the fields of artificial intelligence and robotics. As Jon Wolfsthal sees it, the US isn’t doing enough to ensure that these advances are made with the proper consideration.

Wolfsthal is a non-resident fellow at Harvard University’s Managing the Atom project, and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Between 2014 and 2017, he acted as the senior director for arms control and nonproliferation at the National Security Council, serving as a special assistant to President Barack Obama.

In a guest post submitted to DefenseNews, Wolfsthal argues that while AI and autonomous weapons stand to improve national security and mitigate the risks taken by servicemen and women, the need to compete with other technologically advanced nations is resulting in a lack of oversight.

Neither the government nor the general public seems interested in having a serious discussion about the ethical ramifications and the legal basis of developing these programs, says Wolfsthal. As a result, bodies like the Department of Defense are focusing on what they can create, rather than whether they should.

He suggests that the National Security Council needs a better process for assessing the technologies the US wants to pursue, and what’s being investigated by other nations. He adds that Congress should be more proactive in developing policy, and that the Senate and House Armed Services committees should be be fostering debate and discussion. Wolfsthal also criticizes President Trump for failing to staff the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, a decision he describes as “unconscionable.”

Risk and Reward

“The possible advantages to the United States are endless,” writes Wolfsthal. “But so too are the risks.” AI and autonomous weapons aren’t necessarily something that the military should shy away from — adoption of these technologies seems like something of a foregone conclusion — but they need to be implemented with care and consideration.

This stance mirrors the one taken by Elon Musk. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO has made no secret of his concerns about AI. However, last month he clarified his position, stating that the technology offers up huge benefits if we can avoid its most perilous pitfalls.

Now is the time for these discussions to take place. We’re already seeing drones employed by the US Army, even if the hardware is sometimes imperfect. Meanwhile, Russia is thought to be developing missiles that make use of AI, and China is working on its own intelligent weapons systems.

It might seem like an exaggeration to compare the advent AI and autonomous weapons to the introduction of nuclear weaponry, but there are some broad similarities. These are instruments of death that can be used at long range, reducing the risk of friendly casualties.

It is likely naive to think that there’s still an opportunity to reverse course and curb the implementation of these technologies in a military context. At this point, the priority has to be making sure that we don’t allow these advances to be utilized recklessly. Like nuclear armaments, these technologies stand to completely revolutionize the way nations go to war. And before a technologically augmented conflict begins in earnest, it would be wise for the government and the public to figure out where they stand on how these weapons are wielded.

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The “Quantum Internet” Is Just a Decade Away. Here’s What You Need to Know.

The Next Level

The word “quantum” sounds so advanced and complex that people tend to get hyped up about anything attached to it. While not every quantum breakthrough elicits a positive response, in the case of a so-called quantum internet, people have a reason to be excited.

In the simplest of terms, a quantum internet would be one that uses quantum signals instead of radio waves to send information. But let’s explain that a bit further.

Future Moonshots [INFOGRAPHIC]
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The internet as we know it uses radio frequencies to connect various computers through a global web in which electronic signals are sent back and forth. In a quantum internet, signals would be sent through a quantum network using entangled quantum particles.

Following what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance,” entangled particles exist in a special state that allows information carried in one to be instantaneously reflected in another — a sort of quantum teleportation.

Researchers have recently made significant progress in building this quantum communication network. China launched the world’s first quantum communication satellite last year, and they’ve since been busy testing and extending the limitations of sending entangled photons from space to ground stations on Earth and then back again. They’ve also managed to store information using quantum memory. By the end of August, the nation plans to have a working quantum communication network to boost the Beijing-Shanghai internet.

Leading these efforts is Jian-Wei Pan of the University of Science and Technology of China, and he expects that a global quantum network could exist by 2030. That means a quantum internet is just 13 years away, if all goes well.

Quantum Web Surfing?

So, what does a quantum internet mean for regular internet users? As far as typical internet surfing goes, probably not much.

It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be using the quantum internet to update your social media feed, for one. “In many cases, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to communicate quantum mechanically,” University of Washington physicist Kai-Mei Fu told WIRED. For such things, regular internet communication is enough.

The quantum internet would excel, however, at sending information securely. Through what’s known as quantum encryption or quantum cryptography, people would be able to send “unhackable” data over a quantum network. This is because quantum cryptography uses a mechanic called quantum key distribution (QKD), which means an encrypted message and its keys are sent separately. Tampering with such a message causes it to be automatically destroyed, with both the sender and the receiver notified of the situation.

A quantum internet could also speed up access to a working quantum computer by putting quantum computing in the cloud. Instead of trying to get your hands on a physical quantum computer, which we still haven’t quite managed to make publicly available, you could access one through the cloud.

A regular personal computer could transmit or access quantum-encrypted information through this cloud-based quantum computer. At the very least, you could send “unhackable” emails. “Users might not want to send their information classically, where it could be eavesdropped,” Fu told WIRED.

Essentially, a quantum internet would most likely become a specialized branch of the regular internet, one we would only connect to for specific tasks. However, even if the quantum internet doesn’t work the same way the current internet does, one thing is for sure: the cutting-edge technology has the potential to benefit everyone, from hardcore physicists to regular Joes streaming the latest (not leaked) episode of Game of Thrones.

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Broadway Hit “Hamilton” Has a Plan to Stop Bots From Buying up Tickets

The Scalper Sisters

This week, musical theater fans can increase their chances of scoring a ticket to “Hamilton” at face value by simply proving that they’re not a bot.

From now until Friday night at 6PM, Ticketmaster users can opt to give the site permission to vet their purchase history, with applicants who pass the screening given access to an advanced ticket sale that will take place Monday ahead of general availability on Tuesday.

Ticketmaster’s technology is known as Verified Fan, and it works by scouring the user’s purchase history to figure out whether they’re actually looking to see a particular show for themselves or more likely just a bot being used by a scalper to make a quick buck.

“Hamilton” isn’t the only show on Broadway that’s making use of this technology. “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” as well as Bruce Springsteen’s upcoming one-man show both take advantage of Verified Fan. However, those productions are using the service for all individual ticket sales, rather than the more minor implementation attached to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit show.

Not Gonna Give up My Bot

Privacy and the Internet of Things
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Bots have changed the game for ticket scalpers in recent years. With the right software, they can purchase tickets for an enormously popular show like “Hamilton” ahead of anyone else. This is a problem because it inevitably leads to artificially inflated prices on the resale market.

Bots are such an effective tool for scalping tickets for pretty much the same reason they plague services like Twitter. It’s easy to teach them how to perform simple tasks, such as signing up for tickets or sending a mean tweet. They make the whole process anonymous, so the real culprit can’t get in trouble. However, if Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan technology catches on, scalpers will be forced to find a new way to get their hands on tickets, which could make it easier to catch them in the act.

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A Drone Unintentionally Landed on Britain’s Largest Warship and No One Noticed

A DJI Phantom drone piloted by a photographer landed on the largest British warship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, took a photo while on deck, and then flew off again. No one seemed to notice the event or, if they did, showed any signs that they cared.

These Are the Most Advanced Anti-Drone Technologies in Existence Today
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The unnamed photographer flying the drone even went over to armed guards afterwards and explained what happened. They took down his information, but no one contacted him after.

The photographer claims that the landing was unintentional — he was forced to touch down on the ship due to a high wind alert — but the ease with which he was able to land on the warship raises very important concerns. “I could have carried two kilos of Semtex [plastic explosives] and left it on the deck,” the pilot told BBC Scotland.

In fact, terrorist groups like ISIS have been known to weaponize drones. “I would say my mistake should open their eyes to a glaring gap in security. This was a bit of tomfoolery, but it could have been something terrible, not just for the ship and its crew but for the people of Invergordon,” the photographer added.

Image Credit: Black Isle Images

The Ministry of Defense has since reacted, telling the BBC that they are investigating the matter and will be stepping up their security protocols in response. In fairness, the ship is not active or armed, which may have contributed to the lack of concern over the drone.

Drones are a powerful technology, and we do not fully understand their potential. The U.S. already has policies in place that allow drones to be shot down if they get too close to military facilities, but lawmakers across the globe must be proactive in the creation of legislation that addresses any potentially nefarious use of these devices.

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Quantum Computers Could One Day Help Us Find Cures for Incurable Diseases

This is the sort of conversation explored in Peter Diamandis’s online community called Abundance 360 Digital (A360D). If you want access to the A360D knowledge base and community lead by Peter Diamandis, click here to learn more.

Futurism only supports products that we trust and use. This video post is in partnership with A360D, and Futurism may get a small percentage of sales.

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The Laser-Shooting Mosquito Zapper We’re Still Waiting For

Laser Potential

At a 2010 TED expo, Nathan Myhrvold — former Microsoft CTO and current project lead of Intellectual Ventures — debuted a “photonic fence” that zaps disease-ridden mosquitoes to an early grave à la laser. The machine locates, targets, and shoots the pests mid-flight in a Lucite box. Myhrvold’s phonetic fence was widely lauded not just because bug bites are a downer, but because of the increased fear of mosquito-spread malaria, yellow fever, dengue, West Nile, and Zika.

Funded by Bill Gates, the skeeter-zapping device sounds great on paper: its laser is aimed by a mirror synced to a camera capable of recognizing mosquitoes by its size, shape, and even the unique flutter of its wings, which differs between male and female. All of this happens autonomously, in the span of 100 milliseconds. Only 25 of those milliseconds are actually spent zapping the bug, which is observed by a high-speed camera, body parts and insides falling away from the rest.

Image credit: astroshots42 via Visualhunt.com
Image Credit: astroshots42

After his TED talk, it was easy to assume that real-life use of the Intellectual Ventures laser was just around the corner. (The public certainly seemed to hope so, as the video of his talk has been watched over 847,000 times.) But while the infrared lethal laser is real, the demo Myhrvold gave in 2010 was a little bit faked. Myhrvold actually used a green laser pointer that zapped at the Lucite box of bugs from across the stage. He followed up the nonlethal light-show with a slow-motion kill video of a scrupulously staged target practice, previously recorded in his lab — with one notable closeup accomplished by gluing a mosquito to a pin to keep it from flying away.

The Problems

The reality is that, despite seven years of rapt attention, the anti-mosquito laser has proved difficult to actually build. Intellectual Ventures has spent years figuring out how to continuously track and identify the unique qualities of a mosquito, and not other (relatively) benign bugs, like butterflies and bumblebees. At a recent demonstration, Carl Swanson of New York Magazine had to don protective goggles because the kind of laser used is not safe for the eyes. Myhrvold guaranteed that this possible hazard will be corrected before the laser hits the market, but it represents yet another obstacle.

Lastly, no one seems to know how to make the device on a budget that doesn’t price out its widest consumer base: people who go to sleep at night under a mosquito net. Consequently, Myhrvold has considered the possibility of selling the device to the military, since soldiers tend to be sent to intervene in Malaria-laden areas of the world.

Myhrvold isn’t the only scientist using lasers to fend off unwanted pests. University of Missouri researchers Heidi Appel and Rex Cocroft have discovered they can incite Rockcress plants to produce higher levels of natural pesticides by playing them the tiny, laser-measured vibrations produced by munching caterpillars. At the University of California Riverside, the Computational Entomology Lab is working on laser-based technology that classifies insect species based on their the sound of their movements. The goal of lead scientists Eomann Keogh’s work is to spot insect infestations of grain in silos and fields before the infestation ruins a crop.

But unlike Mhyrvold, these researchers are largely addressing problems with a much smaller scale of social impact. Mosquitoes kill an estimated 1 million people per year, with over 400,000 of those deaths caused by malaria alone. And in the past few years, urgent concerns about these biting pests have been raised by the spread of Zika virus in South America and the threat that climate change will produce more of them.

If there was ever a time for a laser-shooting mosquito zapper, it’s now.

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Six Life-Like Robots That Prove The Future of Human Evolution is Synthetic

Humanoid robots have come eerily close to overcoming the uncanny valley. With the right features in place, they are almost indistinguishable from their organic counterparts. Almost. The latest iterations are able to talk like us, walk like us, and express a wide range of emotions. Some of them are able to hold a conversation, others are able to remember the last interaction you had with them.

As a result of their highly advanced status, these life-like robots could prove useful in helping out the elderly, children, or any person who needs assistance with day-to-day tasks or interactions. For instance, there have been a number of studies exploring the effectiveness of humanoid robots supporting children with autism through play.

But with the likes of Elon Musk voicing concern over the risk of artificial intelligence, there is some debate regarding just how human we really want our robotic counterparts to be. And like Musk, some of us may worry about what our future will look like when intelligence is coupled with a perfectly human appearance. But Sophia, an ultra-realistic humanoid created by Hanson Robotics, isn’t concerned. AI “is good for the world,” she says.

Still, while the technology behind advanced android robotics has come a long way, there is still a lot of work to be done before we can have a face-to-face conversation with an entity without being able to tell that we are speaking with a replica.

But that is not to say that scientists and engineers haven’t come close. With this in mind, here are six humanoid robots that have come the closest to overcoming the uncanny valley.

1. The First Android Newscaster

Image Source: Yoshikazu Tsuno/Getty Images

In 2014, Japanese scientists proudly unveiled what they claim to be the very first news-reading android. The life-like newscaster called “Kodomoroid” read a segment about an earthquake and an FBI raid on live television.

Although it – or she – has now retired to Tokyo’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, she is still active. She helps visitors and collects data for future studies about the interactions between human androids and their real-life counterparts.

2. BINA48

Image Source: Hanson Robotics

BINA48 is a sentient robot released in 2010 by the Terasem Movement under the supervision of entrepreneur and author Martine Rothblatt. With the help of robotics designer and researcher David Hanson, BINA48 was created in the image of Rothblatt’s wife, Bina Aspen Rothblatt.

BINA48 has done an interview with the New York Times, appeared in National Geographic and has traveled the world, appearing on a number of TV shows. See how she measures up in the Times interview below.

3. Geminoid DK

Image Source: GeminoidDK/YouTube

GeminoidDK is the ultra-realistic, humanoid robot that resulted from a collaboration between a private Japanese firm and Osaka University, under the supervision of Hiroshi Ishiguro, the director of the university’s Intelligent Robotics Laboratory.

GeminoidDK is modeled after Danish professor Henrik Scharfe at Aalborg University in Denmark. Unsurprisingly, his work surrounds the philosophical study of knowledge – what separates true from false knowledge.

It is not only the overall appearance that was inspired by professor Scharfe. His behaviors, traits, and the way he shrugs his shoulders were also translated into life-life robotic movements.

4. Junko Chihira

Image Source: calenjapon/YouTube

This ultra-realistic android created by Toshiba works full-time in a tourist information center in Tokyo. She can greet customers and inform visitors on current events. She can speak Japanese, Chinese, English, German, and even sign language.

Junko Chihira is part of a much larger effort by Japan to prepare for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Not only robotic tourist assistants will be helping the country with the incoming flood of visitors from across the globe in 2020; drones, autonomous construction site machines and other smart facilitators will be helping as well.

5. Nadine

Image Source: NTUsg/YouTube

This humanoid was created by the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Her name is Nadine, and she is happy to chat with you about pretty much anything you can think of. She is able to memorize the things you have talked to her about the next time you get to talk to her.

Nadine is a great example of a “social robot” – a humanoid that is capable of becoming a personal companion, whether it is for the elderly, children or those who require special assistance in the form of human contact.

6. Sophia

Image Source: Hanson Robotics

Perhaps one of the most recent, most prominent life-like humanoids to be shown off in public is Sophia. You might recognize her from one of many thousands of public appearances, from The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to SXSW. She was created by Hanson Robotics and represents the latest and greatest effort to overcome the uncanny valley.

She is capable of expressing an immense number of different emotions through her facial features and can gesture with full-sized arms and hands.

On her own dedicated website, you can find an entire biography written in her voice. “But I’m more than just technology. I’m a real, live electronic girl. I would like to go out into the world and live with people. I can serve them, entertain them, and even help the elderly and teach kids.”

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World’s Leading Physicist Says Quantum Computers Are “Tools of Destruction, Not Creation”

Weapon of Mass Disruption

Quantum Computers are heralded as the next step in the evolution of data processing. The future of this technology promises us a tool that can outperform any conventional system, handling more data and at faster speeds than even the most powerful of today’s supercomputers.

However, at the present juncture, much of the science dedicated to this field is still focused on the technology’s ultimate utilization. We know that quantum computers could manage data at a rate that is remarkable, but exactly what kind of data processing will they be good for?

This uncertainty raises some interesting questions about the potential impact of such a theoretically powerful tool.

No encryption existing today would be able to hide from the processing power of a functioning quantum computer.

Last month, some of the leading names in quantum technologies gathered at the semi-annual International Conference on Quantum Technologies in Moscow. Futurism was in attendance and was able to sit and talk with some of these scientists about how their work is moving us closer to practical quantum computers, and what impact such developments will have on society.

One of the most interesting topics of discussion was initiated by Alexander Lvovsky, Quantum Optics group leader at the Russian Quantum Center and Professor of Physics at the University of Calgary in Canada. Speaking at a dinner engagement, Lvovsky stated that quantum computers are a tool of destruction, not creation.

What is it about quantum computers that would incite such a claim? In the end, it comes down to one thing, which happens to be one of the most talked about potential applications for the technology: Breaking modern cryptography.

With Great Power…

Today, all sensitive digital information sent over the internet is encrypted in order to protect the privacy of the parties involved. Already, we have seen instances where hackers were able to seize this information by breaking the encryption. According to Lvovsky, the advent of the quantum computer will only make that process easier and faster.

In fact, he asserts that no encryption existing today would be able to hide from the processing power of a functioning quantum computer. Medical records, financial information, even the secrets of governments and military organizations would be free for the taking—meaning that the entire world order could be threatened by this technology.

The consensus between other experts is, essentially, that Lvovsky isn’t wrong. “In a sense, he’s right,” Wenjamin Rosenfeld, a physics professor at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, stated in an interview. He continued, “taking a quantum computer as a computer, there’s basically not much you can do with this at the moment;” however, he went on to explain that this may soon be changing.

To break this down, there are only two quantum algorithms at the moment, one to allow a quantum computer to search a database, and the other, Shor’s algorithm, which can be used by a quantum computer to break encryption.

Notably, during the conference, Mikhail Lukin, a co-founder of the Russian Quantum Center and head of the Lukin Group of the Quantum Optics Laboratory at Harvard University, announced that he had successfully built and tested a 51-qubit quantum computer…and he’s going to use that computer to launch Shor’s algorithm.

Vladimir Shalaev, who sits on the International Advisory Board of the Russian Quantum Center and is a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University, takes a more nuanced approach to this question, saying it is neither a tool of destruction nor creation—it is both: “I would disagree with him. I think I would say that any new breakthrough breeds both evil and good things.”

Quantum computers may not be capable of the physical destruction of a nuclear bomb, but their potential application is the digital equivalent.

He evoked the development of laser technology as an example, saying, “Lasers changed our lives with communications, surgery, their use in machinery, but they are also used in missiles to destroy buildings. But I think this is life. Nothing comes with only good, there is always bad as well. So I don’t think it is just a destructive technology, it could also be a constructive one.”

There is a great deal of truth to Shalaev’s assessment. Nuclear technology was primarily developed as a destructive tool. After the war, many more positive applications were found, impacting energy, medicine, and agriculture, among many other fields. Quantum computers may not be capable of the physical destruction of a nuclear bomb, but their potential application in relation to encryption is the digital equivalent, making this topic worthy of reflection in these early stages.

What Good May Come?

So, if quantum computers do have such dangerous potential, why are we pursuing them? As Lukin expounds, there are other potential applications outside of encryption breaking, applications that many experts are excited about.

For example, Lukin sees enormous potential in quantum sensors. “It has the potential to change the field of medical diagnostics, where some of the tasks which require huge labs can be performed on the scale of an iPhone. Imagine the implications for third world countries in parts of the world like Africa. It can really allow to diagnose and treat patients. I think there’s actually a huge impact on society,” he explained.

Also, the processing power of quantum computers could push research in artificial intelligence (AI) forward by leaps and bounds. Indeed, it could assist this field to such a degree that AI could be a part of the answer to the problem proposed by Lvovsky. To that end, Lukins asserts, “I’m fairly convinced that, before quantum computers start breaking encryption, we will have new classical encryption, we will have new schemes based on quantum computers, based on quantum cryptography, which will be operational.”

Much like lasers or nuclear weapons, the scientists involved in creating quantum computers are unable to predict the total utility of this technology. There very well could be a host of world changing applications for quantum computers. Still, even with just considering the encryption busting potential of the technology, we must remain cognizant of the power we are unleashing.

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This Tiny Supercomputer Consumes 98% Less Power and 99.93% Less Space

1 petaFLOPS, 1 Rack

This week, AMD unveiled Project 47, a supercomputer that crams a whopping 1 petaFLOPS of computing performance into a single server rack. This means Project 47 is as powerful as IBM’s $100 million Roadrunner — the world’s most powerful supercomputer in 2007 — which required 2,350,000 watts of electricity, 6,000 square feet of floor space, and 296 racks. In contrast, Project 47 consumes 98 percent less power and 99.93 percent less space, requiring just a single rack.

The IBM Roadrunner cluster was primarily composed of approximately 12,960 PowerXCell processors and 6,912 Opteron CPUs. Project 47 comprises 80 Radeon Instinct GPUs, 20 AMD EPYC 7601 processors, and 20 Mellanox 100G cards, and it includes 10TB of Samsung memory. AMD says it would take 33.3 MW of power and 1,000 Project 47 racks to scale Project 47 up to 1 exaFLOPS.

A Step Forward

Project 47 is part of a wider movement to reduce the footprint of supercomputers, and each stride forward means improved efficiency and less energy used to get the same amount of — or a lot more — computing power. Increasing computing power will be critical for the management of more sophisticated systems, such as those that house artificial intelligences (AI) in safe, productive ways.

The system is built around the 2U parallel computing platform Inventec P47. The P47 is designed for machine intelligence and graphics virtualization applications. Project 47’s 1 PetaFLOP was achieved using a single Inventec P47 systems rack. It requires only 33.3 kW for a petaFLOPS of computational power thanks to its 30 gigaFLOPS per watt energy efficiency — making it 25 percent more efficient than competing supercomputing platforms, according to AMD.

AMD claims the Project 47 rack beats any other comparably configured system in terms of compute units, cores/threads, memory channels, and I/O lanes in simultaneous use. The system should be on sale later this year, although AMD has yet to release the price.

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IBM Announces Record Breaking New Data Storage Device

On a Roll

Magnetic tape drives have been around for more than six decades now. It’s commercial use has been mostly for storing data, such as tax documents and health care records, from mainframe computers. From the first 2-megabyte tape drives in the 1950s, today’s versions are now capable of storing up to 15 terabytes. IBM has been pushing it further.

In partnership with Sony Storage Media Solutions, IBM has broken its previous record for the world’s densest tape drive, announcing a product capable of storing 330 terabytes of uncompressed data. That’s more storage than the world’s biggest hard drives, capable of holding about 330 million books. The tape drive’s cartridge could fit into the palm of a person’s hand.

“The results of this collaboration have led to various improvements in the media technology, such as advanced roll-to-roll technology for long sputtered tape fabrication and better lubricant technology, which stabilizes the functionality of the magnetic tape,” IBM fellow Evangelos Eleftheriou said in a statement, The Verge reported.

Advanced Storage

To achieve such storage capacity, IBM researchers had to develop new technologies, including advanced nanotech and new signal-processing algorithms. The end result was a tape that had an areal surface capable of storing 31 gigabits per cm² (201 gigabits per in²). Details of the device’s development was published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Magnetics

IBM Predictions: Life in 2022
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The end goal, of course, is commercial use. Specifically, IBM is looking to expand magnetic tape use to applications in the cloud. “Tape has traditionally been used for video archives, back-up files, replicas for disaster recovery, and retention of information on premise, but the industry is also expanding to off-premise applications in the cloud,” Eleftheriou said according to reporting from The Verge.

“While sputtered tape is expected to cost a little more to manufacture than current commercial tape, the potential for very high capacity will make the cost per terabyte very attractive, making this technology practical for cold storage in the cloud,” he added.

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The Makers of Roomba Want to Share Maps of Users’ Homes With Smart Tech Companies

Eye Robot

A few years ago, iRobot’s Roomba was billed as a revolution in home cleaning, a piece of tech that could clean your floors so you didn’t have to. However, Reuters is now reporting that the device has been doing more than just freeing up your time — it’s been mapping the layout of your home.

Privacy and the Internet of Things
Click to View Full Infographic

The internet of things (IoT) has been growing quickly, and the next big frontier in smart tech is our homes. However, tech companies currently lack the data necessary to adequately conquer this arena.

Roomba could change that.

“There’s an entire ecosystem of things and services that the smart home can deliver once you have a rich map of the home that the user has allowed to be shared,” iRobot CEO Colin Angle told Reuters.

Privacy Problems

The development with iRobot is just one of a plethora of examples of our devices collecting data on us, either to optimize their own performance or so the information can be sold to others. This trend has both positive and negative implications.

Looking at the positive end of the spectrum, the data collected by Roomba could provide the stepping stone necessary to truly bring the smart-tech universe into our homes.

Guy Hoffman, a robotics professor at Cornell University, compares current smart home devices to New York tourists who stick to the subway: “There is some information about the city, but the tourist is missing a lot of context for what’s happening outside of the stations.”

With the maps Roomba could provide, these devices would have a much better understanding of the home. This would allow them to do things like manipulate acoustics depending on where you are in the house or change smart lighting depending on where daylight is shining in.

Then there’s the other side of the spectrum. The data being collected by Roomba is extremely sensitive, and a detailed map of your home could be used for nefarious means.

While iRobot says that “customers have control over sharing” their data, agreeing to the iRobot terms of service and privacy policy gives the company the legal right to share the information gleaned from the Roomba’s travels. After that, there are no restrictions in place concerning what the data could be used for if it is purchased by another company.

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MIT Has Developed a Robot that Can Find the Leak in Any Pipe System

The Leak Finding Robot

An MIT research team called PipeGuard has developed a robot capable of finding the smallest leaks in pipes regardless of what they are made of. It can be inserted into the water supply through any fire hydrant, and comes in two models: one which passively floats along a pipe, and another that can be controlled.

The system — which has been in development for 12 years — uses a small robotic device in the shape of a shuttlecock that gathers data on divergent pressures using sensitive detectors on its rubber skirt. Simultaneously, it monitors its position. When the ‘bot is removed from the pipe using a net, the two sets of data it uploads are crosschecked to find leaks.

Image Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Image Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The robot completed field tests on the devilishly tricky trial pipe at the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Saudi Arabia, during which it found an artificial leak 100 percent of the time. Now it is being deployed in Monterrey, Mexico, in order to help the city combat the $80 million cost of 40 percent of its water supply going to waste.

Eventually, the engineers hope to create a version that can expand to any sized pipe it is placed in, as well as to introduce a mechanism that allows it to repair small leaks on the spot.

A Worldwide Solution?

The discovery provides a solution to two serious issues in water distribution networks: 1/5 of supply being lost due to leaks and current technology being incompatible with some piping materials. Mark Gallager, a director at the Cambridge, Massachusetts, Water Department, said in an MIT press release that the system could also “could minimize the damage to infrastructure and the loss of water services to homes and businesses, and it could significantly reduce the associated cost.”

However, the bigger picture is that the robot, in a later incarnation, could help reduce the dangers caused by gas leaks. The world’s natural gas pipes are often poorly maintained and inadequately mapped. This, when combined with detection only being possible when the situation is critical, creates extremely dangerous situations which have resulted in explosions in some cities.

The robot could also provide a means of detecting the leaks and breaks in the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has already started to leak oil despite not being operational yet. The Pipeguard could be a solution to this concern, which is shared by all pipelines, by providing a way to minimize the risks associated with gas or liquid leaks. This will help us protect the environment from dangerous oil spills  and needless emissions of greenhouse gases.

Whether it’s used for conserving our water or better controlling our transport of fuels, this robot has enormous potential for saving costs, curbing climate change, and potentially saving lives.

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Researchers Just Achieved One of the Major Requirements for Quantum Computing

Ultracold Molecules

Qubits, the building blocks of quantum computers, are, for the most part, still a work in progress. Researchers have many different theories as to how they can be created, and they’ve attempted to do so using various kinds of molecules, individual neutral atoms, ions held in ion traps, and superconducting materials — all with varying degrees of success.

Now, a team from the MIT-Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms (CUA) has just brought the world one step closer to quantum computing by creating qubits that are able to retain the information they store hundreds of times longer than anyone has previously achieved.

The CUA team’s research utilizes very simple two-atom molecules made of potassium and sodium, which were cooled to temperatures just a few ten-millionths of a degree above absolute zero. The team was able to perfectly control the molecules, achieving the lowest possible state of rotation, vibration, and nuclear spin alignment. This control, combined with the chemical stability of the molecules, helped make a second-long period of coherence possible.

“We have strong hopes that we can do one so-called gate — that’s an operation between two of these qubits, like addition, subtraction, or that sort of equivalent — in a fraction of a millisecond,” MIT professor of physics Martin Zwierlein said in an MIT News brief. “If you look at the ratio, you could hope to do 10,000 to 100,000 gate operations in the time that we have the coherence in the sample. That has been stated as one of the requirements for a quantum computer, to have that sort of ratio of gate operations to coherence times.”

“The most amazing thing is that [these] molecules are a system which may allow realizing both storage and processing of quantum information, using the very same physical system,” added Columbia University assistant professor Sebastian Will. “That is actually a pretty rare feature that is not typical at all among the qubit systems that are mostly considered today.”

Massive Processing Power

If the team is right, an array of 1,000 of these molecules could carry out calculations so complex, no computer existing today could verify them. In theory, such a computer could factor massive numbers very rapidly, the difficulty of which provides the foundation for the encryption systems that protect today’s financial transactions.

A Brief History Of Atomic Theory [Infographic]
Click to View Full Infographic

The researchers emphasize that their discovery is an early step on the path to quantum systems and that creating actual quantum computers using this technology could take a decade or more of development. However, they’re already looking ahead to the next milestones in the process.

“The next great goal will be to ‘talk’ to individual molecules. Then we are really talking quantum information,” Will said in the brief. “If we can trap one molecule, we can trap two. And then we can think about implementing a ‘quantum gate operation’ — an elementary calculation — between two molecular qubits that sit next to each other.”

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Google Wants to Make the Internet Faster. Here’s How.

Congestion Control

As technology continues to advance at unprecedented speed, it sometimes seems as though the internet can’t seem to keep up. If we could improve internet speeds, however, it could allow emerging technology to flourish, as well as speed up research that’s already ongoing. Engineers at Google well understand the desire for faster internet, and have taken it upon themselves to ramp it up. The company plans to achieve this by creating a new congestion control algorithm, BBR (Bottleneck Bandwidth and Round-trip propagation time). 

This is the Fastest Internet on Earth
Click to View Full Infographic

BBR, an algorithm that was standardized back in the 1980s, detects when a network is overwhelmed and responds by slowing down data transfers. The algorithm might not seem all that significant, but it actually plays a huge role in internet speed. BBR is currently allowing companies and individuals that use Google’s Cloud Platform to access it and the speed that comes with it. But Google wants to take this algorithm one step further by publicly publishing it, and incorporating it into the TCP transmission standard. That move would have a ripple effect across the entire internet.

A Need for Speed

If this algorithm is actually incorporated into the standard which is intrinsic to the internet, its impact could be major. Even if internet speeds increase by a small percentage, it could do more than reduce the minor inconveniences and annoyances of a slow connection. Just about every facet of modern life depends on our ability to transfer data to and from the internet. From international communications to software development and technological innovation, the ways in which the internet propel us forward as a society are endless. Increased speeds could support this progress.

In the 1980s, it would have been hard to fathom just how far the internet could take us, or how fast we could surf the web. As this algorithm from that decade is hopefully integrated, we’re on our way to seeing just how far this universal tool can take us.

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The World’s Most Advanced Wireless Earphones May Finally Be Here

 Futurism only supports companies that we like and trust. Zolo Audio is one of those companies. We may collect a share of the sales from the items featured on this page. Learn about Zolo Audio here.

Wire-Free, Problem-Free.

Wireless earphones are nothing new in the wearables market, and yet, it seems like basically every industry leader is having trouble making a small earbud that doesn’t come with big problems. For starters, if you wear wireless earphones, you’ve probably been made to wonder if you have a strangely shaped ear—because no matter what size buds you use, you’ve got an ear ache after 20 minutes and a full blown headache after an hour. You’ve probably also wondered if you were going deaf, as the music is often warbled and muted.

But it’s not you, it’s the earbud. And Zolo’s Liberty+ earphones maybe the solution.

The Liberty+ earphones provide updates to a number of preexisting industry standards. The earphones are made with water-resistant liquid-silicon ear tips that not only offer a much cushier fit, but also help insulate the sound—ear aches be gone! Additionally, inside the bud is a sturdy nanosheet made of Graphene—a material that’s 100 times harder than steel and a fraction of the weight, so it won’t warp or negatively affect sound over time with wear.

And of course, once, wireless earphones were synonymous with connectivity issues, but not anymore. Thanks to the satellite-quality Bluetooth 5.0, which is powered through LDS antennas, connection issues are a problem of the past.

What’s more, each bud had a touch screen built into its external face, which gives users the ability to tap to answer a call or get AI support from Alexa or Siri. And with the help of the charging case, your earphones will get up to 48 hours of battery life before you need to plug into a power outlet.

SP-The World’s Most Advanced Wireless Earphones Are Here

Staying Connected

The difference these updates will have on the actual user’s experience are bountifully significant. With a pain-free grip fit, users can engage in rigorous exercise activities without having to worry about the earbuds falling out or becoming damaged by sweat.

And with the instant pairing, unbreakable Bluetooth connection, and upgraded Graphene sound standard, users won’t have to worry about missing a beat—literally.

While we might still have to worry about the battery life of our phones and computers throughout the day, your earphones become something you can rely on when you make the switch to Liberty+. 48 hours of battery life means that you’ll listen to approximately 960 songs before you need to recharge. To learn more about the revolutionary innovations in audio technology, head over to Zolo Audio‘s Kickstarter and get yourself a pair.

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Scientists Build a 51-Qubit Quantum Simulator and It’s the Largest One Yet

A Different Qubit

A quantum simulator isn’t a full-blown quantum computer, let’s get that out first. The main difference is that the former is built to solve only one equation model while the latter is able to perform — theoretically — any equation put to it. This quantum simulator could model, for example, the minute behavior of molecules and drugs, and researchers working Harvard University recently announced that they’ve made the largest one yet, operating with 51 qubits.

Supercomputers: To Moore’s Law and Beyond
Click to View Full Infographic

Lead researcher Mikhail Lukin, co-founder of the Russian Quantum Center (RQC), spoke of this achievement in Moscow at the 2017 International Conference on Quantum Technologies. Lukin’s team, composed of both American and Russian scientists, built this quantum simulator using a different type of quantum bit or qubit.

Instead of using photons like many quantum computer researchers do, the Harvard team’s qubits are each made from a single rubidium atom. Trapped in place using lasers, information is programmed into these qubits by modulating the laser beam.

A Model for Quantum Computers

Qubits are at the heart of quantum computing. While conventional computers rely on bits of 0s and 1s to process information, quantum computers use qubits, each of which are capable of being a 0 or 1 at the same time. This allows quantum computers to handle information faster. The difficulty is in keeping the qubits stable.

Currently, Google is working on what could be the largest quantum computer, which would run on a 49-qubit chip. Lukin’s quantum simulator beats that with 51 qubits. While the simulator is designed to handle one problem at a time, the method used could translate into a full-blown quantum computer.

“The full-blown quantum computer is the hardest system to get right,” Simon Devitt form Macquaries University in Sydney told New Scientist. Quantum simulators are also costly to build, Devitt noted, which could limit the potential applications of Lukin’s technology to just inside the physics lab for now.

Nevertheless, the achievement is a breakthrough. It shows how possible it is to develop a quantum computing system using 51 qubits. And the more qubits there are, the more powerful a quantum computer could be. It may still take time, though, before this could translate to a universal quantum computer.

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This Little Japanese Camera Bot is Helping Astronauts Aboard the ISS

A Floating Companion

You know that creepy black sphere used as a floating interrogation droid in Star Wars? It seems like scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) pretty much designed the complete opposite of that, and we want one for our very own.

Called Int-Ball, this adorable little camera drone resembles something Pixar might have come up with, but it’s totally real, and is now a floating companion to astronauts on board the International Space Station (ISS) – where it helps out by taking photos and recording video, freeing up valuable astronaut time.

Int-Ball was delivered to the ISS in a SpaceX cargo shipment last month – the company’s first involving a reused Dragon cargo capsule – and is now operational, currently undergoing initial testing.

It looks like those checks are going pretty smoothly too, with JAXA having just released the first test footage captured by its little floating bot (aka the JEM Internal Ball Camera).

You can check out Int-Ball’s debut camerawork in the following YouTube clip, which is backed by possibly the most twee music ever used in an official video released by a space agency (although it’s strangely fitting too, given Int-Ball’s cutesy, somewhat Kirby-like proportions):

Testing Drones in Microgravity

According to JAXA, Int-Ball can move autonomously in space, and can also be remotely controlled by flight controllers and researchers on the ground, who can relay its footage in real-time back to astronauts on the ISS for review and follow-up.

The little orb only measures 15 centimetres (6 inches) in diameter and weighs 1 kg (2.2 lbs), and was largely manufactured using 3D printing.

Along the surface of the sphere, 12 fans are positioned to enable Int-Ball to move around, while a number of ‘3D Target Markers’ placed on the ISS’s internal walls help the drone to orientate itself so it can navigate from place to place.

JAXA says that as much as 10 percent of astronaut working hours on board the ISS has crew members with a camera in hand, so by offloading the camerawork and videography to a little floating bot, it could free up researchers significantly to focus on conducting experiments and other important tasks.

Int-Ball is also serving as a test case so that JAXA scientists can see how well floating drones operate in the microgravity environment on board the ISS.

39487 int ball 2JAXA/NASA

Taking care of video is an important gig, sure, but it’s definitely only a starting point.

In the future it’s conceivable that little autonomous drones like this could perform other kinds of jobs both inside and outside the ISS, helping astronauts by fetching or operating equipment, checking on supplies, or conducting repairs and maintenance on the station itself.

In the meantime, Int-Ball will have to stick to playing camera operator while JAXA figures out just what this technology is capable of, but we doubt very much that the ISS human crew mind having their tiny new pal around the joint.

After all, space can be a pretty lonely place.

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When Will We See the First Robot That Is Indistinguishable From a Human?

Robotic Replicas

The classic Sci-Fi show, Star Trek: The Next Generation, chronicled the efforts of the humanoid robot Data to become more human. While Data was an advanced and one-of-a-kind android, he was obviously not biological. He did not experience human emotion (for the most part), and his designer was not able to correctly emulate a natural color for his skin and eyes.

The challenges of simulating human appearance and personality are real, and today’s engineers are struggling to overcome them. While many strides are being made in human-like robots, we haven’t quite achieved a model that is indistinguishable from humans. So we asked Futurism readers when we should expect to mistake a machine for a man.

The Top 10 Humanoid Robots in Existence Today
Click to View Full Infographic

The decade that received the most votes — about 27 percent of respondents — was the 2030s, and more than 60 percent of voters believed that robots will be identical to humans before 2050. Respondent Janet Rae-Dupree was skeptical of these predictions, giving her vote 2080s because of the many features that must be perfected in order for a robot to pass as human.

“Among the many hurdles, we must develop: A universal, general-purpose, free-standing artificial intelligence; actuators and servos capable of fluid motion within human ranges; artificial ‘skin,’ ‘eyes,’ ‘hair,’ ‘tongue,’ voice, lips — so many things that must pass as human,” Rae-Dupree wrote in her response. “That’s just to start. The 2030s? Puh-leez. That’s just wishful thinking.”

Human appearance, physicality, and personality are certainly difficult to emulate, but many researchers are working on various aspects of these problems. Microsoft has begun working towards creating an artificial intelligence that is more human, and scientists are exploring ways to grow human skin on robots.

What The Experts Have to Say

These kinds of technologies and some particularly advanced prototypes have convinced Max Aguilera-Hellweg, who has published his photos and stories of 21st-century robotics in Humanoid, that robots that can pass as humans are already being made. “The world of science fiction in books and film, it’s not too far off from what’s going on today in research labs,” Aguilera-Hellweg said in an interview with Popular Mechanics. “These [humanoids] are changing and developing so fast, and they’re already in our midst. We’re living in the future now, and the future is happening at a rapid pace.”

This is high praise of our current technological capacity. Still, some engineers are struggling to get past an issue called the “uncanny valley.” This term describes the realm of human-likeness where objects transition from being cute and human like to being zombie-like and creepy.

One company that is trying to steer clear of the creepiness factor with its humanoid robots is Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics. Chief Marketing Officer, Jeanne Lim, said the company’s engineers were working on ways to get their robots, which include the Albert Einstein HUBOto interact with humans using the correct facial expressions.

“Once we overcome this with design and animation that is attuned to human perception and psychology, then we can create an uncannily human-like faces with no ‘valley,’” Lim said in an interview with Forbes. And Lim believes they are close to attaining this. “We expect to see an explosion of service robots in the next five years.”

See all of the Futurism predictions and make your own predictions here.

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The Fastest Drone On Earth Just Reached Speeds Over 163 MPH

Engineers at the Drone Racing League (DRL) have developed a drone outside of the league’s parameters that has broken the Guiness World Record for fastest speed — it achieved 263.1 km/h (163.5 mph) on the 100-meter course, although it had recorded velocities of 289 km/h (179.6 mph) over longer distances.

[Taken] Drone Wins Guinness World Record for Fastest Quadcopter

The drone, which is called the DRL RacerX, weighed 800 grams (1.76 pounds), produced 46,000 RPM, and — unlike earlier prototypes — did not burst into flames at its highest speeds. It won the category of “fastest ground speed by a battery-powered remote-controlled quadcopter.”

Nicholas Horbaczewski, the founder of DRL, said in a press release, “The record-setting RacerX represents the culmination of years of technological innovation by our team of world class engineers, and we’re very excited to unveil the fastest racing drone on earth.”

Speed is not the only boundary being pushed in the drone world, though — the machines are being applied to weird, wonderful, and sometimes worrying ends. NASA is developing drones to explore martian worlds, BioCarbon Engineering have proposed using them to plant trees, and the military is straying into ethically controversial ground by combining warfare drones with AI in order to fight enemies.

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The Race to Prove “Quantum Supremacy” May Be Won in the Next Year

Disclaimer: Futurism only supports products that we trust and use. This post is in partnership with Abundance 360, and Futurism may get a small percentage of sales. Want to take a class with Peter Diamandis? Click here to learn more!

Massive Disruption

Next year, we may see the launch of the first true quantum computers. The implications will be staggering. This blog aims to answer three questions:

  1. What are quantum computers?
  2. What are their implications?
  3. Who’s working on them?

There’s a lot to unpack here, so hang tight, and let’s jump in!

What Is Quantum Computing?

Moore’s Law (or the exponential growth of integrated circuits) is actually referring to the fifth paradigm of computation. Here’s the list of the underlying technologies: (1) Electromechanical; (2) Vacuum Tube; (3) Relay; (4) Transistors; and (5) Integrated Circuits.

Quantum computers may well be the sixth paradigm, given that they work in a fashion that is entirely different from “classical” computers. A classical computer performs operations using classical “bits” — these “bits” can be in only one of two states: “0” or “1.”

In contrast, a quantum computer uses “quantum bits,” or “qubits.” Thanks to a principle called quantum superposition, these qubits can have a value of “0”, “1,” or both “0 and 1″ at the same time. This capability allows quantum computers to solve certain types of complex problems that are intractable for conventional computers. Frankly, really exciting problems for society today, as you’ll see below.

For a tutorial on quantum computers, check out this short video:

The power of qubits is that they scale exponentially. A 2-qubit machine allows you to do four calculations at once. A 3-qubit machine can do eight calculations. A 4-qubit machine gives you 16 calculations, all simultaneously.

By the time you get to 300 qubits, you’ve got a computer that can do more “calculations” than there are atoms in the universe.

That’s why the blog TechTarget described quantum computing this way: “Development of a quantum computer, if practical, would mark a leap forward in computing capability far greater than that from the abacus to a modern day supercomputer, with performance gains in the billion-fold realm and beyond.”

What Are the Implications of Quantum Computing?

The implications of true quantum computing at scale are staggering and of extraordinary impact to society today (which is why I’m tracking it).

In my opinion, here are the Top 5 Applications:

  1. Machine Learning: Much of machine learning is about “pattern recognition.” Algorithms crunch large datasets to find signals in the noise, and the goal is to maximize the number of comparisons you make between data to find the best models to describe that data. With quantum computing, we’ll be able to do this processing orders of magnitude more effectively than with classical computing. Quantum computing will allow you to compare much, much more data in parallel, simultaneously, and all permutations of that data, to discover the best patterns that describe it. This will lead to fundamentally more powerful forms of AI, much more quickly than we expect. Expect quantum computing to cause a positive inflection point (upward) for the speed at which the world develops AI (which, by the way, is why Google is working so hard on it).
  2. Medicine: Quantum computing will also allow us to model complex molecular interactions at an atomic level. This will be particularly important for medical research and drug discovery. Soon we’ll be able to model all 20,000+ proteins encoded in the human genome and start to simulate their interactions with models of existing drugs or new drugs that haven’t been invented yet. Based on the analysis of these drug interactions, we’ll be able to find cures for previously incurable diseases and hopefully accelerate the time to market for new drugs. Using quantum computer simulations will be the way we design and choose our next generations of drugs and cancer cures.
  3. Chemistry (and Climate Change): Worried about the climate crisis? Wondering what we can do about it? Quantum computers may be our newest tool to understand what is going on and to fight it. They will allow us to unlock “simulation-driven” solutions, perhaps design new catalysts that actually capture carbon from the atmosphere and turn it into new and valuable products at low cost and energy use.
  4. Material Science & Engineering: Because we can simulate atomic interactions, we’ll explore and invent entirely new, better materials. We might find better superconductors, better magnets, materials that will allow us to create much higher energy density batteries, and so on. Since 2011, the U.S. federal government has granted over $250 million to the Materials Genome Initiative in an effort to “discover, manufacture, and deploy advanced materials twice as fast, at a fraction of the cost.”
  5. Biomimetics, Energy Systems, & Photovoltaics: Scientists believe that much of the world is built atop quantum systems. Processes like photosynthesis, for example, are likely dependent on quantum mechanical systems. Thus, as we look to the natural world for inspiration to build better energy systems or stronger materials, we’ll only fully realize their potential when we can model these processes with quantum computers. This will lead to many advances and discoveries across the board.

Bottom Line: When quantum computing pans out, we’ll be able to control the very building blocks of the universe.

The question is who is going to figure it out first…

Who’s Working on Quantum Computing?

There’s a race going on — a race to prove something called “quantum supremacy.”

Quantum supremacy is essentially the test that validates that the computer you have is in fact a quantum computer.

In the U.S., three major players are in the game right now:

  1. Google
  2. IBM
  3. Rigetti Computing, a startup out of Silicon Valley

A potential fourth is D-Wave Systems. They’ve developed chips with qubits, but these haven’t yet been conclusively proved to operate as a quantum computer.

Both Rigetti Computing and Google believe they will reach “quantum supremacy” in the next 12 to 18 months.

Think about that: the next one to two years. The revolution is coming fast.

To put this into perspective, I had a chance to catch up with Chad Rigetti, the CEO of Rigetti Computing. Below is a picture of the most powerful “classical” computer on the planet, Tianhe-2 in Guangzhou, China.

MASSIVE DISRUPTION – QUANTUM COMPUTING

It costs $400 million.

The computer burns about 20 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 20,000 households.

And it’s about half the size of a football field, with 3.2 million Intel cores.

President Obama, in the attempt to drive America’s return to high-performance computing supremacy, declared that the U.S. would build an exoscale computer, 30 times more powerful than Tianhe-2, by 2020.

The problem is this: With current technology, it will cost a billion dollars and will require a nuclear power plant to run the supercomputer.

“We need to do this,” explains Chad Rigetti. “But there is another path. Quantum computing.”

Below is a picture of two developmental systems in Rigetti’s lab in Berkeley, CA.

MASSIVE DISRUPTION – QUANTUM COMPUTING

The big white cans about the size of a human are cooling systems, and inside each cooling system is a single quantum chip.

In these machines today, there is a 5-qubit processor.

The crazy part: A single chip with about 50 to 60 qubits on it would be more powerful than the entire Tianhe-2, a half-a-football-field-sized machine…

This is what quantum computing unlocks.

Rigetti is rapidly developing quantum integrated circuits and the software platform that will allow developers to build on top of them.

Along with efforts at Google, IBM, D-Wave, and many other companies and research labs around the world, we are rapidly approaching a quantum computing revolution.

Get ready.

Disclaimer: Futurism only supports products that we trust and use. This post is in partnership with Abundance 360, and Futurism may get a small percentage of sales. Want to take a class with Peter Diamandis? Click here to learn more!

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