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Archives for Robots & Machines

This man just tested a DIY multi-copter

The post This Man Just Tested a DIY Multi-Copter appeared first on Futurism.

Coming Soon: Robot Maids

In 2016, Midea, a Chinese company that makes home appliances, purchased Kuka, the company that creates the robots used to build Teslas, for $5 billion in a bid to cover its automation and robotics bases. Now, the parent company wants to make use of its purchase to take advantage of a market that is growing by leaps and bounds despite a lack of real breakthroughs — so far.

Want to be a Robotics Engineer? Here’s What You’ll Need
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The consumer robotics market is primed for disruption. Right now, most in-home robots are capable of just one task, such as a Roomba, and most in-home digital assistants are really just stationary devices powered by artificially intelligent (AI) software with a voice-recognition component, such as Google’s Home or Amazon’s Echo.

This means there’s a tremendous opportunity waiting for any company that can make in-home robots that have AI and voice-recognition capabilities, yet are mobile and can carry out physical tasks. That’s where Kuka’s Tesla-building experience and Midea’s home appliance knowledge will come into play.

Rosie and Irona?

So does this mean we’ll soon all be served by the likes of The Jetsons’ Rosie and Richie Rich’s Irona? Maybe.

Of course, Midea has competition. SoftBank, a Japanese telecommunications and internet company, recently announced it had purchased both Boston Dynamics and Schaft, two companies known for their robotics and engineering work. The former is perhaps best known for its legged robots that can navigate the uneven terrain humans occupy successfully.

SoftBank’s humanoid robot Pepper is so far mostly used in retail settings because its hands are only used for gesturing and not for completing actual tasks. Pepper is friendly and personable, though, which makes it approachable, a key element if developers want shoppers to ask it questions. With the Boston Dynamics and Schaft teams working to improve Pepper’s design, the bot may be able to expand its repertoire of skills very soon.

That kind of team effort is likely what Kuka and Midea are working to establish. It seems like a smart combination, but don’t count on flight capabilities or a New York accent from these first robo-housekeepers. We’ll need to work our way up to that.

The post The Company That Builds Robots for Tesla Wants to Put a Bot in Your Home appeared first on Futurism.

This robot just gets us

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The post This Robot Just Gets Us appeared first on Futurism.

This orb drone could be used to deliver anything…including people!

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The post This Orb Drone Could Be Used to Deliver Anything…Including People! appeared first on Futurism.

New Tech Race

The 20th century space race ushered in some of the most significant scientific discoveries of the era. Now, the efforts of private companies like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin, as well as traditional governmental agencies like NASA, have sparked a new space race that’s bringing about next-level space technologies.

However, the Space Race 2.0 isn’t the only technological competition in the world today — the smartest minds across the globe are competing to create the most powerful supercomputer on the planet.

Since 1996, the United States has consistently been home to one of the three fastest supercomputers in the world. Unfortunately for the U.S., that streak has ended as the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Titan supercomputer has been bumped to the number four slot. The Swiss National Supercomputing Centre’s Piz Daint now holds the bronze following an upgrade involving the addition of Nvidia GPUs.

Go Speed Racer

The U.S. is not taking this bump to fourth place lying down. Last week, the DOE announced that it was making $258 million available to help fund the next big supercomputer.

China’s Most Ambitious Sci-Tech Projects [Infographic]
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According to MIT Technology Review, the U.S. government expects to have a system that can perform one quintillion operations per second by 2021. That would be 50 times faster than Titan and 10 times faster than China’s TaihuLight, the current world leader.

Of course, the rest of the world won’t spend the next four years content with what they’ve already created. China is looking to further cement its place at the top of the supercomputing heap by heavily investing in the next generation of supercomputers. The nation is even setting a more ambitious goal for itself than the U.S. — they believe their more powerful machine will be ready by 2020.

Ultimately, this race for the world’s most powerful supercomputer will benefit us all, as the devices will help humanity with everything from healthcare to predicting the weather. Truly, there are no losers when innovation is the goal.

The post The U.S. Is Investing $258 Million to Build a More Powerful Supercomputer appeared first on Futurism.

Advancing API

Attention all developers, researchers, and enthusiasts: Google has announced that they will be releasing a new . API is, simply put, a set of rules and tools to help build software. Google’s new TensorFlow object detection API is designed to make it easier to identify objects using images. The API includes models that are designed to work on even on comparatively simple devices, like smartphones.

Simplifying machine learning models is proving to be essential for advancing API and machine learning technologies. We don’t all have massive desktop setups with our own servers capable of handling just about anything. While it’s possible to run them through the cloud, that usually proves to be abysmally slow, and also requires an internet connection. That means that in order to make these models more accessible to the average consumer, they’ll need to be simplified.

Keeping that in mind, Google intends for this new API to be extremely user-friendly, allowing anyone and everyone with a basic computer or smartphone to explore the world of machine learning.

Applying the API

We know that this new API can be used to identify objects by using images, but beyond being amusing, could that actually be useful in our everyday lives? As it turns out — yes, it likely could be. This type of API could lead to advancement in facial recognition, landmark detection, as well as the most obvious — object identification. These seemingly basic tools will continue to become essential in many different fields. From information services to law enforcement and even just daily digital tasks, these seemingly small strides in the progression and simplification of machine learning will only continue to push us forward.

Aside from Google’s development of the API and launch of TensorFlow lite, a streamlined version of the machine learning framework, other companies have been creating mobile models, too: Facebook has used the tech to build its Caffe2Go framework and subsequently Facebook’s Style Transfer, and Apple released CoreML, which aims to help run these models on iOS devices. Piece by piece, machine learning is moving closer to individual accessibility.

The post Google Announces New API That Can Detect and Identify Objects Using Images appeared first on Futurism.

This gel gives robots an extremely accurate sense of touch

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The post This Gel Gives Robots an Extremely Accurate Sense of Touch appeared first on Futurism.

The 2011 meltdown of the Fukushima Da-Ichi nuclear power plant was a disaster of outrageous proportions. Triggered by a massive earthquake, the meltdown forced tens of thousand of people to evacuate their homes. The cleanup effort is ongoing and has been employing robots to help remove the radioactive fuel still trapped within the ruins of the facility.

Past robots used in the effort have consistently run into issues given the intense radiation on the site. Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) has made progress in the removal of some of the spent fuel rods, but some melted fuel rods have managed to evade detection.

A new remote-controlled robot, however, is hoping to help locate those melted rods while also surveying the structural damage to the facility. Once the rods are located, the team will have to study the best way to safely remove them. The robot is about the size of a loaf of bread.

Radiation levels in the plant continue to make it impossible for humans to complete the cleanup. One robot, known as the “scorpion” probe, was exposed to radiation levels of 1,000 Sievert, which would kill a human in a matter of seconds. Robotics give humans control in these impossible conditions.

The post Toshiba Has Unveiled a Swimming Robot to Assist in the Fukushima Cleanup appeared first on Futurism.

Life From Above

Drones are becoming a ubiquitous technology with their increasing capabilities. Amazon is using them to deliver packages, Japanese innovators have created pollinator drones, and drones are even being used as backup dancers for pop stars. There are even drones emerging that could help to save lives.

One such drone is being developed by Flypulse, a Swedish startup working on an autonomous drone that can bring life-saving equipment to the scene of a medical emergency. Its has the ability to deliver Automated External Defibrillators (AED) at an incredible speed — four times faster than an ambulance.

Image credit: Flypulse
Image Credit: Flypulse

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), each year more than 350,000 people suffer from cardiac arrest outside of a hospital in the United States. Only 12 percent of victims survive through hospital discharge. To help battle this, the AHA recommends that the public has access to defibrillation. However, the AEDs are not cheap, so there could be a cost barrier to acquiring one.

Savior Bots

Devices like Flypulse’s LifeDrone-AED allow for first responders to get the technology to the victims long before they may be able to arrive themselves. Jacob Hollenberg, of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, set up the test for the drone. Hollenberg and his team reported in the journal of the American Medical Association that the drone’s average flight time was 5 minutes, 25 seconds, compared to the 22 minutes it took to dispatch an ambulance to the same locations.

The Top 12 Benefits of Drones: Emergency Response, Animal Protection, and More
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Hollenberg said in an interview with the New Scientist, “If we can decrease the time in cardiac arrest from collapse to defibrillation by a few minutes, hundreds of lives would be saved each year.”

The LifeDrone-AED is not the only potentially life-saving drone from Flypulse. The company is also developing the LifeDrone-WATER to aid in the location and assistance of drowning victims, as well as the LifeDrone-FIRE that will provide “fire and incident overview.” Such technology could make a significant difference in communities around the world. These drones are just one example of the many ways drone technology is not only enriching our lives, but also preserving them.

The post Life-Saving Drones Can Beat Ambulances to Heart Attack Victims appeared first on Futurism.

This mech suit can run over 20mph and jump 10 feet in the air.

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The post This Racing Mech Suit Can Actually Move appeared first on Futurism.

Thanks to technological innovation, machines are learning how humans do things—they’re also learning how to do it better.

The post This New Era of Automation Is Going to Completely Transform Our Way of Life appeared first on Futurism.

Disclosure: The Dubai Future Foundation works in collaboration with Futurism and is one of our sponsors.

Dubai is set to introduce the newest member of their police force: a 5-foot, 5-inch [165.1 cm], 222-pound [100.698 kg] robot which will be equipped with facial recognition technology and have the ability to broadcast live video feeds. The first model, which will begin patrolling the streets of the futuristic city today, will not be on the front lines making arrests, but will be interacting with the community. Residents of Dubai will be able to report crimes, pay fines, and ask the robot questions (though what sort of questions is unclear).

The head of Dubai’s Police Tech division told reporters at the Gulf Information Security Expo and Conference that “by 2030, [Dubai is] keen to make robots around 25% of the total police force.” Though this may sound like the beginning of a dystopian novel, this is not the first robot in use by a police force.

The Laws of Robotics [INFOGRAPHIC]
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Police departments in the United States use robots for training purposes and also utilize bomb-diffusing robots that were first created for the American military. In 2016, the Cleveland Police used robots to patrol the Republican National Convention, while police in Dallas outfitted a robot with a bomb to kill a sniper after losing numerous police lives. South Korea has robot prison guards, and Israeli police use robots in their counter-terrorism unit.

While this is not the first robot to be put into use by police, it is the first that will be ever present on the streets of a city that will eventually be able to make arrests and have all of the responsibilities of a regular cop. The rollout will happen over the next decade, so hopefully that will be enough time to work out any kinks — including robots’ lack of human empathy. And, as these robots have recording capabilities, make sure none of them document any PDA on video.

The post Dubai’s Newest Addition to the Police Force: A Robot appeared first on Futurism.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Actually, it’s a little bit of both.

Canada’s Edmonton International Airport (YEG) is planning to deploy robotic falcons in a novel attempt to prevent bird strikes at the airport. The mechanical birds of prey will patrol Edmonton’s runways, scaring away small birds that might otherwise nest nearby passing planes.

The drone birds — made by Netherlands-based Clear Flight Solutions — mimic real falcons, with a detailed feather print and beating wings. Flying in figure-eight patterns alongside airport runways, they will be operated remotely by trained pilots.

Bio-Robots: Animal-Inspired Machines
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“By mimicking their natural counterparts through silhouette and behavior, they are indistinguishable from real-life birds of prey to other birds,” said Wessel Straatman, a research and development engineer for Clear Flight Solutions. “Birds instinctively react to the presence of birds of prey, making it less attractive for them to come to that area,” he told Digital Trends.

Airport officials hope that their new fleet of on-the-go scarecrows will help make Edmonton safer for birds and planes alike. Bird strikes are a major problem in the aviation world; the FAA reported over 56,000 incidents from 2011 to 2015. For small planes, bird strikes can cause structural damage — especially to their windows; larger passenger jets can suffer engine failure if birds are sucked into their turbines.

Edmonton has not yet announced when it expects to roll out its robotic falcons, but officials have indicated that once deployed, the drones will become a part of the airport’s daily operations.

The post Canadian Airport to Use Robotic Falcons to Stop Bird Strikes appeared first on Futurism.

Surprise Acquisition

This week, Japanese electronics and robotics giant SoftBank, the company behind the Pepper robot, announced its acquisition of two robotics companies from Google owner Alphabet. The two firms now under SoftBank are Boston Dynamics, the brains behind Big Dog and the walking humanoid robots ATLAS and Handle, and bipedal robot maker Schaft — they’re so secretive even accessing their website is difficult.

The Quest For Lifelike Robots
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While the move comes as a bit of a surprise, it’s not entirely unexpected. SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son shed some light on the decision in a press release: “There are many issues we still cannot solve by ourselves with human capabilities. Smart robotics are going to be a key driver of the next stage of the Information Revolution, and Marc [Raibert] and his team at Boston Dynamics are the clear technology leaders in advanced dynamic robots.”

For his part, Boston Dynamics CEO Marc Raibert was equally thrilled, likely due in part to the longstanding rumors that Alphabet and Google have wanted to sell his company for some time while now. “We at Boston Dynamics are excited to be part of SoftBank’s bold vision and its position creating the next technology revolution, and we share SoftBank’s belief that advances in technology should be for the benefit of humanity,” the press release quotes him as saying.

Of Robots and Singularities

The companies are being quiet about the details of the deal, and Schaft didn’t provide any comment whatsoever. At any rate, SoftBank’s acquisition of yet two more robotics companies seems to be part of Son’s commitment to ensuring that the Singularity happens by 2047. The Japanese CEO has been very vocal about this goal, even acquiring a microchip firm back in October 2016 to help usher in that supposed moment when artificially intelligent machines surpass human levels of reasoning.

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This robot is absolutely terrifying

Boston Dynamics’ new robot is terrifying science fiction brought to life.

Posted by Futurism on Monday, February 27, 2017

While that’s still decades away, the more immediate impact of SoftBank’s new deal will perhaps arrive in the form of better robotics. “I am thrilled to welcome [Boston Dynamics] to the SoftBank family and look forward to supporting them as they continue to advance the field of robotics and explore applications that can help make life easier, safer, and more fulfilling,” Son said.

“We look forward to working with SoftBank in our mission to push the boundaries of what advanced robots can do and to create useful applications in a smarter and more connected world.” added Raibert. The company has already delivered a somewhat terrifying example of sci-fi brought to life, so who knows what they’ll be able to achieve with the backing of a huge corporation like SoftBank.

The post Alphabet Just Sold Two Companies to a CEO Who Wants to Speed up the Singularity appeared first on Futurism.

Vision of the Future

Apple revealed its 10-year plan for the future this week.

If you don’t remember that slide from the hours of presentations Apple executives made onstage during the company’s developer conference on Monday, you’re not alone.

Apple didn’t explicitly call it a 10-year plan. And the company was very subtle about how it showed this road map.

But look closely, and it’s easy to see.

Instead of introducing flashy new products that will change your life today, this year’s WWDC conference was all about putting the pieces in place for what comes next.

It’s a Trojan-horse strategy — sneak the seeds for the next breed of technology products into the stuff that we’re already using.

A new augmented reality platform, virtual reality development tools, the HomePod speaker, and improvements to iOS 11 on the iPad may not feel revolutionary or even particularly useful right now, but they are the building blocks for the technologies Apple is betting will power our future.

Let’s break it down:

Augmented Reality

Image source: Apple

Ask most tech companies which product will replace the smartphone and the answer will probably revolve around a wearable device for “augmented reality,” the tech that overlays digital images on the real world.

Microsoft has the HoloLens headset. Google has Project Tango for Android devices and, one day, headgear like Google Glass. Facebook announced its AR ambitions a few months ago, and Mark Zuckerberg even said AR glasses would replace the need for most screens in your life one day.

Apple’s approach is different.

There weren’t any AR goggle demos or TED-talk-esque prophecies about how a pair of glasses will soon be the only computer you need. Instead, Apple is starting with something already very familiar: the iPhone and a new way for developers to build AR apps for the phone. When iOS 11 becomes available on tens of millions of Apple devices this fall, Apple will immediately have the largest AR platform. Even better, it’ll be on the devices that people already use — not futuristic glasses or headsets. Apple will get a major advantage over its AR competitors with one simple software update.

That won’t be a game changer right away of course, and it certainly won’t deliver the kind of jaw-dropping experience being developed by companies like Magic Leap. AR-enabled iPhones will mostly mean some cool games and entertainment apps at first. Pikachu will look more realistic in “Pokémon Go.” You’ll be able to build virtual Lego models on your coffee table. The rainbow puke in your Snapchat selfies will look even better.

But AR on the iPhone sets Apple up for the long run by building a base of developers already dedicated to the platform who want to make stuff for the largest number of users they can. If and when Apple decides to take AR to the next level with a pair of smart glasses or something else, it’ll be in a better position than companies trying to win over developers.

Virtual Reality

Apple has been hesitant to get involved with virtual reality, even as the rest of the tech industry seemed to be hyperventilating over its prospects. But now the time feels right for Apple, and it’s offering a new set of tools in the coming macOS Sierra software that it says will let developers connect VR headsets and create 3D and VR content.

This isn’t about attracting gamers and VR enthusiasts to the Mac. This is about making sure Apple’s most dedicated class of users has the tools it needs to create the content of the future. Apple has historically been the platform of choice for digital artists, filmmakers, and other professionals, and adding VR development tools will make sure those users have what they need and don’t abandon Apple.

HomePod and Ambient Computing

HomePod, the new Amazon Echo competitor, is Apple’s biggest new Trojan horse of all.

Even though Apple focused on HomePod’s music capabilities and pitched it as a new kind of home stereo, it undersold the rest of the real potential. HomePod is also Apple putting Siri in your home in a new way and making a long-term play for the concept of ambient computing, in which everything you own is connected and powered by an underlying artificial intelligence.

HomePod is a way to put Siri everywhere else when you’re not looking at your iPhone, typing on your Mac, listening to your AirPods, or tracking your workout on your Apple Watch. HomePod is Apple creeping into the rest of your life under the guise of a really nice Wi-Fi stereo. Apple may be focusing on music now with HomePod, but it’s also sneaking in a lot of Amazon Echo-like features like controlling your connected appliances and getting updates from Siri.

That said, it’s pretty clear why Apple would want to bury the AI features of HomePod. Pitching it as a digital assistant instead of a music player will only open up Apple to more criticism about how it is falling behind in AI compared with Google and Amazon. Apple’s Siri is still much less capable as a virtual assistant than the offerings from Amazon and Google, and Apple has a lot more work to do to catch up. But there’s no question that AI is a big area of investment for Apple, and HomePod will play an important role in this strategy as Apple makes progress.

iOS 11 on iPad

Image credit: Apple

The biggest news with iOS 11 wasn’t on the iPhone. It was on the iPad.

Apple has finally started making improvements to the software that help turn the iPad into the laptop replacement the company has been promising for years. There’s a new file-storage system, an app dock similar to the one on Mac, the ability to drag and drop content in between apps, and apps that float in separate windows. The iPad is starting to feel less like a giant iPhone and more like a touch-screen Mac.

There’s still a lot of work to do. The iPad Pro’s keyboard isn’t as good as the one on a normal laptop, and it’s now up to developers to build compelling apps that take advantage of all the new iOS 11 features and give people a better reason to ditch their laptop for an iPad. The new 10.5-inch iPad is a small move in the right direction because its larger size allows for a full-size keyboard, but it’s still not enough.

But Apple is inching closer toward its ultimate goal of creating a super thin and portable laptop replacement, and iOS 11 feels like a huge milestone.

What’s Next

A lot of this stuff may not work out. We’re in a period of relatively flat innovation across most of the tech industry, where new gizmos improve only incrementally each year. It’s impossible to tell which wild idea will actually end up taking off and which will fizzle. (Two years ago everyone thought smartwatches were going to revolutionize the tech industry, after all. Now that’s barely part of the conversation.)

In some sense, Apple’s latest batch of WWDC announcements feels underwhelming, as if Apple is dabbling in various areas rather than making a bold move in any one direction. But the company’s vision for the future is already being etched into its products. Just look closely; it’s right in front of you.

The post Tim Cook Reveals Apple’s 10-Year Plan For Future Tech appeared first on Futurism.

A new Wi-Fi enabled system developed by Delta Five could revolutionize how the service industry deals with unwanted bug problems. Its new Automated Insect Monitoring (AIM) device is a small, three-inch box that hooks up to existing Wi-Fi and constantly monitors the space around it using internal cameras, which are activated whenever they detect motion. In other words, it’ll be able to see when an insect enters the device. The insects are lured into the device using heat, vapors, pheromones or other substances that are odorless and will not intrude on a guests’ vacation by being in the same room with them. Once an insect enters the box, a picture is taken and is immediately sent to a provided email or phone number.

As CNBC reports, this device could help hotel chains, cruise ships, homes and offices, among other public places, detect insects and bed bugs before they become an issue, which could be huge for hotel chains that could lose customers over bed bug issues. Normally, hotels have to hire exterminators or dogs to find and eradicate bed bugs, but this could keep the pesky insects from spreading while also saving hotels a lot of money thanks to early detection. It’s also great news for consumers as well, who will hopefully sleep tight and never have to worry about letting the bed bugs bite again.

The post A New Automated Insect Monitoring System Uses WiFi To Defend Your Home appeared first on Futurism.

Rumors Are Swirling

Today, Apple is holding its Worldwide Developers Conference keynote. As we wait for the event to begin, let us take a moment to dive into the pool of swirling speculation that always forms before these announcements.

One of the biggest things that’s expected to be revealed is a move toward mixed reality glasses – a la the now defunct Google Glass. Rumors are surfacing regarding just how deep into mixed reality these glasses might go. Will they be on par with Google Glass or a more ambitious project – like what is being developed by Microsoft or MagicLeap? Whatever way Apple goes, it could be a formative moment in the future of augmented and mixed reality, considering the sway the company has over consumers.

The keynote will also undoubtedly bring upgrades to current, well-established products like the iPhone, iPad, MacBook, and reportedly even the iMac.

Apple Unveils it All

As Apple CEO Tim Cook noted during the opening speech, the size of the company, and its reach, is truly impressive: “We now have 16 million registered developers around the world. We added 3 million last years alone.”

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

  • Apple Watch is getting some “exiting updates.” watchOS 4 includes updates to the watch face, which will now be powered by Siri intelligence. Siri intelligence will automatically display the information that is relevant to you on Apple watch using advanced machine learning technologies.
  • Activity notifications in watchOS 4 will be more personalized. Monthly challenges will be included, as will celebrations when goals are hit.
  • Adding workouts via Apple Watch will be easier, as will the ability to do multiple workouts in a single session.
  • This fall, Apple Watch-enabled equipment will roll out at some of the world’s biggest gyms.
  • The watchOS 4 update will be free this fall.
  • Craig Federighi noted that the next generation of the operating system on the Mac will be called “High Sierra.”
  • Safari is the world’s fastest desktop browser with High Sierra, 80% faster than Chrome.
  • Safari will block all autoplays, and it will have “intelligent tracking prevention,” using machine learning to identify trackers and protect your privacy.
  • The new OS recognizes far more faces and will synchronize face naming across all devices.
  • They’re opening up printing services to third parties, including Shutterfly and Whitewall.
  • Apple File System is coming to the OS as the new default. It’s safer, includes built-in crash protection, and is ultra responsive.
  • Has 40% better compression for videos, allowing you to preserve all the details on your videos.
  • A new version of Metal, Metal 2, is a 10x improvement in draw call throughput.
  • Metal 2 will be applicable for external graphics, and High Sierra will include Metal for VR.
  • A developer beta of High Sierra is available today, and it will be available on all systems as a free update this fall.
  • The iMac display is going to be 43% brighter and will support 10-bit dithering, supporting 1 billion colors.
  • Memory capacity will double, and SSD options will be 50% faster.
  • Moving to discrete graphics, yielding major performance increases.
  • John Knoll from Industrial Light & Magic demonstrates that the new iMac updates allow users to create content within a VR experience.
  • For the first time ever, Apple is offering a 4K iMac that starts at just $1,299.
  • Apple is updating seven of the most popular Macs, all shipping today, and they’re free of harmful chemicals, highly recyclable, and meet other environmental standards.
  • New iMac Pro is in a base gray finish and is “the most powerful Mac ever made.”
  • iMac Pro will ship with 8-core, 10-core, or 18-core Xeon Processor.
  • For the first time, the iMac will have built-in 10GB Ethernet.
  • Building a comparable system today would cost $7,000+. The iMac pro will cost $4,999 and will be available in December.
  • iOS 11 is a “big one.”
  • Messages will have a redesigned app drawer.
  • Messages are automatically synchronized across devices.
  • Apple Pay will be available in more than 50% of U.S. retailers by the end of the year.
  • Apple Pay for person-to-person payments is being integrated as an iMessage app.
  • Siri will get a voice upgrade, and a male voice is also available.
  • Siri can offer voice translation from English to Chinese, French, German, Italian, and Spanish.
  • Siri in iOS 11 uses “on-device learning” to better understand the user’s needs, and these insights are synced across devices.
  • Camera updates include 2X better compression for camera captured videos. JPEG capture is replaced with HEIF.
  • Camera also includes updates for low-light photos, true tone flash, optical image stabilization, and more.
  • The control center is getting a major redesign. It’s now a single page and includes 3D depth.
  • Lock screen and the notification center are now one.
  • Users can now capture a single frame from a live photo, as well as create loops, bounces, long exposures, and more.
  • Siri in iOS 11 uses machine learning to spot your interests and make recommendations. It will also use this knowledge to make word suggestions in Messages.
  • Maps gives enhanced information when you arrive at locations such as malls and airports.
  • Navigation now offers lane guidance and speeds.
  • iOS 11 will offer Do Not Disturb While Driving, which will eliminate notifications while driving. It can also be configured to send replies to messages, letting the sender know you are driving.
  • HomeKit offers a secure way to control your smart devices, such as locks, lights, and fans. Speakers has been added, letting you configure your multi-room audio.
  • New Share It Up Next feature allows your friends to add songs to a playlist without interrupting the current song.
  • Apple Music now lets you know what your friends are listening to.
  • New API: MusicKit for Apple Music.
  • The App Store is getting a complete redesign.
  • The App Store will have a new tab for app discovery, named Today, while Games will have its own tab. The general Apps tab will include dedicated features and charts, and every app will have a product page with new features. In-app purchases will be included right in the App Store as well.
  • Machine learning is being used throughout Apple’s products, and they want to share it with developers via Vision API, Natural Language API, and others built on Core ML.
  • Apple has a new core technology for developers called ARKit, which will be “the largest AR platform in the world.”
  • Alasdair Coull from Wingnut AR, Peter Jackson’s AR company, calls ARKit “a real game changer.”
  • Greg Jozwiak shares the updates to the iPad Pro. The 13-inch iPad Pro is being joined by a 10.5-inch display, with a 40% reduction in borders from the 9.7-inch. Allows for the display of a full-size onscreen keyboard and a full-size smart keyboard with support for 30 languages.
  • ProMotion feature is the “biggest breakthrough,” according to Jozwiak. Typical 60Hz refresh rate is being doubled to 120Hz.
  • ProMotion improves Apple Pencil, reducing latency to an “industry best” 10 milliseconds.
  • A10X in the new iPad Pro provides 30% faster CPU performance and 40% faster graphic performance.
  • Updated iPad Pro still has the same 10-hour battery life and still weighs one pound.
  • iPad Pro supports USB 3 and fast charging.
  • Both iPad sizes will start with 64GB of memory.
  • The iPad Dock with iOS 11 is “more powerful than ever.”
  • New App Switcher preserves spaces with app pairings.
  • Drag and Drop is being added to iPad.
  • You can flick on keys in the keyboard to access punctuation and numbers.
  • New iPad app: Files. Supports “everything you’d expect,” including iCloud, Dropbox, etc.
  • Apple Pencil is integrated deeply into the iPad with iOS 11. Screenshots can be instantly marked up and shared. Notes has a built-in document scanner, and handwritten text in Notes is searchable thanks to deep learning. Pencil markup has also been integrated into Mail.
  • Craig Federighi: iOS 11 is available for developers today and will be available for everyone in the Fall.
  • Tim Cook: “We want to reinvent home music.”
  • Apple plans to deliver a “breakthrough home speaker” later this year: HomePod.
  • HomePod just under 7-inches tall, includes a seven beam-forming tweeter array with directional control. It has a 4-inch woofer and is controlled by an Apple A8 chip, “perhaps the biggest brain ever in a speaker,” according to Philip Schiller.
  • HomePod works with Apple Music to get music directly from the Cloud.
  • Uses a six microphone array to pick up and respond to your voice commands or questions.
  • Siri can give you updates on weather, sports, traffic, or more via HomePod, not just assist you with music.
  • HomeKit can also be controlled via HomePod using voice commands.
  • HomePod will be priced at $349, available in white or space gray, and will start shipping in certain locations in December.
  • Michelle Obama will be joining the open session tomorrow, talking about “empowering people from all walks of life to change the world.”

The post LIVE: Everything You Need to Know from Apple’s Developers Conference appeared first on Futurism.

These robot arms are so graceful that you’ll wonder how they’re, well, robots

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4D printed objects change their shape automatically in response to temperature fluctuations. This is only the beginning of a promising new field that will program movements into objects, without the need for motors or power sources.

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You can now drop your vehicle right at the parking garage entrance and Stan will pick it up from there. The robot can stack up to five cars in a single line, which increases parking lot capacities by up to 50%.

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Meet the world’s first robocops

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Robocop

On Wednesday, May 24, Dubai will launch a new police robot that marks the first phase of the integration of robots into the police force. This modified version of the REEM robot (Designed by PAL robotics and unveiled in 2011) is capable of feeding video to a command center, forwarding reported crimes to police, settling fines, facial recognition, and speaking nine languages. It will operate at most malls and tourist attractions.

Dubai hopes robots will constitute 25 percent of its police force by 2030, with the next stage being to use them as receptionists in police stations. Brigadier Khalid Nasser Alrazooqi, General Director of Dubai Police’s Smart Services Department, told CNN that they eventually want to release a “fully-functional robot that can work as [a] normal police officer.”

A New Sheriff In Town?

Robotic police officers or soldiers are old sci-fi idea, but they are becoming more and more of a reality. In February, China started using the AnBot that uses facial recognition to identify criminals and is capable of following them until the police arrive. The Russian robot, Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research (FEDOR), has prompted comparisons to Robocop when a video showed it shooting with deadly accuracy, lifting dumbbells, and walking.

The World’s Police Robots [INFOGRAPHIC]
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The biggest ethical concern raised by these developments concerns who is culpable if a robot makes the wrong decision and hurts someone in a criminal situation. Elon Musk, Steven Hawking, and other prolific scientists have identified AI as a serious existential risk, arguing that robots should never be allowed to kill people.

Alan Winfield, professor of robot ethics at the University of West England, writes about this issue on his Blog. “The problem is that you can’t make a machine responsible for its mistakes,” Winfeild said in an interview with CNN. “How do you punish it? How do you sanction it? You can’t.”

Disclosure: The Dubai Future Foundation works in collaboration with Futurism and is one of our sponsors.

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Jane Kim, a San Francisco politician, has started exploring a tax on automated workers to combat inequality.

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This complex sensor can monitor pretty much all of the activity in your home, by sensing temperature fluctuation, electricity use, sounds, movement, and duration of events. It’s a foundation on which to build truly “Smart” homes, where activities are tracked, remote-controlled, and automated as the user sees fit. For now, it’s a great way to monitor the events in a busy home, workshop, or business. The SuperSensor secures all user data and doesn’t transmit it to the Cloud.

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Breakthrough Technology

Speakers can be bulky, especially the more powerful ones. So, what if it were possible to enjoy your favorite sounds, say in an event or a party, without the hassle of setting up such massive devices? It could be, with a new device developed by scientists from the Michigan State University (MSU), which they’re calling a ferroelectret nanogenerator, or FENG for short.

This flexible and paper-thin device wasn’t originally meant to be a speaker. Back in its inception in late 2016, FENG was developed to be  “the first transducer that is ultra-thin, flexible, scalable and bidirectional, meaning it can convert mechanical energy to electrical energy and electrical energy to mechanical energy,” said Nelson Sepulveda of MSU. It was able to power a keyboard, LED lights, and an LCD touch-screen.

Now, in a study published in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers showed how FENG could also work as a microphone and as a loudspeaker.

*3* This Light-Weight Device Can Turn Just About Anything Into a Speaker

A Flag With Sounds

Eager to determine just how well FENG could convert sound to electrical energy and vice-versa, Sepulveda’s team conducted two tests. For its loudspeaker effect, they embedded FENG into an MSU Spartan flag. They patched it to an amplifier connected to an iPad to play music. “The flag itself became the loudspeaker,” Sepulveda said. “So we could use it in the future by taking traditional speakers, which are big, bulky and use a lot of power, and replacing them with this very flexible, thin, small device.” As a microphone, the FENG fabric can be turned into a security patch that utilizes voice recognition to access a computer.

The potential uses for FENG aren’t limited to security patches and loudspeakers, or to voice-activated newspapers. The technology could also be used to develop noise-cancelling sheets and voice-protected health-monitoring wearables said Wei Li, lead author of the study. “Many people are focusing on the sight and touch aspects of flexible electronics,” he explained, “but we’re also focusing on the speaking and listening aspects of the technology.”

Indeed, FENG could be the foundation for next-generation audio devices and so much more. It could eventually help to create foldable loudspeakers, voice-activated security patches for computers, and even talking newspapers. It could also help to make smartphones thinner than ever, by incorporating the speakers and mic into the screen itself.

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Quantum Computing Leaps

Due to their complexity, quantum computers are still largely inaccessible for the average person, which is why developers and programmers jumped at the chance to test out IBM’s five qubit quantum computing processor when the company offered the public free access to it last year, running more than 300,000 experiments on the cutting-edge machine.

Now, the company is taking the tech to the next level, announcing yesterday that it has built and tested its two most powerful platforms for quantum computing to date: the 16 qubit Quantum Experience universal computer and a 17 qubit commercial processor prototype that will serve as the core for its IBM Q commercial system.

IBM’s Newest Quantum Computing Processors Have Triple the Qubits of Their Last

IBM’s 16 qubit processor will make far more complex computations possible without breaking a symbolic quantum sweat. Once again, the company is hoping that developers, programmers, researchers, and anyone working in the field will make use of the platform. To that end, anyone interested in using it for experiments to help usher in the age of quantum computing is encouraged to visit GitHub’s Software Development Kit to request beta access. Otherwise, they can simply access the IBM experience library to play around with the technology.

Of course, IBM is far from satisfied with just 16 or 17 qubits. The company hopes to significantly ratchet up the power with a goal of achieving a 50 qubit quantum computing platform — or maybe one with even more power — in the next few years.

Beta Testing and Beyond

Quantum computing technology has the capacity to solving extraordinarily complex problems — problems that in many cases may be difficult for us to even conceive of right now. This potential has been propelling research forward at a remarkable rate, with researchers smashing through milestone after milestone along the path toward commercial quantum computing.

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In August 2016, a quantum logic gate with an amazing 99.9 percent precision was achieved, removing a critical theoretical benchmark. Meanwhile, researchers used microwave signals to encode quantum computing data, offering an alternative to optical solutions. In October 2016, researchers used silicon atoms to produce qubits that remained in stable superposition 10 times longer than any qubits before them.

However, as each technical barrier has fallen, the need for public collaboration has become more apparent. In January, Canadian quantum computing company D-Wave open-sourced its own quantum software tool, Qbsolv, allowing programmers to work on a quantum system whether or not they had any prior experience with quantum computing. With IBM now offering an even-more-powerful system for experimentation, the public now has at its disposal a tool that could lead to remarkable advancements in nearly every field imaginable. As experts have announced, we truly are now living in the age of quantum computing.

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Meet “Mya”

Mya Systems (short for “my assistant”) has developed an AI that can streamline the recruitment process in multiple ways, including approving resumes, garnering further information on candidates, asking pay-related follow up questions, and scheduling interviews. The AI chatbot — designed to work in tandem with humans rather than replacing them — has the potential to free up human recruiters and lessen the bureaucratic aspects of the hiring process. Its founder, Eyal Grayevesky, told CNN tech that “Recruiters are overwhelmed with so much work because they’re doing boilerplate tasks.” 

Will Automation Steal My Job?
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Since its launch in 2016, the technology has already been adopted by Fortune 500 companies in banking, consulting and retail sectors: Mya’s website reports that it has been phenomenally successful, averaging a 9.8 out of 10 on overall candidate experience, increasing recruiting output by 200%, and reducing overheads by 80%. An additional $11.8 million in funding, acquired earlier this week, may help Grayevesky achieve his goal of eliminating frictional employment — the market failure of a decrease in efficiency due to people being in between jobs.

 

Robot Recruiting

Mya provides a new angle on the current debate concerning the ethics of using robots in the workplace: unlike some AI concepts, it does not replace humans, but rather, works with them to improve the overall service. The idea that AI would replace, and displace, human workers has long been controversial: it could put up to 47% of U.S jobs at risk. Presently, the replacement of human workers by AI has most notably already undertaken by BlackRock money. The New York based Construction Robotics created a Semi-Automated Mason, called SAM, that can lay 3,000 bricks per day. Companies like InsideSales.com use AI to analyze data and find the best leads for sales teams to follow up on. While the fear of automation looms large in “blue-collar” industries, white-collar industries won’t be completely immune. That being said, because there’s generally more opportunity to shuffle employees around, or slowly phase out jobs, the threat of automation won’t likely feel as dramatic.

When it comes to putting robots to work in any industry, Bill Gates has said that if robots replace humans, they should pay taxes: “If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level” he told Quartz. Ray Kurzweil, Director of Engineering at Google, argues that this is just another step in an age-old cycle of new jobs being created in response to technological replacement: “We are going to have new types of jobs creating new types of dollars that don’t exist yet and that has been the trend.”

Since Mya’s on the recruiting side, workers won’t be competing with the AI for work. In fact, Mya just might help them nab one of the new jobs being created as technology continues to advance.

The post You May Have to Go Through a Robot Recruiter to Land Your Next Job appeared first on Futurism.

Tiny Space Cube

Not very many people can claim that they’ve sent something they made into space. One of those who will soon be sending his own invention — a 64-gram (0.14-lb) satellite — into sub-orbital flight is an 18-year-old named Rifath Shaarook. His satellite design won a competition hosted by an organization called I Doodle Learning, which is sponsored by NASA and the Colorado Space Grant Consortium, called Cubes in Space.

“The main challenge was to design an experiment to be flown to space which would fit into a four-meter cube weighing 64 grams,” Shaarook told Business Standard. He named his tiny winning satellite the KalamSat, after Indian nuclear scientist and former president, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

It’s set to embark on a 4-hour sub-orbital mission, launching from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on June 21. “We designed it completely from scratch,” Shaarook said, “It will have a new kind of on-board computer and eight indigenous built-in sensors to measure acceleration, rotation, and the magnetosphere of Earth.”

Rifath Shaarook Image Credit: A_MURALITHARAN / The Hindu

Pooling Space Minds

Cubes for Space is an example of how NASA’s been actively seeking out talents and minds outside of just the agency. NASA’s also launching a device developed by another teenager to the ISS, to test space-fairing microbes. Apart from getting helped by young inventors like Shaarook, NASA’s also been corrected by a teenager who pointed out an error in some of the agency’s data on energy levels.

NASA also has a program called Open Innovation, where it employs the help of the public “for outside-the-box thinking about human space exploration challenges.” Such crowdsourcing efforts seem to be fruitful for the space agency, and the KalamSat is just one proof.

The KalamSat will spend about 12-minutes in a micro-gravity environment of space, where it will test the durability of its extremely light casing, 3D-printed from reinforced carbon fiber polymer. “The main role of the satellite will be to demonstrate the performance of [3D-printed] carbon fiber,” Shaarook explained to the Times of India. The success of the satellite could lead to the development of similar technology: such lightweight payloads would certainly be more cost-effective for NASA. The space agency is seeking innovative ideas for payload service, too: back in March, they wrapped up an open call for payload concepts for a mysterious mission.

The post A Teen Created the World’s Lightest Satellite & NASA Is Going to Launch It appeared first on Futurism.

Buying a luxury car in Singapore is as easy as purchasing a can of soda or a candy bar. The Southeast Asian city-state is now the home of the world’s largest vehicle vending machine, thanks to pre-owned car retailer Autobahn Motors.

Although the company started off by selling cars via traditional showrooms, it eventually outgrew its early locations and needed to expand, a not-so-easy task given Singapore’s limited space. “We needed to meet our requirement of storing a lot of cars. At the same time, we wanted to be creative and innovative,” Autobahn Motors’ general manager Gary Hong told Reuters.

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The solution? A 15-story building that looks like every kid’s Hot Wheels collection — except bigger and more real. The company opened the vending machine for business in December, and it can house 60 of the world’s finest luxury vehicles, modern sports cars, and classics from Ferrari, Bentley, and Porsche. Buyers at the location simply purchase the vehicle they want via an app, and it’s delivered within two minutes.

Not only is this vehicle vending machine a very futuristic concept, it also addresses one of the biggest problems associated with growing cities — limited space. This is leading cities all over the world to look upward for room to expand, with vertical farms, forests, and villages cropping up across the globe. However, amongst these towering creations, Singapore’s vehicular vending machine is still one of a kind.

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What’s a Chit?

In classical computing, information is stored in bits that are read by physical phenomena like electricity. You might recognize them as 1’s and 0’s, also called binary code. In quantum computing, it’s stored in quantum bits, or “qubits.” However, computers aren’t the only way we can store information: chemistry is also capable. Scientists at the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IPC PAS) in Warsaw have developed a way in which chemical droplets can store information like bits and qubits in a one-bit chemical memory unit called the “chit.” 

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The chit is made up of three droplets. Between the droplets, chemical reactions take place, circulating cyclically and consistently. This memory is rooted in the Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) reaction, which reacts in an oscillatory manner. Each reaction creates the reagents necessary for the next reaction, continuing ad infinitum. These reactions are helped by a catalyst — ferroin — which causes a color change. There is also a second catalyst — ruthenium — which makes the reaction light sensitive. It’s this light sensitive feature, when blue light is shone upon the reaction, that stops it from oscillating. That’s important, because it allows researchers to control the process.

The Implications

The chit essentially allows for “chemical computing.” So, instead of traditional bits, the components are all chemical. While quantum computing continues to advance, this brand new type of computing could create an entirely new way to store, read, and transfer information.

Everything from smartphone technology to classified digital files depend on our ability to store and read information — the basis of computing. Completely changing the very base of most technology that we rely upon today could have incredible consequences. Perhaps technologies that are currently being developed to battle climate change could face major upgrades and modifications. Perhaps the devices and vehicles that we use to explore space will go through changes as well. This type of advancement could completely revolutionize so much of the technology that we know, and in ways we may not even yet be able to imagine.

The post Researchers Have Just Devised a Way to Store Information in Chemicals appeared first on Futurism.

Building a house by hand can be both time-consuming and expensive. Numerous homebuilders have chosen to automate part of the construction (i.e., by printing the home’s parts) instead.

A new Ukrainian homebuilding startup called PassivDom uses a 3D printing robot that can print parts for tiny houses. The machine can print the walls, roof, and floor of PassivDom’s 380-square-foot model in about eight hours. The windows, doors, plumbing, and electrical systems are then added by a human worker.

When complete, the homes are autonomous and mobile, meaning they don’t need to connect to external electrical and plumbing systems. Solar energy is stored in a battery connected to the houses, and water is collected and filtered from humidity in the air (or you can pour water into the system yourself). The houses also feature an independent sewage system.

PassivDom’s homes, which start at $31,900, are now available for preorder online in Ukraine and the US, and the first ones will be delivered later this year.

Check out the homes below.

PassivDom’s smallest model measures 380 square feet and costs $31,900, designer Maria Sorokina tells Business Insider.

Passivdom

Here’s what the house looks like when you walk in the front door. It’s a large open space with a small kitchen and floor-to-ceiling windows.

Passivdom

This model doesn’t include a separate bedroom, which means residents need a sleeper sofa. A small bathroom is located near the kitchen.

Passivdom

PassivDom offers three models of homes and can make custom models as well. The premium models come with furniture, but the one pictured below comes unfurnished.

Passivdom

The homes also offer the possibility of living off the grid.

“We should have opportunities to live in nature away from civilization, but have comfortable conditions of a traditional house,” Sorokina says. “This technology can allow us to live in the woods, on mountains, or on the shore — far away from people and infrastructure.”

Passivdom

To make a PassivDom home, the team maps out the plan for the 3D printer in its factories in Ukraine and California. Layer by layer, the seven-axel robot prints the roof, floor, and 20-centimeter-thick walls, which are made of carbon fibers, polyurethane, resins, basalt fibers, and fiberglass.

Passivdom

Doors, windows, appliances, an alarm system, solar panels, and the septic, electrical, healing, cooling systems are then added.

Depending on the model, the whole process can take under 24 hours. The design and production of larger houses with more specifications and finishes, like the one below, can take up to a month. If a house is premade, it can be shipped the next day.

Passivdom

The startup believes 3D printing is a cheaper, more efficient way to build homes that it can sell at a (relatively) affordable price. “Over 100 million people do not have a roof over their heads,” Sorokina says. “It is necessary to build more affordable houses.”

Passivdom

PassivDom is not the only company using 3D printing to build homes. The San Francisco-based housing startup Apis Cor, Dus Architects in Amsterdam, as well as Branch Technology from Chattanooga, Tennessee, say they can construct homes in mere days or weeks.

The post A Robot Can Print This $32,000 House in as Little as 8 Hours appeared first on Futurism.

Electrick is a newly developed electrically conductive spray that can turn anything into a touch interface. It will be both available to consumers as well as manufacturers. Because there’s quite literally an infinite number of possible applications for tech like this, it wouldn’t be surprising if this is something that will deeply affect the way people of the future interact with their basic environments.

The post Scientists Designed a Way to Turn Anything into a Touch Surface appeared first on Futurism.

Festo is a German company that specializes in developing tech for factory automation. Recently, they’ve been exploring superconductors, which are objects that are able to retain magnetic fields as they drop electrical resistance when cooled below a critical temperature. The resulting hovering effect could have hundreds of uses in industrial applications, as it allows contactless handling. Are superconductors the future of automation?

The post Superconductors Used in Factory Automation appeared first on Futurism.

This Kickstarter device allow you to levitate everyday objects in your home. It’s a startling advancement for home design, but the technology could be adapted for even more exciting applications.

The post Defy Gravity With Magnets appeared first on Futurism.

Robots are making warehouses safer and more efficient places to work.

The post Why You Want a Robot Co-Worker appeared first on Futurism.

Team Tactile

Six engineering undergraduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have designed a portable device that converts text to braille in real time. Their first prototype was created in a 15-hour hackathon in early 2016. Since that time, the device, called Tactile, has undergone extensive development. Now, it’s the size of a candy bar and completely portable. The students have applied for a patent for the device, although they are already working on its next iteration.

What really sets Tactile apart from other braille translators, though, is its low cost. Most of these devices are expensive and limited to the translation of text that is available digitally. For example, the HumanWare Braillant attaches to a computer or mobile device to translate text into braille, and it costs $2,595. Tactile’s creators hope to sell their device for less than $200.

Via Lemelson, MIT
Image credit: Lemelson/MIT

The students who invented the translation device have plans to improve Tactile, and they’ve also got the means to do it. They recently won one of the $10,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prizes for 2017, which they will spend refining and improving the device.

“Currently, the camera only takes a picture of its field of view,” team member Chandani Doshi explained in an email to Smithsonian. “We are aiming to make the device similar to a handheld scanner that allows the user to scan the entire page in one go.” If they’re successful, this would make the device simpler to use and eliminate the reader’s need to remember where they are on the page.

New Access

Accessibility for people with disabilities is getting more attention now than it has in the past as the movement for inclusion grows. The European Union has drafted rules that will mandate that products and services be more accessible to people with disabilities, including the blind. The Women’s March on Washington even added a virtual branch so people with disabilities could attend that way if they chose to.

Six EdTech Startups Democratizing Education [Infographic]
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There are 1.3 million legally blind people in the U.S., and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired — 39 million of them are blind, and the remaining 246 million have low vision. The American Foundation for the Blind estimates that fewer than 10 percent of blind people can understand braille, mostly due to a chronic teacher shortage in this area.

Even so, Tactile, which should be on the market within two years, will make any book in any library accessible to those who do understand braille — and it will also make braille itself far more accessible and easy to learn. In fact, using Tactile might be the revolution braille needs to bring a higher level of literacy back to the blind community.

The post MIT’s “Portable Translator” Can Convert Text to Braille in Real-Time appeared first on Futurism.

MIT is using a new method to print large objects faster than previously possible. The objects are printed into gel, where they wait to harden.

The post Print Strong 3D Objects in a Fraction of the Time appeared first on Futurism.

The new Amazon Echo Show brings a voice-command screen to the Echo line of products. Just ask Alexa to make a face-to-face call, look up the weather, turn on the Tv, and so much more.

The post Amazon’s Alexa Just Got a Major Upgrade appeared first on Futurism.

Predicting Photons

A machine’s computing power comes from its capacity to make calculations. For conventional computers, these calculations are carried out using electronic gates and switches found in transistors. Through the transistors, information is translated into binary code, which is made up of 0s and 1s. All the computing power in the world — from your mobile device to your laptop computer — works using these 0s and 1s.

However, there is a computing system — generally known as a quantum computer — that doesn’t rely on binary. Instead, it uses particles that interact at a subatomic level to translate information into quantum bits, called qubits. These qubits are capable of being both a 0 and a 1 at the same time, thanks to a phenomenon known as quantum entanglement. 

Meet The Most Powerful Computers in the World
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In short, quantum computers are capable of more sophisticated computations. To demonstrate this, a team of researchers from the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) at Hefei in Anhui built the first kind of quantum computer that’s faster than the early generations of conventional computers — which were built in the 1940s.

Pan and his team used their machine to compute photon behavior — a feat conventional computers find difficult due to the unpredictable nature of photons. The results of this boson sampling machine showed that their machine performed about 10 to 100 times than the first electronic computer (called ENIAC) Pan said.

A Case for Quantum Computers

While the Hefei machine doesn’t have much use in the practice sense — aside from predicting protons — it does prove the ability of quantum computers to perform such complex computations. Its sampling rate, according to Pan’s team, was at least 24,000 times faster than its international counterparts. “Our architecture is feasible to be scaled up to a larger number of photons and with a higher rate to race against increasingly advanced classical computers,” the team wrote in their research paper, published in the journal Nature Photonics.

The use of boson sampling machines was first proposed by University of Texas at Austin professor Scott Aaronson. One of its main purposes, he said, was to prove that quantum computers could perform better in a specific area of complex computation compared to other existing types of computers. “Doing so would answer the quantum computing skeptics and help pave the way towards universal quantum computation,” Aaronson said.

This is where the Hefei machine’s value comes in: “It’s a step towards boson sampling with say 30 photons or some number that’s large enough that no one will have to squint or argue about whether a quantum advantage has been attained,” he added. As far as Pan is concerned, in a few years time, their machine would be able to eclipse all of the supercomputers in the world in performing these calculations.

The post China Develops a Quantum Computer That Could “Eclipse All Others” appeared first on Futurism.

NASA Announces Bounties

NASA needs help making its FUN3D software better, and it’s asking the world for help. The space agency just announced several bounties for anyone in the U.S. who can optimize the code for the NASA Pleiades supercomputer. The two top prizes of $15,000 and $10,000 will go to the coders with the best optimizations, and a third bounty will go to more general suggestions for optimization.

Technically, anyone in the world could optimize it, but only U.S. citizens are eligible for the bounties. The other catch is that the core of FUN3D is written in Fortran, and while certain scientists and a few programmers here and there like this infamous 1950s holdover, they are in the minority in the coding community.

This software simulates fluid dynamics and is used in the development and optimization of engines and vehicles. NASA uses FUN3D internally, but it’s also used at Lockheed, Boeing, and other companies in the high-tech vehicle business. This project began in the 1980s, and at this point, it needs a refresh so it can run faster and more efficiently — hence the bounties.

What is NASA looking for, exactly? Ideally, 10X to 1000X faster speeds — a big goal, considering that whoever wins will be better at Fortran and math than actual rocket scientists at NASA. Still, the bounties also come with the totally cool bonus of bragging rights; who wouldn’t want to say that they were the person to optimize the code that NASA uses to build better spacecraft?

The post You Could Win $15,000 in NASA’s Coding Challenge appeared first on Futurism.

The Scewo is a wheelchair that can climb stairs. It levels the playing field for wheelchair users, and is perfectly at home in a variety of environments.

The post This Incredible Wheelchair Can Climb Up and Down Stairs appeared first on Futurism.

Xplotter is designed to create a new definition of plotter. By integrating the laser engraver and cutter into the mechanism, it becomes a versatile yet affordable desktop tool for artists.

The post Use Xplotter To Create Amazing Artwork appeared first on Futurism.

Convenience And Privacy

Stanford University researchers have created a wearable electronic device that dissolves completely if you pour vinegar on it. In this era where incredible new electronic devices appear seemingly all the time— and discarded devices create millions of tons of electronic waste each year — the need for biodegradable tech felt pressing to the team. The concept of a biodegradable wearable also solves the privacy problem we face as we discard old devices in favor of new ones, hoping that whatever measures we took to erase our old data were effective enough to prevent it from falling into the hands of strangers.

The decomposing polymer is one of the thinnest, lightest electronic devices that’s ever been created. The team synthesized the biodegradable semiconductor using a molecule extracted from tattoo ink, and fabricated a base by weaving plant fibers into a new, extra-thin film, and embedding the electronics inside that structure. When placed in vinegar, or even a less acidic solution, the whole thing melts away entirely within 30 days.

Eventually, this technology will be ideal for storing sensitive digital information that could quickly and easily be destroyed and kept private. It would also be perfect for biological sensors, implantable medical devices, and even prosthetic skins. The researchers tested the device in proximity to heart muscle cells from mice, and they didn’t die. However, the device is still far from safe for use in humans, so these applications may be awhile away.

Dissolving Electronic Waste

According to the ENDS Europe agency report on electronic waste, thanks to increasing built-in obsolescence, in 2012 we replaced defective appliances at the rate of 8.3 percent up from 3.5 percent in 2004. A 2014 Gallup poll indicates that 89 percent of young adults aged 18 to 29 own smartphones, and research from Fluent shows that around 30 percent of Americans upgrade their phones every two years, while about 42 percent wait three or more years. All told, the United Nations Environment Programme estimates that humans will generate more than 50 million metric tons of electronic waste in 2018.

This biodegradable wearable and the technologies it might inspire can fight this problem, which is about much more than space in landfills. Electronic waste poisons groundwater and causes hazardous materials like mercury and lead to leach into the ground. Electronics are already made to be disposable; it’s time to make sure they’re biodegradable as well.

The post Researchers Just Created Super-Light Wearable Tech That Dissolves in Vinegar appeared first on Futurism.

Remote-Controlled Warfare

Few images of war are as iconic as the 1944 storming of the beach at Normandy, but due to new military technologies, tomorrow’s version of D-Day will undoubtedly look much different. Weaponized drones will likely fill the air, and instead of soldiers streaming out of the water, we could see amphibious hovercrafts that move as quickly across the land as they do the sea. Aboard those craft might be the latest high-tech military tool, the Multi-Utility Tactical Transport (MUTT).

Each MUTT is roughly the size of an ATV and is operated remotely using a joystick and tablet. General Dynamics designed the vehicles to transport food, water, and other supplies, and the Marines recently tested MUTTs with a far more powerful piece of cargo on board: a .50-caliber machine gun.

With a series of cameras and sensors providing accurate imaging and heavy-duty tracks that have no trouble navigating across rough terrain, MUTTs could prove to be an invaluable military tool, particularly in conditions that would be extremely hostile for soldiers to navigate. As one soldier told Business Insider, “It’s a mobile platform where it doesn’t get fatigued. It doesn’t need water. It needs very little maintenance, and it’s always in the fight, so that’s a great asset to have.”

Armed and Autonomous

A remote-controlled MUTT does clearly have several advantages over a similarly equipped soldier, but according to a senior Marine officer, the military isn’t content with the system as it currently stands.

“Eventually, what we hope to do is go to systems that are more truly autonomous, that I can say, ‘Hey, go cover my right flank,’ and it’s going to go do the things it needs to do in order to make that happen,” the officer told Business Insider. “And then if it does get in the situation where the weapons systems malfunction, it can either fix itself or then I’ve got to send a marine to go fix it.”

Warfare 2040: The Future of Military Technology [INFOGRAPHIC]
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The idea of an autonomous system armed with a machine gun having its “weapons systems malfunction” will no doubt worry Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and the thousands of others who signed an open letter calling for a ban on autonomous weapons. They assert that we need to draw a distinct line between a robot directly controlled by a human — like these current MUTTs — and ones that operate autonomously.

“Autonomous weapons are ideal for tasks such as assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations, and selectively killing a particular ethnic group. We therefore believe that a military AI arms race would not be beneficial for humanity,” the letter reads. “There are many ways in which AI can make battlefields safer for humans, especially civilians, without creating new tools for killing people.”

Unless a ban is enacted, however, there’s nothing stopping the military from pursuing such tech advancements. Even if the practice does become illegal in one nation, that wouldn’t necessarily prevent others from developing such tech. Truly, the wars of the future will look much different, but whether those differences keep us safer or not is still up for debate.

The post The Marines’ Latest Weapon Is a Remote-Controlled Robot With a Machine Gun appeared first on Futurism.

Pew-Pew Meets Ka-Boom

If all goes as planned, we may not have to travel to a long time ago in a galaxy far far away to be on a planet where epic laser battles occur. In addition to the Laser Weapons System (LaWS) that has already been developed for use by the United States’ Navy, more powerful laser guns are currently in the works. These weapons are being crafted for deployment on Naval destroyers, cruisers, and aircraft carriers to take out enemy targets like drones, aircraft, ships, and even incoming missiles.

What used to be a science-fiction pipe dream is now being fast-tracked thanks to the development of high-capacity power sources and the ability to build more powerful lasers. Adm. John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations, stated “So the Navy’s all in, we’re pushing this forward. We’re committed to moving forward as fast as we can.”

Office of Naval Research/Flickr
Image Credit: Office of Naval Research/Flickr

More Boom for Our Buck

The Office of Naval Research is working with Northrop Grumman on developing systems to test this emerging laser technology. A press release from Northrop explained, “The company will design, produce, integrate, and support the shipboard testing of a 150-kilowatt-class solid state (electric) laser weapon system.” Though a timeline is not in place, officials are excited at the potential of these futuristic weapons. And, since they won’t deliver on pop culture’s promise of “pew-pew” and bright lights, well…at least these lasers are cost effective.

According to Guy Renard, a director and program manager at Northrop, “For about the price of a gallon of diesel fuel per shot, we’re offering the Navy a high-precision defensive approach that will protect not only its sailors, but also its wallet.” The current incarnation of this technology can fire off a single round that only costs about $0.59 cents per shot, as opposed to the thousands or millions of dollars that missiles cost American taxpayers.

The post The U.S. Is Turning to Lasers for the Future of Warfare appeared first on Futurism.

The upcoming MegaBots battle was just delivered a surprise twist with another giant bot looking to square up in the ring. What was originally a two titan grudge match for the ages now has the potential of becoming a three-way death match rife with black blood and twisted metal.

This new contender hails from Beijing’s Greatmetal and goes by the name of Monkey King. This behemoth sets itself apart from the competition with its ability to fight both on all fours and bipedally. Even more, it can wield a staff while fighting on its hind legs.

The Monkey King could go up against the Mk. III from the U.S. or Japan’s KURATAS. The original plan was for the American and Japanese bots to square off sometime in August. And, while a three-way melee sounds incredible, it might be more likely that the champion from the planned fight in August would earn the right to go toe-to-toe with royalty in a more tournament-style match.

This could be the start of a brand new sports league combining the brains of robotics with all the muscle of pro-sports. Stay tuned for updates on the exact date and time of the first brawl as well as any more hints as to whether or not the Monkey King will be joining the fray.

The post There’s a New Mega-Contender in the Upcoming Giant Robot Battle appeared first on Futurism.

Handy Bots

It’s quite common for humans – especially those who work in manufacturing – to tie a knot, strip the casing off a cable, insert a pin in a hole or use a hand tool such as a drill. They may seem like simple tasks, but are really very complex and involve extremely fine finger and hand motions. The Conversation

Though robots are getting more and more involved in factory work and in a wide range of other types of jobs – including in the service industry and health care – their dexterity is not nearly as impressive. Since people first brought them to work in automotive factories more than 50 years ago, we have built robots that can weld, paint and assemble parts quite well. Today’s best robotic hands can pick up familiar objects and move them to other places – such as taking products from warehouse bins and putting them in boxes.

Among today’s best robotic movements.

But robots can’t orient a hand tool properly – say, lining up a Phillips head screwdriver with the grooves on a screw, or aiming a hammer at a nail. And they definitely can’t use two hands together in detailed ways, like replacing the batteries in a remote control.

A NASA Valkyrie robot picks up an item in a test in our lab.

Human hands are excellent at those tasks and much more. To even come close to rivaling what our hands are easily capable of, robot hands need better agility, reliability and strength – and they need to be able to sense more accurately and move even more finely than they do now, to figure out what they’re holding and how to grip it best. For robots to be able to work alongside humans, we’ll have to figure out how to make robots that can literally lend us a hand when our own two are not enough.

My research group at Northeastern University is working on doing just this, in particular for humanoid robots like NASA’s Valkyrie, which has three fingers and a thumb on each hand. Each digit has knuckle-like joints, and each hand has a wrist that can rotate easily. We’re working on creating motions – combinations of arm, wrist, finger and thumb movements that collectively accomplish a task, like moving a wrench in a circle to tighten a bolt, or pulling a cart from one place to another.

The Importance of Hands

Rather than making each robot a custom machine tailored for a very specific task, we need to design multi-use robots, or even such capable machines that they might be called “general purpose” – good for almost any task. One key to the success of these types of robots will be excellent hands.

Our work focuses on designing a new class of adaptable robot hands capable of precise fine movements and autonomous grasping. When robots are able to hammer in nails, change batteries and make other similar movements – basic for humans but very complex for robots – we’ll be well on our way to human-like dexterity in robotic hands.

Achieving this goal also involves inventing new designs that incorporate hard and soft elements – the way human bone gives strength to a grip, with skin spreading the pressure so a wine glass doesn’t shatter.

Faster Development and Testing

Modern technological improvements are making the development process easier. With 3D printing, we can make prototypes very quickly. We can even make low-cost disposable components to try different arrangements of mechanisms, like two- or three-fingered grippers for simple pick-and-place tasks or anthropomorphic robot hands for more delicate operations.

These abilities are already second nature to humans through vision and proprioception (the ability to sense the relative positions of body parts without looking or thinking about it). Once we’re able to achieve them in robots, they’ll be able to do things like detect if a grasp is too strong and is squeezing an object too hard.As electronic cameras and sensors get smaller, we’re able to incorporate them in new ways. For instance, if we put pressure sensors and cameras in a robotic hand, they can give feedback to the robot controller (whether human or automated) when a grip is secure, or if something starts to slip. One day they may be able to sense which direction the slipping object is moving, so the robot can catch it.

Planning Coordinated Movements

Another milestone will be developing methods for robots to figure out what motions they need to make in real time, including sensing what’s going on in their hands at each moment. If a robot hand can detect changes in objects it is handling, or manipulate items while holding them, they could help with those common manual tasks like knot-tying and wire-stripping.

Working with two hands together is even farther into the future, though it would provide a significant boost, particularly for manufacturing. A robot that can operate a drill with two hands or pass machine parts from one hand to the other would be big improvements, allowing factories to automate even more steps in their processes.

Is this the robot of the future? NASA

We humans haven’t developed these systems yet. Achieving human-like autonomous robot dexterity will keep robotics researchers, technologists and innovators busy in the foreseeable future. It won’t slow down the ongoing robotics revolution in manufacturing, because current processes still have lots of room for automation to improve safety, speed and quality. But as we make robots even better, they’ll be able to give us a hand.


Taskin Padir, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Northeastern University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Conversation

The post The Next Generation of Robots Will Be Remarkably Human-Like appeared first on Futurism.

Flippy fills fast food burger orders better than humans can. While this is great for fast food lovers, it’s not so good for people who rely on burger flipping jobs for primary income.

The post Customers Love Flippy. Employees Fear It. appeared first on Futurism.

Yotel is a hotel in New York that’s moving towards a nearly entirely autonomous system of operations. They have a luggage transfer robot they call YOBOT and guests check in at automated kiosks. They do have some human staff around however just in case guests get overwhelmed by all the tech.  Would you check out Yotel?

The post This New York Hotel Is Nearly Entirely Automated appeared first on Futurism.

If you’ve played StarCraft or any similar game, you’ve probably wondered how your units were able to build bases so  fast. Well, those Terran SCVs were probably 3D printers, most likely similar to one that MIT recently previewed.

Though not the first to 3D print a house, MIT’s Digital Construction Platform (DCP) is not your ordinary 3D printer. For starters, it’s a fully customizable, free-moving system that can 3D print an object of any size. Plus, the plan is to make the DCP a self-sufficient construction tool, capable of making individualized buildings designed using onsite environmental data.

Here’s How 3D Printing is Changing Our World
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In short, the DCP is an autonomous robotic system that can work in any environment using whatever materials nature can provide it with. The goal is, according to Steven Keating, “in the future, to have something totally autonomous, that you could send to the moon or Mars or Antarctica, and it would just go out and make these buildings for years.”

In a proof of concept run, published in the journal Science Robotics, the DCP was able to use a combination of foam and concrete to construct a 3.7-meter-high (12 ft) dome in just 14 hours.

“So to me it’s not merely a printer,” said Neri Oxman, “but an entirely new way of thinking about making, that facilitates a paradigm shift in the area of digital fabrication, but also for architectural design. … Our system points to a future vision of digital construction that enables new possibilities on our planet and beyond.”

The post In the Future, Humans May Live in 3D Printed Space Colonies appeared first on Futurism.

Powerful Memory

Whether it’s our phone, tablet, or laptop, we’ve all come across problems with our hardware’s ability to store information or the time it takes to access that information. As technology continues to break limits of computer storage in access speed and capacity, we are getting to wield more powerful tools than ever before. The latest computing tool is the 3D XPoint, a new-generation memory technology that Intel and Micron Technology have kept under wraps since 2012.

The 3D XPoint is a solid-state drive that is getting buzz for its breakneck speeds in accessing memory. The technology is the marriage of RAM and flash storage, as it’s four times denser than traditional RAM. Conveniently, it can hold information even when it’s turned off, unlike other volatile storage sources. When compared to other forms of information storage, like NAND and DRAM, 3D XPoint is almost 1,000 times faster at reading and writing information.

This means the new-generation memory technology will power the next series of computers. The Optane SSD DC P4800X will be Intel’s first foray with the new tech.  The 375 GB solid-state drive comes at a cost of $1520. Intel’s second product to use the technology will come at a much more affordable cost at $44, equipped with a 16 GB memory solution.

Enhanced Efficiency

This technology isn’t built to entirely replace your computer’s hard drive — rather it’s there to work alongside it. The Optane memory can increase productivity by loading various applications and software at almost 600 percent of original speeds.

Whether you’re a gamer or a professional, the services that you require probably take up a lot of your computing power. With the 3D XPoint technology, we will see far more efficiency in accomplishing whatever we have in mind, whether that’s streaming youtube or developing the next big thing.

The post New Memory Storage Tech Is 1,000 Times Faster at Processing Information appeared first on Futurism.

MIT’s Digital Construction Platform used 3D printing to create houses fast. It can create permanent buildings out of polymers, and large igloo structures out of ice.

The post MIT Can 3D Print a Building in Hours appeared first on Futurism.

Great Power

Algorithms are powerful tools. With these mathematical instructions for solving problems or completing tasks, you can receive potential dates from match-making services, movie recommendations from Netflix, and the ads most likely to entice you from online advertisers.

While algorithms can save us time and make decision-making more convenient, our use of them comes at a cost, especially when human lives are at stake. For example, when algorithms are used to decide who is hired or which person is given a loan, human beings are reduced to data points, and human judgement is stripped from what should be case-by-case decisions. Facebook’s struggle with fake news demonstrates that algorithms don’t always have the discernment a human would.

What Are Algorithms?
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Worse yet, algorithms can reinforce racist or classist stereotypes and create problems for disadvantaged populations that are already worse off than the general population. Take the Harvard study that found that when people Googled a name linked with black people, the search engine was more likely to show the search ads selling access to criminal records. Justin Reich, executive director at the MIT Teaching Systems Lab, suggested that algorithms will inevitably benefit the people who design them — namely, educated white and Asian men.

“Most people in positions of privilege will find these new tools convenient, safe, and useful,” Reich said in a survey for a Pew Research study. “The harms of new technology will be most experienced by those already disadvantaged in society, where advertising algorithms offer bail bondsman ads that assume readers are criminals, loan applications that penalize people for proxies so correlated with race that they effectively penalize people based on race, and similar issues.”

Algorithms have the potential to widen the gap between those with power and those without it. Those who understand how these algorithms work — and how to most effectively use them — will stand to benefit from them. However, those who have less education and fewer resources will be left further and further behind, said Ryan Hayes, owner of Fit to Tweet.

“Twenty years ago we talked about the ‘digital divide’ being people who had access to a computer at home vs. those that didn’t,” Hayes said for the Pew study. “Ten years from now, though, the life of someone whose capabilities and perception of the world is augmented by sensors and processed with powerful AI and connected to vast amounts of data is going to be vastly different from that of those who don’t have access to those tools or knowledge of how to utilize them. And that divide will be self-perpetuating, where those with fewer capabilities will be more vulnerable in many ways to those with more.”

Great Responsibility

While the potential consequences of algorithms are becoming more widely recognized, the use of this tool remains widespread. Many leaders, including former president Obama, are calling for greater oversight and transparency of algorithms that impact the daily lives of citizens. In order for the risks of algorithms to be minimized, they must be made understandable for both users and expert assessors, suggested Ben Shneiderman, professor of computer science at the University of Maryland.

“When well-designed, algorithms amplify human abilities, but they must be comprehensible, predictable, and controllable,” Shneiderman commented in the Pew survey. “This means they must be designed to be transparent so that users can understand the impacts of their use and they must be subject to continuing evaluation so that critics can assess bias and errors.”

If we can harness the power of algorithms without allowing them to perpetuate injustices or dehumanize users, we could all benefit from these technological wonders, said Jonathan Grudin, principal researcher at Microsoft.

“The algorithms are not in control; people create and adjust them. However, positive effects for one person can be negative for another, and tracing causes and effects can be difficult, so we will have to continually work to understand and adjust the balance,” Grudin said in the Pew survey. “I’m optimistic that a general trend toward positive outcomes will prevail, given the tremendous potential upside to technology use.”

The post Computers Are Making Decisions for Us, and Not Always Good Ones. appeared first on Futurism.

Rising Automation

For any manufacturer, one of the biggest overhead costs to consider is labor. But in China, which has been particularly aggressive in their attempts to shift towards automation for better efficiency, a company has found a way to tap into the inherent advantages of robots to address this concern.

Shipping company Shentong Express has managed to slash labor costs in half by using sorting robots developed by Hikvision. In the video below, you can see these robots shuttling around an eastern China warehouse, each one taking a parcel from a human working before it goes into a scanner and takes the package to a chute ready for shipping.

The tiny robots are capable of sorting up to 200,000 packages a day; and because they are equipped to self-charge, they can operate 24/7. To that end, a Shentong Express spokesperson notes to the South China Morning Post that this has not only helped the company cut labor costs by half, but also managed to improve efficiency by 30 percent and maximize sorting accuracy.

Right now, the robots are being used in two Hangzhou centers, but the company is looking to deploy the robots in their largest locations.

The Threat of Automation

Perhaps no other country is more focused on shifting to automation and replacing human workers with machines than China, especially given that the output of industrial robots in the country rose by 30.4 percent in 2016. Earlier this year, a Chinese factory replaced 90 percent of its human workforce with automated machines, resulting in a 250 percent increase in productivity and 80 percent drop in defects. Foxconn, an Apple supplier, also cut 60,000 jobs and replaced them with robots.

To that end, China’s five-year plan is targeting production of these robots to reach 100,000 by 2020. This means that as the world continues to achieve unprecedented levels of advancement in AI and robotics, it will likely cause the displacement of thousands of human workers in favor of automated efficiency. Already, 137 million workers across five Southeast Asian countries are in danger of being displaced by automated systems in the next 20 years.

Will Automation Steal My Job?
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“Countries that compete on low-wage labour need to reposition themselves — price advantage is no longer enough,” said Deborah France-Massin, director for the ILO’s bureau for employers’ activities. “Robots are becoming better at assembly, cheaper, and increasingly able to collaborate with people,” the ILO said.

Experts are urging everyone to start talking about the implications of automation now — and the conversation doesn’t have to center on how the world can resist automation, but more on how we can embrace robotics and ensure that the human population is not left unemployed. Universal basic income may be the solution here.

The post Robo Revolution: A Factory Cut Labor Costs in Half, Thanks to Tiny Robots appeared first on Futurism.

Breakthrough

A new system developed by a team of researchers from Japan’s Toyohashi University of Technology can read people’s minds using brainwaves.

To test the technology, participants in a study of the system were asked to say numbers out loud and used a robot to guess what they said in real time, based on its readings of an electroencephalogram (EEG) brain scan. The device was able to achieve a 90 percent accuracy rate in recognizing numbers from zero to nine and a 61 percent accuracy rate for deciphering single syllables in Japanese.

The Evolution of Brain-Computer Interfaces [INFOGRAPHIC]
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“Up until now, speech-decoding from EEG signals has had difficulty in collecting enough data to allow the use of powerful algorithms based on ‘deep learning‘ or other types of machine learning,” Toyohashi University of Technology announced in a press release. “The research group has developed a different research-framework that can achieve high performance with a small training data-set.”

Brain-Computer Interface

Despite the device being only partially effective, the team is optimistic enough about the results that they are moving forward to develop a brain-computer interface that can effectively translate thoughts into audible words. Eventually, they hope to integrate the technology with a smartphone app, which they say could be ready in just five years.

This kind of technology is not only novel, but it also has the potential to enable handicapped people who have lost the ability to speak be able to communicate again, including those who suffer from paralysis due to various neurological conditions like ALS, stroke, or spinal cord injury. While many current technologies rely on the user’s ability to move their fingers or eyes to spell out words, this technology would bypass movement altogether and might also enable faster communication.

Toyohashi University of Technology’s team joins other efforts from the likes of Facebook, which has been working on a similar technology, and Elon Musk, who just unveiled more details about his new venture, Neuralink, which aims to develop a computer interface that can be implanted into the brain to improve human intelligence.

The post In Five Years, Your Smartphone Could Be Reading Your Mind appeared first on Futurism.

BOZENA RIOT is an armored vehicle made to maintain peace in the streets and urbanized areas, and to protect law-enforcement officers from violent mobs and aggressive protests.

The post The Armored Machine That Will Shut Down a Riot appeared first on Futurism.

Researchers at USC are finding new ways to coordinate complex aerial drone formations. This could be critical to tackling issues like fighting forest fires, search and rescue missions, and more.

The post Ever Seen a Swarm of Drones? appeared first on Futurism.

Shortcut to Magnetic Materials

Material scientists from Duke University have used high-throughput computational models to predict and build two new magnetic materials from the atom up. The breakthrough means we can now design and build new magnetic materials at large scales and unprecedented speeds. This is critical because only around five percent of known inorganic compounds show even a hint of magnetism, and few of them are practically useful due to variabilities in their magnetic permanence and effective temperature range.

Supercomputers: To Moore’s Law and Beyond
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Thanks to this relative scarcity, magnetic materials can be expensive and difficult to obtain. The traditional manner of searching for new options is tedious —researchers churn out new structures hoping to find magnetic properties, with some molecular structures failing while others succeed. High-performance magnets are rare oddities among more predictable chemical and physical trends.

In this new work, the researchers used supercomputers to create a shortcut in the process by modeling the potential magnetism of hundreds of thousands of candidates rapidly, cutting the list of potential configurations from 236,115 to just 14. They know the modeling process works because they’ve already created two completely novel magnetic materials based on their predictions.

“Predicting magnets is a heck of a job and their discovery is very rare,” professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and director of the Duke Center for Materials Genomics Stefano Curtarolo said in a Duke University news release. “Even with our screening process, it took years of work to synthesize our predictions. We hope others will use this approach to create magnets for use in a wide range of applications.”

Super Problem Solvers

The first novel magnetic material the team created was made of cobalt, manganese, and titanium (Co2MnTi). The team predicted the properties of the new magnet with a high degree of accuracy by comparing the measured properties of similarly structured magnets.

Notably, the substance possesses an exceptionally high “Curie temperature” (the temperature at which it loses its magnetism) of 664.85 degrees Celsius (1,228 degrees Fahrenheit) — almost exactly what the researchers predicted. Coupled with its lack of rare earth elements, which are expensive and difficult to acquire, the new substance will likely prove very useful in many commercial applications.

The second material comprised manganese, platinum, and palladium (Mn2PtPd). It is an antiferromagnet, a variety of magnet that is difficult to predict. Its electrons are evenly divided in their alignments, so the material has no internal magnetic moment — its electrons instead respond to external magnetic fields. That property limits its applications to use within hard drives, magnetic field sensing, and Random Access Memory (RAM), but the researchers’ calculations for this material’s properties were accurate as well.

This advancement marks yet another important use for supercomputers, which are already being used to predict monsoons, reveal the origins of cosmic structures, and even extend human life expectancy. As predictive modeling is applied to new situations, supercomputers will solve more and more of humanity’s problems, freeing us up for more creative and innovative pursuits.

The post Supercomputers Were Just Used to Create New Magnetic Materials appeared first on Futurism.

Inspired and modeled after an octopus tentacle, Festo’s latest robot can pick up and manipulate objects with incredibly high precision. You’ve got to see it for yourself.

The post Festo’s Incredible New Robot Arm appeared first on Futurism.

Russia’s FEDOR robot by Android Technics can shoot guns with both hands, drive and use tools, but it’s meant for space travel, says Russia’s PM.

The post Russia’s New Space Robot Can Drive, Use Tools… and Shoot appeared first on Futurism.

Anicorn Watches is raising funds for Hidden Time Watch on Kickstarter. The first edition of The Trio of Time, it’s designed to alter your perception of passing hours.

The post Put On This Watch And Change Your Perception of Time appeared first on Futurism.

No Terminator, No SkyNet

A number of experts have already warned that artificial intelligence (AI) could lead to the end of humanity. While these warnings haven’t entirely fallen on deaf ears, the development of systems that would no doubt be considered questionable by AI-naysayers has persisted. Russia’s highly capable robot FEDOR is one such system.

FEDOR — short for Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research — is a humanoid robot developed by Android Technics and the Advanced Research Fund. The multi-talented bot can drive a car, use various tools (including keys), screw in lightbulbs, and even do pushups. It has also proven capable of working in extreme conditions.

Now, Russia’s deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin showed via Twitter that FEDOR has added shooting handguns to its skill set. “Robot platform F.E.D.O.R. showed shooting skills with two hands,” one tweet read. Rogozin also posted a video of FEDOR actually firing guns along with the tweet.

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Naturally, such a display of gunslinging skills by a robot bothered some people. Rogozin, however, was quick to assure them that there’s nothing to fear. “We are not creating a Terminator, but artificial intelligence that will be of great practical significance in various fields,” he explained in another tweet.

An Explorer, Not a Killer

When FEDOR was first introduced, its purpose was quite clear — the robot was designed to be used for rescue work. However, as its abilities have expanded, its purpose has been augmented to include space exploration.

By 2021, FEDOR is expected to be space-bound as the sole passenger on the Russian Federatsiya spacecraft, or it could be used as part of Russia’s planned 2031 Moon missions. “This thing can work without a space suit, live not only in a crew vehicle, but even outside it,” Rogozin previously said about FEDOR.

The Top 10 Humanoid Robots in Existence Today
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As for shooting guns, Rogozin explained that the exercise was meant to improve FEDOR’s decision-making algorithms and fine motor skills. Of course, potential military uses for the android have been suggested in the past, according to a report by The Independent, and FEDOR wouldn’t be the first robot designed for combat.

Concerns over AI’s potentially damaging effects aren’t limited to just physical harm. Several experts believe that a more concrete and imminent effect would be job displacement, which may already be happening. Of course, some see automation in a more positive light, suggesting that it could actually improve humanity’s place in the workforce.

In any case, intelligent robots and machines will clearly change society, and they needn’t be carrying guns to do so.

The post FEDOR Is a Gunslinging Robot That’s Just a Skin Suit Away From Westworld appeared first on Futurism.

It’s About Time

The Hidden Time Watch, a Kickstarter-backed invention, looks just like any other watch from a distance; however, there’s a reason the team has already raised more than double its original goal.

Industrial designer Jiwoong Jung has found a unique way to express his fascination with time. As part of the Trio of Time, an international collaboration that melds technology and design, Jung created a watch that literally shows time disappearing. Using an ever-changing gradient display, the watch is designed to remind the wearer to live in the moment, instead of focusing on the past, obsessing over the future, or otherwise wasting the relatively little time that we have.

In a brightly lit coffee shop in Williamsburg, Max Stossel, a filmmaker and advocate in the Time Well Spent movement, succinctly summarizes the problem with how we spend our time in modern society. Highlighting the ways in which the design of our devices, in many ways, isn’t working in our favor, he states, “We live in an attention economy, one where the measure of success is in ‘time spent.’ There’s a lot of money to be made when we are spending our time on specific apps, company websites, and social media accounts. To that end, our technology is often designed around base metrics of ‘what grabs your attention?’”

With this in mind, according to Jung, the Hidden Time watch is meant to remind people of how they are spending their time—to draw people out of whatever their “time-suck” is and remind them that their time is limited and, thus, of terrible importance.

Indeed, time is our most valuable resource.
How to read Hidden Time

Art and Time

This watch’s sleek design allows the main focus to remain on the gradient face. It is made with top-of-the-line materials, and it is a testament to what is possible when art and technology merge. At it’s best, technology gives us new ways of seeing the world around us.

To that end, while mechanical aspects are often what tech stories are about, here, we see how inspiration and artistic interpretation can take something as simple as a watch and create a statement.

And keep in mind, creativity has allowed some of the greatest minds in history to answer questions that were previously thought unanswerable, to invent the never-before-seen, and derive new meaning from the natural world.

The post This Watch Changes Your Perception of Time appeared first on Futurism.

Meet Sally

Sally can make 1,000 different types of salads using 21 ingredients that change depending on what’s seasonally available. She can create a salad in just about a minute and doesn’t require a living wage because, well, she’s not living.

Will Automation Steal My Job?
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Created by robotics startup Chowbotics, Sally the Salad Robot is destined for popularity as it provides hungry patrons with a wealth of healthy options. Chef Charlie Ayers, the first executive chef at Google, created a number of signature salads that customers can choose to order, but if they are not interested in a pre-planned option, they can customize their meal from the different ingredients offered.

CEO Deepak Sekar hopes to provide quick, healthy meals to busy professionals, at least in part replacing greasy fast food options. Sally’s capabilities will soon be put to the test as Sekar hopes to have 125 of the robots in tech offices in the San Francisco area by the end of 2017.

The Age of Automation

Sally is a testament to the age of automation. It’s sign that, in the very near future, we might be interacting with far more robots and far fewer people. Sally confirms that even the preparation of a chef-curated signature meal can be completed by a machine.

Meet Sally. Image Credit: Chowbotics
Image Credit: Chowbotics

Now, Sally does still need humans to help it operate. The robot gets its ingredients from canisters that need to be loaded and reloaded by hand. But, even though humans are needed to keep the machine up and running, the difference between two humans interacting about a lunch order and the interaction between a human and Sally is monumentally different.

How automation will lead to job loss is a frequently discussed topic, and it is a major issue that we will have to find creative solutions to manage. But less talked about is how we, as humans, will change. If your daily interactions started to feature progressively fewer and fewer people, how might it affect you?

The post Sally Can Create and Serve 1,000 Different Meals, but This Chef’s Not Human appeared first on Futurism.

Titan Note turns speech into text instantly. It also edits, summarizes, shares, translates, charges your phone, and is a perfect portable speaker. At this point, being in class is just for fun.

The post This All-In-One Device Could Change the Way You Take Notes appeared first on Futurism.

As President Trump maps out plans for a border wall with Mexico, Customs and Border Protection is looking at a more mobile way to monitor the border: consumer drones.

The post Drones Could One Day Patrol US Borders appeared first on Futurism.

A Successful Test

On April 10, the U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin demonstrated manned/unmanned teaming, which is another way of saying autonomous operation, in an experimental F-16 aircraft. The aircraft acted as a surrogate unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) during the flight demonstration, which was designed to resemble an air-to-ground strike mission, and autonomously reacted to the dynamic threat environment.

The aircraft was successful during the demonstration, meaning that it met its three key objectives:

  • It was able to use available “assets” (information around it) along with mission priorities to autonomously plan and execute air-to-ground strike missions.
  • It was able to react dynamically to its changing threat environment while automatically managing contingencies for capability failures, loss of communication, and route deviations.
  • It maintained its Open Mission Systems (OMS) software integration environment and was fully compliant with USAF standards, ensuring that it could integrate software components developed by multiple providers quickly.

*3* The Military Just Demoed an F-16 That Flies And Executes Strikes By Itself

The first demonstration focused on control of advanced vehicles. The experimental F-16 began the demo by autonomously following a lead aircraft, flying in formation. Next, it conducted a ground-attack mission. Once it had completed its mission, it then automatically rejoined the lead aircraft. Throughout the sequence, Lockheed Martin automatic collision avoidance systems linked the capabilities to ensure safe, coordinated teaming between the surrogate UCAV and the F-16.

The Future of Combat

In the future, fleets of unmanned aircrafts may be heading into our skies to manage combat situations. This kind of technology, along with military drones and military robots, will hopefully make combat less deadly for humans.

7 Technologies Super Soldiers Will Be Using in Future Warfare
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Autonomous systems can access hazardous mission environments without endangering human soldiers. They also react faster than their human counterparts and aren’t susceptible to fatigue or stress. Effective manned/unmanned teaming allows the human warfighter to focus on complex and creative management and planning. It also reduces the high cognitive workload placed on soldiers and officers.

However, as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have warned, we must approach the use of AI in warfare with extreme caution. The potential dangers that come along with automated systems that are capable of doing massive amounts of destruction cannot be ignored, so testing like that of the F-16 is of the utmost importance as we enter this new era in combat.

The post The Military Just Demoed an F-16 That Flies and Executes Strikes by Itself appeared first on Futurism.

Our Current State

Several politicians and leaders in technology law are calling for the United States to create a department that concentrates on robotics and artificial intelligence (AI). AI is becoming ubiquitous, and is present in everything from your cell phone to self-driving cars.

The future of the workforce is in automation, and a plan needs to be in place for workers who are affected. In his farewell address, former president Barack Obama expressed his concerns about the impact of future tech. “The next wave of economic dislocation won’t come from overseas” Obama said. “It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes many good, middle-class jobs obsolete.”

The U.S. should start taking action to address Obama’s concerns, argues John Frank Weaver, a lawyer who specializes in AI law. In an interview with Inverse, he advocated the formation of federal commission or similar government entity to establish overarching regulations of AI and autonomous technology.

“The idea that there’s one body where congress and the executive branch are able to pool their resources and come up with a coherent federal policy for the country, both in terms of domestic policy and how we approach international treaties, I think is important, because of the potential dangers in a lot of areas,” Weaver said.

Some of these potential dangers might be privacy concerns from drones or smart TVs, or safety issues stemming from cars driven by AI. There are also economic implications to these technological advances: what happens to taxis, Uber, Lyft, long-haul trucking, and other industries when AI takes over driving? Who is responsible for accidents caused by self-driving vehicles? A centralized federal agency could tackle these problems and others.

The idea of a federal agency to regulate robotics isn’t new. Ryan Calo, professor at the University of Washington School of Law and adviser of the Obama administration, wrote a proposal for one in 2014. The proposal points out that private tech companies are already looking to government agencies for guidance in these uncharted technological territories. For example, Toyota approached NASA for help when their cars were unexpectedly accelerating. But NASA cannot take on all the problems that will come with a growing robotics industry — its members have too many other things to focus on.

Legislating Modalities

Currently, any regulations of robotics and AI are spread out across many organizations. The Federal Aviation Administration, Securities and Exchange Commission, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have some of the responsibility when it comes to robotics regulations. However, this arrangement doesn’t allow for full coverage or expertise in this highly technical and rapidly changing field.

The Laws of Robotics [INFOGRAPHIC]
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While the U.S. federal government is lagging behind technological advances, many states are struggling to come up with their own solutions. Legislation on autonomous vehicles has been passed Alabama, California, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia, as well as in Washington D.C. , since 2012. However, when you compare the body of legislation to that of the airline industry, it doesn’t even come close. If every department takes on only the robotics issues that affect it directly, there’s no across-the-board policy, which can lead to confusion.

It’s not like such policies are impossible to put in place. Japan and the European Union have both created robotics commissions along the lines of what Calo and Weaver have proposed. In Japan in particular, robotics is an enormous industry. In 2009, the nation employed over 25,000 robot workers, more than any other country. This could be a solution for the country’s declining birthrate and diminishing workforce. The European Union’s proposal covers rules and ethics governing robots in addition to tackling the societal issues that will arise.

The consequences of allowing the robotics industry to run a muck without oversight could have far-reaching consequences. For a similar example, remember the the banking industry collapsed of 2008, which occurred because of a lack of federal oversight when it came to banking regulations. Nine years later, the industry is still suffering, according to author Anat Admati.

She says that it’s necessary to look to experts first to put guidelines in place — politicians and regulators probably don’t have the specific knowledge necessary to create rules about driverless cars, for example. In an interview with Inverse, Admati said, “It is important that policymakers rely on sufficient, un-conflicted expertise and make sure to set rules in a timely manner. Otherwise, we may discover that risks have been ignored when it is too late and harm has occurred.”

In a situation linked to the economy, it is vital that we have regulations in place to prevent another collapse like in 2008. A federal robotics agency is necessary in order to nurture this growing industry — and protect the nation from its side effects.

The post If We Don’t Regulate Automation, It Could Decimate the U.S. Economy appeared first on Futurism.

Shoot full-color videos in the middle of the night.

The post You’ve Never Seen Night Like This appeared first on Futurism.

Gita is your own robotic caddy!

The post The Friendly Little Robot That’s Making the Future Easier appeared first on Futurism.

*Pew-Pew*

One of the hallmarks of our favorite science-fiction are the epic space battles where bolts of red and green light zip across the screen in opposing directions, connecting with spacecraft traveling at lightning speeds and causing glorious explosions in the vacuum of space. Of course, none of this is possible in reality thanks to the natural laws that govern such things.

Even so, modern innovation is bringing us closer to a similar future —at least one where laser weapons are a viable technology. In fact, some of the world’s biggest military contractors are currently developing prototypes for laser weaponry. The Navy has already been testing a 30 kW laser from the deck of the USS Ponce. Other more powerful lasers are being developed by Lockheed Martin to sit on trucks, prepared to defend against mortars and small drones.

Unfortunately, we won’t be able to tell the good guys from the bad guys just by looking at the color of their lasers; these real-life beams are colorless. Also — and perhaps most devastating of all — there won’t be a satisfying “pew-pew” with every shot.

U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams
U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams

 Missile Hunting

The lasers would work by heating the target’s insides, causing it to explode prematurely. The weapon needs to be locked onto its target of a few seconds in order to achieve this feat; an impressive feat considering the target can be traveling at great speeds, and up to 457 meters (500 yards) away.

The more powerful lasers may be coming within the next few years. Lasers powered at 150 kW could take out an incoming missile if hit from the side, and a 300 kW laser could even take out a missile head-on. Developing these technologies will allow for a much cheaper missile defense system: instead of firing off a multimillion-dollar missile to combat an incoming attack, these lasers can take their place.

Right now, the most restrictive aspect of this technology is the size of the equipment it takes to operate them. They require a lot of power and the systems to generate and store that power are cumbersome. Further research is hoping to address that issue to make these weapons more viable.

The post Soon, The Military May be Deploying Laser Weapons appeared first on Futurism.

Investing in Screens

Rumors about Google’s Pixel smartphone are swirling. One currently making the rounds in the South Korean press is that a one trillion KRW ($875 million) investment is in the works for LG Display, popular producer of screens for smartphones and tablets.

Super Materials of Tomorrow [INFOGRAPHIC]
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According to the Yonhap News Agency, the deal isn’t simply a purchase agreement — it’s a strategic move on two separate levels. Aside from potentially giving the Pixel curved edges courtesy of flexible organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels, the deal would also limit Google’s dependence on Samsung Display, which is nestled under Google’s rival Samsung and a supplier for Apple’s iPhones. Both Google and LG have yet to comment on the rumors.

The Pixel, which Google introduced in October 2016, has become quite a formidable contender in the world of smartphones. If these rumors are true, they confirm that Google wants to join smartphone giant Samsung in featuring devices with curved screens, which do seem to be the next step in screen technology for smartphones — according to other rumors, even Apple is moving toward them.

Changing Your World View

In a world in which so many devices rely on screen-based interactions, curved screens aren’t simply a gimmick — they’re a way for companies to reach their ultimate goal of transforming how we interact and communicate with our devices. However, they aren’t the only way.

Recent developments in flexible smartphones include building entire screens that can bend, with both Samsung and Apple having filed patents for such displays. Companies are also in pursuit of futuristic transparent screens, as seen in these see-through touch displays and in Panasonic’s invisible television, which is currently in the works. Touch displays are becoming increasingly more futuristic in general, with one company releasing a touch-screen mirror that serves as an artificially intelligent (AI) personal assistant.

But perhaps the best screen is no screen at all. Technologies like virtual reality (VR) and mixed-reality want to do away with screens altogether. VR has been gaining ground in terms of delivering a completely different view of the world, while mixed-reality is the focus of the highly intriguing company Magic Leap.

Devices that utilize augmented reality (AR), such as smart glasses, offer a compromise of sorts, still requiring a screen but making it more integrated into your daily life. The most well-known was Google Glass (now called Project Aura), and although the success of that project is debatable, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook is confident that AR will be the next biggest thing in tech.

Whether or not the future is powered by screens depends on which of these technologies improves the fastest and which people can’t wait to get their hands on — or, perhaps, off of.

The post Google’s Next Smartphone Screens Might Be Curved appeared first on Futurism.

Should robots pay taxes?

The post Robot Taxes Would Support the Workers They Displace appeared first on Futurism.

World War Mech

The moment we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived…well…kind of. We at least now know the month when the battle of the century will commence.

Back in 2015, a team of American engineers, under the MegaBots moniker, challenged their Japanese counterparts, named Suidobashi, to a giant robot mega-battle. The Americans wanted to pit their Mark II robot against Japan’s Kuratas. And, after nearly two years of anticipation, we can finally gear up to watch this battle, at an unspecified date in August, at an unspecified location.

While we may have visions of elegant swordplay with lightning fast parries and ripostes, it’s not likely that robotics has gotten to the level of science-fiction favorites like Gundam or Pacific Rim.

MegaBots was also able to generate $2.4 million dollars last year to create a robot fighting league.

Mecha-Future

Robotics have come a long way since Leonardo da Vinci gave the world its first recorded designs for a humanoid robot. Fittingly, it was made out of a suit of armor. Perhaps giant fighting robots were the logical conclusion to military technology.

Amazon’s CEO, Jef Bezos, recently demoed the world’s first manned bipedal robot. He couldn’t help but conjure images of Lex Luthor in his Warsuit or Obadiah Stane in the Iron Monger. This model isn’t likely to be battling superheroes anytime soon, but there are plenty of military robots already in existence and in development.

The software behind modern robots is also rapidly developing. There is now even tech available that allows humans to control robots with their minds.

These fighting robots may not have that capability, but humans aren’t likely mature enough to handle mind controlled mecha-fighters at this point in time anyhow. So tune into the MegaBot and Suidobashi YouTube channels this summer to see all of your twisted metal fantasies come true.

The post An Epic International Duel Between Giant Robots Is Going Down in August appeared first on Futurism.

Brick by Brick

Meet SAM — short for Semi-Automated Mason — created by the New York based Construction Robotics. SAM is capable of laying 3,000 bricks per day, and he is coming to the U.K. in a few months.

This Robot Works 500% Faster Than Humans, And it Puts Thousands of Jobs At Risk
Credit: Construction Robotics

SAM can work about 500 percent faster than humans, and discrepancy in labor cost that causes is significant. According to a report by Zero Hedge, 3,000 bricks boils down to a cost of 4.5 cents per brick. Based on a $15 per hour minimum wage rate and benefits, a human bricklayer with an average efficiency of about 500 bricks will cost construction firms about 32 cents per brick — that’s more than 7x the cost of an automated bricklayer.

SAM isn’t able to work independently, however. A builder still has to feed the bricks onto its conveyor belt, which will then be picked up by SAM’s robotic arm, slathered with mortar, and placed on the wall. From there, another bricklayer has to follow up SAM’s work by cleaning up excess mortar.

Construction Robotics

This kind of efficiency is emerging amid rising demand for construction services, which means it’s likely only a matter of time before the of technology will undergo mass adoption among construction companies.

Will Automation Steal My Job?
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Across the U.S., SAM has already been deployed in several construction sites. Now, Construction Robotics has announced its entry into the U.K. market later this year as it finalizes negotiations with various construction companies.

Not surprisingly, Since automation would likely lead to the displacement of numerous employees in the construction workforce, movement in that direction has been been met with a lot of resistance. Many in the field point out the complexity of other aspects of the construction process, which robots are currently not capable of handling. While this could limit the impact of automation on construction workers, it would not eliminate it. SAM is one example of why some experts are calling for nations to begin developing systems that will ensure our society can still function in a world where jobs will become less available to humans.

The post This Robot Works 500% Faster Than Humans, and It Puts Thousands of Jobs at Risk appeared first on Futurism.

The Way of the Beeper

One day, not too soon — but still sooner than you think — the smartphone will all but vanish, the way beepers and fax machines did before it.

Make no mistake: We’re still probably at least a decade away from any kind of meaningful shift away from the smartphone. (And if we’re all cyborgs by 2027, I’ll happily eat my words. Assuming we’re still eating at all, I guess.)

Yet, piece by piece, the groundwork for the eventual demise of the smartphone is being laid by Elon Musk, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and a countless number of startups that still have a part to play.

And, let me tell you: If and when the smartphone does die, that’s when things are going to get really weird for everybody. Not just in terms of individual products but in terms of how we actually live our everyday lives and maybe our humanity itself.

Here’s a brief look at the slow, ceaseless march toward the death of the smartphone — and what the post-smartphone world is shaping up to look like.

The Short Term

People think of the iPhone and the smartphones it inspired as revolutionary devices — small enough to carry everywhere, hefty enough to handle an increasingly large number of daily tasks, and packed full of the right mix of cameras and GPS sensors to make apps like Snapchat and Uber uniquely possible.

But consider the smartphone from another perspective. The desktop PC and the laptop are made up of some combination of a mouse, keyboard, and monitor. The smartphone just took that model, shrank it, and made the input virtual and touch-based.

So take, for example, the Samsung Galaxy S8, unveiled this week. It’s gorgeous with an amazing bezel-less screen and some real power under the hood. It’s impressive, but it’s more refinement than revolution.

Sansung Galaxy S8. Business Insider

Tellingly, though, the Galaxy S8 ships with Bixby, a new virtual assistant that Samsung promises will one day let you control every single feature and app with just your voice. It will also ship with a new version of the Gear VR virtual reality headset, developed in conjunction with Facebook’s Oculus.

The next iPhone, too, is said to be shipping with upgrades to the Siri assistant, along with features aimed at bringing augmented reality into the mainstream.

And as devices like the Amazon Echo, the Sony PlayStation VR, and the Apple Watch continue to enjoy limited but substantial success, expect to see a lot more tech companies large and small taking more gambles and making more experiments on the next big wave in computing interfaces.

The Medium Term

In the medium term, all of these various experimental and first-stage technologies will start to congeal into something familiar but bizarre.

Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and the Google-backed Magic Leap are all working to build standalone augmented-reality headsets, which project detailed 3D images straight into your eyes. Even Apple is rumored to be working on this.

Microsoft’s Alex Kipman recently told Business Insider that augmented reality could flat-out replace the smartphone, the TV, and anything else with a screen. There’s not much use for a separate device sitting in your pocket or on your entertainment center if all your calls, chats, movies, and games are beamed into your eyes and overlaid on the world around you.

At the same time, gadgetry like the Amazon Echo or Apple’s own AirPods become more and more important in this world. As artificial-intelligence systems like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Samsung’s Bixby, and Microsoft’s Cortana get smarter, there will be a rise not just in talking to computers but in having them talk back.

In other words, computers will hijack your senses, more so than they already do, with your sight and your hearing intermediated by technology. It’s a little scary. Think of what Facebook glitches could mean in a world where it doesn’t just control what you read on your phone but in what you see in the world around you.

The promise, though, is a world where real life and technology blend more seamlessly. The major tech companies promise that this future means a world of fewer technological distractions and more balance, as the physical and digital world become the same thing. You decide how you feel about that.

The Really Crazy Future

Still, all those decade-plus investments in the future still rely on gadgetry that you have to wear, even if it’s only a pair of glasses. Some of the craziest, most forward-looking, most unpredictable advancements go even further — provided you’re willing to wait a few extra decades, that is.

This week, we got our first look at Neuralink, a new company cofounded by Musk with a goal of building computers into our brains by way of “neural lace,” a very early-stage technology that lays on your brain and bridges it to a computer. It’s the next step beyond even that blending of the digital and physical worlds, as human and machine become one.

Assuming the science works — and lots of smart people believe that it will — this is the logical endpoint of the road that smartphones started us on. If smartphones gave us access to information and augmented reality puts that information in front of us when we need it, then putting neural lace in our brains just closes the gap.

Musk has said this is because the rise of artificial intelligence — which underpins a lot of the other technologies, including voice assistants and virtual reality — means humans will have to augment themselves just to keep up with the machines. If you’re really curious about this idea, futurist Ray Kurzweil is the leading voice on the topic.

The idea of human/machine fusion is a terrifying one, with science-fiction writers, technologists, and philosophers alike having very good cause to ask what even makes us human in the first place. At the same time, the idea is so new that nobody really knows what this world would look like in practice.

So if and when the smartphone dies, it’ll actually be the end of an era in more ways than one. It’ll be the end of machines that we carry with us passively and the beginning of something that bridges our bodies straight into the ebb and flow of digital information. It’s going to get weird.

And yet, lots of technologists already say that smartphones give us superpowers with access to knowledge, wisdom, and abilities beyond anything nature gave us. In some ways, augmenting the human mind would be the ultimate superpower. Then again, maybe I’m just an optimist.

The post Within the Next Decade, You Could Be Living in a Post-Smartphone World appeared first on Futurism.

As useful as Bluetooth is, it can also be annoying. The tech is great when you can get it to work, but because its connection is largely dependent on its compatibility with other devices and the surrounding environment, it can be an unreliable alternative to wired headsets and cords.

Things to Come: A Timeline of Future Technology [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

The arrival of Bluetooth 5.0 could change that.

Bluetooth 5.0 is twice as fast as the current standard (4.2), and it offers four times the range. That means it can connect to compatible tech like smartwatches or smart home devices that are up to 240 meters (800 feet) away. Bluetooth 5.0 is expected to further advance the internet of things (IoT) experience, and Samsung’s Galaxy S8 will be the first phone to offer it.

Apart from providing users with improved connectivity and performance, the Galaxy will also have a “Bluetooth Dual audio” feature. That update allows the phone to stream audio to two Bluetooth headsets or speakers simultaneously, while still allowing the user to independently control each device.

To complement what Samsung calls its new “infinity display,” the phone will have a resolution of 2960 x 1440 and run on either Samsung’s Exynos or Qualcomm’s newest Snapdragon 835 on a 10nm chip, which will allegedly lend itself to better battery life. The phone also comes with an iris scanner and a face detect system to unlock it, as well as Bixby, a new kind of virtual assistant that’s reportedly more intuitive than any other in phones today.

Both versions of the Galaxy S8, the 5.8-inch and the larger 6.2-inch S8 Plus, are now available for preorder and are expected to hit the U.S. market on April 21 at a cost of $720.

The post Samsung’s Galaxy S8 Will Be the World’s First Phone With Bluetooth 5.0 appeared first on Futurism.

Investor Interest

Since Rigetti Computing launched three years ago, the Berekely and Fremont-based startup has attracted a host of investors — including private American venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz (also known as A16Z). As of this week, Rigetting Computing has raised a total of $64 million after successfully hosting a Series A and Series B round of funding. 

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

The startup is attracting investors primarily because it promises to revolutionize quantum computing technology: “Rigetti has assembled an impressive team of scientists and engineers building the combination of hardware and software that has the potential to finally unlock quantum computing for computational chemistry, machine learning and much more,” Vijay Pande, a general partner at A16Z, said when the fundraising was announced.

Quantum Problem Solving

Quantum computers are expected to change computing forever in large part due to their speed and processing power. Instead of processing information the way existing systems do — relying on bits of 0s and 1s operating on miniature transistors — quantum computers use quantum bits (or qubits) that can both be a 0 or a 1 at the same time. This is thanks to a quantum phenomenon called superposition. In existing versions of quantum computers, this has been achieved using individual photons.

“Quantum computing will enable people to tackle a whole new set of problems that were previously unsolvable,” said Chad Rigetti, the startup’s founder and CEO. “This is the next generation of advanced computing technology. The potential to make a positive impact on humanity is enormous.” This translates to computing system that are capable of handling problems deemed too difficult for today’s computers. Such applications could be found everywhere from advanced medical research to even improved encryption and cybersecurity.

How is Rigetti Computing planning to revolutionize the technology? For starters, they’re building a quantum computing platform for artificial intelligence and computational chemistry. This can help overcome the logistical challenges that currently plague quantum computer development. They also have an API for quantum computing in the cloud, called Forest, that’s recently opened up private beta testing.

Rigetti expects it will be at least two more years before their technology can be applied to real world problems. But for interested investors, investing in such a technological game-changer sooner rather than later makes good business sense.

The post This Startup Plans to Revolutionize Quantum Computing Technology Faster Than Ever appeared first on Futurism.

Shut up and take our money!

The post The Magic Calendar Is, Well, Magical appeared first on Futurism.

Go anywhere and say anything with virtually no delay.

The post This Device Translates Any Language Almost Instantly appeared first on Futurism.

They’re cheaper than human guards and smarter than autonomous cars.

The post Robot Security Guards Are Just the Beginning appeared first on Futurism.

Handwritten notes just became automated.

The post These Aren’t Your Grandma’s Thank-You Notes appeared first on Futurism.

Nanomachines are tiny molecules – more than 10,000 lined up side by side would be narrower than the diameter of a human hair – that can move when they receive an external stimulus. They can already deliver medication within a body and serve as computer memories at the microscopic level. But as machines go, they haven’t been able to do much physical work – until now. The Conversation

My lab has used nano-sized building blocks to design a smart material that can perform work at a macroscopic scale, visible to the eye. A 3-D-printed lattice cube made out of polymer can lift 15 times its own weight – the equivalent of a human being lifting a car.

Nobel-Winning Roots are Rotaxanes

The design of our new material is based on Nobel Prize-winning research that turned mechanically interlocked molecules into work-performing machines at nanoscale – things like molecular elevators and nanocars.

Rotaxanes are one of the most widely investigated of these molecules. These dumbbell-shaped molecules are capable of converting input energy – in the forms of light, heat or altered pH – into molecular movements. That’s how these kinds of molecular structures got the nickname “nanomachines.”

For example, in a molecule called [2]rotaxane, composed of one ring on an axle, the ring can move along the axle to perform shuttling motions.

Left, a [2]rotaxane. The ring can shuttle along the axle. Right, representation of billions of [2]rotaxanes in solution. The motions of nano-rings counteract macroscopically. Chenfeng Ke, CC BY-ND

So far, harnessing the mechanical work of rotaxanes has been very challenging. When billions of these tiny machines are randomly oriented, the ring motions will cancel each other out, producing no useful work at a macroscale. In order to harness these molecular motions, scientists have to think about controlling their three-dimensional arrangement as well as synchronizing their motions.

Molecular Beads on a String

Our design is based on a well-investigated family of molecules called polyrotaxanes. These have multiple rings on a molecular axle. In our new material, the ring is a cyclic sugar and the axle is a polymer.

If we provide an external stimulus – like adding water – these rings randomly shuttling back and forth can instead stick to each other and form a tubular array. When that happens, it changes the stiffness of the molecule. It’s like when beads are threaded onto a string; many beads slid together make the string much stronger, like a rod.

Cartoon presentation of a polyrotaxane. The rings are changed from the shuttling state, left, to the stationary state, right. Chenfeng Ke, CC BY-ND

Our approach is to build a polymer system where billions of these molecules become stronger with added water. The strength of the whole architecture is increased and the structure can perform useful work.

In this way, we were able to get around the original problem of the random orientation of many nanomachines together. The addition of water locks them into a stationary state, therefore strengthening the whole 3-D architecture and allowing the united molecules to perform work together.

3-D Printing the Material

Our research is the first to add 3-D printability to mechanically interlocked molecules. It was integrating the 3-D printing technique that allowed us to transform the random shuttling motions of nano-sized rings into smart materials that perform work at macroscopic scale.

Getting the molecules all lined up in the right orientation is a way to amplify their motions. When we add water, the rings of the polyrotaxanes stick together via hydrogen bonds. The tubular arrays then stack together in a more ordered manner.

It’s much easier to get the molecules coordinated while they’re in this configuration as opposed to when the rings are all freely moving along the axle. We were able to successfully print lattice-like 3-D structures with the rings locked into position in this way. Now the molecules aren’t just randomly positioned within the material.

After 3-D-printing out the polymer, we used a photo-curing process – similar to the UV lamp that hardens nail polish at a salon – to cure it. We were left with a material that had good 3-D structural integrity and mechanical stability. Now it was ready to do some work.

Shape Changing Back and Forth

The three-dimensional geometry of the polymer is crucial for its shape changing. A hollow structure is easier to deform than a solid one. So we designed a lattice cube structure to maximize its shape-deformation ability and, in turn, its ability to do work as it switched back and forth from one state to the other.

The next important step was being able to control the work our polymer could do.

It turns out the complex 3-D architecture of these structures can be reversibly deformed and reformed. We were able to use a solvent to switch the threaded ring structure between random shuttling and stationary states at the molecular level. Exchanging the solvent let us easily repeat this shape-changing and recovery behavior many times.

This is how we converted chemical energy into mechanical work.

Just like moving beads to strengthen or weaken a string, this shape-changing is critical because it allows the amplification of molecular motion into macroscopic motion.

A 3-D printed lattice cube made of this smart material lifted a small coin 1.6 millimeters. The numbers may sound small for our day-to-day world, but this is a big step forward in the effort to get nanomachines doing macro work.

We hope this advance will enable scientists to further develop smart materials and devices. For example, by adding contraction and twisting to the rising motion, molecular machines could be used as soft robots performing complicated tasks similar to what a human hand can do.


Chenfeng Ke, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Dartmouth College

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Conversation

The post Researchers Use 3D Printing to Turn Microscopic Machines Into Powerful Workers appeared first on Futurism.

Daptly integrates with smart devices and your favorite apps.

The post This Mirror Can Double As Your Very Own Virtual Assistant appeared first on Futurism.

The octobot is a squishy robot that fits in your hand.

The post This Incredible Robot Doesn’t Need Batteries Or Computer Chips appeared first on Futurism.

We have made significant strides in exploring the universe for potential exoplanets harboring life, while we also made several efforts in establishing first contact with an intelligent species. But when it comes to exploring our own solar system, we might need more than just large telescopes and fancy radios. Cue NASA’s Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robot (PUFFER), a lightweight bot capable of adapting its shape to fit through tight spots and climbing steep slopes.

A Robotic Census Of Mars [Infographic]
Click to View Full Infographic

The origami-inspired miniature explorers have been in development at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California for almost a year and a half. The PUFFER has been tested in several terrains, from the Mojave Desert to Antarctica, in severe conditions that they wouldn’t send normal rovers to in the first place. This is partly due to the fact that the PUFFER has a printed circuit board, enabling the placement of more electronics than normal in a space as compact at the PUFFER. The wheels on the little bot were 3D printed and gained treads to enable climbing at steeper slopes. The PUFFER also has a high-resolution micro-imager sensitive enough to see objects smaller than a fraction of the diameter of a single human hair, enabling it to “skitter walk,” which keeps the bot inching forward a wheel at a time in difficult terrain. These mini-rovers are hardcore.

Little Rover, Big Universe

The mini-rovers are designed to scale up 45-degree slopes, drop into craters and pits, and investigate overhangs. For this reason, NASA intends to send the PUFFERs with larger rover companions. The rovers can be flattened like cards and stacked on top one of another for optimized storage and mobility.

Therefore, data collection can be a multifaceted effort, with the PUFFERs working side-by-side with the larger companion in doing science. The PUFFER can travel 625 meters (2,050 feet) on a single charge and is outfitted for winter terrains, making data collection in all types of areas easier.

But we’re not done yet. The PUFFER is still in need of upgrades to sample organic material and study the chemical make-up of its environment. The scientists also feel that the PUFFER needs to be larger before it is sent off into space. PUFFER project manager Jaakko Karras said: “”Small robotic explorers like PUFFER could change the way we do science on Mars. Like Sojourner before it, we think it’s an exciting advance in robotic design.”

The post The Next Generation of Explorers Might be Tiny, Folding Robots appeared first on Futurism.

Farming is about to change forever.

The post Farmers of the Future Will Sit Behind Screens appeared first on Futurism.

Who wouldn’t want a robot housekeeper?

The post Forget Vacuuming—Robots Can Sweep Now appeared first on Futurism.

Modern consumers crave touchscreens, but the screens’ brittle fragility is their downfall. In order for sensors to cover anything larger — like a robot — the technology will need to be cost-effective and flexible. An MIT research team might have found the solution in 3-D printing, according to a study published recently in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies.

The team, led by graduate student Subramanian Sundaram, set out to build a device that would physically respond to mechanical stresses. They were inspired by the golden tortoise beetle, which changes from its typical golden hue and flushes reddish orange when prodded or otherwise mechanically stressed. The team designed the sensors with “pixel” that change color when the sensor is pressed to prove that it is feasible to blend processing circuitry and sensors in printable, flexible electronics.

“In nature, networks of sensors and interconnects are called sensorimotor pathways,” Sundaram said in an MIT press release. “We were trying to see whether we could replicate sensorimotor pathways inside a 3-D-printed object. So we considered the simplest organism we could find.”

Researchers have designed and built a device that responds to mechanical stresses by changing the color of a spot on its surface. Image: Subramanian Sundaram
Credit: Subramanian Sundaram

Printable electronics aren’t exactly new, but existing printable electronics take a plastic substrate and deposit flexible circuitry on it. The team working on this artificial “goldbug” actually printed the substrate itself. Choosing and customizing the substrate means fewer limitations in terms of what can be deposited atop it, in turn increasing the variety of devices this process has the potential to create.

Printable, Sensor-Laden Robot Skin

3-D-printed substrates will also make printable, sensor-laden robot skin possible. Although printed substrates are initially flat sheets as they print out, they can then transform into more intricate, 3-D shapes as they fold themselves up.

For example, researchers at the CSAIL Distributed Robotics Laboratory are developing self-assembling, printable robots. These robots work like the shrinky dinks of the future, going into the oven flat, and coming out folded into shape. This strategy demonstrates the power of 3-D printing an entire component — or robot — rather than simply printing individual parts of it.

“We believe that only if you’re able to print the underlying substrate can you begin to think about printing a more complex shape,” Sundaram says.

Here’s How 3D Printing is Changing Our World
Click to View Full Infographic

Ultimately, the goal would be to use an underlying substrate that was packed with sensors as well as working transistors so that the robot would be able to determine which inputs were important and which were just sensory “noise.” This substrate would be the ideal skin for a robot intended to react to its environment and interact intelligently with people and things around it.

The post We Could Create Robots That Can Feel, Thanks to New Sensor-Laden “Robotic Skin” appeared first on Futurism.

There’s never been a messaging board like this.

The post Meet the Picture Frame That Creates Its Own Art appeared first on Futurism.

There are fans, and then there are fans. Allen Pan falls into the latter category. This Zelda fan built a Raspberry Pi-based automated home system that allows him to control his entire house with an ocarina, the ancient wind-powered musical instrument used in the game.

Watch Pan demonstrate how his ocarina-controlled system operates in the video below, which is provided by Sufficiently Advanced/YouTube.

To make his system work, Pan used a Raspberry Pi, a $35 miniature computer, and a series of wirelessly connected microphones and sensors placed throughout his home. He then programmed the DIY system to respond to specific songs from the game “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.”

Now, as long as Pan has his ocarina with him and can remember the notes to each song, he can unlock the front door, find his cellphone, or learn the time. Some songs are even matched to the actions they trigger. If he plays “Song of the Sun” anywhere in the house, the lights turn on. “Bolero of Fire” turns up the heat. “Minuet of Forest” waters the plants. It’s a unique way to bring a favorite video game to life.

The post Watch This Zelda Super Fan Magically Control His Home With an Ocarina appeared first on Futurism.

 A Supervillain Billionaire?

One of the world’s billionaires now has built and tested his own gigantic robot suit. No, I’m not talking about the infamous antagonist of the superman series, Lex Luthor. Instead, it’s the well-known CEO of Amazon, founder of BlueOrigin, and owner of the WashingtonPost, Jeff Bezos, who, now that you mention it, might not look too different from Lex Luthor or even Jeff Bridges’ character from Iron Man.

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Credit: Hankook Mirai Technology, Future Designs

Amazon hosted its invitation-only Machine-Learning, Automation, and Space Exploration (MARS2017) conference this week. This is where Bezos introduced the Method 2. The company CEO gladly stretched his arms wide while sitting the robust machine, having the suit mimic his movements and display its physical prowess to the audience of the highly coveted conference. While other reports are alarmed by Bezo’s acquisition of the robot, his genuinely excited smile assured many of his continued interest in investing in new, beneficial technology.

The Method 2

The 4-meter-tall (13-foot-tall) robot suit, weighing in at 1.5 tons, was created by the South Korean technology firm, Hankook Mirae Technology, that claims the “robot is the world’s first manned bipedal robot and is built to work in extreme hazardous areas where humans cannot go (unprotected).” The comments come from Mirae company chairman, Yang Jin-Ho, who might have to jump a few more hurdles before The Method 2 is fully completed. Reports suggest that the $8.3 million robot might not be able to walk yet, let alone take on demilitarized war zones between North and South Korea. 

Pushing aside the technological specifics, if you think the suit looks familiar, that’s because it is. The suit itself was designed by Vitaly Bulgarov, someone recognized for his work on transformers, terminator, robo-cop, and even Boston Dynamics’ bipedal robots.

The Laws of Robotics [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

Currently, there are claims that the suits will help clean up and restore Fukushima in response to the 2011 nuclear energy accident. Moreover, others are keen to militarize the concept if the model proves successful and versatile.

Hopefully, they are looking for more test pilots, because it does look like fun.

The post Amazon’s CEO Just Demoed the World’s First Manned Bipedal Robot appeared first on Futurism.

Graphene Super Skin

Researchers in Hyderabad, India, have just discovered the extraordinary self-healing properties of graphene. They hope this revelation will lead to the development of flexible sensors that can heal themselves for use in artificial skin. This would allow robots to have self-healing skin, just like their human counterparts. The researchers published their discovery in Open Physics.

Graphene is the strongest material in the world to date, yet it is a sheet of pure carbon atoms one million times thinner than paper — thin enough to qualify as two dimensional. It is still expensive, yet it remains one of the most promising nanomaterials due to its wide range of potential applications and unique properties. Furthermore, recent discoveries suggest we will soon be able to easily and cheaply reproduce it large scale.

Skin is difficult to copy precisely because of its self-healing properties. It is gentle yet highly protective, pliable but resistant to stress. Emulating these qualities in skins created with artificial substances has been a daunting task; bending, scratches, and stretches in artificial skins for robots makes them overly susceptible to fissures and ruptures.

This work provides a novel answer to the problem of creating artificial skin. If a sub-nano sensor in the graphene could sense a crack in itself, the skin could begin to repair it and prevent it from spreading; it also works to heal cracks that have already spread. In fact, these results showed that spontaneous recombination of dangling bonds prompted self-healing whenever a crack passed a critical displacement threshold.

Many Applications

The researchers believe this technology will be viable soon, perhaps for next generation robots.

“We wanted to observe the self-healing behavior of both pristine and defected single layer graphene and its application in sub-nano sensors for crack spotting by using molecular dynamic simulation,” main author Swati Ghosh Acharyya said in an interview with Newswise. “We were able to document the self-healing of cracks in graphene without the presence of any external stimulus and at room temperature.”

Graphene: The Miracle Material of the Future [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

Graphene, widely known in scientific circles as a “wonder material,” has many other applications. Simulating the self-healing properties of human skin in artificial skin products will make a huge range of applications possible, including mobile devices, sensors, and ultracapacitors. Graphene was also recently found to have superconductive properties, which means it can be used to make MRI machines, levitating trains, or particle accelerators.

Graphene stickers can increase battery life in cell phones, and scientists have also discovered that graphene is an efficient electrocatalyst when “doped” with nitrogen, meaning that it can convert environmentally detrimental carbon dioxide into useful fuels. Graphene added into everyday substances gives them new utility. For example, graphene silly putty can measure vital signs, and researchers believe that graphene textiles will be the future of wearable electronics.

Chalk up another win for the wonder material.

The post Your Skin Heals Itself. Soon, Robots’ Skin Will, Too. appeared first on Futurism.

Investing in the Future

Today, seed funding provider Y Combinator introduced 52 startups at Day One of its W17 Demo Day, which is actually a two-day event. The companies hailed from a wide range of industries, including artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), and health and medicine, and many showcased apps that aim to improve one aspect or another of our daily lives.

After the last Demo Day, we highlighted 10 of the most promising startups featured on Day One. Now, we’ll give you the five companies we thought were the most futuristic — or, at the very least, interesting.

Pantheon VR

Though the technology has been around for a while, VR remains a potential game changer, and Pantheon VR wants you to be part of that change. Its VR game creation tool lets you sculpt and add textures to shapes. You can create your VR world, then use a drag-and-drop tool to add in simple game mechanics. Creators can publish their works instantly to the platform, which hopes to become the YouTube of VR gaming.

Image credit: Pantheon VR
Image credit: Pantheon VR

Vinsight

Vinsight wants to help farmers earn more money by not losing crops due to bad forecasting. The startup’s crop yield forecasting tool uses machine learning, satellite imagery, weather data, and historical reports to generate insight — or actionable intelligence — that the company claims is four times better than what’s currently available. Vinsight is already being used by the world’s largest winery and second largest almond producer. It charges $25 per acre, which isn’t much compared to the $11 billion a year that U.S. farmers lose from bad forecasting.

Image credit: Vinsight
Image credit: Vinsight

Cambridge Bio-Augmentation Systems (CBAS)

Of course, in any lineup of futuristic tech, you’ll find at least one focused on robotics or, in this case, robot prosthetics. Cambridge Bio-Augmentation Systems (CBAS) wants to be the standard for bionic implants. “We work on solving and standardizing the connection between bionic devices and neural & soft-tissue systems within the body,” according to their website. Currently, the company is working on a low-cost implant that can connect a bionic device to any part of the body.

Image credit: CBAS
Image credit: CBAS

Cowlar

Because helping animals stay healthy is part of any happy future, Demo Day also featured a startup that wants to do just that for bovines. Cowlar is a wearable tech for cows (obviously) that keeps track of the animal’s temperature, activity, and other data. It uses a solar-powered “cow router” to collect all this data in real-time and then makes it available to farmers.

Image credit: Cowlar
Image credit: Cowlar

Sinovia

Flexible displays are gaining traction, and Sinovia Technologies hopes to be at the forefront of the trend. The startup wants to make OLED displays for devices with smaller screens 80 percent cheaper using a technology that allows them to print paper-thin, transparent, flexible displays roll-to-roll, the same way newspapers and magazines are printed.

Image credit: Sinovia, screenshot
Image credit: Sinovia, screenshot

Truly, the event featured far too many interesting startups to mention them all here, and we’re only through Day One. Tomorrow is sure to bring just as much innovation — though perhaps not quite as many wearables for farm animals.

The post The Most Futuristic Companies That Just Launched at Y Combinator Demo Day 1 appeared first on Futurism.

Facebook’s Building 8

In April 2016, Facebook announced the launch of Building 8, a research lab to develop hardware projects in the style of DARPA. The internet behemoth even enlisted former DARPA executive Regina Dugan to head up the division. Dugan, who was part of Google’s advanced projects division before taking on Building 8, has been leading an “all-star roster of tech veterans” since the project started.

*2* Building 8: Facebook’s Secret Innovation Weapon
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Currently, Building 8 has four projects underway, and they touch upon cameras and augmented reality, devices that fly, and even brain-scanning technology. According to Business Insider, the technical lead for each project functions as a mini-CEO for the team, which has two years to produce a proof of concept.

None of these new products have been released yet, but Facebook’s developer conference, FB8, takes place in San Jose, California, on April 18 and 19, and Building 8’s new toys could play a central role at the event, though nothing on the schedule explicitly mentions the division.

A Range of Innovation

With Building 8, Facebook took a risk, stepping into hardware development despite a lack of experience in that realm, and they’re now competing against giants like Google and Apple. The new division is even structured very similarly to Google’s ATAP and X moonshot lab, and teams are conducting research in some of the same areas.

A Facebook that can read your mind has been on Mark Zuckerberg’s mind for a while now, and Building 8’s team includes a neuroscientist, formerly of Johns Hopkins, who was part of the team that developed a mind-controlled prosthetic arm. This scientist now leads the brain-scanning tech project for Building 8.

Introducing both virtual and augmented reality into the Facebook world has also been an interest of Zuckerberg’s, and another current Building 8 project involves cameras and augmented reality.

*2* Building 8: Facebook’s Secret Innovation Weapon
Image Credit: Facebook

A third project with medical applications is being led by a Stanford interventional cardiologist with expertise in the development of early stage medical devices. These academic collaborations are also a part of the Facebook long game, which culminated with the launch of SARA, the “Sponsored Academic Research Agreement,” in December 2016.

Building 8 is also taking to the air with the help of Frank Dellaert, a computer vision and robotics expert leading what appears to be a consumer drone project. Dellaert was previously the chief scientist at Skydio, a drone startup, and that company’s former head of hardware, Stephen McClure, has also signed on to Building 8. They are joined by several former GoPro employees. Dugan wrote of Dellaert, “He’s going to help us make things fly … when he’s not guarding the door.”

Building 8 is reportedly planning to jumpstart a fifth project, as yet unspecified and leaderless.

Based on the highly qualified hires for Building 8, Facebook appears to view the division as a long-term investment and is quite serious about manufacturing and selling its own devices — whatever they turn out to be.

The post Inside Building 8, Facebook’s Secret Innovation Weapon appeared first on Futurism.

A Different Kind of Li-Fi

In 2011, the term light fidelity, or Li-Fi, was coined during a TED Talk by University of Edinburgh professor Harald Haas. It originally referred to an idea Haas had about using light bulbs as wireless routers. Li-Fi has since developed to refer to a Visible Light Communications (VLC) system for wireless communications using common household LEDs.

*5* Researchers Just Unveiled A New Li-Fi System That’s 100 Times Faster Than Wi-Fi
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Now, a research team has found another way to harness the power of light for a more secure and stable wireless connection. Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology, led by Joanne Oh, have developed a Li-Fi system that utilizes harmless infrared rays. It was developed as part of the BROWSE project headed by Ton Koonen.

At more than 40 Gbit/s per ray, the Li-Fi system’s data capacity is greater than that of a Wi-Fi system. This is possible thanks to the infrared rays the researchers used, which had wavelengths of 1500 nanometers and higher. According to Oh, they even managed speeds of up to 42.8 Gbit/s over a distance of 2.5 meters (8.2 feet). In comparison, most Wi-Fi networks are capable of no more than 300 Mbit/s.

Directable Infrared Rays

This Li-Fi system uses light antennas to transmit wireless data. These antennas can very precisely direct rays of light from an optical fiber, and each antenna contains a pair of gratings capable of radiating light rays of different wavelengths and at different angles. As such, the system can eliminate interference. These antennas could be set up on a ceiling, and moving outside the range of one light antenna simply puts you in the range of another.

Image credit: SK Energy
Image credit: SK Energy

Adding extra devices to a single antenna won’t be a problem, as each device is given a unique wavelength. That setup results in a connection that isn’t shared by any two devices, which eliminates congestion, a common cause of slow connections in existing Wi-Fi networks. The gratings used by Oh’s team can handle many rays of light and devices simultaneously.

It’s promising work that could deliver on the many benefits of Li-Fi, including increased security and efficiency. Koonen expects that the technology could be available in five or so years. For now, the researchers will continue to work on improving their “indoor optical wireless network.”

The post Researchers Just Unveiled a New Li-Fi System That’s 100 Times Faster Than Wi-Fi appeared first on Futurism.

Duct tape may only be the *second* best tape…

The post Super Strong, Malleable, Flexible Tape Is Changing the Game appeared first on Futurism.

This robot is unstoppable. And pretty cute, too.

The post Minitaur Has Never Met an Obstacle It Couldn’t Overcome appeared first on Futurism.

If you’re familiar with HBO’s comedy series “Silicon Valley,” then you might know a thing or two about the importance of shrinking file sizes. Google clearly understands the value of file compression as they have developed a new algorithm that takes it to the next level.

Guetzli is an open source JPEG encoder developed by Google Research, and the algorithm it employs can produce JPEGs that are 35 percent smaller while retaining the same level of clarity. To accomplish this, Guetzli trades visual quality for a smaller file size at the quantization stage of image compression.

Image credit: Google
Uncompressed image (Left), Guetzli’s (Right), and libjpeg’s (Center). Image credit: Google Research

According to Google, the psychovisual modeling of Guetzli “approximates color perception and visual masking in a more thorough and detailed way than what is achievable” in existing methods. Ultimately, that means these smaller images will look just as good to the average person. In fact, in experiments comparing compressed images, human raters preferred the Guetzli-produced images over those created by libjpeg, even when the latter’s images were a larger file size.

Guetzli’s files are smaller, yes, but it takes the encoder a bit longer than other compression methods to shrink images. However, we’re left with smaller-sized images that don’t sacrifice quality, and these compressed images will shrink the time it takes Google to load websites and services, which is a good thing for both internet users and Google.

The post Google Has a New Algorithm That Shrinks JPEGs by 35% appeared first on Futurism.

Serious Overkill

In a rather unusual show of force, a U.S. ally shot down a small quadcopter drone using a Patriot missile, according to Gen. David Perkins, speaking at the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force symposium. And it wasn’t a drill. “We have a very close ally of ours that was dealing with an adversary using small quadcopter [unmanned aircraft systems],” Perkins said. “They shot it down with a Patriot missile.”

A Patriot is a surface-to-air missile (SAM) that can strike long-range targets at all altitudes. Capable of reaching speeds in excess of Mach 2, Patriots are produced by U.S. defense contractors Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, and each one costs around $3 million. Meanwhile, a typical quadcopter drone can travel 80 km/h (50 mph) tops and can be bought on Amazon for about $200.

“I’m not sure that’s a good economic exchange ratio.”

The strike wasn’t arbitrary. According to some reports, groups have attacked security forces in the past using this type of small commercial drone by attaching weapons to it. It appears the particular U.S. ally in Gen. Perkins’ anecdote didn’t want to take any chances on that being the case and decided to swat down the drone using a more-than-capable missile.

Obviously, this was a disproportionate response. “That quadcopter that cost 200 bucks from Amazon.com did not stand a chance against a Patriot,” Gen. Perkins told his audience in Alabama. Yes, the Patriot did the job. But was it worth the cost?

“I’m not sure that’s a good economic exchange ratio,” the general said, noting the glaring difference in price between the drone and a Patriot. “In fact, if I’m the enemy, I’m thinking, ‘Hey, I’m just gonna get on eBay and buy as many of these $300 quadcopters as I can and expend all the Patriot missiles out there.’”

Image credit: Photopin
Image credit: Photopin

Responding to Evolving Threats

Perhaps the strangeness of this encounter actually highlights the changing landscape of war. On the one hand, we have modern weaponry, the tech designed for the battlefield. However, recent advances in technology have extended the possibilities of how warfare could be conducted to include even commercial devices, such as drones.

This story from Perkins illustrates our need to develop appropriate responses to every level of security threat. Andre Liptak from The Verge laid it out nicely in a very precise analogy: “While a fly buzzing around is a nuisance, a fly swatter is a better solution than a shotgun.”

*5* Using a Patriot Missile to Kill a Small Drone Isn’t a Good Idea
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“It is clearly enormous overkill,” Royal United Services Institute researcher Justin Bronk told the BBC in reference to the drone takedown. “It certainly exposes in very stark terms the challenge which militaries face in attempting to deal with the adaptation of cheap and readily available civilian technology with extremely expensive, high-end hardware designed for state-on-state warfare.”

One thing is for sure, though. At that particular moment, it was better to be the one with the Patriot than the one with the drone.

The post A Country Just Used a Patriot Missile to Take Down a $200 Drone appeared first on Futurism.

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