Russia dispatched an unmanned spacecraft containing a life-size humanoid robot to the International Space Station (ISS), where it will learn skills for assisting astronauts. The robot Fedor (Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research) communicates its activities and progress via Instagram and Twitter accounts, and it will test newly-acquired manual skills in the ISS’ microgravity environment. The Roscosmos Russian space agency’s Alexander Bloshenko said such skills include “connecting and disconnecting electric cables [and] using standard items, from a screwdriver and a spanner to a fire extinguisher.” Fedor mimics human movements, which allows it to remotely assist astronauts, and people on Earth, in executing tasks.
More info here: Agence France-Presse
Researchers at Keio University in Japan have developed a prototype robot tail to enhance human balance and help make seniors less susceptible to falls. The modular Arque prototype is modeled after a seahorse tail, and employs artificial vertebrae and pneumatic muscles driven by pressurized air to move. The tail’s creators said its design “is fluid and customizable in length.” The researchers also utilize a wearable body tracker to calculate a person’s center of gravity, so the tail can swing as a counterbalance. In addition to serving as a mobility aide, the researchers also foresee recreational uses for the tail, like using it in virtual reality games to make them more immersive.
More info here: James Cook, August 5, 2019
A team of researchers from Tsinghua University in China has developed a self-driving bicycle outfitted with artificial intelligence, which navigates using a neuromorphic chip. The researchers envision the Tianjic processor as helping machines respond to vocal commands, recognize their surroundings, evade obstacles, and maintain balance. The bicycle uses the chip to efficiently run software previously trained for specific tasks vital for battery-powered vehicles. Researchers hope ultimately to combine the training process with in-the-moment execution, so the bicycle can learn as it goes. The Chinese scientists view the Tianjic chip as a milestone toward “artificial general intelligence.” The hope is that such chips eventually will allow machines to learn more complex tasks more efficiently, and be more adaptable in executing them. “That is where we see the big promise,” said Mike Davies, who oversees Intel’s efforts to build neuromorphic chips.
More info here: The New York Times, Cade Metz
A team of chemistry and physics researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) developed an algorithm that can more effectively calculate the properties of molecules on a noisy quantum computer. With today’s quantum computers, scientists have to deal with so much noise accumulating within a circuit that a computation degrades and renders any subsequent calculations inaccurate. The Virginia Tech team solved this problem by developing a method that grows the circuit in an iterative way. Said Virginia Tech researcher Nick Mayhall, “We start with a minimal circuit, then grow it as we add on logic gate after logic gate in short circuits until the computer finds the solution.”
More info here: Virginia Tech News, Lon Wagner
Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel have developed a method which they say can predict the onset of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis. The researchers used this method to sequence gene activity in real meetings between thousands of immune cells and Salmonella bacteria. The method allowed the researchers to see cells’ responses to the bacteria, and map each cell’s activation profile. The team identified different responses and patterns from the initial meetings between the cells and bacteria and their later outcomes, from which they developed an algorithm based on deconvolution to get similar data on the properties of individual cells from standard blood test data sets. Said Institute researcher Noa Bossel Ben Moshe, “The algorithm we developed can not only define the ensemble of immune cells that take part in the response, it can reveal their activity levels and thus the potential strength of the immune response.”
More info here: Jerusalem Post, Eytan Halon
Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) researchers developed an artificial intelligence (AI) program that beat elite professional poker players at six-player no-limit Texas hold’em poker. CMU’s Noam Brown and Tuomas Sandholm created the Pluribus AI by updating an earlier program, Libratus, which only plays two-player matches. The researchers revamped Libratus’ search algorithm, which searches to the end of a game before selecting an action. Adding more players negated the practicality of this approach, so Brown and Sandholm invented a technique that permitted Pluribus to make good choices after looking ahead only a few moves. Pluribus trained itself by initially playing poker randomly, and improved as it ascertained which actions won more money; after each hand, it reevaluated its moves, and checked whether it would have won more with different actions, which it will be more likely to utilize later on.
More info here: Nature, Douglas Heaven
The Minho Advanced Computing Center at Portugal’s University of Minho has inaugurated the country’s first supercomputer. The system, called “BOB,” will enable “ten times the national computing capacity,” according to Portugal’s Foundation for Science and Technology, and will encourage scientific and business cooperation in data science and artificial intelligence. The new Computing Center was designed to power the supercomputer mostly with renewable energy. The system will provide services for research in bioinformatics, climate, maritime safety, fisheries, mobility in cities, and forest fire risk management, according to the Portuguese Ministry of Science. A system called “Deucalion” that will be capable of running 10 billion transactions a second is scheduled to join BOB by the end of next year.
More info here: Xinhua
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