Information can be scary, and even more so when we find ourselves humbled by its immensity. In a press release issued earlier this week, the European Commission has once again demonstrated that it is not afraid of big data. Quite the opposite, Europe is more than ever ready to embrace it – a gesture, which is reflected in Europe’s strong bet on research projects like CEEDs, which uses big data to enhance human cognition and improve problem solving.
Should we make robots more human-like? A hit Swedish TV showhas a say
Credit: Real Humans
Although we may be decades away from building truly life-like humanoid robots, it is never too early to start questioning the legal and ethical implications of creating machines that are hard to tell apart from ourselves. In a brave leap of imagination, Real Humans, a popular Swedish TV show, written by Lars Lundstroem, deliberately blurs the line between humans and robots to explore what it means to be human.
Last week, the eyes of the scientific community were fixed on the € 1.2 billion Human Brain Project (HBP) as more than 150 European neuroscientists raised concerns over the project’s management in an open letter to the European Commission.
One of the two Europe’s Flagship Initiatives, the HBP spans 112 research institutions across 24 countries and was launched last year with the grand vision of creating a long-needed ICT infrastructure for future brain research. Not without controversy, the project adopted a bottom-up approach to build a computer simulation of the brain based exclusively on the fundamental understanding of neurons and their interactions.
A new breed of muscle-powered robots can walk on command
Credit: University of Illinois at Urbana-Campaign
Robots can be very strong, fast and enduring. However, unlike in animals, none of this strength comes from muscle, instead robots mainly rely on electrical motors and other hard and generally inflexible parts. But with all the advantages that conventional robot hardware can deliver, it still does not match the ability of muscle-powered animals to provide an accurate response to different physical environments. To address this downside of robotics, a group of researchers, led by Professor Rashid Bashir, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Campaign developed tiny walking bio-robots powered by engineered muscle tissue.
Every year, Telluride, a small mountain town in Colorado, attracts an international roster of scientists from several disciplines for three weeks of intensive discussion and exchange of ideas about neuromorphic engineering, a rapidly expanding research field that promises to bridge the gap between the lifeless silicon of computer chips and the very much lively brain-based biological systems. This year is not an exception: the Telluride workshop is now in full swing and will continue until July 19.
A new European project hopes to make robots more trustworthy
Year by year, robots become better and better at negotiating each time more complex social interactions with humans. However, much as their social intelligence has improved, these interactions still suffer from a lack of transparency. In other words, unlike humans, robots are not capable of understanding and explaining their actions in intentional terms, which prevents them from having more effective communication with humans. To the joy of robots and humans alike, this challenge is now addressed by the What You Say Is What You Did (WYSIWYD) project, launched earlier this year.
Pepper, a new humanoid robot introduced earlier this month in Japan, may herald the beginning of a new era in personal robotics. Unlike its ancestors, such as Mitsubishi’s Wakamaru and Sony’s QRIO, who had to join the halls of robot extinction, Pepper, developed jointly by the French robotics company Aldebaran and the Japanese telecom giant SoftBank, is here to stay.
Having spent almost ten years in a wheelchair after a car crash left her paralysed below the chest, Sophie Morgan was finally able to stand on her feet and walk again. What got her out of the wheelchair was not some kind of groundbreaking therapy, but a robotic exoskeleton developed by the New Zealand-based company Rex Bionics. Continue reading →
Last week, the Japanese company Hitachi rolled out the latest version of their EMIEW2 service robot (Excellent Mobility and Interactive Existence as Workmate). And to the horror of all professional comedians trembling for their jobs, this time the robot returned with a sense of humour.