20 March 2017

Robots Are Creating Their Own Language

A new experiment conducted by an artificial intelligence lab has proved successful in getting robots to lay the groundwork for creating their very own language. Experts at Open AI, the artificial intelligence lab, designed a two-dimensional big, white square where robots had to learn how to communicate with each other in order to accomplish menial tasks. The robots, which were green, red and blue circles, had to do things like moving themselves, or telling each other to move, from point A to point B. If they wanted to be successful, they had to talk to each other.

They used reinforcement learning, according to the group. This trial-and-error technique had the robots trying out a bunch of different sounds to figure out what worked and what didn’t. And just as human language evolved through words, sounds and gestures, Wired.com writes that robots will eventually be able communicate their ideas using sentences. Open AI’s next project is developing a robot-to-English translator, so hopefully we’ll get a heads-up when the robots start talking about how they plan to take over the world.

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14 March 2017

We Sleep to Forget

Over the years, scientists have come up with a lot of ideas about why we sleep. Some have argued that it’s a way to save energy. Others have suggested that slumber provides an opportunity to clear away the brain’s cellular waste. Still others have proposed that sleep simply forces animals to lie still, letting them hide from predators. A pair of papers published on Thursday in the journal Science offer evidence for another notion: We sleep to forget some of the things we learn each day.

In order to learn, we have to grow connections, or synapses, between the neurons in our brains. These connections enable neurons to send signals to one another quickly and efficiently. We store new memories in these networks. In 2003, biologists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, proposed that synapses grew so exuberantly during the day that our brain circuits got noisy. When we sleep, the scientists argued, our brains pare back the connections to lift the signal over the noise.

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05 March 2017

Boston Dynamics 'Handle' Robot

Boston Dynamics' latest robot is called Handle and unlike its previous robots that ran, jumped or walked, this two-legged monstrosity gets around on small wheels. Even with the adjustment, the video shows clearly how it can still get down stairs, navigate down a snowy hill, and pull off impressive leaps even while moving.

The company says it's designed to carry things. Handle is 6.5 feet tall, can jump 4 feet and travels at speeds of up to 9mph. According to the description on the video, it combines hydraulic and electric actuators, and can travel up to 15 miles between charges and it's apparently less complex than the quadruped and bipedal robots.

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04 March 2017

Robots Made with Human Flesh

Two University of Oxford biomedical researchers are calling for robots to be built with real human tissue, and they say the technology is there if we only choose to develop it. Right now, tissue engineering relies on bioreactors to grow sheets of cells. These machines often look like large fish tanks, filled with a rich soup of nutrients and chemicals that cells need to grow on a specialized trellis. The problem, is that bioreactors currently fail to mimic the real mechanical environment for cells. In other words, human cells in muscles and tendons grow while being stretched and moved around on our skeletons. Without experiencing these natural stresses, the tissue grafts produced by researchers often have a broad range of structural problems and low cell counts. That's where robots come in. The researchers propose a humanoid-bioreactor system with structures, dimensions, and mechanics similar to those of the human body.

As the robot interacted with its environment, tissues growing on its body would receive the typical strains and twists that they would if they grew on an actual human. The result would be healthy tissue, grown for the exact area on the body it was destined to replace. Researchers note that this would be especially helpful for bone-tendon-muscle grafts, because failure during healing often occurs at the interface between tissues. What would this humanoid-bioreactor system look like? It could possibly be built on top of a humanoid robot with soft robotics muscles made from electroactive polymers, and the growing muscles could piggyback on those to get their exercise. It would also need to be covered in soft, stretchable sensors to monitor the health of the growing tissues. The result might look a bit like the University of Tokyo's Kenshiro robot, whose actuators make realistically human movements.

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26 February 2017

BCIs Allow Fast and Accurate Typing For Patients

A clinical research publication led by Stanford University investigators has demonstrated that a brain-to-computer hookup can enable people with paralysis to type via direct brain control at the highest speeds and accuracy levels reported to date. The report involved three study participants with severe limb weakness - two from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, and one from a spinal cord injury. They each had one or two baby-aspirin-sized electrode arrays placed in their brains to record signals from the motor cortex, a region controlling muscle movement. These signals were transmitted to a computer via a cable and translated by algorithms into point-and-click commands guiding a cursor to characters on an onscreen keyboard.

Each participant, after minimal training, mastered the technique sufficiently to outperform the results of any previous test of brain-computer interfaces, or BCIs, for enhancing communication by people with similarly impaired movement. Notably, the study participants achieved these typing rates without the use of automatic word-completion assistance common in electronic keyboarding applications nowadays, which likely would have boosted their performance. One participant, was able to type 39 correct characters per minute, equivalent to about eight words per minute. This point-and-click approach could be applied to a variety of computing devices, including smartphones and tablets, without substantial modifications, the Stanford researchers said.

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21 February 2017

Emotions Are Cognitive, Not Innate

Emotions are not innately programmed into our brains, but, in fact, are cognitive states resulting from the gathering of information, researchers revealed from New York University and City University of New York. They argue that conscious experiences, regardless of their content, arise from one system in the brain. The differences between emotional and non-emotional states are the kinds of inputs that are processed by a general cortical network of cognition, a network essential for conscious experiences. As a result, the brain mechanisms that give rise to conscious emotional feelings are not fundamentally different from those that give rise to perceptual conscious experiences.

While emotions, or feelings, are the most significant events in our lives, there has been relatively little integration of theories of emotion and emerging theories of consciousness in cognitive science. Existing work posits that emotions are innately programmed in the brain’s subcortical circuits. As a result, emotions are often treated as different from cognitive states of consciousness, such as those related to the perception of external stimuli. In other words, emotions aren’t a response to what our brain takes in from our observations, but, rather, are intrinsic to our makeup. However, after taking into account existing scholarship on both cognition and emotion, researchers conclude that emotions are “higher-order states” embedded in cortical circuits.

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