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Muscle-powered bio-bots walk on command

July 2, 2014

Tiny walking “bio-bots” are powered by muscle cells and controlled by an electric field (credit: University of Illinois)

Engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated a class of walking “bio-bots” powered by muscle cells and controlled with electrical pulses, giving researchers unprecedented command over their function.

The group published its work in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (open access).

“Biological actuation driven by cells is a… read more

An electronic switch just three atoms thick

July 2, 2014

In the top panel, this three-atom thick crystal is shown as semiconductor that is non-conductive. An outward tug on the material (shown in the middle panel) clicks the crystal into a metallic, or conductive state. The third panel shows the crystal back in a non-conductive state. (Credit, Karel-Alexander Duerloo)

Three Stanford researchers have discovered a flexible, switchable material that can form a paper-like sheet just three atoms thick and  behave like a switch.

As noted in articles on KurzweilAI, there’s a lot of interest in developing electronic devices based on such materials, which could enable a cell phone to be woven into a shirt, for example.

The new Stanford material can be mechanically pulledread more

Robot astronaut inspires medicine and manufacturing spinoffs

July 1, 2014

The version of Robonaut currently on the station (credit: NASA)

Robonaut, a human-like robot designed by NASA and General Motors (GM), whose aim is to avoid the scenario in the movie Gravity — and perform other tasks  to free up human crew time and energy — has spun off three other astronaut helpers.

Robonatu has been on the International Space Station since February 2011. Researchers have been testing the robot’s ability to perform… read more

Bio-printing transplantable tissues and organs is now a step closer

July 1, 2014

Blood vessels (credit: University of Sydney)

Scientists from the Universities of Sydney, Harvard, Stanford, and MIT have bio-printed artificial vascular networks mimicking the body’s circulatory system.

These networks are necessary for growing large complex transplantable tissues and organs for people affected by major diseases and trauma injuries.

“Thousands of people die each year due to a lack of organs for transplantation,” says study lead author and University of Sydney researcher Luiz Bertassoni. ”Many more are… read more

Giant space telescope could detect hints ot life on exoplanets

June 30, 2014

An artist’s concept of the ATLAST telescope under construction in space. This design has a segmented mirror 20 metres across. Credit: NASA/STScI)

Advanced Technologies Large Aperture Space Telescope (ATLAST) — a giant telescope in space 20 meters across that could give scientists a good chance of detecting hints of life on exoplanets (planets around other stars) — has been proposed by U.S. and European scientists.

In a recent talk at the National Astronomy Meeting (NAM 2014), Prof. Martin Barstow of the University of Leicester and President of… read more

Crowdsourcing for robots

Humans acting like robots teach robots to act like humans
June 30, 2014

The UW’s robot builds a turtle model (credit: University of Washington)

Crowdsourcing can be a quick and effective way to teach a robot how to complete tasks, University of Washington computer scientists have shown.

Learning by imitating a human is a proven approach to teach a robot to perform tasks, but it can take a lot of time. But if the robot could learn a task’s basic steps, then ask the online community for additional input, it could collect more… read more

Wearable computing gloves can teach Braille, even if you’re not paying attention

June 27, 2014

A wearable computing technology helps people learn how to read and write Braille as they concentrate on other tasks (credit: Georgia Tech)

Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have developed wearable computing technology to help people learn how to read and write Braille.

Surprisingly, people wearing the glove don’t have to pay attention while learning.

“The process is based on passive haptic learning (PHL),” said Thad Starner, a Georgia Tech professor and wearable computer pioneer. “We’ve learned that people can acquire motor skills through vibrations without devoting active attention… read more

Ultrasonic waves allow for precision micro- and nano-manufacturing of thin-film chips

"By tuning the sound waves, we can create any pattern we want on the surface of a microchip."
June 27, 2014

sawchip

Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have developed a method for using ultrasonics to enable precision micro- and nano-manufacturing, precisely controlling the spread of a thin-film fluid along a specially designed chip.

Thin-film technology is the bedrock of microchip and microstructure manufacturing, and applications of the research range from thin-film coatings for paint and wound care to 3D printing, micro-casting, and micro-fluidics.

“Manufacturing using thin… read more

A 36-core chip design with an Internet-style communication network

Chips of the future will resemble little Internets
June 27, 2014

The MIT researchers' new 36-core chip is "tiled," meaning that it simply repeats the same circuit layout 36 times. Tiling makes multicore chips much easier to design (Credit: Bhavya K. Daya et al.)

The more cores — or processing units — a computer chip has, the bigger the problem of communication between cores becomes.

Now, Li-Shiuan Peh, the Singapore Research Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, speaking at the International Symposium on Computer Architecture, hasread more

A self-powered cardiac pacemaker

June 26, 2014

This picture shows that a self-powered cardiac pacemaker is enabled by a flexible piezoelectric energy harvester (credit: KAIST)

A research team from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has developed a self-powered artificial cardiac pacemaker operated semi-permanently by a flexible piezoelectric nanogenerator.

Currently, pacemaker batteries last seven years on average, requiring frequent replacements, which may pose patients to a potential risk involved in medical procedures.

The nanogenerator directly stimulated a living rat’s heart using electrical energy converted from the small body… read more

Google innovations at Google I/O

June 26, 2014

Android Wear (credit: Google)

Google announced several innovations at  7th annual Google I/O developer conference (Google I/O) Wednesday. Among them:

Android Wear connects your phone to your wrist (say “Ok Google” to ask questions, read or send a text, get alerts, schedule a meeting, etc.). Google also announced that two Android wearables, the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live, are available to order today, and the Moto 360 from Motorola… read more

A super-stretchable yarn made of graphene

June 25, 2014

Strong, stretchable fibers made of graphene oxide can be knotted like yarn (credit: Terrones group/Penn State)

A simple, scalable method of making strong, stretchable graphene oxide fibers that are easily scrolled into yarns and have strengths approaching that of Kevlar is possible, according to Penn State and Shinshu University, Japan, researchers.

“We found this graphene oxide fiber was very strong, much better than other carbon fibers,” said Mauricio Terrones, professor of physics, chemistry and materials science and engineering, Penn… read more

Limb regeneration: do salamanders hold the key?

June 24, 2014

Salamander (credit: UCL)

The secret of how salamanders successfully regrow body parts is being unravelled by University College London (UCL) researchers in a bid to apply it to humans.

For the first time, researchers have found that the “ERK pathway” must be constantly active for salamander cells to be reprogrammed, and hence able to contribute to the regeneration of different body parts.

The team identified a key… read more

Diet restriction suspends development in nematode worms, doubles lifespan

June 23, 2014

The nematode worm C. elegans with muscle cells fluorescently labeled in green and germ cells fluorescently labeled in red. These cells and others pause at a checkpoint in development and slow their aging when worms encounter a period of starvation. (Credit: Duke University)

Researchers at Duke University have found that taking food away from the C. elegans nematode worm triggers a state of arrested development: while the organism continues to wriggle about, foraging for food, its cells and organs are suspended in an ageless, quiescent state.

When food becomes plentiful again, the worm develops as planned, but can live twice as long as normal.

The results appear June 19… read more

Modeling how neurons work together to perform movements: not as random as we thought

Could help design prosthetic limbs controlled via electrodes implanted in the brain
June 23, 2014

(Credit: University of Cambridge)

In a bid to better understand the brain and also to create robotics limbs that behave more realistically, a team of three European universities has developed a highly accurate new model of how neurons behave when performing complex movements.

The results from the University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, and the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) are published in the June 18 edition… read more

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