science + technology news

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A noninvasive method for deep-brain stimulation for brain disorders

Could make deep-brain stimulation less risky, less expensive, and more available to patients and researchers
June 11, 2017

External electrical waves excite an area in the mouse hippocampus, shown in bright green. (credit: Nir Grossman, Ph.D., Suhasa B. Kodandaramaiah, Ph.D., and Andrii Rudenko, Ph.D.)

MIT researchers and associates have come up with a breakthrough method of remotely stimulating regions deep within the brain, replacing the invasive surgery now required for implanting electrodes for Parkinson’s and other brain disorders.

The new method could make deep-brain stimulation for brain disorders less expensive, more accessible to patients, and less risky (avoiding brain hemorrhage and infection).

Working with mice, the researchers applied two high-frequency electrical currents… read more

Researchers decipher how faces are encoded in the brain

Only 205 neurons required per face; findings also have artificial intelligence applications
June 9, 2017

actual vs predicted face ft

In a paper published (open access) June 1 in the journal Cell, researchers report that they have cracked the code for facial identity in the primate brain.

“We’ve discovered that this code is extremely simple,” says senior author Doris Tsao, a professor of biology and biological engineering at the California Institute of Technology and senior author. “We can now reconstruct a face that a monkey… read more

Playing a musical instrument could help restore brain health, research suggests

June 8, 2017

Tibetan singing bowls were used to help uncover why playing a musical instrument can protect brain health. (credit: Baycrest Health Sciences)

A study by neuroscientists at Toronto-based Baycrest Rotman Research Institute and Stanford University involving playing a musical instrument suggests ways to improve brain rehabilitation methods.

In the study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience on May 24, 2017, the researchers asked young adults to listen to sounds from an unfamiliar musical instrument (a Tibetan singing bowl). Half of the subjects (the experimental group) were then… read more

33 blood-cancer patients have dramatic clinical remission with new T-cell therapy

June 7, 2017

Killer T-cells surround a cancer cell (credit: NIH)

Chinese doctors have reported success with a new type of immunotherapy for multiple myeloma*, a blood cancer: 33 out of 35 patients in a clinical trial had clinical remission within two months.

The researchers used a type of T cell called “chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T.”** In a phase I clinical trial in China, the patient’s own T cells were collected, genetically reprogrammed in a lab, and injected back into the patient. The reprogramming involved inserting an artificially designed gene… read more

How to design and build your own robot

Simplified interactive design tool will let you select 3D-printed parts and off-the-shelf components
June 5, 2017

DIY robot ft

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Robotics Institute researchers have developed a simplified interactive design tool that lets you design and make your own customized legged or wheeled robot, using a mix of 3D-printed parts and off-the-shelf components.

The current process of creating new robotic systems is challenging, time-consuming, and resource-intensive. So the CMU researchers have created a visual design tool with a simple drag-and-drop interface that lets you… read more

Are you ready for pop-up, shape-shifting food? Just add water.

Gelatin sheets that transform into edible 3D shapes when dunked in water could save food shipping costs. And they're fun.
June 3, 2017

These pasta shapes were caused by immersing a 2-D flat film into water. (credit: Michael Indresano Photography)

Researchers at MIT’s Tangible Media Group are exploring ways to make your dining experience interactive and fun, with food that can transform its shape by just adding water.

Think of it as edible origami or culinary performance art — flat sheets of gelatin and starch that instantly sprout into three-dimensional structures, such as macaroni and rotini, or the shape of a flower.

But the researchers suggest… read more

VR glove powered by soft robotics provides missing sense of touch

June 2, 2017

Prototype of haptic VR glove, using soft robotic “muscles” to provide realistic tactile feedback for VR users (credit: Jacobs School of Engineering/UC San Diego)

Engineers at UC San Diego have designed a light, flexible glove with soft robotic muscles that provide realistic tactile feedback for virtual reality (VR) experiences.

Currently, VR tactile-feedback user interfaces are bulky, uncomfortable to wear and clumsy, and they simply vibrate when a user touches a virtual surface or object.

“This is a first prototype, but it is surprisingly effective,” said Michael Tolley, a mechanical engineering… read more

Common antioxidant could slow symptoms of aging in human skin

May 31, 2017

These cross-section images show three-dimensional human skin models made of living skin cells. Untreated model skin (left panel) shows a thinner dermis layer (black arrow) compared with model skin treated with the antioxidant methylene blue (right panel). A new study suggests that methylene blue could slow or reverse dermal thinning (a sign of aging) and a number of other symptoms of aging in human skin. (credit: Zheng-Mei Xiong/University of Maryland)

University of Maryland (UMD) researchers have found evidence that a common, inexpensive, and safe antioxidant chemical called methylene blue could slow the aging of human skin, based on tests in cultured human skin cells and simulated skin tissue.

“The effects we are seeing are not temporary. Methylene blue appears to make fundamental, long-term changes to skin cells,” said Kan Cao, senior author on the study and an associate… read more

New antibiotic could eliminate the global threat of antibiotic-resistant infections

May 31, 2017

Modified vancomycin antibiotic (credit: Akinori Okano et al./PNAS)

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have discovered a way to structurally modify the antibiotic called vancomycin to make an already-powerful version of the antibiotic even more potent — an advance that could eliminate the threat of antibiotic-resistant infections for years to come.

“Doctors could use this modified form of vancomycin without fear of resistance emerging,” said Dale Boger, co-chair of TSRI’s Department of… read more

Alpha Go defeats world’s top Go player. What’s next?

May 28, 2017

Game 3 of The Ultimate Go Challenge

What does the research team behind AlphaGo do next after winning the three-game match Saturday (May 27) against Ke Jie — the world’s top Go player — at the Future of Go Summit in Wuzhen, China?

“Throw their energy into the next set of grand challenges, developing advanced general algorithms that could one day help scientists as they tackle some of our most complex problems, such as… read more

3D-printed ‘bionic skin’ could give robots and prosthetics the sense of touch

Could also be printed directly on human skin for pulse monitoring or as a human-machine interface --- imagine a computer mouse built into your fingertip
May 26, 2017

A one-of-a-kind 3D printer built at the University of Minnesota can print touch sensors directly on a model hand. Credit: Shuang-Zhuang Guo and Michael McAlpine, University of Minnesota, "3D Printed Stretchable Tactile Sensors," Advanced Materials. 2017. (credit: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA. )

Engineering researchers at the University of Minnesota have developed a process for 3D-printing stretchable, flexible, and sensitive electronic sensory devices that could give robots or prosthetic hands — or even real skin — the ability to mechanically sense their environment.

One major use would be to give surgeons the ability to feel during minimally invasive surgeries instead of using cameras, or to increase the sensitivity of surgical… read more

Do robots creep you out?

Roboticists attempt to find out which presentation method presents the lowest barrier to communication
May 26, 2017

robot vr

How do you make humanoid robots look least creepy? With increasing use of industrial (and soon, service robots), it’s a good question.

Researchers at the University of Koblenz-Landau, University of Wurzburg, and Arts Electronica Futurelab decided to find out with an experiment. They created a skit with a human actor and the Roboy robot, and presented scripted human-robot interactions (HRIs), using… read more

How Google’s ‘smart reply’ is getting smarter

A significant new hierarchical approach to machine intelligence
May 24, 2017

Can't make it

Last week, KurzweilAI reported that Google is rolling out an enhanced version of its “smart reply” machine-learning email software to “over 1 billion Android and iOS users of Gmail” — quoting Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

We noted that the new smart-reply version is now able to handle challenging sentences like “That interesting person at the cafe we like gave me a glance,” as Google research… read more

‘Wearable’ PET brain scanner enables studies of moving patients

Seeing more deeply into the brain in real time
May 23, 2017

Two scientists have developed a miniaturized positron emission tomography (PET) brain scanner that can be “worn” like a helmet.

The new Ambulatory Microdose Positron Emission Tomography (AMPET) scanner allows research subjects to stand and move around as the device scans, instead of having to lie completely still and be administered anesthesia — making it impossible to find associations between movement and brain activity.… read more

When AI improves human performance instead of taking over

May 22, 2017

The game results show that placing slightly “noisy” bots in a central location (high-degree nodes) improve human coordination by reducing same-color neighbor nodes. Square nodes show the bots and round nodes show human players; red edges show color conflicts, which are reduced with bot participation. (credit: Hirokazu Shirado and Nicholas A. Christakis/Nature)

It’s not about artificial intelligence (AI) taking over — it’s about AI improving human performance, a new study by Yale University researchers has shown.

“Much of the current conversation about artificial intelligence has to do with whether AI is a substitute for human beings. We believe the conversation should be about AI as a complement to human beings,” said Nicholas Christakis, Yale Universityread more

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