science + technology news

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New wearable, high-precision brain scanner allows for patients to move around

Could revolutionize diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders, say University of Nottingham researchers
June 22, 2018

(Left) Current stationary MEG scanner. (Right) New wearable scanner, allowing for movement. (credit: National Institute of Mental Health and University of Nottingham)

A radical new wearable magnetoencephalography (MEG) brain scanner under development at the University of Nottingham allows a patient to move around, instead of having to sit or lie still inside a massive scanner.

Currently, MEG scanners* weigh around 500 kilograms (about 1100 pounds) because they require bulky superconducting sensors refrigerated in a liquid helium dewar at -269°C. Patients must  keep still — even a 5mm movement can… read more

How to supervise a robot with your mind and hand gestures

“Plug and play” system uses a human’s brainwaves and hand-gesture muscle signals to instantly correct robot mistakes
June 22, 2018

controlling a robot ft

Getting robots to do things isn’t easy. Usually, scientists have to either explicitly program them, or else train them to understand human language. Both options are a lot of work.

Now a new system developed by researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Vienna University of Technology, and Boston University takes a simpler approach: It uses a human’s brainwaves and hand gestures to instantly correct robot mistakes.… read more

Are virtual reality and augmented reality the future of education?

Welcome to the memory palace; and how to safely walk around (or maybe run) in VR
June 19, 2018

VR memory

People learn better through virtual, immersive environments instead of more traditional platforms like a two-dimensional desktop computer: That sounds intuitively right, but researchers at the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland (UMD) have now supported that idea with evidence.

The researchers conducted an experiment using the “memory palace” method, where people recall an object or item located… read more

Research suggests that humans could one day regrow limbs

Scientists have identified the specific type of planaria flatworm pluripotent stem cell that is capable of regenerating an entire organism
June 15, 2018

Planaria flatworm (credit: Holger Brandl et al./Wikipedia)

In the June 14, 2018, issue of the journal Cell, researchers at Stowers Institute for Medical Research published a landmark study whose findings have important implications for advancing the study of stem cell biology and regenerative medicine, according to the researchers.*

Over a century ago, scientists traced regenerative powers in a flatworm known as planaria to a special population of planaria adult stem cells called neoblasts (a type… read more

IBM researchers use analog memory to train deep neural networks faster and more efficiently

New approach allows deep neural networks to run hundreds of times faster than with GPUs, using hundreds of times less energy
June 15, 2018

Crossbar arrays of non-volatile memories can accelerate the training of neural networks by performing computation at the actual location of the data. (credit: IBM Research)

Imagine advanced artificial intelligence (AI) running on your smartphone — instantly presenting the information that’s relevant to you in real time. Or a supercomputer that requires hundreds of times less energy.

The IBM Research AI team has demonstrated a new approach that they believe is a major step toward those scenarios.

Deep neural networks normally require fast, powerful graphical processing unit (GPU) hardware accelerators to support the needed high… read more

Summit supercomputer is world’s fastest

Will enable researchers to apply techniques like machine learning and deep learning to scientific discoveries that were previously impractical or impossible
June 12, 2018

(credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

Summit — the world’s most powerful supercomputer, with a peak performance of 200,000 trillion calculations per second, or 200 petaflops* peak performance — was announced June 8 by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

The previous leading supercomputer was China’s Sunway TaihuLight, with 125 petaflops peak performance.**

Summit will enable researchers to apply techniques like machine learning and deep learning… read more

roundup | AI powers cars, photos, phones, and people

June 8, 2018

(credit: Berkeley Deep Drive)

Huge self-driving-car video dataset may help reduce accidents

Berkeley Deep Drive, the largest-ever self-driving car dataset, has been released by BDD Industry Consortium for free public download. It features 100,000 HD videos on cars and labeled objects, with GPS and other data — 800 times larger than Baidu’s Apollo dataset. The goal: apply computer vision research — including deep reinforcement learning for object tracking — to… read more

Overcoming transistor miniaturization limits due to ‘quantum tunneling’

Breakthrough could jumpstart further miniaturization of transistors, possibly extending Moore's law
June 7, 2018

An illustration of a single-molecule device that blocks leakage current in a transistor. (credit: Haixing Li/Columbia Engineering)

A team of researchers at Columbia Engineering and associates* have synthesized a molecule that could overcome a major physical limit to miniaturizing computer transistors at the nanometer scale (under about 3 nanometers) — caused by “leakage current.”

Leakage current between two metal transistor electrodes results when the gap between the electrodes narrows to the point that electrons are no longer contained by their barriers — a phenomenon… read more

Ultrasound-powered nanorobots clear bacteria and toxins from blood

The U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency aims to create a broad-spectrum detoxification robotic platform
June 5, 2018

MRSA bacterium captured by a hybrid cell membrane-coated nanorobot (colored scanning electron microscope image). (credit: Esteban-Fernández de Ávila/Science Robotics)

Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed tiny ultrasound-powered nanorobots that can swim through blood, removing harmful bacteria and the toxins they produce.

These proof-of-concept nanorobots could one day offer a safe and efficient way to detoxify and decontaminate biological threat agents — providing an fast alternative to the multiple, broad-spectrum antibiotics currently used to treat life-threatening pathogens like MRSA bacteria (an antibiotic-resistant staph strain). MRSA is… read more

Artificial sensory neurons may give future prosthetic devices and robots a subtle sense of touch

Artificial sensory nerve system combines a touch-pressure sensor, flexible electronic neuron, and artificial synaptic transistor modeled on human synapses
June 1, 2018

American and Korean researchers are creating an artificial nerve system for robots and humans. (credit: Kevin Craft)

Researchers at Stanford University and Seoul National University have developed an artificial sensory nerve system that’s a step toward artificial skin for prosthetic limbs, restoring sensation to amputees, and giving robots human-like reflexes.*

Their rudimentary artificial nerve circuit integrates three previously developed components: a touch-pressure sensor, a flexible electronic neuron, and an artificial synaptic transistor modeled on human synapses.

Here’s how the artificial nerve circuit works:… read more

New noninvasive technique could be alternative to laser eye surgery

Uses a low-powered, ultrafast laser to alter biochemical and biomechanical tissue properties without causing cellular damage or tissue disruption
May 31, 2018

correcting myopia ft

Columbia Engineering researcher Sinisa Vukelic, Ph.D., has developed a new non-invasive approach for permanently correcting myopia (nearsightedness), replacing glasses and invasive corneal refractive surgery.* The non-surgical method uses a “femtosecond oscillator” — an ultrafast laser that delivers pulses of very low energy at high repetition rate to modify the tissue’s shape.

The method has fewer side effects and limitations than those seen in… read more

First 3D-printed human corneas

Using donated stem cells, bio-ink formed the shape of a specific human cornea in less than 10 minutes; could ensure an unlimited supply of corneas in the future
May 31, 2018

3D-printing a human cornea (credit: Newcastle University)

Scientists at Newcastle University have created a proof-of-concept process to achieve the first 3D-printed human corneas (the cornea, the outermost layer of the human eye, has an important role in focusing vision).*

Stem cells (human corneal stromal cells) from a healthy donor’s cornea were mixed together with alginate and collagen** to create a “bio-ink” solution. Using a simple low-cost 3D bio-printer, the bio-ink was successfully… read more

Teaching robots to do household chores

Future goal is to allow robots to learn by simply watching a YouTube video
May 30, 2018

MIT's “VirtualHome” system aims to teach artificial agents a range of chores, including setting the table and making coffee. (credit: MIT CSAIL)

Computer scientists at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and the University of Toronto* have created a Sims-inspired “VirtualHome” system that can simulate detailed household tasks.

The idea is to allow “artificial agents” to execute tasks — opening up the possibility of one day teaching robots to do such tasks.

Using crowdsourcing, the researchers created videos that simulate detailed household activities and sub-tasks in… read more

Advanced brain organoid could model strokes, screen drugs

Functional blood brain barrier allows for discovering and testing new drugs that can cross over into the brain
May 29, 2018

stroke damage to blood brain barrier ft

Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) scientists have developed a 3-D brain organoid (tiny artifical organ) that could have potential applications in drug discovery and disease modeling.

The scientists say this is the first engineered tissue-equivalent to closely resemble normal human brain anatomy — containing all six major cell types found in normal organs, including neurons and immune cells.

The advanced 3-D organoids promote the formation of… read more

Ingestible capsule uses light-emitting bacteria to monitor gastrointestinal health

Ultra-low-power device in gut wirelessly transmits diagnostic signal to a cell phone; multiple gastrointestinal diagnoses possible
May 28, 2018

A sensor capsule that can be swallowed uses light-emitting, genetically engineered bacteria (right) to detect molecules that identify bleeding in the stomach or other gastrointestinal problems. Ultra-low-power electronics (left) sense the light and send the diagnostic information wirelessly to a cellphone. An Android app then analyzes the data. (credit: Lillie Paquette/MIT)

MIT engineers have designed and built a tiny ingestible biosensor* capsule that can diagnose gastrointestinal problems, and the engineers demonstrated its ability to detect bleeding in pigs.

Currently, if patients are suspected to be bleeding from a gastric ulcer, for example, they have to undergo an endoscopy to diagnose the problem, which often requires the patient to be sedated.

If the engineers can shrink the sensor capsule and… read more

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