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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Snake-inspired robot slithers even better than predecessor 04-19




 Bad news for ophiophobes: Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a new and improved snake-inspired soft robot that is faster and more precise than its predecessor.





 The robot is made using kirigami — a Japanese paper craft that relies on cuts to change the properties of a material.  As the robot stretches, the kirigami surface “pops up” into a 3D-textured surface, which grips the ground just like snake skin.

The first-generation robot used a flat kirigami sheet, which transformed uniformly when stretched. The new robot has a programmable shell, meaning the kirigami cuts can pop up as desired, improving the robot’s speed and accuracy.

The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This is a first example of a kirigami structure with non-uniform pop-up deformations,” said Ahmad Rafsanjani, a postdoctoral fellow at SEAS and first author of the paper. “In flat kirigami, the pop-up is continuous, meaning everything pops at once.  But in the kirigami shell, pop up is discontinuous. This kind of control of the shape-transformation could be used to design responsive surfaces and smart skins with on-demand changes in their texture and morphology.”

The new research combined two properties of the material — the size of the cuts and the curvature of the sheet. By controlling these features, the researchers were able to program dynamic propagation of pop ups from one end to another, or  control localized pop-ups.

In previous research, a flat kirigami sheet was wrapped around an elastomer actuator. In this research, the kirigami surface is rolled into a cylinder, with an actuator applying force at two ends. If the cuts are a consistent size, the deformation propagates from one end of the cylinder to the other. However, if the size of the cuts are chosen carefully, the skin can be programmed to deform at desired sequences.  

“By borrowing ideas from phase-transforming materials and applying them to kirigami-inspired architected materials, we demonstrated that both popped and unpopped phases can coexists at the same time on the cylinder,” said Katia Bertoldi, the William and Ami Kuan Danoff Professor of Applied Mechanics at SEAS and senior author of the paper. “By simply combining cuts and curvature, we can program remarkably different behavior.”

Next, the researchers aim to develop an inverse design model for more complex deformations.

“The idea is, if you know how you’d like the skin to transform, you can just cut, roll and go,” said Lishuai Jin, a graduate student at SEAS and coauthor of the article.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Your Brain Does Really Weird Stuff When It Thinks About Money 11-26





Money is an emotional topic, which partly explains why we all struggle to spend, save, and negotiate in an optimally rational way. But what’s really happening inside our brains when money comes up?

Well, a Harvard Business Review article by author Kabir Sehgal looked for answers to that question by breaking down some of the most important money-related fMRI studies of the past two decades. The answer, in short, is a whole lot.

Here are three of the key takeaways:

That stomach pain you feel when your money is at risk is real.

In one 2003 study, test subjects were asked to play a game known among behavioral economists as the “Ultimatum Game”: a pair of strangers are given a sum of money and asked to split it. One person acts as the “proposer,” the other as the “responder.” If the pair can’t agree on a split, no one walks away with cash. 

Money is an emotional topic, which partly explains why we all struggle to spend, save, and negotiate in an optimally rational way. But what’s really happening inside our brains when money comes up?
Well, a Harvard Business Review article by author Kabir Sehgal looked for answers to that question by breaking down some of the most important money-related fMRI studies of the past two decades. The answer, in short, is a whole lot.
Here are three of the key takeaways:
That stomach pain you feel when your money is at risk is real.
In one 2003 study, test subjects were asked to play a game known among behavioral economists as the “Ultimatum Game”: a pair of strangers are given a sum of money and asked to split it. One person acts as the “proposer,” the other as the “responder.” If the pair can’t agree on a split, no one walks away with cash.


Sunday, November 11, 2018

China’s state-run press agency has created an ‘AI anchor’ to read the news. 11-12





Xinhua, China’s state-run press agency, has unveiled new “AI anchors” — digital composites created from footage of human hosts that read the news using synthesized voices.
It’s not clear exactly what technology has been used to create the anchors, but they’re in line with the most recent machine learning research. It seems that Xinhua has used footage of human anchors as a base layer, and then animated parts of the mouth and face to turn the speaker into a virtual puppet. By combining this with a synthesized voice, Xinhua can program the digital anchors to read the news, far quicker than using traditional CGI. (We’ve reached out to AI experts in the field to see what their analysis is.)
According to reports from Xinhua and the South China Morning Post, two anchors (one for English broadcasts and one for Chinese) were created in collaboration with local search engine company Sogou. Xinhua says the anchors have “endless prospects” and can be used to cheaply generate news reports for the agency’s TV, web, and mobile output.
Each anchor can “work 24 hours a day on its official website and various social media platforms, reducing news production costs and improving efficiency,” says Xinhua.
The technology has its limitations. In the videos above and below of the English-speaking anchor, it’s obvious that the range of facial expressions are limited, and the voice is clearly artificial. But machine learning research in this area is making swift improvements, and it’s not hard to imagine a future where AI anchors are indistinguishable from the real thing. 
This will strike many as a disturbing prospect, especially as the technology is being deployed in China. There, the press is constantly censored, and it is nearly impossible to get clear reports of even widespread events like the country’s suppression of the Muslim Uighur community. Creating fake anchors to read propaganda sounds chilling.
But what the actual effect on society may be if such anchors become widespread is hard to judge. If Xinhua wants someone to read the news without questioning it they don’t need AI to make that happen. Meanwhile, synthetic characters are slowly finding their way into mainstream culture, with figures like virtual pop star Hatsune Miku and CGI Instagram models familiarizing the public with this sort of creation.
But while these examples fall clearly into the world of entertainment, having AI anchors read the news suggests the technology could become more than a novelty. 




ments

A close up of the Xinhua AI anchor’s face. Only the mouth looks edited.


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The best video coming out of fifa world cup 2018




Senegal fans cleaning their stand after the match before leaving the stadium, after their historic victory against Poland.