By Paul Kvinta
Posted 09.06.2012 at 10:35 am 1 Comment
Simon the robot has just learned a new skill: transferring a red block from one hand into a coffee cup held by the other. But like an eager preschooler, he wants to know more. “Can I begin here?” he asks, lifting the block high. Simon has two arms, eight fingers, doe eyes, and a monotone voice. With each question and answer, he is doing what roboticist Andrea Thomaz calls “whittling away the hypothesis space,” or eliminating information that is not essential.
Siri is helpful when you want to schedule a reminder or look at the forecast, but wouldn’t it be better to have a bona fide Jeopardy! champ in your pocket? IBM is trying to figure out how to bring the power of its superbrainy Watson to smartphones, helping people answer far more complex questions.
Oriental fruit flies are one of the biggest scourges to farmers around the globe, often forcing officials to put crops into quarantine just to keep Bactrocera dorsalis shut out. In Taiwan, where the situation is especially dire, scientists are using artificial intelligence tech that can determine, with uncanny accuracy, where and when an outbreak is about to happen.
Brain-like computers could soon become a lot more common. Earlier this year, we heard about a project involving DARPA and IBM to create a functioning neurosynaptic chip, which works somewhat like a brain in the way it learns and remembers. Now MIT engineers have designed a chip that mimics the function of a synapse in the brain, in its ability to model specific communications among neurons.
If you've been convinced for years that John Madden has been replaced by an iPod filled with generic football commentary, you might be excited to learn that Switzerland's Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne has been working on an even more advanced version. This one is equipped with artificial intelligence so it can actually see what's happening on the field and provide commentary.
Last time we looked at the UK’s teeming video surveillance technology sector we were writing about facial recognition software that Scotland Yard was trialling during the recent London riots. But facial recognition is both fraught with privacy concerns and difficult to make reliable.
You can’t buy love, but can you engineer it? A project at the National University of Singapore with all kinds of somewhat unsettling implications is trying to create the means for human-robot love by giving robots all the emotional and biological tools that human have.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.