Oct 01, 2014

Robotic birds are the (ridiculously expensive) modern-day scarecrows

posted by Larra Morris

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At the Sydney Opera House, seagulls are a bigger nuisance than pitchy tenors. Management is desperate to keep the ravenous sky rats away, so much that they've installed a large robotic bird of prey as a modern-day scarecrow.

They say it costs $6500. Which seems like a large sum for a bird-scaring machine... but compared to the $16000 mechanical falcons put up by Scotland's Network Rail to freak out pigeons and other pesky avians at Edinburgh's main train station, it's a bargain.

And these scarecrowbots aren't a novelty: They're a burgeoning industry. The robot birds at the Sydney Opera House and Edinburgh came from Robop, a Scottish bird-scaring robot maker, has over 70 clients, including Wimbledon, the US Navy, and Johnson & Johnson.
via Gizmodo

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Sep 30, 2014

Thailand built a robot to taste-test authentic dishes

posted by Larra Morris

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Thailand, as you're likely aware, is home to some delicious food, and the government now wants to make sure that its most popular dishes are being represented well. To do so, "e-Delicious," a robot capable of tasting food and making sure it meets various quality standards, was built. The idea came from Thailand's Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, as she became interested in fighting against bad Thai food in Thailand and elsewhere across the world.

This new machine is equipped with 10 sensors capable of tasting and smelling food, which then uses gathered data to compare it against a "government-approved" grade from a dish of the same type. And just like that, it's able to determine how authentic the Thai food you made is -- anything above an 80 percent match is deemed a hit.
via Engadget

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Image: Shutterstock/zmkstudio 

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Sep 30, 2014

Mantis shrimps can see cancer, and scientists have now created a camera that does the same

posted by Laura Domela

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Scientists from the University of Queensland in Australia have discovered that mantis shrimp have an incredibly useful ability - the marine creatures are able to see a variety of cancers inside our bodies. And they've now replicated that ability in a camera that could eventually be put into a smartphone.

Mantis shrimp can see cancer, and the activity of our neurons, because they have unique eyes, known as compound eyes. This type of eye is superbly tuned to detect polarised light - a type of light that reflects differently off different types of tissue, including cancerous or healthy tissue.

“Humans can’t see this, but a mantis shrimp could walk up to it and hit it,” said Justin Marshall from the Queensland Brain Institute at the University of Queensland in a press release.

“We see colour with hues and shades, and objects that contrast – a red apple in a green tree for example – but our research is revealing a number of animals that use polarised light to detect and discriminate between objects.”

His team have now worked with international collaborators to create a camera that can replicate this ability - eventually they hope they could lead to smartphone cameras that would allow people to scan their body for cancers at home.
via Science Alert

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Sep 30, 2014

Researchers create shape-shifting liquid metal

posted by Laura Domela

New research from North Carolina (NC) State University has manufacturers and science fiction fans buzzing. Traditionally, the surface tension of metal has made it impossible to form liquid metal into any shape other than a sphere. But a new discovery allows reachers to control the surface tension to manipulate metal into a variety of new shapes. It's not Terminator 2's T-1000, but it's a step in the right direction.
via mddi online

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Sep 30, 2014

If someone secretly controlled what you say, would anyone notice?

posted by Larra Morris

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The subject enters a room in which a 12-year-old boy is seated. A 20-minute conversation ensues. The subject quizzes the boy about current events and other topics to get a sense of his intelligence and personality. But the boy is not what he appears to be.

Unbeknownst to the subject, the boy is wearing a radio receiver in his ear, and every word he says is transmitted to him by a 37-year-old university professor sitting in a nearby room. For his age, the boy has surprisingly well-informed opinions about the effects of austerity measures on the European economy. He speaks of his admiration of Dostoyevsky. Yet not a single subject suspects that his words are not his own.

The study, conducted by two social psychologists at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and published earlier this month in The Journal of Social Psychology, raises some fascinating psychological and philosophical questions, and the researchers hope it will open new directions of study.
via Wired

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Sep 30, 2014

Shelving that automatically waters your plants, even when you forget

posted by Larra Morris

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It might not be as heartbreaking as saying goodbye to a pet, but no one wants to see their plants die—it's a sign of failure. And since using a device that reminds you to water them is useless if you're never home, this simple set of shelving will serve as your horticultural assistant, keeping your plants watered—and alive—for up to an entire month without intervention.

It sounds too good to be true, but it's not. After all, entire jungles and forests thrive without mankind's intervention, they just need a reliable source of water. So instead of rain clouds, the Pikaplant One shelving has a large clear water reservoir on top that you need to fill about once a month. With the help of gravity, water is pulled down through a tube that keeps your vegetation hydrated with minimal intervention needed.
via Gizmodo

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Sep 30, 2014

Murata's dancing robotic cheerleaders showcase advanced group control

posted by Larra Morris

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The only thing better than state-of-the-arts robotics is when it's combined with Force 9 cuteness. Japanese electronics company Murata Manufacturing has given us one example with the unveiling if its robotic Cheerleaders. The squad of ten ball-mounted robots uses advanced ultrasonics, infrared, and group control technology to perform synchronized dance routines with perfect stability.

The Cheerleaders were built in collaboration with Matsuno Lab at Kyoto University and represent Murata’s fourth generation of robots. The design is based on the company’s bicycle-riding Murata Boy and unicycle-riding Murata Boy, though the Cheerleader robots are designed to represent "elementary school students full of energy and curiosity," and each stands 36 cm (14 ft) tall and weighs 1.5 kg (3.3 lb).
via Gizmag

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