May 01, 2013

Artificial heart tissue could replace and regrow the real thing

posted by Larra Morris

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One of the things that makes heart disease so problematic is the fact that after a heart attack occurs, the scar tissue that replaces the damaged heart tissue isn’t capable of expanding and contracting – it doesn’t “beat,” in other words. This leaves the heart permanently weakened. Now, however, scientists from Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) have developed artificial heart tissue that may ultimately provide a solution to that problem.

At the base of the material is a rubbery gel known as MeTro. It’s made from tropoelastin, which is the protein that gives human tissues their elasticity.
via Gizmag

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Image:Khademhosseini lab 

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May 01, 2013

Robots teach communication to kids with autism (video)

posted by Larra Morris

The learning tools, made by French company Aldebaran Robotics, are being used to teach children with autism about the subtleties of human communication and emotion and to bring them out of their shells in the classroom.
via Robots Dreams

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May 01, 2013

Unimo wheelchair uses tank treads to scale stairs, smoothly traverse rough terrain

posted by Larra Morris

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A Japanese tech firm is attempting to improve wheelchairs by changing how they travel and how well they can do it. Nano-Optonics Energy's newly released Unimo electrically controlled chair uses thin, tank-like treads to traverse the ground, which the company claims allows it to travel smoothly over difficult terrain such as gravel and sand that traditional models can't easily handle. The chair can also climb up and down 6-inch stairs, nearly twice as high as what the manufacturer says most wheelchairs are capable of, and it can approach speeds of 4 mph.
via The Verge

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May 01, 2013

Sensitive “skin” gives robot feeling in whole arm, lets it reach through clutter (video)

posted by Larra Morris

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Georgia Tech researchers have taken one big step towards building a robot will be able to get that jar of mustard from the back of the refrigerator without making an ungodly mess of the place. They’ve developed a “skin” that gives tactile sensitivity to a robot’s whole arm, allowing it to snake its way through obstacles and pick up objects that in the midst of a cluttered environment without disturbing the items surrounding it.

The “skin” is a fabric that can be stretched along the arm of the robot and contains a number of tactile sensors that let the robot know where its arm is. That allows the robot to keep moving towards its goal without the rest of its arm sending debris scattering.
via Geekosystem

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Apr 30, 2013

More than 20,000 people apply for one-way ticket to Mars

posted by Larra Morris

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Last week we mentioned Mars One, the combination space mission/reality TV show project that aims to send four lucky space travelers to the Red Planet... forever. Interest in the project had been quite high, with the company's latest press release noting that it had received "10,000 messages from prospective applicants from over 100 countries." But that was before it started taking actual, formal, paid applications from would-be astronauts.

Turns out that in the week since, at least 20,000 people have paid $38 to formally apply for Mars One. Various sources around the Internet, including China Daily, are reporting that the world is full of people who wouldn't mind living out the remainder of their days in a questionable camera-stuffed habitat on Mars. Around 600 of the applicants are Chinese citizens, and it's arguable that some might not understand what they're getting into.
via Ars Technica

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Apr 30, 2013

SpaceShipTwo breaks sound barrier in first rocket-powered flight

posted by Laura Domela

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Virgin Galactic has completed the first rocket-powered flight of its space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo (SS2). The test, conducted by teams from Scaled Composites (Scaled) and Virgin Galactic, officially marks Virgin Galactic's entrance into the final phase of vehicle testing prior to commercial service from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

"The first powered flight of Virgin Spaceship Enterprise was without any doubt, our single most important flight test to date," said Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson, who was on the ground in Mojave to witness the occasion. "For the first time, we were able to prove the key components of the system, fully integrated and in flight.
via Space Travel

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Image: SpaceShipTwo in full flight mode. Virgin Galactic.

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Apr 30, 2013

CERN celebrates 20 years of a free, open web by restoring world's first website

posted by Larra Morris

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The web as we know it was famously invented by Tim Berners-Lee while working at CERN, but it wasn't until a few years later -- 1993 to be precise -- that it'd truly be set free. On April 30 of that year, Berners-Lee's then employer would make the technology behind the WWW available license free, bundling a basic browser and some key chunks of code into the deal. To commemorate the 20th anniversary of this event CERN has recreated the first ever website, complete with its original URL.
via Engadget

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Apr 30, 2013

Detector in South Pole’s ice cap spots rare high-energy neutrinos

posted by Larra Morris

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Some of the earliest and most successful neutrino detectors were based on enormous tanks of water. For example, Japan's Super Kamiokande held 3,000 tons of water, and researchers used the detector to watch for a sign that a neutrino had bumped up against one of the water molecules. A recently constructed detector takes a similar approach, observing about a cubic kilometer of water using over 5,000 optical sensors. It just relies on nature to provide the water. The detector is called IceCube, and its detectors are buried in the South Pole's ice cap.

Ice Cube has now scored its first big success, detecting the highest-energy neutrinos ever spotted. Odds are good that these neutrinos originated from an event distant from Earth, but remaining uncertainties mean that we can't conclude that with certainty.
via Ars Technica

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Apr 30, 2013

IBM developing robot assistance for technicians

posted by Larra Morris

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If you've ever tried typing while talking to technical support with the phone crammed between ear and shoulder, then you know the meaning of frustration. Now imagine doing that upside down inside an airplane wing while juggling wires, crimps and a schematic printout. For some field engineers, that sort of thing is an everyday occurrence, so IBM in collaboration with the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in the UK is developing a mobile maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) prototype robot. It's a combination of a smartphone app and a camera/projector mounted on a robot arm, that allows supervisors and experts to have a more active presence on the job.
via Gizmag

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Apr 30, 2013

Cheetah-Cub quadruped robot learns to walk, trot using gait patterns from real animal (video)

posted by Larra Morris

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Developing walking gaits for multi-legged robots can be tricky. To solve the problem, many robots use a simple neural network called a Central Pattern Generator, or CPG, to produce rhythmic leg motion. The aim is to obtain robust locomotion patterns that exhibit stable limit cycles—periodic patterns that can resist perturbations. The robustness is obtained by providing feedback to the CPG from sensors in the legs or feet of the robot to compensate for irregularities and obstacles on the ground. It's a bit like a simple cockroach that, despite its size, is quite capable of crawling over most any terrain.

In recent years researchers have developed a way to break down the CPG into what are called kinematic Motion Primitives (kMPs). With some work, the kMPs found in the walking gaits observed in animals can be adapted to robots with the same number of limbs—a kind of refined CPG.
via IEEE Spectrum

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