Technology

Researchers have equipped a robot with a novel tactile sensor that lets it grasp a USB cable draped freely over a hook and insert it into a USB port. Its processing algorithm is faster, so it can give the robot feedback in real time. 

The sensor is an adaptation of a technology called GelSight, which was developed by the lab of Edward Adelson, the John and Dorothy Wilson Professor of Vision Science at MIT, first described in 2009. The new sensor is less sensitive than the original GelSight sensor, which could resolve details on the micrometer scale, but it's smaller and faster.


For future astronauts, the process of suiting up may go something like this: Instead of climbing into a conventional, bulky, gas-pressurized suit, an astronaut may don a lightweight, stretchy garment, lined with tiny, musclelike coils. She would then plug in to a spacecraft's power supply, triggering the coils to contract and essentially shrink-wrap the garment around her body.

The skintight, pressurized suit would not only support the astronaut, but would give her much more freedom to move during planetary exploration. To take the suit off, she would only have to apply modest force, returning the suit to its looser form.


Mobile phones are in the hands of 80 percent of Americans so manufacturers are scrambling to find new ways to keep people buying the next model.

Being able to use gestures in the space around the phone rather than needing a screen may be the next big thing. Some smartphones have incorporated 3-D gesture sensing based on cameras, for example, but cameras consume significant battery power and require a clear view of the user's hands.

University of Washington engineers have developed a new form of low-power wireless sensing technology that could soon contribute to this growing field by letting users "train" their smartphones to recognize and respond to specific hand gestures near the phone.


Anyone who tells you they have a super food or a potion to impact a complex trait is sellinf you something. Life is rarely simple. The things we care about most, from crop yields to disease risks, are instead "complex traits."

Human height is a textbook example of a complex trait while attributes like risk for a particular human disease are shaped by multiple genetic and environmental influences.

The value of the Science 2.0 approach, and the wealth of Big Data that geneticists now have available, is in finding the genes involved and then quantifying their importance when other circumstances are factored in.  


Research lab and hospital equipment are two areas where competition drives costs up - if Lab A has a need for a new piece of equipment, Lab B has to get it and that same goes for hospitals. Companies have no reason to undercut each other because the actual market is not that big. 

Help may be on the way for a commonly used piece of equipment: the syringe pump. A team led by an engineer at Michigan Technological University has published an open-source library of designs that will let scientists slash its cost. Syringe pumps are used to dispatch precise amounts of liquid, as for drug delivery or mixing chemicals in a reaction. They can also cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.


Northwestern Medicine researchers say they have developed the first blood test to diagnose major depression in adults, by measuring the levels of nine RNA blood markers.

RNA molecules are the messengers that interpret the DNA genetic code and carry out its instructions. 


An older, mechanical car is a closed system - the only way to hack it is to be physically present. But as automobiles become increasingly chip-oriented, any way to update software remotely means the potential to be hacked.  You won't be carjacked, you'll be carhacked
The car of the future will be safer, smarter and offer greater high-tech gadgets, but be warned without improved security the risk of car hacking is real, according to a QUT road safety expert.


I'm not a big fan of conspiracy theories.  Yes, sometimes there are conspiracies, but the Internet seems to magnify discordant cynicism on an unbelievable scale.  I begin with this disclaimer because the conspiracy theorists have come out to explain why Google would do something completely absurd.  I don't have an explanation for it, other than that I think they are reacting to the Edward Snowden scandal (which has supposedly hurt their business prospects outside the US).

Wearable electronic activity monitors are a popular fad. They constantly monitor activities and bodily responses and the information is organized into computer programs and mobile apps. 

Given the large and quickly growing market for these devices, researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston analyzed 13 of these activity monitors - names like Fitbit, Jawbone or Nike - to try and see if the devices and their companion apps work to motivate the wearer or if they are only used after the novelty phase who were interested in fitness anyway. 


Facial recognition software works pretty well. It measures various parameters, such as the distance between the person's eyes, the height from lip to top of their nose and various other metrics and then compares it with photos of people in a database.

Why not create emotion recognition software that can use its own custom parameters? 

Dev Drume Agrawal, Shiv Ram Dubey and Anand Singh Jalal of the GLA University, in Mathura suggest in the International Journal of Computational Vision and Robotics
has taken a three-phase approach to a software emotion detector.