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July 15th, 2019 at 12:00 pm

The future of brain-computer interfaces and the human machine

 

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The melding of humanity with the technology we have created has begun…

We are well on our way as Homo sapiens to becoming a species that fully merges technology with our organic bodies. In some ways, we’ve been getting at this for centuries already, beginning with the first use of eyeglasses, at the end of the thirteenth century in Italy, to improve vision by making it easy for someone to wear two magnifying lenses on the bridge of their nose.

But ever since the invention of the computer and the first human-machine interfaces were born (HMIs), a dream of many technologists has been to create direct connections between computers and the human brain. These brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) — also known as Brain-Machine Interfaces (BMIs) — would eliminate the lag inherent in the translation between thought → physical action → computer response. BCIs also allow people who cannot perform physical actions required for HMIs to bypass that real-world step and directly control powerful computer tools with the electrical impulses in their brains.

One of the dreams is that BCIs will eventually place the entire canon of human knowledge within the realm of immediate recall: No more searching the internet via typing or voice commands needed. In a near future, we will be able to think about what we need and pull whatever relevant information is available directly from a cloud and into the forefront of our minds.

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July 15th, 2019 at 11:57 am

India going cashless could be a model for the world

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India aims to curb cash – but this time it wants to do it properly.

A cashless society wasn’t the original goal of the country’s draconian currency ban in November 2016. But when an acute shortage of banknotes gave a fillip to digital wallets, that purpose was added as an afterthought to justify an act of farcical state overreach.

The real innovation in mobile payments in India began a few months prior to the cash ban. It’s called a unified payment interface, or UPI. The name is clunky, but the idea is simple. One smartphone owner who’s a customer of Bank A can request a payment from, or initiate a payment to, another owner who has an account with Bank B. Neither party needs to know anything more than each other’s mobile number or a virtual ID. They don’t even need to use the same mobile app to transact.

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July 15th, 2019 at 11:54 am

New mind-controlled robot arm first to work without brain implant

 

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Just strap on the EEG cap and start thinking.

If you want to control a robot with your mind — and really, who doesn’t? — you currently have two options.

You can get a brain implant, in which case your control over the robot will be smooth and continuous. Or you can skip the risky, expensive surgery in favor of a device that senses your brainwaves from outside your skull — but your control over the bot will be jerky and not nearly as precise.

Now, a team from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is narrowing the gap between those two options, creating the first noninvasive mind-controlled robot arm that exhibits the kind of smooth, continuous motion previously reserved only for systems involving brain implants — putting us one step closer to a future in which we can all use our minds to control the tech around us.

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July 14th, 2019 at 3:45 am

Fake blood pumps life into this robotic fish

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Autonomous robots may soon be an ever-present force in our lives, but they are going nowhere fast — or rather, a short distance quickly — without better batteries. You’ve surely seen modern robots scamper through woods or vacuum your floors, but they can only do it for short periods before their energy runs out. Many carry a large battery, which increases a robot’s weight, and in a vicious cycle, requires more power to move.

But a new development in robotic technology that borrows from biology may lead to longer lasting batteries.

The fish “blood” that runs through it serves as both the robot’s power source and controls its movement.

Researchers have engineered a robotic lionfish with synthetic arteries, similar to those found in a human’s circulatory system. The fish “blood” that runs through it serves as both the robot’s power source and controls its movement. The findings, published Wednesday in Nature, may propel the new wave of soft robots, in which inventors seek to improve lifelike automated machines for human connection.

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July 14th, 2019 at 3:40 am

Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs unveils its high-tech ‘city-within-a-city’ plan for Toronto

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Sidewalk Labs says it will spend $1.3 billion on the project in the hopes of spurring $38 billion in private sector investment by 2040

 Sidewalk Labs, Alphabet’s smart city subsidiary, released its massive plan Monday to transform a slice of Toronto’s waterfront into a high-tech utopia. Eighteen months in the making and clocking in at 1,524 pages, the plan represents Alphabet’s first, high-stakes effort to realize Alphabet CEO Larry Page’s long-held dream of a city within a city to experiment with innovations like self-driving cars, public Wi-Fi, new health care delivery solutions, and other city planning advances that modern technology makes possible.

Previously, Sidewalk Labs called it “a neighborhood built from the internet up.” But on Monday, Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff went a step further to describe it as “the most innovative district in the world.”

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