Tiny Drones Team Up to Open Doors

Drones take a cue from wasps to manipulate objects 40 times their own mass In a move inspired by natural engineering, robotics researchers have demonstrated how tiny palm-size drones can forcefully tug objects 40 times their own mass by anchoring themselves to the ground or to walls. It’s a glimpse into how small drones could more actively manipulate their environment in a way similar to that of humans or larger robots. “Teams of these drones could work cooperatively to perform more complex manipulation tasks,” says Matt Estrada, a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering at Stanford University. “We demonstrated opening a door, but this approach could be extended to turning a ball valve, moving a piece of debris, or retrieving an object of interest from a disaster zone.” 

MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future announces advisory and research boards

Launched earlier this year, the MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future brings together a diverse team of MIT faculty and researchers from throughout the Institute, all seeking to understand the relationship between technology and work and how to best prepare workers for the future. To support its efforts, the task force has assembled two boards of experts (listed below). The advisory board includes leaders from industry, academia, labor, government, foundations, and other organizations, who will provide feedback and guidance to the task force. In addition, a research board of leading scholars in related fields will help to refine research-related questions and directions. Leadership of the task force includes Elisabeth Reynolds, executive director of the MIT Industrial Performance Center (IPC) and lecturer in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning; David Autor, the Ford Professor of Economics and associate head of the MIT Department of Economics; and David Continue reading MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future announces advisory and research boards

How should autonomous vehicles be programmed?

A massive new survey developed by MIT researchers reveals some distinct global preferences concerning the ethics of autonomous vehicles, as well as some regional variations in those preferences. The survey has global reach and a unique scale, with over 2 million online participants from over 200 countries weighing in on versions of a classic ethical conundrum, the “Trolley Problem.” The problem involves scenarios in which an accident involving a vehicle is imminent, and the vehicle must opt for one of two potentially fatal options. In the case of driverless cars, that might mean swerving toward a couple of people, rather than a large group of bystanders. “The study is basically trying to understand the kinds of moral decisions that driverless cars might have to resort to,” says Edmond Awad, a postdoc at the MIT Media Lab and lead author of a new paper outlining the results of the project. “We Continue reading How should autonomous vehicles be programmed?