Robots Made Out of Branches Use Deep Learning to Walk

Researchers used deep reinforcement learning to teach these strange robots how to move Designing robots is a finicky process, requiring an exhaustive amount of thought and care. It’s usually necessary to have a very clear idea of what you want your robot to do and how you want it to do it, and then you build a prototype, discover everything that’s wrong with it, build something different and better, and repeat until you run out of time and/or money. But robots don’t necessarily have to be this complicated, as long as your expectations for what they should be able to do are correspondingly low. In a paper presented at a NeurIPS workshop last December, a group of researchers from the University of Tokyo and Preferred Networks experimented with building mobile robots out of a couple of generic servos plus stuff you can find on the ground, like tree branches. 

Seven MIT educators honored with Teaching with Digital Technology Awards

Seven MIT educators have received awards this year for their significant digital learning innovations and their contributions to teaching and learning at MIT and around the world. Polina Anikeeva, Martin Bazant, and Jessica Sandland shared the third annual MITx Prize for Teaching and Learning in MOOCs — an award given to educators who have developed massive open online courses (MOOCs) that share the best of MIT knowledge and perspectives with learners around the world. Additionally, John Belcher, Amy Carleton, Jared Curhan, and Erik Demaine received Teaching with Digital Technology Awards, nominated by MIT students for their innovative use of digital technology to improve their teaching at MIT. The MITx Prize for Teaching and Learning in MOOCs This year’s MITx prize winners were honored at an MIT Open Learning event in May. Professor Polina Anikeeva of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Digital Learning Lab Scientist Jessica Sandland received the Continue reading Seven MIT educators honored with Teaching with Digital Technology Awards

Angelika Amon and Dina Katabi named Carnegie Corporation “Great Immigrants”

MIT professors Angelika Amon and Dina Katabi have been named to the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s 2019 list of Great Immigrants, Great Americans. These 38 naturalized U.S. citizens are noted as individuals who “strengthen America’s economy, enrich our culture and communities, and invigorate our democracy through their lives, their work, and their examples.” Angelika Amon, who hails from Austria, is a molecular and cell biologist who studies cell growth and division and how errors in this process — specifically abnormal numbers of chromosomes — contribute to cancer, aging, and birth defects. Amon arrived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from Vienna in 1994 to complete a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research; she was subsequently named a Whitehead Fellow for three years. Amon then joined the MIT Center for Cancer Research, now the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, and MIT’s Department of Biology in 1999. Continue reading Angelika Amon and Dina Katabi named Carnegie Corporation “Great Immigrants”

Tiny motor can “walk” to carry out tasks

Years ago, MIT Professor Neil Gershenfeld had an audacious thought. Struck by the fact that all the world’s living things are built out of combinations of just 20 amino acids, he wondered: Might it be possible to create a kit of just 20 fundamental parts that could be used to assemble all of the different technological products in the world? Gershenfeld and his students have been making steady progress in that direction ever since. Their latest achievement, presented this week at an international robotics conference, consists of a set of five tiny fundamental parts that can be assembled into a wide variety of functional devices, including a tiny “walking” motor that can move back and forth across a surface or turn the gears of a machine. Previously, Gershenfeld and his students showed that structures assembled from many small, identical subunits can have numerous mechanical properties. Next, they demonstrated that a Continue reading Tiny motor can “walk” to carry out tasks