Harvard’s UrchinBot Is One of the Weirdest Looking Robots We’ve Ever Seen

On the spectrum of weird stuff that can be found in the ocean, sea urchins are probably somewhere in the middle. They’re an interesting combination of rigid and flexible, with shells covered in hard movable spines as well as soft tubular appendages that work like a combination of legs and sticky feet. The mobility strategy of sea urchins leverages both of these appendages, and while they may not be speedy, they can get themselves into all kinds of potentially useful nooks and crannies, which seems like a capability that could be valuable in a robot. At IROS 2019 this week, roboticists from Harvard presented a bioinspired robot that “incorporates anatomical features unique to sea urchins,” actuated by pneumatics or hydraulics and operating without a tether. It may be based on a real animal, but even so, UrchinBot is definitely one of the weirdest looking robots we’ve ever seen. As it Continue reading Harvard’s UrchinBot Is One of the Weirdest Looking Robots We’ve Ever Seen

Materials Day talks examine the promises and challenges of AI and machine learning

The promises and challenges of artificial intelligence and machine learning highlighted the Oct. 9 MIT Materials Day Symposium, with presentations on new ways of forming zeolite compounds, faster drug synthesis, advanced optical devices, and more. “Machine learning is having an impact in all areas of materials research,” Materials Research Laboratory Director Carl V. Thompson said. “We’re increasingly able to work in tandem with machines to help us decide what materials to make,” said Elsa A. Olivetti, the Atlantic Richfield Associate Professor of Energy Studies. Machine learning is also guiding how to make those materials with new insights into synthesis methods, and, in some cases (such as with robotic systems), actually making those materials, she noted. Keynote speaker Brian Storey, director of accelerated materials design and discovery at Toyota Research Institute, spoke about machine learning to advance the switch from the internal combustion engine to electric vehicles, and Professor Ju Li, the Battelle Continue reading Materials Day talks examine the promises and challenges of AI and machine learning

3 Questions: When the student becomes the teacher

As a master’s student in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Technology and Policy Program at MIT, Brandon Leshchinskiy’s ultimate goal is to “build AI tools to adapt to climate change and the educational tools to stop it.” As part of his graduate thesis, in collaboration with MIT Portugal and EarthDNA, both led by Dava Newman, the Apollo Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Leschinskiy created EarthDNA’s Ambassadors, an outreach program “for the Earth, for future generations.” The program aims to empower high school students to speak loudly and often about climate change, by leveraging the energy of college students and recent graduates who are passionate about infusing these conversations in to their local community. EarthDNA Ambassadors provides resources, including a Climate 101 presentation, email templates, surveys, and other materials to support these outreach efforts in local communities. Leshchinskiy spoke about the program in a recent interview. Q: Why Continue reading 3 Questions: When the student becomes the teacher

Trump CTO Addresses AI, Facial Recognition, Immigration, Tech Infrastructure, and More

Michael Kratsios, the Chief Technology Officer of the United States, took the stage at Stanford University last week to field questions from Stanford’s Eileen Donahoe and attendees at the 2019 Fall Conference of the Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI). Kratsios, the fourth to hold the U.S. CTO position since its creation by President Barack Obama in 2009, was confirmed in August as President Donald Trump’s first CTO. Before joining the Trump administration, he was chief of staff at investment firm Thiel Capital and chief financial officer of hedge fund Clarium Capital. Donahoe is Executive Director of Stanford’s Global Digital Policy Incubator and served as the first U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council during the Obama Administration. The conversation jumped around, hitting on both accomplishments and controversies. Kratsios touted the administration’s success in fixing policy around the use of drones, its memorandum on STEM education, and an increase in funding Continue reading Trump CTO Addresses AI, Facial Recognition, Immigration, Tech Infrastructure, and More