Breakthrough in Cochlear Implants: MIT and Partners Develop Implantable Microphone

Cochlear implants, small electronic devices that provide a sense of sound to those who are deaf or hard of hearing, have improved hearing for over a million people worldwide, according to the National Institutes of Health. However, current cochlear implants are only partially implanted, relying on external hardware that sits on the side of the head. This external component restricts users, preventing them from swimming, exercising, or sleeping with the device, leading some to forgo the implant altogether.

A multidisciplinary team of researchers from MIT, Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Harvard Medical School, and Columbia University has made significant progress toward creating a fully internal cochlear implant. They have developed an implantable microphone that performs as well as commercial external hearing aid microphones, addressing one of the largest hurdles in achieving a fully internalized cochlear implant.

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NOAA Launches Final GOES-R Satellite, Enhancing Environmental Monitoring with AI

On June 25, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) launched GOES-U, the fourth and final satellite of the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES)-R program. This launch continues and extends the program’s mission to serve as the Western Hemisphere’s most advanced system for observing weather and monitoring the environment, as endorsed by the World Meteorological Organization.

Since the first GOES-R satellite launch in November 2016, these satellites have equipped NOAA with sophisticated imagery and atmospheric measurements, real-time lightning activity mapping, space weather observations, and other critical data collected by an array of sensors and imagers.

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Leveraging Online Videos for Advanced Robot Training

To be effectively utilized in real-world scenarios, robots must reliably perform a variety of everyday tasks, from household chores to industrial processes. Tasks such as manipulating fabrics, folding clothes, or assisting individuals with mobility impairments in knotting ties, are particularly challenging for robotic systems. Training robots to handle these tasks often involves imitation learning, which uses videos, motion capture footage, and other data of humans completing the tasks. However, this method requires substantial amounts of human demonstration data, which can be costly and difficult to obtain. Existing open-source datasets also tend to lack sufficient data compared to those used for training other computational techniques like computer vision or generative AI models.

Researchers at the National University of Singapore, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and Nanjing University have recently proposed an alternative approach to enhance and simplify the training of robotics algorithms using human demonstrations. This approach, detailed in a paper pre-published on arXiv, utilizes the vast number of videos posted online daily as sources of human demonstrations for various tasks.

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South Korean Kim Young-hoon Recognized as Highest IQ Holder in History

South Korean Kim Young-hoon has been recognized as the individual with the highest IQ in history, scoring an impressive 276 at the World Memory Championships. The announcement was made by the competition’s organizer, the World Mind Sports Council, on Thursday.

“The World Mind Sports Council hereby recognizes Young-hoon Kim from South Korea as the person with the highest IQ in the world and congratulates him,” stated the event organizer.

Previously, the title of the highest IQ holder belonged to Chinese-Australian professor Terence Tao, who has an IQ of 230.

Following the announcement, Kim expressed his aspirations: “I want to research and help improve people’s brainpower around the world using my talents in the future.”

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TeraNet Advances Space Communication with Laser Signal Success

The TeraNet team, led by Associate Professor Sascha Schediwy from the UWA node at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), successfully received laser signals from OSIRISv1, a laser communication payload developed by the Institute of Communications and Navigation of the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The signals, transmitted from the University of Stuttgart’s Flying Laptop satellite, were detected using two of TeraNet’s optical ground stations during satellite flybys last Thursday.

“This demonstration is the critical first step in establishing a next-generation space communications network across Western Australia. The next steps include joining this network to other optical ground stations currently being developed in Australia and across the world,” said Associate Professor Schediwy.

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Transforming Organic Waste into Fertilizer: A Sustainable Approach Using Hydrothermal Liquefaction and Fungal Treatment

Creating fertilizers from organic waste can significantly reduce fossil fuel consumption and promote sustainable agricultural production. One innovative method is hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL), which converts biomass into biocrude oil through a high-temperature, high-pressure process. Two studies from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign explore the use of a fungal treatment to convert the leftover wastewater from HTL into fertilizer for agricultural crops.

“HTL uses wet biomass from organic sources such as swine manure or food waste. The process yields wastewater, called hydrothermal liquefaction aqueous phase (HTL-AP), which is usually discarded. We know it contains nutrients that can be used for fertilizer, but they are mostly in organic forms that plants can’t access. HTL-AP may also contain toxic heavy metals, depending on the type of biowaste,” said co-author Paul Davidson, an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE), part of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and The Grainger College of Engineering at Illinois.

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Breakthrough in Solar-Powered Drones: The ColumbFly Achieves Unlimited Daytime Flight

Researchers at Beihang University in Beijing have developed an ultralightweight solar-powered drone, named ColumbFly, capable of unlimited flight during daylight hours. Weighing only 4 grams, ColumbFly utilizes a solar cell to generate electricity, creating an electric field between oppositely charged plates arranged in a circle. These opposing charges act like repelling magnets, producing enough force to turn the rotor blades and generate the torque needed to lift the robot off the ground.

The drone boasts a high lift efficiency of 30.7 grams per watt and a power system that requires just 0.568 watts. This allows it to fly continuously using solar power under natural sunlight, which provides 920 watts per square meter. The Beihang University team claims that each component of ColumbFly has been meticulously designed to balance efficiency and lightweight, enabling remote monitoring tasks for extended periods.

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AI Breakthrough: Predicting Rogue Waves Up to Five Minutes in Advance

Rogue waves, those unexpectedly massive ridges of water that can ambush ships and beachgoers, are now more predictable thanks to a new artificial intelligence model. Mechanical engineers Thomas Breunung and Balakumar Balachandran from the University of Maryland in College Park report their findings in the July 18 issue of Scientific Reports.

These waves, which crest more than twice as high as surrounding swells, can form where converging waves amplify a single ridge or where ocean currents compress swells into powerful billows. Despite recognizing certain patterns preceding these surges, researchers had not yet developed an effective forecasting tool (SN: 6/8/15). Such a tool could be lifesaving, given that from 2011 to 2018, rogue waves were responsible for 386 deaths and the sinking of 24 ships.

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ElevenLabs Partners with Estates of Legendary Stars for AI-Powered Voice Narration

AI audio firm ElevenLabs has inked agreements with the estates of iconic figures such as Judy Garland, James Dean, and other legendary stars to use their voices for reading books, articles, PDFs, and more through its new Reader App.

ElevenLabs envisions users enjoying Garland’s legendary voice reading the original L. Frank Baum novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” or Laurence Olivier delivering a Sherlock Holmes story, among other works. The company emphasizes that it has secured license agreements for the authorized use of these iconic voices as part of the “Iconic Voices” feature of its app.

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New Hydrogel-Infused Soil Captures Water from Air, Enhances Plant Growth, and Optimizes Fertilizer Use

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have engineered a new type of soil infused with a hydrogel material that can capture water from the air and provide a controlled release of fertilizer. This innovative “smart soil” significantly enhances plant growth and reduces water and fertilizer usage.

“This new gel technology can reduce the burden on farmers by decreasing the need for frequent irrigation and fertilization,” said Jungjoon Park, a graduate student in the Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering who led the research. “The technology is also versatile enough to be adopted across a wide range of climates, from arid regions to temperate areas.” The research was recently published in ACS Materials Letters.

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Researchers Develop Soft, Stretchable ‘Jelly Batteries’ for Wearable Devices and Biomedical Implants

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed innovative soft, stretchable “jelly batteries” with potential applications in wearable devices, soft robotics, and even brain implants for drug delivery or treating conditions like epilepsy. Inspired by electric eels, these jelly-like materials feature a layered structure, similar to sticky Lego, enabling them to deliver an electric current.

The jelly batteries, reported in the journal Science Advances, are made from hydrogels: 3D networks of polymers containing over 60% water. These polymers are held together by reversible interactions that control the jelly’s mechanical properties. The ability to precisely control these properties and mimic human tissue characteristics makes hydrogels ideal for soft robotics and bioelectronics. However, achieving both conductivity and stretchability in such materials has been challenging.

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Insect-Inspired Navigation Revolutionizes Tiny Autonomous Robots

Researchers at TU Delft have drawn inspiration from the natural world to develop an innovative autonomous navigation strategy for tiny, lightweight robots. Inspired by how ants visually recognize their environment and count their steps to find their way back home, this strategy could drastically improve the efficiency and application of small autonomous robots.

The TU Delft researchers designed an insect-inspired navigation system that allows tiny robots to return home after long journeys with minimal computation and memory requirements—just 0.65 kilobytes per 100 meters. This breakthrough has the potential to extend the use of small autonomous robots in various fields, such as warehouse inventory monitoring and detecting gas leaks at industrial sites.

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