IKEA ROLLS OUT AN AI-POWERED INTERACTIVE DESIGN EXPERIENCE FOR SHOPPERS

By Lauren Forristal

Today, IKEA is launching a new AI-driven interactive design experience called IKEA Kreativ for IKEA.com and the IKEA app. With the new feature, U.S. customers can design and visualize their own living spaces with digitalized furniture on their smartphones instead of traveling to the brick-and-mortar store where they are likely to be distracted by the warehouse-shaped labyrinth of showrooms, blue shopping bags and Swedish meatballs.

Currently, the IKEA Kreativ feature is available on iOS devices and desktops. It will be coming to Android devices later this summer. The AI (Artificial Intelligence) experience is expected to launch in additional countries in September. However, there are no exact launch dates.

With IKEA Kreativ, the company continues taking steps toward digital transformation. According to IKEA, it is the home retail industry’s first fully featured mixed-reality design experience for lifelike and accurate interior design, bridging the gap between e-commerce and in-store customer journeys.

Virtual home design platforms aren’t new. In fact, the Swedish retailer was one of the first furniture companies to ride the AR wave in 2017 with its IKEA Place app. The app works with Apple’s ARKit to allow customers to scan a room and place an IKEA chair, bed, etc., in the space. There is also visual search tech that recommends similar furniture when a user scans an item that already exists in their home. Amazon, Wayfair, Target, The Home Depot, Overstock, Houzz and others have implemented AR apps to help clients design a room with purchasable products, too.

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Tiny robot ‘fireflies’ could light the way for first responders

By Karin Mallett

When scientists get stumped, they often look to nature for inspiration.

That’s why, when robotics engineers at MIT were trying to build tiny robots that lit up, they turned to an obvious influence.

These man-made ‘fireflies’ are flying robots, the size of an insect, that could be a part of our everyday life in the near future.

But you may be wondering, why? Why build them, and what can they be used for?

One benefit is their size. These robots are seriously small.

They can fit on your fingertip, and weigh just a bit more than a paper clip. This allows them to navigate in tight spaces where other, larger robots just can’t reach.

The light they emit actually comes from the artificial muscles they use to flap their tiny, rubber-like wings.

Researchers say that ‘electro-luminescence’ also allows the robots to communicate with each other.

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MOONRISE: LZH and TU Berlin bring 3D printing to the Moon with laser and AI

3D printing on the Moon: Scientists from the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) and the Technische Universitat Berlin (TU Berlin) are planning a flight to the Moon to melt lunar dust with laser beams.

In the MOONRISE project, the research team wants to explore the question of how we can use lasers to build landing sites, roads or buildings out of lunar dust in the future. To do this, the researchers want to bring a laser system to the lunar surface and melt the lunar dust, a material that is available everywhere on the Moon.

Artificial intelligence will support the laser process. The goal is to demonstrate that laser melting works on the Moon – and, in perspective, can be used to produce 3D-printed infrastructure for a lunar base.

From both a scientific and an economic perspective, our terrestrial satellite is a coveted target. Billionaires are not the only ones who want to fly well-paying guests around the Moon; the European Space Agency (ESA) also has plans for a “Moon Village”. The Moon’s dark backside would be suitable for powerful space telescopes.

In addition, the lower gravity and lack of an atmosphere make the Moon an ideal stopover for setting up missions to more distant destinations in space. But how will launch pads, landing sites and buildings be constructed on the lunar surface? “At a cost of up to a million dollars per kilogram, a complete transport of the material from Earth to the Moon would be extremely expensive”, explains Jorg Neumann, MOONRISE project manager at LZH.

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Proteus is Amazon’s first fully autonomous warehouse robot

In a post looking back over the past 10 years since it purchased robotics company Kiva, Amazon has revealed its new machines, including its first fully autonomous warehouse robot. It’s called Proteus, and it was designed to be able to move around Amazon’s facilities on its own while carrying carts fulls of packages. The company said the robot uses an “advanced safety, perception and navigation technology” it developed to be able to do its work without hindering human employees.

In the video Amazon posted, you can see Proteus moving under the carts and transporting them to other locations. It emits a green beam ahead of it while it moves, and it stops if a human worker steps in front of the beam. 

Amazon’s aim is to automate the handling of its package carts so as to reduce the need for human workers to manually move them around its facilities. In fact, the e-commerce giant stressed that its robots were designed to create a safer workplace for people. “From the early days of the Kiva acquisition, our vision was never tied to a binary decision of people or technology. Instead, it was about people and technology working safely and harmoniously together to deliver for our customers,” it wrote. 

Another new robot called Cardinal was also designed with the idea of reducing risk of employee injuries in mind. Cardinal is a robotic arm that picks up packages, reads their labels and then places them in the appropriate cart for the next stage of the shipping process. Artificial intelligence and computer vision enable it to sort packages correctly. Amazon is currently testing a prototype that’s able to lift boxes up to 50 pounds and expects to deploy the robotic arm to fulfillment centers by next year.

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Robot fish could solve the ocean’s microplastic pollution problem

By Amy Barrett

Bots that attract small pieces of plastic waste could one day help remove the millions of microplastics floating in the sea.

A fish-shaped robot that can collect tiny pieces of plastic waste has been developed by scientists at Sichuan University, China. The bot uses light from a laser to flap its tail side-to-side and has a body that can attract molecules found on microplastics, causing them to stick to it as it swims past.

The robo-fish was, in part, inspired by marine life – its moving body uses a structure similar to a naturally strong and flexible substance found on the inside surface of clam shells: mother-of-pearl.

Mother-of-pearl, also known as nacre, is a layered material that looks almost like a brick wall under the microscope. It’s this structure that the team mimicked in their robot, as the sliding layers enabled it to move its tail but the strength of the overall design made it more durable.

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Jetson ONE flying car makes its first eVTOL commute to work

By Bruce Crumley

Awaiting delivery of its first flying cars to customers next year, Swedish electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOL) company Jetson has given the world a look at what future commutes to work may be like – this time with its CEO strapped in at the commands.

Jetson released a video on its Facebook page of company boss and inventor of its ONE flying car, Tomasz Patan, piloting his eVTOL creation to the office. The accompanying text noted the craft cut his travel time (presumably compared to usual road options) by nearly 90%. There were no details on the distance or total duration of the commute, but the film did offer lots of snazzy footage of the one-person conveyance navigating between utility lines and over treetops before touching down at the company’s HQ. 

“We are incredibly proud to share that after months of rigorous trial and testing we completed the world’s first EVTOL commute,” the accompanying message read. “On 21.05.2022 co-founder and Jetson ONE inventor Tomasz Patan flew from home to work. This reduced our commute time by an impressive 88%. A momentous occasion for the emerging EVTOL sector. As pioneers, we are focused on further pushing the envelope during this aviation Renaissance.”

“Revolution” may be a more appropriate word for what the company has in mind, given its slogan, “Everyone is a pilot.” Designed and produced as a simple to use ultralight vehicle, the Jetson flying car will not require piloting certification, allowing pretty much anyone deciding to adopt the eVTOL innovation to follow Patan’s commuting lead. 

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EP. 91 with Patri Friedman

Watch our interview with Patri Friedman on Youtube or listen on the Futurati Podcast website.

From monarchy to laissez-faire capitalism, from communism to anarchism, much has been written advocating for different political philosophies. Though it has proven much harder to test these ideas in practice, it would be much easier if it became possible to actually create new countries with new rules, economic systems, and social arrangements. Tonight we’re joined by Patri Friedman, a man who has a proposal to do just that. Patri is an American libertarian, anarcho-capitalist, and theorist of political economy. He founded The Seasteading Institute, a non-profit that explores the creation of sovereign ocean colonies. If you enjoy this interview please subscribe to the podcast and share it with your friends, that’s the best way to help us grow!

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Lab-produced wood doesn’t grow on trees

Each year, the world loses about 10 million hectares of forest – an area about the size of Iceland – because of deforestation. At that rate, some scientists predict the world’s forests could disappear in 100 to 200 years.

In an effort to provide an environmentally friendly and low-waste alternative to deforestation, researchers at Massachusetts of Technology (MIT) have pioneered a tunable technique to generate wood-like plant material in the lab. This could let someone ‘grow’ a wooden product like a table without needing to cut down trees, process lumber, etc.

The researchers have now demonstrated that, by adjusting certain chemicals used during the growth process, they can precisely control the physical and mechanical properties of the resulting plant material, such as its stiffness and density. They have also shown that, using 3D bioprinting techniques, they can grow plant material in shapes, sizes and forms that are not found in nature and that can’t be easily produced using traditional agricultural methods. They report their work in a paper in Materials Today.

“The idea is that you can grow these plant materials in exactly the shape that you need, so you don’t need to do any subtractive manufacturing after the fact, which reduces the amount of energy and waste,” says lead author Ashley Beckwith, a recent PhD graduate at MIT. “There is a lot of potential to expand this and grow three-dimensional structures.”

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Meta’s latest VR headset prototypes could help it pass the ‘Visual Turing test’

They’re focusing on delivering HDR, higher resolution screens and more to make VR truly realistic.

By D. Hardawar@devindra

Meta wants to make it clear it’s not giving up on high-end VR experiences yet. So, in a rare move, the company is spilling the beans on several VR headset prototypes at once. The goal, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is to eventually craft something that could pass the “visual Turing Test,” or the point where virtual reality is practically indistinguishable from the real world. That’s the Holy Grail for VR enthusiasts, but for Meta’s critics, it’s another troubling sign that the company wants to own reality (even if Zuckerberg says he doesn’t want to completely own the metaverse).

As explained by Zuckerberg and Michael Abrash, Chief Scientist of Meta’s Reality Labs, creating the perfect VR headset involves perfecting four basic concepts. First, they need to reach a high resolution so you can have 20/20 VR vision (with no need for prescription glasses). Additionally, headsets need variable focal depth and eye tracking, so you can easily focus on nearby and far away objects; as well as fix optical distortions inherent in current lenses. (We’ve seen this tech in the Half Dome prototypes.) Finally, Meta needs to bring HDR, or high dynamic range, into headsets to deliver more realistic brightness, shadows and color depth. More so than resolution, HDR is a major reason why modern TVs and computer monitors look better than LCDs from a decade ago.

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New AI limbs let amputees control robotic arms with just the power of their mind

A team of scientists has created new technology that could allow amputees to control prosthetics by using the power of their minds

By Forrest McFarland

AMPUTEES could use the power of their minds to control new AI robotic arms, research shows.

A team of scientists has created prosthetic technology that enables people to control robot arms by using their brain impulses.

The University of Minnesota team of researchers came together to find a more intuitive option for amputees, a new study shows.

“With prosthetic systems, when amputees want to move a finger, they don’t actually think about moving a finger,” research scientist Jules Anh Tuan Nguyen said.

“They’re trying to activate the muscles in their arms since that’s what the system reads.”

Current technology forces amputees to use the remaining muscles in their arms to move their prosthetics.

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New 3D Printing Tech Spits Out Whole Robots All at Once

By Tony Ho Tran

A swarm of tiny robots might just save your life one day—or at least that’s the idea with a new type of tiny robot that can be 3D printed all at once.

In a new study published in Science today, a team of researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles developed a new 3D printing method that can create working robots made from metamaterials (synthetic materials from elements not found in nature). The resulting machines, which the scientists have dubbed ‘meta-bots,’ are capable of moving, sensing, and navigating terrain all on their own.

The meta-bots are each roughly the size of a fingernail. The team believes that it has the potential for a number of different applications including exploring hazardous environments like collapsed buildings or other areas with rubble to aid in rescue efforts. They could even be built in smaller sizes to assist in medical procedures by delivering drug doses to specific sites in the body.

“We envision that this design and printing methodology of smart robotic materials will help realize a class of autonomous materials that could replace the current complex assembly process for making a robot,” Xiaoyu (Rayne) Zheng, a UCLA engineer and the study’s lead author, said in a press release.

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Nanotech breakthrough prints human tissue from stem cells

Israel’s Nano Dimension uses an inkjet process to print living human tissue in 3D. Next step, a printed liver or heart?

It’s the stuff of science fiction: technology that can print a human organ. But the first step towards turning big-screen fantasy into everyday reality has been taken by Israel’s Nano Dimension,  which makes 3D printers.

Through a collaboration with another Israeli company, biotechnology firm Accellta of Haifa, Nano Dimension has been able to mix human stem cells into its 3D printer ink. When expelled through the more than 1,000 tiny nozzles of a Nano Dimension DragonFly 3D printer, the ink can form into human tissue.

While the technology is still at the proof-of-concept stage – and going from simple tissue to a full organ is a daunting and uncharted process – the possibilities for saving lives by “printing” a new liver or lung are staggering.

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