Weed-killing robot is 20 times faster than humans

Carbon Robotics, a Seattle-based developer of autonomous farm technology, has announced its third generation of weed elimination robots.

The Autonomous Weeder, developed by Carbon Robotics, uses a combination of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and laser technology to safely and effectively drive through crop fields – identifying, targeting and eliminating weeds.

Unlike other weeding technologies, the robot utilises high-power lasers to eradicate weeds through thermal energy, without disturbing the soil. This could allow farmers to use less herbicides, while reducing labour costs and improving the reliability and predictability of crop yields.

“AI and deep learning technology are creating efficiencies across a variety of industries and we’re excited to apply it to agriculture,” said Paul Mikesell, CEO and founder of Carbon Robotics. “Farmers, and others in the global food supply chain, are innovating now more than ever to keep the world fed. Our goal is to create tools that address their most challenging problems, including weed management and elimination.” 

The technology developed by Carbon Robotics can improve crop yields and quality, since lasers leave soil microbiology undisturbed, unlike tillage. The lack of herbicides and soil disruption can pave the way for a regenerative approach, leading to healthier crops and higher yields, as well as reduced health problems in humans and other mammals.

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Neurable introduces brain-computer interface headphones

BCI headphones. Credit: Neurable

by Sarah Katz

The neurotechnology company Neurable has revealed plans for brain-computer interface (BCI) headphones, similar to previous products designed to learn from human movement and predict intent.

This idea began with the product lead Dr. Ramses Alcaide. Inspired by his uncle’s successful engineering of his own prosthetic legs following a horrific automobile accident, Alcaide realized the usefulness of technology that could assist users with physical mobility. 

During his time as a neuroscience Ph.D. student working with differently abled individuals, Alcaide took note of the discrepancy between the abilities of prosthetics versus brain reading technology. Ultimately, his observations influenced his decision to focus on developing technology capable of directly interacting with the human brain in real-time. 

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Level 4 aerial autonomy: Drones can now fly themselves

Firm achieves highest level aerial autonomy yet documented. Why that’s a game changer.

By Greg Nichols 

A company that develops autonomous drone technology for industry and defense achieved a milestone heretofore reserved for land-based vehicles: Level 4 autonomy. This appears to be the first successful demonstration of level 4 autonomy in an aerial system.

We’ve tracked the company, Exyn Technologies, particularly its national defense aspirations. As I wrote in early 2020, Exyn began developing for the enterprise and is active in sectors like oil and gas and infrastructure inspection. The company’s drones are designed to work in complex, GPS-denied environments where unknown terrain and uncertain ground conditions can make flying perilous. This mission brief has also led Exyn to explore defense industry applications.

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High-tech contact lenses are straight out of science fiction — and may replace smart phones

A concept image showing a contact lens with digital and biometric implants. 

 By Bishakh Rout, McGill University

Contact lenses are the result of an accidental discovery made during the Second World War. Ophthalmologist Harold Ridley noticed that despite acrylic plastic shrapnel shards becoming embedded in the eyes of fighter pilots, it did not appear to cause any harm. This finding eventually led to the creation of hard intraocular lenses for the treatment of cataracts. 

Over the years, new scientific discoveries have led to softer and more comfortable contact lenses. And now, research bringing together chemistry, biology and microelectronics is resulting in contact lenses that are straight out of science fiction.

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Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange set to launch an NFT marketplace

The marketplace is aimed at creators and traders of collectables in visual arts, music, games, sports, and more.

Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange has revealed plans to launch its own non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace where users can create, buy and sell digital collector’s items

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How teleportation is powering the internet of the future

By Ian Evenden 

Is a quantum network the next step for how we transfer data?

We like phat pipes, and we cannot lie. And over the past 20 years we’ve seen internet connections change from dial-up to ADSL over copper wire, to today’s fibre-optics. So what’s next for how we transfer data? 

Imagine a network that, instead of using pulses of light to send signals, uses the properties of photons themselves. This is a quantum network, and it relies on something Einstein wasn’t very fond of: quantum entanglement. Decried as ‘spooky action at a distance’ by the moustachioed relativity-theoriser, entanglement means creating a pair of photons in such a way that, when you measure the quantum state of one, you immediately know the same property of the other no matter how far apart they are. Transferring information in this way is known as quantum teleportation, but rather than men in red shirts doomed to die, what’s teleported here is the quantum information. If you’re really clever, this is enough to build an internet. 

Such really clever people include graduate student Samantha Davis and Dr Raju Valivarthi, who both work in the Division of Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology. They published a paper in 2020 detailing how, using “state-of-the-art low-noise superconducting nanowire single-photon detectors” (and off-the-shelf optics) they were able to teleport qubits at a wavelength commonly used in telecommunications down optical fibres, with a fidelity of 90%. Clearly, with an error rate of 10%, they’re not quite there yet, though work on this is ongoing both at Caltech and Fermilab. 

What’s perhaps most interesting about the Caltech work is the way it uses common networking components, and can interface with today’s internet. 

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A New CRISPR Tool Flips Genes On and Off Like a Light Switch

By Shelly Fan 

CRISPR is revolutionary. It’s also a total brute.

The classic version of the gene editing wunderkind literally slices a gene to bits just to turn it off. It’s effective, yes. But it’s like putting an electrical wire through a paper shredder to turn off a misbehaving light bulb. Once the wires are cut, there’s no going back.

Why not add a light switch instead?

This month, a team from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) reimagined CRISPR to do just that. Rather than directly acting on genes—irrevocably dicing away or swapping genetic letters—the new CRISPR variant targets the biological machinery that naturally turns genes on or off.

Translation? CRISPR can now “flip a light switch” to control genes—without ever touching them directly. It gets better. The new tool, CRISPRoff, can cause a gene to stay silent for hundreds of generations, even when its host cells morph from stem cells into more mature cells, such as neurons. Once the “sleeping beauty” genes are ready to wake up, a complementary tool, CRISPRon, flips the light switch back on.

This new technology “changes the game so now you’re basically writing a change [into genes] that is passed down,” said author Dr. Luke Gilbert. “In some ways we can learn to create a version 2.0 of CRISPR-Cas9 that is safer and just as effective.”

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Tesla wants to make every home a distributed power plant

Aria Alamalhodaei

Tesla CEO Elon Musk wants to turn every home into a distributed power plant that would generate, store and even deliver energy back into the electricity grid, all using the company’s products.

While the company has been selling solar and energy storage products for years, a new company policy to only sell solar coupled with the energy storage products, along with Musk’s comments Monday, reveal a strategy that aims to scale these businesses by appealing to utilities.

“This is a prosperous future both for Tesla and for the utilities,” he said. “If this is not done, the utilities will fail to serve their customers. They won’t be able to do it,” Musk said during an investor call, noting the rolling blackouts in California last summer and the more recent grid failure in Texas as evidence that grid reliability has become a bigger concern.

Last week, the company changed its website to prevent customers from only buying solar or its Powerwall energy storage product and instead required purchasing a system. Musk later announced the move in a tweet, stating “solar power will feed exclusively to Powerwall” and that “Powerwall will interface only between utility meter and house main breaker panel, enabling super simple install and seamless whole house backup during utility dropouts.”

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How 3D printing and robots improve knee replacement surgery

Stryker’s Triathlon implant has four components (from top): femur, patella (attached to the femur), liner, and tibia. Images: Stryker 

 By Don Nelson 

Stryker uses additive manufacturing and robotics to promote bone/implant bonding and shorten post-surgery recovery times.

Total knee replacement surgery has intrigued me since 1979, when my grandfather had the procedure performed on both knees. The prostheses of that era were designed to anatomically mimic the motion of a knee joint, making them superior to their hinge-action predecessors of the ’60s.

But as I’ve discovered since undergoing my own knee replacement surgery last November, today’s prostheses, surgical techniques, and patient outcomes have vastly improved since Gramps was rolled into the operating room. Advancements in what’s medically known as total knee arthroplasty (TKA) include materials developed specifically for implants and their 3D-printed components, as well as the use of surgical-assist robots.

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Alphabet’s X moonshot division wants to bring AI to the electric grid

By Chris Davies 

Google parent Alphabet has been working on “a moonshot” for the electric grid, with a secret project in its X R&D division aiming to figure out how to make power use more stable, and more green, than it is today. The research, revealed at the White House Leaders Summit on Climate, has been underway for the past three years. 

The team at X – which began as Google X, and then was spun out into a separate division when Google created Alphabet as its overarching parent – isn’t planning to put up power lines and install solar panels and wind turbines itself. Instead, it’s looking at whether a more holistic understanding of the grid would help in the transition to environmentally stable sources. 

“Right now our work is more questions than answers,” Astro Teller, Captain of Moonshots at X, says, “but the central hypothesis we’ve been exploring is whether creating a single virtualized view of the grid – which doesn’t exist today – could make the grid easier to visualize, plan, build and operate with all kinds of clean energy.”

Teller’s use of “moonshot” is a reference to the original NASA plan to put astronauts on the Moon, a project which was generally acknowledged as being ambitious and ground-breaking, not to mention with no immediate path to making a profit. While Teller leads the division, Alphabet brought in Audrey Zibelman – former CEO of Australian energy operator AEMO, and an expert in decarbonization of the electrical system – to lead this particular moonshot.

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Apple Glasses could turn any surface into a touch screen thanks to augmented reality

By Jacinto Araque

Despite the launch of the Google Glass project a few years ago, smart glasses are still a world to be explored, and with the advent of virtual reality and augmented reality, this type of product may take on a totally different dimension than imagined a few years ago.

Apple has already had several winks referring to possible smart glasses, the Apple Glasses, of which there are not many certainties, but that point to become a reality at some point in the near future, and that are still an unknown in some ways.

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Advancing AI With a Supercomputer: A Blueprint for an Optoelectronic ‘Brain’

By Edd Gent 

Building a computer that can support artificial intelligence at the scale and complexity of the human brain will be a colossal engineering effort. Now researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology have outlined how they think we’ll get there.

How, when, and whether we’ll ever create machines that can match our cognitive capabilities is a topic of heated debate among both computer scientists and philosophers. One of the most contentious questions is the extent to which the solution needs to mirror our best example of intelligence so far: the human brain.

Rapid advances in AI powered by deep neural networks—which despite their name operate very differently than thebrain—have convinced many that we may be able to achieve “artificial general intelligence” without mimicking the brain’s hardware or software.

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