Artificial skin could help rehabilitation and enhance virtual reality

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Artificial skin could help rehabilitation and enhance virtual reality

EPFL scientists have developed a soft artificial skin that provides haptic feedback and—thanks to a sophisticated self-sensing mechanism—has the potential to instantaneously adapt to a wearer’s movements. Applications for the new technology range from medical rehabilitation to virtual reality. Artificial skin could help rehabilitation and enhance virtual reality.

Just like our senses of hearing and vision, our sense of touch plays an important role in how we perceive and interact with the world around us. And technology capable of replicating our sense of touch—also known as haptic feedback—can greatly enhance human-computer and human-robot interfaces for applications such as medical rehabilitation and virtual reality.

Scientists at EPFL’s Reconfigurable Robotics Lab (RRL), headed by Jamie Paik, and Laboratory for Soft Bioelectronic Interfaces (LSBI), headed by Stéphanie Lacour at the School of Engineering, have teamed up to develop a soft, flexible artificial skin made of silicone and electrodes. Both labs are part of the NCCR Robotics program.

The skin’s system of soft sensors and actuators enable the artificial skin to conform to the exact shape of a wearer’s wrist, for example, and provide haptic feedback in the form of pressure and vibration. Strain sensors continuously measure the skin’s deformation so that the haptic feedback can be adjusted in real time to produce a sense of touch that’s as realistic as possible. The scientists’ work has just been published in Soft Robotics.

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Digital twins could form the “end game” for optimum smart city design

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Digital twinning technology can transform how cities are designed, monitored and managed

Research finds that urban digital twinning and city modelling technology is having a transformative effect on how cities are designed, monitored, and managed.

Urban modelling and digital twins, in particular, will form the “end game” of the smart cities journey to optimised design and the ultra-efficient operation of entire cities, according to ABI Research.

Its research findings reveal that the installed base of urban digital twin and city modelling deployments will rise from a handful to more than 500 by 2025.

The global tech market advisory firm said the technology is helping to transform how cities are designed, monitored, and managed and optimising the holistic performance of cities across verticals in terms of energy management, mobility, resilience, sustainability, and economic growth.

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Double’s new telepresence robot now drives you around like you’re a Sim

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Click to drive

When my colleague James Vincent tried out Double Robotics’ first telepresence robot in 2015, slowly wheeling around our New York office from his London home base, he described the experience as like playing Doom, but in an office. The company’s latest version of the robot, the Double 3, adds mixed reality video to let users click on the spots they want to drive to instead of having to use a control pad, making the experience closer to controlling a Sim.

The Double 3 now has an array of 3D sensors to allow for self-driving, letting the robot move around while avoiding obstacles. The new “Click-to-drive” interface shows dots on the floor for areas the robot is able to move to, and there are two 13-megapixel cameras that let users pan and zoom around the screen. The cameras can physically tilt up and down, which comes in handy for zooming in to read papers on a desk, for example. The whole interface can be controlled from a web browser or mobile app.

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HUD swim goggles put performance data in your face

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Form Swim Goggles sell for US$199

Competitive swimmers certainly like to track their performance, often using devices such as swim watches – the problem is, the athletes have to stop to look at those things. A Vancouver-based startup is out to address that problem, with its head-up display (HUD) Form Swim Goggles.

Looking for the most part like regular goggles, the Forms are equipped with an IMU (inertial measurement unit), a microprocessor, and a Google Glass-like transparent projection screen that can be worn alongside the left or right lens.

With some help from the IMU’s accelerometer and gyroscope, the processor is able to track metrics such as split time, interval time, rest time, total time, stroke rate, stroke count, distance per stroke, pace per 100, pace per 50, distance, length count, and calories burned. Selected bits of that data are continuously displayed via the screen, superimposed over the wearer’s view of the pool.

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Apple wants to put AR navigation in your car

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Apple Maps could make driving easier with augmented reality navigation tips.

Apple is exploring ways to build augmented reality into Apple Maps. Rather than top-down views of roads and intersections, the company is considering overlaying route information onto live views of the road ahead of the car.

Apple Maps has always lagged behind Google Maps. Building in AR could help it jump ahead.

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A new immersive classroom uses AI and VR to teach Mandarin Chinese

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Students will learn the language by ordering food or haggling with street vendors on a virtual Beijing street.

Often the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in an environment where people speak it. The constant exposure, along with the pressure to communicate, helps you swiftly pick up and practice new vocabulary. But not everyone gets the opportunity to live or study abroad.

In a new collaboration with IBM Research, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), a university based in Troy, New York, now offers its students studying Chinese another option: a 360-degree virtual environment that teleports them to the busy streets of Beijing or a crowded Chinese restaurant. Students get to haggle with street vendors or order food, and the environment is equipped with different AI capabilities to respond to them in real time. While the classroom is largely experimental, it is being used for the first time in a six-week, for-credit course at the university this summer.

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Walmart is using VR to help decide who should get promotions

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Walmart, the largest private employer in the U.S. with 1.5 million workers, is using virtual reality to help find candidates for management positions in all 4,600 stores, the Wall Street Journal reported. The VR headsets and the assessment program were designed by Strivr, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based company.

Walmart’s idea for a VR assessment was rooted in seeing how its workers might respond to challenging situations and how they prioritize different tasks—things that would be hard to identify in an interview. So far, 10,000 employees have undergone the VR test as part of an initiative to identify potential high performers and cut back the overall number of managers in each store. This is part of a larger plan to change how many higher paid managers are overseeing teams and to give its frontline workers more decision-making power in their jobs, according to an earlier report in the WSJ.

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Worlds’s first AI universe simulator knows things it shouldn’t

 

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Great Mystery

 “It’s like teaching image recognition software with lots of pictures of cats and dogs, but then it’s able to recognize elephants.”

Since we can’t travel billions of years back in time — not yet, anyways — one of the best ways to understand how our universe evolved is to create computer simulations of the process using what we do know about it.

Most of those simulations fall into one of two categories: slow and more accurate, or fast and less accurate. But now, an international team of researchers has built an AI that can quickly generate highly-accurate, three-dimensional simulations of the universe — even when they tweak parameters the system wasn’t trained on.

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Logitech made a VR stylus you can use on a table or in the air

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Less Tilt Brush, more CAD

Logitech has announced a new VR stylus called the Logitech VR Ink Pilot Edition that’s designed to make it easier to draw and sculpt in virtual reality. Unlike existing VR controllers from the likes of HTC, you hold Logitech’s VR stylus like a traditional pen, and it can seamlessly transition between drawing in the air and drawing on a flat surface.

It’s a neat idea, but it sounds like Logitech is still going through the process of working out its reason for being. A teaser video shows the stylus being used mainly for 3D CAD work to design cars and planes, but the company also says it’s seeking industry partners and app developers to work out more use cases for the accessory. Either way, Logitech seems to be aiming this squarely at professional designers rather than part-time Tilt Brush hobbyists.

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Google says the new Google Glass gives workers ‘superpowers’

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A new version of the device–Glass Enterprise Edition 2–comes with a new look, a faster processor, and a brighter display.

In the workplace, nobody calls them Glassholes. Employees at hundreds of companies are wearing Google Glass, the heads-up display glasses that have found a new home in factories and healthcare facilities after getting off to a rough start in the consumer space.

Now Google has a new version of the device–Glass Enterprise Edition 2–with a new look, a faster processor, and a brighter display. The glasses actually come in two parts: Google makes the right side of the glasses–the side that holds all the technology–and Smith Optics makes the safety glasses that the Glass attaches to. This makes it possible for multiple employees to own their own pair of safety glasses and share one Glass.

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Ford designers are dropping their pencils and reaching for VR goggles instead

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Ford Gravity Sketch

Ford outlined how it’s increasingly using virtual reality (VR) technology to eliminate the distance between its design studios in North America, in Asia, and in Europe. The Co-Creation tool the firm created jointly with Gravity Sketch lets engineers work on the same project even if they’re located thousands of miles apart. VR is part of the company’s effort to streamline its design and development processes, and it illustrates an ongoing trend in the automotive industry.

Instead of drawing on a piece of paper, or sketching using CAD software, Ford designers are beginning to use VR headsets and controllers to bring their ideas to life. Significantly, the co-creation tool lets Ford skip the 2D stage of design when it wants to save time, and go straight to 3D. Designers can use the technology to transfer virtual ideas. For example, if a designer prefers an upcoming car (like the born-again Bronco) with a more upright grille, he or she can send a VR-wearing colleague a file containing a sample design.

 

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Top 5 Predictions for VR/AR Breakthroughs

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Convergence is accelerating disruption… everywhere!

Exponential technologies are colliding into each other, reinventing products, services and industries.

In this third installment of our Convergence Catalyzer series, I’ll be synthesizing key insights from my annual entrepreneurs’ mastermind event, Abundance 360, which takes place every January in Beverly Hills. This five-blog series looks at 3D Printing, Artificial Intelligence, VR/AR, Energy & Transportation, and Blockchain.

Today, let’s dive into Virtual and Augmented Reality…

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