The Omnid Mocobots: New mobile robots for safe and effective collaboration

Three Omnid mocobots working collaboratively with a human on a pipe assembly task. The 16kg pipes feel weightless to the human and can be easily and intuitively manipulated due to the assistance of the Omnids.

By Ingrid Fadelli

Teams of mobile robots could be highly effective in helping humans to complete straining manual tasks, such as manufacturing processes or the transportation of heavy objects. In recent years, some of these robots have already been tested and introduced in real-world settings, attaining very promising results.

Researchers at Northwestern University’s Center for Robotics and Biosystems have recently developed new collaborative mobile robots, dubbed Omnid Mocobots. These robots, introduced in a paper pre-published on arXiv, are designed to cooperate with each other and with humans to safely pick up, handle, and transport delicate and flexible payloads.

“The Center for Robotics and Biosystems has a long history building robots that collaborate physically with humans,” Matthew Elwin, one of the researchers who carried out the study, told TechXplore. “In fact, the term ‘cobots’ was coined here. The inspiration for the current work was manufacturing, warehouse, and construction tasks involving manipulating large, articulated, or flexible objects, where it is helpful to have several robots supporting the object.”

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Ford Tests Prototype Robot EV Charging Station for Disabled Drivers

The charger is operated using a smartphone and aims to help anyone with reduced mobility.

By Matthew Humphries

For anyone with reduced mobility, filling up at a gas station can prove challenging, but Ford is aiming to solve that problem for electric vehicles before they replace the gas guzzlers most of us still rely on for transport.

Ford developed a prototype robot charging station(Opens in a new window) that can be controlled while still sitting in your vehicle using a smartphone. Once activated, the robotic charging arm uses a small camera to identify and line-up with the charging port on a vehicle allowing a connection to be made (without damaging the paint work). Once charging is complete, the robot automatically pulls back the arm ready for the vehicle to drive away.

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Scientists are growing billions of stem cells on the ISS to help humans travel to other planets

Scientists are shooting stem cells into space, hoping to make discoveries that help people on Earth

Scientists have put stem cells on the International Space Station to explore whether they will grow better in zero gravity.

These cells would potentially be able to generate nearly any other kind of cell, possibly unlocking the potential to make treatments for diseases while off-planet.

The experiment is the latest research project that involves shooting stem cells into space. Some, like this one, aim to overcome the terrestrial difficulty of mass producing the cells. Others explore how space travel impacts the cells in the body. And some help better understand diseases such as cancer.

“By pushing the boundaries like this, it’s knowledge and it’s science and it’s learning,” said Clive Svendsen, executive director of Cedars-Sinai’s Regenerative Medicine Institute.

Six earlier projects from the US, China and Italy sent up various types of stem cells — including his team’s study of the effects of microgravity on cell-level heart function, said Dr Joseph Wu of Stanford University, who directs the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute. Dr Wu helped coordinate a series of programs on space-based stem cell research last year.

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[FUTURATI PODCAST] Ep. 97: Could bitcoin mining fix climate change? | Troy Cross

Listen on the Futurati Podcast website (or wherever you get podcasts!)

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It’s become commonplace to hear politicians and commentators bemoaning the energy expenditure of bitcoin mining, noting that it consumes more power than certain industries or countries and confidently proclaiming that the bitcoin network performs no useful work.

But recently, an emerging group of scholars has pushed back on this narrative, arguing that in fact bitcoin mining has certain special properties that make it ideal for subsidizing renewable energies. If this is true, it could become an important part of mitigating the effects of climate change.

Tonight we’re joined by one of the original scholars advancing this thesis. Troy Cross is a professor of philosophy at Reed University, where he focuses on questions of knowledge and reality. In addition, he is a fellow at the Bitcoin Policy Institute, where you can find his work on energy economics, bitcoin mining, and the environment.

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Astronauts Will Wear These Spacesuits on the Moon—And Maybe Mars, Too

An artist’s illustration of two suited crew members working on the lunar surface. The one in the foreground lifts a rock to examine it while the other photographs the collection site in the background. Credit: NASA

By Jonathan O’Callaghan 

The suits, supplied by Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace, will be used in NASA’s upcoming Artemis lunar missions and will protect space travellers from micrometeoroids, moon dust and even vomit.

Sooner or later, humans will set foot on the moon again—perhaps by the middle of this decade if NASA’s Artemis program proceeds as planned. And beyond that, public or private crewed missions to Mars in the 2030s or 2040s no longer seem solely confined to science fiction. But what will astronauts be wearing when they take those steps on other worlds? Procuring giant rockets and futuristic spacecraft for Artemis has been the most well-publicized hurdle for NASA to overcome, but its efforts to design new spacesuits for the moon have proved equally challenging. Since 2007 the space agency has spent an estimated $420 million on new suit designs without actually fielding any. Finally, after all those unsuccessful attempts, last month NASA announced it has opted to outsource the work and has selected two companies to craft the next generation of haute couture for the high frontier.

Those companies—Axiom Space in Texas and Collins Aerospace in North Carolina—will each independently develop new spacesuits as part of NASA’s Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services (xEVAS) contract. NASA has budgeted a total of $3.5 billion through 2034 for that combined work and plans to purchase its suits from the two companies as a service, which will free both to make and market additional suits for non-NASA commercial missions as well. Following demonstrations of the suits in Earth orbit, they will be used for the first Artemis landing, which is currently scheduled for 2025. That mission, dubbed Artemis III, will feature two astronauts, one man and one woman, who will don suits from one of the two companies to venture out onto the lunar surface. Whichever company isn’t chosen for that first landing will instead supply suits for later Artemis missions.

“This is a historic day for us,” said Vanessa Wyche, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, in a press conference announcing the award on June 1. “History will be made with these suits when we get to the moon.”

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Breakthrough in Silicon Qubits, Photonics Accelerates Quantum Internet

Reusing existing fiber optic infrastructure is (almost) as big a deal as it gets.

By Francisco Pires

A render for a single T centre qubit in the silicon lattice, which supports the first single spin to ever be optically observed in silicon. The constituents of the T centre (two carbon atoms and a hydrogen atom) are shown as orange, and the optically-addressable electron spin is in shining pale blue. (Image credit: Photonics)

Researchers from Simon Fraser University may have just released the photonic springs that accelerate the quantum internet. In a paper published in Nature, the researchers demonstrated an emergent capacity in silicon qubits to produce a “photonic link” between each other. Furthermore, this same photonic capability may be easily integrated with the existing fiber optic infrastructure that already carries data across a reasonable (yet still insufficient) portion of society. That is bound to provide immense savings on deploying a quantum internet – and as we all know, the cost is (mostly) king.

The authors’ paper describes observations carried on particular types of qubits: “T-center” photon-spin qubits, a kind of qubit that takes advantage of a specific luminescent defect in silicon – more specifically, InGaAs (Indium gallium arsenide), also explored in CPU manufacturing technologies. Silicon qubits have already shown remarkable coherence times – which relate to how resistant qubits are to outside interferences that would cause them to collapse and lose their information in the process, becoming unusable for the workload at hand.

And with more fantastic coherence times – and the comparative ease with which these “T center” qubits can be linked – comes the capability to perform more and more significant calculations. In their experiment, the researchers observed the effect in over 1,500 T Center qubits, ensuring they can replicate it – a healthy indicator for the potential scalability of their solution.

“This work is the first measurement of single T centers in isolation, and actually, the first measurement of any single spin in silicon to be performed with only optical measurements,” said Stephanie Simmons, Canada Research Chair in Silicon Quantum Technologies.  

“An emitter like the T center that combines high-performance spin qubits and optical photon generation is ideal to make scalable, distributed, quantum computers,” she continued, “because they can handle the processing and the communications together, rather than needing to interface two different quantum technologies, one for processing and one for communications.”

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[Futurati podcast] Ep. 96: How will bitcoin change the world? | Jack Ronaldi

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Listen to the interview on the Futurati Podcast website or wherever you get your podcasts!

Since the release of bitcoin many people have written about how it could change the world. One such person is Jack Ronaldi, our guest this week on the Futurati Podcast.  

Trent Fowler met Jack through a bitcoin book club they’re both a part of, and Trent was impressed with his knowledge.  Like many others, Jack originally dismissed bitcoin because his background in economics and finance led him to believe it simply had no value. 

But gradually he became a true believer! And today he writes and thinks about bitcoin’s transformative potential, as well as the ways in which its vulnerabilities can be fixed.

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First Look: Waymo’s New Self‑Driving Trucking Hub Opens in Lancaster

BY DAVID SEELEY 

Waymo’s new hub—built from the ground up—is a $10 million investment in Lancaster that will bring “hundreds of jobs” to the community, a Waymo exec announced at its opening last week. 

“This operation and Waymo’s investment in the region further cements Dallas-Fort Worth as the home to autonomous vehicles in the U.S.,” added Duane Dankesreiter, SVP for research and innovation at the Dallas Regional Chamber.

There’s way more autonomous trucking going on in Dallas-Fort Worth than most places in the U.S.—and Waymo is one reason why. Last week the company opened a new nine-acre autonomous trucking hub in Lancaster, just south of Dallas. 

It’s a $10 million investment that’s expected to bring hundreds of jobs to the community—and advance the industry’s novel technology.

“This facility has been built from the ground up to support Waymo Via, which is our Class 8 trucking solution,” Rocky Garff, head of trucking operations for Waymo, said at a ribbon-cutting event at the hub last Wednesday. “We’re growing our operations and our investment here in Texas, and across the southwestern U.S. region. We’re super excited for what’s to come.”

“The vision is that we can launch trucks autonomously and then receive them autonomously here,” Garff added as he offered a tour of the facility and its 10 truck maintenance bays, six EV charging stations, and diesel fueling operations.

Waymo currently operates 20 autonomous trucks out of the hub, with plans to grow that “quite a bit” by end of year, Garff said. 

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