ELON MUSK’S BORING COMPANY RAISES $675M TO SCALE LOOP PROJECTS

By Rebecca Bellan

The Boring Company, Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s project to build underground highways to alleviate traffic congestion, has raised a $675 million Series C round, bringing its valuation up to $5.7 billion.

The round was led by Vy Capital and Sequoia Capital, with participation from Valor Equity Partners, Founders Fund, 8VC, Craft Ventures, and DFJ Growth. The company says it will use the funds to significantly increase hiring across engineering, operations and production in order to build and scale Loop projects and accelerate the research and development of Prufrock, the company’s next generation tunnelling machine.

In October, The Boring Company (TBC) received initial approval to build a transportation system that would shuttle passengers in Tesla vehicles via a network of tunnels under Las Vegas beyond its current 1.7 mile footprint that currently connects the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) campus to a 29-mile route that would hit all the best tourist spots in the city of sin. Operation on the updated Vegas loop should commence this year, according to the company.

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Autonomous robot performs laparoscopic soft tissue surgery with minimal assistance from a surgeon

By Emily Henderson, B.Sc.

What if your next surgery was planned and performed by a robot? A team at Johns Hopkins University is working to turn this idea into reality.

The concept of robot-assisted surgery is not new: several systems have already been developed and are being used to treat human patients. One example is the da Vinci surgical system, a laparoscopic device with robotic arms that are remotely controlled by a surgeon. This system is not autonomous-;the robot does not perform any surgical tasks independently. Other robotic systems with higher levels of autonomy have been developed, such as the TSolution One®, which uses a robot to precisely cut bone according to a pre-specified plan. Existing autonomous robotic systems have largely been used to assist in surgeries involving hard tissues, such as drilling into bone for hip or knee implants. But these systems haven’t been used for soft tissue surgeries, which pose unique challenges, like accounting for unpredictable tissue motions that occur when the patient breathes, or size limitations of the surgical tools.

Now, NIBIB-funded researchers are developing an autonomous robot that can perform bowel surgery with minimal assistance from a surgeon. What’s more, the robot outperformed expert surgeons when compared head-to-head in preclinical models. A study detailing the development of this robot, which showcases the first known autonomous laparoscopic soft tissue surgery, was recently published in Science Robotics.

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Elon Musk Says Tesla Robotaxi Coming In 2024, Will Have No Steering Wheel: Report

Elon Musk told shareholders during Tesla’s quarterly earnings call Wednesday that the company plans to begin mass production of the self-driving taxis in 2024.

New Delhi: Electric car firm Tesla’s “robotaxi” will have no steering wheel or pedals, and it will be as cheap as a bus ride, Elon Musk has said.

According to news reports, Musk told shareholders during the company’s quarterly earnings call Wednesday that Tesla plans to begin mass production of the self-driving taxis in 2024.

“We are also working on a new vehicle that I alluded to at the Giga Texas opening, which is a dedicated robotaxi,” Musk was quoted as saying in a report in The Independent.

“It is going to be highly optimised for autonomy – meaning it will not have a steering wheel or pedals. There are a number of other innovations around it that I think are quite exciting, but it is fundamentally optimised to achieve the lowest fully considered cost per mile or kilometre when counting everything,” he added. 

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Chinese experts first make human stem cell via chemical reprogramming

Chinese scientists have translated human somatic cells back into pluripotent stem cells with chemical molecules. /CFP

Chinese scientists have translated human somatic cells back into pluripotent stem cells, an “adult” version of early embryonic cells, using chemical molecules.

A group of researchers led by Deng Hongkui from Peking University reported finding the chemical cellular reprogramming technique for the first time ever.

The technique can be developed into universal knowhow on how to efficiently cultivate human cells of various functions, offering new possibilities for treating critical illnesses, the researchers said.

Previously, the cell-intrinsic components, including oocyte cytoplasm and transcription factors, were used to reprogram cells in human tissue or organs into pluripotent stem cells that can propagate to give rise to every other cell type in the body.

Inspired by how lower animals like axolotl regenerate its limb, the researchers demonstrated that the highly differentiated human somatic cells could experience plastic changes, triggered by certain chemical molecules, according to the study published recently in the journal Nature.

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Small spacecraft electric propulsion opens new deep space opportunities

An image of Northrop Grumman’s small electric propulsion thruster first light during testing at NASA Glenn Research Center’s Electric Power and Propulsion Laboratory.

by Nancy Smith Kilkenny

The path to the Moon, Mars, and beyond will require a fleet of spacecraft in many different shapes and sizes, including everything from massive rockets that produce millions of pounds of thrust to pioneering small electric propulsion thrusters that fit in the palm of your hand.

For decades, innovators at NASA’s Glenn Research Center have been developing large, high-power electric propulsion (EP) systems that harness the power of the Sun to energize inert gases and turn them into extremely efficient thrust. Higher fuel efficiency means less propellant is needed, lowering launch costs while allowing spacecraft designers to reduce overall spacecraft weight to carry more payload mass, like technology demonstrations or more powerful scientific instruments.

The agency’s primary EP efforts have centered on large exploration and science missions, like the 7-kilowatt (kW) NEXT-C gridded-ion system currently flying on the Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission and the 12-kW Advanced Electric Propulsion System used on the Power and Propulsion Element for NASA’s lunar orbiting space station known as Gateway.

However, over the last five years, the Small Spacecraft Electric Propulsion (SSEP) project at NASA Glenn has been advancing high-performance sub-kilowatt (<1-kW) Hall-effect thruster and power processing technologies to enable smaller spacecraft. By utilizing smaller craft – those that could fit inside the trunk of your car versus being the size of your car – the agency opens more opportunities to conduct ambitious deep space missions at a fraction of the cost.

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Building Scientifically Accurate Digital Twins Using Modulus with Omniverse and AI

By Bhoomi Gadhia 

From physics-informed neural networks (PINNs) to neural operators, developers have long sought after the ability to build real-time digital twins with true-to-form rendering, robust visualizations, and synchronization with the physical system in the real world by streaming live sensor data. The latest release of Modulus brings us closer to this reality.

Modulus 22.03, the cutting-edge framework for developing physics-based machine learning models, offers developers key capabilities such as novel physics informed and data-driven AI architectures, and integration into the Omniverse (OV) platform.

This release takes a major step toward building precise simulations and interactive visualization capabilities for engineers and researchers with the Modulus OV extension. This enhancement is bolstered by new AI architectures that can learn from data using neural operators. Additional enhancements to facilitate precise modeling of problems such as turbulence have been added in this latest version of Modulus, as well as features to improve training convergence.

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How Amazon trained its robot Robin to sort packages

Robin uses its suction gripper to pick packages from a conveyor belt.

By Brianna Wessling

Thousands of packages pass through Amazon’s fulfillment centers every day. More and more of those packages are picked up, scanned, and organized by Amazon’s Robin robotic arm. 

Robin picks packages from a conveyor belt with its suction gripper, scans them and then places them on a drive robot that routes it to the correct loading dock. Robin’s job is particularly difficult because of its rapidly changing environment. Unlike other robotic arms, Robin doesn’t just perform a series of pre-set motions, it responds to its environment in real-time. 

“Robin deals with a world where things are changing all around it. It understands what objects are there — different sized boxes, soft packages, envelopes on top of other envelopes — and decides which one it wants and grabs it,” Charles Swan, a senior manager of software development at Amazon Robotics and AI, said. “It does all these things without a human scripting each move that it makes. What Robin does is not unusual in research. But it is unusual in production.”

Amazon’s team decided to take a unique approach when teaching Robin how to recognize packages coming down a conveyor belt. Instead of teaching computer vision algorithms to segment scenes into individual elements, the team allowed the model to try to find objects in an image on its own. After the model finds an object, the team provides feedback on how accurate it is. 

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Hyundai To Use Quantum Computing For Object Detection For Self Driving

The Hyundai partnership with IonQ for the use of quantum computing is all about the acceleration of self driving technology

By Sahil Gupta

Highlights

  • Object detection is central to autonomous cars 
  • Hyundai will be training on IonQs Aria quantum computer 
  • IonQ has already resolved images in the quantum state

Hyundai has expanded its partnership with IonQ to use Quantum computers for object detection for self-driving purposes. This will be a new project which harnesses the power of Quantum computers to run machine learning algorithms for learning image classification and 3d objects to develop technologies for its future vehicles. 

Object detection and image classification are the basis of computer vision techniques which is a field of artificial intelligence that is critical for the development of self-driving cars and ADAS technologies. IonQ and Hyundai are looking to enhance the computational functionality and be more efficient with the training process of their machine learning algorithms with the use of Quantum computers as they can process faster and more accurately than traditional techniques. 

IonQ and Hyundai will leverage a breakthrough in encoding images into a quantum state. IonQ is already classifying 43 types of road signs using its Quantum computers. Its machine learning data will be applied to Hyundai’s test environment and will simulate many real-world scenarios. 

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Zoomlion Releases World’s First Hybrid All-terrain Crane, Driving Industry’s New Energy Revolution

CHANGSHA, China, April 19, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science & Technology Co., Ltd. (“Zoomlion”; 1157.HK) has released the world’s first hybrid all-terrain crane ZAT2200VE863 on April 11, marking another innovative milestone following the previous release of the world’s first pure electric crane.

With superior hybrid output performance, the ZAT2200VE863 has achieved the advantage of a dual electric and fuel power system and driven by a gasoline-electric dual-engine, the model is even more powerful with a maximum output of 360kW.

“Driven by policy incentives and market demand, the construction machinery industry is accelerating into the era of new energy, the ZAT2200VE863 is the latest achievement of Zoomlion’s innovative product R&D. The hybrid machinery products are low in fuel consumption, pollution and noise with high energy efficiency, and it’s conducive to promoting energy transformation and the technological upgrading of the industry,” said Luo Kai, vice president of Zoomlion and general manager of Zoomlion engineering crane branch.

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Self-driving startup Argo AI hits $7.5 billion valuation – TechCrunch

By Sierra Mitchell

Autonomous vehicle technology startup Argo AI is valued at $7.5 billion, just a little more than three years after the company burst on the scene with a $1 billion investment from Ford.

The official valuation was confirmed Thursday nearly two months after VW Group finalized its $2.6 billion investment in Argo AI. Under that deal, Ford and VW have equal ownership stakes, which will be roughly 40% each over time. The remaining equity sits with Argo’s co-founders as well as employees. Argo’s board is comprised of two VW seats, two Ford seats and three Argo seats.

Ford’s announcement in February 2017 that it was investing in Argo AI surprised many. The startup was barely six months old when it was thrust into the spotlight. Its founders, Bryan Salesky and Peter Rander, were known in the tight knit and often overlapping autonomous vehicle industry; prior to forming Argo, Salesky was director of hardware development at the Google self-driving project (now Waymo) and Rander was the engineering lead at Uber Advanced Technologies Group. But even those insiders who knew Salesky and Rander wondered what to make of the deal.

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Anti-aging technology is coming. Here’s how you can be ready for it

Billionaires like Jeff Bezos believe that aging is a disease that can be slowed, stopped, even reversed. But you have to be ready to receive its benefits.

The world’s billionaires are pouring money into age-reversal investments.

Last September, it came out that Jeff Bezos had invested in Altos Labs, a company pursuing biological reprogramming technology. “Reprogramming” is the scientific term for turning old cells young again. It was discovered in 2012 by Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka, who called it a potential “elixir of life.” The Nobel Prize in Medicine Committee seemed to agree.

Bezos—and Altos—aren’t the only ones.

There’s Google-backed Calico Labs, also focused on longevity via reprogramming. And Lineage Cell Therapeutics, backed by BlackRock, Raffles Capital Management, Wells Fargo, and others.

Coinbase Co-founder and CEO Brian Armstrong recently invested in a company working to radically extend human healthspan using epigenetic reprogramming therapies. Altogether, the anti-aging industry is expected to grow to over $64 billion by 2026, a 45% increase from its 2020 value ($44 billion).

So, why are billionaires like Jeff Bezos investing in age-reversal or “anti-aging” tech?

Because they have a Longevity Mindset.

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Nasa ‘holoported’ a doctor onto the International Space Station

Nasa flight surgeon, Dr. Josef Schmid gives a space greeting as he is holoported on to the International Space Station. (Credits: ESA/Thomas Pesquet)


By Jeff Parsons

Nasa is taking a step in a distinctly Star Trek direction with a new communication method it tested on the International Space Station (ISS).

It’s called ‘holoporting’ and, as you’d expect, is a mix between a hologram and teleportation.

And it resulted in Nasa flight surgeon Dr. Josef Schmid appearing on the space station as a hologram and able to talk to the astronauts in real time.

‘This is completely new manner of human communication across vast distances,’ Schmid said.

‘Furthermore, it is a brand-new way of human exploration, where our human entity is able to travel off the planet. 

‘Our physical body is not there, but our human entity absolutely is there. It doesn’t matter that the space station is traveling 17,500 mph and in constant motion in orbit 250 miles above Earth, the astronaut can come back three minutes or three weeks later and with the system running, we will be there in that spot, live on the space station.’

In a nutshell, the process uses bespoke capture technology to record 3D models of people which are then reconstructed, compressed and transmitted in real time.

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