Stanford makes giant soft robot from inflatable tubes

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As much as we love soft robots (and we really love soft robots), the vast majority of them operate pneumatically (or hydraulically) at larger scales, especially when they need to exert significant amounts of force. This causes complications, because pneumatics and hydraulics generally require a pump somewhere to move fluid around, so you often see soft robots tethered to external and decidedly non-soft power sources. There’s nothing wrong with this, really, because there are plenty of challenges that you can still tackle that way, and there are some up-and-coming technologies that might result in soft pumps or gas generators.

Researchers at Stanford have developed a new kind of (mostly) soft robot based around a series of compliant, air-filled tubes. It’s human scale, moves around, doesn’t require a pump or tether, is more or less as safe as large robots get, and even manages to play a little bit of basketball.

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This clever AI hid data from its creators to cheat at its appointed task

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Depending on how paranoid you are, this research from Stanford and Google will be either terrifying or fascinating. A machine learning agent intended to transform aerial images into street maps and back was found to be cheating by hiding information it would need later in “a nearly imperceptible, high-frequency signal.” Clever girl!

But in fact this occurrence, far from illustrating some kind of malign intelligence inherent to AI, simply reveals a problem with computers that has existed since they were invented: they do exactly what you tell them to do.

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Reforming higher education: when online degrees are seen as official

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In early 2012, leading minds from Harvard, Stanford and M.I.T. started three companies to provide Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs.  They were open to anyone in the world with an Internet connection, no cost, millions of students signed up, and pundits called it a revolution.  The technology was supposed to transform higher education. What happened?   Continue reading… “Reforming higher education: when online degrees are seen as official”

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Stanford Engineers Invent High Tech Mirrors that Beam Light into Space

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A new ultrathin multilayered material can cool buildings without air conditioning by radiating warmth from inside the buildings into space while also reflecting sunlight to reduce incoming heat.

Fan Lab

Stanford engineers have invented a material designed to help cool buildings. The material reflects incoming sunlight, and it sends heat from inside the structure directly into space as infrared radiation (represented by reddish rays).
Stanford engineers have invented a revolutionary coating material that can help cool buildings, even on sunny days, by radiating heat away from the buildings and sending it directly into space.

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Stanford engineers invent high-tech mirrors to help cool buldings

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Engineers have invented a material designed to help cool buildings.

Engineers at Stanford have invented a revolutionary coating material that can help cool buildings, even on sunny days, by radiating heat away from the buildings and sending it directly into space.

 

 

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Stanford engineers create biological computer

We’re going to be able to put computers inside any living cell you want,” said lead researcher Drew Endy.

A team of engineers at Stanford University have made a simple computer inside a living cell, where it could detect disease, warn of toxic threats and, where danger lurked, even self-destruct cells gone rogue.

 

 

 

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New Solar Cells Can Produce Electricity From Light and Heat Simultaneously

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A small PETE device made with cesium-coated gallium nitride glows while being tested inside an ultra-high vacuum chamber.

Though the sun offers us a couple options for exploiting its energy — light and heat — we’ve always had to choose to use one at a time, because solar-energy technology hasn’t been able to capture both typs of radiation simultaneously. Stanford researchers say that’s about to change, however. Their new breakthrough could put solar power on par with oil, price-wise. (Video)

 

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Scientists Develop Hyper-Sensitive Nanotube Sensors to Detect Toxins

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Researchers at Stanford have created a kind of inexpensive sensor based on carbon nanotubes (these things are so useful!) that can detect traces of TNT and the nerve agent Sarin in water. This can be useful to detect terrorist attacks on the water supply or leaching from munition making or storage facilities, but I bet this type of sensor could also be used to detect other kinds of toxins and help us track down polluters.

 

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