London Aquarium to Debut Robotic Fish

London AquariumThe AFP reports today that the London Aquarium is set to unveil the first autonomous robotic fish. Developed at the University of Essex over a period of three years, the fish are designed to not only physically resemble their biological counterparts but also replicate their behavior and movement. While they were primarily created to drive the public’s interest in robotics, their creators envision several practical, real world tasks for them including undersea exploration and oil pipeline leak detection.


Carnegie Mellon Secures Pole in Grand Challenge II

Carnegie Mellon H1ghlanderThe Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, aka DARPA, announced the 23 finalists who have been chosen to compete in this year’s Grand Challenge, a race between autonomous robotic vehicles over a grueling course of up to 175 miles in the Mojave Desert. A red Hummer named H1ghlander developed by a team from Carnegie Mellon University has qualified for the pole position in this year’s race. It will be competing against vehicles of all shapes and sizes including a a Jeep Grand Cherokee, a Volkswagen Touareg, and a six-wheeled truck sponsored by other schools and private companies.

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iRobot Introduces Antisniper Robot

The Boston Globe is reporting today that iRobot Corp., maker of the popular Roomba vacuum-bot, has been working in conjunction with Boston University to develop a robot that can spot and point out enemy snipers on an active field of battle. The system, called REDOWL (Robot Enhanced Detection Outpost with Lasers), was put through it’s paces on Wednesday at an Army convention in Washington, DC. It was able to immediately target the source of simulated gunfire with it’s IR camera and laser rangefinder.

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Minature Self-Assembling Robots has published an article regarding the research work done by Joseph Jacobson of the Molecular Machines group at MIT in developing minature robots that mimic the way living cells replicate DNA.

In order for a cell to replicate it’s DNA, enzymes known as polymerases in the nucleus read the structure of the DNA and assemble nucleotides, the basic building block of DNA floating in the nucleoplasm, in the correct order to match the original. In addition to being self-assembling, many DNA polymerases are self-correcting: able to excise incorrect sequences of nucleotides and continue building the chain in the correct order.

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MIT Plans for a $100 Linux Laptop

MIT's $100 LaptopNicholoas Negroponte, chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, spoke recently at their annual Emerging Technologies Conference confirming that MIT is planning to provide low cost computers to underprivileged children in developing countries globally as well as to students here in the U.S. The One Laptop per Child nonprofit group is the offshoot of the Media Lab that will handle coordinating this ambitious plan. Five countries have already committed to participating including Brazil, China, Egypt, South Africa, and Thailand. Massachusetts is the first state to discuss using these machines in it’s public schools.

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Kurzweil: Singularity by 2045

Ray Kurzweil

Futurist Ray Kurzweil

CNET posted an interview with one of my favorite authors, inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil to promote his new book “The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology.” Kurzweil, whose previous books include “The Age of Intelligent Machines” and “The Age of Spiritual Machines,” predicts that we will reach the Singularity, a time when changes to ourselves and our environment due to advances in computing, AI, nanotechnology, and biology will exceed the ability for pre-Singularity humans to understand or even predict, by 2045. This belief is rooted in his now famous 2001 essay, The Law of Accelerating Returns, in which he generalizes Moore’s law to include technologies outside of the integrated circuits that Moore’s law covers.

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Neuroscientist to Become His Own Monkey

In an effort to explore the relationship between brain activity and consciousness, Stanford University nueroscientist Bill Newsome is currently seeking regulatory approval to implant an electrode into his own brain. Engadget has a summary of an interview MIT Technology Review did recently with Newsome in which he explains his obsession with determining how brain functions give rise to consciousness and why the limitations of studying animals have driven him to propose this extraordinary experiment.

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