Robotics News /roboticsnews ROBOTICS NEWS - Robots and Technology News Fri, 20 Jan 2017 18:36:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 NHS tests bionic eyes on ten new patients /roboticsnews/2017-01-20-nhs-tests-bionic-eyes-on-ten-new-patients /roboticsnews/2017-01-20-nhs-tests-bionic-eyes-on-ten-new-patients#respond Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 When the TV shows The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman were popular in the 1970s, it seemed that the futuristic bionic body parts and abilities of the leading characters, Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers, were just figments of the script writers’ imaginations. Well, the future is now and imagination has become reality, because the National Health Service (NHS) in England has announced that it is testing “bionic” eyes on ten patients who have not previously been able to see.

Ten patients in the UK will receive the gift of sight

Five patients at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and five patients at Moorfields Eye Hospital who were born blind are expected to receive retinal implants in 2017. They have had a type of blindness that runs in families and obliterates cells in the eyes’s retina that sense light. The disorder causes the afflicted person to experience loss of vision and ultimately blindness. So it is remarkable for them to be able to see.

How the human eye and the “bionic” eye work

Like the rest of the human body, the eyes are fascinating in terms of how they work. In the healthy eye, the retina, which is situated in the back of the eye, contains photoreceptors, which are cells that detect light and transform light energy into electrical energy. This energy goes to the brain through nerve cells in the retina. But in some types of blindness, photoreceptors die while the nerve cells still exist. Those cells are unable to detect light but can detect electrical stimulation.

The bionic eye, officially called the Argus II Bionic Eye, is made by the company Second Sight. The scientific development works using sophisticated technology. It includes specialty glasses that are outfitted with a mini video camera, which sends information to an eye implant. The images from the camera change into electrical pulses, which travel to electrodes that are attached to the retina. The electrodes then activate the cells in the retina, which in turn transfers information to the brain.

Following up with great anticipation and excitement

The professionals who are involved in the “bionic eye” project are quite happy about the possibilities. Professor Paulo Stanga at the hospital in Manchester said “I’m delighted. It surpassed all of our expectations when we realised that one of the retinitis pigmentosa patients using the bionic eye could identify large letters for the first time in his adult life.” To follow up and monitor retinal implant patients for longer-term results of the technology, they will be monitored for a year after the procedure to observe how well the bionic eyes positively impact their lives.

The remarkable impact of bionic eyes cannot be overestimated

For patients who get “bionic” eyes, the ways this revolutionizes their lives cannot be quantified and fully understood by people who are blessed to be able to see. Patients who have already received the bionic eyes have said that before, they were unable to see Christmas lights, friends with whom they were talking, or even family members. Being able to relate to their surroundings in a whole new way drastically improves their lives and enhances their relationships.

Other life-changing medical innovations

After bionic eyes, what’s next? Bionic ears so deaf patients can hear just like Jaime Sommers in The Bionic Woman? A superhuman running ability like Steve Austin in The Six Million Dollar Man? Only time will tell what life-changing breakthrough medical advances are just around the corner. As we head into 2017, it’s so encouraging to hear of this good news coming out of the medical industry.


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AI takeover: Insurance firm replaces workers with artificial intelligence set to increase productivity by 30% /roboticsnews/2017-01-13-ai-takeover-insurance-firm-replaces-workers-with-artificial-intelligence-set-to-increase-productivity-by-30 /roboticsnews/2017-01-13-ai-takeover-insurance-firm-replaces-workers-with-artificial-intelligence-set-to-increase-productivity-by-30#respond Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 Later this month, an insurance firm in Japan will be replacing more than 30 employees on their workforce with artificial intelligence. Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance is set to implement the robotic replacements, with a cost of 200m Yen (more than 1.7 million US dollars) by the end of the month. They estimate that they will have a 140m Yen savings per year using the artificial intelligence program. It can calculate payments to be made to clients 30 percent faster than it’s human counterparts. Although the speed and efficiency will rise exponentially using AI, nothing can replace the warmth and compassion that can only come from having a human on the other side of the desk.

For those 34 employees and many people worldwide, this is not seen as a good thing. Nobody wants to be made obsolete by robotic technology, and as we advance at such a fast pace, this will become more common than we would like. According to Nomura Research Institute in a report done in 2015, nearly half of the jobs in Japan could be taken over by artificial intelligence by 2035. This does not bode well for the future employment prospects for today’s youth.

Next month, the Japanese economy, trade and industry ministry is looking to introduce AI on a trial basis to assist civil servants in drafting answers for ministers during parliamentary sessions and cabinet meetings. They are hoping to use this to relieve the punishing hours bureaucrats spend preparing written answers for ministers. Again, while this could potentially help relieve the large workload, where is the evidence of accuracy in translation from human to artificial intelligence? Many errors could go without being caught by removing humans from the equation, leading to potentially disastrous results. As of right now, they are planning to only use them to pull up recorded data to use as debating points according to past discussions of the same topics. In a report to The Guardian, “AI is not good at answering the type of questions that require an ability to grasp meanings across a broad spectrum,” Noriko Arai, a professor at the National Institute of Informatics, told Kyodo news agency.

As the robotic age looms before us, what does this have in store for us as humans moving into the future? Will we become obsolete in the fields of our studies or will we grow even more advanced with the additional time we are afforded? Only time will tell.





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Google gives driverless cars the green light for business, but are we really ready for AI piloted vehicles on our roads? /roboticsnews/2017-01-08-google-gives-driverless-cars-the-greenlight-for-business-but-are-we-really-ready-for-them /roboticsnews/2017-01-08-google-gives-driverless-cars-the-greenlight-for-business-but-are-we-really-ready-for-them#respond Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 It all sounds so futuristic and exciting, this concept of driverless cars, but the reality is, our society may not be nearly as ready for it as other people in other lands may be. That’s because if there is one thing Americans are infatuated with, it is the automobile.

And yet, the technology is here and it is getting better every year. So we may have little choice about whether or not we want our vehicle to do the driving for us in the near future.

Indeed, the technology has even advanced to the point where media and technology giant Google has given them a “greenlight” for business, The New York Times reported recently.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, announced earlier this month that driverless technology was ready to be commercialized. The company said it would be spinning off the autonomous vehicle technology from its research lab X and will be opening a stand-alone company under the name of Waymo.

But are we ready for this technology?

We don’t know what we don’t know about this technology

For the past 10 years, the Times noted, several industries including car makers, technology, telecom and e-commerce have been feeding and stoking the public’s increasing desire to live in a wireless world. During that time tech companies have been working at a breakneck pace to bring the telephone and Internet into the driving environment. That’s largely been a success; hands-free Bluetooth technology allows drivers to answer the phone without letting go of the wheel and talk in a less distracting way, while emergency roadside and location services have led to advances in that realm.

But the thing is, this rapidly advancing meld of Internet and automobile has never been voted on by the general public nor debated much in Congress or state legislatures along the way. And even when the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation brought in industry leaders to the nation’s capital in the spring for a hearing, lawmakers basically wanted to hear how government could assist in the ushering in of the new driverless technology.

It appeared as though the committee’s assumption was that the outcome had already been decided—the world would have to accept it as the [emerging] new normal.

Now, precisely what are the selling points of driverless technology? The usual—reduction in accidents, lives saved, congestion eased, energy consumption declines, less harmful emissions, none of which there exists any evidence, only supposition and baseless claims. And how having no driver will cut emissions and ease congestion, of course, makes no sense whatsoever, given that the same vehicles will be on the road, just without a human driver.

So, even if there is stipulation that at least some of those claims pan out, “the near- and midterm picture from a public-interest perspective is not the same favorable one that industry sees,” the Times noted. “Legitimate areas of question and concern remain.”

What will happen to all those jobs involving driving a vehicle?

For one, what about the proposed “safety” benefits of self-driving cars and trucks that says we’ll avoid tens of thousands of highway accidents and deaths each year—is that valid? Who knows? There, of course, is no legitimate data on that at all, so to make the claim that “driver deaths will decrease” is blatantly absurd and nonsensical. Can’t even use anecdotal evidence to support such a claim, because it doesn’t exist. So that’s misleading at best.

Plus, the kind of accidents we may see with self-driving cars may be different; they could be much more horrific, and lead to greater loss of life. We just don’t know. What we can surmise, however, is that a lot of people traveling at high speed trying to get to the same place is going to result in accidents, even if no human is actually doing the driving.

Another aspect of creating driverless cars is the “human” aspect, so to speak. Yes, the driverless car industry will create jobs, but it will also destroy jobs—millions of them. Cab drivers will go the way of the dodo bird, along with new start-ups like Uber. What about truck drivers? A thing of the past. And because of the hit employment will take, that could lead to fewer people buying fewer cars altogether, which will result in even less employment.

There are a lot of things to consider shifting to a driverless automobile that, frankly, the country has yet to consider and debate through their elected representatives. Before we “green light” this technology, we sure ought to have a much more thorough discussion about it.

J.D. Heyes is a senior writer for Natural News and News Target, as well as editor of The National Sentinel.


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Odds of early death in Alzheimer’s patients nearly doubles after taking antipsychotic drugs /roboticsnews/2017-01-04-odds-of-early-death-in-alzheimers-patients-nearly-doubles-after-taking-antipsychotic-drugs /roboticsnews/2017-01-04-odds-of-early-death-in-alzheimers-patients-nearly-doubles-after-taking-antipsychotic-drugs#respond Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 Alzheimer’s patients who take antipsychotic drugs have a significantly increased risk of dying early compared to those who don’t, new research out of Finland has found. An in-depth analysis of nearly 58,000 people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease between 2005 and 2011 found that those who take popular antipsychotics like Abilify (aripiprazole) or Risperdeal (risperidone) face as much as a 60 percent increased risk of premature death — and this risk is even higher when Alzheimer’s patients take two or more antipsychotics.

Published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, the paper found that premature death risk is highest when Alzheimer’s patients first start taking an antipsychotic drug, though long-term use poses similar health risks. The worst scenario is Alzheimer’s patients who take two or more antipsychotics, as their risk of premature death is upwards of twice the normal rate, a shocking figure that backs earlier research into the adverse effects associated with these common pharmaceutical drugs. Perhaps more natural healing methods should be analyzed as well.

Marjaana Koponen, a doctoral student from the School of Pharmacy at the University of Eastern Finland and lead author of the new study, stated that even though the research can’t officially prove a cause-and-effect link between antipsychotics and early death, they are highly suggestive of this. Some of the earliest research on the subject from roughly 10 years ago arrived at similar conclusions, mainly that antipsychotics are high-risk and need to be evaluated more closely when it comes to their use in people with dementia.

One such study from more recently, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry in 2015, found that antipsychotic drugs marketed as treating hallucinations, delusions, agitation, and aggression are directly associated with higher rates of premature death. Of specific concern is an “atypical,” mood-stabilizing antipsychotic drug known as Depakene (valproic acid), which researchers from the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor say shouldn’t even be prescribed to dementia patients.

“The harms associated with using these drugs in dementia patients are clear, yet clinicians continue to use them,” Dr. Donovan T. Maust, M.D., one of the lead authors of this earlier study that looked at more than 90,000 U.S. veterans with dementia, told Neurology Advisor last year. “That’s likely because the symptoms are so distressing. These results should raise the threshold for prescribing further.”

Research going back years shows extreme dangers with antipsychotic use

Going back even further, a 2012 paper published in the American Journal of Psychiatry raised concerns about the use of antipsychotic drugs in Alzheimer’s patients, noting that other non-drug interventions must be thoroughly exhausted before even considering the use of mind-altering medications in this sensitive segment of the population. Besides the serious cardiovascular effects, antipsychotics seem to significantly increase patients’ risk of pneumonia, and many of those who develop this disease end up dying.

Each of these studies reiterates the dangers associated with antipsychotic drugs, especially in people suffering from some form of dementia. Antipsychotics should only be used, most researcher generally agree, in extreme cases where dementia symptoms are well beyond the scope of what can be reasonably managed using other means. And even then, such drugs need to be used in very small quantities for a very short amount of time, and under the careful supervision of a qualified physician.

“From my perspective, the correct management behavioural problems in dementia is nearly always reducing medications, not starting them,” says Professor David Le Couteur from the Australasian Society of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacologists and Toxicologists, about the use of antipsychotics.

“People with dementia are human beings and they need to be treated with respect and sedating them because of their behaviour just feels wrong as a human being.”


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Mayfield Robotics Announces Kuri, a $700 Mobile Home Robot /roboticsnews/2017-01-04-mayfield-robotics-announces-kuri-a-700-mobile-home-robot /roboticsnews/2017-01-04-mayfield-robotics-announces-kuri-a-700-mobile-home-robot#respond Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 For about two years now, Mayfield Robotics has been working on something. A robot, we’d heard. Something helpful for the home. Not a vacuum. No screen, but a face. Without much in the way of (public) information on this secret robot, what kept us interested was the team: chief technical officer and cofounder Kaijen Hsiao spent almost four years at Willow Garage, and cofounder and chief operating officer Sarah Osentoski led robotics R&D projects at Bosch for four years, including working with Bosch’s beta program PR2. And with funding from Bosch’s Startup Platform, Mayfield has been able to hire an enormous team of people, about 40 of them, in just a couple of years without making any public announcements whatsoever.

Article by Evan Ackerman

Today, Mayfield is introducing Kuri, “an intelligent robot for the home.” Kuri is half a meter tall, weighs just over 6 kilograms, and is “designed with personality, awareness, and mobility, [that] adds a spark of life to any home.”

Kuri has some fairly sophisticated technology inside of it. Besides what you’d expect (a camera, microphone array, speakers, and touch sensors), Kuri also has some sort of “laser-based sensor array” that it uses for obstacle detection, localization, and navigation. If Kuri can map your house by itself and then remember where things are, that would be slick, and we’re looking forward to seeing how much autonomy is there. We’re also unsure how much of what Kuri does relies on the cloud, but we do know that it’ll run for a couple hours straight, and then autonomously recharge itself on a floor dock.

Besides mobility, what makes Kuri unique is the fact that it has no display (besides a color-changing light on its chest), and that it doesn’t even try to talk to you, as Pepper and Jibo do. There’s speech recognition, but Kuri won’t talk back, instead relying on a variety of beepy noises and its expressive head and eyes to communicate. Essentially, it’s R2-D2-ing, which is a verb now, meaning to have effective nonspeech interactions. I like this idea, because so much of what makes us frustrated with AI assistants is their inability to reliably respond like a human would. When something talks to you, you can’t help but expect it to communicate like a human, and when it inevitably fails, it’s annoying. Kuri sidesteps this by not giving you a chance to think that it’s trying to be human at all, theoretically making it much harder to disappoint.

You, like us, may have a few questions at this point. Questions like, “What does Kuri do?” Here’s everything the press materials say about that:

Kuri is built to connect with you and helps bring technology to life. Kuri can understand context and surroundings, recognize specific people, and respond to questions with facial expressions, head movements, and his unique lovable sounds. Like many adored robots in popular culture, his personality and ability to connect are his greatest attributes.


Or more specifically, in the context of Kuri’s hardware and software (which you interface with through an app):

  • A built-in HD camera so you can check in on the house or pets while you’re away;
  • A four-microphone array, powerful dual speakers, and Wi-Fi + Bluetooth connectivity, so it can react to voice commands or noises, play music, read the kids a bedtime story, or follow you around playing podcasts while you’re getting ready for work;
  • Easily programmable tasks and IFTTT capabilities to connect within modern smart homes.

Many of these capabilities can be found in Amazon Echo or Google Home, and again, if you’re looking for that social component, Pepper and Jibo offer something comparable. What Kuri has going for it, from what we can tell, is simplicity to some extent and, even more important, mobility. We’re hoping that Mayfield will be able to tell us how its little robot will be uniquely valuable in ways that these other systems aren’t, and fortunately, we’re getting a chance to ask the company later today. We’ve got a meeting booked for this afternoon with CTO Kaijen Hsiao, and we should have time for both a demo and an interview. Let us know in the comments if there are any specific questions you’d like answers to.

If you’re already sold on Kuri, a US $100 deposit toward the $699 total cost will save you one for delivery in time for the holidays in 2017.

Read more at:

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“Machine consciousness” debunked in new mini-documentary by the Health Ranger /roboticsnews/2017-01-02-machine-consciousness-fallacy-health-ranger-documentary-mind-singularity /roboticsnews/2017-01-02-machine-consciousness-fallacy-health-ranger-documentary-mind-singularity#respond Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 To the techno-worshippers, humans will soon become “immortal” because they will be able to “transfer” their consciousness into machines. Or AI systems will become “self aware,” achieving the same mind consciousness that we experience as living, spirit-imbued beings with free will.

Today, I’ve just released a new mini-documentary called The Folly of Machine Consciousness. It reveals why all those who claim machines will attain consciousness are not just wrong, but deeply misguided.

As part of the argument, the documentary also reveals why memory is not physically stored in the brain. Despite their best efforts, the most brilliant doctors, scientists and neurologists of our modern world still cannot find physical “locations” in the brain for memory. The fallacy of biochemical memory is obliterated in this mini-documentary.

Consciousness is not an artifact of complex neurology. It is a self-contained, non-physical layer of existence that interfaces with the physical brain to translate conscious intentions into physical actions in a three dimensional world.

As I explain in the video: You will never find yourself in a machine.

Watch the mini-documentary here (15 minutes duration).


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Marines bringing future tech to the modern battlefield with ‘GuardBot’ /roboticsnews/2016-12-29-marines-bringing-future-tech-to-the-modern-battlefield-with-guardbot /roboticsnews/2016-12-29-marines-bringing-future-tech-to-the-modern-battlefield-with-guardbot#respond Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 When one envisions aquatic warfare, images of everything from historic galleons manned by sword wielding pirates to massive battleships containing hundreds of uniformed soldiers comes to mind. Other imagery that certainly might cross one’s mind, particularly those fond of war films, are of beach landings. Common popular culture depicts boats laden with nervous, yet courageous young men careening toward a heavily fortified coastline, with death imminently flying at them from all directions and the bodies of their fallen brothers creating a crimson wake. While I may or may not be referring to a movie starring Matt Damon and Tom Hanks set during World War 2, that dramatization wasn’t that far from the truth. That type of monumental sacrifice is brought to light annually on Memorial Day. Thankfully, modern technology is creating a means by which beach landings of an epic nature such as that of Omaha Beach will remain solely in the past.

Most people hear the word “drone” and immediately picture unmanned, light weight planes capable of bombing distant targets while keeping military personnel safely out of harm’s way. Until recently, this definition, at least in a military sense, was pretty much spot on. The use of aerial drones for combat purposes began around 2004 during the Bush administration and dramatically escalated during the Obama administration, resulting in numerous civilian casualties. This was effective for long range designs, but landing on a beach still brought with it a multitude of dangers for soldiers. Thus it became necessary for new improvements to be made.

This is where the Guardbot makes its grand entrance onto the battlefield. Guardbot is essentially a sea drone. Skimming across the ocean surface at a brisk 4 miles per hour, once the robotic ball reaches shore it can then continue traveling up to 20 miles per hour at up to a 30 degree incline. This can be achieved in packages that range from as small as 10 centimeters in diameter to an astonishing 9 feet.

The system currently uses a 2-8 Ghz data link for control but future plans incorporate a type of GPS which would allow the use of plug-in coordinates on an internal map that the Guardbot can use to find specific, desired locations. Although it will not be deactivating bombs or landmines any time soon, the machine will be capable of detecting explosive materials that are in its vicinity, so it won’t necessarily be replacing soldiers making their way ashore but its remote capabilities will certainly play a part in lessening the odds of another wartime casualty.



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Uber’s self-driving car runs red light, raises questions on safety /roboticsnews/2016-12-28-ubers-self-driving-car-runs-red-light-raises-questions-on-safety /roboticsnews/2016-12-28-ubers-self-driving-car-runs-red-light-raises-questions-on-safety#respond Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 Uber blames it on the humans who must be behind the wheel while Uber’s test automobiles are learning to drive themselves on California roads, says The Guardian. One car ploughed through “a pedestrian crosswalk in downtown” and another “entered an intersection” in San Francisco while the light was red. California motor vehicle authorities told Uber to stand down and get a “testing permit,” or face legal action.

Over twenty companies have already applied for and have been approved to test driverless vehicles. Uber didn’t think the rules applied to them, precisely because they have drivers in the cars to monitor all the movement. The two drivers who ran the red lights have been suspended. Meanwhile, Anthony Levandowski, who heads up Uber’s advanced technology division says, “this technology holds the promise of true safety” on the highways and byways of America.

Charles Rotter works as an operations manager at a traditional cab company named Luxor. He had succinct words about the incident:

“People could die. This is obviously not ready for primetime.” reports a number of other issues with driverless cars after the Uber roll out in Philadelphia for a pilot project earlier this year. Snow, plants, bridges, unusual obstacles like ducks crossing the road, along with the driving habits of impetuous humans, all interfere with the relentless desire and money spent for robots to rule the roads.

Driverless technology is rushing toward us, whether we want it or not, says Self-reliant baby boomers are much more reticent about accepting these machines. Only 23% say they would trust them. That’s not the case with the younger folks, according to a recent J.D. Power survey. 41% of Gen X’s accept driverless technology. With Gen Y it’s 55% and with Gen Z, 56% of those surveyed responded positively to the idea of trusting a robot to control their ride.

Vanity Fair sees the driverless technology as inevitable, considering the billions being poured into the sector. And it will “change society in a lot of ways that people can’t comprehend.” Most folks won’t own a car. Instead they will subscribe to one, like a music service. There could be cars “outfitted with a gym” or with virtual reality stations for longer trips. Parking hassles would be a past memory, and of course, we’d all be a little bit safer, since robots never have to pull into a rest stop and never, ever make any judgment errors like silly humans.




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Giant terrifying 13 ft avatar robot controlled by human pilot, walks and moves like humans /roboticsnews/2016-12-28-giant-terrifying-13-ft-avatar-robot-controlled-by-human-pilot-walks-and-moves-like-humans /roboticsnews/2016-12-28-giant-terrifying-13-ft-avatar-robot-controlled-by-human-pilot-walks-and-moves-like-humans#respond Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 The world of robotics is rapidly advancing and as it does, it is capturing the imagination of more and more people.

But it is also terrifying many.

As reported by the UK’s Daily Mirror, scientists and developers in South Korea have built and programmed a massive one-ton robot that is capable of mimicking human movements and resembles something from the film Avatar. The “METHOD-1” monster is four meters tall; when it walks, it actually shakes the very ground it walks on, according to its designer, Vitaly Bulgarov.

The giant robot operates by copying the actions and movements of its pilot, who sits inside of it, by moving its gigantic arms and legs up and down. An amazing video of the sinister-looking machine shows it walking around a laboratory floor utilizing its mechanical joints.

The robot’s control room is in the center of the machine, and it is just large enough for a human operator to squeeze inside. The machine was created by the firm Future Technology, but at present it’s unclear what it will be used for. It’s certainly large enough for a number of jobs—but scary in and of itself.

To that end, its designer said he modeled the high-tech machine after working on Hollywood blockbuster films including Transformers 4, RoboCop, and Terminator Genesys. He has remained fairly secretive about his creation, but he has said it could be used to “solve problems” instead of being used for something evil.

Most just worry robots will take their jobs

“I’ll just say for now that from a mechanical/software/hardware/electrical engineering stand point it was quite an ambitious project that required developing and enhancing a lot of technologies along the way,” he wrote on Facebook, as reported by the Daily Mirror.

He added that growth in the industry opens up several applications for the real work, and that everything being learned about robots at present has been applied to solve real-world issues and problems.

Obviously, there are several legitimate concerns about a robot this advanced—and this big. Are there military applications, and if so, what are they—and are such uses even ethical?

There is a great potential that such mammoth machines (and certainly METHOD-1 won’t be the largest one ever built) could also be used by criminal syndicates and others with ill-intent. How would today’s police forces, or those of the future, stack up against giant machines that are tough?

Still others see much more mundane, though life-changing, uses for robots of this size, namely in industry, as a replacement for human labor.


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Medical drones may soon serve as new immediate emergency response /roboticsnews/2016-12-27-medical-drones-may-soon-serve-as-new-immediate-emergency-response /roboticsnews/2016-12-27-medical-drones-may-soon-serve-as-new-immediate-emergency-response#respond Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 The positive use of drones is expanding, and may be used to help disaster victims soon. Medical experts at the William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine, along with an aviation expert at Hinds Community College in Mississippi, have joined forces to develop a medical drone which could arrive at the scene of an emergency before first responders.

The joint effort is called The Health Integrated Rescue Operations. The project uses a drone which delivers a medical kit containing emergency supplies, along with Google Glass to provide video conference capabilities. First responders will be able to direct bystanders on how they can assist those in need.

The co-developers on the project came up with the idea after an EF-4 tornado touched down in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, back in 2013. “We were able to create somewhat [of] an ambulance drone to be able to go out to where there’s a victim of an unfortunate event,” were located said co-developer Italo Subbarao.

Although the helpful device is no substitute for an ambulance, it can help buy a victim some much needed time while waiting for emergency personnel. The medical kits contents were comprised with recommendations from the Department of Homeland Security’s Stop the Bleed initiative. The kits feature tourniquets among other items to help slow blood loss.

“There’s a definite utility not just in medical use in certain areas but in a broad spectrum of the first responder and homeland security responsibilities,” said Richard Patrick, who is the senior advisor of first responder policy for the Department of Homeland Security.

Current FAA regulations limit drone flying altitudes at 400 feet; the devices must be flown within the operator’s field of vision. “That’s very restrictive for us to be able to go out and deploy in disaster areas where we need to fly some distances to reach the people in need,” said Dennis Lott, director of the Hinds Community College drone program. Lott assisted with pairing the medical kits and drones.

The FAA currently makes exceptions to grant government agencies the approval to fly drones in US airspace, but approval can take hours to obtain, negating the benefits of medical drones.

The developers of the medical drone have received interest from state, local, and national agencies. They have four working prototypes and are hoping to work with local governments prior to further development and use. “It is just a matter of time before the drones are universally adopted for emergency and disaster response toolkits,” Subbarao said.

The new technology is promising, but needs more time to be perfected. The FAA won’t release an updated rule on drones, and crash avoidance systems, until sometime next year.  The proposed rule would then be open for public comment, meaning it could be years before medical drones are in operation.


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