A consortium based in West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester has been granted £22.6 million from the £127 million Strength in Places Fund of the Government. Notably, this consortium is one of the five projects that will be backed by the research and development fund. Each of these projects have been selected based on the livelihood of societal benefits and ability to accelerate regional economic growth.Read More
A robot in Oregon isn’t trying to run the world — it just wants to run a 5K. The bipedal bot, named Cassie, did just that. The robot completed the 5K in just over 53 minutes on a single battery charge, according to a press release from Oregon State University, where it was invented. Its time is roughly comparable to the half-hour many people take to finish a 5K.Read More
As a not-so-distant future that includes space tourism and people living off-planet approaches, the MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative is designing and researching the activities humans will pursue in new, weightless environments.
Since 2017, the Space Exploration Initiative (SEI) has orchestrated regular parabolic flights through the ZERO-G Research Program to test experiments that rely on microgravity. This May, the SEI supported researchers from the Media Lab; MIT’s departments of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AeroAstro), Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), and Mechanical Engineering; MIT Kavli Institute; the MIT Program in Art, Culture, and Technology; the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL); the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) at Harvard University; the Center for Collaborative Arts and Media at Yale University; the multi-affiliated Szostak Laboratory, and the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology to fly 22 different projects exploring research as diverse as fermentation, reconfigurable space structures, and the search for life in space.
Most of these projects resulted from the 2019 or 2020 iterations of MAS.838 / 16.88 (Prototyping Our Space Future) taught by Ariel Ekblaw, SEI founder and director, who began teaching the class in 2018. (Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 flight was postponed, leading to two cohorts being flown this year.)
“The course is intentionally titled ‘Prototyping our Sci-Fi Space Future,’” she says, “because this flight opportunity that SEI wrangles, for labs across MIT, is meant to incubate and curate the future artifacts for life in space and robotic exploration — bringing the Media Lab’s uniqueness, magic, and creativity into the process.”
The class prepares researchers for the realities of parabolic flights, which involves conducting experiments in short, 20-second bursts of zero gravity. As the course continues to offer hands-on research and logistical preparation, and as more of these flights are executed, the projects themselves are demonstrating increasing ambition and maturity.
“Some students are repeat flyers who have matured their experiments, and [other experiments] come from researchers across the MIT campus from a record number of MIT departments, labs, and centers, and some included alumni and other external collaborators,” says Maria T. Zuber, MIT’s vice president for research and SEI faculty advisor. “In short, there was stiff competition to be selected, and some of the experiments are sufficiently far along that they’ll soon be suitable for spaceflight.”
Dream big, design bold
Both the 2020 and 2021 flight cohorts included daring new experiments that speak to SEI’s unique focus on research across disciplines. Some look to capitalize on the advantages of microgravity, while others seek to help find ways of living and working without the force that governs every moment of life on Earth.
Che-Wei Wang, Sands Fish, and Mehak Sarang from SEI collaborated on Zenolith, a free-flying pointing device to orient space travelers in the universe — or, as the research team puts it, a 3D space compass. “We were able to perform some maneuvers in zero gravity and confirm that our control system was functioning quite well, the first step towards having the device point to any spot in the solar system,” says Sarang. “We’ll still have to tweak the design as we work towards our ultimate goal of sending the device to the International Space Station!”
Then there’s the Gravity Loading Countermeasure Skinsuit project by Rachel Bellisle, a doctoral student in the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology and a Draper Fellow. The Skinsuit is designed to replicate the effects of Earth gravity for use in exercise on future missions to the moon or to Mars, and to further attenuate microgravity-induced physiological effects in current ISS mission scenarios. The suit has a 10-plus-year history of development at MIT and internationally, with prior parabolic flight experiments. Skinsuit originated in the lab of Dava Newman, who now serves as Media Lab director.
“Designing, flying, and testing an actual prototype is the best way that I know of to prepare our suit designs for actual long-term spaceflight missions,” says Newman. “And flying in microgravity and partial gravity on the ZERO-G plane is a blast!”
Alongside the Skinsuit are two more projects flown this spring that involve wearables and suit prototypes: the Peristaltic Suit developed by Media Lab researcher Irmandy Wicaksono and the Bio-Digital Wearables or Space Health Enhancement project by Media Lab researcher Pat Pataranutaporn.
“Wearables have the potential to play a critical role in monitoring, supporting, and sustaining human life in space, lessening the need for human medical expert intervention,” Pataranutaporn says. “Also, having this microgravity experience after our SpaceCHI workshop … gave me so many ideas for thinking about other on-body systems that can augment humans in space — that I don’t think I would get from just reading a research paper.”
AgriFuge, from Somayajulu Dhulipala and Manwei Chan (graduate students in MIT’s departments of Mechanical Engineering and AeroAstro, respectively), offers future astronauts a rotating plant habitat that provides simulated gravity as well as a controllable irrigation system. AgriFuge anticipates a future of long-duration missions where the crew will grow their own plants — to replenish oxygen and food, as well as for the psychological benefits of caring for plants. Two more cooking-related projects that flew this spring include H0TP0T, by Larissa Zhou from Harvard SEAS, and Gravity Proof, by Maggie Coblentz of the SEI — each of which help demonstrate a growing portfolio of practical “life in space” research being tested on these flights.
The human touch
In addition to the increasingly ambitious and sophisticated individual projects, an emerging theme in SEI’s microgravity endeavor is a focus on approaches to different aspects of life and culture in space — not only in relation to cooking, but also architecture, music, and art.
Sanjana Sharma of the SEI flew her Fluid Expressions project this spring, which centers around the design of a memory capsule that functions as both a traveler’s painting kit for space and an embodied, material reminder of home. During the flight, she was able to produce three abstract watercolor paintings. “The most important part of this experience for me,” she says, “was the ability to develop a sense of what zero gravity actually feels like, as well as how the motions associated with painting differ during weightlessness.”
Ekblaw has been mentoring two new architectural projects as part of the SEI’s portfolio, building on her own TESSERAE work for in-space self-assembly: Self Assembling Space Frames by SEI’s Che-Wei Wang and Reconfigurable space structures by Martin Nisser of MIT CSAIL. Wang envisions his project as a way to build private spaces in zero-gravity environments. “You could think of it like a pop-up tent for space,” he says. “The concept can potentially scale to much larger structures that self-assemble in space, outside space stations.”
Onward and upward
Two projects that explore different notions of the search for life in space include Ø-scillation, a collaboration between several scientists at the MIT Kavli Institute, Media Lab, EAPS, and Harvard; and the Electronic Life-detection Instrument (ELI) by Chris Carr, former MIT EAPS researcher and current Georgia Tech faculty member, and Daniel Duzdevich, a postdoc at the Szostak Laboratory.
The ELI project is a continuation of work within Zuber’s lab, and has been flown on previous flights. “Broadly, our goals are to build a low-mass life-detection instrument capable of detecting life as we know it — or as we don’t know it,” says Carr. During the 2021 flight, the researchers tested upgraded hardware that permits automatic real-time sub-nanometer gap control to improve the measurement fidelity of the system — with generally successful results.
Microgravity Hybrid Extrusion, led by SEI’s mission integrator, Sean Auffinger, alongside Ekblaw, Nisser, Wang, and MIT Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program student Aiden Padilla, was tested on both flights this spring and works toward building in situ, large-scale space structures — it’s also one of the selected projects being flown on an ISS mission in December 2021. The SEI is also planning a prospective “Astronaut Interaction” mission on the ISS in 2022, where artifacts like Zenolith will have the chance to be manipulated by astronauts directly.
This is a momentous fifth anniversary year for SEI. As these annual flights continue, and the experiments aboard them keep growing more advanced, researchers are setting their sights higher — toward designing and preparing for the future of interplanetary civilization.Read More
In May of last year, Covariant announced that it had raised a $40 million Series B. It was a healthy sum of money for the young company, bringing its total funding up to $67 million. Just a little over a year later, the Berkeley-based AI startup is adding another $80 million to its coffers, riding on a wave that dramatically accelerated interest in robotics and AI during the pandemic.Read More
Miso Robotics the startup transforming the foodservice industry with Intelligent Automation proudly introduces its newly appointed Chief Technology Officer, Christopher Kruger, in addition to an expanded Board of Advisors comprised of industry experts William (Bill) Mitchell, John Inwright and Jane Gannaway.Read More
In the first half of the last century, industrial robots such as the hulking one-armed Goliaths dominated the robotics space. Even though they were highly disruptive and served many human purposes, industrial robots were not sexy. Opening the door to the second half of the 20th century, attractive humanoid robots made their debut. Today, more and more robots are cropping up in offices, hospitals, and schools, and especially in labour intense workplaces like warehouses, fulfilment centres, and small manufacturing centres.Read More
As the IBM Watson experience shows, the path to AI success is fraught with challenges. Yet overall, it has been a very good year for AI and the companies developing it. So much so that Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, in a recent podcast recorded by BBC, says: “I view [AI] as a very profound enabling technology. If you think about fire or electricity or the internet, it is like that, but I think even more profound.”Read More
There is the old saying that you ought to not look in the kitchen when you go to some restaurants or eateries for a bite to eat. When you see how the food is being prepared, it might just make you sick to your stomach. You can apply this rule to just about any entity that makes any kind of product. Imagine if a toaster was being manufactured in a faulty manner and was likely to catch fire when put into use. We would undoubtedly welcome having an insider that worked in the company making the toaster come forward beforehand.Read More
eepTech has evolved over recent years, and there has been a substantial impact across sectors through these deep emerging technologies. Therefore, it would not be wrong to say that Deep Tech has been sacrosanct for the companies in their innovation journey.Read More
Argo AI, Ford, and Lyft form the first large-scale collaboration in the US as a self-driving developer, a carmaker, and a ride-hailing company comes together. They will provide robotaxi service to Lyft customers in Miami and Austin. Which are expected to start by later this year in Miami and by next year in Austin.Read More
Top Funding in Miniature Robotics that one should know about in 2021Read More
In May, Path Robotics announced a $56 million Series B. It was a sizable raise, as far as robotics rounds go. But the Columbus, Ohio-based startup is already back for more, raising a “pre-emptive” Series C a mere two and a half months later. And it’s a biggie. The firm has raised $100 million, led by Tiger Global and featuring participation from Silicon Valley Bank, an existing investor. The deal brings the robotic welding firm’s total funding to $171 million.Read More
Specifically designed to be used in urban markets, Munich’s robotic warehousing maker Noyes Technologies has raised $3.8 million in seed funding. Noting the growing trend of consumers’ expectations of ever-faster delivery times, Noyes is aiming to provide a fully automated distribution solution in advance of market demand. The funding is expected to be used to accelerate product roll-out as well as further develop the company’s flexible robotic warehousing technology.Read More
Back then Alibaba CEO Jack Ma made it to the headlines for proclaiming the arrival of robot CEO. He stated at a conference in China that we are only a few decades away from having robots run our companies. He also predicted in a television interview that it would take 30years, where a robot would get to the cover of Time Magazine. Alibaba is not only the one predicting it but SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son at a Mobile Conference 2017 predicted that machine learning will take over at a great speed by 2047.Read More
Less than four months ago, we did a deep dive into the first pure play in self-driving semi-truck stocks with a profile on TuSimple (TSP). We found the business to be intriguing but opted to sit on the sidelines for now until the company puts more miles on the road and money into its bank account. We’re bullish on the self-driving theme in general – the technology is there – but it’s going to be a long haul to gain regulatory approvals, mainstream adoption, and profitability. That’s not stopping the race to the public markets. Two more self-driving semi-truck startups are headed in that direction through reverse mergers with special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs): Embark Trucks and Plus. Is either one worth putting on our watchlist?Read More
This post was originally published by Allison Proffitt at AI Trends The use of confidential computing for the AI self-driving car fleet cloud could make it more difficult for hackers to launch a cyberattack. (Credit:…Read More
The exoskeleton/exosuit category has been heating up over the past few years. It makes sense, really. There are two giant — and dramatically different — potential customer bases. On one end are those sorts of jobs that could benefit from some wearable assistance. On the other are people with mobility issues for whom such technology might go a long way.
Founded last year by a team spun out of Conor Walsh‘s lab at Harvard’s Wyss Institute and the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Verve Motion is targeting the former for now. You probably don’t need a bunch of stats to realize that labor-intensive work often ends in injury, but here are a trio from the startup’s site anyway:
One million back injuries occur in U.S. workplaces each year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
260+ million work days are lost every year due to back injury, according to the United States Bone and Joint Initiative
$14 billion in direct costs hit U.S. employers annually, according to Liberty Mutual Workplace Index 2018
Image Credits: ADUSA Distribution
If you can’t appeal to people’s sense of common decency, then at least you can appeal to their wallets. Whichever the case, Verve Motion is announcing some fresh funding, following both a seed round and a successful pilot with ADUSA (Ahold Delhaize), a large grocery distribution firm. That funding arrived during the pandemic, when many essential workers in the food supply chain were being pushed to their physical limits on a daily basis.
This time out, the firm has raised a $15 million Series A, led by Construct Capital and featuring a bunch of existing investors, like Founder Collective, Pillar VC, Safar Partners and OUP.
“This new round of funding will fuel the continued development of our solution and scale operations to meet the growing demand for our product in order to get it to the workers who need it most right now,” co-founder and CEO Ignacio Galiana said in a release. “We are grateful for the support of this exceptional group of new and existing investors, and are thrilled to welcome Construct Capital as we create solutions for the industrial workforce of the future.”
Verve’s first product is the SafeLift, a fabric-based soft exosuit capable of adapting to its wearer’s movements and reducing up to 30 to 40% of back strain.
Sony Corporation forecasts that robots will take charge over its manufacturing of televisions, smartphones, and cameras. Sony wants to give robots complete control of making its televisions in a bid to slash costs, according to a report in the Financial Times on Sunday.Read More
Seven years ago, Japanese conglomerate SoftBank launched Pepper, the first humanoid robot that can read emotions. Last year, the company paused its production and would only make the robot ‘when it is needed’, a BBC report stated. Softbank is also downsizing its global robotics operation in FSoftBankrance, reported Reuters.Read More
Elon Musk confirms the upcoming full self-driving update visualizations to have UI with a “mind of the car” view. He also adds that all Tesla Model 3/Y models can be upgraded to have the new FSD computer.Read More