The way this robot interacts with deaf babies stimulates language development
This kid doesn’t know it, but he’s kind of a big deal. Sitting in his mother’s lap, he looks at a mohawked robotic head, which periodically turns left to look at a computer screen with its big blue eyes. And the infant takes the cue, glancing at the screen, where a human avatar signs a nursery rhyme.
This boy is doing something remarkable on two levels. For one, he’s practicing a pivotal skill for his development — language — with a clever new platform that blends robotics, fancy algorithms, and brain science. And he’s doing what few humans have done before: communicating with a robot using facial cues alone.
In an ideal world, every child would get enough face-to-face communication during early development to build solid language skills, be that by way of sign language or the spoken word. The reality is, not all parents have the time to sit down and read to their kids. And for deaf children, it may be that the parents themselves have to learn to sign.
What researchers at Gallaudet University—in collaboration with Yale, the University of Southern California, and Italy’s University of D’Annunzio—have developed isn’t a substitute for interpersonal communication between parents and infants, but an experimental supplement. It’s meant to simulate the natural interaction between baby and mother or father. …
But the team’s robot-avatar system uses a more subtle method to read the infant. A thermal camera trained on the baby’s face watches for tiny changes in temperature, which are associated with heightened awareness. Combined with face-tracking software, this can determine not just when the robot is able to direct the kid’s gaze to the avatar, but when the kid is actually engaged. And infants seem to love it—even hearing children will try to sign back to the avatar.
The worlds biggest battery can power 30,000 homes
From The Verge:
The world’s largest lithium-ion battery is now live in South Australia after being delivered a few weeks ago, easily beating the promise Elon Musk made of “100 days or it’s free.” The South Australian Government notes that for the first time, clean wind energy can be siphoned to the grid 24/7 improving the system’s reliability, whether the wind is blowing or not. The 100MW battery farm has enough storage capacity to power more than 30,000 homes.
The launch today comes after a regulatory testing period that examined the battery’s ability to both charge to, and from, Australia’s National Energy Market and act as a generator. The NEM incorporates 40,000 km of transmission lines and cables around Australia. Tesla powerpacks were connected to Neoen’s Hornsdale windfarm, several hours north of Adelaide. According to Hornsdale Power Reserve, the battery takes up less than 10,000 square meters of land.
“The completion of the world’s largest lithium-ion battery in record time shows that a sustainable, effective energy solution is possible,” Tesla said in a statement. “We are proud to be part of South Australia’s renewable energy future, and hope this project provides a model for future deployments around the world.
Imagine skyscrapers made out of garbage
From Popular Science:
The home of the future won’t look like The Jetsons. It won’t come equipped with a flying car or a robot maid. While it will deploy a slate of clean-energy technologies that the cartoon’s creators couldn’t have imagined — solar windows, lithium-air batteries, artificial intelligence — it will be made largely from wood and used materials, like recycled cement and carpet.
Experts say these technologies will put a big dent in our carbon output. And they are getting cheaper every day.
“We can build net-zero buildings,” said Elizabeth Beardsley, senior policy counsel at the U.S. Green Building Council, which certifies energy-efficient buildings. Beardsley is in Bonn, Germany for the 2017 UN Climate Change Conference, pressing the case to make all buildings produce at least as much energy as they use by 2050. “We’ve been working on climate for decades,” she said. “We feel strongly that it’s time to act on climate.”
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