Plant-inspired robot can grow to fit tight spaces
From Popular Science:
Robots often imitate life. We are used to bots mimicking humans and animals, but there is plenty of life beyond the constraints of legged bodies that can inspire useful machines. Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara and Stanford University have made a machine with long tendrils that can perform dangerous tasks like reaching through rubble to pump air to a trapped earthquake survivor.
In a new study in the journal Science Robotics, researchers Elliot W. Hawkes, Laura H. Blumenschein, Joseph D. Greer, and Allison M. Okamura demonstrate a robot that travels through space like a living thing, but that is perhaps best thought of as a fast-growing, useful, mechanical plant, which unfurls from a single immobile foot. The robot’s design is explicitly plant-inspired.
“I remember watching an English ivy plant,” says Hawke, “over the course of months, grow around the corner of my bookshelf seeking the sunlight and thinking that in a certain, very slow way, it was going somewhere.”
An instrument you can play with your mind
From The Verge:
Good news for people who hate practicing scales: scientists have created a musical instrument you can play with just your thoughts.
The instrument, called the Encephalophone — “enceph” means “head” — is described in a paper published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. It’s not just a source of fun for the lazy but musically ambitious among us; the researchers hope that one day this brain-computer interface can help people with motor disorders.
That’s in the future, though. Today’s study was done with 15 healthy participants. To work the Encephalophone, they put on a cap that can measure electrical signals in the brain. In this case, the cap recorded two kinds of brain signals. One type is produced when you close your eyes and the other when you think about making movements.
The cap turns brain signals into notes, which are then played using a synth. With no training, all the participants could play it easily. The cap was more accurate when the participant tried to control it by closing their eyes, though the scientists are ultimately more interested in what happens when they think about moving.
This glove can translate sign language into English
From Popular Mechanics:
With technology like Google Translate, we can communicate in almost any language in the world, even if we don’t know that language at all. Two people with zero words in common can use technology and hold a perfectly normal — if slightly garbled — conversation with each other. That’s pretty remarkable.
But there’s one group of people who are left out: deaf and hard-of-hearing people who speak sign languages. No translation program in the world can interpret for them, which makes it hard to communicate.
One group of researchers is working to change that. A team from the University of California San Diego built an electronic glove that can detect signs used in American Sign Language and translate those signs into English.
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