Just yesterday, my boyfriend I were driving home from New Hampshire and he asked me to send a text message to our friend. As I fumbled around for his phone, he said, “Wait! Let’s have Siri do it.” I don’t own a smartphone and will avoid doing so as long as possible, but I fully admit to the convenience of pretty much everyone I know having one. I get to satisfy my curiosity (and often raise my ire) by playing with friends’ smartphones — it’s kind of like bumming a cigarette here and there without ever buying a pack. To be honest, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard my boyfriend use Siri, so I was excited to give it a whirl. But it turns out that Siri wasn’t available in our current location, which wasn’t far from civilization at all. I guess Siri isn’t a fan of the White Mountain region? I got to think about how realistic Her felt, but how far we actually are from developing AI with anything approaching that level of intelligence and awareness. And apparently I’m not the only one with those thoughts — Viv Labs, a startup created by three of Siri’s creators, is set to release an AI that blows Siri out of the water.
Smart clothing, or wearable technology, has turned heads on the runway, turned movement into music, and may soon make its space debut. It has also entered the medical industry, though often in small steps, such as Google’s contact lenses and this tiny pacemaker. Now, there’s smart clothing that has been designed to diagnose and monitor epilepsy.
Bioserenity, a French medical device company, has teamed up with the British Epilepsy Action organization in order to create the WEMU system, which is designed to help improve and speed up the time it takes to make a diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment regimen for patients.
Research published a few months ago indicates that trauma symptoms may be hereditary, passed to offspring via sperm. Now, a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that rats’ susceptibility to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may also be determined by specific genetic markers.
It’s always been a bit of a mystery why some people experience PTSD after a traumatic event, while others don’t. Chalking it up to a person’s sensitivity isn’t all that helpful, and doesn’t explain the variation in responses or severity. It could have to do with a person’s specific brain chemistry, or other intangibles that dictate how individuals process and react to events, but given that PTSD is an actual diagnosable disorder, rather than a simple reaction, scientists thought there might be more to it.
Let’s head back into the past for a look at one of the coolest movie tie-ins imaginable. We all know that sci-fi and giant amusement park rides go hand in hand. Universal Studios Florida has been blowing people’s minds for years with rides inspired by Back to the Future, Terminator 2, Men in Black, and more. But to me, all of these pale in comparison to The Hauntington Hotel, the Ghostbusters-themed interactive attraction that never was and never will be. Pardon me while I sob into my giant Twinkies.
Veteran gaming artist and designer Roger Hector gave an interview with the website 2600 Connection where he revealed the ride was originally supposed to be a massive Six Flags attraction before things fell through. (Okay, so the interview is over a year old, but it’s not like the concept got any less exciting since then.) After that, the website Beyond the Thrills scooped up a slew of concept designs for The Hauntington Hotel, and it looks and sounds like the greatest thing Six Flags has ever puts its mind to.
While capturing one would prove our ability to manipulate the trajectory of a big hunk of space rock, which could be a starting point for asteroid redirection, this mission probably isn’t going to save us from one on a collision course with Earth. ARM involves blowing off a small chunk (just over 30 feet in diameter) from an asteroid and towing that into lunar orbit in a bag. The program is less focused on cataclysm avoidance, which some people take issue with, and more centered on what we can learn, especially stuff that might apply to putting humans on Mars. It’s becoming clear that most experts believe ARM is basically a bad excuse for sucking up resources.
Swarming robots — on the ground, in the air, even in a swimming pool — are nothing new, and DARPA put out a call back in May for robots to work together in a hive-mind sort of way. Still, all of those developments put together didn’t quite prepare me for the massive swarm of robots that scientists have recently programmed.
The robot is called Kilobot — a name that makes sense metrically, but also has some unfortunate connotations, especially when spoken out loud. It was created by researchers at Harvard’s Self-Organizing Systems Research Group. It’s roughly the size of a penny and has three toothpicks for legs. The parts to build a Kilobot cost about $14, and by itself it doesn’t seem all that commanding or impressive. But when amassed with 1,000 other Kilobots, the tiny robots transform into a collaborative mass that can assemble itself into pretty much any two-dimensional shape it wants.