Cutting Edge: Google Alphabet X wants to build robots work on their own in homes and offices

| Updated on November 23, 2019

Robots for everyday

Today, robots are expensive and perform highly specialised tasks. But what if a robot could be affordable and taught by just about anyone? Making a robot of this sort is just the challenge that Google’s Alphabet X has set itself. The company wants to build robots that can work on their own in unstructured human spaces, like homes and offices. It’s a tough problem because it requires tackling and integrating some of the hardest hardware and software challenges in the field of robotics today, says the company. The Everyday Robot project as the initiative is called, is building a new type of learning robot—one that can eventually learn to help everyone, every day. The robot will have cameras in its head and sophisticated machine learning models to see and understand the world. “The robot uses data from its sensors to create an understanding of what it is seeing, hearing and where it is in the world – allowing it to safely perform useful tasks among people in everyday environments.” says the company’s website. The robots are even made to learn in virtual simulated environments. As an example, the team is testing its robots in Alphabet locations across Northern California where they are learning how to navigate and assist in workplace environments shared with people. “They’re doing things like sorting recycling (pretty slowly for now). The initial results are encouraging and the team continues to research, experiment, and learn in order to get robots to a place where they can help everyone, everyday.”

Taking a cold sleep

A report in the New Scientist says that doctors at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have placed humans in suspended animation for the first time. The ‘cold sleep’ has been the stuff of science fiction for a long time and stories are woven around how someone woke up from a cold sleep only to take a time machine and go back to the time he was originally alive, creating a bit of a paradox. But in this trial, patients who had traumatic injuries which would have resulted in death have been put into suspended animation or ‘emergency resuscitation preservation’ by being cooled down to a temperature of 15 degrees Celsius by replacing the blood with an ice-cold saline solution. But this suspension is only meant to last a few hours, giving surgeons just enough time to work on repairing the damage from injuries. The catch is one doesn’t yet know if the trial was successful as results are yet to be announced.

Who wrote Shakespeare’s play?

Forensic linguistics experts can go through pieces of writing and figure out patterns that can help identify a criminal. This skill was used to give supporting information when America’s ‘Unabomber’ Ted Bundy was being hunted by the FBI. Now machine learning can do the same job and it’s being put to work trying to determine who really wrote Shakespeare’s Henry VIII. When the bard died, a playwright named John Fletcher stepped in to complete some of Shakespeare’s plays, but this has been hotly debated by historians over the years. A Czech scientist, according to an MIT Review report, has used machine learning and created an algorithm and fed it with large samples of Shakespeare’s and Fletcher’s styles from the time when Henry VIII was written. This was specially tricky as authors’ styles are not static. In the end, the AI was able to figure out that Fletcher wrote almost half the play, Henry VIII.

Compiled by Mala Bhargava

Published on November 23, 2019

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