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The Lead

Underwater robot for port security

September 26, 2014 7:42 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers unveiled an oval-shaped submersible robot, a little smaller than a football, with a flattened panel on one side that can slide along an underwater surface to perform ultrasound scans. Originally designed to look for cracks in nuclear reactors’ water tanks, the robot could also inspect ships for the false hulls and propeller shafts that smugglers frequently use to hide contraband.

Video games could dramatically streamline education research

September 19, 2014 9:12 am | by C. Brandon Chapman, Washington State Univ. | News | Comments

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Where to grab space debris

September 10, 2014 10:10 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Objects in space tend to spin—and spin in a way that’s totally different from the way they spin...

A new foundation for mathematics

September 3, 2014 12:57 pm | by Florian Meyer, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Proofs are the key method of mathematics. Until...

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Robots unlikely to take big bites out of employment, expert says

September 2, 2014 11:59 am | by Steve Talley, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Advances in artificial intelligence and robotics mean that machines will soon be able to do many of the tasks of today's workers. But David Hummels, a professor of economics at Purdue Univ., says humans still have a unique advantage that machines may never be able to emulate: our ability to respond to other humans.

Delivery by drone

August 21, 2014 9:16 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In the near future, the package that you ordered online may be deposited at your doorstep by a drone: Last December, online retailer Amazon announced plans to explore drone-based delivery, suggesting that fleets of flying robots might serve as autonomous messengers that shuttle packages to customers within 30 mins of an order.

Algorithm gives credit where credit is due

August 18, 2014 8:29 am | by Joe O'Connell, Staff Writer, Northeastern Univ. | News | Comments

It makes sense that the credit for sci­ence papers with mul­tiple authors should go to the authors who per­form the bulk of the research, yet that’s not always the case. Now a new algo­rithm devel­oped at Northeastern’s Center for Com­plex Net­work Research helps sheds light on how to prop­erly allo­cate credit.

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Visual control of big data

August 15, 2014 7:55 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In the age of big data, visualization tools are vital. With a single glance at a graphic display, a human being can recognize patterns that a computer might fail to find even after hours of analysis. But what if there are aberrations in the patterns? Or what if there’s just a suggestion of a visual pattern that’s not distinct enough to justify any strong inferences? Or what if the pattern is clear, but not what was to be expected?

“Seeing” through virtual touch is believing

August 11, 2014 10:10 am | by Tom Robinette, Univ. of Cincinnati | News | Comments

Visual impairment comes in many forms, and it's on the rise in America. A Univ. of Cincinnati experiment aimed at this diverse and growing population could spark development of advanced tools to help all the aging baby boomers, injured veterans, diabetics and white-cane-wielding pedestrians navigate the blurred edges of everyday life.

Collecting just the right data

July 25, 2014 7:56 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Much artificial intelligence research addresses the problem of making predictions based on large data sets. An obvious example is the recommendation engines at retail sites like Amazon and Netflix. But some types of data are harder to collect than online click histories. And in other applications there may just not be enough time to crunch all the available data.

Getting a grip on robotic grasp

July 18, 2014 7:40 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Twisting a screwdriver, removing a bottle cap and peeling a banana are just a few simple tasks that are tricky to pull off single handedly. Now a new wrist-mounted robot can provide a helping hand—or rather, fingers. Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a robot that enhances the grasping motion of the human hand.

Drones: Next big thing in aviation is small

July 15, 2014 2:21 pm | by Danica Kirka - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

The next big thing in aviation may be really small. With some no bigger than a hummingbird, the hottest things at this week's Farnborough International Airshow are tiny compared with the titans of the sky, such as the Airbus 380 or the Boeing Dreamliner.

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“Deep learning” makes search for exotic particles easier

July 2, 2014 3:12 pm | News | Comments

Fully automated "deep learning" by computers greatly improves the odds of discovering particles such as the Higgs boson, according to a recent study. In fact, this approach beats even veteran physicists' abilities, which now consists of developing mathematical formulas by hand to apply to data. New machine learning methods are rendering that approach unnecessary.

Collaborative learning for robots

June 25, 2014 7:54 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Machine learning, in which computers learn new skills by looking for patterns in training data, is the basis of most recent advances in artificial intelligence, from voice-recognition systems to self-parking cars. It’s also the technique that autonomous robots typically use to build models of their environments. That type of model-building gets complicated, however, in cases in which clusters of robots work as teams.

Drones give farmers eyes in the sky to check on crop progress

June 5, 2014 8:03 am | by Sharita Forrest, News Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

This growing season, crop researchers at the Univ. of Illinois are experimenting with the use of drones—unmanned aerial vehicles—on the university’s South Farms. Dennis Bowman, a crop sciences educator with U. of I. Extension, is using two drones to take aerial pictures of crops growing in research plots on the farms.

Think fast, robot

May 30, 2014 9:01 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

One of the reasons we don’t yet have self-driving cars and miniature helicopters delivering online purchases is that autonomous vehicles tend not to perform well under pressure. A system that can flawlessly parallel park at 5 mph may have trouble avoiding obstacles at 35 mph. Part of the problem is the time it takes to produce and interpret camera data.

Automated guided vehicles ripe for standardized performance tests

May 22, 2014 10:40 am | News | Comments

Automated guided vehicles—or AGVs—are robotic versions of draft animals, hauling heavy loads and navigating their way in factories, distribution centers, ports and other facilities. These modern beasts of burden are evolving so rapidly in capabilities and electronic intelligence that the need for the equivalent of standardized performance testing has become apriority for the fast-growing AGV industry and its customers.

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Algorithm can help robots determine orientation of objects

April 4, 2014 3:27 pm | News | Comments

Researchers are working on a new algorithm that could make re-identification much easier for computers by identifying the major orientations in 3-D scenes. The same algorithm could also simplify the problem of scene understanding, one of the central challenges in computer vision research.  

Chips inspired by human brain process optical information

March 28, 2014 12:21 pm | News | Comments

Although neural networks have been used in the past to solve pattern recognition problems such as speech and image recognition, it was usually in software on a conventional computer. Researchers in Belgium have manufactured such a small neural network in hardware, using a silicon photonics chip. This chip is made ​​using the same technology as traditional computer chips but uses light instead of electricity as information carrier.

Smartphone to become smarter with “deep learning” innovation

March 19, 2014 8:01 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers are working to enable smartphones and other mobile devices to understand and immediately identify objects in a camera's field of view, overlaying lines of text that describe items in the environment. The innovation could find applications in "augmented reality" technologies like Google Glass, facial recognition systems and robotic cars that drive themselves.

Soft robotic fish moves like the real thing

March 13, 2014 8:05 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Soft robots have become a sufficiently popular research topic that they now have their own journal, Soft Robotics. In the first issue of that journal, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers report the first self-contained autonomous soft robot capable of rapid body motion: a “fish” that can execute an escape maneuver, convulsing its body to change direction in just a fraction of a second, or almost as quickly as a real fish can.

Interactive simulator takes driver behavior into account

March 10, 2014 7:43 am | News | Comments

Driving behavior is a key factor that is often insufficiently accounted for in computational models that gauge the dynamic characteristics of vehicles. Researchers in Germany have developed a new driving simulator designed to make the “human factor“ more calculable for vehicle engineers.

Herding robots

February 12, 2014 7:50 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Writing a program to control a single autonomous robot navigating an uncertain environment with an erratic communication link is hard enough; write one for multiple robots that may or may not have to work in tandem, depending on the task, is even harder. As a consequence, engineers designing control programs for multiagent systems have restricted themselves to special cases. Until now.

IBM's Watson supercomputer gets its own business

January 9, 2014 8:43 am | by Bree Fowler AP Technology Writer | News | Comments

IBM is investing over $1 billion to give its Watson supercomputer its own business division and a new home in the heart of New York City. The Armonk, N.Y.-based computing company said the new business unit will be dedicated to the development and commercialization of the project that first gained fame by defeating a pair of "Jeopardy!" champions, including 74-time winner Jennings, in 2011.

Even or odd: No easy feat for the mind

December 23, 2013 11:15 am | by Chris Barncard, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

Even scientists are fond of thinking of the human brain as a computer, following sets of rules. But if the brain is like a computer, why do brains make mistakes that computers don't? Recent research shows that our brains stumble on even the simplest rule-based calculations, because humans get caught up in contextual information, even when the rules are as clear-cut as separating even numbers from odd.

FedEx CEO says drones unlikely to make big impact

December 18, 2013 2:50 pm | by JOSHUA FREED - AP Business Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

The CEO of FedEx doesn't see drones taking over the package delivery business anytime soon. Fred Smith says FedEx has several drone studies underway. But the idea of delivering items by drone is "almost amusing," Smith said on a conference call on Wednesday after the company reported financial results.

Machine-learning algorithms could make chemical reactions intelligent

December 12, 2013 5:09 pm | News | Comments

Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and Harvard Univ. have have recently shown that an important class of artificial intelligence algorithms could be implemented using chemical reactions. These algorithms use a technique called “message passing inference on factor graphs” and are a mathematical coupling of ideas from graph theory and probability.

Researchers develop algorithm that uses computer vision to identify social groups

December 12, 2013 8:18 am | News | Comments

Hipster, surfer or biker? Computers may soon  be able to tell the difference: Scientists in California are developing an algorithm that uses group pictures to determine to which of these groups, or urban tribes, you belong. So far, the algorithm is 48% accurate on average, much better than chance but not yet to level of humans.

Industry Breakout - Information & Communications Technologies

December 9, 2013 6:08 am | by R&D Magazine/Battelle | Articles | Comments

The information and communications technologies (ICT) industry, and the significant level of R&D that supports it, is driven by constant change in consumer preferences, market demand and technological evolution. The ICT industry is the largest private-sector R&D investor in the U.S., performing nearly one-third of the total.

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