A cheap robot ready for any obstacle
Researchers have designed a robotic system that makes it possible to walk on small legs robot to go almost anywhere – from climbing and descending stairs almost its own height; traverse rocky, slippery, uneven and varied terrain; walking over holes; and even work in the dark.
The research paper will be presented in 2022 Robot Learning Conferencein Auckland, New Zealand.
The researchers trained the robot with a computer simulator in which 4,000 clones of the robot practiced walking and climbing on challenging terrain. The simulator was so fast that the robot could gain six years of experience in one day.
The motor skills learned during training were stored in a neural network that was then copied to the robot in real life, an approach that did not require manual manipulation of its movements.
Most robotic systems use cameras to create a map of the environment and use that to plan movements before executing them, but not this one.
“This system uses vision and feedback from the body directly as inputs to issue commands to the robot’s motors,” said study co-author Ananye Agarwal, a Ph.D. machine learning student at Carnegie Mellon University. “This technique makes the system very robust in the real world. If he slips on the stairs, he can recover. It can enter unfamiliar environments and adapt.”
The lifespan of honey bees is now 50% shorter than it was half a century ago
Converting colonies is a normal part of beekeeping, as bee colonies naturally age and die. But U.S. beekeepers have reported high failure rates over the past decade, meaning they’ve had to replace more colonies to continue operations.
Now, one new study in Scientific Reports has found that the life span for individual honeybees kept in a controlled laboratory environment is 50% shorter than in the 1970s, and this may be due to their genetics.
Researchers isolated bees just before they reached maturity, meaning whatever shortens their lifespan happens before that point.
“This introduces the idea of a genetic component. If this hypothesis is correct, it also points to a possible solution. If we can isolate some genetic factors, we may be able to breed for longer-lived honeybees,” explains lead author Anthony Nearman, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Entomology at the University of Maryland, USA.
Wireless headphones can work just as well as hearing aids
Hearing loss has wide-ranging health implications, but professionally hearing aids are expensive and require multiple visits to otolaryngologists and audiologists for tuning; factors leading to major barriers to accessing it.
Now Taiwanese researchers have discovered that some commercial earplugs perform as well as hearing aids and are often much cheaper.
Apple came out with a feature called “Live Listen” in 2016 that allows people to use their wireless earphones, AirPods, and iPhone for sound amplification.
The team tested the four devices – AirPods 2, AirPods Pro, premium hearing aids and a basic hearing aid – with 21 participants with mild to moderate hearing loss. The researchers read a short sentence, such as “the electricity bill has recently gone up,” to participants, who were asked to repeat their words verbatim while wearing the devices.
AirPods Pro performed similarly well compared to standard hearing aids in a quiet environment and were only slightly less than premium hearing aids. AirPods 2, while the worst performer of the four, helped participants hear more clearly compared to not wearing a hearing aid.
The study published the magazine iScience could help a large proportion of people with hearing loss gain access to more affordable sound amplification equipment.
Genes that increase your risk of nearsightedness the longer you’re in school
Researchers have found five genetic variants that may increase the risk of nearsightedness the longer someone is in school.
People often become nearsighted as children, and the condition appears to result from a mix of genetics, not spending enough time outdoors, and many years of education. In a new study, researchers used genetic and health data from more than 340,000 participants (with European ancestry) to conduct a genome-wide study — identifying genetic variants that predispose people to myopia when combined with intensive education.
“In addition to the need for glasses or contact lenses, myopia (nearsightedness) is a major cause of uncorrectable visual disturbances. Building on our previous research linking education and myopia, the new study identifies 5 genes associated with the development of myopia whose effects are magnified by additional years spent in education,”
Three of the identified genetic variants were previously unknown, while two were found in studies of East Asian cohorts, where about 80% of children become nearsighted.
The findings have been published in a new study in PLOS Genetics.