Tag Archives: health
A Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) spin-off, Inrobics Social Robotics, S.L.L., has developed a robotic device that provides an innovative motor and cognitive rehabilitation service that can be used at health centers as well as at home. Inrobics was created using research results from the University's Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Continue reading
One of the primary capabilities separating human intelligence from artificial intelligence is our ability to be creative—to use nothing but the world around us, our experiences, and our brains to create art. At present, AI needs to be extensively trained on human-made works of art in order to produce new work, so we’ve still got a leg up. That said, neural networks like OpenAI’s GPT-3 and Russian designer Nikolay Ironov have been able to create content indistinguishable from human-made work.
Now there’s another example of AI artistry that’s hard to tell apart from the real thing, and it’s sure to excite 90s alternative rock fans the world over: a brand-new, never-heard-before Nirvana song. Or, more accurately, a song written by a neural network that was trained on Nirvana’s music.
The song is called “Drowned in the Sun,” and it does have a pretty Nirvana-esque ring to it. The neural network that wrote it is Magenta, which was launched by Google in 2016 with the goal of training machines to create art—or as the tool’s website puts it, exploring the role of machine learning as a tool in the creative process. Magenta was built using TensorFlow, Google’s massive open-source software library focused on deep learning applications.
The song was written as part of an album called Lost Tapes of the 27 Club, a project carried out by a Toronto-based organization called Over the Bridge focused on mental health in the music industry.
Here’s how a computer was able to write a song in the unique style of a deceased musician. Music, 20 to 30 tracks, was fed into Magenta’s neural network in the form of MIDI files. MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, and the format contains the details of a song written in code that represents musical parameters like pitch and tempo. Components of each song, like vocal melody or rhythm guitar, were fed in one at a time.
The neural network found patterns in these different components, and got enough of a handle on them that when given a few notes to start from, it could use those patterns to predict what would come next; in this case, chords and melodies that sound like they could’ve been written by Kurt Cobain.
To be clear, Magenta didn’t spit out a ready-to-go song complete with lyrics. The AI wrote the music, but a different neural network wrote the lyrics (using essentially the same process as Magenta), and the team then sifted through “pages and pages” of output to find lyrics that fit the melodies Magenta created.
Eric Hogan, a singer for a Nirvana tribute band who the Over the Bridge team hired to sing “Drowned in the Sun,” felt that the lyrics were spot-on. “The song is saying, ‘I’m a weirdo, but I like it,’” he said. “That is total Kurt Cobain right there. The sentiment is exactly what he would have said.”
Cobain isn’t the only musician the Lost Tapes project tried to emulate; songs in the styles of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Amy Winehouse were also included. What all these artists have in common is that they died by suicide at the age of 27.
The project is meant to raise awareness around mental health, particularly among music industry professionals. It’s not hard to think of great artists of all persuasions—musicians, painters, writers, actors—whose lives are cut short due to severe depression and other mental health issues for which it can be hard to get help. These issues are sometimes romanticized, as suffering does tend to create art that’s meaningful, relatable, and timeless. But according to the Lost Tapes website, suicide attempts among music industry workers are more than double that of the general population.
How many more hit songs would these artists have written if they were still alive? We’ll never know, but hopefully Lost Tapes of the 27 Club and projects like it will raise awareness of mental health issues, both in the music industry and in general, and help people in need find the right resources. Because no matter how good computers eventually get at creating music, writing, or other art, as Lost Tapes’ website pointedly says, “Even AI will never replace the real thing.”
Image Credit: Edward Xu on Unsplash Continue reading
In the fictional worlds of film and TV, artificial intelligence has been depicted as so advanced that it is indistinguishable from humans. But what if we’re actually getting closer to a world where AI is capable of thinking and feeling?
Tech company UneeQ is embarking on that journey with its “digital humans.” These avatars act as visual interfaces for customer service chatbots, virtual assistants, and other applications. UneeQ’s digital humans appear lifelike not only in terms of language and tone of voice, but also because of facial movements: raised eyebrows, a tilt of the head, a smile, even a wink. They transform a transaction into an interaction: creepy yet astonishing, human, but not quite.
What lies beneath UneeQ’s digital humans? Their 3D faces are modeled on actual human features. Speech recognition enables the avatar to understand what a person is saying, and natural language processing is used to craft a response. Before the avatar utters a word, specific emotions and facial expressions are encoded within the response.
UneeQ may be part of a larger trend towards humanizing computing. ObEN’s digital avatars serve as virtual identities for celebrities, influencers, gaming characters, and other entities in the media and entertainment industry. Meanwhile, Soul Machines is taking a more biological approach, with a “digital brain” that simulates aspects of the human brain to modulate the emotions “felt” and “expressed” by its “digital people.” Amelia is employing a similar methodology in building its “digital employees.” It emulates parts of the brain involved with memory to respond to queries and, with each interaction, learns to deliver more engaging and personalized experiences.
Shiwali Mohan, an AI systems scientist at the Palo Alto Research Center, is skeptical of these digital beings. “They’re humanlike in their looks and the way they sound, but that in itself is not being human,” she says. “Being human is also how you think, how you approach problems, and how you break them down; and that takes a lot of algorithmic design. Designing for human-level intelligence is a different endeavor than designing graphics that behave like humans. If you think about the problems we’re trying to design these avatars for, we might not need something that looks like a human—it may not even be the right solution path.”
And even if these avatars appear near-human, they still evoke an uncanny valley feeling. “If something looks like a human, we have high expectations of them, but they might behave differently in ways that humans just instinctively know how other humans react. These differences give rise to the uncanny valley feeling,” says Mohan.
Yet the demand is there, with Amelia seeing high adoption of its digital employees across the financial, health care, and retail sectors. “We find that banks and insurance companies, which are so risk-averse, are leading the adoption of such disruptive technologies because they understand that the risk of non-adoption is much greater than the risk of early adoption,” says Chetan Dube, Amelia’s CEO. “Unless they innovate their business models and make them much more efficient digitally, they might be left behind.” Dube adds that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated adoption of digital employees in health care and retail as well.
Amelia, Soul Machines, and UneeQ are taking their digital beings a step further, enabling organizations to create avatars themselves using low-code or no-code platforms: Digital Employee Builder for Amelia, Creator for UneeQ, and Digital DNA Studio for Soul Machines. Unreal Engine, a game engine developed by Epic Games, is doing the same with MetaHuman Creator, a tool that allows anyone to create photorealistic digital humans. “The biggest motivation for Digital Employee Builder is to democratize AI,” Dube says.
Mohan is cautious about this approach. “AI has problems with bias creeping in from data sets and into the way it speaks. The AI community is still trying to figure out how to measure and counter that bias,” she says. “[Companies] have to have an AI expert on board that can recommend the right things to build for.”
Despite being wary of the technology, Mohan supports the purpose behind these virtual beings and is optimistic about where they’re headed. “We do need these tools that support humans in different kinds of things. I think the vision is the pro, and I’m behind that vision,” she says. “As we develop more sophisticated AI technology, we would then have to implement novel ways of interacting with that technology. Hopefully, all of that is designed to support humans in their goals.” Continue reading
3D printed houses have been popping up all over the map. Some are hive-shaped, some can float, some are up for sale. Now this practical, cost-cutting technology is being employed for another type of building: a school.
Located on the island of Madagascar, the project is a collaboration between San Francisco-based architecture firm Studio Mortazavi and Thinking Huts, a nonprofit whose mission is to increase global access to education through 3D printing. The school will be built on the campus of a university in Fianarantsoa, a city in the south central area of the island nation.
According to the World Economic Forum, lack of physical infrastructure is one of the biggest barriers to education. Building schools requires not only funds, human capital, and building materials, but also community collaboration and ongoing upkeep and maintenance. For people to feel good about sending their kids to school each day, the buildings should be conveniently located, appealing, comfortable to spend several hours in, and of course safe. All of this is harder to accomplish than you might think, especially in low-income areas.
Because of its comparatively low cost and quick turnaround time, 3D printing has been lauded as a possible solution to housing shortages and a tool to aid in disaster relief. Cost details of the Madagascar school haven’t been released, but if 3D printed houses can go up in a day for under $10,000 or list at a much lower price than their non-3D-printed neighbors, it’s safe to say that 3D printing a school is likely substantially cheaper than building it through traditional construction methods.
The school’s modular design resembles a honeycomb, where as few or as many nodes as needed can be linked together. Each node consists of a room with two bathrooms, a closet, and a front and rear entrance. The Fianarantsoa school with just have one node to start with, but as local technologists will participate in the building process, they’ll learn the 3D printing ins and outs and subsequently be able to add new nodes or build similar schools in other areas.
Artist rendering of the completed school. Image Credit: Studio Mortazavi/Thinking Huts
The printer for the project is coming from Hyperion Robotics, a Finnish company that specializes in 3D printing solutions for reinforced concrete. The building’s walls will be made of layers of a special cement mixture that Thinking Huts says emits less carbon dioxide than traditional concrete. The roof, doors, and windows will be sourced locally, and the whole process can be completed in less than a week, another major advantage over traditional building methods.
“We can build these schools in less than a week, including the foundation and all the electrical and plumbing work that’s involved,” said Amir Mortazavi, lead architect on the project. “Something like this would typically take months, if not even longer.”
The roof of the building will be equipped with solar panels to provide the school with power, and in a true melding of modern technology and traditional design, the pattern of its walls is based on Malagasy textiles.
Thinking Huts considered seven different countries for its first school, and ended up choosing Madagascar for the pilot based on its need for education infrastructure, stable political outlook, opportunity for growth, and renewable energy potential. However, the team is hoping the pilot will be the first of many similar projects across multiple countries. “We can use this as a case study,” Mortazavi said. “Then we can go to other countries around the world and train the local technologists to use the 3D printer and start a nonprofit there to be able to build schools.”
Construction of the school will take place in the latter half of this year, with hopes of getting students into the classroom as soon as the pandemic is no longer a major threat to the local community’s health.
Image Credit: Studio Mortazavi/Thinking Huts Continue reading
Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here's what we have so far (send us your events!):
HRI 2021 – March 8-11, 2021 – [Online Conference]
RoboSoft 2021 – April 12-16, 2021 – [Online Conference]
Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today's videos.
We're proud to announce Starship Delivery Robots have now completed 1,000,000 autonomous deliveries around the world. We were unsure where the one millionth delivery was going to take place, as there are around 15-20 service areas open globally, all with robots doing deliveries every minute. In the end it took place at Bowling Green, Ohio, to a student called Annika Keeton who is a freshman studying pre-health Biology at BGSU. Annika is now part of Starship’s history!
[ Starship ]
I adore this little DIY walking robot- with modular feet and little dials to let you easily adjust the walking parameters, it's an affordable kit that's way more nuanced than most.
It's called Bakiwi, and it costs €95. A squee cover made from feathers or fur is an extra €17. Here's a more serious look at what it can do:
[ Bakiwi ]
Savva Morozov, an AeroAstro junior, works on autonomous navigation for the MIT mini cheetah robot and reflects on the value of a crowded Infinite Corridor.
[ MIT ]
The world's most advanced haptic feedback gloves just got a huge upgrade! HaptX Gloves DK2 achieves a level of realism that other haptic devices can't match. Whether you’re training your workforce, designing a new product, or controlling robots from a distance, HaptX Gloves make it feel real.
They're the only gloves with true-contact haptics, with patented technology that displace your skin the same way a real object would. With 133 points of tactile feedback per hand, for full palm and fingertip coverage. HaptX Gloves DK2 feature the industry's most powerful force feedback, ~2X the strength of other force feedback gloves. They're also the most accurate motion tracking gloves, with 30 tracked degrees of freedom, sub-millimeter precision, no perceivable latency, and no occlusion.
[ HaptX ]
Yardroid is an outdoor robot “guided by computer vision and artificial intelligence” that seems like it can do almost everything.
These are a lot of autonomous capabilities, but so far, we've only seen the video. So, best not to get too excited until we know more about how it works.
[ Yardroid ]
Since as far as we know, Pepper can't spread COVID, it had a busy year.
I somehow missed seeing that chimpanzee magic show, but here it is:
[ Simon Pierro ] via [ SoftBank Robotics ]
In spite of the pandemic, Professor Hod Lipson’s Robotics Studio persevered and even thrived— learning to work on global teams, to develop protocols for sharing blueprints and code, and to test, evaluate, and refine their designs remotely. Equipped with a 3D printer and a kit of electronics prototyping equipment, our students engineered bipedal robots that were conceptualized, fabricated, programmed, and endlessly iterated around the globe in bedrooms, kitchens, backyards, and any other makeshift laboratory you can imagine.
[ Hod Lipson ]
We all know how much quadrupeds love ice!
[ Ghost Robotics ]
We took the opportunity of the last storm to put the Warthog in the snow of Université Laval. Enjoy!
[ Norlab ]
They've got a long way to go, but autonomous indoor firefighting drones seem like a fantastic idea.
[ CTU ]
Individual manipulators are limited by their vertical total load capacity. This places a fundamental limit on the weight of loads that a single manipulator can move. Cooperative manipulation with two arms has the potential to increase the net weight capacity of the overall system. However, it is critical that proper load sharing takes place between the two arms. In this work, we outline a method that utilizes mechanical intelligence in the form of a whiffletree.
And your word of the day is whiffletree, which is “a mechanism to distribute force evenly through linkages.”
[ DART Lab ]
Some highlights of robotic projects at FZI in 2020, all using ROS.
[ FZI ]
iRobot CEO Colin Angle threatens my job by sharing some cool robots.
[ iRobot ]
A fascinating new talk from Henry Evans on robotic caregivers.
[ HRL ]
The ANA Avatar XPRIZE semifinals selection submission for Team AVATRINA. The setting is a mock clinic, with the patient sitting on a wheelchair and nurse having completed an initial intake. Avatar enters the room controlled by operator (Doctor). A rolling tray table with medical supplies (stethoscope, pulse oximeter, digital thermometer, oxygen mask, oxygen tube) is by the patient’s side. Demonstrates head tracking, stereo vision, fine manipulation, bimanual manipulation, safe impedance control, and navigation.
[ Team AVATRINA ]
This five year old talk from Mikell Taylor, who wrote for us a while back and is now at Amazon Robotics, is entitled “Nobody Cares About Your Robot.” For better or worse, it really doesn't sound like it was written five years ago.
Robotics for the consumer market – Mikell Taylor from Scott Handsaker on Vimeo.
[ Mikell Taylor ]
Fall River Community Media presents this wonderful guy talking about his love of antique robot toys.
If you enjoy this kind of slow media, Fall River also has weekly Hot Dogs Cool Cats adoption profiles that are super relaxing to watch.
[ YouTube ] Continue reading