In an important advance that takes us one step closer to the inevitable robopocalypse, MIT researchers have developed a system that teaches robots how to acquire new skills — and then teach those skills to different types of robots.
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For years, we've been told that strapping a fitness tracker to your wrist is a great way to track your physical activity and fitness level. But researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have come up with a non-invasive, non-wearable way to do the same thing — and more accurately — using invisible wireless signals.
The potential for 3D printing to revolutionise manufacturing is astounding — if the technology can overcome a few limitations. Researchers at MIT's Self-Assembly Lab have come up with a novel way to both speed up the 3D printing process, and free it from the restrictions imposed by gravity.
Video: Iron Man's replacement in Marvel's current comics, Riri Williams, was an MIT student before she started flying high as the Invincible Ironheart. So it's pretty damn awesome that a group of her real-life alumni have made their own fan film about the young hero and her life at the university.
As if the ocean wasn't already full of nightmares, researchers at MIT have developed a soft and flexible robot made of hydrogel, a material composed mostly of water. The new bot is quick, strong and almost completely invisible when submerged, allowing it to snatch up fish before they even realise they're being tracked.
If Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking's foreboding pronouncements about the dangers of Artificial Intelligence don't have you spooked enough, MIT has deliberately launched a project that is designed to make AI scary. Or, at least, to make scary images using deep learning.
Is that a baby or the blob? It's actually just the sick and twisted result of a neural network predicting what a still photo of a baby would look like if it were moving. Researchers at MIT have published demonstrations of their work on generative video, and the "hallucinated" outcomes of are both impressive and repulsive.
How does one read a book without opening it? Why would you want to read a closed book in the first place? While not a common problem, it's enough of one that MIT research scientist Barmak Heshmet decided to have a crack and came up with a system that uses terahertz radiation, femto-photography and air to read characters from a closed book, along with an algorithm that can give CAPTCHAs a run for their money.
When farmers spray their crops with pesticides and other treatments to help ensure their survival, 98 per cent of those chemicals bounce right off the plants and end up in the groundwater as pollution. It's a waste, and harmful to the environment, so researchers at MIT came up with a cheap but effective way to instead make those chemicals stick to crops.
MIT's self-assembly lab has created mobile phones that build themselves, in a manner of speaking. There's no fancy nano- or bio- technology involved, nothing theoretical or suggestive of a near-future Singularity. It's devilishly simple, because the whole project boils down to throwing phone parts into a rock tumbler.
Your next tattoo could also be used to control your computer. A new technology called DuoSkin, developed by MIT Media Lab and Microsoft Research, allows anyone to create customised gold metal leaf print tattoos that can be worn directly on the skin. The temporary tattoos can be used as touchpad inputs, display outputs and wireless communication.
Creating the types of 3D holograms that are used to authenticate products or currency usually requires very expensive, very complex printers. That's what makes them so hard to counterfeit. But a team of researchers from MIT have created a new kind of 3D hologram that can be printed on the inkjet printer you probably already have sitting on your desk.
Some combinations of notes inherently sound better than others, right? It's why the bread and butter of pop music, which is engineered to be upbeat and danceable, is highly consonant major chords. It's why unpredictable 12-tone compositions create unease in the listener, and why Stravinsky's dissonant Rite of Spring sparked a riot when it debuted.
Learning to play any instrument isn't just about correctly following every last note on a sheet of music. Being expressive, and imaginative, is just as important to learn. That's what led MIT's Xiao Xiao and Hiroshi Ishii to develop Andante, which adds lively animated figures to a self-playing piano.