News

Mapping Human Movement to Improve Rehabilitative Robotics

The Biomechatronics Group at MIT is using a data-driven approach to study the mechanics and control of human walking, with the goal of applying the findings to hardware control. PhD student David Hill is developing a model that could be used to improve assistive devices that can help maintain or correct the gait of people recovering from strokes. 

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Nanoclutch Transmits Torque at Small Scales

When driving a car, the clutch mechanically carries the torque produced by the engine to the chassis of the vehicle – a coupling that has long been tested and optimized in such macroscopic machines, giving us highly efficient engines. At microscopic length scales, different physics need to be considered. A model microscopic system consists of a ring of colloidal particles localized in optical tweezers and automatically translated on a circular path, transferring a rotational motion to an assembly of identical colloids confined to the interior region.

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NASA’s Green Propellant Spacecraft Moves Toward Launch

The propulsion subsystem for NASA's Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM) has been integrated onto the spacecraft, moving the mission another major step toward scheduled launch in 2016. The propulsion subsystem will be the primary payload on the mission’s spacecraft. The mission will demonstrate the practical capabilities of a hydroxyl ammonium nitrate-based fuel/oxidizer propellant blend developed by the Air Force.

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Is robo-journalism valuable?

This week's Question: Lars Eidnes, a Norwegian developer, recently created software that uses Recurrent Neural Networks (RNN)—a form of “deep learning”—to write new "clickbait” headlines. After training the software with several million articles from BuzzFeed, Gawker, Jezebel, the Huffington Post, and Upworthy, Eidnes created an entire auto-generated news site called Click-o-Tron, which paired the headlines with photos and short articles, also assembled by the neural network. In early 2015, The Verge reported that the Associated Press has an automated system producing around 3,000 stories per quarter. The Los Angeles Times similarly uses its “Quakebot” algorithm to write short earthquake reports, and Google is finding headlines from newspapers like the Daily Mail to teach its neural networks to parse language. What do you think? Is robo-journalism valuable? 

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Researchers Test Robot's 'Light Touch'

Using an air-fluidized bed trackway filled with poppy seeds or glass spheres, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology systematically varied the stiffness of the ground to mimic a variety of surfaces, from hard-packed sand to powdery snow. By studying how running lizards, geckos, crabs, and a robot moved through the varying conditions, the researchers found ideal parameters for appendage design.

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Is "neuromarketing" valuable for consumers?

This week’s Question: Last week, Japanese retailer Uniqlo debuted UMood, a brain-wave analysis system designed to match the right T-shirt to a specific customer. After the shopper puts on an electroencephalography (EEG) headset, the technology's algorithm employs five metrics — interest, like, concentration, stress, and drowsiness — to measure the user's response to a set of videos, and tries to best find a design that corresponds with the user's mood. Uniqlo used surveys to map its more than 600 T-shirt styles and colors to various mood territories. What do you think? Is “neuromarketing” valuable for consumers?

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Embedded Optical Sensors Make Robotic Hands More Dexterous

Researchers have developed a three-fingered soft robotic hand with embedded, stretchable fiber optic strain sensors. By using fiber optics, the researchers were able to embed 14 strain sensors into each of the fingers in the hand, giving it the ability to determine where its fingertips are in contact, and to detect forces of less than a tenth of a newton.

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