New Scientist


Robots are taking manufacturing jobs but making firms more productive

New Scientist

Robots are replacing human manufacturing workers in France, and making companies more productive in the process. Daron Acemoglu at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his colleagues analysed more than 55,000 French manufacturing firms, noting which ones bought robots between 2010 and 2015 and what impacts the purchases had. "There is obviously increasing concern about what automation means for productivity, for jobs, for inequality," says Acemoglu.


Hunt through satellite images of Earth with an AI search engine

New Scientist

Artificial intelligence can now rapidly search through billions of aerial and satellite images to find similar buildings or land features, such as football fields and Arctic ponds. This capability could help researchers classify the amount of land taken up by forests or farms, or could be used by militaries to identify bases or specific weapons used by other countries.


AI could help make fast-charging, long-lasting electric car batteries

New Scientist

Artificial intelligence could help to create long-lasting electric vehicle (EV) batteries that charge faster. William Chueh at Stanford University in the US and his colleagues have developed an AI that optimises EV battery recharging while also maximising the battery's lifespan. "If you want to charge a battery quickly there is an infinite number of ways you can do so," says Chueh. Standard EV batteries tend to be recharged quickly at first, and then more slowly, for example.


US military face recognition system could work from 1 kilometre away

New Scientist

The US military is developing a portable face-recognition device capable of identifying individuals from a kilometre away. The Advanced Tactical Facial Recognition at a Distance Technology project is being carried out for US Special Operations Command (SOCOM). It commenced in 2016, and a working prototype was demonstrated in December 2019, paving the way for a production version. SOCOM says the research is ongoing, but declined to comment further. Initially designed for hand-held use, the technology could also be used from drones.


Great ape brains have a feature that we thought was unique to humans

New Scientist

Our brains could have more in common with our ape cousins than previously thought, which might require us to rethink ideas on the evolution of brain specialism in our early human ancestors. The left and right sides of our brains aren't symmetrical; some areas on one side are larger or smaller, while other parts protrude more. The pattern of these anatomical differences, or asymmetries, was thought to be uniquely human, originating when our brain hemispheres became specialised for certain tasks, such as processing language with the left side. Now, it seems the pattern came first – before humans evolved. Brain pattern comparisons between humans, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans reveal that our brains' left-right differences aren't unique, but shared with great apes.


Brain activity can help predict who'll benefit from an antidepressant

New Scientist

An AI can predict from people's brainwaves whether an antidepressant is likely to help them. The technique may offer a new approach to prescribing medicines for mental illnesses. Antidepressants don't always work, and we aren't sure why. "We have a central problem in psychiatry because we characterise diseases by their end point, such as what behaviours they cause," says Amit Etkin at Stanford University in California. "You tell me you're depressed, and I don't know any more than that. I don't really know what's going on in the brain and we prescribe medication on very little information."


Brain scans can help predict who'll benefit from an antidepressant

New Scientist

An AI can predict from people's brainwaves whether an antidepressant is likely to help them. The technique may offer a new approach to prescribing medicines for mental illnesses. Antidepressants don't always work, and we aren't sure why. "We have a central problem in psychiatry because we characterise diseases by their end point, such as what behaviours they cause," says Amit Etkin at Stanford University in California. "You tell me you're depressed, and I don't know any more than that. I don't really know what's going on in the brain and we prescribe medication on very little information."


Soft finger-like robots can sweat to cool down just like humans

New Scientist

Robots are becoming more human-like every day: now they can sweat. Thomas Wallin at Cornell University in New York and his colleagues have created soft robotic grippers that are capable of sweating to cool down. The grippers are capable of a cooling capacity of 107 watts per kilogram, making them more efficient sweaters than mammals. By comparison, humans and horses have a maximum cooling capacity around 35 watts per kilogram. Each gripper consists of three finger-like parts that bend simultaneously to grasp small objects.


AI is being used to select embryos for women undergoing IVF

New Scientist

Artificial intelligence is being used in IVF to select embryos with the highest chance of resulting in a successful pregnancy. The AI algorithm, called Ivy, analyses time-lapse videos of embryos as they are incubated after being fertilised, and identifies which ones have the highest likelihood of successful development. It was developed by Harrison.ai, Women who undergo IVF using Ivy are informed about the algorithm and consent to its use.


NHS may use people's phone data to predict mental health issues

New Scientist

An algorithm to predict which people may experience a mental health crisis has been trialled in the UK and found effective enough for routine use. A version that would track people's mobile phone calls, messages and location in a bid to improve accuracy is now being considered. Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust worked with Alpha, a division of Spanish telecomms firm Telefonica, which owns O2, to see if there was any benefit in automatically flagging the people thought most at risk of experiencing a mental health crisis to NHS staff. The results of the Predictive Analytics project, released under freedom of information rules, suggest there is. The project ran between November 2018 and May 2019.