It looks and moves like a real fish, flapping its tail from side to side. But this fish is controlled by a human diver via a waterproofed Super Nintendo controller and an ultrasound transmitter. SoFi, the soft robotic fish, has been designed to let researchers study marine life up close. Remotely-operated or autonomous submersibles are usually propeller-driven, which tends to disturb wildlife. Videos of test dives in Fiji's Rainbow Reef show SoFi skirting over coral alongside real fish, which seem unfazed by the mechanical interloper.
Around the world, vehicles kill more people than HIV/AIDS – about 1.3 million each year. In the vast majority of cases, it is the inattentive and error-prone humans operating those cars and lorries who are at fault. Pedestrian Elaine Herzberg died after being struck by an autonomous Uber car on Sunday as she crossed a road – the first time that a self-driving vehicle has claimed the life of another road user.
A self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. Tempe police said the woman was walking outside the pedestrian crossing when she was struck by a self-driving car in autonomous mode. There was a vehicle operator in the car at the time of the crash, but no passengers. The 49-year-old woman was taken to a local hospital, where she died of her injuries. This is the first reported pedestrian fatality due to a self-driving vehicle.
The future of artificial intelligence might be bright. Computers that use lasers to carry out computation are showing that they can do complex algorithms faster and more efficiently than standard chips. If the rate of progress continues they may be able to head off the impending crisis that threatens Moore's Law, the idea that computing processing power doubles every two years, and herald a new type of computers that are cheaper, faster, and much less energy intensive.
An artificial intelligence algorithm has learned to identify craters on the moon, discovering thousands of new ones in the process. Craters are geological fingerprints left behind by impacting space debris, such as comets or asteroids. Tectonic activity and weathering have wiped most of the Earth's surface craters clean, but the moon is still covered in them--many of which date back billions of years.
Drones soar in the skies while scanning the ground. In the dirt below, huge diggers are working semi-autonomously, levelling land and digging ditches. Californian firm Skycatch has supplied its quadcopter drones to more than 5000 building sites in Japan over the past three years. The sites are mostly in and around the Tokyo area and are run by Komatsu, the world's second-largest building firm, as part of its Smart Construction project.
A new $10 million XPrize competition wants anyone to be able to control a robot and carry out tasks from 100 kilometres away. Not just that, but untrained users should be able to feel, hear and touch their surroundings too. This latest ambitious X Prize challenge – the ANA XPrize Avatar Challenge – was launched by the non-profit today at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. It is sponsored by the Japanese airline ANA. Teams should submit their plans to a panel of expert judges by the end of January 2019.
HOWEVER much technology knows about you – and you would be surprised how much it does (see "I exposed how firms and politicians can manipulate us online") – there is one firewall that it can't penetrate: your skull. Unless you choose to share your thoughts, they remain private. Increasingly, a combination of brain scanning and artificial intelligence is opening the black box, gathering signals from deep inside the mind and reverse-engineering them to recreate thoughts. For now, the technology is limited to vision – working out what somebody is looking at from their brain activity (see "Mind-reading AI uses brain scans to guess what you're looking at") – but in principle there appears no reason why the entire contents of our minds couldn't be revealed. This line of research inevitably raises fears about the ultimate invasion of privacy: mind reading.
People with Tourette's syndrome seem to have enhanced memory that could make them better at learning tasks unconsciously, such as speaking a second language or driving a car. Procedural memory helps us do things without conscious thought. An experiment in which children played a computer game suggests that children with Tourette's may be much better at learning in this way. "This highlights the facts that conditions like this can be associated not only with disadvantages, but also potential advantages," says Dezso Nemeth at the …
MACHINES are getting to know each other better. An artificial intelligence, developed by Google-owned research firm DeepMind, can now pass an important psychological assessment that most children only develop the skills to pass at around age 4. Its aptitude in this key theory of mind test may lead to AIs that are more human-like. Most humans regularly think about other people's desires, beliefs or intentions.