New Scientist


Robotic grabber catches squidgy deep sea animals without harming them

New Scientist

The deep sea is a challenging place to study wildlife, but a new foldable robotic grabber may make capturing underwater creatures a bit easier. Many deep sea animals, such as jellyfish and their relatives, have fragile bodies. This means catching them using suction or claw-like grabbers, can cause them to break apart, leaving broken pieces to study instead of whole organisms. To counteract this, Zhi Ern Teoh at Harvard University in Massachusetts and colleagues created a robotic grabber based on a regular dodecahedron – a 3D shape built from 12 pentagons. The grabber is used by attaching it to a remote controlled underwater vehicle or another type of submersible.


Robots and AI will actually create more jobs than they take

New Scientist

ROBOTS will make more jobs than they take in the UK, according to a new report. The combination of artificial intelligence and robotics will displace up to 7 million jobs between 2017 and 2037. However, this will lead to a reduction in costs and increases in spending, which in turn could generate 7.2 million jobs – a net gain of 200,000 jobs, according to accountancy firm PwC. Jobs in health, scientific and technical services, and hospitality are predicted to increase, while those in manufacturing, transport and storage, and public administration will decrease. Automation seems to be less disruptive than we had feared.


DeepMind AI takes IQ tests to probe its ability for abstract thought

New Scientist

Will artificial intelligences ever be able to match humans in abstract thought, or are they just very fancy number crunchers? Researchers at Google DeepMind are trying to find out by challenging AIs to solve abstract reasoning puzzles similar to those found in IQ tests.


Facebook's AI tourist learns to navigate New York by asking directions

New Scientist

You are dropped in an unfamiliar New York neighbourhood, with no idea where you are. All you have at your disposal is a guide on the end of the phone with a map. Together you must communicate to first work out where you are, and then how to get where you are meant to be going. This isn't the start of a new orienteering game, but a challenge created by Facebook for artificial intelligence.


Delivery drones can learn to see and dodge obstacles in-flight

New Scientist

Drones have a habit of crashing. If they are ever to be relied on for delivering packages in complex environments like cities, they're going to have to get smarter. A team of researchers from the University of Zurich and Intel has come up with a way for drones to do this – learn to dodge obstacles as they fly. Elia Kaufmann and colleagues wanted to develop drones that could autonomously pilot themselves through hoops or gates used in drone racing.


Young kids are surprisingly bad at using memory to plan ahead

New Scientist

We used to think that planning for the future was a skill most children have by the age of four, but now it seems that we don't develop the kind of memory needed to do this until we're older. Episodic memory lets us reflect on our past, and imagine ourselves in the future. To find out when children develop this, Amanda Seed at the University of St Andrews in the UK and her colleagues devised a test for 212 children between the ages of three and seven. Each child was taught how to use a box that released a desirable sticker when the correct token was placed in it. An examiner showed them two boxes of different colours and told them that one would remain on a table while they left the room, and the other would be put away.


How to stop artificial intelligence being so racist and sexist

New Scientist

Something is rotten at the heart of artificial intelligence. Machine learning algorithms that spot patterns in huge datasets, hold promise for everything from recommending if someone should be released on bail to estimating the likelihood of a driver having a car crash, and thus the cost of their insurance. But these algorithms also risk being discriminatory by basing their recommendations on categories like someone's sex, sexuality, or race. So far, all attempts to de-bias our algorithms have failed.


Cimon the robot blasts off to the International Space Station

New Scientist

A second-hand SpaceX rocket has blasted off to the International Space Station, carrying a robot with artificial intelligence and other station supplies. The shipment – packed into a Dragon capsule that is also recycled – should reach the station on Monday. This marked SpaceX's fastest reflight of a rocket booster. The same first-stage booster launched the planet-hunting TESS satellite in April, while the capsule flew in 2016. The Dragon will deliver the robot Cimon, which stands for Crew Interactive Mobile Companion and is pronounced Simon.


Is an AI chatbot really better than a human doctor?

New Scientist

Babylon Health, a UK artificial intelligence firm, says a version of its software can pass the standard exam taken by British family doctors, but some medics are pushing back against the claim. Babylon's AI is designed to give people a probable medical diagnosis through a "symptom checker" app. It is not the only such app available, but it is the most visible one in the UK at the moment.


The US has an anti-drone gun that shoots drones at other drones

New Scientist

The US is going to start taking rogue drones out of the air… by launching its own drones to smash into them. Attacks using consumer drones are on the rise. In 2017, ISIS forces in Mosul attacked US-backed Iraqi troops with dozens of consumer drones dropping grenades, and earlier this year a swarm of small drones attacked a Russian airbase in Syria. Such attacks are difficult to counter with existing weapons.