In a lagoon in Venice, robotic lily pads float on the surface, with clusters of electronic mussels resting on the bed below. In July, a self-organising team of robots will be released into the murky waters of a lagoon near Venice, Italy. To continue reading this premium article, subscribe for unlimited access. Existing subscribers, please log in with your email address to link your account access.
In this scenario, neighbours have been complaining that something smelly is coming from a nearby house. You've been called to the scene. This is what you'd hear if you were on one of the eight military and civilian bomb squad teams competing in the Robot Rodeo last week, an annual event hosted by Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico.
An almost 2-metre-tall black panel called Project Debater competed in its first public debate against humans this week and put in an admirable performance. The final score was 1–1, according to the audience. The audience voted that Project Debater's delivery was worse than the person it was debating, but conveyed more information. Project Debater, which is built by IBM, spoke with a confident female voice, however it did make some un-human slip-ups. For example, during one sentence the AI mentioned the astronaut Scott Kelly and then said "voiceover", suggesting that it was borrowing phrases from a video transcript.
"SWEET disorder", the poet Robert Herrick wrote, is more bewitching to the human eye than precise art. What he applied to Elizabethan fashion sense applies equally to football, whose World Cup is just kicking off in Russia. It will be the first one to supplement on-pitch decision-making with officials viewing video-replay footage, officially only in cases of "clear and obvious error" (see "Why video-assisted referees won't stop World Cup errors"). After all, football is big business: decisions must be right and seen to be right. This magazine is mostly as resolute as a solid centre back in defence of technology, but here not so much.
For the first time, a robot has performed eye surgery on humans. It's success hints that in the near future robots will be performing operations that are too delicate for a human to do manually. Each of the six participants in the study needed a membrane removed from their retina to improve vision. This procedure involves cutting out a collection of cells that have clumped together, distorting what the person can see. Twelve people in total had the surgery, with half of them conducted using a robot.
Artificial intelligence can detect the early stages of Parkinson's disease from brain scans. The hope is that this will lead to earlier diagnosis and treatments to slow the progression of the disease. Parkinson's disease is usually first noticed when people start to show visible tremors and lose some control of their motor movements. The disease is then confirmed with further tests involving injecting radioactive tracers into the body.
Off the coast of Malta, Chris Clark was sitting on a small boat waiting for his underwater robot to talk to him. It was autonomously exploring the sea bed hunting for signs of a wreckage, but was unable to relay what it had found until it surfaced. "We could have gone back to shore, but we prefer to sit out there babysitting it, chit chatting and hypothesising about what it might find," says Clark at Harvey Mudd College in California.
Blink twice if you are a fake. Sophisticated fake videos created by artificial intelligence are getting better and better, so tools to identify the genuine article are needed. One solution is to look at the way fake faces blink. In recent months, researchers have created eerily-realistic fake videos of Theresa May, Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, and Donald Trump giving speeches, as well as of famous actresses superimposed into porn scenes.
The football World Cup is almost upon us. Many millions will watch the tournament unfold on TV screens around the globe. But what if you could enjoy a mini virtual reconstruction of each match on your dining table instead? To create such an experience, Konstantinos Rematas and colleagues at the University of Washington trained a machine learning algorithm to convert 2D YouTube clips into 3D reconstructions. They began by gathering footage from the football videogame FIFA.
A new drone surveillance system can spot when someone in a crowd is acting violently. It uses artificial intelligence and is going to be tested at a university festival in India later this year. The system assesses the way each person in a crowd is standing via two cameras on the drone. To continue reading this premium article, subscribe for unlimited access. Existing subscribers, please log in with your email address to link your account access.