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Electrohydraulic arachno-bot a fascinating lightweight: Fast and efficient nature-inspired joints power robotic systems

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A team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Germany and at the University of Boulder in Colorado in the US has now found a new way to exploit the principles of spiders' joints to drive articulated robots without any bulky components and connectors, which weigh down the robot and reduce portability and speed. Their slender and lightweight simple structures impress by enabling a robot to jump 10 times its height. At the end of May, the team's work titled "Spider-inspired electrohydraulic actuators for fast, soft-actuated joints" was published in Advanced Science. The high performance is enabled by Spider-inspired Electrohydraulic Soft-actuated joints -- SES joints in short. The joints can be used in many different configurations -- not just when creating an arachno-bot.


This Autonomous, Electric Lawn Mower Just Hit The Market With $18.6 Million In Funding

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Jack Morrison and Isaac Roberts (far left and right) previously cofounded and sold 3D scanning company Replica Labs to Occipital. There they met electrical engineer Davis Foster (center), with whom they went on to cofound Scythe Robotics. Self-driving cars get all the hype. But while the category continues to face a long and uncertain path to commercialization, a burgeoning crop of autonomous vehicles is already hitting the market. The latest is Scythe Robotics, a Boulder, Colorado-based company that announced today it is launching a zero-emission, autonomous lawn mower backed by $18.6 million from Inspired Capital, True Ventures and more.


LITERATURE UPDATE May 20, 2021 - May 26, 2021 - Biomch-L

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LITERATURE UPDATE May 20, 2021 - May 26, 2021 Literature search terms: biomech* & locomot* Publications are classified by BiomchBERT, a neural network trained on past Biomch-L Literature Updates. BiomchBERT is managed by Ryan Alcantara, a PhD Candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder. Each publication has a score (out of 100%) reflecting how confident BiomchBERT is that the publication belongs in a particular category (top 2 shown). Risteski P, Jagrić M, Pavin N, Tolić IM, Current biology: CB. (76.3% CELLULAR/SUBCELLULAR; 4.7% MUSCLE) Physical analysis reveals distinct responses of human bronchial epithelial cells to guanidine and isothiazolinone biocides. Kwon TY, Jeong J, Park E, Cho Y, Lim D, Ko UH, Shin JH, Choi J, Toxicology and applied pharmacology.


AAAS makes science relatable through diverse efforts

Science

When the constitution of the American Association for the Advancement of Science was revised in 1946, its statement of objectives contained new language: “…to increase public understanding and appreciation of the importance and promise of the methods of science in human progress.” The association has since fulfilled that charge in diverse sectors, including policy, education, and public engagement, to make science more relatable and relevant to the public. Making science relatable also requires a variety of engagement strategies, including facilitating in-depth discussions with local policy leaders, translating technical language into digestible summaries for the classroom, and promoting science role models. In the case of the AAAS Center for Scientific Evidence in Public Issues or EPI Center, for instance, a successful part of bringing clear and actionable scientific advice to policy-makers has been encouraging discussions among a broad group of experts and policy peers. During meetings organized by the EPI Center this year, city council members, mayors, water engineers, and local utility managers joined scientists to discuss perand polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS, synthetic chemicals found in drinking water systems. At least two PFAS have been associated with increased rates of some cancers and thyroid disease. The EPI Center provides nontechnical syntheses of topics for policy-makers, “but one thing we have seen is that examples from their peers that have implemented and used the scientific evidence are much more valuable and easier to understand,” said Kathryn McGrath, communications director for the center. Whether the focus is clean water or voting technology or hydraulic fracturing, the EPI Center strives to make the science of these topics relatable by talking with the public and policy-makers to find out exactly what information would be helpful for them. The discussions allow city council members, for instance, “to ask the science experts what they need to know to go back to their communities and regions and take action on some of these issues,” McGrath said. AAAS's Local Science Engagement Network, a grassroots platform that nurtures local and state science advocates for climate and energy policy, has also found success with local partnerships. In Colorado, Missouri, and Georgia, LSENs work with organizations in each state that “have a good sense of policy landscapes as well as the cultural and scientific landscapes in those areas,” said Daniel Barry, local and state advocacy director and head of LSEN at AAAS. LSENs offer an avenue for engagement and advocacy that AAAS members have been asking for, by connecting scientists with their own elected representatives on the local, state, and federal levels. As both constituents and neutral, honest brokers of scientific information, LSEN participants can be a key resource when legislatures grapple with the more local implications of climate change, such as modernizing the state power grid, said Barry. “They can step up and say, ‘Science, that's what I do, and I live here in this community. I know how to get you the science you need.’” LSEN members also condense technical research into locally relevant analyses in plain English for business leaders and citizens. So far in 2021, Missouri LSEN partner MOST Policy Initiative has produced more than 80 such “science notes” about pending state legislation. Among AAAS's numerous education efforts to make science more relevant is Science in the Classroom, an initiative that annotates and provides additional resources to accompany research papers from the Science family of journals. The goal is to make scientific papers more accessible to high school, community college, and undergraduate students, while putting a face on the papers' authors in communities with little exposure to working scientists, said program director Suzanne Thurston. The popular resource had more than 1 million page views in the past 3 years, and the hunger for accessible scientific content during a pandemic year led to a 50% increase in total site visits in 2020 compared to 2019. The program also offers professional development workshops to educators, researchers, and annotators. By showcasing a range of authors and annotators, Science in the Classroom helps “to expose students to diversity within STEM and demonstrates what ‘actual living scientists’ look like,” said Thurston, who serves as a program director in AAAS's Inclusive STEM Ecosystems for Equity and Diversity (ISEED). The IF/THEN Ambassador program, led by AAAS's Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology, was another recent effort to show off the diverse faces of science, by highlighting 125 women in STEM as role models for middle school girls. Lyda Hill Philanthropies, which funds the IF/THEN initiative, wanted to work with AAAS on the ambassador program after the association's success with other public engagement initiatives such as the AAAS Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellowship and the Leshner Leadership Institute for Public Engagement with Science, said Emily Therese Cloyd, director of the AAAS Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology. The ambassador program was distinguished by its emphasis on increasing visibility for women in STEM who demonstrate how science is involved in everyday careers beyond the traditional lab, said Cloyd. “We're moving beyond scientists who work at an academic institution and thinking about the ways that a video game designer or a fashion designer might be using STEM every day.” AAAS is committed to making science relatable and relevant for everyone from policy-makers to educators to students. It is at the core of the organization's mission and will continue to be a top priority for years to come.


Aspen Fire Protection District pilots new fire detection tool

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The Aspen Fire Protection District is piloting new technology that will keep an eye -- er, AI, rather -- on wildfires this summer using artificial intelligence technology and strategically placed cameras, the district announced Saturday. The system uses specialized cameras at specific vantage points to monitor the skyline, coupled with artificial intelligence and intuitive software technology from wildfire tech company Pano AI to detect, locate and communicate wildfire threats almost instantly, according to a news release. "Pano's platform uses mountaintop cameras, artificial intelligence, and intuitive software to automatically detect the first wisps of smoke and put real-time fire images in the hands of first responders and emergency personnel, all with the goal of detecting flare-ups earlier and enabling a faster response before they become large infernos," the release states. Cameras stationed on Pitkin County communications towers will continuously rotate to capture 360-degree views of the area; Pano AI software will process that imagery in real time to detect smoke and alert dispatchers or appropriate agencies. When multiple cameras capture the same smoke wisps, the software can use triangulation to pinpoint the location, "helping response crews coordinate a faster, more targeted response," according to the release.


How Google's new 'MUM' algorithm could transform the way we search

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Google is flexing its artificial intelligence muscle to help users of its search engine research complex tasks that would normally involve multiple queries. Many of the Google searches we do are just a single query, such as "file a request for extension federal tax." But other searches involve several searches about different aspects of a complex task. You might, for example, want to know how to prepare for a river rafting trip in Montana in August, and how the preparations might differ from the preparations you did before your Colorado River rafting trip last fall. If you asked a local rafting expert how to prepare you might get an extended answer that covers a range of relevant questions.


Meet the real Alexa: voice actor reportedly responsible for Amazon's AI assistant revealed

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Amazon's Alexa has a voice familiar to millions: calm, warm, and measured. But like most synthetic speech, its tones have a human origin. There was someone whose voice had to be recorded, analyzed, and algorithmically reproduced to create Alexa as we know it now. Amazon has never revealed who this "original Alexa" is, but journalist Brad Stone says he tracked her down, and she is Nina Rolle, a voiceover artist based in Boulder, Colorado. The claim comes from Stone's upcoming book on the tech giant, Amazon Unbound, an excerpt of which is published here in Wired.


Alexa, who are you? New book identifies Amazon's secret voiceover artist

The Guardian

The voice of Alexa, the virtual assistant developed by Amazon, is provided by Nina Rolle, a Colorado-based voiceover artist, according to a new book. Amazon has never revealed who provides the default female voice that responds to commands and questions given to Alexa, but the author Brad Stone said he identified the voice as Rolle's after "canvasing the professional voiceover community" for his new book, Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire. Rolle, who is based in Boulder, has conducted voiceover work for clients including Honda, Jenny Craig and Chase bank. According to Stone's book, she was selected after Amazon spent months assessing various candidates, with the final choice signed off by Jeff Bezos, the company's founder. Stone writes that Rolle said she was unable to talk about the role when he contacted her in February.


The AI doctor will see you now

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If artificial intelligence in healthcare brings to mind visions of robot surgeons, BioIntellisense's stick-on sensor is bound to be a disappointment. Just 3 inches wide by 1 inch tall, this plastic and metal double hexagon was cleared last month by the US Food and Drug Administration for remote monitoring of vital signs with medical-grade accuracy. Doctors at UCHealth, which runs 12 Colorado hospitals, say the device will let them send patients home earlier while still monitoring their respiratory rate, resting heart rate, skin temperature and even body position. The data can then be fed into computers that use machine learning to spot people who might need more attention, allowing early intervention and avoiding emergency hospital visits. UCHealth has already used computer surveillance to fight sepsis, a potentially fatal complication from infection, on its wards.


Attack of the drones: the mystery of disappearing swarms in the US midwest

The Guardian

At twilight on New Year's Eve, 2020, Placido Montoya, 35, a plumber from Fort Morgan, Colorado, was driving to work. Ahead of him he noticed blinking lights in the sky. He'd heard rumours of mysterious drones, whispers in his local community, but now he was seeing them with his own eyes. In the early morning gloom, it was hard to make out how big the lights were and how many were hovering above him. But one thing was clear to Montoya: he needed to give chase.