Robots in the work place can perform hazardous or even 'impossible' tasks; e.g., toxic waste clean-up, desert and space exploration, and more. AI researchers are also interested in the intelligent processing involved in moving about and manipulating objects in the real world.
Each month in 2018, Future Tense Fiction--a series of short stories from Future Tense and ASU's Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives--will publish a story on a theme. It was time to start the weekly circuit. Robot leapt vertically into the air from its perch atop the History Museum in Forest Park, rotors humming and limbs withdrawn into the smooth oval of its chassis. From a distance, it was a pale blue flying egg, slightly scuffed, with a propeller beanie on top. Two animated eyes glowed from the front end of its smooth carapace like emotive headlights. When it landed, all four legs and head extended from portals in its protective shell, the drone was more like a strangely symmetrical poodle or a cartoon turtle. Mounted on an actuator, its full face was revealed, headlight eyes situated above a short, soft snout whose purple mouth was built for smiling, grimacing, and a range of other, more subtle expressions. The Centers for Disease Control team back in Atlanta designed Robot to be cute, to earn people's trust immediately. To catch epidemics before they started, Robot flew from building to building, talking to people about how they felt. Nobody wanted to chat with an ugly box. Robot behaved like a cheery little buddy, checking for sick people. That's how Robot's admin Bey taught Robot to say it: "Checking for sick people." Bey's job was to program Robot with the social skills necessary to avoid calling it health surveillance. Robot liked to start with the Loop. Maybe "like" was the wrong word. It was an urge that came from Robot's mapping system, which webbed the St. Louis metropolitan area in a grid where 0,0 was at Center and Washington. The intersection was nested at the center of the U-shaped streets that local humans called the Loop. A gated community next to Washington University, the Loop was full of smart mansions and autonomous cars that pinged Robot listlessly. Though it was late summer, Robot was on high alert for infectious disease outbreaks.
Most of the telepresence robots that you can buy are appealing because they offer you some sort of mobile agency--like, the ability to remotely drive yourself around. Robots like these are great if you want to, say, find yourself an elephant, but not all that great if you want to help other people out through collaborative tasks that require physical interaction. Collaboration, especially instruction, often depends on the physical act of one person showing another person how to do something, and even if your telepresence robot has an arm or two, it may not be at all intuitive for a remote user have effective direct interactions. At Keio University in Japan, roboticists have developed a new kind of telepresence robot that's designed to (as literally as possible) allow you to remotely inhabit the body of someone else in order to assist them with manipulation tasks. The Keio researchers call their system Fusion, and it lives on someone's back, allowing you to peak over their shoulder and use a second pair of arms to either show them how tasks are done, or even to physically move their limbs for them.
The drone makes a conspicuous racket as it lifts off on a mission to capture images of the reservoir below. The sight and sound of this strange device stirs interest among locals as they make their way to and from the town of Kasungu in central Malawi. It takes a matter of minutes for a small crowd to form. A few yards away, Patrick Kalonde is wading through grass and mud. Patrick, an intern at Unicef working on humanitarian uses of drones, is carrying a plastic container and a ladle and is looking for mosquito larvae. The contrast between high-tech drones and low-tech "bucket-and-spade" science, metres apart, could not be starker – yet both are equally important to the success of our new project to map where mosquitoes breed. Kasungu, a small town at the base of the picturesque Kasungu Mountain, is the centre of Africa's first humanitarian drone testing corridor. Set up by Unicef in 2017 with support from the Malawi government, the corridor is an 80km-wide area for flying and testing drones to help the local people. Keen to dispel the reputation that drones are only useful for destruction, the Unicef corridor promotes "drones for good".
Flirtey drones already have delivered automated external defibrillators used to jumpstart the hearts of cardiac arrest victims as part of a joint emergency program with first-responders in Reno. The company also anticipates future deliveries of EpiPens for severe allergic reactions and Narcan for opioid overdoses.
"These are patterns that even the most sophisticated scientist couldn't detect by eye," said Lawrence A. David, Ph.D., a senior author of the study and assistant professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at Duke School of Medicine. "While some people are warning about artificial intelligence leading to killer robots, we are showing the positive impact of AI in its potential to overcome disease." The research, published this week in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, suggests that a focus on gut microbes may be important for developing improved vaccines and preventive approaches for cholera and other infectious diseases. "Our study found that this'predictive microbiota' is as good at predicting who gets ill with cholera as the clinical risk factors that we've known about for decades," said Regina C. LaRocque, M.D., MPH, of the Massachusetts General Hospital Division of Infectious Diseases, a senior author of the study and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "We've essentially identified a whole new component of cholera risk that we did not know about before."
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.