If you are looking for an answer to the question What is Artificial Intelligence? and you only have a minute, then here's the definition the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence offers on its home page: "the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines."
However, if you are fortunate enough to have more than a minute, then please get ready to embark upon an exciting journey exploring AI (but beware, it could last a lifetime) …
A seven-year-old Las Vegas girl will throw out the first pitch in game four of the upcoming World Series. Hailey Dawson was born with Poland syndrome and is missing three fingers on her right hand. At the time, Dawson couldn't find any companies that could fit Hailey with a robotic hand for a reasonable cost. Over more than a year, the UNLV engineering students and faculty worked to develop a variety of robotic 3-D printed hands for then-five-year-old Hailey.
A robot hand with artificial skin reaches for a glass of ice water. Researchers at the University of Houston have created an artificial skin that allows a robotic hand to sense the difference between heat and cold. The discovery of stretchable electronics could have a significant impact in the wearables market, with devices such as health monitors or biomedical devices, says Cunjiang Yu, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Houston and the lead author for the paper. When the stretchable electronic skin was applied to a robotic hand, it could tell the difference between hot and cold water.
Hailey Dawson is 7 years old and has already thrown out the first pitch before many Major League Baseball games. By using a robotic hand made with a 3-D printer, she has thrown out the ceremonial first pitch for several MLB teams, including the Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, New York Mets, Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners, Oakland A's, Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers. The Las Vegas native first threw out a ceremonial pitch before a UNLV game in 2014, then set her sights on doing so at major league stadiums. More than 20 of the league's teams, including the Dodgers and Angels, reached out to Dawson through that tweet.
Cunjiang Yu, an assistant professor at the university and three other researchers created "a semiconductor in a rubber composite format" that can stretch and still retain functionality, allowing a robotic hand to feel temperature differences and distinguish between hot and cold. Other than demonstrating the temperature sensitivity of the material using a robotic hand and hot and cold water, the researchers also showed the artificial skin could interpret computer signals and reproduce them in sign language. Researchers from the University of Houston have reported a breakthrough in stretchable electronics that can serve as an artificial skin, allowing a robotic hand to sense the difference between hot and cold. In the open-access paper titled "Rubbery electronics and sensors from intrinsically stretchable elastomeric composites of semiconductors and conductors," the researchers wrote: "Rubbery sensors, which include strain, pressure, and temperature sensors, show reliable sensing capabilities and are exploited as smart skins that enable gesture translation for sign language alphabet and haptic sensing for robotics to illustrate one of the applications of the sensors."
Robotic teams around the world are working on soft robots, because some situations call for a touch gentler than what a rigid machine can give. To solve that problem, a team of researchers from Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium have developed a way to create soft machines that can heal themselves -- all you have to do is add heat. In the video above, you can see a robotic hand repair itself after being stabbed. To create truly low-maintenance soft machines, the researchers are now finding a way to automatically trigger their self-healing mechanism.
But before any such solutions are possible, we must learn more about biological tissue mechanics, says Professor Michel Destrade, host scientist of the EU-backed SOFT-TISSUES project, funded by the EU's Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions. Prof. Destrade, an applied mathematician at the National University of Ireland Galway, is supporting Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow Dr Valentina Balbi in developing mathematical models that explain how soft tissue like eyes, brains and skin behave. And in SOFT-TISSUES' skin research, the team hopes to use sound waves and modelling as a cheap and immediate means of finding the tension of skin at any given part of the body for any given person. Dr Balbi reports that the biomedical industry has a real hunger for knowledge provided by mathematical modelling of soft tissues -- and especially for use in bioengineering.
Now, companies like Open Bionics have produced lighter, high-tech functioning, bionic limbs that are not only cheaper, but can be custom-made. Mr Young's ground-breaking prosthetic limb connects nerves and muscles Five years ago, James Young's life changed for ever in a freak accident when he fell under a train. But two years ago, however, James's life changed again – this time for the better – when he became'part cyborg' in an experiment that fitted him with a prototype bionic arm. Open Bionics made the robotic hand using a 3D printer and it was fitted at the London studio of prosthetics artist Sophie De Oliveira Barata, creator of the Alternative Limb Project.
Called MetaLimbs, the mechanical set of arms is powered by the motion of the wearer's feet and knees via bending sensors that are mapped on the wearer's limbs. Japanese researchers have unveiled a set of robotic arms that straps on a user's back to help them with physical limitations when carrying out complex tasks When the wearer curls their toes, the robotic hand will close – allowing them to easily grab an object off of the table or move something from one spot to the next. MetaLimbs was designed to work in two parks, which includes the positional tracking system and robotic arm system. The mechanical set of arms is powered by the motion of the wearer's feet and knees via bending sensors that are mapped on the wearer's limbs.
It was a crude machine, dubbed the Robot Gargantua by its creator. But even with a high degree of dexterity, robotic hands can't achieve the same level of performance as biological ones if they don't possess a sense of touch. Dubbed "Revolutionizing Prosthetics,"", this program effectively sought to build a robotic hand as capable as Luke Skywalker's arm from The Empire Strikes Back. The early touch sensors employed in the DARPA program were measuring force and profilometry, which, as the name implies, physically maps a surface's profile.
They may seem like simple tasks, but are really very complex and involve extremely fine finger and hand motions. Our work focuses on designing a new class of adaptable robot hands capable of precise fine movements and autonomous grasping. For instance, if we put pressure sensors and cameras in a robotic hand, they can give feedback to the robot controller (whether human or automated) when a grip is secure, or if something starts to slip. Achieving human-like autonomous robot dexterity will keep robotics researchers, technologists and innovators busy in the foreseeable future.