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Bionics

This woman’s bionic arm is fused to her bones and nervous system

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A woman with a pioneering bionic hand that integrates her bones, nerves, and muscles is the subject of a new study. This case study shows how this tech can improve people’s lives despite its many challenges.

Over 20 years ago, Karin lost her right arm in a farming accident. Her prosthetic limb was cumbersome, and she still had excruciating phantom limb pain.

Karin stated, “It felt like I constantly had my hand in a meat grinder, which created high stress and I had to take high doses of various painkillers.”

A few years ago, she was offered a novel bionic hand surgically modified to fit her body.

A new human-machine interface developed by an international team of scientists, surgeons, and engineers allows the prosthesis to be directly attached to the user’s skeleton and connected to her nerves and muscles via implanted electrodes.

The neuromusculoskeletal implant lets the patient mentally control the prosthetic hand, picking up objects and fiddling with her fingers.

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This work has been very successful. Karin now uses the bionic hand for 80% of her daily tasks and feels much less pain.

Better prosthesis control, but most importantly, less pain. I need less medication now, she said.

I value this research because it improved my life.

Researchers like the results too. Osteointegration was used to connect the natural bone to the artificial hand, a major project challenge.

Titanium is strong and bonds with bone matter, creating a strong mechanical connection. The team fused the bionic hand to the radius and ulna, the forearm bones, using biocompatibility to load and align them evenly.

„Karin was the first person with below-elbow amputation to receive a highly integrated bionic hand that can be used independently and reliably. Professor Max Ortiz Catalan, lead researcher and head of neural prosthetics research at the Bionics Institute in Australia and founder of the Center for Bionics and Pain Research (CBPR) in Sweden, said that her ability to use her prosthesis comfortably and effectively in daily activities for years is a promising sign of the potential life-changing capabilities of this novel technology for limb-loss patients.

The EU Commission-funded DeTOP project includes Karin and three other patients. Researchers hope this high-tech prosthetic will eventually be available to everyone.

“Osteointegration, reconstructive surgery, implanted electrodes, and AI can restore human function like never before. Below elbow amputations present unique challenges, but the achieved functionality is significant for advanced extremity reconstructions, according to Professor Rickard Brånemark, MIT research affiliate, Gothenburg University associate professor, and Integrum CEO.

 

As Editor here at GeekReply, I'm a big fan of all things Geeky. Most of my contributions to the site are technology related, but I'm also a big fan of video games. My genres of choice include RPGs, MMOs, Grand Strategy, and Simulation. If I'm not chasing after the latest gear on my MMO of choice, I'm here at GeekReply reporting on the latest in Geek culture.

Bionics

A new syndrome linked to COVID that could be fatal has appeared

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There is a new outbreak of a rare but deadly autoimmune disorder in the north of England. New research suggests that the outbreak may be linked to COVID-19. Anti-MDA5-positive dermatomyositis is the name of the disease. It was mostly found in Asian people before the pandemic, but now it’s becoming more common among white people in Yorkshire.

Antibodies that target the MDA5 (melanoma differentiation-associated protein 5) enzyme are what cause the illness. It is linked to progressive interstitial lung disease, which scars lung tissue. Between 2020 and 2022, doctors in Yorkshire reported 60 cases of MDA5 autoimmunity, which was the highest number ever. Eight people died as a result.

What the researchers found when they looked at this sudden rise in cases is that it happened at the same time as the main waves of COVID-19 infections during the pandemic’s peak years. This caught their attention right away because MDA5 is an RNA receptor that is very important for finding the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The study authors write, “This is to report a rise in the rate of anti-MDA5 positivity testing in our region (Yorkshire) in the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was noteworthy because this entity is not commonly found in the UK.” They say this is likely a sign of “a distinct form of MDA5+ disease in the COVID-19 era.” They have named it “MDA5-autoimmunity and Interstitial Pneumonitis Contemporaneous with COVID-19” (MIP-C).

The researchers used tools that look for shared traits among people in the same medical cohort to figure out how this newly discovered symptom works. In this way, they found that people who had MDA5 autoimmunity also tended to have high levels of interleukin-15 (IL-15), a cytokine that causes inflammation.

The author of the study, Pradipta Ghosh, said in a statement that IL-15 “can push cells to the brink of exhaustion and create an immunologic phenotype that is very, very often seen as a hallmark of progressive interstitial lung disease, or fibrosis of the lung.”

Overall, only eight of the 60 patients had tested positive for COVID-19 before. This means that a lot of them may have had infections that didn’t cause any symptoms that they weren’t aware of. This means that even mild infections with no early symptoms might be enough to cause MDA5 autoimmunity.

The researchers say, “Given that the highest number of positive MDA5 tests happened after the highest number of COVID-19 cases in 2021 and at the same time as the highest number of vaccinations, these results suggest an immune reaction or autoimmunity against MDA5 after exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and/or vaccines.”

Ghosh says that the event probably isn’t just happening in Yorkshire. Reports on MIP-C are now coming in from all over the world.

The study was written up in the eBioMedicine journal.

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Artificial Intelligence

Boston Dynamics has retired its Atlas robot, showcasing its most impressive moments

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Boston Dynamics is discontinuing its hydraulic robot Atlas after years of pushing the limits. In order to bid adieu, the innovative firm has compiled a film montage showcasing the most remarkable instances of the mechanoid marvel, encompassing comical dancing routines, impressive acrobatic maneuvers, and a handful of unsuccessful attempts.

Atlas has been a source of inspiration for nearly ten years, igniting our creativity, motivating future generations of roboticists, and surpassing technical obstacles in the area. Boston Dynamics stated in a video aired on April 16 that it is now time for their hydraulic Atlas robot to rest and unwind.

“Please review all the achievements we have made so far with the Atlas platform,” they added.

Boston Dynamics, a robotics company based in Massachusetts, created Atlas for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Pentagon’s advanced technology division. Initially, it was conceived as a component of a prize competition with the aim of accelerating the progress of a humanoid robot capable of aiding in search and rescue missions.

Upon its public introduction in 2013, Atlas required a tether for stability and was limited to walking in a linear path. Almost.

A 1-year-old youngster has limited ability to walk and frequently stumbles. “As you observe these machines and draw comparisons to science fiction, it is important to bear in mind that this represents our current technological capabilities,” stated Gill Pratt, a program manager at DARPA who was involved in the design and funding of Atlas, in an interview with the New York Times in 2013.

Significant transformations have occurred since that time. The engineers at Boston Dynamics have meticulously tweaked the robot’s technology and algorithms throughout its development, enabling it to carry out physical tasks that would be difficult for most people with ease.

The most recent version of Atlas has a height of 150 cm, which is a little less than 5 feet, and a weight of 89 kilograms, equivalent to 196 pounds. With the help of its 28 hydraulic joints, this machine can achieve speeds of up to 2.5 meters (nearly 8 feet) per second. Additionally, it is capable of executing somersaults, athletic jumps, and 360° spins.

Additionally, it is equipped with a multitude of sensors that are utilized to accurately sense the immediate surroundings and respond accordingly in real-time. For example, if an obstacle is placed in the path of the robot, it will identify the issue and navigate around it. If you push it with a pole, it will elegantly adapt its body to stay upright.

Boston Dynamics has not provided an explanation for its decision to discontinue its renowned robot. Certain analysts have proposed that the corporation is preparing for the release of another novel product, but others have questioned whether Atlas has become a financial liability. While the company has successfully marketed its other inventions, such as the dog-like robot Spot, to different companies for diverse purposes, Atlas was never made available for sale.

According to IEEE Spectrum, Boston Dynamics has announced that they are retiring the hydraulic Atlas robot. Does this imply that a hydraulic Atlas robot is not the next item on the schedule? Currently, the outcome is uncertain and cannot be predicted.

It is uncertain what the future holds for the robots developed by Boston Dynamics, but we can only hope that it does not involve a rebellion by these machines.

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Artificial Intelligence

Boston Dynamics’ Atlas humanoid robot has transitioned to electric power

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Atlas is immobile, lying face down on a stack of connected gym mats. The only audio accompaniment is the humming of an electric motor. While it may not be completely silent, the noise level is significantly lower compared to the abrupt movements of its predecessors.

While the camera rotates, the robot’s legs flex at the knees. Initially, it is a spontaneous motion that gradually transitions into an eerie domain, reminiscent of scenes from a Sam Raimi film. The robot has successfully changed its position by cleverly rotating its legs, appearing as if it is lying on its back.

Atlas is positioned with its back facing the camera. Currently, the head rotates in a complete 180-degree motion, and subsequently, the torso mimics this movement. The object pauses briefly, allowing the camera to get a clear picture of its head—a circular screen with a ring-shaped light surrounding it. Once again, the torso rotates in alignment with the head’s 180-degree turn as Atlas moves away from the camera and exits the frame.

Boston Dynamics has recently announced that their humanoid robot, Atlas, has transitioned from a hydraulic system to an electric one, following in the footsteps of Bob Dylan.

The pace is rapid, with the steps still somewhat abrupt, although noticeably smoother than many of the recent commercial humanoids that have been introduced in the past few years. If anything, the gait evokes the bold self-assurance of Spot, a relative of Atlas who diverged from the humanoid lineage a few generations ago.

Brand new Atlas

The latest iteration of the robot is nearly indistinguishable. The top-heavy torso, bowed legs, and plated armor have been eliminated. There are no visible cables present on the sleek and slender new mechanical framework. The company, which has successfully defended against reactionary concerns about robopocalypse for many years, has chosen a more compassionate and considerate design compared to both the original Atlas and more modern robots such as the Figure 01 and Tesla Optimus.

The new robot’s appearance is more similar to that of Agility’s Digit and Apptronik’s Phoenix. The traffic-light-headed robot features a gentler and more whimsical design. According to the video, it is referred to as the “All New Atlas.” Boston Dynamics has deviated from its usual practice by retaining the research name for a product that it intends to market commercially. SpotMini was renamed Spot. The handle was transformed into a stretch. Currently, Atlas remains unchanged and is still referred to as Atlas.

“We may reconsider this when we are fully prepared to construct and distribute on a large scale,” states Boston Dynamics CEO Robert Playter in an interview with. “However, I believe that at present, it is beneficial to preserve the branding.”

The executive’s statement reveals the project is still in its initial phases. Boston Dynamics intends to start pilot testing of the electric Atlas at Hyundai facilities soon, with full-scale production following in a few years.

“Starting next year, we will be conducting on-site experiments with Hyundai,” states Playter. “We currently possess Hyundai equipment at our location.” We have been engaged in this task for a considerable period of time. In order to achieve success, it is imperative to possess a plethora of attributes beyond merely possessing innovative technology. In order to justify the investment in a robot, it is crucial to fully comprehend the use case and ensure that there is enough productivity to make it worthwhile.

Performing a complete reversal

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The most remarkable aspect of the 40-second “All New Atlas” teaser is the robot’s motions. They serve as a reminder that constructing a humanoid robot does not necessitate maximizing its human-like qualities. Despite billions of years of evolution, as one investor pointed out in the past, humans have not yet perfected themselves as machines. If we are going to design machines that resemble us, why not construct ones that possess capabilities beyond our own?

“We have constructed a collection of bespoke actuators that are powerful and adaptable, installed at the majority of joints,” states Playter. “The range of motion is extensive.” The compact design of this robot effectively harnesses the strength and agility of an exceptional athlete, allowing us to utilize its capabilities in various applications.

It is important to remember that Boston Dynamics has built its reputation through a series of popular videos over the course of many years. New additions to the canon are equally likely to feature a robot’s dance moves as they are to offer anything truly practical in an industrial environment. Therefore, it is challenging to separate the features that the company considers genuinely functional from those that are merely intended to impress.

Commencing in the prone position, for example, provides an opportunity to demonstrate the impressive reverse crab leg maneuver while also serving a practical purpose. Boston Dynamics proudly demonstrated in the farewell video of the hydraulic Atlas that falling down is an inherent aspect of its function, as is the ability to recover and stand up again. In reality, the majority of the current generation of industrial robots necessitates human intervention in the event of a failure. Conversely, a robot that can autonomously remove dust from its surface and resume its tasks is highly advantageous for enhancing productivity.

The system’s agility significantly enhances its potential for productivity. It reminds me of Agility’s Digit demonstrations (the company is notably the only one of its kind demonstrating systems at this magnitude), in which a robot walks to a shelf, rotates, walks to the conveyor belt, rotates again, and walks back. When you multiply that task by hundreds, or even thousands, per day, you start to realize the importance of saving valuable seconds.

“It will possess a range of movements that surpass human capabilities,” Playter explains. “There will be highly utilitarian applications for that.”

Minimizing the robot’s turning radius is crucial in confined areas. These machines are intended to be brownfield solutions, meaning they are specifically designed to be seamlessly integrated into pre-existing workflows within existing spaces. Enhanced maneuverability could ultimately determine whether one can effectively operate in a particular environment or if the layout needs to be redone.

Cranium and upper extremities

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The hands featured in the video are not newly created, as they have previously been used on the hydraulic model. However, they also signify the company’s choice to not strictly adhere to human design as a guiding principle. The distinction lies in the choice of using three fingers instead of four on the end effectors.

“A hand contains a great deal of intricacy,” states Playter. When using actuators to interact with the world, it is essential to anticipate and ensure both reliability and robustness. Therefore, we intentionally designed these objects with less than five fingers in order to manage and reduce their level of complexity. We are currently investigating various generations of individuals. We desire a grasping mechanism that adheres to regulations and is capable of adjusting to various shapes while possessing advanced sensing capabilities to accurately detect contact.

Internally, the head is likely the most controversial element of the design. The large, circular screen bears resemblance to a vanity mirror.

“It was a design element that we were greatly concerned about,” says Playter. “All the other individuals possessed a humanoid form.” I desired it to be distinct. We desire a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. It offers a range of colors for a visual presentation. Undoubtedly, the object contains concealed sensors, but its design primarily aims to convey a sense of amicability. That knowledge will be crucial for effectively engaging with these entities in the future.

A Christmas Atlas

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The landscape has undergone significant changes in the past decade since the hydraulic Atlas was first introduced. There are several other companies, such as Figure, Apptronik, Tesla, and 1X, that also have humanoid robots like Electric Atlas.

There has been a significant increase in interest from our end. Three significant events, in my opinion, are what have caused the increase. Hyundai paid almost one billion dollars to acquire Boston Dynamics. That really caught everyone’s attention, making them realize there was a way out. Tesla’s expression of interest in manufacturing has confirmed the validity of our long-standing efforts. Furthermore, the rise of AI as a valuable tool in addressing general challenges is making all of this possible. We have taken our time to make this announcement, as we wanted to conduct thorough research to ensure that we can effectively address manipulation issues and have full confidence in our new generation of machines.

Despite Boston Dynamics’ significant advantage in the field of humanoids, Playter mentions that the company managed to assemble the initial version of the new robot around Christmas 2023. Prior to that, it was addressing numerous intricate issues in simulation.

This week, it appears that the company is prepared to showcase the capabilities of the robot, or at least provide a glimpse into its initial plans for the system.

Intelligence in a broad sense
One thing that can be said about Elon Musk is that he consistently makes ambitious commitments. During the initial stages of Optimus’ public debut, when the Tesla ‘bot seemed to resemble a human in spandex, the executive discussed a comprehensive system capable of performing various tasks. Imagine having an Optimus that can handle your factory work, run errands, and even prepare a delicious dinner for you. That’s the aspiration, isn’t it?

The reality is, of course, one that is built upon taking small steps forward. Robotics companies are currently engaged in discussions about “general-purpose humanoids,” but their systems are currently focused on scaling one task at a time. For many individuals, the primary objective is to transport payloads from one location to another. To fully leverage the form factor, a broader level of intelligence will be necessary.

The app store model seems to offer the most straightforward solution. Developer access has indeed played a significant role in expanding Spot’s range of features. According to Playter, Boston Dynamics has a different approach in mind for Atlas.

“We will focus on developing an application rather than creating a platform,” he states. In our experience, the key to making progress quickly is to prioritize a specific application and actively work towards solving any challenges that arise. We cannot rely on others to solve these problems for us. I believe that AI is a crucial component in this context. To ensure the efficiency of tasks, they will be enhanced with AI techniques.

Developers now have access to Spot’s reinforcement learning algorithm, thanks to the company’s recent decision. This work will be crucial for Atlas’ expanding skillset.

Thinking creatively

In order to achieve success, Playter emphasizes the importance of thinking outside the box.

“I believe there are numerous other robots capable of accomplishing that,” he remarks. Humanoids should be capable of handling a wide range of tasks. You have two hands. As a business owner, you need to be able to handle intricate and heavy geometric shapes that a basic box picker wouldn’t be able to manage. And you have to handle a massive volume of these shapes, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. I believe the era of the single-task robot is long gone. Stretch is a unique application where a robot can efficiently navigate and handle boxes.

What other responsibilities will the new Atlas have on the Hyundai show floor, similar to those of a business owner? The company shared a video in February that contains the solution. The video shows the hydraulic version of the robot interacting with the Hyundai parts that Playter previously mentioned.

“With our extensive experience in the field of dynamic mobility, we possess the strength and expertise to handle substantial payloads while ensuring exceptional mobility,” he explains. Being able to handle heavy, complex, and massive objects will set us apart from the competition. The strut in the video likely weighs around 25 pounds. Acquiring wheels: we will be releasing a video later on as part of our comprehensive initiative, showcasing the various manipulation tasks we have been conducting with Atlas using real-world objects. I’m quite certain we have a good grasp on how to handle that aspect, and I haven’t observed anyone else attempting it thus far.

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