Giving robots the ability to feel textures like humans do

Giving robots the ability to feel textures like humans do

From Wired:

There’s just nothing like holding a new product in your hands. You can look at a thousand photos, watch a million videos and still not get a sense of the texture and feel of, say, a pair of raw denim jeans. But for the companies making such products, ensuring a consistency of feel can be a hassle. That’s where robots come in.

If you’re a textile vendor, you can ask a manufacturer to dye a set of sheets a particular color, using a standard such as the Pantone Color Matching System to specify exactly the color you want. But if you try describing how you want those sheets to feel, well, that’s another matter entirely. The process of describing and evaluating textures is often subjective. A vendor will send samples to customer, who might pass them around to several different people to feel and, eventually, try to come to a consensus about the best ones, or the ones that come closest to the desired texture.

SynTouch is a spin-off of the Medical Device Development Facility of the University of Southern California, where the team initially focused on prosthetics. And one of its core insights is this: When you touch something, you are doing more than sensing the surface of that object. You’re also changing it, however subtly. Your finger emits heat, and no matter how gentle you are, you exert an almost imperceptible amount of pressure. In other words, you aren’t just feeling the material, you’re feeling its reaction to your touch. Syntouch’s BioTac sensor tries to emulate this by radiating heat and exerting pressure so the surface it measures changes in much the same way it would if a person were touching it.

Replacing judgment with algorithms

Replacing Judgment with Algorithms

From Schneier on Security:

China is considering a new "social credit" system, designed to rate everyone's trustworthiness. Many fear that it will become a tool of social control -- but in reality it has a lot in common with the algorithms and systems that score and classify us all every day.

Human judgment is being replaced by automatic algorithms, and that brings with it both enormous benefits and risks. The technology is enabling a new form of social control, sometimes deliberately and sometimes as a side effect. And as the Internet of Things ushers in an era of more sensors and more data -- and more algorithms -- we need to ensure that we reap the benefits while avoiding the harms.

Right now, the Chinese government is watching how companies use "social credit" scores in state-approved pilot projects. The most prominent one is Sesame Credit, and it's much more than a financial scoring system.

Civilian Drone Market - 2016 Overview

Civilian Drone Market - 2016 Overview

From DIY drones:

For ease of understanding, this article breaks down the civilian drone market into 6 segments. As will be noted, these segments can overlap - especially those above the toy/fpv category.

The diagram above notes 6 basic types of drones. These are separated by size, price, mission, reliability and flexibility - that is, the ability to add various options and equipment. An overview as well as some examples of the breed follows;

A Look Inside Cybercriminal Call Centers by Brian Krebs

A Look Inside Cybercriminal Call Centers by Brian Krebs

From Krebs on Security:

Crooks who make a living via identity theft schemes, dating scams and other con games often run into trouble when presented with a phone-based challenge that requires them to demonstrate mastery of a language they don’t speak fluently. Enter the criminal call center, which allows scammers to outsource those calls to multi-lingual men and women who can be hired to close the deal.

Some of these call centers are Web-based, allowing customers to upload information about their targets to a service that initiates the call to a bank, credit provider, shipping company or dating scam victim (for more on the role played by call centers in dating schemes, see last week’s story, Fraudsters Automate Russian Dating Scams). Other call centers require customers to supply information about the target and the needed service via Jabber instant message. This post focuses on Web-based call services.

How should a autonomous car be programmed to act in the event of an unavoidable accident ?

How should a autonomous car be programmed to act in the event of an unavoidable accident ?

From MIT Tech:

Why Self-Driving Cars Must Be Programmed to Kill

How should the car be programmed to act in the event of an unavoidable accident? Should it minimize the loss of life, even if it means sacrificing the occupants, or should it protect the occupants at all costs? Should it choose between these extremes at random ?

Researchers who leave for industry are paid better, certainly, and often get sizable research budgets. But the intellectual register of their work changes. No more exploring hard, ‘‘basic’’ problems out of deep curiosity; they need to solve problems that will make their employers money.

The answers to these ethical questions are important because they could have a big impact on the way self-driving cars are accepted in society. Who would buy a car programmed to sacrifice the owner ?

Can high-tech academia survive today’s Silicon Valley talent binge?

Can high-tech academia survive today’s Silicon Valley talent binge?

From New York Times:

When the company wanted a team of roboticists, it raided a university lab to get them.

Researchers who leave for industry are paid better, certainly, and often get sizable research budgets. But the intellectual register of their work changes. No more exploring hard, ‘‘basic’’ problems out of deep curiosity; they need to solve problems that will make their employers money.

Nobel Prize winning scientists: the stories behind the life-changing call

From New York Times:

Nobel Prize winning scientists: the stories behind the life-changing call

Beginning Monday and throughout this week the committees that select the winners of the Nobel Prizes will announce their choices sometime around noon Swedish time.

With the Eastern part of the United States six hours behind Sweden and the West coast nine hours behind, American researchers tend to be asleep when that life-changing call comes.

Here is how eight scientists learned about their Nobel Prizes.

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