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MIT CSAIL

New MIT Robots Can Be Created in Mere Hours, Even If You Aren’t an Expert

MIT CSAIL
MIT CSAIL

Creating your own robot is no easy task. (Unless you’re Simone Giertz, of course.) But in the future, people with no robotics experience might be able to design their own working versions in just minutes. Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) are developing a way to allow non-experts to create 3D-printed robots in less than a day.

Called Interactive Robogami, the system lets users determine the shape of the robot and how it moves, with simulations and interactive feedback to help speed along the process for people with no experience designing, programming, prototyping, and tweaking autonomous machines. Instead of starting from scratch, you can choose between 50 different shapes (including bodies, wheels, and legs) and gaits. The system helps guide you into creating a robot that is feasible, rather than one that won’t be stable enough to move. You can see some examples of Robogami robots at the 46-second mark in the video below:

You can’t print custom robots yet, but the team's new study in the International Journal of Robotics Research suggests that it might be possible soon. Their tests gave eight different people 20 minutes of training before letting them loose to design a moving car in under 10 minutes, using a Robogami design that prints in 2D and can be folded into a 3D machine. The participants were able to design robots that could move in a wide range of ways with both legs and wheels, all designed in 10 to 15 minutes, printed in less than seven hours, and assembled in 30 to 90 minutes.

“Designing robots usually requires expertise that only mechanical engineers and roboticists have,” one of the lead authors, Adriana Schulz, explained in an MIT press release. “What’s exciting here is that we’ve created a tool that allows a casual user to design their own robot by giving them this expert knowledge.”

CSAIL researchers have previously developed other origami-style robots that can rid your stomach of indigestible items like small batteries. Elsewhere at the university, researchers are working on flexible, modular robots that you can bend, twist, and customize, and gel robots that can catch and release a live fish.

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AI Could Help Scientists Detect Earthquakes More Effectively
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Thanks in part to the rise of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, earthquakes are becoming more frequent in the U.S. Even though it doesn't fall on a fault line, Oklahoma, where gas and oil drilling activity doubled between 2010 and 2013, is now a major earthquake hot spot. As our landscape shifts (literally), our earthquake-detecting technology must evolve to keep up with it. Now, a team of researchers is changing the game with a new system that uses AI to identify seismic activity, Futurism reports.

The team, led by deep learning researcher Thibaut Perol, published the study detailing their new neural network in the journal Science Advances. Dubbed ConvNetQuake, it uses an algorithm to analyze the measurements of ground movements, a.k.a. seismograms, and determines which are small earthquakes and which are just noise. Seismic noise describes the vibrations that are almost constantly running through the ground, either due to wind, traffic, or other activity at surface level. It's sometimes hard to tell the difference between noise and legitimate quakes, which is why most detection methods focus on medium and large earthquakes instead of smaller ones.

But better understanding natural and manmade earthquakes means studying them at every level. With ConvNetQuake, that could soon become a reality. After testing the system in Oklahoma, the team reports it detected 17 times more earthquakes than what was recorded by the Oklahoma Geological Survey earthquake catalog.

That level of performance is more than just good news for seismologists studying quakes caused by humans. The technology could be built into current earthquake detection methods set up to alert the public to dangerous disasters. California alone is home to 400 seismic stations waiting for "The Big One." On a smaller scale, there's an app that uses a smartphone's accelerometers to detect tremors and alert the user directly. If earthquake detection methods could sense big earthquakes right as they were beginning using AI, that could afford people more potentially life-saving moments to prepare.

[h/t Futurism]

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A New iPhone Bug Is Crashing Messaging Apps
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Apple users who just got over the last round of obnoxious iOS glitches now have a new bug to worry about. As The Verge reports, receiving a text to your iPhone that contains one specific character can crash and disable your apps.

All phones running on iOS 11 could be vulnerable to the issue. To trigger the bug, all someone has to do is send you a message that has a certain character in the Indian language Telugu. The character will crash iMessage and possibly crash the entire iOS Springboard (the app that manages the iPhone home screen).

The same problem apparently occurs whether the character is received on third party messaging and email apps like Gmail, WhatsApp, Outlook, and Facebook Messenger. The character disables whatever app you're using, and the only way to fix the bug is to get back into the app and delete the message it came in. Of course, this becomes a problem when the app crashes every time you try to open it. One way around this is to ask a friend to send a new message to the effected app so you can access it by way of the notification.

This isn’t the first time iOS 11 has had trouble processing characters in messaging apps. In late 2017, many users found themselves unable to type the capital letter “I”, but instead of crashing the entire app the operating system replaced the text with the character “[?]”.

The glitch hasn’t been showing up in iOS 11.3, which Apple plans to release to the public this spring. Until that new update rolls out, tell your friends to refrain from sending you messages with the character below.

[h/t The Verge]

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