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Superflex

A Robotic Exoskeleton Designed to Give the Elderly a Boost

Superflex
Superflex

In an effort to give the U.S.'s growing elderly population a boost, a California-based smart clothing company called Superflex is working on a new robotic exoskeleton designed to increase mobility.

According to The Verge, the lightweight wearable is meant to be worn under clothing and features a number of computer-controlled sensors which track the wearer's posture and movement, which are all readable via a companion mobile app. Data is then sent to the suit's motors, which can offer assistance sitting up, standing upright, and raising one's arms.

Research company SRI International initially developed the technology for the military as a way to help soldiers avoid injury while carrying heavy loads in the field. Recognizing the suit's commercial potential, they formed Superflex, a new company focused on making the technology accessible to aging consumers. (As The Verge points out, the population of Americans over 65 years old is expected to almost double in the next 30 years.) Although designed with seniors in mind, the exoskeleton could also be used by athletes, construction workers, and people with physical disabilities.

“Our origins are in robotics, our future is as an apparel company,” Superflex co-founder and CEO Rich Mahoney said in a statement. “Our powered clothing will give people the ability to move more freely, to gain strength and confidence, to be more injury-free in the workplace, to achieve higher levels of wellness and social engagement, and to stay in the home longer.”

Still in the early stages of development, the Superflex smart suit should be ready to ship to consumers in 2018.

[h/t The Verge]

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WWF
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Animals
Watch an Antarctic Minke Whale Feed in a First-of-Its-Kind Video
WWF
WWF

New research from the World Wildlife Fund is giving us a rare glimpse into the world of the mysterious minke whale. The WWF worked with Australian Antarctic researchers to tag minke whales with cameras for the first time, watching where and how the animals feed.

The camera attaches to the whale's body with suction cups. In the case of the video below, the camera accidentally slid down the side of the minke whale's body, providing an unexpected look at the way its throat moves as it feeds.

Minke whales are one of the smallest baleen whales, but they're still pretty substantial animals, growing 30 to 35 feet long and weighing up to 20,000 pounds. Unlike other baleen whales, though, they're small enough to maneuver in tight spaces like within sea ice, a helpful adaptation for living in Antarctic waters. They feed by lunging through the sea, gulping huge amounts of water along with krill and small fish, and then filtering the mix through their baleen.

The WWF video shows just how quickly the minke can process this treat-laden water. The whale could lunge, process, and lunge again every 10 seconds. "He was like a Pac-Man continuously feeding," Ari Friedlaender, the lead scientist on the project, described in a press statement.

The video research, conducted under the International Whaling Commission's Southern Ocean Research Partnership, is part of WWF's efforts to protect critical feeding areas for whales in the region.

If that's not enough whale for you, you can also watch the full 13-minute research video below:

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iStock
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technology
AI Could Help Scientists Detect Earthquakes More Effectively
iStock
iStock

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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