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  • Feature

    Robots are becoming classroom tutors. But will they make the grade?

    Pondering a tablet screen displaying a town scene, a pre-K student tilts her head to the side and taps her lip thoughtfully.

    “What are we trying to find?” asks the plush, red and blue robot called Tega that’s perched on the desk beside the girl. The bot resembles a teddy bear–sized Furby.

    “We are trying to find lavender-colored stuff,” the girl explains. Lavender is a new...

    02/12/2019 - 06:00 Robotics, Technology, Science & Society
  • News in Brief

    Pills equipped with tiny needles can inject a body from the inside

    For those of us who cringe at the sight of needles, there may someday be a less daunting alternative to getting a shot: swallowing a pill-sized device that delivers medication by painlessly pricking the inside of the stomach.

    A prototype of the device, described in the Feb. 8 Science, administers insulin. But similar ingestible capsules could also replace skin injections of antibodies...

    02/07/2019 - 14:00 Health, Technology
  • News

    Artificial intelligence is learning not to be so literal

    HONOLULU — Artificial intelligence is starting to learn how to read between the lines.

    AI systems are generally good at responding to direct statements, like “Siri, tell me the weather” or “Alexa, play ‘Despacito’.” But machines can’t yet make small talk the way humans do, says Yejin Choi, a natural language processing researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle. When it comes...

    02/05/2019 - 06:00 Artificial Intelligence, Language, Technology
  • News

    Here’s what makes satire so funny, according to science

    HONOLULU — Good news for aspiring satirists: Scientific analysis of real and joke headlines has uncovered a hack for writing witty one-liners.

    To identify the secret ingredients of satire, researchers compared farcical headlines with nearly identical, but unfunny headlines. The investigation, presented January 31 at the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, revealed a strategy for...

    02/01/2019 - 14:39 Language, Science & Society, Technology
  • News

    Lasers could send messages right to a listener’s ear

    Lasers can send sounds straight to a listener’s ear, like whispering a secret from afar.

    Using a laser tuned to interact with water vapor in the air, scientists created sounds in a localized spot that were loud enough to be picked up by human hearing if aimed near a listener’s ear. It’s the first time such a technique can be used safely around humans, scientists from MIT Lincoln...

    02/01/2019 - 11:03 Physics, Technology
  • News in Brief

    A new AI training program helps robots own their ignorance

    HONOLULU — A new training scheme could remind artificial intelligence programs that they aren’t know-it-alls.

    AI programs that run robots, self-driving cars and other autonomous machines often train in simulated environments before making real-world debuts (SN: 12/8/18, p. 14). But situations that an AI doesn’t encounter in virtual reality can become blind spots in its real-life decision...

    01/30/2019 - 12:04 Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Technology
  • News in Brief

    This robot learned not to mess with other people’s stuff

    HONOLULU — The notion of ownership comes so easily to humans that even preschoolers have got it down. Robots, on the other hand, often struggle to grasp such abstract concepts.

    Now researchers have programmed a well-mannered robot that can learn who owns what, as well as what it’s allowed to do with people’s belongings.

    Teaching robots ownership-related etiquette “is really, really...

    01/30/2019 - 09:38 Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Technology
  • News

    Ordinary cameras can now photograph out-of-sight objects

    With a new photo-analyzing computer program, a photographer can take a picture of something that’s not even in frame.

    The system analyzes light that’s reflected off matte surfaces, such as walls, to discern out-of-sight images, similar to the way a periscope mirror reveals what’s around a corner. Whereas other techniques for spotting out-of-sight objects require expensive, specialist...

    01/23/2019 - 13:00 Technology
  • News

    New ways to image and control nerve cells could unlock brain mysteries

    Using laser light, ballooning tissue and innovative genetic tricks, scientists are starting to force brains to give up their secrets.

    By mixing and matching powerful advances in microscopy and cell biology, researchers have imaged intricate details of individual nerve cells in fruit flies and mice, and even controlled small groups of nerve cells in living mice.

    The techniques,...

    01/17/2019 - 14:00 Neuroscience, Technology
  • News in Brief

    These robots can follow how-to diagrams

    Robots imbued with a certain kind of common sense may soon be able to follow instructional diagrams to build things.

    When studying pictures for assembling IKEA furniture or LEGO villages, humans are naturally good at inferring how to get from A to B. Robots, on the other hand, normally have to be painstakingly programmed with exact instructions for how to move. “Even when you try to...

    01/16/2019 - 14:00 Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Technology