Stair-climbing robots are here, and they’re ready to be used in the real world

A robot that can effortlessly climb up and down stairs, as well as easily traverse uneven terrain, is being made available to companies, security services and researchers.

Dubbed ARTI3, the robot can climb three stairs in eight seconds using an entirely mechanical solution; a feat its maker, Washington DC-based Transcend Robotics, says is a world first.

Stairs have traditionally been something of a nemesis to robots, and there is considerable footage of robots failing in the attempt, most notably Honda’s humanoid robot Asimov. By equipping ARTI3 with a segmented body and gripped treads Transcend has resolved this issue, allowing robots’ domain to expand beyond the ground floor.

“Until now, the ability to climb stairs and navigate human environments has been a major challenge for mobile robots,” explained Phil Walker, CEO of Transcend Robotics. “Traditional approaches of tackling this problem are too slow, require complex controls, and are too expensive for most applications.”

ARTI3 is available in two forms: the customisable ARTI3 Mobility Platform and the out-of-the-box ARTI3 Vantage.

The Mobility Platform version is designed for industries such as construction, mining and manufacturing, and allows users to add specific sensors, electronics and software to tailor it to a particular use.

By contrast the Vantage is ready to use in a variety of situations. Equipped with pan and tilt cameras and with a carrying capacity of 30lb, the robot can be remote controlled, making it suitable for security applications and the inspection of potentially hazardous areas.

Both versions are designed to be very easy to use, potentially eliminating the need for specialist robotics operators and thus making the robot more appealing to a wider range of industries.

“ARTI technology will transform the world of robotics mobility,” said Walker. “The ARTI3 family of products brings that mobility to countless applications with unprecedented speed, simplicity and versatility.”

Images courtesy of Transcend Robotics.

Images courtesy of Transcend Robotics

ARTI3 is already being used in a wide range of industries, including telepresence, 3D scanning, hospitality, mining and defence.

In mining, the robot’s low profile allows it to access and scan areas humans cannot get to, so it is perhaps no surprise that the robot has proved particularly popular in this area.

“By equipping ARTI3 with a laser scanner, we can easily produce 3D scans of hard-to-access and rugged environments, such as caved-in openings in underground mines and underneath civil structures with narrow openings,” explained Naeem Ahmed, president of mining technology company Clickmox Solutions,

“We do this remotely even without line-of-sight to ARTI3, with complete visibility with the 360-degree pan-tilt-zoom camera, and most importantly, safely without putting our staff in harm’s way.”

The sky could soon be filled with electric sky taxis

An electric jet has been successfully tested in Germany, but Lilium, the company behind it, says it has plans to launch a five-seater driverless sky taxi service. "The sky has a lot more capacity than the ground, and we don't have to build additional infrastructure,," said Lilium's co-founder, Daniel Wiegand

Source: BBC

IBM's Watson lends its brain to hospitals and offices

IBM's Watson Internet of Things (IoT) unit has teamed with audio giant Harman's Professional Solutions group to create an AI – dubbed Called Voice-Enabled Cognitive Rooms – that is able to respond to voice commands and questions based specifically on the context of the room its sensor is located in.

Source: Ars Technica

Scientists think pacemakers for the brain can help memory

Scientists have reported that well-timed pulses from electrodes implanted in the brain can enhance memory in some people. The claims amount to the most rigorous demonstration to date of how a pacemaker-like approach might help reduce symptoms of dementia, head injuries and other conditions.

Source: BBC

Mastercard unveils credit card with a fingerprint sensor

A payment card featuring a fingerprint sensor has been unveiled by Mastercard, the credit card provider. Mastercard's chief of safety and security, Ajay Bhalla, said that the fingerprint technology would help "to deliver additional convenience and security. It is not something that can be taken or replicated."

Source: BBC

Alphabet enlists 10,000 volunteers to find out why people get sick

Verily, which used to be Google Life Sciences, and is part of Alphabet, is launching a four-year study called Project Baseline to find out why people get sick. 10,000 participants from diverse backgrounds will take part in the study at half a dozen study sites in California and North Carolina.

Source: Wired

India's space agency plans to mine energy from Moon by 2030

The Indian Space Research Organisation , plans to mine Helium-3 rich lunar dust, generate energy and transport it back to Earth. This lunar dust mining plan comes after India revealed plans to cut the nation's dependence on imported hydrocarbons by 10 percentage points by 2022.

Source: Live Mint

Want to learn how to be an office don? Start playing World of Warcraft

A new study has found that gamers who work well in a team during “raids” while playing World of Warcraft (WoW) develop qualities that allow them to excel in the workplace.

Basically, all that time your parents said was wasted playing video games, you were actually training to become a better worker than the guy who spent his internship fetching coffee.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, surveyed WoW players from across a multitude of servers.

Those surveyed were diverse in age, race, sex, class, occupation and location, and on average played WoW eight hours a week  and worked 38 hours a week, a factor which was of particular interest as the researchers wanted players with full-time jobs requiring teamwork.

“What we wanted to look at was virtual teamwork and what kind of characteristics a person had in-game that would translate to real life and the workplace,” said Elizabeth Short, a graduate student in industrial-organizational psychology who compiled data for the study.

The skills provided by managing to properly work together to bring down the Lich King are obvious in some aspects – computer-mediated communication skills and technology readiness were highlighted by researchers for example – but a more notable discovery was how WoW raiding develops, what the study refers to as, the Big Five personality traits: extraversion, agreeableness, openness,  conscientiousness and neuroticism.

The survey’s respondents were each asked 140 questions about motivation, communication skills, preferences for teamwork and personality, with most questions relating to the Big Five personality traits.

By comparing the players’ survey answers to their characters’ statistics, players gained group achievement points based on how much group gameplay they participated in and how successfully the researchers were able to find small but “statistically significant” correlations.

Fairly predictably, the correlation that stood out as one of the strongest was that of “technological readiness”.

It’s fairly obvious using tech to play WoW would stand you in good stead in a modern workplace, and it’s probably no surprise that desperately trying to keep your DPS alive while people determinedly attempt to lone wolf an entire raid is going to give you a certain resilience when it comes to dealing with technology.

“The more technologically ready you are, the more resilient around technology you are, the more adaptable you are, the more achievement points you have (in WoW),” said Short.

“The more achievements you have in game, the more technology savvy you are in real life. And that’s a good thing, especially in virtual communication teams and workplaces.”

The research stemmed in part from Short’s own past experience as a member of the WoW community and she has stated that she hopes to take the positive growth she took from the game and use those transferable skills to help others in the workplace.