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[News] Meet “Cassie” the running robot

In partnership with Agility Robotics, University of Oregon Ph.D. students have developed the world’s first running robot which thinks as it runs. “Cassie” is a new model of bipedal robot that makes its own decisions about how to adjust its running gait once traveling on outdoor terrain. 

Why is this special? Because the use of Artificial Intelligence and patterning — involving a huge amount of data working out how humans walk and navigate on foot — allows “Cassie” to make judgments about encountered objects such as pathways, grassy verges, steps, railings, entrances, doors, and pedestrians.

Despite a few slip-ups here and there, including running into a stair rail, and needing to be re-started, Cassie’s inaugural jog took 53 minutes. The team video will be analyzed to improve Cassie’s thinking — or the way robots think about making real-world adjustments — so that in the future Cassie could run from point to point unaided by human monitoring. That’s the goal.

It is hoped that one day, this prototype robot can be developed into a machine that thinks on its own after setting off to do a task. Once the journey is programmed into the Cassie robot, it may be possible for it to take a package delivery to homes, stock up warehouses, and perform domestic tasks in people’s homes — with a large part of the time unsupervised, and capable of making its own choices.  

Watch Cassie run:

In other news

  • A wild ride for the International Space Station. A week ago, Russia’s Nauka module docked to the ISS, but shortly after that, the module’s thrusters fired unexpectedly, causing the ISS to flip backward. In total, the ISS spun one-and-a-half revolutions before stopping upside-down and then required a forward flip to turn itself right-side-up again. Zebulon Scoville, the flight director in charge at NASA’s mission control center in Houston, told The New York Times that the ISS was never out of control, and the crew was never in danger. There was “almost no noticeable change in conditions” within the station — showing that working in zero gravity does have its advantages.

    Even so, the incident marked the first time he had to declare a ‘spacecraft emergency.’ According to Gizmodo, astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell notes that this accident was “one of the more serious incidents in the 24-year-history of the ISS,” adding that the situation could harm the structural integrity of the ISS itself. 
  • Settlement in ‘zoombombing’ lawsuit. Zoom will pay $85 million to settle privacy claims against them for enabling “zoombombing.” Similar to “photobombing,” a trend where strangers try to get themselves into the background of photos you take in public areas, “zoombombing” involves trolls dropping into Zoom video chats and listening in to, or worse, watching, your conversations. The video chat empire experienced a business boom during recent lockdowns and will now need to refund subscribers either 15 percent or $25, whichever is the larger amount. The company has also agreed to implement stricter security measures and warn participants about potential privacy dangers when using their video chat.
  • Pentagon’s GIDE3 can see into the future. Combining artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and sophisticated sensors could make the Pentagon accurately predict future events. Command leader General Glen VanHerck told Endgaget how current trials of the GIDE3 system, which stands for Global Information Dominance Experiments, send predictions “days in advance” about the potential movement and launches of foreign warcraft. This would allow forces to proactively deploy instead of waiting for events or outdated information. The tech could be hugely valuable when used to prevent a surprise attack or help negotiators avoid conflict by talking first before things escalate.
  • Activision Blizzard update. In last week’s news roundup, we reported on sexual harassment complaints at the video game studio Activism Blizzard. On Tuesday, the company announced that president J. Allen Brack is stepping down from his role. Executive Development VP Jen Oneal and GM Mike Ybarra will replace him as co-leaders. Bloomberg subsequently reported that top HR representative Jesse Meschuk has also stepped down. The combined fallout from a lawsuit, a letter signed by over 2000 employees, an employee walkout, and several sordid stories coming to light led to changes at the top of management.

Tip of the week

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Lisa McKnight avatar

Lisa McKnight

As a digital technology copywriter, I'm passionate about communicating how vital the information industry is and how stuff works. If it's complicated I believe it can also be engaging. With 10 years of copywriting in B2B and B2C marketing, technology is rocking my world. More articles written by Lisa.

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