Meet Walk-Man, The Emergency Response Robot

This is Walk-Man – he’s a robot designed to fit in a world built for humans.

Walk-Man can operate tools and interact with his environment in the same way that a person does.

He was built by roboticists from the Italian Institute of Technology and University of Pisa.

They say his anthropomorphic design is better-suited for replacing humans in hazardous environments than wheeled or four-legged robots.

“There’s one factor that everyone agrees, that actually our world, our environment it was designed for our body basically. So, we have tools that are designed to be grasped by humanoid, human hands. You have also areas or access paths that are actually appropriate for our body forms. So it means that if you build a robot that has a very similar form, you need to adapt less the environment in order to have this robot operational within such a space,” Nikos Tsagarakis, IIT senior researcher and Walk-Man project coordinator and scientific coordinator, said.

Standing more than six feet tall, Walk-Man’s head is fitted with a stereo vision system and a rotating 3D laser scanner to help decipher his environment.

His dexterity and strength means he performs tasks with man-like movement.

The team is working on algorithms that will give him the cognitive ability to reach out to support himself while walking over rough terrain.

“We believe that – as humans also do – that legs are not only enough. You have to use also the arms, you have to be able to grasp the environment and actually assist your locomotion by creating additional contacts with the environmental balance. And this will make a big difference in humanoids where currently the technology is limited to the solutions that provide the balance basically only using the lower body. Upper body is also important; especially if you want to pass through —> Read More

Science Has Determined How Not To Look Stupid

Whether it’s your sibling, best friend, parent or even your boss, you’ve called someone stupid at some point in your life. But how do we even define “stupid” behavior, and what can we do to avoid acting stupidly?

A new study offers a scientific answer.

“Although calling something stupid is a frequent everyday behavior,” Balázs Aczél, a psychology professor at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest and a co-author of the study, told The Huffington Post in an email, “there has been no psychological study to understand why and when people use this label to describe the observed actions.”

Aczél and his colleagues gathered 180 pieces of writing from the news, blog sites, and social media that might be deemed as “stupid.” The pieces were then presented to 154 adults who were asked to fill out a survey about each story.

The study participants answered whether they thought the behaviors and actions in the writing clips were stupid, and how stupid they considered them to be on a scale from one to 10.

The researchers found that, despite the ambiguous definition of “stupid,” there was a 90 percent rate of agreement between participants in which actions were seen as stupid. The researchers also noticed that there were three different types of behaviors, which were most often deemed as stupid.

“In our statistical analysis of the data we found that people regard stupid action in three different categories: (1) violations of maintaining a balance between confidence and abilities; (2) failures of attention; and (3) lack of control,” Aczél said.

Here are examples of the three categories:

1. Overconfidence

Aczél described it as “confident ignorance,” or when someone is overconfident about their ability to do something. An example of this behavior is when a driver refuses to ask for directions, and might end up lost.

“What that tells us —> Read More

Grévys Zebra now protected in Kenya by Samburu Warriors

Grevy's zebra rolling in dust at dawn (Equus grevyi), Samburu National Reserve, Kenya (Photograph by James Warwick /
Grevy’s zebra rolling in dust at dawn (Equus grevyi), Samburu National Reserve, Kenya (Photograph by James Warwick /

More closely related to an ass than a horse, the Grevy’s zebra (Equus grevyi) is the world’s largest living wild equid.

The Grevy’s zebra has a stripe pattern as unique as a human fingerprint, and large round ears. Once used in Roman circuses, it was forgotten by the western world for a millennium, until it was named after a 19th century French President who had been given one by the Emperor of Abyssinia. Today, Grevy’s zebras are Africa’s most endangered large mammal and can now only be found in northern Kenya and southern and eastern Ethiopia.

Towards the end of the 1970s, the global population was estimated at approximately 15,000 animals; today, it is thought that no more than 2,500 roam across the arid grass and scrubland habitat of its Horn of Africa range. Numbers have plummeted by up to 87%, primarily due to poaching, loss of habitat and access to water and hot droughts.

But dedicated efforts by conservationists including the Grevys Zebra Trust (GZT) means that prospects are finally improving for the animal. Aware that, “Conservation of the species cannot be viewed in isolation of local people,” as Belinda Low, Executive Director of Grévy’s Zebra Trust says, GZT recently launched an initiative with warriors from the indigenous Samburu and Rendille tribes. The ‘Grévy’s Zebra Warriors’ (GZT) monitor Grevy’s zebra, raise awareness, and provide protection to the species. They are trained in GPS skills, datasheet recording and photography. “Working with local pastoral communities is critical to the long-term survival of Grévy’s zebra,” says Belinda. “Their outreach to communities has created a large network of local support through which conservation messaging is disseminated and practical conservation action, including dry season water management, —> Read More

The Bottom Line: ‘Fortune Smiles’ By Adam Johnson

When a spur-of-the-moment mix-up forces Dongjoo — a protagonist in one of Adam Johnson’s National Book Award-winning short stories — to hurriedly defect from North Korea, he acclimates quickly enough to the modern comforts of the South. He even changes his name to something hip-sounding, something with that Gangnam air of exportable cool: DJ. He doesn’t know that the letters carry meaning other than a shortened version of his given name until a South Korean teen explains it to him: “The DJ, he’s a kind of artist. He takes different kinds of music , you know, funky and strange and old-fashioned, even bad music you wouldn’t normally like. Then he mixes it all together. That mix, that’s the DJ’s brand, that’s who he is.”

Contemporary South Korean mash-up culture, with its warring influences of fast food joints and traditional, uniformed school kids, is simultaneously alluring and off-putting to DJ, who’s mostly thankful to no longer rely on unscrupulous acts — printing and selling lottery tickets with no winner among them — in order to eat each night. He feels indebted to his close friend and mentor Sun-ho, who got caught up in the last-minute act of defecting, and who isn’t as enthusiastic about his new home as DJ.

Johnson writes about their relationship, and the brutal beauty of their previous lives in North Korea, in the third-person. Necessarily, he observes from a distance, and so his characterization of the place and its people is almost clinical. Through DJ he brings harsh North Korean winters to life in scenes peopled by women in fur coats and students full of naive hope about their country’s future. But each scene glistens with the sheen of globalization, with references to wealthy Gangnam and greasy burgers. Sun-ho’s reverence of centuries-old patriotic music wraps these details —> Read More

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