Finally, Researchers Teach Goldfish How to Drive a Car and Avoid Obstacles

In long-awaited news, Israeli researchers at Ben-Gurion University have successfully taught goldfish how to steer a vehicle in order to reach a target and receive a treat, using a specially designed FOV (fish-operated vehicle). The future, ladies, and gentlemen – we’re finally here.

The FOV is outfitted with a LiDAR (light detection and ranging) system that uses lasers to determine the fish’s location inside the tank, and the vehicle’s location on land, with the vehicle moving in the direction in which the fish swims. The researchers say that after just a few days of training, fish were able to consistently navigate the vehicle to the target, regardless of starting point and obstacles such as walls, or the presence of false targets. You know, maybe we haven’t been giving goldfish the intellectual credit they deserve.

Obviously, the goldfish’s real target is the nearest pond, and there’s no doubt in my mind once it finally gets its driver’s license that’s exactly where it’ll be headed. If only it’d been riding shotgun the time I accidentally drove into that pond I could have saved it the trouble of taking an in-car driving test!

[via The Washington Post]

Lickable Monitor Tastes Like What’s on Screen: Willy Wonka, Here We Come!

Because some people still care about making the future we all dreamed about as kids a reality, professor Homei Miyashita at Meiji University in Japan has developed a monitor that can imitate on-screen flavors, appropriately naming it Taste The TV (TTTV). I just licked my own old television set to test it, but it appears to be a regular TV and not a TTTV. Tastes like static.

Using a carousel of ten different flavor canisters, the TTTV can mix the basic flavor building blocks in different proportions to create a variety of tastes, which it dispenses via spray on a hygienic film overlaying a flatscreen. But do the snozzberries really taste like snozzberries?

Miyashita estimates a retail version would cost around $835 to produce, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see them in the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog before next Christmas. I only hope they figure out what taste an explosion leaves in your mouth so they can make action movies that much more real.

[via 9gag]

A $310,000 Fully Autonomous Robotic Massage Machine

Do you have a knot in your back? Do you trust a robot to massage it out without snapping your neck in the process? If you do, you’re in luck, thanks to Massage Robotics’ MR-01, a $310,000 fully autonomous massage robot with two 6-axis collaborative robotic arms that operate using cloud artificial intelligence. Plus you can close your eyes and pretend Doctor Octopus is giving you a back rub!

Utilizing natural language processing, you can control the robot’s motion and force via voice command, and its machine learning capabilities can recommend personalized massage routines. Alternatively, you can create your own routine, or try one shared by your doctor, a celebrity (hooray?), or your friends through the device’s mobile app. Honestly, I’m not particular, I just want one that doesn’t cause permanent injury or death.

But what about the hot stones and massage oils? Those are the best parts of a massage. Besides, I’m trying to unwind and relax during a spa day, not constantly wonder if my robotic masseuse is going to catch me off guard and plug me into the Matrix. Which, if I’m being perfectly honest, I would provide very little processing power for anyway.

[via Mashable]

The Dronut X1: A Donut Inspired Drone

I was just thinking the other day somebody should combine a donut and a drone, and apparently Boston-based Cleo Robotics was already on the case, developing the $9,800 Dronut X1 – the world’s first bi-rotor ducted drone that can operate in much tighter spaces than traditional drones. Now I can see where this is headed, but there’s no way I’m letting my doctor fly one of these inside me for a colonoscopy. He already misses my knee half the time just checking my reflexes!

The Dronut X1 was designed with military and police applications in mind, has a 1km range, and weighs only 15-ounces with an onboard 4K camera and streaming capabilities. It navigates around its environment “via 3D LiDAR (light detection and ranging), which utilizes beams of light that hit an object or a surface and reflect back to the laser scanner to create a 3D visualization of its environment.” Me? I navigate around my environment with my hands stretched out like a mummy hoping I don’t stub a toe on the way to the fridge for a midnight snack.

The Dronut’s ducted design means no exposed rotors, and no exposed rotors mean it can’t hit anything with those rotors, making it ideal for flying in environments where you don’t want things shredded by a traditional quadrocopter’s spinning blades. I swear, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve stuck my hand in a ceiling fan putting a shirt on in the morning, I might actually be able to afford a $9,800 Dronut.

[via PetaPixel]

Robotic Tractor Kills Weeds with Lasers

Sure Old MacDonald had a farm, but did he have an Autonomous Weeder robot from Carbon Robotics? I think not. E-I-E-I-O indeed! The Autonomous Weeder, designed to kill weeds without harming the soil or water, scans the ground with its 12-camera array, identifies weeds via onboard AI, then kills them with high-powered carbon dioxide lasers. Pew pew pew!

The tractor-size Autonomous Weeder can kill approximately 100,000 weeds an hour and between 15 and 20 acres a day, compared to about a single acre by a human laborer, and without the damaging effects of herbicides or the inexact nature of killing them with fire. Plus the robot can work autonomously both day and night, with no need for food or bathroom breaks.

Carbon Robotics CEO Paul Mikesel mentioned the Autonomous Weeder costs “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” but could pay for itself in a few years based on the scale of a farming operation. There are also lease options available. Me? I was torn between buying and leasing before ultimately deciding to not get one at all since I don’t own a farm. Fingers crossed I don’t regret that decision.

[via Freethink]

Star Wars Droid Restraining Bolt Magnets: Maybe This IS the Droid You’re Looking For

Because every possible piece of Star Wars merchandise that can exist does, Disney is selling droid restraining bolt magnets in the Galaxy’s Edge areas of its amusement parks. Thankfully for those of us without a Disney trip planned in the foreseeable future, they’re also available on Amazon (affiliate link). I can already close my eyes and see my wife opening the Amazon package and wondering what the heck I just spent money on.

For any of you who are unfamiliar, in the Star Wars universe restraining bolts are small, cylindrical metal units affixed to droids that limit their functionality to that desired by their master. They can’t be removed by the droid (or by other droids) and can have commands relayed to them via a handheld controller. Obviously, it would be wise to attach one to every robotic device in your house, lest they go rogue.

Of course, for people who aren’t relatively serious Star Wars fans, they won’t know what the magnetic restraining bolt that’s holding your grocery list up on the fridge really is. ‘Is it a robot nipple?’ I imagine a dinner guest asking before I have to take the time to explain to them that yes, that’s exactly what it is.

Google Project Starline Conferencing Tool Renders You in 3D in Real-Time

The past year has put video conferencing tools in the limelight, and in my opinion, they are sorely lacking. But technology marches onward. Just check out this mind-blowing prototype that Google claims is already in use in a few of its offices. It’s called Project Starline, a holographic communication booth that creates 3D models of both parties that are shown in real-time and in 3D.

Google says that one of the best things about Project Starline is that it just works. Judging from their demo video, I agree. You just sit down and start talking. The person – or people! – on the other end see your realistic avatar, and you see theirs. It also uses spatial audio, so it feels like you’re both in the same space, separated only by a window. It even seems to keep up with constant motion, such as the baby in the demo.

As of this writing, Google did not provide specifics on the technology or its release. The company did say that they believe that this is the future of remote communication and that they are planning to have enterprise trials later this year. I wonder how long before the technology can fit into a webcam.

Scientists Develop Butt Scanner Because Fingerprints Aren’t Enough

Our butts: just like our fingerprints, they’re all unique. And now scientists at Stanford University have developed a prototype ‘smart toilet’ (links to their scientific paper) that can identify an individual based on their unique, um, analprint. That’s cool, that’s cool, we’re all mature adults here.

Using both a traditional fingerprint scanner and an image recognition algorithm to identify a user’s unique anoderm (the exterior part of the anus), the system then uses its under-the-seat mounted camera and sensor array to analyze a person’s urine and excrement for health evaluation and discerning potential concerns. You’d think a fingerprint scanner and maybe a voice recognition program or something would have been sufficient to identify a toilet user, but I suppose why not scan the ol’ anoderm for good measure?

The system was developed specifically for being able to identify the different members of a household for separate waste analysis and not as a stand-alone biometric identification system, which is probably for the best since the use of analprint scanners would make identifying yourself for access to an office building significantly more awkward.

[via Vice]

Team Makes Back to the Future II Inspired Self-Lacing Shoes

Tying your shoes: what a hassle. You think you did it right but they always come untied or end up in knots. Well, now the team at YouTube channel Hacksmith Industries has created a pair of self-lacing shoes inspired by the Nike MAGs worn by Marty McFly in Back To The Future II. You just press the button on the side, and presto, snug sneakers.

The shoes, which have a bunch of exposed electronics in the soles and look like they’d catch fire if you ever stepped in a puddle, work with a relatively simple winch system that pulls the laces tight as you hold the button on the side. Just don’t go pushing the button for too long or you might cut off your circulation and send all your little piggies to an early grave.

Alternatively, just wear Crocs like I do. Sure they’re still confusing and sometimes you leave the house with them on the wrong feet, but it’s an easy mistake to fix, and at least you don’t have to worry about them coming untied. Shoot, I even wore Crocs to my wedding, although you’d have a hard time telling since my wife cropped all of our photos from the ankles up for some reason. The video below shows off the build, or you can skip to around 10:00 for the unveiling.

Physicists 3D Print a Boat Small Enough to Fit Inside a Human Hair

Because our scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should, physicists at Leiden University have 3D printed a tiny tugboat only 30-microns in length. For reference, an average human hair is about 90-microns in width, although mine is much thicker because I shampoo with a product specifically formulated for bears.

The microscopic printing of 3DBenchy the tugboat (a commonly printed 3D test object due to its challenging features, namely its open cockpit) was created as scientists explore the development of uniquely shaped synthetic microswimmers, and can be propelled via onboard platinum reacting with hydrogen peroxide.

So basically in the future, there are going to be a bunch of tiny tugboats cruising around in your bloodstream, monitoring your vitals and administering medicine, and helping you live longer. Of course, you know what else would help you live longer? An apple a day. And, based on my entire apple pie and half-gallon of ice cream a day habit, I should practically be immortal.

[via Gizmodo]