Science and IT news

This stem cell gun helps burn victims regrow their skin in just a few days

RenovaCare is awaiting FDA approval for a product they say can help burn victims regenerate their skin in days. Its "SkinGun" sprays a patient's own stem cells on their burned skin, in a procedure that takes 90 minutes. The cells help the body actively heal itself, leaving no scars. {source}<iframe width="853" height="480" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>{/source}

Google’s miniature radars can now identify objects

When Google unveiled Project Soli in 2015, the company presented it as a way to create gesture controls for future technology. Soli’s miniature radars are small enough to fit into a smartwatch and can detect movements with sub-millimeter accuracy, allowing you to control the volume of a speaker, say, by twiddling an imaginary dial in mid-air. But now, a group of researchers from the University of St Andrews in Scotland have used one of the first Project Soli developers kits to teach Google’s tech a new trick: recognizing objects using radar. The device is called RadarCat (or Radar Categorization for Input and Interaction), and works the way any radar system does. A base units fires electromagnetic waves at a target, some of which bounce off and return to base. The system times how long it takes for them to come back and uses this information to work out the shape of the object and how far away it is. But because Google’s Soli radars are so accurate, they can not only detect the exterior of an object, but also its internal structure and rear surface. "These three sets of signals together gives you the unique fingerprint for each object," lead researcher Professor Aaron Quigley tells The Verge. RadarCat is accurate enough that it can even tell the difference between the front and back of a smartphone, or tell whether a glass is full or empty. This system is surprisingly accurate, but there are some major limitations. For example, RadarCat does occasionally confuse objects with similar material properties (for example, the aluminum case of a MacBook and an aluminum weighing scale), and while it works best on solid objects with flat surfaces, it takes a little longer to get a clear signal on things that are hollow or oddly shaped. (For more information, check out the full study published by St Andrews.) {source}<iframe width="853" height="480" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>{/source} RadarCat also has to be taught what each object looks like before it can recognize it, although Quigley says this isn’t as much of a problem as it initially appears. He compares it to music CDs: "When you first started using them, you put in the CD and it would come up with song list. That information wasn’t recorded on the CD, but held in a database in the cloud, with the fingerprint of the CD used to do the lookup." Once the information has been introduced to the system once, says Quigley, it can be easily distributed and used by . And the more information we have about various radar fingerprints, the more we can generalize and make inferences about never-before-seen objects. One of the most obvious applications of this research is to create a dictionary of things. Visually impaired individuals could use it to identify objects that feel similar in shape or size, or it could deliver more specialized information — identifying a phone model, for example, and quickly bringing up a list of specs and a user manual. If RadarCat’s abilities were added to electronics, then users could trigger certain functions based on context — hold your RadarCat-enabled phone in a gloved hand, for example, and it could switch to an easy-to-use user interface with large icons. "Unlike the internet of things, radar works without Wi-Fi" Of course, much of the current wave of tech (specifically the Internet of Things) is concerned with creating smart objects and environments. However, RadarCat’s approach has the advantage of being unobtrusive. You don’t have to add extra information to an object to recognize it (like QR codes) and you don’t have to give it an Wi-Fi connection either (a practice that’s a security nightmare and even threatens the stability of the internet itself). The next step for RadarCat’s creators is to improve the system’s ability to distinguish between similar objects, suggesting they could use it to not only say whether a glass is full or empty, for example, but also classify its contents. If the technology ever moves into mainstream use it would be quite the evolution — from a military tech used to detect ships and airplanes, to a consumer one that can tell you exactly what you’re about to drink.

Google’s amazing AI experiments let you play with neural networks

Google is known for its funky experiments with web technology — just take a look at its Chrome Experiments page, where the company has accumulated over a thousand creative web apps using its web technology.   A lot of Google’s products today use machine learning to better serve its users.   For example, when searching for ‘pizza’ in Google Photos shows all the pictures in your library of pizza. It knows what the dish looks like by analyzing thousands of pictures of the food and recognizing patterns between them.   The technology might be complex, but the company is now making it easy to play around with it.   {source} <iframe width="853" height="480" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> {/source}   Google A.I. Experiments features eight web tools to play around with, and they’re all great fun.   Quick Draw guesses what you’re drawing based on the information it gains from other people’s doodles. This AI version of Pictionary asks you to draw a simple shape such as the sun, and the computer automatically presumes what it is. It’s amazing how quickly it lands on the right answer.   Giorgio Cam uses your laptop or phone’s camera to identify objects, and creates a song around what it thinks it’s seeing. A robot voice sings the word over a Giorgio Moroder beat, resulting in some very peculiar music.   All experiments are impressive displays of the technology Google is using — check them out, and be amazed at the cool things technology can do.  

Scientists built a chip without semiconductors

Remember those old-timey room-sized vacuum-tube-powered computers with less processing power than your smartphone? That tech might be making a comeback, thanks to work from scientists from UC San Diego. They've built the first semiconductor-free, laser-controlled microelectronics device that uses free electrons, much as vacuum tubes do. The research could result in better solar panels and faster microelectronic devices that can carry more power. Semiconductors based on silicon and other materials are great, obviously, having helped us squeeze billions of transistors into a few square inches. But they have some issues: Electron velocity is limited by the resistance of semiconductor materials, and a boost of energy is required to just to get them flowing through the "band gap" caused by the insulating properties of semiconductors like silicon. Vacuum tubes don't have those problems, since they dislodge free electrons to carry (or not) a current through a space. Getting free electrons at nanoscale sizes is problematic, however -- you need either high voltages (over 100 volts), high temperatures or a powerful laser to knock them loose. The UC San Diego team solved that problem by building gold "mushroom" nanostructures with adjacent parallel gold strips (above). By combining a relatively low amount of voltage (10 volts) with a low-powered laser, they were able to dislodge electrons from the gold metal. The result was a tenfold (1000 percent) increase in conductivity in the system, a change sufficient "to realize on and off states, that is, the structure performs as an optical switch," according to the paper in Nature. The device can thus act as a transistor, power amplifier or photodetector, like semiconductors do. However, it can theoretically work with less resistance and handle higher amounts of power. {source}<iframe width="853" height="480" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>{/source} So far, the research is just a proof-of-concept, but it's very promising. "Next, we need to understand how far these devices can be scaled and the limits of their performance," says author Dan Sievenpiper. The team aims to explore applications not just in electronics, but photovoltaics, environmental applications and, possibly, weaponry -- the research was funded, after all, by DARPA.