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Robotic Patch Clamping Gains Eyes
Patch clamping, a method that allows scientists to study the electrical activity of single cells, is one of the oldest tools in the neuroscience toolbox. Although the technique was originally developed around the late 1970s to study neurons in a dish, over the last few decades, scientists have adapted it to examine the electrophysiology of the brains of live animals. Then, they managed to automate the process—letting a robot explore the brain and attach to a neuron to record.

In a pair of papers published in Neuron, two groups of scientists advanced automated patch clamping even further, independently developing in vivo robotic systems that use two-photon microscopy to home in on specific cells, rather than just the easiest to find.

“This whole-cell patch method is really the gold standard for looking at synaptic and other events that make a neuron compute,” says Ed Boyden, a bioengineer at MIT. “We’re trying to take this art form and turn it into something that’s fully automated.”

In the early 2000s, a group led by Troy Margrie, a neuroscientist at University College London, and his colleagues pioneered a method called two-photon targeted patching (TPTP) that allowed scientists to record from specific neurons in a living brain. This was an improvement over the previously available “blind” in vivo approach, where scientists would typically pick neurons randomly from a certain area of the brain.

Patch clamping is typically conducted with a glass tube called a micropipette that sucks up a small piece of a cell’s membrane and forms a seal around the break, allowing currents flowing through the neuron to be recorded by a small electrode within the micropipette. Combining this method with a two-photon microscope gave scientists the ability to identify and target specific fluorescently labeled neurons for their recordings. However, this technique is not easy to master.

To simplify this process for researchers, two groups of scientists—Schultz’s and Boyden’s—independently developed robotic systems that could carry out these recordings.

Both groups built their robots on an automated technique reported by Boyden and colleagues in 2012. That system allowed for “blind” patch clamping, meaning it would randomly choose a neuron to record from in a living rodent brain. The team had developed an algorithm that could independently lead the pipette to a neuron.

According to Schultz, this automated system was a big advance, because “it was able to work in a live brain and it was able to work completely automatically, [taking] the human out of the loop.” The downside of this robot was that it would attach to the first cell it encountered, he adds, making it difficult to record from cells other than the large, pyramidal neurons that dominate the cortex.

By combining “blind” automated patch clamping with two-photon targeted patching, both teams were able to develop an algorithm that could target specific cells in the brains of living mice. To label the neurons of interest, the researchers used transgenic mice that only had some cells express a fluorescent protein.

While developing their automated systems, both groups encountered the same problem: as the pipette was pushed into the brain, it caused tissue to move around, meaning their targeted neuron would not stay in one place.

In order to compensate for that movement, Boyden’s team created an algorithm that could conduct something called closed loop adjustment. “That means that you continuously take pictures, and if the cell moves, you move your electrode to make up for the difference,” Boyden says. “What we found was that when we did that, we could actually record cells, even fairly rare ones.” Schultz and his team tackled this issue with an algorithm that functioned in a similar way.

In both studies, the robotic systems were able to perform at about the same level as a human experimenter.

Story via The Scientist
http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/50227/title/Robotic-Patch-Clamping-Gains-Eyes/

Journal article:
http://www.cell.com/neuron/fulltext/S0896-6273(17)30733-X?_returnURL=http%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS089662731730733X%3Fshowall%3Dtrue
http://www.cell.com/neuron/fulltext/S0896-6273(17)30702-X

Image: Two new in vivo robotic systems use two-photon microscopy to home in on specific brain cells.

#robos #brain #research #patchclamping #neurons #TPTP #neuroscience
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Int-Ball is a bit larger than a softball, can float and maneuver by itself but also be controlled remotely, can take high resolution images and videos, and is not related to Hello Kitty. Int-Ball was delivered to the ISS in early June and is designed to allow ground-control to increase the monitoring of ISS equipment and activities while decreasing time demands on human astronauts. Int-Ball moves by turning on small internal fans and sees with a camera located between its two dark eyes.

•The recorded images and videos can be checked in real time by flight controllers and researchers on the ground, and then be fed back to the onboard crew.
•The camera adopts existing drone technology and its exterior and inner structures were all manufactured by 3D-printing.

Info via APOD & JAXA
https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap170725.html
http://iss.jaxa.jp/en/kiboexp/news/170714_int_ball_en.html

Video source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojFNo19HYSo

#robos #IntBall #ISS #space #Jaxa #science #3Dprinting
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Robo Cassie
Cassie can stand, steer, and take a pretty good fall without breaking. It’s half the weight of and much more capable than earlier robots developed at Oregon State.

Cassie, built with a 16-month, $1 million grant from the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense, is already one of the leading innovations in the world of legged robotics.

Company officials said they plan to do all initial production in Oregon and will focus their business on the commercial applications of legged robots. Hiring is anticipated for research, production, and development.

Video source:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Is4JZqhAy-M

More info:
http://mime.oregonstate.edu/cassie-steps-limelight

#Cassie #robotics #science #innovation #engineering
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Bat Bot
Bats have long captured the imaginations of scientists and engineers with their unrivaled agility and maneuvering characteristics, achieved by functionally versatile dynamic wing conformations as well as more than 40 active and passive joints on the wings. Wing flexibility and complex wing kinematics not only bring a unique perspective to research in biology and aerial robotics but also pose substantial technological challenges for robot modeling, design, and control.

The creatively named “Bat Bot” comes from roboticists at the California Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It’s not the first to imitate bat biology in pursuit of aerodynamism, but a number of new techniques put it at the head of the pack, or rather colony.

One advance is the skeletal structure of the robot’s wings. The team took a middle road, identifying only the most important joints and motions, allowing them to imitate bat-like maneuvers while keeping the mass under 100 grams.

Another thing that sets bats apart is the fact that the material making up their wings is highly deformable, and they use that to their advantage. Any artificial wing that doesn’t stretch and billow like the bat’s membrane is missing out on a key characteristic of its flight style. So the researchers made their own silicone-based imitation bat skin only 56 microns thick — about half the width of a human hair.

Between these and a lot of hard work studying the minute movements that go into every little bat flight pattern, the team was able to recreate three motions: straight flight, a banking turn and a swooping strike (it struck the safety net, anyway). With its wings flapping up to 10 times per second, the bat flew at 12 MPH and dove at over 30 MPH.

The researchers envision bat-like bots, lightweight and agile, performing duties around humans, where heavier drones with high-speed rotors might not be welcome: hospitals, construction sites, homes.

Journal article:
http://robotics.sciencemag.org/content/2/3/eaal2505.full

Source & further reading:
https://techcrunch.com/2017/02/01/bat-bot-is-the-biomimetic-flying-soft-robot-we-deserve/

#robos #science #research #batbot #SciTech
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Google reveals secret test of AI bot to beat top Go players
Google’s DeepMind is a company working on what could be one of the most significant scientific advances of our era. They focus on the development of AI systems that could have a broad range of applications from cybersecurity to healthcare. The primary goal of DeepMind is to develop artificial intelligence (AI) that can solve the most complex problems without even first having to be taught how.

A major training/proving ground for DeepMind’s software has been gaming. The company has developed AI that can play 49 different Atari games at expert levels. Also, in a world-first development, they created software called AlphaGo which challenged the world champion of the ancient Chinese game of Go, and won.

The latest news out of DeepMind comes back to that historic victory. As a means of testing some upgrades to AlphaGo, the company secretly unleashed the AI on some unwitting Go players. AlphaGo completely dominated the competition. More than 50 games were played and AlphaGo won every single one.

Article:
https://futurism.com/google-ai-secretly-uploaded-to-the-internet-where-it-wreaked-havoc-on-gamers/

Paper:
http://www.nature.com/news/google-reveals-secret-test-of-ai-bot-to-beat-top-go-players-1.21253

#robos   #artificialintelligence   #deepmind   #scitech   #AlphaGo   #science  
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Who's Axsis?
Axsis, a system developed by Cambridge Consultants, is a small, teleoperated robot with two arms tipped with tiny pincers. It’s designed to operate on the eye with greater accuracy than a human.

The device’s articulating pincers are mounted on arms about the size of drinks cans, with extremely light, strong “tendons” made of the same material NASA uses for its solar sails. These pincers can sweep across a 10-millimeter space – the size of the lens of the eye. This is just a demonstrations model; in the final product, the pincers will be replaced with scalpels.

To control the robot, the surgeon sits at a station nearby and uses two 3D haptic joysticks to move the pincers while watching their work on a screen. The image on the screen is enlarged, so the surgeon can make more precise movements, with the pincers operating at a tiny scale not possible with the human hand.

One benefit of the system is that the software disables certain boundaries from being breached. “It won’t let you make the mistake of punching through the back of the lens,” says Chris Wagner, the lead roboticist on the project.

Source & further reading:
https://www.newscientist.com/article/2111445-robot-surgeon-can-slice-eyes-finely-enough-to-remove-cataracts/

Video source:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pc-73vQ6TWQ

#robos   #axsis   #surgicalrobots   #cataracts    #eyehealth   #science   #innovation   #medicine  
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JumpRoACH
Bugs are astounding little creatures and they provide a great template for dynamic movement in robots. 
Other, similar cockroach-inspired robots have been created at UC Berkeley, and while you probably wouldn’t want your ordinary cockroach to jump 10 feet in the air, this little robot may be used for search and rescue missions one day.
 
JumpRoACH, created out of a collaboration between UC Berkeley and Seoul National University, can not only jump with great precision, it can also adjust the height of its leap each time its spring is released. 

Know more:
http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-hardware/jumproach-robotic-bug

#robos   #jumproach   #innovation   #research   #science  
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GROVER is an autonomous solar-powered robot which carries ground-penetrating radar to explore the levels of snow and ice accumulation on the arctic ice pack. It will be used to chart the gains and losses in ice across the ice sheet.

Crawling slowly on its caterpillar tracks, GROVER will operate through the Arctic summer, carrying two large photovoltaic panel arrays on its back which will collect direct and reflected sunlight to charge it batteries.

Ice melt on Greenland is of particular concern for a couple of reasons. First, as the snow and ice melts the reflectivity of the Earth’s surface will decrease, causing more sunlight to be absorbed resulting in further warming. Secondly, the ice that melts off Greenland will result in sea level rise as well as having the potential to perturb ocean circulation in the North Atlantic due to increased input of cold dense fresh water at high latitudes.

Reference:
http://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2016/nasa-first-map-of-thawed-areas-under-greenland-ice-sheet

Watch:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieXCZdCuVgM

#robos   #GROVER   #greenland   #icesheet   #globalwarming   #science   #nasa  
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PleuroBot
One of the latest robots out of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) can mimic the way a real salamander moves, whether on land or in the water. The EPFL scientists call it Pleurobot (after the species Pleurodeles waltl) and designed it after studying x-ray videos showing the amphibian walking and swimming. According to the institute, other scientists from EPFL had built salamander robots in the past, but this has the most realistic movements thus far. It's also the first one that's "accurately based on the 3D motion of the animal's skeleton."

The lowest level of electrical stimulation in salamanders' spinal cords is associated with walking, while the highest is associated with swimming. As such, the machine can help scientists explore the relationship between spinal cord stimulation and a vertebrate animal's movements. In the future, this could lead to neuroprosthetic devices for both amputees and paraplegic patients.

Reference:
http://biorob.epfl.ch/pleurobot
http://biorob2.epfl.ch/utils/movieplayer.php?id=270

Article:
https://www.engadget.com/2016/06/29/salamander-pleurobot-epfl/

#robos   #PleuroBot   #EPFL   #innovation   #science  
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KUKA Industrial Robots
I have a thing for industrial robots ;)

Reference:
http://www.kuka-robotics.com/en/company/

#robos   #KUKA   #science  
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