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Boston Dynamics’s SpotMini Just Unveiled a New Trick

Boston Dynamics’s four-legged SpotMini robot has learned a new trick. The robot can now deftly open doors and hold them open using an arm mounted essentially where a canine’s head would be.

SpotMini, Boston Dynamics’s dog-like quadruped robot, is back, and it’s learned a new trick. The robot, which was unveiled in June 2016 and then updated in November 2017, can now open doors and hold them open.

While opening a door is slightly old hat for a Boston Dynamics robot — Atlas barreled through a push-bar door two years ago — SpotMini’s operation is more eloquent. The robot uses its fifth appendage, an arm mounted essentially where a canine’s head would be, to swiftly assess the door, locate and twist the handle, and pull the door open.

In a video released by Boston Dynamics, not only does the new-and-improved SpotMini open the door for itself, it even holds it open for its robot colleague. A portrait of professional collegiality, this is a big step up from the solo activities of washing dishes or rolling over.

Boston Dynamics has made steady progress in their efforts to build robots that move in a life-like manner, whether it’s Atlas’ Homo sapiens-like saunter or SpotMini’s four-legged gallop. The same month they debuted their updated SpotMini, the company made headlines by releasing a video showing their Atlas robot’s back-flipping antics.

The SpotMini’s latest development is confirmation that progress continues to march on behind Boston Dynamics’s doors. But while biomimetic robots are certainly useful — the ability to copy human motion enables these robots to dexterously manipulate objects and navigate complex terrain — they still inspire more fear than awe in many people.

Outlets such as The Verge and Popular Mechanics have noted the similarities between SpotMini and the door-opening velociraptors of Jurassic Park splendor — not exactly a calming comparison, so if you envision these robots taking over the world, you’re not alone.

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Boston Dynamics video shows its humanoid robot running and jumping over obstacles

If you thought you’d be able to run away from the terrifying new breed of robots, bad news.

Boston Dynamics has revealed a video of its terrifying Atlas robot running and jumping over obstacles with ease.

‘Atlas does parkour,’ the firm says in the description for the video, which shows the robot leaping up a series of 40cm steps with ease, and over logs with a single bound.

It says the robot’s software has been updated giving it the new features.

‘The control software uses the whole body including legs, arms and torso, to marshal the energy and strength for jumping over the log and leaping up the steps without breaking its pace.

‘Atlas uses computer vision to locate itself with respect to visible markers on the approach to hit the terrain accurately. ‘

Earlier this year Boston Dynamics posted two videos showing off the new skills of two of its advanced automatons.

In one, Atlas, a humanoid robot, can be seen jogging around a grassy field, before leaping over a log that’s obstructing its path.

In the second, a SpotMini robo-dog navigates its way around an office building, climbing and descending a set of stairs with ease, all under its own direction.

The canine automatons look eerily similar to those featured in an episode of the sci-fi series, where mechanised creatures hunt humans in a post-apocalyptic future.

Boston Dynamics, based in Waltham, Massachusetts, manually steered SpotMini around its test course to prepare for the demonstration.

Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/

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How to Easily Locate the Accelerometer in an iPhone

Everyone should probably know that I’m obsessed with both physics and smart phones. If I can use my phone for a physics experiment, I’m good to go. That’s exactly what I am going to do right now—use some physics to find the location of the accelerometer in the iPhone 7.

Your smart phone has a bunch of sensors in it. One of the most common is the accelerometer. It’s basically a super tiny mass connected with springs (not actual springs). When the phone accelerates in a particular direction, some of these springs will get compressed in order to make the tiny test mass also accelerate. The accelerometer measures this spring compression and uses that to determine the acceleration of the phone. With that, it will know if it is facing up or down. It also can estimate how far you move and use this along with the camera to find out where real world objects are, using ARKit.

So, we know there is a sensor in the phone—but where is it located? I’m not going to take apart my phone; everyone knows I’ll never get it back together after that. Instead, I will find out the location by moving the phone in a circular path. Yes, moving in a circle is a type of acceleration.

Of course you already knew that circular motion was a type of acceleration. Yes, you knew this because you have been in car (you have probably been in a car). It turns out that the human body can also feel accelerations—although we sometimes confuse these accelerations with gravitational forces, but we can still feel them. If you are sitting in a car seat and the vehicle speeds up, it accelerates and you can feel that. Now if that car is turning in a circle, you can also feel it. That turning car is accelerating—even if it travels at a constant speed.

If you want to really understand why circular motion is a type of acceleration, you need to start with the definition of acceleration.

Here the Δ means “change in”. So the acceleration is the change in velocity divided by the change in time—that is a rate. But here is the key point. Both the acceleration and velocity are vector quantities. This means that they depend on direction as well as magnitude. Since the velocity is a vector, you can have an acceleration just by changing the direction of the velocity. Moving in a circle at a constant speed means there is indeed an acceleration.

If we have an object moving in a circle, the acceleration is pointed towards the center of the circle and depends on two things: the angular velocity (ω) and the circular radius (r). If you increase either of these values, the magnitude of the acceleration will also increase according to the following:

So perhaps you can see where this is going. If I move a phone around in a circle, I can measure both the acceleration and the angular velocity. From this, I can calculate the radius of the circle—which will be the distance from the center of the circle to the accelerometer. That shouldn’t be too difficult. Actually, I have done this experiment before but it was a slightly different setup.

Actually, you can do this yourself. Really, all you need a device that rotates the phone such that it moves in a circle with a constant radius. For me, I used this nice rotating platform.

Notice the addition of the ruler so that I can accurately measure the distance from the center of the circle to the bottom of the phone. I also put a small clamp at the end to prevent the phone from flinging off the platform. That would be bad.

The other thing you need is a way to measure both the angular velocity and the acceleration. Most phones have a type of gyroscope to measure rotations so that you can get both measurements with your phone. Although there are several apps to record sensor data on your phone, but I really like PhyPhox (for both Android and iOS).

Now we are all set. Start recording data and rotate the phone. As the angular velocity changes, so does the acceleration (since the radius is fixed). Since the acceleration is proportional to the square of the angular velocity, I can plot acceleration vs. ω22. It should look something like this (hopefully).

It seems to be linear—so that’s good. The slope of this line is 0.14138 meters with an intercept of 0.093 (rad/s)2 (that’s close to zero). That slope is the important part. It’s the distance from the center of the circle to the sensor. I recorded the distance of the bottom of the phone to the center with a radius of 0.09 meters. This means that the accelerometer is 5.1 centimeters above the bottom of the phone.

But wait! What about the side-to-side location? I can repeat the experiment with the side of the phone facing the center of the circle. Here is the data for that run.

In this case, I had the screen facing down with the “sleep” button side of the phone facing the center of the circle at a radius of 15.9 cm. The slope of the line above is 17.7 cm. That means the sensor is 1.8 cm from the side. OK, this is technically wrong, but I’m going to use it anyway. The 17.7 cm is actually the radial distance to the sensor. This will only give me the distance from the side of phone if the sensor was half way from the top of the phone. Oh well, this will be close enough.

So here is a diagram of my iPhone (looking at it from the back).

Pretty sure that’s where the sensor is located. Now I just need to take apart my phone to verify this result. Oh wait. I’m not going to do that.

Read More On This At Science Latest

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Scientists to set up a microbial ‘Noah’s Ark’

Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 CSIRO

Friendly gut bacteria needs to be preserved.

The plan would involve preserving the beneficial bacteria found in the guts of people from all across the world.

The move has been fuelled by concerns that poor diets may eventually wipe out some of the ‘friendly’ bacteria that has been quietly colonizing the intestines of humans for thousands of years.

The facility would be the microbial equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway which preserves thousands of seeds in case of a natural disaster in the future.

It is hoped that the project could lead to the development of new treatments for modern diseases.

“We want a backup for all of these collections in a safe, neutral country where they can be preserved until we fully understand them,” said biologist Maria Dominguez Bello.

“We hypothesise that they perform important, crucial functions and we can’t afford to lose them.”

Of particular importance will be preserving samples taken from remote societies such as the tribal people of the Amazon whose gut microbes are far more diverse due to their diet and lifestyle.

As these societies integrate more with the modern world their diets change and this bacteria is lost.

“This is just the beginning of our knowledge about the impacts of living in an industrialised world,” Bello and colleagues wrote.

“We need to better understand which strains in human populations are diminishing and what the functional and pathological implications are for these losses.”

Source: The Guardian

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