Technology Tuesday: January 30th

Welcome to Technology Tuesday! Every week The Job Shop Blog will bring you our 5 top science and technology news stories from around the web.

This week: The tiny robot that could be the future of non-invasive medicine, advancements in computers that think like humans, smart contact lenses that can screen your tears for signs of diabetes, Australia’s giant Tesla battery is making huge profits, and for the first time primates have been cloned.


THIS INCREDIBLE “MINIMALIST ROBOT” COULD BE THE FUTURE OF NON-INVASIVE MEDICINE

A new, tiny, “minimalist robot” can achieve a complex series of movements that should one day allow it to patrol the human body from the inside, according to researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany, who describe their work in a Nature paper.

Not only does the caterpillar-inspired robot walk, but it also crawls, jumps, and even swims — moving seamlessly from a wet environment to a dry one as it climbs out of a pool.

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SCIENTISTS ARE CLOSER THAN EVER AT MAKING ARTIFICIAL BRAINS THAT THINK LIKE OURS DO

A new superconducting switch could soon enable computers to make decisions very similarly to the way we do, essentially turning them into artificial brains. One day, this new technology could underpin advanced artificial intelligence (AI) systems that may become part of our everyday life, from transportation to medicine.

Researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) explain that, much like a biological brain, the switch “learns” by processing the electrical signals it receives and producing appropriate output signals. The process mirrors the function of biological synapses in the brain, which allow neurons to communicate with each other.

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SMART CONTACT LENSES COULD SCREEN FOR PRE-DIABETES AND MONITOR GLUCOSE LEVELS

The concept of a smart contact lens isn’t exactly new. However, many emerging smart lens technologies employ lenses that are both expensive and extremely brittle. They can impair the wearer’s vision or even cause injury, and measuring signals from these lenses often requires bulky equipment. Now, a newly developed smart lens could change all of that.

In a study published in Science Advances, a team of researchers from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) and Sungkyunkwan University detail their research on a lens capable of measuring and monitoring glucose levels in tears. Not only is it softer and more user-friendly than other smart contact lenses, it is also the first soft contact lens to use a display pixel for glucose monitoring.

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TESLA’S AUSTRALIAN BATTERY SHOWS IT CAN ALSO MAKE HUGE PROFITS

On December 1, Tesla’s 100MW battery system went online in South Australia after meeting founder Elon Musk’s self-imposed 100-day construction deadline. In the weeks since, the massive battery system has seemingly lived up to its potential as a reliable source of clean energy. When a coal plant tripped on December 14, Tesla’s Australian battery stepped up within milliseconds to keep the grid running.

Now, the giant Australian battery has begun to prove its financial worth. According to a report by Renew Economy, Tesla’s Australian battery system may have earned its owners, Neoen, around $1 million AUD ($800,000 USD) over the course of just a couple of days.

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FOR THE FIRST TIME SCIENTISTS HAVE MANAGED TO CLONE PRIMATES

Since the birth of Dolly the sheep in 1996, scientists across the globe have used the same technique to clone nearly two dozen other animal species, including cats, dogs, rats, and cattle. Primates, however, had proven resistant to the process — until now.

In a new study published in Cell, a team of Chinese researchers led by Qiang Sun at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Neuroscience in Shanghai reveal that they’ve found a way to tweak the Dolly cloning technique to make it work in primates. Their efforts have resulted in the birth of two cloned female macaques: Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua


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