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First-ever successful mind-controlled robotic arm without brain implants

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A team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, in collaboration with the University of Minnesota, has made a breakthrough in the field of noninvasive robotic device control. Using a noninvasive brain-computer interface (BCI), researchers have developed the first-ever successful mind-controlled robotic arm exhibiting the ability to continuously track and follow a computer cursor.

Being able to noninvasively control robotic devices using only thoughts will have broad applications, in particular benefiting the lives of paralyzed patients and those with movement disorders.

BCIs have been shown to achieve good performance for controlling robotic devices using only the signals sensed from brain implants. When robotic devices can be controlled with high precision, they can be used to complete a variety of daily tasks. Until now, however, BCIs successful in controlling robotic arms have used invasive brain implants. These implants require a substantial amount of medical and surgical expertise to correctly install and operate, not to mention cost and potential risks to subjects, and as such, their use has been limited to just a few clinical cases.

A grand challenge in BCI research is to develop less invasive or even totally noninvasive technology that would allow paralyzed patients to control their environment or robotic limbs using their own “thoughts.” Such noninvasive BCI technology, if successful, would bring such much needed technology to numerous patients and even potentially to the general population.

However, BCIs that use noninvasive external sensing, rather than brain implants, receive “dirtier” signals, leading to current lower resolution and less precise control. Thus, when using only the brain to control a robotic arm, a noninvasive BCI doesn’t stand up to using implanted devices. Despite this, BCI researchers have forged ahead, their eye on the prize of a less- or non-invasive technology that could help patients everywhere on a daily basis.

Bin He, Trustee Professor and Department Head of Biomedical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, is achieving that goal, one key discovery at a time.

“There have been major advances in mind controlled robotic devicesusing brain implants. It’s excellent science,” says He. “But noninvasive is the ultimate goal. Advances in neural decoding and the practical utility of noninvasive robotic arm control will have major implications on the eventual development of noninvasive neurorobotics.”

Using novel sensing and machine learning techniques, He and his lab have been able to access signals deep within the brain, achieving a high resolution of control over a robotic arm. With noninvasive neuroimaging and a novel continuous pursuit paradigm, He is overcoming the noisy EEG signals leading to significantly improve EEG-based neural decoding, and facilitating real-time continuous 2-D robotic device control.

Using a noninvasive BCI to control a robotic arm that’s tracking a cursor on a computer screen, for the first time ever, He has shown in human subjects that a robotic arm can now follow the cursor continuously. Whereas robotic arms controlled by humans noninvasively had previously followed a moving cursor in jerky, discrete motions—as though the robotic arm was trying to “catch up” to the brain’s commands—now, the arm follows the cursor in a smooth, continuous path.

In a paper published in Science Robotics, the team established a new framework that addresses and improves upon the “brain” and “computer” components of BCI by increasing user engagement and training, as well as spatial resolution of noninvasive neural data through EEG source imaging.

The paper, “Noninvasive neuroimaging enhances continuous neural tracking for robotic device control,” shows that the team’s unique approach to solving this problem not enhanced BCI learning by nearly 60% for traditional center-out tasks, it also enhanced continuous tracking of a computer cursor by over 500%.

The technology also has applications that could help a variety of people, by offering safe, noninvasive “mind control” of devices that can allow people to interact with and control their environments. The technology has, to date, been tested in 68 able-bodied human subjects (up to 10 sessions for each subject), including virtual device control and controlling of a robotic arm for continuous pursuit. The technology is directly applicable to patients, and the team plans to conduct clinical trials in the near future.

“Despite technical challenges using noninvasive signals, we are fully committed to bringing this safe and economic technology to people who can benefit from it,” says He. “This work represents an important step in noninvasive brain-computer interfaces, a technology which someday may become a pervasive assistive technology aiding everyone, like smartphones.”

Source: https://techxplore.com/news/2019-06-first-ever-successful-mind-controlled-robotic-arm.html

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Apple’s iOS 13 is running on 50 percent of all iPhones after three weeks

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Apple’s iOS 13 update may have been riddled with bugs over the course of its first few weeks post-release, but that hasn’t had a meaningful impact on user adoption. According to the company, more than 50 percent of all iPhones were running iOS 13 just 26 days after launch. That’s slower than iOS 12, which took just 23 days to hit 50 percent, but not by much. If you count only iPhones purchased in the last four years, the figure jumps up to 55 percent.

The numbers look even better — vis a vis Android — when you take into account that most other phones are running iOS 12. Of all iPhones currently accessing the App Store, which is how Apple checks these numbers, 41 percent are using iOS 12 and just 9 percent are using an earlier mobile OS. For devices four years old and younger, 38 percent are running iOS 12 and just 7 percent are running an older OS. For iPadOS, the numbers are slightly lower, with 33 percent of all iPads running the new OS and 41 percent of newer iPads running it.

While these adoption rates may have slowed from last year, Apple is still miles ahead of Google in this regard, thanks to its tight integration of hardware and software that Google has never been able to replicate with Android. In fact, Google seems to have stopped reporting adoption rates recently, so we don’t know how many devices have Android 10 installed.

Last time Google checked in on that front, in May of this year, we knew that Android 9 Pie was installed on just 10.4 percent of all Android devices worldwide. For other versions, the rate spans spans 15 percent to 30 percent for versions as far back as Android 5.0 Lollipop, which is still running on 14.5 percent of all Android phones. At the time, Android 8.0 Oreo held the crown at the time with 27 percent of all devices. But the wide variety of years-old versions each serving millions upon millions of phones remains a bad look for Android fragmentation, a problem Google has all but given up on solving.

So whatever trepidation Apple fans may have had about the bugs and overall inconsistency with iPhone software, it doesn’t seem to have translated into action. As The Verge’s Dieter Bohn points out in his piece about holding off on installing macOS Catalina, he makes the smart point that phone updates are low risk and high reward, whereas the same is not true of desktop and laptop OS updates, where you may inadvertently affect your ability to get real work done. Looks like most iPhone owners agree.

Source: https://www.theverge.com/2019/10/16/20918359/apple-iphone-11-pro-ios-13-adoption-rate-google-android-10

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How 5G could improve augmented reality

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We all know by now that 5G is going to be a big deal. The next generation mobile network will provide ubiquitous gigabit connection speeds, extremely low latency and unrestricted capacity.

In fact, it’s rather difficult to imagine a modern industry that won’t be positively affected by 5G’s arrival.

When it comes to augmented reality, however, 5G looks set to be more transformational than most. Indeed, 5G could prove instrumental to augmented reality finally hitting the mainstream.

Let’s first clarify what we mean when we talk about ‘augmented reality’. AR, as it’s commonly known as, is the art and science of overlaying virtual information onto a live view of the real world.

While virtual reality (VR) creates a completely enclosed, self-contained 3D virtual world that a person can fully immerse themselves in, AR seeks to enhance or indeed augment our perception of the physical environment around us.

Augmented reality is already firmly embedded in our culture, from the heads-up displays (HUDs) in a fighter pilot’s cockpit to the live selfie effects of Snapchat and Facebook. But 5G’s arrival heralds a whole new wave of deeply integrated, highly social AR experiences.

Statista estimates that the value of the AR market will rise from $5.91 billion in 2018 to $198.17 billion in 2025 – it’s no coincidence that this rise will coincide with the rollout of 5G networks.

Augmenting reality

As we’ve hinted at already, augmented reality isn’t a new or cutting edge technology. We already have the means to create convincing AR experiences, but it’s an extremely hardware-intensive process.

Embedding virtual components in a real world view requires powerful processors, sharp cameras, a range of advanced sensors, and some serious software smarts. In short, the best AR apps crunch a lot of numbers.

What’s more, that data needs to be rendered in real time in order to produce a convincingly smooth and responsive AR experience. Immersion is everything with AR, to the point where any performance shortfall can be ruinous to the experience.

The huge amount of data being processed in real time means that modern mobile AR applications are very localized, essentially ‘offline’ affairs. Not only does this necessitate powerful mobile devices, it limits the scope of the AR experiences too.

Our current 4G networks simply don’t have the capacity to bear the weight of more connected or shared AR experiences, nor do they have the required low latency – that is, the time between an input and data being sent in response – for real time responsiveness.

What 5G brings to the AR table

It’s here that 5G will be able to take AR to the next level. The next generation mobile network will massively increase capacity and lower latency. ABI Research predicts that 5G will provide a “10X increase in throughput, 10X decrease in latency, and 100X increase in traffic capacity” over 4G, which will mean that “5G will not only improve, but will also be a requirement for some of the most exciting AR and VR applications”.

In such an environment, existing AR applications would be able to offload much of the intensive processing to the cloud, opening AR applications out to new, smaller, more energy efficient and cheaper form factors.

While the Google Glass project appeared to be halted several years ago (it wasn’t, but we’ll come to that), the prospect of a truly wearable, permanently accessible AR device hasn’t gone away. It was just hibernating until the technology could be refined, part of which involves a sufficiently capable mobile network.

The nature of AR applications will also grow more sophisticated, with truly shared and social real time augmented reality experiences. The transmitting of AR-enhanced live events could be one example.

This synergy between AR and 5G will also expand the potential for remote control drone and robot operation through enhanced HUDs (Heads Up Displays) and improved haptic feedback. Indeed, this lofty concept of the so-called ‘Tactile Internet’ is expected to kickstart the fourth industrial revolution.

That might sound lofty, but cutting edge researchers such as South Korea’s Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute predict just such an eventuality. In January 2019, it was announced that ETRI had developed a 5G-based technology that would enable AR applications to send and receive packets of data at speeds that match human perception.

“We will see robots, cars and all other machines connected to the Internet all around us,” said ETRI team leader HwanSeok Chung. “[The] Tactile Internet will enable humans and machines to interact with each other even from far away.”

AR and you

Talk of the Tactile Internet is all well and good, but you might ask how 5G-enhanced augmented reality is set to benefit the average user over the coming years.

The first thing to note is that the framework is there for massive advances in everyday AR applications. Both Google and Apple, gatekeepers to the two biggest smartphone platforms in the world, are investing heavily in AR. Apple announced its ARKit framework in June 2017, while Google announced its own ARCore in August 2017.

AR computation has been a core component of two generations of iOS and Android devices now, and there are countless AR-enhanced applications on their respective platforms. But the two companies have huge plans beyond the current status quo.

It’s widely expected that Apple will have some big things to say about AR at its next WWDC event from June 3, including potential macOS and iOS support for AR headsets. 

It’s long been rumored that Apple is working on its own set of AR glasses, which could prove a huge boost to AR’s mainstream acceptance. You only need to see the company’s dramatic effect on the adoption of smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches for evidence of that.

For its part, Google has been steadily ticking over in the background with its pioneering Google Glass project after an initial failed public run. The latest update comes in the form of the business-focused Glass Enterprise Edition 2, which now runs on Android and is powered by Qualcomm’s AR-focused XR1 chipset. 

On the software front, the company announced at Google I/O that it was adding 3D augmented reality models to its search results later this year.

Separately to this, Facebook is known to be investing heavily in augmented reality. Having played a major part in the related resurgence of VR through its Oculus Rift platform, the company is known to be working on its own advanced AR glasses. 

Facebook has also been steadily bringing AR features to its vast network of social platform ever since 2017, from Messenger to Instagram to Facebook ads. Through AR Studio, it’s also allowing third parties to get in on the act.

Microsoft has its own longstanding AR hardware project in the form of HoloLens, which has yielded some of the most impressive (though alas not commercially available) AR applications of the current era – including an augmented reality version of Minecraft. 

Talking of Minecraft and AR, Microsoft recently announced the Minecraft Earth mobile game, which could well prove to be the true breakout moment for AR gaming.

Make no mistake, AR is set to enter a whole new phase of mainstream acceptance in industry, on our phones, and through a whole new class of personal devices – and 5G is going to be at the very heart of the revolution.

5G Uncovered, in association with Samsung, brings you everything you need to know about the next wave of connectivity – not just how fast it’s going to be, but in just how many ways it’s going to change your life. Our 5G Uncovered hub is carefully curated to show everything there is to know about the next generation of connection.   

Source: https://www.techradar.com/news/how-5g-could-improve-augmented-reality

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PlayStation 5 v Xbox Scarlett: the next console war begins in 2020

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Sony’s PS5 will have haptic feedback, while Microsoft’s competing console will have four times the power of Xbox One. Here’s how the two high-end machines compare

a woman wearing headphones plays a video game in a red-light saturated room
 Get ready for battle … Microsoft’s XBox and Sony’s PlayStation 5 are set to reach shops in autumn/winter 2020. Photograph: Kerkez/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The next console war has a start date – or at least a start period. Sony has announced that its next console, PlayStation 5 (PS5), will be launched next autumn/winter, putting it in direct competition with Microsoft’s forthcoming Xbox Scarlett, also due in time for the 2020 Christmas holiday period.

In post on the PlayStation site, Sony revealed that PS5 will have a new controller that replaces the current joypad’s rumble feature with more sensitive and contextual haptic feedback.

“With haptics, you truly feel a broader range of feedback,” Sony said. “Crashing into a wall in a race car feels much different than making a tackle on the football field. You can even get a sense for a variety of textures when running through fields of grass or plodding through mud.”

The console will also have “adaptive triggers” incorporated into the L2 and R2 trigger buttons. Developers will be able to program the resistance of the triggers so that players, “feel the tactile sensation of drawing a bow and arrow or accelerating an off-road vehicle through rocky terrain”. Microsoft is experimenting with a similar technology for its Scarlett controller.

This is not the only apparent similarity between the competing consoles. In April, Sony revealed that PS5 would feature an eight-core CPU based on the third generation of AMD’s Ryzen processors, as well as a custom graphics processor based on the AMD Navi family (a technology capable of real-time ray-tracing effects), and a solid state drive (SSD), which will mean the faster loading of games and in-game content, and may also allow more granular loading processes, so players can choose to install only a game’s multiplayer component, or its campaign. The machine will support 8K resolution displays and 120Hz screen refresh rates.

Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, showing off Project Scarlett at the E3 games expo in June
 Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, showing off Project Scarlett at the E3 games expo in June. Photograph: Casey Rodgers/Invision/AP

Meanwhile, Xbox Scarlett will also utilise the latest AMD Ryzen processor and Navi graphics chipset; it will support screen resolutions of up to 8K and 120Hz refresh rates, and it will use an SSD rather than a traditional hard-disc drive. In addition, Scarlett is set to offer backwards compatibility for all Xbox One games as well as the Xbox and Xbox 360 titles that are available via Xbox One’s backward compatibility feature.Advertisement

Little else is known about the machines. Sony has spoken about PS5’s 3D audio capabilities, using a custom AMD sound chip to create incredibly immersive effects. In an interview with Wired, system architect Mark Cerny claimed the PlayStation user interface is getting a complete overhaul, and will show games information such as multiplayer activities and forthcoming mission objectives while players browse the menu.

Virtual reality will also be supported on PS5, at first via the current PlayStation VR headset, but later through a new headset, which is rumoured to support eye-tracking technology and may be wireless. Microsoft has not announced VR or augmented reality tech for Scarlett, but in the summer, rumours surfaced that the machine might be compatible with the Oculus Rift S gaming headset, currently available for PC.

It is unclear how the machines’ online multiplayer services will evolve for the next generation. Sony is likely to overhaul its PlayStation Now streaming game service, while Microsoft has its Xbox Game Pass equivalent. Rumours of an Xbox console that uses Microsoft’s cloud-based gaming service have been denied by the company.

As for Nintendo, the Switch console is only two years into its lifecycle, so a successor is unlikely to be released next year. However, rumours persist that the company is planning to release an updated and more powerful version of the Switch – known as Switch 2 or Switch Pro on tech sites – featuring an updated processor.

In an entertainment market dominated by streaming platforms and services, where everyone is looking for the next equivalent to Netflix or Spotify, it will be interesting to see how two specialist high-end machines fare, especially with Google Stadia (out in November) and Apple Arcade (launched in September), looking to entice more casual players.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/games/2019/oct/09/playstation-5-v-xbox-scarlett-the-next-console-war-begins-in-2020

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