ENDLESS FRONTIER:
INNOVATIONS IN SCIENCE & ENGINEERING

June 2019

Image: Courtesy of the Personal Robots Group, MIT Media Lab

Science/Tech

Teaching artificial intelligence to connect senses like vision and touch

While our sense of touch gives us a channel to feel the physical world, our eyes help us immediately understand the full picture of these tactile signals. Robots that have been programmed to see or feel can’t use these signals quite as interchangeably. To better bridge this sensory gap, researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have come up with a predictive artificial intelligence (AI) that can learn to see by touching, and learn to feel by seeing. The team’s system can create realistic tactile signals from visual inputs, and predict which object and what part is being touched directly from those tactile inputs, using a KUKA robot arm with a special tactile sensor called GelSight, designed by another group at MIT. Learn more here http://news.mit.edu/2019/teaching-ai-to-connect-senses-vision-touch-0617

Autonomous boats can target and latch onto each other

The city of Amsterdam envisions a future where fleets of autonomous boats cruise its many canals to transport goods and people, collect trash, or self-assemble into floating stages and bridges. To further that vision, MIT researchers have given new capabilities to their fleet of robotic boats — which are being developed as part of an ongoing project — that lets them target and clasp onto each other, and keep trying if they fail. Learn more here http://news.mit.edu/2019/autonomous-robot-boats-latch-0605

Spotting objects amid clutter

A new MIT-developed technique enables robots to quickly identify objects hidden in a three-dimensional cloud of data, reminiscent of how some people can make sense of a densely patterned “Magic Eye” image if they observe it in just the right way. http://news.mit.edu/2019/spotting-objects-cars-robots-0620

Health/Convergence

Study: Social robots can benefit hospitalized children

A new Media Lab study demonstrates demonstrates for the first time that “social robots” used in support sessions held in pediatric units at hospitals can lead to more positive emotions in sick children. Interacting with a robotic teddy bear invented at MIT boosted young patients’ positive emotions, engagement, and activity level. Learn more here http://news.mit.edu/2019/social-robots-benefit-sick-children-0626

A better way to encapsulate islet cells for diabetes treatment

hen medical devices are implanted in the body, the immune system often attacks them, producing scar tissue around the device. This buildup of tissue, known as fibrosis, can interfere with the device’s function. MIT researchers have now come up with a novel way to prevent fibrosis from occurring, by incorporating a crystallized immunosuppressant drug into devices. After implantation, the drug is slowly secreted to dampen the immune response in the area immediately surrounding the device. Learn more here http://news.mit.edu/2019/immune-response-supressant-diabetes-0624