Technology Tuesday: September 12

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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: An AI baby helps us explore what it means to be human, a new metamaterial from MagicLeap and Berkeley, rejuvenating middle aged muscle tissue, bionic lenses that give better than 20/20 vision, and healing broken bones with gene therapy and microbubbles.


AN ARTIFICIALLY INTELLIGENT BABY COULD UNLOCK THE SECRETS OF HUMAN NATURE

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BabyX, the virtual, artificially intelligent creation of Mark Sagar and his new company, Soul Machines Ltd., looks, sounds, and acts so much like a real baby that interacting with her produces a genuine emotional response — just like the kind you get when a real baby coos and giggles at you. That’s exactly the point: BabyX makes it appealing to humans to interact with an AI, and each instance of interaction teaches her more about what it’s like being human.

Sagar is a force for the humanization of AI, which he believes may be important to installing a symbiotic relationship between humans and AIs. Many AI experts argue that robots and AI systems can only realize their full potential if they become more like humans, with emotions and memories informing their behavior and decision; those are the things that motivate us to seek out new experiences.

 

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MAGIC LEAP AND BERKELEY PARTNERED TO DEVELOP A NEW METAMATERIAL

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Magic Leap is a mixed reality company that has been able to raise more than a billion dollars — without even having a product to show the public. They aren’t very forthcoming with what they’re working on, so media outlets grab onto any piece of available information to get a glimpse of the company’s past or current work to try to cobble together an idea of what their tech might look like and what it may do.

The company has released a new research paper, in conjunction with Berkeley Lab, that could be a window into what the company is developing. The researchers developed new materials, inspired by butterfly wings and peacock feathers, that could be an integral part of their headset

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RESEARCHERS FIND A WAY TO DELAY AGING

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Researchers studying middle-aged fruit flies have improved the insects’ health substantially and slowing their aging significantly. They believe their technique could someday pave the way toward delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and other age-related diseases in humans.

Their approach targets the cellular power houses, called mitochondria, which control the cell growth and death. Mitochondria frequently sustain damage as part of the aging process, and cells can’t always remove these damaged organelles, which then become toxic as they accumulate in the muscles and the brain and other organs. This buildup contributes to a broad variety of age-related diseases.

 

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BIONIC LENS COULD PUSH VISION PAST 20/20

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In just a few short years, we’ll be able to improve our eyesight to levels we’ve only dreamed of. At first, it’ll be expensive, but over time they’ll become more easily available, eventually doing away with the concept of “poor eyesight” or 20/20 vision altogether.

A company known as Ocumetics Technology Corporation is at the forefront of this tech, which is currently in the midst of testing its Bionic Lens. The Bionic Lens replaces the natural lens found within the human eye, and brings with it a number of improvements, chief among them being an immediate improvement to eyesight, and clear vision regardless of distance. No more squinting or covering one’s eyes to get a better look at a distant sign.

 

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GENE THERAPY AND MICROBUBBLES ARE THE FUTURE OF FIXING BROKEN BONES

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Fixing broken limb bones after serious injuries can challenge even the most skilled orthopedic surgeons. Too much bone loss makes regrowth impossible, and even smaller fractures make bone growth problematic if the patient is in poor health or at an advanced age.

When physicians encounter these kinds of nonhealing fractures, autologous bone grafts are the gold standard for treatment. These bone grafts involve harvesting a segment of healthy bone, typically from the pelvis of the patient, which is then used to “bridge” the portion of the break that isn’t growing new bone adequately. However, bone grafts are not always possible, depending on the patient’s health and the extent of the damage from the break.

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