July 21, 2016
Tummy Troubles? One Day There May Be A Robot To Swallow
By Matt O’brien
Cambridge, MA (AP) - Has your child swallowed a small battery? In the future, a tiny robot made from pig gut could capture it and expel it. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are designing an ingestible robot that could bpatch wounds, deliver medicine or dislodge a foreign object. They call their experiment an ``origami robot’’ because the accordion-shaped gadget gets folded up and frozen into an ice capsule.
``You swallow the robot, and when it gets to your stomach the ice melts and the robot unfolds,’’ said Daniela Rus, a professor who directs MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. ``Then, we can direct it to a very precise location.’’
It’s still a long way before the device can be deployed in a human or animal. In the meantime, the researchers have created an artificial stomach made of silicone to test it.
Rus said one of the robot’s most important missions could be to save the lives of children who swallow the disc-shaped button batteries that increasingly power electronic devices. If swallowed, the battery can quickly burn through the stomach lining and be fatal.
The robots could seek out and capture the battery before it causes too much damage, pushing it down through the gastrointestinal tract and out of the body.
Ice capsule & expanded robot (c) MIT
The robot’s flexible frame is biodegradable, made of the same dried pig intestine used for sausage casing. The researchers scoured markets in Boston’s Chinatown before finding the right material to build an agile robot body that could dissolve once its mission was accomplished.
``They tried rice paper and sugar paper and hydrogel paper, all sorts of different materials,’’ Rus said. ``We found that sausage casing has the best properties when it comes to folding and unfolding and controllability.’’
Embedded in its meaty body - it wouldn’t be hard to make a kosher version, Rus said - is a neodymium magnet that looks like a tiny metal cube.
Magnetic forces control its movement. Researchers use remote-control joysticks to change the magnetic field, allowing the robot to slip and crawl through the stomach on the way to the object it is trying to retrieve or the wound where it must deliver drugs.
Would it hurt to ingest a robot? Probably not, said research team member Steven Guitron, an MIT graduate student in mechanical engineering.
``I’m sure if you swallowed an ice cube accidently, it’s very similar,’’ he said.
MIT’s team has a patent pending and presented its research at a robotics conference in Sweden this spring. Rus said medical companies have expressed interest in clinical applications, which require going through the regulatory process of conducting animal and human studies.
``It’s a nifty idea,’’ but it could be a decade or so before hospitals could use such a device, said William Messner, a professor of mechanical engineering at Tufts University in Massachusetts who is not involved with the project. He said it could also have promise in performing biopsies.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration ``has to get involved with anything like this and they’re rightfully very careful about any kind of medical instrument,’’ Messner said. ``The big problem is: What if it gets stuck? Now you’ve really got a problem.’’
The multidisciplinary project fits into the growing field of soft robotics that coalesced with the 2013 founding of the peer-reviewed Soft Robotics Journal, based at Tufts. The Boston region is a hub for research into the moving machines made of flexible materials that can change shape and size, making them useful for surgery and other complex environments.
Could Artifacts Found At Site X Be From NC's Lost Colony?
Elizabeth City, NC (AP) - Archaeologists have discovered evidence suggesting that a part of the lost colony may have ended up in Bertie County.
The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reports (http://bit.ly/29KgJAm) archaeologists have excavated 850 square feet of a tract in question and found dozens of artifacts. The findings include bale seals used to verify cloth quality, 16th-century nails and pieces of pottery jars for storing dried and salted fish.
Clay Swindell, archaeologist and collections specialist at the Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City, says while the findings do not prove lost colony residents lived there, they certainly show they could have.
Swindell said the rural site south of the Chowan River bridge has been inhabited for centuries first by native Americans, then early English settlers. It later became the site of a governor’s plantation.
Archaeologists at Site X in Bertie County
A series of events led to the discovery of Site X. In 2007, a developer planned to build a large subdivision there. As usual, the state first required a search for historically significant sites or artifacts. A team found early English pottery and signs of a Native American village. Meanwhile, the development never panned out.
In 2012, researchers looking at a map that John White drew of eastern North Carolina in the 1580s found a patch covering what looked like a fort. The map is still preserved at the British Museum in London.
The fort symbol sat at the western end of the Albemarle Sound in what is now Bertie County, matching where the English artifacts were found.
``We put two and two together,’’ Swindell said.
Before he left for England in 1587, John White told the colony to ``remove 50 miles into the main.’’ That clue did not help archaeologists much at first, since a 50-mile radius from Roanoke Island covers most of northeastern North Carolina.
Pottery found at Site X
``No one had a good understanding where the 50 miles might be,’’ Swindell said.
The Bertie site lies 49.32 nautical miles from Roanoke Island, according to Google Earth.
John White was part of all three Walter Raleigh expeditions from England to the North Carolina coast. In 1585 and 1586, he made the map preserved at the British Museum. In 1587, he returned to Roanoke Island with a group that included his daughter, Eleanor Dare, and son-in-law, Ananias Dare. Eleanor gave birth on Aug. 18 to Virginia, the first English baby born in the New World. He left the colony shortly afterward to resupply.
By the time White returned three years later, the colony was gone. He found the word ``Croatoan’’ carved in a post and CRO carved into a tree. The Croatoan tribe lived around Buxton. White went there but could not find signs of the English.
Years later, Jamestown leaders sent a party south to search for the colonists, but bad relations with Native Americans hindered the effort. The party never made it to the Bertie site, Swindell said.
How To Get Started Playing Pokemon Go
By Bree Fowler
AP Technology Writer
NEW YORK (AP) -- Ready to hit the streets in search of a Pikachu?
The “Pokemon Go” smartphone game has become a phenomenon since its debut nearly two weeks ago. The appeal stems partly from how easy it is to play.
Here’s what you need to know to get started:
SIGNING UP AND SIGNING IN
Download the free “Pokemon Go” app from the Apple or Android app store. It’s now available throughout much of Europe, along with the U.S., Canada, Australia and other countries.
You can then sign in with a Pokemon Trainer Club account, if you already have one from playing the old-school “Pokemon” trading card game online.
For the rest of us, a Google account will do. After you customize you avatar by picking out clothes, color and gender, you’re ready to play.
SO, IN A NUTSHELL, HOW DO I PLAY?
Your avatar appears on a digital map, mirroring your movements as tracked by your phone.
It’s like a bare-bones version of Google Maps, with no names attached to the streets, rivers and parks. A compass points north. You can see in all directions by spinning your character around.
Look around, and you’ll see floating light-blue blocks that signify “PokeStops.” These could be anything from the entrance to a park to fancy stonework on a building - all in the real world.
Tagging these spots by spinning the PokeStop’s photo disk on the phone earns you “Poke Balls,” which you can use to throw at and collect Pokemon, along with other items.
As you’re glued to your phone, avoid bumping into real-world obstacles. Have some fun along the way.
Pokemon appear on your grid from time to time. There are 128 listed in your profile to start, including Pikachu, the cute yellow rabbit-like creature that has long served as Pokemon’s poster child.
Tapping on them gives you a close-up view and allows you to fling your Poke Balls at them. The idea is to bop them on the head and capture them inside the ball.
Many people like the app’s use of augmented reality , a blending of the real and virtual worlds. The Pokemon seem to be right in front of you, thanks to your phone camera capturing what’s in front of you and displaying the Pokemon on top of it.
This has resulted in some pretty funny pictures on social media, but Pokemon are sometimes easier to catch if you turn this feature off.
If you’ve run out of Poke Balls, just look for more PokeStops. You can also buy Poke Balls and other useful items with coins you earn along the way. Or spend real money.
Once you reach Level 5, you can join one of three teams: Instinct (yellow), Mystic (blue) or Valor (red).
Then, head over to your nearest gym, which are virtual representations of real-world locations, just like PokeStops. You might run into other players here, too. Gyms held by your team can be used for training. You can allocate some of your Pokemon to defend them and use others to fight with Pokemon from other teams and wrest control of rival gyms.
As you move up levels, you’ll get more powerful versions of Poke Balls. And you can collect candies and stardust to make your Pokemon stronger and more apt to succeed in battle.