research

Mario AI learns how to run through levels on its own

Mario AI learns how to run through levels on its own

We've all played at least one version of the traditional, 2D style Mario games from Nintendo, running towards the right, jumping on baddies and collecting gold coins. Well, a group of scientists are taking the game a step further and trying to develop an artificial intelligence that will have our favorite Italian plumber navigating levels all on its own. Dubbed the Mario AI Project, its aim is to have the character make its own decisions and be aware of itself and the environment.

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Skydio schemes smarter drones that dodge and follow

Skydio schemes smarter drones that dodge and follow

Smarter drones that can auto-pilot around obstacles, track people as they walk, run, or even do extreme sports, and all by mimicking human vision could help take the buzzing camera platforms mainstream, one startup insists. Skydio is hoping to bypass the existing - and for the most part confusing - controls drones use with more onboard intelligence, processing a 2D view of the terrain around into a 3D map of what could get in the way. The result is not only a drone that could spot a tree and swoop around it, but the possibility of more intuitive navigation that requires little more than flagging a person or area as being the subject of interest.

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NASA spots the Mars lander lost for a decade

NASA spots the Mars lander lost for a decade

It was the little space explorer that astronomers forgot, the Beagle 2 Mars Lander that went silent back in 2003 and has never spoken up since, but thanks to NASA's eye-in-the-sky has now been found again. Scientists at the European Space Agency had resigned themselves to never knowing the fate of Beagle 2, which landed on the red planet as part of the Mars Express mission but then failed to respond after touchdown on December 25, 2003. New shots from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, however, have revealed the final resting place of the lander, as well as tantalizing details about quite how far into its mission it actually made it.

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Talking virtual traffic lights could trim commute by 40%

Talking virtual traffic lights could trim commute by 40%

Traffic lights that are projected onto your windshield and change color according to the actual road conditions rather than a preset pattern could cut commute times by 40-percent, new research has claimed. The technology, dubbed Virtual Traffic Lights and already spun out into a startup by a team at Carnegie Mellon University, would rely on cars that can intercommunicate with each other and the road infrastructure, whispering their location and thus allowing real-time decisions about which lights should be green and which should be red. If implemented, it could not only save time behind the wheel, but cut stress and emissions it's suggested.

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Elon Musk donates $10M to Artificial Intelligence research

Elon Musk donates $10M to Artificial Intelligence research

The team at Future of Life Institute have announced this week that Elon Musk has donated a cool $10 million dollars to help run a global research program "aimed at keeping AI beneficial to humanity." This program will be carried out globally through an open grants competition in which funds will go toward AI researchers and AI research involving other fields including policy, law, and ethics, amongst others. "This will provide the impetus to jump-start research on AI safety," said Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence president Tom Dietterich.

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Folding@Home turns Xperia phones into Alzheimer researchers

Folding@Home turns Xperia phones into Alzheimer researchers

Most smartphone users don't use their devices while they sleep, unless they've mastered the arcane art of sleeptexting. Those devices sit silently and idly, lying in wait for the next time its owner's touch wakes it up. Now, however, those "wasted" computing power can be put to good use even while we slumber, by lending their processing power to more altruistic causes, studying proteins and helping in the fight against diseases like Alzheimer's, thanks to a new Folding@Home app now available on Sony's Xperia smartphones.

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft makes history as Ceres nears

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft makes history as Ceres nears

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has emerged safely from the opposite side of the sun and is just months away from reaching Ceres, the distant and mysterious dwarf planet next on the list for its multi-year space survey. Dawn - which checks off on several factors more commonly associated with science fiction tropes, like ion drives and distant space exploration - launched back in 2007, and Ceres is in fact its second stop since then. Previously, the probe spent more than a year orbiting a protoplanet named Vesta, but scientists manning the project are if anything even more eager to see what it makes of Ceres.

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Underwater cave sediment shows Mayans suffered massive droughts

Underwater cave sediment shows Mayans suffered massive droughts

Long ago, the Mayan civilization collapsed, unceremoniously leaving behind a lot of mysteries as to what happened. One of those mysteries has to do with the reason they suddenly “disappeared” from the Earth. We know they migrated north around A.D. 800, and one prevailing theory has been that their migration was due to drought. New findings bolster that theory, with scientists taking minerals from an underwater cave to better discover what really happened to the Mayans. The drought may have actually been worse than imagined.

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Yellowstone’s striking springs explained

Yellowstone’s striking springs explained

Yellowstone National Park may be notorious for its brightly colored geothermal springs, but it's human meddling not Mother Nature that's responsible for the tourist attraction. Researchers at Montana University's Optical Technology Center and the Brandenburg University of Applied Sciences were able to turn back the clock - virtually, at least - to show what the natural pools would have been like decades ago, before trash, coins, and rocks tossed in by park visitors messed up the geothermal balance. Turns out, they really should be a whole lot more blue, something we can see today with a little juggling of digital cameras and temperature probing.

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Meet Hector, a giant insect-like robot to study terrain movement

Meet Hector, a giant insect-like robot to study terrain movement

Researchers at Germany's Bielefeld University did something crazy, and a little funny too. They have built a giant robot insect with six independently moving legs in order to study movement over various terrain. But that's not the crazy/funny part. It's that in order to design the robot, they actually motion captured a real stick insect walking and climbing, using a bunch of those little balls you always see attached to actors when they make CG movies. Oh, and they named the robot Hector.

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