We have a quick recap at what has been happening in 2016…
- ROBOTS THAT CAN LEARN FROM EACH OTHER
Things that we were promised robots could do, many moons ago, are yet to come to pass. Simple things, that the human hand and eye take for granted, like folding clothes, picking up a hairbrush and telling the difference between a shoe and a banana, are still baffling the android world.
Of course, robots are built to perform highly complex tasks, but for every little flick of the wrist and casual action that a person – even the tiniest child – may perform unthinkingly, a robot must be programmed to do. And this can be laborious.
So what if robots could actually share information amongst themselves – but more than that – what if they could actually teach each other skills, to be used with other robots?
This idea is exactly what could be happening right now, although it is in its’ infancy at the moment. The research is taking place at Brown University, where it is hoped that robots can share and pass on the knowledge they have about something with other robots, even ones that are not physically the same as them. Currently, simply holding, picking up and manipulating objects are its’ all-consuming tasks.
It is hoped in ten years time the ability of robots in this basic ability will be greatly advanced.
- ROCKETS THAT CAN BE RECYCLED
Or more accurately, rockets that can return to earth and be used again.
One of the biggest reasons that space travel is so expensive is because the rocket gets burned up, never to be used again, the first time it has made a voyage.
But space travel may just have got cheaper and therefore more accessible as of December last year, when Space X’s Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing became the first to return to earth successfully.
- IMMUNE THERAPY
This is quite complicated stuff, but T cells may be modified in order to successfully fight cancer in the human body. So far, this therapy is very risky indeed and has only been used in a very few cases of patients with leukaemia, for whom no other treatment has worked at all.
T cells are taken from the patient and then treated with a ‘receptor’ molecule that targets the cancer cells and then these are placed back inside the patient.
There is hope that this may work where some other interventions have failed, but it will not be a cure all for cancer.