Scientists have developed an artificial eye to act as bionic eye for visually impaired people

bionic eye

Scientists have developed an artificial eye that could enable humanoid robots to see or even act as a bionic eye for visually impaired people in the future.

Researchers at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology have designed the electrochemical eye – nicknamed the EC-Eye – to look like the size and shape of a biological eye, but with much greater potential.

The eye mimics the human iris and retina by using a lens to focus light onto a dense matrix of light-sensitive nanowires. The information is then transmitted to a computer for processing via the wires, which act as the visual cortex of the brain. During the tests, the computer was able to recognize the letters “E”, “I” and “Y” when they were projected onto the lens.

Artificial eye

The artificial eye could theoretically be connected to an optic nerve to transmit information to the human brain, the researchers said, in addition to improving the camera-based eyes currently used in robots.

“The biological eye is probably the most important sensory organ for most animals on this planet,” the researchers wrote in an article describing the discovery.

“Machine vision systems that mimic the human eye are also indispensable in autonomous technologies like robotics. In humanoid robots, in particular, the vision system must resemble that of a human being in order to enable friendly interaction between humans and robots and must have superior device characteristics.”

Scientists have developed an artificial eye to act as bionic eye for visually impaired people

At present, the proof-of-concept device has a low resolution because each of the 100 nanowires used in its construction represents only one pixel. However, researchers have said that through further development, the artificial eye could have even better resolution than the human eye.

Up to 10 times more nanowires than biological photoreceptors could potentially be used, allowing the artificial eye to distinguish between visual light and infrared radiation.

This would enable a user of the human bionic eye to see smaller objects and greater distances and to acquire night vision capabilities.


Exoplanet Kepler-1649 c discovered by NASA is very similar to Earth

Exoplanet Kepler-1649c discovered by NASA is very similar to Earth

The NASA orbital telescope “Kepler” has already retired after its ten-year mission, but its work is still bearing new fruit today. On Wednesday, the US space agency announced that another exoplanet very similar to Earth had been found in the old data room observatory.

The discovered planet Kepler-1649c is 300 light-years away from Earth. NASA described it among thousands of other exoplanets discovered with the “Kepler” telescope as the most similar to Earth in size and construction temperature. The planet is located in the inhabited zone of its star, in an area where the existence of water in a liquid state is possible.

The newly discovered exoplanet is slightly larger than the Earth. It receives 75% of the luminous flux that our planet receives from the Sun, which could also indicate the similarity of the temperature regime on Kepler-1649c and Earth. Originally, the planet was not identified because of a flaw in the computer algorithm, but a group of scientists were able to track it down while studying the telescope’s data.

Exoplanet Kepler-1649c discovered by NASA is very similar to Earth

“This fascinating, distant world gives us even greater hope that the Second Earth is between stars waiting to be discovered,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, the first deputy director of NASA’s science mission department in Washington, DC.

But you shouldn’t hurry to pack your bags. Kepler-1649c is in the orbit of a red dwarf, a type of star that NASA said was known for star flares that can make the planet’s environment difficult for any potential life. The space agency also warned that the atmosphere on an open exoplanet is still a mystery and that calculations of its size could be wrong.

New strain of coronavirus can destroy immune cells

New strain of coronavirus can destroy immune cells

The new strain of coronavirus causing acute pneumonia (COVID-19) can destroy immune cells of the human body, according to the South China Morning Post newspaper, following research by scientists from Shanghai and New York. (SCMP – Hong Kong).

New strain of coronavirus can destroy immune cells

This surprising result by researchers in Shanghai and New York is in line with the conclusion reached by first-line epidemiologists against COVID-19 after observing and treating infected patients. Accordingly, doctors and scientists believe that COVID-19 can attack the human immune system and cause similar damage to HIV-infected patients.

Two scientists from Fudan University in Shanghai and Jang Shibo from the New York Hematology Center worked together to study the culture of the SARS CoV-2 virus on T lymphocytes in the laboratory.

T lymphocytes (T cells) play an important role in detecting and eliminating “invaders” in the human body by injecting toxins into the virus-infected cell and then killing both the virus and the infected cell.

The researchers found that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was able to attack T lymphocytes in their experiments due to the unique structure of the SARS-CoV-2 protein spikes. This structure appears to have created a protective envelope for SARS-CoV-2 that protects it from T lymphocytes.

Subsequently, the viral gene penetrates the T cell and takes over the cell, causing the T cell to lose its ability to protect the human body.

The researchers suspect that the reason for this might be that the SARS virus is unable to form a protective film like SARS-CoV-2, but only attacks receptors that carry the ACE2 protein – a type of protein that is only present in very small amounts in the T cell.

These studies are expected to suggest new ideas on pathogenesis and treatment interventions, the researchers wrote in the journal Cellular & Element Immunology, published last week.

3D printing technologies for combating the spread of the coronavirus

3d Printing

The demand for medical material and equipment during the pandemic far exceeds the capacity of existing manufacturers, so that all forces of humanity are mobilized to meet the demand. Even when it comes to private owners of 3D printing systems.

According to CNBC, sharing experience in this environment is crucial for the stable functioning of medical equipment. Professionals around the world have begun to exchange documentation and recommendations for repairing artificial respiratory devices. An open library of repair instructions for such devices forms the well-known iFixit resource. Hospital personnel provides tips on how to quickly repair ventilators or upgrade ventilators to provide care to multiple patients simultaneously.

There are ready-made projects that appear on the Web that allow a reusable respirator to be printed on a three-dimensional printer, sufficient to fit it with a removable filter element and fasteners to replace the scarce medical masks. They shall be distributed free of charge with all necessary instructions. Teams of enthusiasts, in collaboration with specialized specialists, are trying to develop easily manufacturable IVL devices that can be mass-produced on universal devices.


Stem cell transplants: Researchers report on the second case of a “cured” HIV patient

Reporting that a man has been in remission of HIV for a year and a half after receiving a stem cell transplant without medication increases the likelihood that he is the second person to be cured of the disease.

Stem cell transplants: Researchers report on the second case of a "cured" HIV patient

Anonymously called the “London patient”, the case has been cautiously reported by researchers as they believe it is too early to be declared “cured”, but it is a long-awaited advance. The case comes a decade after Timothy Brown, known in medicine as the “Berlin patient”, was cured with a similar stem cell transplant, paving the way for HIV research and revitalizing the search for a cure.

The scientific community was interested in using gene therapy to deactivate the CCR5 gene by using other technologies, including the CRISPR gene manipulation program. The London patient infected with HIV and Hodgkin’s lymphoma received bone marrow cells from a donor who had a defective CCR5 gene in his cancer treatment.

The gene is known to produce a protein that is essential for HIV to penetrate blood cells. Brown (patient Berlin) also received a dysfunctional CCR5 gene transplant.

A second group of “Boston patients” who received stem cell transplants with functional CCR5 genes also experienced a significant reduction in the HIV reservoir in their cells and were left untreated for months, demonstrating that the graft itself played a role in the deletion of the virus.

But their interim results also indicated that the abnormal gene was necessary for a sustained cure.

Despite efforts to replicate the remarkable Berlin results, the researchers failed for a decade, also because the possibility of such transplantations is rare.

Stem cell transplants are risky and are only carried out if there is a clinical reason for them, such as cancer. Donors must be genetically identical to recipients, and very few people carry two copies of the dysfunctional CCR5 gene, which limits the number of possible transplants.

The search continues

But this does not mitigate the enthusiasm about the new case in the scientific community, which was interested in using gene therapy to deactivate the CCR5 gene with other technologies, including the CRISPR gene manipulation program. Modern HIV drugs have turned an infection that was once a terrible death sentence into a disease that can be controlled in the long run if you stick to a lifelong drug program.

Out of the 37 million people infected worldwide, 21 million have access to therapies that can keep the disease under control. However, the search for a real cure has continued, partly because of the need in low-income countries where access to drug therapy is less secure and drug-resistant strains of the virus are a major problem.

Reference: I am the Berlin patient: a personal reflection. AIDS research and human retroviruses, 2015.

Your spiritual beliefs can protect you from depression

Contrary to what many may think, spirituality is one of man’s most important qualities. In this context, research has shown that spiritual beliefs influence brain function and influence the way we deal with reality.

Your spiritual beliefs can protect you from depression

Well, recent research has shown that spiritual beliefs are related to the thickness of the white matter at the brain level. This seems to act as a protective factor against depression. It is now known that depression has an important genetic component. In this sense, it has been shown that children whose parents suffer from depression suffer up to twice as often from this mood disorder.

However, it has been found that this is not always the case and that depression can also affect people who do not have a family history. Therefore, researchers suggest that there are other factors, such as how each person learns to interpret reality.

In this context, studies have shown that adults at high risk for depression, spiritual and religious beliefs can have a protective effect against this psychological problem. For example, in 2005, a team of researchers showed that religion cushions the symptoms of depression in people with health problems.

Similarly, in 2013, patients with depression were considered more responsive to treatment if they had a strong spiritual belief. Now a team of researchers has used neuroimaging techniques to study the effects of spiritual beliefs on brain development and their influence on depression.

To this end, 99 people with different family risk for depression were studied. Specifically, the researchers focused on the white matter of the brain; this tissue is part of the cerebral cortex and contains the circuits that neurons need to communicate with each other.

It has been observed that people with strong spiritual beliefs have had a greater amount of white matter in the bilateral parietal and occipital areas, leading to a low risk of depression.

Previous studies have shown that the loss of white matter in the brain is a biomarker for depression. In addition, in 2014 a team of researchers observed that spiritual beliefs were associated with a greater amount of brain-level white matter, implying a lower risk of developing this psychological disorder.

Now a new study supports these approaches. In particular, participants with high family risk for developing depression and with strong spiritual and religious beliefs showed similar amounts of white matter as people with low risk for depression.

In particular, it was found that spirituality is associated with thicker cerebral cortex in the parietal and occipital areas. This could serve as a protective mechanism against the development of depression.

However, further studies are needed to confirm these results. Nevertheless, these results are expected to inspire the development of therapeutic strategies to improve the accompaniment of people suffering from this important psychological disorder.

Reference: A diffusion tensor imaging study on microstructural changes in the brain associated with religion and spirituality in high risk depression families (2019).

New AI Deepfakes Technology: Recycle-GAN Unsupervised Video Retargeting

Another milestone achieved in Deepfakes sciences. As this Deepfakes method will not only transform facial expressions but will also transform textures, weathers and much more. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, USA, have developed a new method for automatically transforming the content of one video into another by transferring facial expressions from a human character to a cartoon character or even allowing Barack Obama to speak in the same way and with the same gestures as Dr. Martin Luther King.


One of the peculiarities and advantages of this method is that it does not require human intervention, which gives it the ability to quickly transform an enormous number of video samples. Similarly, producers of series, films or documentaries can have a big ally if this technology is brought to market for its massive use.

The researchers have also stated that the tool could be used to convert black-and-white films to a color format and to create new content for virtual reality environments. Aayush Bansal, a researcher at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon, said in this spirit:

“I think there are many interesting projects to describe. It is a tool for the artist that gives them an initial model which they can work on.”

To create this system, the preferred tool is Artificial Intelligence (AI), with one algorithm that recognizes characteristics that match the style of a video or image, and another that learns to create videos and images that match a particular style.

Even though this new method raises concerns about creating deepfakes and spreading the false news on the Internet, Bansal says that the main motivation for developing this method is the creation of movies. But the analyst acknowledges that his technology can be used to create deepfakes and induce a person to say things they didn’t say.

One of the most important things about this technology is the precision with which it converts videos, because it is not limited to changing simple expressions, but is also limited to other elements within the video, such as flowers, clouds, or designing the video environment in accordance with the interests of the audiovisual content producer.



New technology allows communications via the skin vibrations

New communication protocol invented that allows skin vibrations for sending an electronic message. Scientists from Purdue University in the US have developed a new communication technology that enables users to send messages in English by using vibrations in their skin.

skin vibrations

The technology was developed on the basis of a challenge proposed by Facebook, a company that wanted to find out whether it was really possible to send messages through a person’s skin,” said Hong Kong Z. Tan, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the institution and lead author of the study. With this in mind, his research team has worked on it and now proved that it is feasible.

Technically, it is a device that reproduces a specific vibration that has previously been assigned to the corresponding English phoneme, or in this case the smallest sound unit located in the forearm of the user who will send the message. The vibrations are therefore tuned to the formation of phonemes in the mouth of the user.

The press release on technology states that speaking the letter “p” or the letter “b”, noises occurring in the front of the mouth produce a specific vibration in the person’s wrist, while the letters “k” or “g” generated in the back of the mouth also generate other vibrations in the elbow area.

Furthermore, the researcher Tan said that they have encoded the procedure to generate different sensations depending on the speech characteristic, such as vowels, consonants, sounds without and with voice, short or long vowels. In this sense, stationary vibrations are represented by consonant sounds and “moving” sensations by vowels.

According to Tan, he started the research with a small group of phonemes and then trained the users with up to 500 words. They showed variable performance, but those who had completed the process picked up one word in English for every minute.

Scientists say that this technology could serve as an alternative communication method because users only need a few hours to learn the vibrations associated with each sound.



Artificial intelligence recognizes speech patterns for detecting depression

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), researchers have developed a neural network model capable of analyzing text and audio data from various clinical interviews to find patterns that indicate depression.


According to a statement from MIT, these methods could be used to develop improved ways for doctors to diagnose depression and detect signs of depression in normal conversation.

In recent years, automatic learning has been a kind of artificial intelligence (AI) that has been very useful for this type of diagnosis, but beyond the recognition of words and intonations in a person’s language, this model usually tends to indicate that a person is depressed or not, depending on certain answers, which makes them dependent on the type of question asked.

In a paper presented at Interspeech 2018, MIT researchers describe a neural network model that can use raw audio and text data from interviews to detect speech patterns that indicate depression. In this sense, the neural network predicts whether a new subject is depressive without the need for additional questions or answers.

The researchers hope that this new method will enable them to develop tools to detect signs of depression in daily conversation. For example, this model could allow the creation of mobile applications that monitor the text and voice of users to search for depression patterns and send alerts, although this would, of course, be an invasion of privacy that would need to be assessed first.

This technology could be used, for example, to detect mental problems during occasional conversations in doctors’ practices, as each patient speaks and behaves differently and current methods are based on mechanical questions that are always asked in the same way.



The new MIT lA can replace the background of any image

CSAIL, MIT’s research laboratory, used the potential of Automated Learning to develop a powerful image editing tool.

The new MIT lA can replace the background of any image

Selecting objects within an image requires a tedious process and great editing skills because many elements overlap or are part of different parts. However, this tool manages to automate the process by dividing all elements into segments and simplifying the selection of individual elements and the background.

For this purpose, the AI was trained to analyze the various characteristics of the image and to identify the characteristics of the individual objects. We can see the process he proposes in the following video sharing MIT:

As we can see, this dynamic opens up a number of possibilities, because with the perfect selection of the individual picture elements you can combine backgrounds, change scenarios, play with filters, etc…

And where editing is more complex and results on a cinematic level are required, more realistic results can be achieved because they take into account the entire context of the image to apply the corresponding changes.

We can see the technical details of this MIT project in the document they publish in this link.