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Fewer fields have witnessed advancements on the same scale as robotics. There have been many inspirations — from dogs to humans — for scientists and engineers to design a robot. We have seen these machines walk beside their owners, perform acrobatics, and even assist humans in identifying and lifting work in warehouses. That the robots can navigate through air, water, and land is a well-established fact, but a frontier that remained vastly unexplored for these machines is the ground under our feet. Now, a team of engineers at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and Georgia Institute of Technology have designed a snake-like robot that has the ability to navigate underground.

The robot uses a wide range of methods to burrow beneath the earth in soft sand or soil. The study — Controlling subterranean forces enables a fast, steerable, burrowing soft robot — was published last month in Science Robotics.

Following the results, the team concluded a steerable, root-like soft robot that controls subterranean lift and drags forces to burrow faster than previous approaches by over an order of magnitude and does so through real sand. According to Science Robotics, the discovery, the team says, advances the understanding and capabilities of robotic subterranean locomotion.

Nicholas Naclerio, a graduate student researcher in the lab of UC Santa Barbara, said that the biggest challenge when it comes to moving through the ground is the forces involved, something the authors referred to in the abstract of their paper as well. “If you’re trying to move through the ground, you have to push the soil, sand or another medium out of the way,” Naclerio was quoted as saying by The Current, the official news site of UC Santa Barbara.

Many may find it surprising but this robot is not really a high-tech one and is made of airtight, ripstop nylon fabric. Naclerio said that the team drew inspiration directly from plant roots that grow from their tips to extend deep into the soil. So, when the robot extends from its tip, it avoids friction along its sides, and can then take any direction.

Besides plants, Naclerio said that the team also took inspiration from the southern sand octopus, which expels a jet of water to help burrow into the seafloor. Our robot blows air from its tip to fluidise the sand near its tip, which reduces the force it needs to burrow into the ground, he said. And a sandfish lizard, which uses its wedge-shaped head to burrow into sand, was the inspiration behind it.


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Government Eases Approval Process for FDI in Space Sector

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Government Eases Approval Process for FDI in Space Sector

India will allow 100% foreign direct investment in the manufacture of satellite systems without official approval and eased the rules for launch vehicles, a government statement said, aiming for a greater share of the global space market.

India’s space ambitions got a boost when it became the first country to land a spacecraft near the unexplored south pole of the moon in August – and the fourth to achieve a soft landing – just days after a similar Russian mission failed.

The government said in a statement late on Wednesday that foreign companies could invest in the manufacture of components and systems or sub-systems for satellites up to 100% without approval.

Foreign firms planning to build satellites in India would not require government approval up to 74% of the investment; for investment in launch vehicles, investment could go up to 49% without such approval, the statement said.

India has privatised space launches and is aiming for a five-fold increase in its share of the global launch market, which some expect to be worth $47.3 billion by 2032. India currently accounts for about 2% of the space economy.

The country hopes that liberalised rules for the space sector, long controlled by the government, will draw interest from Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, among others.

The foreign direct investment policy reform is expected to boost employment and will allow companies to set up manufacturing facilities in India, the government said in the statement.

“This will give India access to the latest tech advances and much-needed funds, not only from the country but from international investors too,” said A.K. Bhatt, director general of the Indian Space Association.

Space-related India stocks such as Paras Defence and Space Technologies , MTAR Technologies, Taneja Aerospace and Aviation and Apollo Micro Systems climbed 2% to 5% on Thursday.

© Thomson Reuters 2024


(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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Neuralink Switches Location From Delaware to Nevada

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Neuralink Switches Location From Delaware to Nevada

Elon Musk‘s brain-chip implant company, Neuralink, changed its location of incorporation from Delaware to Nevada, according to the business portals of both states.

The development comes about a week after Musk said Tesla would hold a shareholder vote to transfer its state of incorporation to Texas from Delaware after a judge invalidated his $56 billion (roughly Rs. 4,64,880 crore) pay package.

However, switching the state of incorporation for Tesla could come with hurdles such as investor lawsuits, particularly if it was seen as a move to secure his pay package, legal experts said.

Musk said last week that Neuralink had implanted its first brain chip in a human patient, who was recovering well after the procedure.

Neuralink did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

In September 2023, the company received approval from an independent review board to begin recruitment for the first human trial of its brain implant for paralysis patients.

Those with paralysis due to cervical spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may qualify for the study, it said but did not reveal how many participants would be enrolled in the trial, which will take about six years to complete.

The study will use a robot to surgically place a brain-computer interface (BCI) implant in a region of the brain that controls the intention to move, Neuralink said, adding that its initial goal is to enable people to control a computer cursor or keyboard using their thoughts alone.

© Thomson Reuters 2024


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Elon Musk’s Neuralink Installs Brain Implant in Human for the First Time

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Elon Musk’s Neuralink Installs Brain Implant in Human for the First Time

Neuralink, the California-based neurotechnology company, has implanted a wireless brain chip in a human for the first time, revealed co-founder Elon Musk. The big development was revealed by Musk on January 29 via a series of posts on X (formerly known as Twitter). Neuralink has been working on creating implantable brain-computer interfaces (BCIs). Last year in May, the company received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct human trials. In September 2023, the neurotechnology firm began its human trial recruitment.

Announcing in a post, Musk said, “The first human received an implant from Neuralink yesterday and is recovering well. Initial results show promising neuron spike detection.” He also revealed separately that the first BCI product by the company had been named Telepathy. The brain chip enables the control of a computer or a smartphone just by thinking, claimed the co-founder. Interestingly, the company posted a video on YouTube in 2021 where a monkey could be seen controlling a game of ping-pong with his mind, after being implanted with the chip.

“Imagine if Stephen Hawking could communicate faster than a speed typist or auctioneer. That is the goal,” he added. The first users of the product will be those who have lost the use of their limbs.

While Neuralink received its FDA approval to conduct human trials last year, it rejected an application to pursue the same in 2022. At the time, the regulatory body had cited major safety concerns involving “the device’s lithium battery; the potential for the implant’s tiny wires to migrate to other areas of the brain; and questions over whether and how the device can be removed without damaging brain tissue,” as per a report by Reuters.

In a 2019 presentation, Musk explained that Neuralink BCIs were composed mostly of polyimide alongside a thin gold or platinum conductor. These were inserted into the brain through an automated process performed by a surgical robot. The chip contains a high number of ultra-thin nodules with wires called probes. The endings of these probes contain electrodes that are capable of locating and reading electrical signals in brain. These signals are then wirelessly transmitted to a device which can convert it into electronic commands to control a device.

In the past, the company has conducted extensive tests on animals and has claimed a high success rate. While performing a successful brain chip implant is a major milestone, the success of the product will be determined by its long-term performance and lack of side effects.


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