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Oct 14, 2023

Meet Spot, the robot dog that is helping map radiation

Posted by in categories: mapping, robotics/AI, security

Radiation mapping has evolved over the past decade, but there are still areas researchers would like to improve.

Scientists at the Berkeley Lab in the US are training a four-legged robot to detect and map radiation in any environment. This could revolutionize nuclear safety, security, and emergency response.


Thor Swift/Berkeley Lab.

Continue reading “Meet Spot, the robot dog that is helping map radiation” »

Oct 14, 2023

Abstraction of Reward Context Facilitates Relative Reward Coding in Neural Populations of the Macaque Anterior Cingulate Cortex

Posted by in categories: biological, finance, mapping, neuroscience

The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is believed to be involved in many cognitive processes, including linking goals to actions and tracking decision-relevant contextual information. ACC neurons robustly encode expected outcomes, but how this relates to putative functions of ACC remains unknown. Here, we approach this question from the perspective of population codes by analyzing neural spiking data in the ventral and dorsal banks of the ACC in two male monkeys trained to perform a stimulus-motor mapping task to earn rewards or avoid losses. We found that neural populations favor a low dimensional representational geometry that emphasizes the valence of potential outcomes while also facilitating the independent, abstract representation of multiple task-relevant variables. Valence encoding persisted throughout the trial, and realized outcomes were primarily encoded in a relative sense, such that cue valence acted as a context for outcome encoding. This suggests that the population coding we observe could be a mechanism that allows feedback to be interpreted in a context-dependent manner. Together, our results point to a prominent role for ACC in context setting and relative interpretation of outcomes, facilitated by abstract, or untangled, representations of task variables.

SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The ability to interpret events in light of the current context is a critical facet of higher-order cognition. The ACC is suggested to be important for tracking contextual information, whereas alternate views hold that its function is more related to the motor system and linking goals to appropriate actions. We evaluated these possibilities by analyzing geometric properties of neural population activity in monkey ACC when contexts were determined by the valence of potential outcomes and found that this information was represented as a dominant, abstract concept. Ensuing outcomes were then coded relative to these contexts, suggesting an important role for these representations in context-dependent evaluation. Such mechanisms may be critical for the abstract reasoning and generalization characteristic of biological intelligence.

Oct 13, 2023

Gaia discovers half a million new stars in Omega Centauri

Posted by in categories: mapping, space

This week saw the release of a treasure trove of data from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Gaia mission, a space-based observatory that is mapping out the Milky Way in three dimensions. The newly released data includes half a million new stars and details about more than 150,000 asteroids within our solar system.

The overall aim of the Gaia mission is to create a full 3D map of our galaxy that includes not only stars, but also other objects like planets, comets, asteroids, and more. The mission was launched in 2013 and the data it collected is released in batches every few years, with previous releases including data on topics like the positions of over 1.8 billion stars.

The new data release fills in some gaps from previous releases, particularly in areas of the sky that are densely packed with stars — such as the Omega Centauri globular cluster, shown above. The new view of this cluster shows 10 times as many stars as the previous data, with a total of 526,587 new stars identified.

Oct 11, 2023

Exploring parameter shift for quantum Fisher information

Posted by in categories: education, mapping, quantum physics, robotics/AI

In a recent publication in EPJ Quantum Technology, Le Bin Ho from Tohoku University’s Frontier Institute for Interdisciplinary Sciences has developed a technique called time-dependent stochastic parameter shift in the realm of quantum computing and quantum machine learning. This breakthrough method revolutionizes the estimation of gradients or derivatives of functions, a crucial step in many computational tasks.

Typically, computing derivatives requires dissecting the function and calculating the rate of change over a small interval. But even cannot keep dividing indefinitely. In contrast, quantum computers can accomplish this task without having to discrete the function. This feature is achievable because quantum computers operate in a realm known as “quantum space,” characterized by periodicity, and no need for endless subdivisions.

One way to illustrate this concept is by comparing the sizes of two on a map. To do this, one might print out maps of the schools and then cut them into . After cutting, these pieces can be arranged into a line, with their total length compared (see Figure 1a). However, the pieces may not form a perfect rectangle, leading to inaccuracies. An infinite subdivision would be required to minimize these errors, an impractical solution, even for classical computers.

Oct 11, 2023

A mission to map the universe unveils star clusters, asteroids, and tricks of gravity

Posted by in categories: mapping, space

On October 10, the European Space Agency (ESA) published some interim data from its nearly a decade-long Gaia mission. The data includes half a million new and faint stars in a massive cluster, over 380 possible cosmic lenses, and the position of over 150,000 asteroids within the solar system.

[Related: See the stars from the Milky Way mapped as a dazzling rainbow.]

Launched in December 2013, Gaia is an astronomical observatory spacecraft with a mission to generate an accurate stellar census, thus mapping our galaxy and beyond. A more detailed picture of Earth’s place in the universe could help us better understand the diverse objects that make up the known universe.

Oct 4, 2023

Google Maps can now tell exactly where solar panels should be installed

Posted by in categories: government, health, mapping, robotics/AI, satellites, solar power, sustainability

Google Maps can now calculate rooftops’ solar potential, track air quality, and forecast pollen counts.

The platform recently launched a range of services like Solar API, which calculates weather patterns and pulls data from aerial imagery to help understand rooftops’ solar potential. The tool aims to help accelerate solar panel deployment by improving accuracy and reducing the number of site visits needed.

As seasonal allergies get worse every year, Pollen API shows updated information on the most common allergens in 65 countries by using a mix of machine learning and wind patterns. Similarly, Air Quality API provides detailed information on local air quality by utilizing data from multiple sources, like government monitoring stations, satellites, live traffic, and more, and can show areas affected by wildfires too.

Oct 4, 2023

AI co-pilot enhances human precision for safer aviation

Posted by in categories: information science, mapping, robotics/AI, transportation

Imagine you’re in an airplane with two pilots, one human and one computer. Both have their “hands” on the controllers, but they’re always looking out for different things. If they’re both paying attention to the same thing, the human gets to steer. But if the human gets distracted or misses something, the computer quickly takes over.

Meet the Air-Guardian, a system developed by researchers at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). As modern pilots grapple with an onslaught of information from multiple monitors, especially during critical moments, Air-Guardian acts as a proactive co-pilot; a partnership between and machine, rooted in understanding .

But how does it determine attention, exactly? For humans, it uses eye-tracking, and for the , it relies on something called “saliency maps,” which pinpoint where attention is directed. The maps serve as visual guides highlighting key regions within an image, aiding in grasping and deciphering the behavior of intricate algorithms. Air-Guardian identifies early signs of potential risks through these attention markers, instead of only intervening during safety breaches like traditional autopilot systems.

Sep 30, 2023

Autonomous Racing Drones Are Starting To Beat Human Pilots

Posted by in categories: drones, mapping, robotics/AI

Even with all the technological advancements in recent years, autonomous systems have never been able to keep up with top-level human racing drone pilots. However, it looks like that gap has been closed with Swift – an autonomous system developed by the University of Zurich’s Robotics and Perception Group.

Previous research projects have come close, but they relied on optical motion capture settings in a tightly controlled environment. In contrast, Swift is completely independent of remote inputs and utilizes only an onboard computer, IMU, and camera for real-time for navigation and control. It does however require a pretrained machine learning model for the specific track, which maps the drone’s estimated position/velocity/orientation directly to control inputs. The details of how the system works is well explained in the video after the break.

The paper linked above contains a few more interesting details. Swift was able to win 60% of the time, and it’s lap times were significantly more consistent than those of the human pilots. While human pilots were often faster on certain sections of the course, Swift was faster overall. It picked more efficient trajectories over multiple gates, where the human pilots seemed to plan one gate in advance at most. On the other hand human pilots could recover quickly from a minor crash, where Swift did not include crash recovery.

Sep 28, 2023

Mapping Early Visual System in Wasps Provides AI and Neural Insights

Posted by in categories: mapping, robotics/AI

Summary: Neuroscientists have achieved a groundbreaking feat by mapping the early visual system of a parasitic wasp, smaller than a grain of salt.

Utilizing advanced imaging technologies, they reconstructed the entire system at the synaptic level, a first for any animal. Despite its miniature size, the wasp’s brain exhibited immense complexity, with functions and neural circuits paralleling larger brains.

This research not only deepens understanding of neural principles but also holds potential for enhancing artificial intelligence.

Sep 28, 2023

Scientists discover a 100-year-old math error, changing how humans see color

Posted by in categories: computing, information science, mapping, mathematics

In a press release, Bujack, who creates scientific visualizations at Los Alamos National Laboratory, called the current mathematical models used for color perceptions incorrect and requiring a “paradigm shift.”

A surprise finding

Being able to accurately model human color perception has a tremendous impact on automating image processing, computer graphics, and visualization. Bujack’s team first set out to develop algorithms that would automatically enhance color maps used in data visualization to make it easier to read them.

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