UC Berkeley's BRETT robot screws a cap on a bottle

As a rule, robots have to learn through explicit instruction, whether it's through new programming, watching videos or holding their hands. UC Berkeley's BRETT (Berkeley Robot for the Elimination of Tedious Tasks) isn't nearly that dependent, however. The machine uses neural network-based deep learning algorithms to master tasks through trial and error, much like humans do. Ask it to assemble a toy and it'll keep trying until it understands what works. In theory, you'd rarely need to give the robot new code -- you'd just make requests and give the automaton enough time to figure things out.

Read the Full Story 0 Comments

VR turned me into a movie character -- a tiny, bright yellow firefly. But here's the best part: I got to experience it with someone next to me, both literally and virtually, in a dark room with headsets strapped to our heads. For Oculus Story Studio, arguably the Pixar of virtual reality, this is the first step in making the medium more social. And it's using its short film Lost, introduced earlier this year at Sundance, as a test bed. Still, whether we're talking about a cute movie or a fun game, most VR activities so far have one thing in common: They're solitary experiences. Oculus wants to change that.

Read the Full Story 0 Comments

Winter may be coming in Westeros, but it is long gone from our TV viewing schedules. The NBA and NHL conference finals are wrapping up this week, while summer TV shows start to pop up on the schedule. That means reality dreck like The Island, The Briefcase and I Can Do That, but NBC is also bringing a new scripted series called Aquarius starring David Duchovny. This season of Louie wraps up on FX, and if you haven't already bought his recent comedy special online it will air immediately after, and the Halt and Catch Fire starts on AMC. Gamers can check out expansions for Game of Thrones, The Evil Within and Dragon Age,while PS4 has a next-gen exclusive on Ultra Street Fighter IV. Look after the break to check out each day's highlights, including trailers and let us know what you think (or what we missed).

Read the Full Story 0 Comments

Charter

Charter's interest in buying Time Warner Cable appears to be more than just a passing fancy. Bloomberg sources claim that the cable company is on the cusp of reaching a deal to buy TWC for $195 per share. The finer details of the buyout aren't available, but Charter would fold both its new acquisition and Bright House into a single mega-entity. Reportedly, Charter could announce the purchase as early as Tuesday -- if so, it's not wasting much time following Comcast's failed TWC deal.

Read the Full Story 0 Comments

NASA's CloudSat has imaged the eye of a category 4 typhoon, a feat the space agency likened to a "golfer hitting a hole in one." Its cloud-penetrating radar has a field of view of just .5 square miles, making it a challenge to zone in on such a tiny, fast-moving target. The pass produced an accurate cross-section of the eye, as shown in the lower part of the image above. Researchers from Colorado State University also combined the data with Japan's MTSTAT infrared satellite to create a full 3D cross-section (below). CloudSat provides valuable wind data to forecasters, and is also helping scientists build more accurate climate models to better predict the effects of global warming.

Read the Full Story 0 Comments

Amazon Jeff Bezos

For many years, Amazon has sent a huge percentage of its European revenues over to Luxembourg. The tiny country levies a much smaller rate of tax than most of the countries in which the retailer operates, allowing it to keep a larger share of sales. With the European Commission breathing down its neck over claims it had agreed an illegal tax deal with Luxembourg, Amazon has quietly begun booking sales in some of its biggest European markets. According to the Wall Street Journal, the company began paying direct taxes on sales in the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain from May 1st.

Read the Full Story 0 Comments

Nexus Ruxpin? Google's mad science X division is, er, toying with the idea of smart teddy bears in one of its strangest patents yet. In response to junior's voice or movements, "the anthropomorphic device may aim its gaze at the source of the social cue," then "interpret the command (via its servers) and map it to a media control device," according to the document. From there, it could "express curiosity, (it) may tilt its head, furrow its brow, and/or scratch its head with an arm." It added that the device should be "cute" so that "young children may find (it) attractive."

Read the Full Story 0 Comments

Google's offices in Brussels

If you've ever thought that "what was your first pet's name?" is a lousy way to keep intruders from resetting your password, you now have some evidence to back up your suspicions. Google has published research showing that security questions aren't that secure at all. In many cases, your answers are straightforward enough that attackers stand a decent chance of getting them right in 10 guesses or less. And you probably don't want to use bogus answers to throw people off the scent, either. Many of those who try this strategy use common words and make it easier for someone to get in.

Read the Full Story 0 Comments

A black silicon solar cell

Scientists have long talked about black silicon (that is, silicon with nano-sized structures) having the potential to trump conventional solar power, and there's now some proof that this is happening. Aalto University researchers have developed black silicon solar cells that achieve a record 22.1 percent efficiency when turning the Sun's rays into usable energy. That's a 4 percent absolute boost over the previous best in black silicon, and good enough that the technology could finally be ready to reach the market and replace existing solar panels. Black silicon is far better suited to collecting sunlight at low angles, which is common in northern regions -- you wouldn't have to live in a sunny, forgiving part of the world to get the most out of clean energy. It should be cheaper, too. So long as these black cells translate well to mass production, you may have an easier time ditching the conventional power grid.

0 Comments

Professor John Forbes Nash, Jr, winner o

Dr. John Nash, the Nobel Prize-winning mathematician whose work included noncooperative game theory, has died aged 86. Known as Nash equilibrium, the theory is used in a broad range of fields, including economics, other social sciences, evolutionary biology as well as influencing computing and artificial intelligence. His work and life were turned into the film A Beautiful Mind, starring Russell Crowe, which won an Oscar for Best Picture in 2001, also putting focus on the stigma of mental illness. Nash's famed work in math and other fields extended beyond the game theory work that won him the Nobel Prize.

Read the Full Story 0 Comments

Must Reads