CYBATHLON - The Olympics for Cyborgs - Weekly News Roundup - Issue #453
Plus: scammers steal $25 million with deepfakes; Bard becomes Gemini and Gemini Ultra is out; playing DOOM on cells; world's first transgenic ants; Atlas does something useful; and more!
Welcome to the Weekly News Roundup, Issue #453. This week, I'd like to highlight CYBATHLON - The Olympics for Cyborgs - set to take place in October this year.
In other news, Google has renamed Bard to Gemini and has finally released Gemini Ultra. Over in Hong Kong, scammers have used deepfakes to steal $25 million. Meanwhile, an MIT student has managed to play DOOM on living cells, and Boston Dynamics' Atlas has done something useful instead of doing parkour or dance.
Later this year, the world’s top athletes will gather to compete in various categories to find who is the best among them. But instead of meeting in Paris, these athletes will meet in Zurich. Instead of competing who is the fastest runner or the strongest lifter, these athletes will be competing in everyday tasks. And instead of reaching the peak of human performance, these athletes will be overcoming disabilities with the help of technology.
Welcome to CYBATHLON, the competition for people with disabilities using assistive devices who compete against each other to solve everyday tasks. The goal of the competition, organised by ETH Zurich, is to advance the research and development of assistive technologies and to foster inclusion for people with disabilities.
The idea of organizing competitions to advance technology is not new. For example, self-driving cars and humanoid robots have seen significant advancements thanks to DARPA’s challenges. CYBATHLON hopes to achieve the same but for assistive technologies to improve the lives of people with disabilities and enable them to live more independently and happily.
Teams from around the globe, consisting of engineers and researchers as well as the pilots using the assistive devices, bring their best brain-computer interfaces, robotic arms, exoskeletons and other devices to push them to their limits—and beyond. Simultaneously, the pilots are testing their enhanced bodies and minds to the utmost, showing what is possible with cutting-edge assistive technology.
The first CYBATHLON took place in 2016 and was the first international competition of its kind, featuring 66 pilots from 25 nations competing in front of 4,600 spectators. The next edition, in 2020, had to be done remotely due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The teams set up the infrastructure for the competition at their home bases and the races were done via video, with Cybathlon officials overseeing the competitions.
The next edition of the competition is scheduled to take place from October 25th to 27th, 2024, in Zurich. 160 teams from all over the world will compete in eight different categories. The categories range from performing daily activities such as changing a lightbulb or picking water bottles, to races with powered wheelchairs or races in exoskeletons. Recently, two new categories have been added to the competitions - a race using smart visual assistive technologies and a race using assistive robots.
Last weekend, 18 teams from 10 countries participated in the third and final CYBATHLON Challenges. This event was the last opportunity for the teams to test their assistive systems in a competitive environment before the global competition in October. If you are interested in viewing the teams' performances, the livestream has been uploaded to YouTube.
The teams participating in the CYBATHLON global event in October now have about eight months to perfect their exoskeletons, powered wheelchairs, BCIs and robotic arms. It’s going to be interesting to see what the teams will bring and which teams will emerge as the best. CYBATHLON helps push the assistive technologies forward and shows how these devices—from BCIs to prosthetics and exoskeletons—can significantly enhance the independence and quality of life for people with disabilities.
If you enjoy this post, please click the ❤️ button or share it.
Do you like my work? Consider becoming a paying subscriber to support it.
For those who prefer to make a one-off donation, you can 'buy me a coffee' via Ko-fi. Every coffee bought is a generous support towards the work put into this newsletter.
Your support, in any form, is deeply appreciated and goes a long way in keeping this newsletter alive and thriving.
🦾 More than a human
One-shot CRISPR treatment for inherited disease aces first human trial
A CRISPR treatment for hereditary angioedema has just performed incredibly well in its first human trial, reducing the rate of attacks by an average of 95% during the 16-week observation period. If the results are confirmed in larger studies, it could be the first one-and-done therapy for the painful swelling disorder.
Why prosthetic limbs need not look like real ones
Many researchers and engineers in the field of prosthetic limbs strive to replicate the natural function of human limbs as closely as possible. However, some visionaries believe there's room to not only replicate but also enhance natural human capabilities. In this article, The Economist explores the designs that go beyond traditional prosthetic designs. Drawing on breakthroughs in neuroscience, the article highlights how prosthetics could not only serve as replacements but also significantly enhance human abilities.
🧠 Artificial Intelligence
Finance worker pays out $25 million after video call with deepfake ‘chief financial officer’
A finance worker at a multinational firm in Hong Kong was tricked into transferring $25 million to scammers who used deepfakes to impersonate the company's CFO and other staff members during a video call. The worker was initially sceptical of a message from the supposed CFO about a secretive transaction but was convinced by the realistic appearances of colleagues in the video call.
Bard becomes Gemini and Gemini Ultra is out
Google has finally released Gemini Ultra, the most powerful model from their Gemini family of large language models. Alongside the release, Google also announced that Bard, Google’s equivalent to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, will be renamed to Gemini. Access to Gemini Ultra is exclusive to subscribers of the newly introduced Gemini Advanced plan, priced at $19.99 per month. Gemini is available on the web and on Android (the iOS app is coming soon, according to Google). More detailed comparisons should be posted soon, but the initial feedback is that Gemini Ultra is on par with GPT-4.
EU’s AI Act passes last big hurdle on the way to adoption
The EU AI Act is getting closer to becoming a law after Member State representatives voted to confirm the final text of the draft law. This vote represents the last major obstacle cleared before the adoption of the new regulations governing AI usage within the EU. The EU AI Act is now expected to be enacted into law in the coming months.
Apple says it’ll show its GenAI efforts ‘later this year’
During a recent earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook teased an upcoming reveal of Apple's work in generative AI later in the year. Apple, which hasn’t released any generative AI products yet, is rumoured to be heavily investing in AI projects, such as revamping Siri with large language models, which could be launched as soon as this year’s WWDC around early June.
Building an early warning system for LLM-aided biological threat creation
One of the big fears surrounding AI is that models like GPT-4 could be used to help design bioweapons. Researchers at OpenAI decided to test those fears and found that GPT-4 was barely more helpful than the web. Researchers hope their work will be used to create “tripwires” to detect early when new models can be used in designing bioweapons.
If you're enjoying the insights and perspectives shared in the Humanity Redefined newsletter, why not spread the word?
Boston Dynamics has published a video of their humanoid robot, Atlas, doing something useful. Instead of doing parkour or dancing, the video shows the robot grabbing struts and placing them on a shelf. Recently, other humanoid robot companies have started trial programs to test the commercial viability of humanoid robots - Agility Robotics’ Digit is being tested at Amazon while the Figure 01 robot scored a job at BMW’s factory. There is a possibility that Boston Dynamics was pressured to demonstrate the commercial potential of their humanoid robot.
Goodbye for Now to the Robot That (Sort Of) Patrolled New York’s Subway
The New York Police Department has retired the Knightscope K5 surveillance robot from patrolling Times Square subway station after a 10-month-long trial. Despite the low operational cost and high expectations, practical challenges such as the need for human officers to accompany it, its inability to use stairs, and public misunderstanding of its purpose led to its withdrawal.
▶️ Are Drones That Flap Their Wings Better? (6:18)
In this video, Action Lab shows a unique drone that flies like a bird by flapping its wings. He also explains what is the difference between birds and aeroplanes when it comes to flying mechanisms.
Meet Boo — the first dog dosed in pivotal study for extending healthy lifespan in dogs of nearly all sizes
Loyal, a longevity company dedicated to extending dogs’ lifespan, has announced that the first dog has been dosed with a treatment designed for dogs of all sizes. The company is already testing a longevity therapy for large dogs. Both treatments are in the experimental study phase. The treatments could be available as early as 2025 if the trials proceed as planned and receive approval from the FDA.
There is an ongoing challenge in the computer science community to make the original DOOM from 1993 run on everything - from traditional computers to exotic devices such as a pregnancy test or a Porsche car. You can even play DOOM inside DOOM. Now we can add cells to the list, although it will be more like a slideshow and it would take about 600 years to complete the entire game this way.
Making the First Transgenic Ants
This story, published at
Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this post, please click the ❤️ button or share it.
Humanity Redefined sheds light on the bleeding edge of technology and how advancements in AI, robotics, and biotech can usher in abundance, expand humanity's horizons, and redefine what it means to be human.
Humanity Redefined is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
A big thank you to my paid subscribers, to my Patrons: whmr, Florian, dux, Eric, Preppikoma and Andrew, and to everyone who supports my work on Ko-Fi. Thank you for the support!