The lifespan of bees is shorter, the climbing robot and headphones

A low-cost robot that is ready for any obstacle

Researchers have designed a robotic system that allows a small little paws robot to go almost anywhere, from going up and down stairs almost your own height; traverse rocky, slippery, uneven and varied terrain; walk through gaps; and even operate in the dark.

The research work will be presented in the next 2022 Robot Learning Conferencein Auckland, New Zealand.

The researchers trained the robot with a computer simulator in which 4,000 clones of the robot practiced walking and climbing over challenging terrain. The simulator was so fast that it allowed the robot to gain six years of experience in a single day.

The motor skills learned during the training were stored in a neural network that was then copied to the robot in real life, an approach that did not require any manual engineering of its movements.

Most robotic systems use cameras to create a map of the surrounding environment and use it to plan movements before executing them, but not this one.

“This system uses vision and feedback from the body directly as input to send commands to the robot’s motors,” says co-author Ananye Agarwal, Ph.D. machine learning student at Carnegie Mellon University. “This technique allows the system to be very robust in the real world. If you slip on the stairs, you can recover. He can go into unfamiliar environments and adapt.”

A small four-legged black robot climbs a rock
A robotics system designed by CMU and Berkeley researchers enables small, low-cost, legged robots to maneuver in challenging environments. Credit: Carnegie Mellon University

The life expectancy of bees is 50% shorter today than half a century ago

Colony rotation is a normal part of beekeeping, as bee colonies age and die naturally. But US beekeepers have reported high loss rates over the past decade, which meant having to replace more colonies to maintain operations.

Now a new study in scientific reports has discovered that the life expectancy of people bees kept in a controlled laboratory environment is 50% shorter than it was in the 1970s, and could be due to its genetics.

The researchers isolated bees just before they emerged as adults, which means that whatever is reducing their lifespan is happening before that point.

“This introduces the idea of ​​a genetic component. If this hypothesis is correct, it also points to a possible solution. If we can isolate some genetic factors, then perhaps we can breed longer-lived honey bees,” explains lead author Anthony Nearman, Ph.D. student in the Department of Entomology at the University of Maryland, United States.

Experimental conditions of the honey bee.
Despite improved standards for keeping honey bees in the lab, UMD research shows caged bees have a shorter lifespan than 50 years ago, suggesting that something more than environmental conditions could be causing rates. highest rates of honey bee colony loss for commercial beekeepers. Credit: Anthony Nearman/UMD

Wireless headphones can work just as well as hearing aids

Hearing loss has wide-ranging health impacts, but professionals earphones they are expensive and require multiple visits to otolaryngologists and audiologists for fitting; factors that lead to significant barriers to accessing them.

Now, Taiwanese researchers have found that some commercial headsets can work just as well as hearing aids, and are often much cheaper.

Graphically Abstract
Graphic summary of the study “Integrated Smartphone Headsets as Personal Sound Amplification Products in Adults with Sensorineural Hearing Loss.” Credit: Adapted from DOI: 10.1016/j.isci.2022.105436

Apple introduced a feature called “Live Listen” in 2016 that allows people to use their wireless headphones, AirPods, and iPhone to amplify sound.

The team tested all four devices — Airpods 2, AirPods Pro, premium headphones, and a basic pair of headphones — with 21 participants with mild to moderate hearing loss. The researchers read a short sentence, such as “electricity bills recently increased,” to the participants, who were asked to repeat their words verbatim while using the devices.

AirPods Pro performed similarly compared to basic headphones in a quiet environment and only slightly inferior to premium headphones. AirPods 2, while performing the least of the four, helped participants hear more clearly compared to those who didn’t wear headphones.

the to study published the diary iScience could help a large proportion of people with hearing loss to access more affordable sound amplification devices.

Genes that increase the risk of being nearsighted the longer you are in school

Researchers have found five genetic variants that could increase a person’s risk of becoming myopic the longer they stay in school.

People often become nearsighted as children, and the condition appears to be the result of a combination of genetic factors, very little time outdoors, and many years of education. In a new study, researchers used genetic and health data from more than 340,000 participants (with European ancestry) to conduct a genome-wide study, identifying genetic variants that make people more susceptible to nearsightedness in combination with intensive schooling.

“In addition to requiring the need for glasses or contact lenses, myopia (myopia) is one of the leading causes of uncorrectable visual impairment. Building on our previous research linking education and myopia, the new study identifies 5 genes associated with the development of myopia whose effects are amplified with additional years spent in education.”

Three of the identified genetic variants were previously unknown, while two were found in cohort studies from East Asia, where around 80% of children become myopic.

The findings have been published in a new study in PLOS Genetics.

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