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Japanese Scientist Wins Nobel Prize



NEW YORK (AP) — Like a busy city, a cell works better if it can dispose of and recycle its garbage. Now a Japanese scientist has won the Nobel Prize in medicine for showing how that happens.

The research may pay off in treatments for diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s and Type 2 diabetes.

Yoshinori Ohsumi, 71, of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, was cited Monday for “brilliant experiments” that illuminated autophagy, in which cells gobble up damaged or worn-out pieces of themselves. Autophagy means “self-eating.”

That process helps keep cells healthy by producing nutrients and building blocks for renewal, making way for new cellular structures and clearing out invading germs and clumps of proteins that could cause disease.

Abnormalities in autophagy (aw-TAH’-fuh-jee) occur in several diseases, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and cancer, and more than 40 studies in humans are under way to test drugs to boost or depress the process, Nobel officials said.

Cancer cells, for example, take advantage of autophagy to promote their own survival. Many research groups are exploring a strategy of fighting the disease by reducing these cells’ use of the cleanup process, said Eileen White, a researcher at the Rutgers Cancer Institute in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Ohsumi said he never thought he would win a Nobel for his work, which involved studying yeast under the microscope day after day for decades.

“As a boy, the Nobel Prize was a dream, but after starting my research, it was out of my picture,” he told reporters in Tokyo.

“I don’t feel comfortable competing with many people, and instead I find it more enjoyable doing something nobody else is doing,” Ohsumi added. “In a way, that’s what science is all about, and the joy of finding something inspires me.”

The prize is worth 8 million kronor, or $930,000.

Ohsumi was honored for work he did in the 1990s. Nobel judges often award discoveries made decades ago, to make sure they have stood the test of time.

Working in yeast, Ohsumi developed a way to identify key genes involved in autophagy and went on to discover the first genes known to play a role. He then showed how autophagy is controlled by specific proteins and complexes of proteins.

“He actually unraveled which are the components which actually perform this whole process,” said Rune Toftgard, chairman of the Nobel Assembly.

Scientists were aware of autophagy before Ohsumi’s work, but they “didn’t know what it did, they didn’t know how it was controlled and they didn’t know what it was relevant for,” said David Rubinsztein, deputy director of the Institute for Medical Research at the University of Cambridge.

Ohsumi’s work “opened the door to a field,” he said. “It provided tools to the whole world to start trying to understand how autophagy is important” in mammals. Now “we know that autophagy is important for a host of important mammalian functions.”

For example, scientists said, it springs into action to provide energy when the body is running short on nutrients, such as when a person skips meals or a newborn has not yet begun breastfeeding.

Autophagy also removes proteins that clump together abnormally in brain cells, which is what happens in conditions like Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases and some forms of dementia. Animal studies suggest that boosting autophagy can ease and delay such diseases, said Rubinsztein, whose lab is pursuing that approach.

“As time goes on, people are finding connections with more and more diseases,” he said.

In Tokyo, Ohsumi said many details of autophagy are yet to be understood and he hopes younger scientists join him in looking for the answers.

“There is no finish line for science. When I find an answer to one question, another question comes up. I have never thought I have solved all the questions,” he said. “So I have to keep asking questions to yeast.”

It was the 107th award in the medicine category since the first Nobel Prizes were handed out in 1905.

Last year’s prize was shared by three scientists who developed treatments for malaria and other tropical diseases.

The announcements continue with physics on Tuesday, chemistry on Wednesday and the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. The economics and literature awards will be announced next week.

The awards will be handed out at ceremonies in Stockholm and Oslo on Dec. 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896

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Kids See Bearded Men As Strong — But Unattractive, Study Finds



Science has some bad news for the bearded: young children think you’re really, really unattractive.

A new study suggests that, until they reach puberty, kids are strongly anti-beard — although children with bearded fathers did feel more warmly toward facial hair.

Scientists going all the way back to Charles Darwin have pondered the purpose of beards. Darwin, who spent his later years sporting a large, bushy beard, thought beards had somehow helped men charm the opposite sex.

“Until very recent history, beards were a very prominent element of men’s faces, and so we must have expectations related to those, and it turns out that adults do,” says Nicole Nelson, a researcher at the University of Queensland in Australia who studies face perception.

Actual scientific research on beards is, regrettably, scant. But Nelson says that over the last decade or so, work pioneered by her colleague Barnaby Dixson has shown that beards make men look older, stronger and more masculine — at least, to adults.

“And so we were wondering whether or not all of those expectations emerge in adulthood or if they are there throughout our lives,” says Nelson.

Her team tested this in 470 kids, from toddlers to teenagers. Researchers had kids look at a series of paired photos. Each pair showed a man with a beard and the same man clean-shaven, presented side-by-side.

“Then we just ask kids, ‘Which man looks stronger?’ ‘Which man looks older?’ ‘Which man looks best?'” explains Nelson.

Even little kids associated beards with being older and stronger. But when asked which face looked “best,” young kids overwhelmingly avoided bearded men.

“As early as 1 year 9 months, they dislike beards,” says Nelson, “and kids, as they got older, up to about 13 years, continue to dislike beards even more.”

Interestingly, around the age of puberty, young peoples’ views changed. “Kids all of a sudden had a jump in beard preferences,” says Nelson. They started to like beards more and judged them more like adults do.

“So it seems like probably other people’s faces mean different things to children depending on where they are developmentally,” she explains.

And personal experience seems to count, too — because “having a bearded father was associated with positive judgements of bearded faces,” according to the researchers’ report in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.

Nelson says that she and her colleagues have been doing additional studies of how children perceive bearded men. In one, kids engage with a story that involves a magical island and a series of challenges. Children tended to pick bearded men to help them with feats involving strength, such as fighting a dragon or moving a large stone. But for tasks that involved trustworthiness, like hiding a treasure map, children preferred a smooth-faced partner.

“The understanding that beards are linked to strength is there very early, but they don’t seem to trust beards at all,” says Nelson.

Research shows that beards seem to enhance observers’ ability to recognize facial expressions associated with anger, but not other emotions. Beards did not seem to offer any competitive advantage in mixed martial arts fighting, however, suggesting that beards might offer “dishonest signals of formidability.”

Other studies of beards suggest that women, especially women with children, may perceive bearded men as better potential fathers.

So the decision of whether or not to grow a beard means weighing the various pros and cons, says Nelson.

“I think it’s a good move if you want to kind of boost your manliness — if you want to look a little more dominant, you want to look a little bit older,” she says. “Those things come along with children being slightly afraid of you. If you want to chat with children, you might not want a beard.”



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Robots Changing The World Now| 2019



Robotics used to be a futuristic concept but it’s very much with us now.  With the AI and robotics innovations marching onwards, we’ve seen robots that can spy behind enemy lines, run errands, smell wines etc.

If you’re anything like us, you probably can’t wait for the day you can go to the store and easily (and cheaply) buy a robot to clean your house, wait on you and do whatever you want.

We know that day is a long way off, but technology is getting better all the time. In fact, some high-tech companies have already developed some pretty impressive robots that make us feel like the future is here already. These robots aren’t super-intelligent androids or anything – but hey, baby steps.

We’ve rounded up real-life robots you can check out right now, with the purpose of getting you excited for the robots of tomorrow.

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Sofia is a humanoid-like robot that’s capable of holding a conversation. This robot has appeared in several high-profile interviews and appearances – including a spot on the Jimmy Fallon show. Sofia is also unusual in that she’s been given official citizenship in Saudi Arabia and the United Nations title of “Innovation Champion”.

Sofia is capable of answering a multitude of questions and is learning too. Is she a vision of the future?

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Starship Technologies

Starship Technologies have developed this local delivery robot designed to quickly deliver parcels and post within a two-mile radius. This wheeled self-driving delivery bot is an interesting alternative delivery drones. Will the future be void of delivery people but a buzz with wheeled and flying delivery bots?

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Samsung Bot Care

Samsung used CES 2019 to launch a range of care robots that it hopes to bring out in the near future. Bot Care, which is one of three robots announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in the US is able to do a number of tasks around the home like remind you when to take your medicine, act as a heart rate monitor, and if the worst happens phone emergency services for help.

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Just when you thought Segway couldn’t possibly get any better, the company has updated and enhanced its transportation device with autonomous abilities. Now you can hop off your Segway and have it automatically follow you, capture video and more. The Loomo, as it’s called, has also been built with a set of playful expressions, AI capabilities and voice, gesture and smartphone controls too.

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Gita Bot

Carrying your own bags is such a chore. With Gita Bot, worry no more. This compact robot is designed to follow you around while you’re out and about in town or on the way to work. The bot is capable of carrying the equivalent of a case of wine, a loaded rucksack or two shopping bags, so it’s an ideal companion for a quick trip down to the shops. In the future, you’ll be able to leave the car at home and stretch your legs without the misery of carrying your shopping home.

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Kuri is a robot for the home designed with personality, awareness of its surroundings and the power to move about the house freely too. Its designed to fit into your home and become part of the family – entertaining your loved ones, playing music and capturing special moments.

Kuri is capable of reacting to sound, touch and even has a lighting system to let you know what mood it’s in. We can’t decide if this is awesome or creepy.

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LG Rolling Bot

Another rolling robot – this time a mobile camera that can roll around your home capturing images and videos. LG says the Rolling Bot can be used as a security monitoring system for the home or a companion for your pets. It’s smartphone compatible and connects to your Wi-Fi for full connectivity and live streaming via your phone while you’re out and about.

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Romeo is a humanoid sized robot who’s designed and built to assist the elderly as they lose their own autonomy. This robot is designed to be able to open doors, climb stairs and reach for objects while going about its care duties. In the future, this clever bot may enable the elderly to stay in their own homes longer rather than having to move into care homes.

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Laundry is such a chore. Washing, drying, putting everything away – so dull. Luckily technology is always improving. There are plenty of modern smart home products to help ease the misery including smart connected washing machines and dryers. Foldimate goes one better by automatically folding your clothes too. This robotic laundry folding machine could be a real life-changer or at least ease the misery of household chores.

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Buddy is a revolutionary companion robot designed to improve your family life. Buddy is designed to entertain the family, help you with your everyday activities, offer reminders when you need them, support you with recipes in the kitchen and much more. You can use buddy to make video calls, keep an eye on your home while you’re out, connect all your smart home devices together and even help your children learn.

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Cafe X

Cafe X is an automated, robot powered coffee bar built with the power to deliver the very best in speciality coffee via advanced automation. Now you’ll be able to get your morning coffee without the chore of having to talk to real people, isn’t the future wonderful? Whether Cafe X can outperform professional baristas remains to be seen.

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Moley Robotic kitchen

If you’re not a fan of cooking, then this next one might be for you. The Moley Robotic kitchen is, as you might expect, a fully-automated cooking robot that can cook for you. This robot is apparently capable of learning new recipes, cooking a variety of different meals and even cleans up after itself. Moley Robotics claim this kitchen robot can even mimic the skills of a full-blown master chef enabling it to craft world-class meals just for you. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?

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Ava Robotics

Ava Robotics has designed a robot that allows workers to easily move around a remote location as if they were really there. This robot combines high definition video conferencing technology with robotic mobility allowing remote workers to communicate easily with their colleagues too.

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Panasonic Robot Egg

The Panasonic Robot Egg is a desktop robot companion that uses artificial intelligence-based natural language processing technology to communicate with you. It’s an intelligent assistant that can be controlled by your voice, play video footage via a built-in projector and even engage in interactive games. This robot is Wi-Fi connected and promises software updates in future to improve it further.

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Emotech Olly Robot

Olly is another smart assistant for the home, but with a difference. This robot is designed with an evolving personality, meaning it grows and learns how to react based on your habits and routines. Olly uses a brain-inspired AI system to create a personalised experience that’s unique for each and every user.

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Tapia is a smart robot designed to help you stay in contact with friends and family, organise your hectic schedule, keep you up to date with the latest news and give you hands-free access to your smart home devices. Tapia is a virtual assistant robot with a cute design that’s built to become part of your home.

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Asus Zenbo

Zenbo is a robot friend for all the family. This robot is intended to help out in a variety of ways around the house. It’s a smart home manager, a security monitoring device, a handy kitchen assistant and even a family photographer. Zenbo can take photos, capture video, make calls, tell stories, play music and much more. Like other robots on this list, it also uses artificial intelligence to learn and adapt to your lifestyle. It also features a facial display where it can express emotions and build attachments with your loved ones.

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Pillo is a robot that’s designed to help with healthcare and well-being around the home. This robot offers a number of different functions including dispensing medication throughout the day, helping with monitoring of care plans, tracking food intake and much more. This robot features a touch-screen, voice interface, facial recognition and premium speakers, making it a powerful assistant for the home and the perfect tool for looking after your loved ones.

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Toyota T-HR3

Toyota’s T-HR3 is a humanoid robot system which allows a human user to remotely manoeuvre a robotic counterpart. The robot mirrors and mimics the movements of the human user and allows for safe use in a variety of situations including construction sites, disaster-stricken areas and even outer space. T-HR3 is built with 29 body parts and 16 master control systems making it a robot that’s capable of smooth natural movement whatever it’s doing.

The technology in T-HR3 is said to be a step in the development of friendly and helpful robots that will be able to coexist alongside the human race and assist us in our daily lives.

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Aeolus is a general-purpose consumer robot designed to help around the house with various chores. This robot is capable of delivering food, picking up clutter from around the home, finding things you’ve lost and more. Aeolus also boasts Artificial Intelligence that helps it learn about your life, routine and layout of your home – improving how it serves you in future.

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Ubtech Robotics’ Walker

First showcased at CES in 2018, and then a newer version at CES 2019, Walker is a biped robot designed to deliver a home butler service and help with day-to-day operations of your home or workplace. Not only is this robot capable of climbing stairs, but can get you a can of coke, pass you an umbrella if it’s raining and hang up your coat. When it’s not helping you when you get through the door it can do a number of other tasks out security patrols, help with video calls and conferencing, dance and entertain children and much more besides. Walker is just one of several Ubtech robots in development, all of them aimed at improving our lives.

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REEM is a full-size humanoid service robot. This robot can act as a receptionist, provide entertainment for guests, make presentations and give speeches in different languages and help with a variety of different chores. REEM is a robust, customisable robot that’s able to self-navigate, interact with people it encounters and keep on running for up to eight hours.

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Ubtech Robotics’ Cruzr

Cruzr is another humanoid robot designed and built by Ubtech. Flexible arms and a maneuverable body powered by 17 different servos allow this robot to move like a human, despite its strange shape. This bot is capable of interacting with humans it meets – shaking hands, greeting new people, dancing, hugging, moving about freely and more. Cruzr also sports omnidirectional wheels that allow it to turn 360-degrees in an instant. Cruzr is also customisable and features voice and action interaction as well as facial recognition and the ability to express emotion.

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RoBoHon is a smartphone disguised as a robot. The little robot works as a normal phone, with a screen for a belly, but does more. The bot can move and talk for call alerts and more. It even has a projector in its face so it can lean forward and project larger images on surfaces. This could be useful for viewing photos, following a recipe or simply as a novel hands-free option.

How popular this will be worldwide, if it goes on sale outside of Japan, is hard to judge.

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ASIMO is a humanoid robot that Honda has been developing for over a decade. It features hand dexterity as well as the ability to run fast, hop, jump, run backward, and climb and descend stairs. ASIMO can also recognise the faces and voices of multiple people speaking and can accurately predict what you’ll do next.

Read more: Honda’s latest ASIMO robot can now run 5.6 mph and even predict your behaviour

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Pepper is a Japanese humanoid robot that can sense emotion and exhibit its own feelings. After going on sale in Japan, the robot made by Softbank was sold out in just a minute. Granted, there were only 1,000 to be bought, but they are not cheap. Pepper costs the equivalent of £1,000 plus a £125 monthly fee.

Read more: Pepper, the emotion reading robot that feels, sells out in 60-seconds

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LS3 BigDog

LS3 BigDog is a robot “pack mule” that was developed by Boston Dynamics. It’s had it’s first military outing carrying kit across mixed terrain and the marines are impressed. The LS3 is able to carry 180kg of kit for 20 miles before it runs out of fuel as well as conduct resupply missions.

Read more: Google’s BigDog LS3 robot ‘pack mule’ gets military testing

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Spot is a robot dog created by Boston Dynamics. He’s smaller than the first-generation LS3 Big Dog, but just as capable. Spot is a 73kg electrically-powered and hydraulically-actuated robot that can walk, trot, climb, and take a kick and stay standing. Here’s hoping Google adapts it for use by everyone soon.

Read more: Boston Dynamics’ new robo-dog Spot is more of a pup, small but strong

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Robear is a high-tech teddy designed to lift an elderly patient from a bed into a wheelchair. Robear comes from Toshiharu Mukai, a scientist who leads the Robot Sensor Systems Research Team at the Riken-SRK Collaboration Center for Human-Interactive Robot Research. Robear is the team’s third robot bear.

Read more: Riken (source)

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Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ is Japan’s biggest bank, and it employ robots. Aldebaran Robotics’ Nao is a bipedal android that costs around $8,000. You can see one at UFJ’s flagship branch near Tokyo station. Nao speaks Japanese, English, and Chinese and can answer your questions about how to open a bank account and more.

Read more: Aldebaran Nao (source)

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HitchBOT was a robot created by Ontario makers at Ryerson University. They wanted to see how far it would travel, but it was dismantled in Philadelphia. HitchBOT comprised a camera, battery, motherboard, tablet, GPS, and red eyes. It could also hold basic conversations and throw out tidbits of wisdom while on its travels.

Read more: What is HitchBOT and why was it murdered?

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Muruta is the world’s first robot cheerleader. It balances on metal balls and can dance and flashing lights in unison. It uses gyroscopic sensors with inverted-pendulum control to stay upright. It also uses ultrasonic microphones and infrared sensors to detect objects around and determine its relative positions.

Read more: Murata (source)



Athena was the first humanoid robot to have paid for a seat on a plane when it boarded a Lufthansa flight to Germany last Christmas. It was created by PhD student Alexander Herzog and Jeannette Bohg. The all-white robot has a tablet mounted to its chest and can chat with people about their coffee habits and preferences.

Read more: Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (source)

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Henn na Hotel

A hotel in southwestern Japan, called Weird Hotel, is staffed almost totally by robots to save labor costs. The hotel is called Henn na Hotel in Japanese and was shown to reporters recently, complete with robot demonstrations. One feature demoed was the use of facial recognition instead of e-keys during check-in.

Read more: Henn na Hotel (source)

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Stripper bots

At the CeBIT expo in Hanover, German software developer Tobit had a booth showcasing two pole dancing robots and a robot DJ with a megaphone for a head. The two bots could dance in time to the music. According to the BBC, you can pick up one of these “stripper” bots right now for just $39,500.

Read more: Ruptly TV (YouTube video)

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If you have ¥120,000,000, you can currently buy a rideable mech robot through Amazon Japan. The robot is called Kuratas and looks like something out of Hollywood. It is 3.8 metres tall, weighs 5 tons, and features a BB Gatling gun that can pump out 6,000 rounds per minute. It’s also been in development for several years.

Read more: Amazon Japan (source)

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A team of Japanese roboticists created a music-performing band of robots called Z-Machines. It has a guitarist with 78 fingers and a drummer with 22 arms. Record label Warp Records said last autumn it would release an album performed by the band. Composer Squarepusher also promised to make music with it.

Read more: Warp (source)

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Insect robots

Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering has created a tiny, insect-inspired robot that can stand and jump on water for surveillance missions. The robot isn’t yet equipped with surveillance technology, but it was part of a study that had a goal to explore aquatic mobility in a small-scale robot.

Read more: Harvard study (source)


Cockroach robot

This is a cockroach-inspired robot that took two years to build. Scientists at the University of California-Berkeley wanted to create a tiny robot that could navigate rough terrain and small gaps without the use of sensors, so it invented this bug-like robot and published the results in a Bioinspiration & Biomimetics study.

Read more: Bioinspiration & Biomimetics (source)

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German company Festo has made a robot kangaroo aptly-titled BionicKangaroo. It has a “tendon” in its leg that propels it forward and harnesses energy on landing. Also, as the legs move forward for landing, the tail is adjusted for balance. When it lands, the legs are spring-loaded by the impact and prepped for another hop.

Read more: Festo (source)

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Boston Dynamics created Atlas, a 6-foot humanoid robot, to move like a person. He’s been taken outside for testing in the woods and manages to move freely, looking creepily like a ninja.

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Leka is a $390 robot for special-needs children. It helps them to better understand social and visual cues. It’s shaped like a ball and face that changes expressions. It also uses sound, light, and colours to interact. Leka responds with positive images and sounds, such as a smiling face, and it features customizable, multiplayer games based around color identification, picture matching, hide-and-seek, etc.

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LG Hub Robot

Hub Robot by LG uses Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa, to play music and answer questions, but it primarily connects with LG’s smart appliances, such as oven or washing machine. It features a circular “face” (that can re-orient to face you) with a screen and a white, stationary body. The screen can display images and videos. Pricing information is unavailable.

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Lynx Robot

UBTech’s Lynx Robot leverages Amazon’s voice assistant to answer your questions, but it can also read your emails and has a camera system so it can check on your home while you’re away. It can also recognise faces and change its responses to suit a particular person.

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Ewaybot’s MoRo can move around indoors and outdoors, handle objects ranging from tissues to water bottles, and listen to voice commands. It’s about 4-feet tall and weighs 77 pounds. It also has a flame retardant ABS case and about an 8-hour battery life. Unfortunately, it costs a whopping $30,000.

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Bosch’s Mykie, short for “my kitchen elf,” can answer questions, like “What’s the weather today?”, and it can control connected Bosch appliances like dishwashers. You’ll mostly use it to search for recipes with voice commands. Mykie has a control screen, with a set of moving eyes, and a projector so you can project cooking videos onto your kitchen wall.

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ElliQ is described as an “active aging companion”. Based on the product’s concept video on YouTube, it looks like a two-part setup that includes an Android tablet and an Alexa-like digital assistant and software. With this combination, the elderly can easily connect with friends and family. In an interview with VentureBeat, the company behind ElliQ noted that the robot’s unique design, natural movements, and body language can help enable a “unique bond” between ElliQ and its owner. Watch the video here to see ElliQ in action. You’ll see that it sits on a desk but can swivel around, deliver verbal notifications, respond to messages, set reminders for meds, answer video calls, monitor activities, etc. ElliQ is still in the development stage.

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Japanese car manufacturer Nissan has taken its ProPILOT suite of self-driving technologies and put them into a self-driving robot called Pitch-R, that can be used to draw 5-, 7- or 11-a-side football pitches wherever there is enough space. The robot is in the final stage of development at the moment and Nissan says it’s just the first of a number of prototypes it’s developing.

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