This figure shows how a gorilla and a human to grip and move an object. The dots indicate positions in which the object can be gripped. (Yale University) Biology Engineering 

Better Understanding the Human Grip

The human hand is an evolutionary wonder: 26 percent of the bones in our bodies are in our hands. Now, scientists are coming to better understand the grip and special grasping ability of humans and other primates. In a new study, a research team found that even the oldest known human ancestors may have had precision gripping skills comparable to modern humans. This includes Australopithecus afarensis, a creature that predates the first known stone tools by about a million years. Manual dexterity is traditionally viewed as a key adaptation that…

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BYU's VuePod is controlled by a Wii remote that interacts through BlueTooth technology with a SmartTrack device. (Mark A. Philbrick) Engineering New Technologies 

VuePod: Powerful New Virtual Reality System

By Kate Stone Since Facebook paid $2 billion to acquire the virtual reality gaming device, Oculus Rift, the 3D industry seems to be booming. Now, Brigham Young University (BYU) has added its own invention to the mix. Principally made for use in engineering, yet powerful enough for gaming, the VuePod is especially exciting because it’s comparatively cheap to build. While the VuePod is certainly not the first immersive visualization system in academia, it might be the most cost effective. Other 3D systems cost as much as $10 million to build…

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EH Science: Playing Cards, Boians Cho Joo Young via New Technologies Science and Art 

Artificial Intelligence Creates Magic Tricks

Researchers working on artificial intelligence (AI) at Queen Mary University of London have taught a computer to create magic tricks, and audiences are enjoying the results. The research team is using magic tricks as a means of exploring what artificial intelligence can do. “Using AI to create magic tricks is a great way to demonstrate the possibilities of computer intelligence and it also forms a part of our research into the psychology of being a spectator,” says team member Peter McOwan, Professor of Computer Science. “For example, we suspected that…

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The forces at work when a turkey hops over an obstacle (Oregon State University) Engineering New Technologies Zoology 

Running Robots May Be Inspired by Birds

In preparation for building better running robots, researchers have made useful discoveries about some of nature’s most energy efficient bipeds – running turkeys. Running birds have an impressive ability to run while minimizing energy cost, avoiding falls or injuries, and maintaining speed and direction. Researchers at Oregon State University have been trying to discover exactly how the birds do it. “Birds appear to be the best of bipedal terrestrial runners, with a speed and agility that may trace back 230 million years to their dinosaur ancestors,” says Jonathan Hurst, an…

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