IBM’s Watson to Help Treat 10,000 US Veterans With Cancer

IBM's Watson to Help Treat 10,000 US Veterans With Cancer
IBM’s supercomputer Watson, known for its “Jeopardy” prowess, is teaming up with the Department of Veterans Affairs to try to revolutionize cancer care for veterans.
The VA-IBM partnership is one of dozens of initiatives being announced Wednesday as part of Vice President Joe Biden’s all-day cancer summit at Howard University. Other efforts aim to sharply increase the number of patients in clinical trials, harness the government’s computing power to pave the way for better “precision medicine” therapies and rejigger the way officials handle approvals of cancer-related products.

More than 350 researchers, oncologists, data experts, patients and others are expected to take part in the Howard conference, with an additional 6,000 more signed up for 270 regional summits around the country, according to Biden’s office. Participants will spend much of their time in working groups trying to develop ideas to accelerate progress against the disease – the goal of the “cancer moonshot” effort announced by President Obama earlier this year.

In a post to be published Wednesday on Medium, Biden urged all Americans to get involved, saying said, “You don’t have to be a CEO or wealthy philanthropist to play a role.”

Many of the initiatives being announced Wednesday involve novel collaborations between federal agencies; for example, the Department of Energy is teaming up with the VA to use supercomputers to better understand the genesis of cancer. Others are pledges from cancer charities to raise more money for research or from businesses and philanthropies to create lucrative prizes for cancer treatment breakthroughs.

Still others involve prevention. On Thursday, Biden will visit a community health center in Cleveland to talk about cancer prevention, where he’s expected to highlight a joint effort by Case Comprehensive Cancer Center and George Washington University to use digital media and other technology to reduce smoking rates and increase HPV immunization.

Under the IBM-VA partnership, Watson for Genomics technology will be provided free for two years to the VA’s precision-oncology program in a project that will likely affect the treatment of some 10,000 veterans. Watson will analyze patients’ genomic information and help identify cancer-causing mutations as well as potential treatments.

Currently, said David Shulkin, the VA’s undersecretary for health, the groups of experts in the VA analyze patients’ sequenced data and then develop treatment plans. Using Watson, he said, clinicians will be able to treat many more patients, much more quickly. Physicians will feed tumor information to the computer and, “within a matter of hours, we will be able to get an individual interpretation that allows doctors to make the very best treatment decisions.”

Shulkin said using Watson would allow the VA, which treats about 40,000 new cases of cancer a year, to “scale access to precision medicine” for veterans. He said the program would begin in the third quarter of this year.

Steve Harvey, vice president of Watson Health, said that the artificial intelligence system has been tested in several leading cancer centers and that early results match those produced by groups of experts – so-called molecular tumor boards. He said that Watson would “democratize” health care by bringing the kind of sophisticated care available in large urban areas to patients in smaller cities and rural areas.

“A lot of what Watson does is synthesize available information and produce a fact-based report that the human brain can’t do in such a short period of time,” he said. “It will give someone who lives in rural America the sort of treatment available in Houston and New York.”

Some of the other initiatives being announced as part of the summit Wednesday include:

– A new program by the National Institutes of Health and several drug companies and philanthropies to develop and fund a new program for “pre-competitive” cancer research, in which the data would be shared.

– A doubling of annual research investment by 2021 by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The plan is to increase investment from $50 million to $100 million (roughly Rs. 338 crores to Rs. 676 crores), aiming for a cumulative investment of $1 billion (roughly Rs. 6,761 crores) by 2021.

– New pilot projects by DOE and NCI to bring together nearly 100 cancer researchers and computer engineers to analyse pre-clinical models of cancer and cancer surveillance data.

– A revamping of information about cancer clinical trials by the NCI, working with the White House Presidential Innovation Fellows. The goal is to make it easier for patients and doctors to find the right trials.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration named Richard Pazdur, who currently oversees reviews of cancer drugs for the agency, as acting director of a new Oncology Center of Excellence, which will handle approvals of cancer-related drugs, devices and biologics. Currently, those products are reviewed by different divisions at the FDA, which sometimes slows down the process.

In an interview, Pazdur said the change was an effort to bring together different cancer disciplines and to better reflect patients’ own experiences. “Patients don’t go to a doctor and say, ‘I want a biologic or device,'” he said. “They say, ‘I want a treatment for my cancer.'” He added that the office would be an actual center, not the “virtual” operation the administration proposed earlier this year

Sony to Develop a Robot That Can Connect Emotionally With People

Sony to Develop a Robot That Can Connect Emotionally With PeopleJapanese tech giant Sony announced on Wednesday that it was working on developing a robot which can connect emotionally with people, and expects to launch it soon.

This will mark Sony’s return to the market of artificial intelligence (AI), robots for homes, an area the company pioneered in 1999 when it launched its robotic dog Aibo, which it stopped manufacturing in 2006, EFE news reported.

At a press conference on Wednesday, where the company unveiled its strategy for 2017, Sony President Kazuo Hirai said they want to make robots capable of winning people’s affection.

Sony is looking to combine its strengths in audiovisual technologies and home entertainment with the latest advances in robotics and AI, to introduce a new business model that will offer new experiences to users, he added.

Last month, Sony acquired a stake in the US startup Cogitai, which specialises in creating continual AI learning programmes.

Hirai also said the launch date for Sony’s new home robot – which will be directly in competition with Softbank’s android robot “Pepper”, launched in June 2015 – has not been decided yet.

He set an operating profits target of over $4 billion for the next fiscal and said the company is optimistic about continuing to grow owing to its entertainment and electronics divisions.

Nasa Test Fires Booster Rocket Intended to Hoist Astronauts Into True Outer Space

Nasa Test Fires Booster Rocket Intended to Hoist Astronauts Into True Outer SpaceNasa’s fireworks came early this year with a successful rocket test in Utah.

On Tuesday, Nasa fired a booster intended to hoist astronauts into true outer space. The ground test lasted the full two minutes, and the early word is that everything went well.

Nasa plans to use the mega-rocket for trips to Mars in the 2030s.

This is the second and final test-firing of the booster designed for Nasa’s Space Launch System. The debut launch from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center in 2018 won’t carry people. But a few years later, astronauts will climb aboard for a flight near the moon.

Tuesday’s test was conducted by Orbital ATK, the Nasa contractor that also made the smaller shuttle boosters for Nasa. This 154-foot-long booster was horizontal and pointing toward a mountain near Promontory, Utah, when it spewed out flames and smoke – 3.6 million pounds of rocket thrust.

Each SLS rocket will have two boosters along with four main engines. There ultimately will be 9 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, considerably more than the now-retired shuttle, noted former astronaut Charles Precourt, an Orbital ATK vice president.

Precourt said the team worked nonstop over the past five weeks to prepare for Tuesday’s milestone. “Really a delight,” he said

Rare Meteorite Responsible for Mercury’s Origin: Geologists

Rare Meteorite Responsible for Mercury's Origin: GeologistsBased on an analysis of cooling rate and the composition of lava deposits on Mercury’s surface, a team of geologists has found that the planet likely has the composition of an enstatite chondrite – a type of meteorite that is extremely rare on Earth.

The new information on Mercury’s past is of interest for tracing the Earth’s early formation, according to Timothy Grove from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Here we are today, with 4.5 billion years of planetary evolution, and because the Earth has such a dynamic interior, because of the water we’ve preserved on the planet, [volcanism] just wipes out its past,” Grove said.

“On planets like Mercury, early volcanism is much more dramatic, and [once] they cooled down there were no later volcanic processes to wipe out the early history. This is the first place where we actually have an estimate of how fast the interior cooled during an early part of a planet’s history,” he added.

Grove’s team utilised data collected by Nasa’s MESSENGER spacecraft. During its mission, MESSENGER produced images that revealed kilometre-thick lava deposits covering the entire planet’s surface.

An X-ray spectrometer onboard the spacecraft measured the X-ray radiation from the planet’s surface, produced by solar flares on the sun, to determine the chemical composition of more than 5,800 lava deposits on Mercury’s surface.

In the study, published recently in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, the team recalculated the surface compositions of all 5,800 locations and correlated each composition with the type of terrain in which it was found – from heavily cratered regions to those that were less impacted.

The researchers determined the chemical compositions of the tiny crystals that formed in each sample in order to identify the original material that may have made up Mercury’s interior before it melted and erupted onto the surface.

They found the closest match to be an enstatite chondrite, an extremely rare form of meteorite that is thought to make up only about 2 percent of the meteorites that fall on Earth.

“We now know something like an enstatite chondrite was the starting material for Mercury, which is surprising, because they are about 10 standard deviations away from all other chondrites,” Grove said.

Dell Launches 70-Inch Interactive Display for Classrooms and Boardrooms

Dell Launches 70-Inch Interactive Display for Classrooms and BoardroomsWith the aim of providing a more immersive classroom environment, Dell launched a 70-inch touchscreen interactive display on Monday that can find its application in both classrooms and office board rooms. The $4,995 (roughly Rs. 3,40,000) full-HD display was launched by the company at International Society for Technology in Education 2016 Conference and Expo in Denver, Colorado.

The Dell C7017T interactive conference room monitor supports 10-point multi-touch for the hand, and comes with two included styluses. The 70-inch touchscreen display also comes with anti-glare and anti-smudge coating on the cover glass, and monitor components for clear text and images, Dell said in a statement. Apart from regular plug and play options, the monitor comes with a VGA port, Ethernet port, and optional Wi-Fi connectivity. It is now available on

Dell launched slightly more affordable alternatives in the form of two ultra short throw projectors – the Dell S560T and Dell S550P – that project images and videos onto walls or screens up to 100 inches with a full-HD resolution. Both projectors offer interactivity, with the former providing 10-point touch interactivity and support for a stylus, while the latter uses active styluses (IR Pens). Both projectors will be available from July 12, but pricing has not been detailed.


Companies such as Samsung, Sharp, and Elo already have interactive displays of sizes 70-inches or more in their portfolios. With the increasing demand of large interactive displays, it will be interesting to see which company conquers the space and whether schools and enterprises will go for expensive displays or stick to comparatively cheaper projectors.

The company also unveiled its Chrome-based software solution Dell Classroom, which is aimed at improving the collaboration between teachers and the students. It enables students to raise their hands virtually and answer via personal texts to the teacher, therefore encouraging participation from hesitant students and those with special needs.

“Educational environments are more interesting when students get to speak up, share ideas, work together and learn the way they want to learn,” Bert Park, Vice President of Software and Peripherals at Dell, was quoted as saying in the statement

Presence of Manganese Oxide Indicates Mars Was Once Earth-Like: Study

Presence of Manganese Oxide Indicates Mars Was Once Earth-Like: StudyNasa’s Curiosity rover has observed high levels of manganese oxides in Martian rocks which indicates that higher levels of atmospheric oxygen once existed on Red Planet.

The discovery tells that the Red Planet was once more Earth-like than previously believed.

The hint adds to other Curiosity findings – such as evidence of ancient lakes – revealing how Earth-like our neighbouring planet once was.

“The only ways on Earth that we know how to make these manganese materials involve atmospheric oxygen or microbes,” said Nina Lanza, planetary scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and lead author on the study.

“Now we’re seeing manganese-oxides on Mars and wondering how the heck these could have formed,” she added in a paper appared in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

To reach this conclusion, Lanza used the Los Alamos-developed ChemCam instrument that sits atopCuriosity to “zap” rocks on Mars and analysed their chemical make-up.

In less than four years since landing on Mars, ChemCam has analysed roughly 1,500 rock and soil samples.

“These high-manganese materials can’t form without lots of liquid water and strongly oxidizing conditions,” said Lanza.

“Here on Earth, we had lots of water but no widespread deposits of manganese oxides until after the oxygen levels in our atmosphere rose due to photosynthesizing microbes,” the author noted.

One potential way that oxygen could have gotten into the Martian atmosphere is from the breakdown of water when Mars was losing its magnetic field.

“It’s thought that at this time in Mars’ history, water was much more abundant,” said Lanza.

The next step is for scientists to better understand the signatures of non-biogenic versus biogenic manganese, which is directly produced by microbes.

If it’s possible to distinguish between manganese oxides produced by life and those produced in a non-biological setting, that knowledge can be directly applied to Martian manganese observations to better understand their origin.

Stunning Images Reveal Jupiter Ahead of Juno’s Arrival

Stunning Images Reveal Jupiter Ahead of Juno's ArrivalResearchers at the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile have captured stunning new images and prepared the highest-resolution maps to date of Jupiter, a week ahead of the arrival of Nasa’s Juno spacecraft at the giant planet on July 4.

The images were captured at the thermal infrared wavelengths using a newly-upgraded thermal imager called VISIR.

“We used a technique called ‘lucky imaging’, whereby individual sharp frames are extracted from short movies of Jupiter to ‘freeze’ the turbulent motions of our own atmosphere, to create a stunning new image of Jupiter’s cloud layers,” said Leigh Fletcher from University of Leicester.

“At this wavelength, Jupiter’s clouds appear in silhouette against the deep internal glows of the planet. Images of this quality will provide the global context for Juno’s close-up views of the planet at the same wavelength,” he added.

Jupiter’s high resolution maps, which reveal the present-day temperatures, composition and cloud coverage within the planet’s dynamic atmosphere, and show how giant storms, vortices and wave patterns shape its appearance, will help set the scene for what Juno will witness in the coming months.

The ground-based campaign in support of Juno is led by Glenn Orton of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Once in orbit around Jupiter, Juno will skim just 5,000 km above Jupiter’s clouds once a fortnight – too close to provide global coverage in a single image.

The Earth-based observations supplement the suite of advanced instrumentation on the Juno spacecraft, filling in the gaps in Juno’s spectral coverage and providing the wider global and temporal context to Juno’s close-in observations.

New AI System Beats Human in Aerial Combat Simulation

New AI System Beats Human in Aerial Combat SimulationIn a breakthrough, an artificial intelligence (AI) system has emerged victorious against a human expert during a high-fidelity air combat simulation.
The system developed at the University of Cincinnati in the US was assessed by subject-matter expert and retired US Air Force Colonel Gene Lee – who holds extensive aerial combat experience as an instructor and Air Battle Manager with considerable fighter aircraft expertise.
The AI, dubbed Alpha, is the most aggressive, responsive, dynamic and credible AI to date, according to Lee.
Alpha is a significant breakthrough in the application of what is called genetic-fuzzy systems, researchers said. The application is specifically designed for use with Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) in simulated air-combat missions for research purposes.
In its earliest iterations, Alpha consistently outperformed a baseline computer programme previously used by the Air Force Research Lab for research. In other words, it defeated other AI opponents.
It was only after early iterations of Alpha bested other computer programme opponents that Lee then took to manual controls against a more mature version of Alpha in October last year.
Not only was Lee not able to score a kill against Alpha after repeated attempts, he was shot out of the air every time during protracted engagements in the simulator.
Since that first human vs Alpha encounter in the simulator, this AI has repeatedly bested other experts as well.

“I was surprised at how aware and reactive it was. It seemed to be aware of my intentions and reacting instantly to my changes in flight and my missile deployment,” Lee said. “It knew how to defeat the shot I was taking. It moved instantly between defensive and offensive actions as needed,” he added.
“Alpha is already a deadly opponent to face in these simulated environments. The goal is to continue developing Alpha, to push and extend its capabilities, and perform additional testing against other trained pilots,” said Nick Ernest, who graduated from University of Cincinnati in 2015.
“Fidelity also needs to be increased, which will come in the form of even more realistic aerodynamic and sensor models,” added Ernest who is now CEO at Psibernetix, the firm that created the Alpha project.
Alpha can take in the entirety of sensor data, organise it, create a complete mapping of a combat scenario and make or change combat decisions for a flight of four fighter aircraft in less than a millisecond, researchers said.
It is so fast that it could consider and coordinate the best tactical plan and precise responses, within a dynamic environment, over 250 times faster than Alpha’s human opponents could blink, they said.
The research was published in the Journal of Defence Management.

Micro-Camera Can Be Injected With a Syringe: Study

Micro-Camera Can Be Injected With a Syringe: StudyGerman engineers have created a camera no bigger than a grain of salt that could change the future of health imaging and clandestine surveillance.

Using 3D printing, researchers from the University of Stuttgart built a three-lens camera, and fit it onto the end of an optical fibre the width of two hairs.

Such technology could be used as minimally-intrusive endoscopes for exploring inside the human body, the engineers reported in the journal Nature Photonics.

It could also be deployed in virtually invisible security monitors, or mini-robots with “autonomous vision”.

3D printing also known as additive manufacturing makes three-dimensional objects by depositing layer after layer of materials such as plastic, metal or ceramic.

Due to manufacturing limitations, lenses cannot currently be made small enough for key uses in the medical field, said the team, which believe its 3D printing method may represent “a paradigm shift”.

It took only a few hours to design, manufacture and test the tiny eye, which yielded “high optical performances and tremendous compactness,” the researchers reported.

The compound lens is just 100 micrometres (0.1 millimetres or 0.004 inches) wide, and 120 micrometres with its casing.

It can focus on images from a distance of 3.0 mm, and relay them over the length of a 1.7-metre (5.6-foot) optical fibre to which it is attached.

The “imaging system” fits comfortably inside a standard syringe needle, said the team, allowing for delivery into a human organ, or even the brain.

“Endoscopic applications will allow for non-invasive and non-destructive examination of small objects in the medical as well as the industrial sector,” they wrote.

The compound lense can also be printed onto image sensor other than optical fibres, such as those used in digital cameras.

Anki’s Wall-E Style Cozmo Robot for Kids Fits in the Palm of Your Hand

Anki's Wall-E Style Cozmo Robot for Kids Fits in the Palm of Your HandWhen Wall-E was released back in 2008, movie-makers around the world were keen to see the impact of an emotion-driven story with a machine as a protagonist. The movie earned critical acclaim as well as financial success; however, it did one more thing. It generated a desire to own a machine that had human-like emotions – or at least, emulate them.

Eight years since the movie released, Silicon Valley-based toymaker Anki on Monday launched a miniature robot for kids named Cozmo that is likely to fulfil this same desire, at least partly if not entirely. Anki’s Cozmo, which comes to life with a tap on your Android or iOS device, emulates humans to a point that it snores while sleeping and shakes its head in anger when lifted up.

The $179.99 (roughly Rs. 12,200) miniature robot fits in the palm of your hand, comes with a CRT screen, and will start retailing from October in US but pre-orders have already started from Monday at $159.99 (roughly Rs. 10,800). The significant leap in artificial intelligence for this specific robot has been due to what the company calls an “emotion engine.”

Cozmo can emulate hundreds of emotions like happiness, calmness, bravery, confidence, and excitement. The robot has the capability to recognise and remember a user, and also learn to adapt to the user over time, using machine learning and computer vision. Anki says the sophisticated software installed in Cozmo makes it stand out from rest of its competitors. The robot will be happy when you play with it, suggest a game if you’ve haven’t played in a while, or sulk if you throw it around.


The robot even initiates a game of popular classic game Breakout when left idle in order to entertain itself. Even company’s Co-Founder and President Hanns Tappeiner has admitted that there is no definite way to determine how the robot will react in any given situation as it is constantly learning. Cozmo ships with three interactive building blocks, which he can play various games with.

On its blog, Anki says Cozmo fits cutting edge hardware and software on board, and “processes more data per second than all the Mars Rovers combined.” It adds, “Robots with comparable capabilities are found in labs for thousands of dollars and stand several feet tall. More than three-hundred parts make up this robot that fits in the palm of your hand.”

Cozmo’s resemblance to Wall-E (which may become a selling point) might partially be because of the involvement of former Pixar animator Carlos Baena, who was hired last year by the company to run character direction. Other creators of Cozmo are roboticists, game developers, and the lead designer of the Batmobile.

The company is utilising industry-standard animation tool Maya to render various actions for Cozmo. “We wrote a huge amount of software inside of Maya to allow our animators not to animate a movie, but an actual robot,” Tappeiner told The Verge. Cozmo is capable of producing complex facial expressions on its display which are coupled with a dynamic soundtrack.

Much like Anki’s small race cars, Cozmo will be controlled through a compatible Android or iOS device. Anki has released its a takes 8-10 minutes to charge fully and one battery cycle lasts for a total of around two hours according to the company. Any strenuous computing is shunted to the associated Android or iOS device, conserving battery life of the robot and space for additional components, as well as the cost.