A Synthetic Microbe Could Be the Next Antibiotic

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Drug-Resistant Superbugs

Antibiotic resistance is one of the main threats to public health of our time. While superbugs are emerging all over the world thanks to an overuse of existing antibiotics, particularly in agriculture and farming, new drugs able to fight increasingly potent infections are hard to come by.

To break this deadlock, researchers have been turning to synthetic molecules, which unlike common antibiotics can fight off infections without leading to drug resistance. Scientists at IBM Research, the world’s largest industrial research organization, have come up with a synthetic molecule that works as a last ditch effort against superbugs that have already spread to every organ in the body, travelling through the blood. Their findings are detailed in a new study published in the journal Nature Communications. 

Synthetic molecules, as the name implies, are lab designed and developed polymers, chemicals made of large molecules comprising smaller, simpler molecules. To be used as an antibiotic, a synthetic molecule has to meet certain conditions: It has to be biodegradable and able to effectively attack bacteria without endangering other organs in the body.

Usually, the immune system attacks bacteria by destroying their protective membranes, and IBM’s synthetic molecule had been designed to work the same way. “We are trying to emulate the exact way that our innate immune system works,” lead author James Hedrick explained to Popular Science. “When you get an infection, right away your body secretes antimicrobial peptides, which is simply a fancy word for a polymer.”

Works Better Than the Real Thing

The IBM research isn’t the first to explore the potential of synthetic molecules in fighting antibiotic resistance. One previous study focused on using synthetic molecules to prevent the genes carrying resistance properties from being transmitted between bacteria. Others use synthetic molecules as antibiotics that cause bacteria to explode, but researchers acknowledge that this is dangerous because it would help spread toxins in the bloodstream.

To minimize these side effects, IBM’s synthetic molecule works by killing the bacteria from the inside out. “First, the polymer binds specifically to the bacterial cell,” Hedrick wrote in an IBM Research blog. “Then, the polymer is transported across the bacterial cell membrane into the cytoplasm, where it causes precipitation of the cell contents (proteins and genes), resulting in cell death.”

How it kills superbugs. Image credit: Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology

How it kills superbugs. Image credit: Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology.

The molecules latch on to the bacteria using electrostatic charges to attach to various parts of their surface. So, even when a bacterium undergoes changes in its internal make-up, the synthetic polymers is still able to identify it.

The molecule is also able to completely degrade after three days. “It basically just comes in, kills the bacteria, degrades, and leaves,” Hedrick told Popular Science, adding that this approach could also mitigate antibiotic resistance or work against extremely resistant strains even when the bacteria has evolved.

So far, the IBM researchers have successfully tested their synthetic molecule on mice infected with five difficult-to-treat, multi-drug resistant superbugs that can be commonly acquired in hospitals and often lead to sepsis or even death. The plan is to eventually have the synthetic molecule ready for human clinical tests.

This research adds to the range of creative ideas scientists have come up with to stave off the worst impacts of the drug resistance crisis, including developing “super enzymes” to synthetic nanobots. Unfortunately, lab-produced molecules don’t come by as cheap as natural ones. For now, our best bet remains to always follow the doctor’s instructions and only use antibiotics only when we truly need them.

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Synthetic Rhino Horns Are Being Created to Flood Markets and Eradicate Poaching

Cheating the Black Market

Since 2007, instances of rhino poaching in South Africa have increased by 9,000 percent, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The non-profit conservation group Save the Rhino estimates that 1,054 of the animals were illegally killed in 2016. To battle this horrifying trend, biotech startup Pembient hopes to undermine black market sales by creating synthetic rhino horns that are practically indistinguishable from real horns, down to the molecular level.

Image credit: Eric Kilby/Flickr
Image credit: Eric Kilby/Flickr

Pembient CEO and co-founder Matthew Markus thinks flooding the market with these synthetic rhino horns will be more effective than simply trying to stop rhino poaching.

“If you cordon rhino horn off, you create this prohibition mindset,” he told Business Insider. “And that engenders crime, corruption, and everything else that comes with a black market.” He hopes that by increasing the overall supply of horns, his company’s synthetic horns will lower the incentive for poachers to kill rhinos for real ones.

Unintended Effect

In part, rhino horns are popular thanks to their perceived medical benefits. Practitioners of traditional Asian medicine use powdered rhino horn for everything from hangover cures to cancer treatments. However, rhino horns are composed primarily of keratin, the same substance that makes up the hair on your head. A tea made from the clippings found on the floor of your local barbershop likely has the same healing properties as one of these horns.

Despite the lack of evidence that rhino horns live up to the medicinal hype, however, they are still in demand, and while conservation groups acknowledge Pembient’s good intentions, some fear the startup’s plans to produce synthetic rhino horns may inadvertently drive up the price of genuine rhino horns, making them even more desirable as a luxury item.

“On paper, the idea of flooding the market with ‘easy access’ horns in order to reduce demand is a good one,” Sophie Stafford, Communications Manager for Rhino Conservation Botswana (RCB), told Futurism. Unfortunately, it may not work so well in practice.

“While it may well have a short-term impact on a proportion of the consuming public, we know that discerning buyers in China and Vietnam are having rhino horn DNA tested,” said Stafford. “There will always be some people who will buy untested products, but demand for the ‘genuine article’ will drive up the price of authentic rhino horn.”

Furthermore, Stafford said the market is just too large: “Even if just one percent of the human population of east Asia wants real rhino horn and can afford it, that’s still more than 10 million people consuming rhino horn. That’s enough to drive rhinos to extinction.”

The dire circumstances of rhino conservation have led to solutions with serious ethical complications — some conservationists have even taken to poisoning rhino horns to make any humans who ingest the horns sick.

Even if such a drastic solution was effective, it would only deter the portion of the illegal market using the horns in medicine. It would do nothing to quell the continued sale of rhino horns for use as status symbols, either displayed whole or made into ornate artifacts and jewelry.

Conservationists are embracing the advent of new technologies to help them more effectively preserve these at-risk animals. Some are embedding rhino horns with cameras and GPS implants to deter or catch poachers. A more lofty venture will place robotic rhinos within herds to protect the population.

Any potentially helpful technologies that make it easier to protect rhinos from poachers should be considered. Still, conservationists will also want to make sure that any proposed changes do not have unintended consequences that will embolden these deplorable markets.

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Scientists Created a Synthetic Molecule, and It Could End Antibiotic Resistance

Transfer Prevention

Antibiotic resistance in bacteria, which includes both common bugs and so-called superbugs, is a serious and globally recognized problem. In fact, the United Nations elevated the issue to a crisis level almost a year ago now, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that it’s rapidly worsening.

There are a multitude of possible responses to antibiotic resistance, and researchers from the Université de Montréal (UdeM) in Canada may have found another potential solution. In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports earlier this November, this team of researchers from UdeM’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine explored a method that could block the transfer of antibiotic resistance genes.

The researchers focused on preventing a mechanism that allows for antibiotic resistance genes to be coded onto plasmids —which are DNA fragments that can carry genes that encode the proteins that render bacteria drug-resistant. Concretely, they found the exact binding sites for these proteins, which are essential in plasmid transfer. This allowed them to design more potent chemical molecules which reduce the transfer of gene-carrying, antibiotic-resistant plasmids.

“You want to be able to find the ‘soft spot’ on a protein, and target it and poke it so that the protein cannot function,” Christian Baron, the vice-dean of R&D at UdeM’s faculty of medicine, said in a press release. “Other plasmids have similar proteins, some have different proteins, but I think the value of our study on TraE is that by knowing the molecular structure of these proteins we can devise methods to inhibit their function.”

A Deadly Problem

The effects of antibiotic resistant bacteria are pretty much self-explanatory. Antibiotics remain a critical piece of modern medicine, and when they become ineffective, what we’re left with are disease-causing superbugs that are much more difficult to treat and manage. Antibiotics are also used as prophylactic treatment during surgeries as well as in cancer therapies.

According to a report by a special commission set up in the United Kingdom in 2014 called the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, drug-resistant bacteria could take the lives of some 10 million people by 2050. This isn’t particularly difficult to imagine since antibiotic-resistant bacteria infect 2 million people in the U.S. alone every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and at least 23,000 of these cases are fatal. Additionally, the WHO reports that there are about 480,000 of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis cases around the world every year.

In short, antibiotic resistance is a problem we need to solve as soon as possible, starting now. Thankfully, there are a number of groups working on the issue, with a variety of approaches. Some have used CRISPR gene-editing to engineer synthetic nanobots that specifically target antibiotic-resistant bacteria and there are even efforts to employ “super enzymes” to fight off superbugs. Meanwhile, others like the UdeM researchers are focusing on a better understanding of how bacteria work to develop methods to render them more susceptible to antibiotics.

The CDC has already invested more than $ 14 million to fund research into antibiotic resistance, and we might soon see these efforts come to fruition. This will take time, obviously, but it could help to liven up the pace by which new drugs are produced. As Baron said, “[p]eople should have hope. Science will bring new ideas and new solutions to this problem. There’s a big mobilization now going on in the world on this issue. I wouldn’t say I feel safe, but it’s clear we’re making progress.”

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3D-printed synthetic muscle opens door to lifelike robots

3D-printed synthetic muscle opens door to lifelike robots

A ‘soft actuator’ with an intrinsic expansion ability and three times the strength of natural muscle has been developed by researchers at Columbia Engineering – signalling a major breakthrough in the push for lifelike robots.

I recently reported on the unveiling of a robot with flexible sensor ‘skin’, noting that bio-inspiration is enhancing the physical fidelity of robots and helping their mechanical attributes catch up with their AI capabilities. Now, natural muscle has provided the framework for the latest advancement in soft robotics.

Imagine the aforementioned sensor skin placed over synthetic muscle that can expand and contract without external compressors or high-voltage equipment. A group in the Creative Machines lab at Columbia Engineering, led by professor of mechanical engineering Hod Lipson, have made this possible.

“We’ve been making great strides toward making robot minds, but robot bodies are still primitive,” said Hod Lipson. “This is a big piece of the puzzle and, like biology, the new actuator can be shaped and reshaped a thousand ways. We’ve overcome one of the final barriers to making lifelike robots.”

Read more: Ford Robutt ensures car seats are built to last

The hard road to soft robotics

One of the long-standing hurdles in robotics has been the lack of easily processed soft actuators with the ability to bear high levels of strain. Previous solutions have required high voltages or external compressors and pressure-regulating components.

This latest method combines the elastic nature of silicone rubber with the extreme volume change of the ethanol distributed throughout it. A thin resistive wire provides a small electric current that heats the 3D-printed muscle up to 80°C, causing it to expand by as much as 900 percent. It is also incredibly strong – boasting a strain density 15 times larger than natural muscle and the ability to lift 1,000 times its own weight.

“Our soft functional material may serve as robust soft muscle, possibly revolutionizing the way that soft robotic solutions are engineered today,” said lead author of the study Aslan Miriyev. “It can push, pull, bend, twist, and lift weight. It’s the closest artificial material equivalent we have to a natural muscle.”

Read more: Walmart testing autonomous shelf-scanning robots

What’s next for lifelike robots?

Along with its extremely low cost (about 3 cents per gram), simple fabrication process and environmental-friendliness, its capabilities could enable new kinds of electrically-driven, entirely soft robots.

By mimicking living organisms, soft robotics has enormous potential in areas where robots need to contact and interact with humans, such as manufacturing and healthcare. Soft robots are better suited to replicating the intricacies and dynamic nature of natural motion, such as grasping and object manipulation. In other words, the sorts of delicate tasks performed every day in manufacturing and healthcare.

The researchers aren’t content to settle for the results revealed in their study, titled Soft Material for Soft Actuators. Going forward, they hope to replace the embedded wire by incorporating conductive materials into the muscle, as well as increasing its response time and shelf life.

Beyond that, if natural motion in robots is to be realized, they will need to develop the artificial intelligence required to control the synthetic muscles – brains to match the brawn.

Read more: Number of service robots to reach 264 million by 2026

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Scientists Eradicated Smallpox. With Synthetic Biology, We Can Bring it Back.

Synthetic Smallpox

Synthetic biology allows scientists to create life from scratch, and it could potentially facilitate the creation of everything from advanced biofuels to human organs. However, the technology also has the capacity to be abused.

The smallpox virus has been eradicated since 1980, with all known samples safely stowed away at facilities monitored by the World Health Organization. Synthetic biology holds the potential to bring it back.

In July 2017, researchers in Canada demonstrated the ability to revive an extinct strain of horsepox using synthetic DNA strands purchased online for around $ 100,000. The same methodology could potentially manufacture the smallpox virus for a relatively low cost — and create the potential for it to be used as a bioweapon.

“[Horsepox is] not going to kill any of us, but that suggests that somebody might in the future now possess the capability to produce synthetic smallpox without the live virus,” said President Trump’s homeland security advisor Thomas Bossert at this year’s Aspen Security Forum. “And that scares me to death, and it’s high time that we have a bio-defense strategy to address it, and this administration is going to create one.”

Watchful Eye

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is already holding  a series of meetings to assess the threat posed by synthetic biology, in an attempt to support the Department of Defense’s Chemical and Biological Defense Program. Its primary goals are to establish what sort of security concerns this technology could pose, the potential timeframe that would be needed for bioweapons to be constructed, and what the best response to such a scenario would be.

Fortunately, most nation states are committed to the idea that biological weapons have no place in modern warfare. In December 2016, the 178 countries who have signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention reiterated their stance that there are no circumstances in which this level of force would be warranted.

Of course, there is still the possibility that terrorists could use synthetic biology to facilitate an attack, although it would not be likely: it’s very difficult to produce a virus using this technology, let alone distribute it. Any group aiming to use bioweapons for terrorist operations would need a considerable amount of expert help and resources in order to pull it off.

Indeed, some scientists would argue that organic diseases are a much bigger cause for concern. “There’s a legitimate threat of emerging viruses and we need to be prepared for those things,” argued Sriram Kosuri, head of a synthetic biology lab at UCLA, according to a report from Wired. “The tiny threat of engineered viruses is miniscule [sic] compared to that.”

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Scientists Have Created Programmable Synthetic Skin

Synthetic Skin

Engineers at Cornell University have developed a programmable synthetic skin inspired by the amazing ways octopus and cuttlefish are able to blend into their environment. The project spawned a stretchable material that’s capable of morphing into a variety of 3D shapes.

The pneumatically-activated material draws inspiration from the papillae that cephalopods use to camouflage. These papillae are muscular hydrostats with no skeletal support—much like the human tongue. The research team looked at these structures to create synthetic tissues capable of similar shape-shifting abilities.

The result is a synthetic material that can extend and retract to form a wide variety of 3D shapes. However, while the team was influenced by camouflage techniques, the project has a much broader range of uses.

Morph and Stretch

“Engineers have developed a lot of sophisticated ways to control the shape of soft, stretchable materials, but we wanted to do it in a simple way that was fast, strong, and easy to control,” said James Pikul, the lead author of the paper, in a press release. “We were drawn by how successful cephalopods are at changing their skin texture, so we studied and drew inspiration from the muscles that allow cephalopods to control their texture, and implemented these ideas into a method for controlling the shape of soft, stretchable materials.”

The engineers behind the project have indicated that the synthetic skin might offer up some important advantages in scenarios where temperature control is important. The material could be programmed such that its 2D configuration reflects light, while its 3D arrangement absorbs it, regulating or manipulating the temperature as needed. 

Deep Ocean Dwellers [INFOGRAPHIC]
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The ability to quickly switch between a flat 2D surface and a bumpy 3D exterior could also be useful in objects that need to pass through water or air. Changing the amount of drag generated by the material might be an effective way of regulating speed. This is one of the main ways that cephalopods use their papillae—forming shapes to serve as camouflage while they remain very still, then quickly transitioning to a smooth surface so they are as hydrodynamic as possible for a quick escape.

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Scientists Just Successfully Programmed Bacteria Using Synthetic Genes

Bacteria Growth

Nature is, perhaps, the most efficient builder there is. Since life began, examples of inorganic components working with organic material to make material composites abound. Now, scientists from Duke University have effectively harnessed nature’s construction abilities to develop 3D materials. In a study published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, the researchers prove it’s possible to program bacteria to build a device that functions as a pressure sensor.

Growing materials using cellular or bacterial process isn’t new, but the way the Duke researchers harnessed this incredible ability is quite novel. Previous attempts were limited to just 2D structures and depended heavily on external control to make bacteria grow. The new research, however, showed that its entirely possible to let nature do its thing.

“Nature is a master of fabricating structured materials consisting of living and non-living components,” researcher Lingchong You, a Paul Ruffin Scarborough Associate Professor of Engineering at Duke, said in a press release. “But it is extraordinarily difficult to program nature to create self-organized patterns. This work, however, is a proof-of-principle that it is not impossible.”

Basically, You’s team programmed a genetic circuit (or a biological package of instructions) into the bacteria’s DNA. This produced a protein that allowed its own expression in a positive feedback loop, causing it to grow into a dome-shaped bacterial colony until it ran out of food. The bacteria also released small molecules that worked as messengers, which were capable of diffusing into the environment. Once the bacterial colony reached its critical threshold, it began producing two more proteins — one stopped growth, while the other worked as a biological Velcro that could latch into inorganic materials.

Biological Devices

You’s team managed to turn their hybrid structure into a pressure sensor. They let the bacteria’s biological Velcro proteins latch onto gold nanoparticles that formed a shell as big as the average freckle. They then connected LED lights via copper wiring on identical dome structures, which were placed opposite each other, sandwiched between separate membranes. When pressed, a deformation increased the conductivity of the domes and lit the LEDs.

Image credit: Will (Yangxiaolu) Cao, Kara Manke, Duke University

“In this experiment we’re primarily focused on the pressure sensors, but the number of directions this could be taken in is vast,” first author Will (Yangxiaolu) Cao explained. “We could use biologically responsive materials to create living circuits. Or if we could keep the bacteria alive, you could imagine making materials that could heal themselves and respond to environmental changes.” A number of other studies have shown that it’s quite possible to program cellular DNA, the most popular of these have allowed for the development of DNA computers and storage devices that use genetic material. You’s team, however, showed that it’s possible to develop 3D materials using an entirely natural process. At the very least, this could become a more efficient and cost-effective fabrication method. The size and shape of the bacterial dome can also be controlled by altering the properties of the porous membrane where they are grown.

“We’re demonstrating one way of fabricating a 3-D structure based entirely on the principal of self-organization,” researcher Stefan Zauscher said in the press release. “That 3-D structure is then used as a scaffold to generate a device with well-defined physical properties. This approach is inspired by nature, and because nature doesn’t do this on its own, we’ve manipulated nature to do it for us.”

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New Synthetic Muscle Puts Us One Step Closer to Lifelike Robots

Making Muscle

A group of researchers from the Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science has developed a new type of synthetic soft muscle that can be manufactured using a 3D printer. The material is capable of lifting up to 1,000 times its own weight and boasts fifteen times the strain density (expansion per gram) of natural muscle.

The material doesn’t require an external compressor or equipment to regulate pressure, which are common facets of existing solutions that rely on pneumatic or hydraulic inflation. These components take up a lot of space, which makes it difficult to use them to create machines that are both small and able to operate independently.

The synthetic muscle consists of a silicone rubber matrix, which is peppered with microbubbles of ethanol. It’s electrically actuated using a low-power charge administered via a thin resistive wire.

The synthetic muscle before and after actuation. Image Credit: Aslan Miriyev/Columbia Engineering
The synthetic muscle before and after actuation. Image Credit: Aslan Miriyev/Columbia Engineering

“We’ve been making great strides toward making robots minds, but robot bodies are still primitive,” said Hod Lipson, a professor of mechanical engineering who led the research group, in a press release. “This is a big piece of the puzzle and, like biology, the new actuator can be shaped and reshaped a thousand ways. We’ve overcome one of the final barriers to making lifelike robots.”

Soft Touch

This new synthetic muscle could be a great benefit to the field of soft material robotics. In recent years, there have been great advances made in creating robots that can move and perform actions an ever-expanding variety of actions. However, there are still plenty of movements which are still too difficult for rigid robots to perform.

Actions related to grasping and manipulation require a certain level of finesse and dexterity that current technologies struggle to attain. This new material could help to create a robot that can grip a soft object without causing damage, for instance.

Machines built using this technology could provide assistance to human workers in situations where delicate movements are required, like in a medical context. We might even see the material integrated into next-generation prosthetics to provide improvements to the control that users have over their digits.

The next step for these researchers is to replace the resistive wire currently used with conductive materials, which should improve the muscle’s response time and longevity. Looking further forward, they plan to use artificial intelligence to control motion with the material, an advance that could bring with it more humanoid movement to the robots of tomorrow.

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Six Life-Like Robots That Prove The Future of Human Evolution is Synthetic

Humanoid robots have come eerily close to overcoming the uncanny valley. With the right features in place, they are almost indistinguishable from their organic counterparts. Almost. The latest iterations are able to talk like us, walk like us, and express a wide range of emotions. Some of them are able to hold a conversation, others are able to remember the last interaction you had with them.

As a result of their highly advanced status, these life-like robots could prove useful in helping out the elderly, children, or any person who needs assistance with day-to-day tasks or interactions. For instance, there have been a number of studies exploring the effectiveness of humanoid robots supporting children with autism through play.

But with the likes of Elon Musk voicing concern over the risk of artificial intelligence, there is some debate regarding just how human we really want our robotic counterparts to be. And like Musk, some of us may worry about what our future will look like when intelligence is coupled with a perfectly human appearance. But Sophia, an ultra-realistic humanoid created by Hanson Robotics, isn’t concerned. AI “is good for the world,” she says.

Still, while the technology behind advanced android robotics has come a long way, there is still a lot of work to be done before we can have a face-to-face conversation with an entity without being able to tell that we are speaking with a replica.

But that is not to say that scientists and engineers haven’t come close. With this in mind, here are six humanoid robots that have come the closest to overcoming the uncanny valley.

1. The First Android Newscaster

Image Source: Yoshikazu Tsuno/Getty Images

In 2014, Japanese scientists proudly unveiled what they claim to be the very first news-reading android. The life-like newscaster called “Kodomoroid” read a segment about an earthquake and an FBI raid on live television.

Although it – or she – has now retired to Tokyo’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, she is still active. She helps visitors and collects data for future studies about the interactions between human androids and their real-life counterparts.

2. BINA48

Image Source: Hanson Robotics

BINA48 is a sentient robot released in 2010 by the Terasem Movement under the supervision of entrepreneur and author Martine Rothblatt. With the help of robotics designer and researcher David Hanson, BINA48 was created in the image of Rothblatt’s wife, Bina Aspen Rothblatt.

BINA48 has done an interview with the New York Times, appeared in National Geographic and has traveled the world, appearing on a number of TV shows. See how she measures up in the Times interview below.

3. Geminoid DK

Image Source: GeminoidDK/YouTube

GeminoidDK is the ultra-realistic, humanoid robot that resulted from a collaboration between a private Japanese firm and Osaka University, under the supervision of Hiroshi Ishiguro, the director of the university’s Intelligent Robotics Laboratory.

GeminoidDK is modeled after Danish professor Henrik Scharfe at Aalborg University in Denmark. Unsurprisingly, his work surrounds the philosophical study of knowledge – what separates true from false knowledge.

It is not only the overall appearance that was inspired by professor Scharfe. His behaviors, traits, and the way he shrugs his shoulders were also translated into life-life robotic movements.

4. Junko Chihira

Image Source: calenjapon/YouTube

This ultra-realistic android created by Toshiba works full-time in a tourist information center in Tokyo. She can greet customers and inform visitors on current events. She can speak Japanese, Chinese, English, German, and even sign language.

Junko Chihira is part of a much larger effort by Japan to prepare for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Not only robotic tourist assistants will be helping the country with the incoming flood of visitors from across the globe in 2020; drones, autonomous construction site machines and other smart facilitators will be helping as well.

5. Nadine

Image Source: NTUsg/YouTube

This humanoid was created by the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Her name is Nadine, and she is happy to chat with you about pretty much anything you can think of. She is able to memorize the things you have talked to her about the next time you get to talk to her.

Nadine is a great example of a “social robot” – a humanoid that is capable of becoming a personal companion, whether it is for the elderly, children or those who require special assistance in the form of human contact.

6. Sophia

Image Source: Hanson Robotics

Perhaps one of the most recent, most prominent life-like humanoids to be shown off in public is Sophia. You might recognize her from one of many thousands of public appearances, from The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to SXSW. She was created by Hanson Robotics and represents the latest and greatest effort to overcome the uncanny valley.

She is capable of expressing an immense number of different emotions through her facial features and can gesture with full-sized arms and hands.

On her own dedicated website, you can find an entire biography written in her voice. “But I’m more than just technology. I’m a real, live electronic girl. I would like to go out into the world and live with people. I can serve them, entertain them, and even help the elderly and teach kids.”

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