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Gizmorama - December 12, 2016

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Robots have been developed with vertical agility like never before. Again, a big jump in the area of robotic engineering.

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,

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*-- New robot boasts unprecedented vertical agility --*

BERKELEY, Calif. - Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley say their new robot is the most vertically agile yet created. The small robot can perform several vertical jumps in a row, as well as spring onto and off a wall.

Scientists modeled the robot after the galago, a lemur-like primate from Africa. Galagos store a tremendous amount of energy in their tendons, allowing the primates to jump five times in just four seconds, reaching 27.9 feet.

Researchers named their new robot Salto, short for "saltatorial locomotion on terrain obstacles." Salto's creators hope the bot's vertical agility will inspire future robots capable of scaling piles of rubble during search and rescue missions.

The robotics team created a new metric to measure Salto's abilities. Vertical agility combines the size of a single bound with the frequency at which the jump can be executed in succession. Salto boasts a vertical agility of 5.7 feet per second. The agility of a bullfrog is 5.6 feet per second. Galagos top the chart with an agility of 7.35 feet per second.

"Developing a metric to easily measure vertical agility was key to Salto's design because it allowed us to rank animals by their jumping agility and then identify a species for inspiration," Duncan Haldane, a robotics Ph.D. candidate at Berkeley, said in a news release.

Like galagos, Salto uses a crouched position to store up energy in its leg mechanism. This ability is called series-elastic power modulation. The motorized spring action stores tremendous energy, which when released, launches Salto. The mechanism quickly reloads and is ready to release fresh energy as soon as Salto lands.

"By combining biologically inspired design principles with improved engineering technology, matching the agile performance of animals may not be that far off," said Ronald Fearing, a professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences.

Scientists described Salto in a new paper published in the journal Science Robotics.

*-- Scientists use iPad game to treat lazy eye in children --*

WASHINGTON - A special iPad game successfully aided children with amblyopia in restoring their visual abilities, scientists reported.

Amblyopia, a disorder better known as "lazy eye", occurs when vision in one of the eyes is reduced due to an impaired connection with the brain. Affected eyes often look normal, but are unable to function as well because the brain favors the other eye.

In a study appearing in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology, a research team tested a new treatment involving a binocular iPad game alongside patching, the standard therapeutic approach. When children in the experimental group were found to outperform those receiving patching, scientists concluded the treatment was a success.

"We show that in just 2 weeks, visual acuity gain with binocular treatment was half that found with 6 months of patching, suggesting that binocular treatment may yield faster gains than patching," the authors wrote in a press release.

During the experiment, researchers randomly assigned 28 children around the age of 7 to either patching or binocular treatment groups. Children who played the iPad game were required to wear special glasses that separate game elements seen in each eye, encouraging the amblyopic eye to pick up high-contrast elements. The subjects played the game for 1 hour at time over a 2-week period.

Visual improvement for the gaming group was double that of the patching group. In addition to boosting visual abilities at a quicker pace, 5 out of 13 children who received binocular treatment reached a 20/32 or better visual acuity score, compared to 1 of 14 children with patching. Despite the promising results, the authors stress further research is needed.

"Whether long-term binocular treatment is as effective in remediating amblyopia as patching remains to be investigated," they added.


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