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‘Hi Alexa, go to the kitchen and get me a cup of coffee’

MIT engineers envision robots more like home helpers, who can follow top commands like ‘Go to the kitchen and get me a cup of coffee.’

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Here is good news for Robotic lovers, and those who love to depend more on robots for daily home activities. Researchers from MIT envision robots more like home helpers, who can follow top commands like’ Go to kitchen and get me a cup of coffee for me’.

The idea is simple. If you ask the Robo to go to the kitchen and make a coffee, it will do with little error. But the process is complex. To execute this kind of high-level task, robots need to able to perceive their physical environment, just like we, the humans do.

To make an understanding around the world, robots need to transform pixel values they see through a camera

Luca Carlone, assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, makes it clear, “In order to make any decision in the world, you need to have a mental model of the environment around you.”

For humans, it is a hassle-free task, but for the robots it is painful and hard, according to the MIT engineers.

To make an understanding around the world, robots need to transform pixel values they see through a camera.

Now Carlone and his team have developed a new model called 3D Dynamic Scene Graphs to solve this problem.  It is designed after the way humans perceive and navigate the world.

“The new model enables robots to quickly produce a 3D map of its surroundings that also includes objects and their semantic labels (a chair versus a table, for instance), as well as people, rooms, walls, and other structures that the robot is likely seeing in its environment”

explains a press statement issued by the MIT.

Through this the robot can extract relevant information from the 3D map, to query the location of objects and rooms, or the movement of people in its path.

According to Carlone this compressed representation of the environment is useful as it allows the robot to make quick decisions and plan its path. The flow of decision making is almost similar to the humans.

These robots can be deployed for high-level works such as working side by side with human workers on a manufacturing plant floor or exploring a disaster site for survivors, the MIT researcher said.

The key component of this 3D model is Kimera, an open-source library to simultaneously construct a 3D geometric model of an environment along with encoding the likelihood that an object is

Carlone, along with hiis students, including lead author and MIT graduate student Antoni Rosinol, will present their findings on the new model this week at the ‘Robotics: Science and Systems virtual conference.’

Carlone and team’s new model is the first to generate a three dimensional (3D) map of the environment in real-time, also labeling objects, people, and structures within that 3D map.

The key component of this 3D model is Kimera, an open-source library to simultaneously construct a 3D geometric model of an environment along with encoding the likelihood that an object is.

(With inputs from MIT)

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EP SPECIALS

We need to do better in preventing diseases: Dr. Avinash Gupta

We need to do better in preventing diseases. We need to cut back on paperwork and time spent on administrative work

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“We practice the best form of medicine which is modern and scientific and evidence-based. At the same time, we should not forget our traditional medicine and adopt the good things from our ancestors. After all, Charak and Susruta are fathers of medicine and surgery,” says eminent cardiologist Avinash Gupta, in an interview with Khusboo Agrahari for Education Post. Avinash Gupta is a practicing cardiologist in Lakewood, New Jersey since 1994. He owns his own medical practice where both he and his wife, Dr. Geeta Gupta (Internist) practice

Tell us something about your successful journey as an Indian practicing cardiologist in the United States of America with more than four decades of experience?

From landing at JFK airport, NY 34 years ago to where I am today has been a long journey indeed. Hard work, determination, and single-mindedness is the key to success in America. While studying for qualifying examinations, one has to do menial jobs to survive. Then we have to do training for years to specialize and subspecialize, struggle to establish one’s practice, and get ahead in life. One has to constantly study and keep up to date and keep up the skills. There is accountability and you have to be on your toes all the time.

What do you believe to be some of the most pressing health issues today?

In my opinion, PREVENTING diseases is the single most pressing health issue. While we spend a majority of health care dollars during the last few months or years of a person’s life, we do not even spend a fraction of that while they are young, in taking care of their risk factors. I always tell my patients, I want to prevent heart attacks and strokes, not treat them when they happen.

How do you practice empathy and compassion in the workplace?

I never forget what I had to go through to get where I am today. I also always put myself in other people’s shoes. Remember to treat people the way you want to be treated.

Doctors are everyday heroes. Tell us about your skills to face the challenges both medical and personal?

Caring for the sick and elderly takes special skills. You have to be a people person. You have to be caring and compassionate.

Being the President of Bihar Jharkhand Association of North America ( BJANA) kindly tell us more about its role in shaping the Indian Society overseas?

BJANA has been serving people in the U. S. and India since 1976. The organization has been working at the grassroots in healthcare, education, disaster relief (Covid pandemic), and on various socio-economic issues. It has done exceptional work in promoting the cultural heritage of India. It is an honour and privilege to have led BJANA, especially during the pandemic. We have united our diaspora and have brought them on a single platform. We have been constantly helping each other as a family.

How do you see the US’s healthcare system given your high understanding of medical sciences as a practicing cardiologist for the last forty years? How is it different from the Indian system?

As I said earlier, there is accountability. Everyone is treated with respect and an explanation is given, all questions are answered. Almost everyone has health insurance. The government provides health insurance for those above 65, those below the poverty line, and those who are disabled or on dialysis. We provide the best cardiac care in the world although it is expensive. India is a vast country and there is a lot of disparity between health care in urban vs rural, big cities vs small towns, rich vs poor. We have to do a lot more to fill up these gaps. Mobile health clinics and telemedicine may be a way to reach remote areas. We should build the infrastructure and provide amenities to doctors who want to work in rural areas.

Covid-19 challenge in front of the world is unprecedented and historic. The entire nation was looking forward to the medical fraternity with hope. In this regard sir I would like you to share one such positive story from your experience.?

When the pandemic struck, we were at the forefront of spreading awareness, education, prevention of covid, distributed masks, sanitizers, arranged for covid testing, sent hot meals to all health care workers at local hospitals. When the government called upon us to help vaccinate the public, we have been volunteering every weekend for the last 3 months to vaccinate thousands of public. We have vowed to continue this effort till every resident in our county is vaccinated and we return to normal. The worst experience was people dying of Covid at hospitals and family members were not allowed at the bedside to say goodbye.

The young doctors have the knowledge but no experience. It is up to us, the older generation to guide and mentor them which is a huge responsibility

As a top practicing doctor what are your suggestions with a focus on healthcare quality improvement highlighting the flaws and problems in our current system and areas where we need to do better?

We need to do better in preventing diseases. We need to cut back on paperwork and time spent on administrative work. Doctors should be in charge of running health care, not bureaucrats.

What is your piece of advice to all young dynamic aspiring doctors on understanding the intricacies of the health care system?

The young doctors have the knowledge but no experience. It is up to us, the older generation to guide and mentor them which is a huge responsibility. I tell my students, “When it comes to learning an art whose end is saving of human lives, any neglect to make ourselves thorough masters of it, becomes a crime”

Medicine is still indeed very special, seeks a deeply profound and wise understanding of your fellow human beings. Could you please share some magical moments from your life when you realized being a doctor is truly a blessed profession?

Actually, this happens every day when a patient gets better and says doctor you saved my life. The challenge is not to get carried away because we are just doing our jobs. We are in a profession where unfortunately we cannot have good outcomes all the time. We have to take the good with the bad. The patients also should take some responsibility for their health.

What are your thoughts on the traditional medicine system supported by the huge volume of our religious scriptures, literature, and records of the theoretical concepts and practical skills others pass down from generation to generation through ancient teachings.?

We practice the best form of medicine which is modern and scientific and evidence-based. At the same time, we should not forget our traditional medicine and adopt the good things from them. After all, Charak and Susruta are fathers of medicine and surgery.

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EP SPECIALS

Perseverance Rover: It’s Mission Objective, Scientific Gear and Lifesource

This mission is truly a bridge between humanity’s aspirations and culmination of a long awaited dream to place the first humans on another world

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The Perseverance mission (officially known in NASA as Mars 2020) is the latest since the Curiosity rover that landed at the Gale Crater on Mars in 2013. The Perseverance rover is in a sense, an extension of Curiosity, but it’s to probe specific questions about Mars – to examine organic content on Mars to see if ancient microbial life possibly existed, to understand the climate on Mars and determine if hospitable conditions did exist in the past, and to demonstrate the artificial synthesis of oxygen using the
atmospheric carbon dioxide on Mars.

The mission got traction in India after, Dr. Swati Mohan, who was the most visible face at the Mission Control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at Pasadena, California, shared updates about the rover’s entry, descent and landing on Mars with the rest of her team and the world. The whole landing phase of the mission was viewed by at least 21 million people on YouTube and many more on their television sets. Her Indian ancestry, bought her media attention, appearing on interviews with national television
channels. She was the Guidance and Controls Operations Lead of the Perseverance mission.

The Perseverance rover weighs about 1025 kilograms and is the heaviest ever sent to Mars, with its size comparable to a Tesla Model X

Her role was to ensure the rover was properly oriented prior to the beginning of the entry, descent and landing stage of the mission. JPL, where she works, is the technology arm of NASA and is in charge of the
creation of rockets and robots including the Mars rovers, and played a key role during the Apollo missions. On 30 th July, 2020, amidst the rampaging COVID pandemic, the Atlas V rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida hurtling into space for over 201 days. On 18 th February 2021, after an intense entry and descent phase, Perseverance landing was recorded and broadcasted by NASA to the rest of the world.

Tracks from the rover’s first drive (darker marks in the foreground) and an area scoured by the Mars 2020 mission’s descent stage rockets (lighter-colored area in the middle ground). Courtesy: mars.nasa.gov/

SOME FACTS ON PERSEVERANCE:

The Perseverance rover weighs about 1025 kilograms and is the heaviest ever sent to Mars, with its size comparable to a Tesla Model X. The rover’s top speed is about 0.014 kmph with the rover covering about 100 meters per day. That’s miniscule for a robot, but the whole point is that the rover is not a car in anyways. Unlike a car, the rover uses a radioactive source to power its instruments on board and drive its wheels. The rover wasn’t built to drive long distances. It’s supposed to perform scientific analysis on its environment, including its surface and atmosphere.

SCIENTIFIC EQUIPMENT AND SYNTHESIZING OXYGEN ON THE SURFACE

Perseverance has over seven instruments – SHERLOC, MOXIE, PIXL, RIMFAX, Mastcam-Z, SuperCam and MEDA. The Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (abbreviated MOXIE) will test oxygen production capabilities on Mars, functioning like a tree – breathing in the carbon dioxide (that comprises over 96% of the Martian atmosphere) and breathe out oxygen (which is just 0.13% on Mars without artificial production). This
instrument can reduce the logistics for future humans by having them not carry a liquid oxygen propellant with them.

The MOXIE device will create oxygen gas from carbon dioxide, producing carbon monoxide as a by-product. Later this oxygen is tested for purity and then released into the Martian atmosphere.

Other instruments on board include the SuperCam, that performs imaging and analysis of the chemical composition of the soil, and looks for organic matter from a distance. The Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX) is a ground penetration radar that will help model the structure just below the surface. The Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) will help to detect chemical elements on the surface using an x-ray spectrometer.

The MOXIE device will create oxygen gas from carbon dioxide, producing carbon monoxide as a by-product. Later this oxygen is tested for purity and then released into the Martian atmosphere

Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) will measure the temperature, pressure, wind speed, relative humidity and size and shape of the dust particles. The MastCam provides panoramic images of Mars. Perseverance’s most prominent feature perhaps is its extendable robotic arm, at the end of which is the “turret” that can drill into rock samples and consists of a few of the mentioned scientific instruments to perform analysis, similar to how a geologist would perform their duties on earth.

PERSEVERANCE’S HEART AND LIFE SOURCE

Perseverance rover draws its power from the MMRTG, unlike its predecessors like Spirit and Opportunity that relied on solar energy. An MMRTG, abbreviation for the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator, utilizes radiation from nuclear decay of a plutonium-238 sample weighting 4.5 kilograms. A thermocouple will then set up a temperature-dependent voltage from this radiation to run the electronics aboard. The MMRTG provides a peak power of 110 W but then this power supply will
decrease steadily due to nuclear decay. However, the plutonium sample will last long enough and function adequately past its designed mission life span. The rover has two extra rechargeable lithium ion batteries to perform activities that require further power.

INGENUITY – A LATEST INNOVATION, AND FIRST OF CONTROLLED FLIGHT ON MARS

It’s an impressive engineering marvel that requires some talent, dedication and smart work went into this project since being announced in December 2012, at the American Geophysical Union. It isn’t just the rover that has gone in as part of project Mars 2020, but a small helicopter aboard Perseverance. The helicopter will serve as a technology demonstration for future airborne missions on Mars. The helicopter, aptly named Ingenuity, will commence flight test in April 2021. The helicopter will hover for
90 seconds and then recharge with its onboard solar panels. This will be the first time that controlled flight has ever been performed on another planetary body, that too with an extremely thin atmosphere
(having a pressure of only 0.095 psi, compared to earth’s pressure at sea level of about 14 psi). It has taken true ingenuity for the engineers to build this machine.

WHAT’S THE FUTURE AND WHAT’S EXPECTED OUT OF MARS 2020

This mission is truly a bridge between humanity’s aspirations and culmination of a long awaited dream to place the first humans on another world. Scientists and engineers will need all the data they want,
because although Mars may be a dead planet, it had an interesting history. Scientists are positive about the existence of flowing liquid water on the surface billions of years ago, and even had a stable atmosphere. But we just don’t know how it all went, and why it went. These fundamental questions
become relevant to us as humans to identify the necessary conditions needed to harbor life on other planets other than our own.

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EP SPECIALS

Why should you be in permanent beta? Here are 10 reasons to consider.

Why should you be in permanent beta? Here are 10 reasons to consider.

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In the first part of LearningUnlearning, we discussed about why we ought to think of ourselves as Beta products. You can read it here. And in this part, we are going to explore the reasons behind why should you be in permanent beta? Here are 10 reasons to consider

1 Growth and progress are better than getting bored and stagnated. No matter how painful, difficult and stretching it may be, it is better to grow and progress in life than to be bored out your brains and stagnate. Isn’t getting bored boring? Of course, if you love what you are doing, that is great. Even if you are already doing what you love, there is still room to be better at it; there is still room for progress, right? Do you want to grow in your work? In your relationships? You might want to keep sharpening your skills and get better at them or get out of your comfort zone and learn new skills that will take you to the next level.

For those who have been less fortunate, with no basic skills, learning can literally be the difference between life and death. If you are to grow in whatever you are doing, you need to be open to learning. There is no growth without learning. No progress without learning.

2 Success is a vulnerable place to be in. You know all the stories of some of the biggest, most successful companies going bust overnight. Why did that happen? They were too comfortable in their own success and so they didn’t see change coming. This could even happen to an individual; it could happen to you. If you don’t keep learning and improving yourself, you are likely to be caught off guard. Why should your success last? Why should you continue to be in the position you are in, just because you got there? It could be tech change that makes your job redundant, or competition from other firms or even nations. No matter what you have been successful in – business, at work, building a wonderful family – you need to keep learning just to remain there, let alone going even higher. If you are not moving forward, you are slipping backward.

3 Reaching your true potential is important. What else is your potential for if not to be fully realised? What good is it dormant? I’m not suggesting you even know what your potential is. Knowing what to do in life is a real luxury that only a few people have.

This is where learning comes in. Whether you know what to do in life or not, either way you need to constantly learn in order to fully realise your potential; be it constantly exceeding the limits of your capabilities or just finding out what game you are supposed to be playing in the first place.

4 Keeping active and healthy is one of the most important things. Research has shown that as you age, if you keep your brain and mind exercised, occupied, by learning new things, you tend to feel healthier, especially psychologically. Learning new things stretches you, broadens your horizons, you meet new people, and most importantly you feel challenged as opposed to feeling left alone. Getting healthy will also mean giving up bad habits (unlearning) and picking up new habits (learning). There is plenty of literature out there on the power of habits and so I’m not going to labour on that here.

You can even be superhuman by habit. In this day and age, it is so much more difficult to stay healthy, but only because of distractions, mind you. Work pressures, availability of junk food, stress, and, in some cases, complete apathy. Blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes are hyper-prevalent. While genes may also play active roles, most of us are not helping ourselves with our habits. You need to have a growth mindset, a learning mindset to get yourself out of the rut.

5 Learning is a passport to new possibilities. You now have unprecedented access to resources, thanks to the powers of the internet and other technologies. You now don’t have to stay in the same place doing the same thing for decades. External forces acting against you is one thing and preparing for that is a kind of defensive move.

You can now be on the offence. Pursuing your passion is easier now than it was a few decades ago. You can now quite easily set up something and work for yourself, be independent. Finding a market for your product or service is easier than ever. Your newly learned skills and knowledge can take you to places you have never been to.

6 Being global and local at the same time is tough. Our interconnected world is pushing us to our mental limits as we constantly negotiate between being a world citizen and locally rooted. The global and the local are constantly shifting landscapes, with one affecting the other. Your city, town or village is in some way affected by the world and vice versa.

They may even tug at each other in opposite directions. You will have to learn to cope. You now need to learn to negotiate between that part of you which is global and that which is local. Else, as the ground beneath you shifts, there is always a risk of being swept away or lost.

7 Your ability to solve some the grandest challenges of our times depends on learning. Now you may not be in the “saving the world business”, but some these challenges will affect all of us, including you, in one way or another, whether you like it or not. From climate change, water shortage and other depleting resources to universal education, healthcare and diseases, these challenges will continue to shape our lives, and in most cases for the worse.

Unless, of course, we start acting responsibly and begin part of the solution than being part of the problem. Guess what? To be part of the solution, you got to learn to live anew. I’m not suggesting you go and get some specialised degree or start living like a hermit. Just taking a keen interest, reading up on these issues, and sharing your new knowledge with your family members is a great way to be part of the solution.

8 Being a teacher is going to be one the most important roles you will play. I don’t mean to say that you need to go and become a certified, qualified teacher in primary or secondary school. Or that you become a lecturer in a college or university. The act of teaching is not, by any stretch of imagination, limited to the walls of an educational institution, nor is it the sole duty of a qualified teacher. All of us can be teachers. Teaching is also an act of leadership. We all can be leaders too. There is so much knowledge and experience within you that can benefit others. Whatever it may be – cooking, math, astrology, sewing, a sport, music, marketing. You can teach your children, your family members, your friends and colleagues, your community.

There are few things more important – and perhaps satisfying – than imparting knowledge to others. A good teacher is also a reflective practitioner. To be a good teacher, you need to be a good learner, and a lifelong one at that.

9 Greater civic participation is becoming ever more important. You don’t want to be taken for a bad ride, right? Nobody does. While there are still a few places out there that are governed by bandits, most of us are fortunate to live in democracies. To uphold our democratic ideals, we need to continuously engage. Whether it is standing up for your rights or fighting injustice where you see it, you need to be able to engage, and that is not possible if you are not willing to step out of your comfort zone and learn. We cannot have constructive public debate if we are not informed ourselves. Too many of us have become apathetic, and then complain about issues we face. Unless you are actively engaged, you are likely to get a bad social deal.

10 Self-knowledge is priceless. Ultimately, what matters most is your pursuit of self-knowledge, your inner voyage. In this busy world, we tend to be lost, without a sense of belonging and meaning. Knowing yourself is a true lifelong endeavour. Everything else depends on your wisdom – your relationships, your work, the world. Self-knowledge requires a lifelong commitment to understanding who you are, your thoughts, being self-critical, being aware, being present. There is no greater subject to meditate on than yourself, because, ultimately, it is you who lives and makes a difference (if you choose to).

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