Cambridge

3D-printed robot hand ‘plays’ the piano

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Wed, 12/19/2018 - 19:00

The robot hand, developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge, was made by 3D-printing soft and rigid materials together to replicate of all the bones and ligaments – but not the muscles or tendons – in a human hand. Even though this limited the robot hand’s range of motion compared to a human hand, the researchers found that a surprisingly wide range of movement was still possible by relying on the hand’s mechanical design.

Using this ‘passive’ movement – in which the fingers cannot move independently – the robot was able to mimic different styles of piano playing without changing the material or mechanical properties of the hand. The results, reported in the journal Science Robotics, could help inform the design of robots that are capable of more natural movement with minimal energy use.

Complex movement in animals and machines results from the interplay between the brain (or controller), the environment and the mechanical body. The mechanical properties and design of systems are important for intelligent functioning, and help both animals and machines to move in complex ways without expending unnecessary amounts of energy.

“We can use passivity to achieve a wide range of movement in robots: walking, swimming or flying, for example,” said Josie Hughes from Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, the paper’s first author. “Smart mechanical design enables us to achieve the maximum range of movement with minimal control costs: we wanted to see just how much movement we could get with mechanics alone.”

Over the past several years, soft components have begun to be integrated into robotics design thanks to advances in 3D printing techniques, which has allowed researchers to add complexity to these passive systems.

The human hand is incredibly complex, and recreating all of its dexterity and adaptability in a robot is a massive research challenge. Most of today’s advanced robots are not capable of manipulation tasks which small children can perform with ease.

“The basic motivation of this project is to understand embodied intelligence, that is, the intelligence in our mechanical body,” said Dr Fumiya Iida, who led the research. “Our bodies consist of smart mechanical designs such as bones, ligaments, and skins that help us behave intelligently even without active brain-led control. By using the state-of-the-art 3D printing technology to print human-like soft hands, we are now able to explore the importance of physical designs, in isolation from active control, which is impossible to do with human piano players as the brain cannot be ‘switched off’ like our robot.”

“Piano playing is an ideal test for these passive systems, as it’s a complex and nuanced challenge requiring a significant range of behaviours in order to achieve different playing styles,” said Hughes.

The robot was ‘taught’ to play by considering how the mechanics, material properties, environment and wrist actuation all affect the dynamic model of the hand. By actuating the wrist, it is possible to choose how the hand interacts with the piano, allowing the embodied intelligence of the hand to determine how it interacts with the environment. 

The researchers programmed the robot to play a number of short musical phrases with clipped (staccato) or smooth (legato) notes, achieved through the movement of the wrist. “It’s just the basics at this point, but even with this single movement, we can still get quite complex and nuanced behaviour,” said Hughes.

Despite the limitations of the robot hand, the researchers say their approach will drive further research into the underlying principles of skeletal dynamics to achieve complex movement tasks, as well as learning where the limitations for passive movement systems lie.

“This approach to mechanical design can change how we build robotics,” said Iida. “The fabrication approach allows us to design mechanically intelligent structures in a way that is highly scalable.”

“We can extend this research to investigate how we can achieve even more complex manipulation tasks: developing robots which can perform medical procedures or handle fragile objects, for instance,” said Hughes. “This approach also reduces the amount of machine learning required to control the hand; by developing mechanical systems with intelligence built in, it makes control much easier for robots to learn.”

The research was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Reference:
J.A.E. Hughes, P. Maiolino, F. Iida. ‘An Anthropomorphic Soft Skeleton Hand Exploiting Conditional Models for Piano Playing.’ Science Robotics (2018). DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aau3098

Scientists have developed a 3D-printed robotic hand which can play simple musical phrases on the piano by just moving its wrist. And while the robot is no virtuoso, it demonstrates just how challenging it is to replicate all the abilities of a human hand, and how much complex movement can still be achieved through design. 

Smart mechanical design enables us to achieve the maximum range of movement with minimal control costs: we wanted to see just how much movement we could get with mechanics aloneJosie Hughes Josie HughesRobot hand playing the piano


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STATEMENT | COLIN CALDERWOOD APPOINTED AS HEAD COACH

Cambridge United News Feed - Wed, 12/19/2018 - 15:57

Club News

Colin Calderwood was today appointed as Head Coach of Cambridge United on an 18 month contract. He will be in charge of the team at Morecambe at the weekend.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

JOE NEAL NAMED IN LFE 11

Cambridge United News Feed - Wed, 12/19/2018 - 12:36

Club News

Academy Starlets Hailed For On & Off Pitch Achievements

Joe Neal named in the LFE 11.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

JUNIOR U’S EXCLUSIVE CHRISTMAS PARTY – BOXING DAY!

Cambridge United News Feed - Wed, 12/19/2018 - 12:09

Club News

Calling all Junior U’s, you are all formally invited to join us in the Abbey Arms on Boxing Day for a very special Christmas Party alongside your first team heroes!

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Removing sweets and crisps from supermarket checkouts linked to dramatic fall in unhealthy snack purchases

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Tue, 12/18/2018 - 19:00

The study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, found that 76% fewer purchases of sugary confectionary, chocolate and potato crisps were bought and eaten ‘on-the-go’ from supermarkets with checkout food policies compared to those without. In addition, 17% fewer small packages of these items were bought and taken home from supermarkets immediately after introducing a checkout food policy.

Large supermarket chains such as Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s have captured the majority of the grocery market and play a major role in shaping food preferences and purchasing behaviour. Retail practices such as product displays, positioning, promotions and pricing can all influence consumers’ choices in stores.

Supermarket checkouts provide a unique location for prompting purchases as all customers have to pass through them to pay and may spend considerable time in queues; however, the majority of food at supermarket checkouts could be considered unhealthy. Over the last decade, many UK supermarket groups have made voluntary commitments to remove or limit unhealthy foods at the tills or to provide healthier options.

“Many snacks picked up at the checkout may be unplanned, impulse buys – and the options tend to be confectionary, chocolate or crisps,” says Dr Jean Adams from the Centre for Diet and Activity Research at the University of Cambridge. “Several supermarkets have now introduced policies to remove these items from their checkouts, and we wanted to know if this had any impact on people’s purchasing choices.”

To examine the effect that the introduction of checkout food policies in major supermarket chains has had on shoppers’ purchasing habits, Dr Adams led a team of researchers at the universities of Cambridge, Stirling and Newcastle who analysed data from the Kantar Worldpanel’s Consumer panel for food, beverages and household products. Six out of the nine major supermarkets introduced checkout food policies between 2013 and 2017. (The researchers anonymised the information to avoid ‘naming and shaming’ companies.)

Firstly, the team looked at how purchases of less healthy common checkout foods brought home changed following the implementation of checkout policies. They used data from over 30,000 UK households from 12 months before to 12 months after implementation.

The researchers found that implementation of a checkout food policy was associated with an immediate 17% reduction in purchases. After a year, shoppers were still purchasing over 15% fewer of the items compared to when no policy was in place.

Next, they looked at data from 7,500 shoppers who recorded food bought and eaten ‘on-the-go’ during 2016-17 from supermarkets with and without checkout food policies. On-the-go purchases are often impulsive and can be the result of children pestering their parents. The researchers found that shoppers made 76% fewer annual purchases of less healthy common checkout foods from supermarkets with checkout food policies compared to those without.

As the study was not a randomised control trial, it was not possible to say definitely that the changes in purchasing behaviour were due to the checkout food policies. Stores that chose to have checkout food policies may have been different from those that did not. Or shoppers may have changed to purchasing larger packages from the same stores, or similar products from stores that aren’t supermarkets.

“Our findings suggest that by removing sweets and crisps from the checkout, supermarkets can have a positive influence on the types of purchases their shoppers make,” says Dr Katrine Ejlerskov, the study’s first author. “This would be a relatively simple intervention with the potential to encourage healthier eating. Many of these purchases may have been impulse buys, so if the shopper doesn’t pick up a chocolate bar at the till, it may be one less chocolate bar that they consume.”

“It may seem obvious that removing unhealthy food options from the checkout would reduce the amount that people buy, but it is evidence such as this that helps build the case for government interventions to improve unhealthy behaviours,” adds Dr Adams.

“One such intervention might be to introduce nutritional standards for checkout food as suggested in the Government’s recent Childhood Obesity Plan. Such a government-led policy might prove attractive to supermarkets as it would provide a level playing field across the sector.”

The work was undertaken by the authors as part of the Public Health Research Consortium. The Public Health Research Consortium is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care Policy Research Programme.

Reference
Ejlerskov, KT et al. Supermarket policies on less healthy food at checkouts: natural experimental evaluation using interrupted time series analyses of purchases. PLOS Medicine; 18 Dec 2018; DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002712

Policies aimed at removing sweets and crisps from checkouts could lead to a dramatic reduction in the amount of unhealthy food purchased to eat ‘on the go’ and a significant reduction in that purchased to take home, suggests new research led by the University of Cambridge.

It is evidence such as this that helps build the case for government interventions to improve unhealthy behavioursJean Adamspaulbr75 (Pixabay)Shopping cartsResearcher Profile: Dr Jean Adams

“Most people have a vague idea about what eating better involves – more fruit and veg, less fat and sugar – and they also often have an aspiration to eat better,” says Dr Jean Adams. “But they don’t always manage to put this aspiration into practice.”

Jean’s research group in the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) asks why this is the case – and what can be done about it. “We’re particularly interested in how we can provide environments that make it easier for everyone to eat better. This might involve making healthier foods more available, cheaper, attractive, or easier to prepare.”

Jean began her career studying medicine at Newcastle University, but admits she “never really enjoyed it”. But between her second and third year at medical school, she did a research year and realised this was where her passion lay. She went on to study for a PhD in public health and since then her career has involved public health research, rather than clinical medicine.

“I do a lot of talking and listening to people working in local and national government to understand what sorts of opportunities they feel are coming up and what research they would find helpful. In Cambridge we then try and focus on what the most rigorous and useful research we could do would be.”

Jean hopes that her research will lead to more people finding it easier to eat better. “Poor diet accounts for as much death and disease in the UK as tobacco smoking, so we are trying to address a major problem,” she says.

While she finds her work interesting and rewarding, she says research can be more prosaic than it is sometimes painted. “I have never had a Eureka moment and no-one’s ever slapped a sheaf of papers on my desk that explains everything! In my experience, research is more about grinding things out with a lot of refining and polishing leading to incremental accumulation of knowledge.”

Nor is it particularly glamorous: “The CEDAR offices are in a slightly dingy corner deep in the heart of Addenbrooke’s Hospital. We have a small meeting room with a big white board. Sometimes I think that whiteboard has been the key vehicle for almost all of the great research CEDAR has produced!”

But fortunately, it can be both enjoyable and exhilarating. “My favourite meetings are the ones where we talk about ideas and share our brain power to arrive at new insights. I particularly enjoy when someone makes me see an old problem in a new way, or helps me crystallise some vague ideas that have been bubbling in my head for a while.

“We also try not to take ourselves too seriously and have a lot of fun along the way.”


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Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

BOXING DAY REMINDER | CRAWLEY TOWN FIXTURE - 1:00PM KICK OFF

Cambridge United News Feed - Tue, 12/18/2018 - 12:52

Club News

Ticket and Hospitality Information

Cambridge United would like to remind supporters that the club’s Boxing Day fixture with Crawley Town at the Abbey Stadium next Wednesday is an earlier kick off, at 1pm.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

LAST CHANCE – DON’T MISS OUT ON OUR CHRISTMAS SOCCER SCHOOLS!

Cambridge United News Feed - Tue, 12/18/2018 - 11:49

Club News

Extremely Limited availability at specific venues

Don’t miss out on the late limited availability for Cambridge United’s Christmas Soccer Schools, taking place on Thursday 20th December and Friday 21st December.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

FANS’ PARLIAMENT | FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Cambridge United News Feed - Tue, 12/18/2018 - 10:39

Club News

Want to know more information or have a question about the consultation taking place for the potential of a Fans’ Parliament at the Abbey Stadium? – Cambridge Fans United have provided a set of FAQS.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

AWAY TICKETS | MORECAMBE F.C (A)

Cambridge United News Feed - Mon, 12/17/2018 - 11:27

Ticket News

Cambridge United make the journey to the Globe Arena this Saturday to face Morecambe in their final Sky Bet League Two game before Christmas.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

‘Treasure trove’ of dinosaur footprints found in southern England

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Mon, 12/17/2018 - 09:00

More than 85 well-preserved dinosaur footprints – made by at least seven different species – have been uncovered in East Sussex, representing the most diverse and detailed collection of these trace fossils from the Cretaceous Period found in the UK to date. Click here to find out more. 

Neil DaviesTwo large iguanodontian footprints with skin and claw impressions


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

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MATCH REPORT | CAMBRIDGE UNITED 0 YEOVIL TOWN 0

Cambridge United News Feed - Sat, 12/15/2018 - 17:42

Match Reports

Cambridge United and Yeovil Town played out a stalemate, goalless draw in a scrappy wind-affected Sky Bet League Two affair at the Abbey Stadium.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

PRE-MATCH DUBLIN BAR BEER OFFER | £3 PINT FROM MIDDAY!

Cambridge United News Feed - Fri, 12/14/2018 - 13:41

Club News

Make sure you head down to the Abbey early tomorrow, with a special £3 discounted offer on Carling in the Dublin Bar prior to kick off.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

ETHOS COMMUNITY HERO | RODNEY SLACK

Cambridge United News Feed - Fri, 12/14/2018 - 12:57

Community

The Ethos Community Hero of the day for the U’s Sky Bet League Two match against Yeovil Town is none other than former U’s goalkeeper, Rodney Slack.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

INTRODUCING THE 12TH FAN…MARTIN BECK

Cambridge United News Feed - Fri, 12/14/2018 - 12:15

Club News

Cambridge United are delighted to introduce this Saturday’s 12th Fan and therefore leading the U’s out at the Abbey Stadium against Yeovil Town, is Martin Beck.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

University pledges support to students estranged from their families

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Fri, 12/14/2018 - 11:26

A pledge letter to the charity, Stand Alone, shows a commitment to improving the student experience for those who study without family support.

Recent research reveals that 86% of students rely on parental and familial support during their time at University. However, around 9,000 UK students have bo contact or relationship with their families, leaving them financially, materially and emotionally vulnerable during their studies. Accounts of student life show that estranged students often become homeless over summer and have to stay in student accommodation alone over the Christmas holiday period. These students may be up to three times more likely to drop out of University. 

Estranged students are commonly LGBT+ students who were rejected by their families after coming out, children of immigrant families who reject practices such as forced marriage or FGM, or children who are distanced after divorce and remarriage. There are also a proportion of estranged students who've been disowned for pursuing education against the wishes of their family or extended family network.

The University has joined others, including the University of Oxford, in pledging to create additional institutional support for those students who may be struggling because their families aren't behind them.

It commits to giving estranged students a non-repayable enhanced bursary to assist with financial struggles, and will ensure estranged young people are housed over the holiday periods. Further changes will follow after a full audit of their provision.

Professor Graham Virgo, Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) at The University of Cambridge said:

“The University of Cambridge understands that students studying without the support of their family may experience additional challenges. We are committed to helping estranged students meet their full potential at Cambridge by providing a comprehensive package of support. We will also aim to raise awareness among staff and students at Cambridge of estranged students, the barriers they face and the support available to them.”

The University's pledge letter can be found here

 

The University of Cambridge has made an enhanced commitment to supporting students without relationships with their family.

We are committed to helping estranged students meet their full potential at CambridgeProfessor Graham Virgo Students walking


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Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

GEORGE MARIS NOMINATED FOR LEAGUE TWO GOAL OF THE MONTH AWARD

Cambridge United News Feed - Fri, 12/14/2018 - 10:47

Club News

George Maris’ fine strike against Oldham Athletic has been nominated for the Sky Bet League Two November Goal of the Month award.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

HALF SEASON COMMERCIAL OPPORTUNITIES AT CAMBRIDGE UNITED

Cambridge United News Feed - Fri, 12/14/2018 - 09:00

Commercial

With the 2018/19 season approaching the halfway point, we still have opportunities to get on board with Cambridge United commercially at a half season rate!

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

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