Connected through the cloud, as part of an intelligent swarm, in homes and on the streets, robots are about to break into our daily lives. In this issue of Horizon, we talk to the scientists who are putting Europe at the forefront of robotics research.
That includes Dr Markus Waibel, who is turning low-cost robots into highly intelligent devices by connecting them to remote data centres, and Professor Maurice-Xavier François, who is developing technology to enable robots to carry out missions deep into interstellar space.
We sent a camera crew to France to meet Rob Knight, an engineer who has made a robot that can move just like a human. Professor Maarja Kruusmaa from Estonia explains how underwater robots can navigate the seabed using sonar.
Professor Bruno Siciliano, at the University of Naples Federico II, explains that robots can make Europe more competitive, creating jobs. We also speak to Professor František Štĕpánek, from the Czech Republic, where the word ‘robot’ was first used. He is making microscopic robots to deliver cancer drugs directly to a tumour.
Should we have special laws to govern robots? The question isn’t being debated in parliaments and newspaper columns yet, but robots currently under development are becoming so astute at learning to interact like humans that it’s only a matter of time.
Antibiotics which break down before bacteria can evolve resistance to them; perfumes which release the heady scent of freshly cut flowers as your body heats up; and powerful cancer drugs directed to exactly where they are needed are some of the potential applications of microscopic chemical robots under development in Europe.
Professor Bruno Siciliano specialises in control and robotics at the University of Naples Federico II and is a past president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Robotics and Automation Society. He believes that robots can make Europe more competitive, creating jobs.
Hormones are blamed for everything from weight gain to mood swings and this December, Horizon takes a closer look at these chemical regulators and their effects on our bodies and minds. We explore the impact of the so-called love hormone on the human-dog relationship and what it can tell us about social disorders. We find out what’s being done to neutralise the hormone-disrupting chemicals that are found in water and sewage, and we discover the importance of hormonal rhythms in tracking disorders that can lead to obesity, heart disease and osteoporosis.
Forests cover around 30 % of the Earth’s surface, are home to millions of species, capture and store carbon dioxide (CO2), influence the local climate and provide us with water. This month, Horizon examines how the health of the world’s forests impacts on climate change. We explore the link between deforestation, forest degradation and CO2 emissions, examine the push to combine farming and forestry for better land management, and find out how scientists are using tree rings and DNA to combat illegal logging.
Decades of scientific research into areas including plant genetics and data science helped doctors successfully carry out an experimental therapy to create a new skin for a seven-year-old boy suffering from a rare genetic disorder.
Rising populations and climate change are putting pressure on the water needed for agriculture but a solar-powered irrigation system may reduce the amount that farmers use – while simultaneously slashing the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions.
How plant genetics and data science helped doctors replace 80 % of a boy’s skin.
Solar-powered irrigation could offset 16 mn tonnes of CO2 a year.
A new device to monitor so-called ultradian rhythms could speed up diagnostics.