Making robots more human

Most people are naturally adept at reading facial expressions — from smiling and frowning to brow-furrowing and eye-rolling — to tell what others are feeling. Now scientists have developed ultra-sensitive, wearable sensors that can do the same thing. Their technology, reported in the journal ACS Nano, could help robot developers make their machines more human.

Nae-Eung Lee and colleagues note that one way to make interactions between people and robots more intuitive would be to endow machines with the ability to read their users’ emotions and respond with a computer version of empathy. Most current efforts toward this goal analyze a person’s feelings using visual sensors that can tell a smile from a frown, for example. But these systems are expensive, highly complex and don’t pick up on subtle eye movements, which are important in human expression. Lee’s team wanted to make simple, low-cost sensors to detect facial movements, including slight changes in gaze.

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Real stereotypes continue to exist in virtual worlds

Stereotypes related to gender and appearance that burden women in the real world could follow them into virtual ones, according to researchers. In a study of how people interacted with avatars in an online game, women received less help from fellow players than men when they operated an unattractive avatar and when they used a male avatar, said T. Franklin Waddell, a doctoral candidate in mass communications, Penn State.

SwRI reveals the first 'images' of thunder

For the first time, scientists have imaged thunder, visually capturing the sound waves created by artificially triggered lightning. Researchers from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) are presenting the first images at a joint meeting of American and Canadian geophysical societies in Montreal, Canada, May 3-7.

“Lightning strikes the Earth more than 4 million times a day, yet the physics behind this violent process remain poorly understood,” said Dr. Maher A. Dayeh, a research scientist in the SwRI Space Science and Engineering Division. “While we understand the general mechanics of thunder generation, it’s not particularly clear which physical processes of the lightning discharge contribute to the thunder we hear. A listener perceives thunder largely based upon the distance from lightning. From nearby, thunder has a sharp, cracking sound. From farther away, it has a longer-lasting, rumbling nature.”

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Earworms? Chewing gum could be the solution.

The study found that people who chewed gum after hearing catchy songs thought less often about the song than in a control condition. Chewing gum also reduced the amount they ‘heard' the song by one third.

Children's sleep and mental health are related

Silje Steinsbekk, an associate professor and psychologist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, has conducted a comprehensive survey of sleep disorders in children and what it means for their mental health. CREDIT Photo: Therese Lee Støver/NTNU

Silje Steinsbekk, an associate professor and psychologist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, has conducted a comprehensive survey of sleep disorders in children and what it means for their mental health.
CREDIT
Photo: Therese Lee Støver/NTNU

Toddlers who take a long time to fall asleep or wake up many times during the night have put many a desperate mom and dad to the test. Tired parents are often told that night waking is part of toddlerhood, and that it will soon pass on its own, but this is not the case for everyone.

Researchers at NTNU’s Department of Psychology have conducted a comprehensive survey of nearly 1,000 toddlers that shows that serious sleep disorders in young children can have long-term consequences.

The study shows that four-year-olds with sleep disorders have a higher risk of developing symptoms of psychiatric problems as six-year-olds, compared with children who sleep soundly.

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Treating gum disease reduces prostate symptoms, CWRU researchers find

Treating gum disease reduced symptoms of prostate inflammation, called prostatitis, report researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine and the Departments of Urology and Pathology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center.

Previous studies have found a link between gum disease and prostatitis, a disease that inflames the gland that produces semen. Inflammation can make urination difficult.

“This study shows that if we treat the gum disease, it can improve the symptoms of prostatitis and the quality of life for those who have the disease,” said Nabil Bissada, chair of Case Western Reserve’s Department of Periodontics and the new study’s corresponding author.

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We all want high social status

Not everyone may care about having an impressive job title or a big, fancy house but all human beings desire a high level of social status, according to a newly published study. For decades, researchers have argued both sides of the question: is it human nature to want high standing in one's social circle, profession, or society in general?

Study quantifies the effect of depressive thoughts on memory

For people with depressed mood, memory and concentration difficulties are often a day-to-day reality, greatly affecting job performance and personal relationships. While those with the disorder report that these cognitive problems are some of the most deeply troubling, previous studies have been unable to observe this phenomenon in a laboratory setting. In a study published online today in Cognition and Emotion, researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas are the first to substantiate memory deficits in individuals with depressed mood. The findings may have implications for the way cognitive deficits are diagnosed and treated in depression.

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Study finds we think better on our feet, literally

Students with standing desks are more attentive than their seated counterparts. In fact, preliminary results show 12 percent greater on-task engagement in classrooms with standing desks, which equates to an extra seven minutes per hour of engaged instruction time.