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ICT

21 June 2021

Covid-19 hastened the digital shift with consequences for the ‘data divide’, wellbeing

Sometimes it can seem like we’ve uploaded our whole lives to the internet: bank accounts, social media posts, dating profiles, work emails – it’s all out there in that nebulous cloud of digital information that is the world wide web. The problems with this new digital way of life are well known. Social media is thought to produce echo chambers in which people aren’t exposed to healthy debates. Big tech companies make money from our personal data. Workers in the gig economy are paid a pittance to deliver groceries to the better off.
25 May 2021

Nanorobots could target cancers and clear blood clots

Tiny nano-sized robots and vehicles that can navigate through blood vessels to reach the site of a disease could be used to deliver drugs to tumours that are otherwise difficult to treat.
17 May 2021

How chemists are building molecular assembly lines

Four huge robot arms surround the gleaming metal shell of what will soon be a top-of-the-range automobile. They jerk into life, attaching the bonnet, the wing mirrors, and other panels. It’s the kind of precision operation you can find at car factories around the world these days. But here’s a question worth considering: could we pull off a feat like this only about a billion times smaller?
10 May 2021

Foldable, organic and easily broken down: Why DNA is the material of choice for nanorobots

Only in cancer medicine do we aim to attack and kill legions of our own cells. But healthy bystander cells often get caught in deadly crossfire, which is why cancer treatments can cause severe side effects in patients.
03 May 2021

Q&A: Nanobots could explore human cells – but their size is an engineering challenge

Scientists are developing virus-sized robots that could defuse blood clots, explore human cells or even scrub water of impurities.
03 May 2021

Nanorobots

How do you design and build a robot that you can’t even see? And what would you use it for? In May, Horizon explores the developing field of nanorobotics and its potential applications. We speak to Prof. Brad Nelson at ETH Zurich in Switzerland whose team found that the nanobots they were working on destroyed the drugs they were meant to be delivering, so are now repurposing them to purify water. We speak to researchers who are using the origami-like properties of DNA to make tools such as nanorobotic boxes with lids that open, and others that have created a molecular robotic arm that can pick up, reposition and release molecules. And because tasks like going into a blood vessel to dissolve a dangerous clot would be ideal for a nanorobot, we find out how scientists are devising ways to enable nanorobots to travel through the bloodstream.
02 December 2020

Brain-controlled computers are becoming a reality, but major hurdles remain

Imagine controlling your computer just by thinking. It sounds far-out, but real advances are happening on these so-called brain-computer interfaces. More researchers and companies are moving into the area. Yet major challenges remain, from user training to the reality of invasive brain implant procedures.
01 December 2020

Opening the ‘black box’ of artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence is growing ever more powerful and entering people’s daily lives, yet often we don’t know what goes on inside these systems. Their non-transparency could fuel practical problems, or even racism, which is why researchers increasingly want to open this ‘black box’ and make AI explainable.
28 October 2020

Electronic skin patches could restore lost sensation and detect disease

Picture this: You’ve experienced no physical sensation beyond your wrists for years, then a doctor drapes a thin, flexible membrane over your hand and, like magic, you can feel the trickle of water through your fingers again.
30 June 2020

Automated shipping coming to Europe’s waters

Moving more goods by water could reduce pressure on roads and cut emissions, yet Europe’s shipping industry is held back by labour shortages. Automated shipping – which would work in a similar way to self-driving cars – could help expand capacity but safety and regulatory hurdles remain.