Artificial intelligence applications are popping up everywhere these days, from our Internet browsing to smart homes and self-driving cars. Now a group of researchers is launching a new AI-led study that will collect data from recently released prisoners. The ultimate goal of the project is to identify – and, ostensibly, one day eliminate – the psychological and physiological triggers that cause recidivism among parolees.
Researchers at Purdue University Polytechnic Institute plan to monitor volunteer parolees using a panoply of AI-powered tools and methods, including smartphones and biometric wearable bracelets. These gadgets will record and analyze a variety of data, such as the ex-prisoners’ biological information (heart rate), photos, and location meta-data.
According to project-leads Marcus Rogers and Umit Karabiyik, the resulting data will assist them in conducting a forensic psychological analysis. While the monitoring will be gauged in intervals – not real-time – they believe it will help build a profile of the risky behaviors and stressful triggers that recent parolees face when returning to the outside world.
Citing a Department of Justice study, the researchers say over 80 percent of prisoners released from state prisons get arrested in their first 9 years and a plurality of those prisoners get arrested in less than a year.
Karabiyik notes: “The major reason recidivism is so high is the parolees don’t feel like they belong in the community. They have a hard time, and they immediately go back to their old criminal habits. Their old criminal communities are very welcoming.”
The study will conscript 250 volunteer parolees – after obtaining their families’ consent, too – upon their release. Half of them will receive treatment and biometric tracking devices, which will monitor them for four years; the other half will serve as the control group.
The Purdue University research team will partner with the Tippecanoe County Community Corrections, the Tippecanoe County/Purdue High Tech Crime Unit and the Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Department.
“The goal of the study is to identify opportunities for early intervention to better assist those individuals to integrate back into general society successfully,” Rogers said.
He believes that technology can be used to inculcate coping mechanisms and social skills for released prisoners. By reducing the number of re-offenses, he says caseworkers will be able to manage their jobs better.
“In the end, we want to develop a system that will allow the caseworkers to more quickly identify those individuals that seem to be on a path that would lead to recidivism.”
This is not the first time an academic team has used electronic surveillance to monitor parolees. In 2017, criminology researchers used smartphones to track released prisoners who were struggling with substance abuse or mental health problems. They used algorithms to study everything from parolee movements to sleep patterns, hoping that such tech could one day allow caseworkers to intervene.
Are new surveillance and artificial intelligence-led research projects a useful scientific collection of data that could ultimately help parolees? Or is it a panopticon-like surveillance application that could end up exclusively in the hands of law enforcement?
While the project carries a certain altruistic resonance, some civil liberty activists worry that such an application could end up being abused as yet another police surveillance tool.
Chinese Military Satellite Smashed by Russian Rocket in “Major Confirmed Orbital Collision”
In an incident that is likely illustrative of things to come, Chinese military satellite 1-02 was smashed after it appears to have collided into the debris from a disintegrating Russian rocket.
The collision, which occurred earlier this year, shows the increasing danger of space junk such as satellite parts and other miscellaneous jetsam littering the Earth’s orbit. An estimated 8,000 metric tons of space debris pose the risk of destroying functional equipment such as weather forecasting systems, telecoms and GPS systems – and even manned space travel missions – if the problem isn’t reined in.
The fate of the Chinese satellite was uncovered by Harvard astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.
The breakup of Yunhai 1-02 was initially reported by the U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron (18SPCS). However, it wasn’t until recently that McDowell found out what caused the breakup.
The astrophysicist soon found that it was destroyed by space junk that originated from a Russian Zenit-2 rocket that had launched a spy satellite in 1996. On Aug. 14, McDowell found a strange entry in a database on Space-Track.org: “Collided with satellite.”
“This is a new kind of comment entry — haven’t seen such a comment for any other satellites before,” McDowell tweeted.
“A quick analysis of the TLEs show that Yunhai 1-02 (44547) and [the debris object] passed within 1 km of each other (so within the uncertainty of the TLEs) at 0741 UTC Mar 18, exactly when 18SPCS reports Yunhai broke up,” he added, noting that this “looks to be the first major confirmed orbital collision in a decade.”
However, the Yunhai satellite still remains functional and is transmitting radio signals, notes Space.com.
The incident shows the growing likelihood of such collisions in the high-traffic, littered near-Earth orbital zone.
“Collisions are proportional to the square of the number of things in orbit,” McDowell explained. “That is to say, if you have 10 times as many satellites, you’re going to get 100 times as many collisions.”
He added: “So, as the traffic density goes up, collisions are going to go from being a minor constituent of the space junk problem to being the major constituent. That’s just math.”
A worst-case scenario of such collisions is known as the “Kessler Syndrome,” and describes the possibility of one collision setting in motion a chain of collisions. Such a disaster was the premise of the 2013 film “Gravity.”
One hopes that things don’t reach that point.
In the meantime, however, there have been a number of initiatives meant to tackle the growing problem of space debris, such as the ELSA-d spacecraft launched in a demonstration mission earlier this year.
Boston Dynamics Drops New Video Of 5-Foot Atlas Humanoid Robot Effortlessly Doing Parkour
Robot maker Boston Dynamics has released new video of its two-legged Atlas robot effortlessly completing a parkour obstacle course, offering a new display of its humanoid machines’ unsettling repertoire.
In the video, a pair of Atlas robots can be seen leaping over large gaps, vaulting beams, and even performing backflips. The robot can even be seen jumping over a board while using its arm to remain steady.
While the display seems like anything but “free” running – as the original developers of parkour had envisioned – the routine does seem like an impressive, if terrifying, display of effective coding that took months to perfect, according to the Hyundai-owned robotics firm.
“It’s not the robot just magically deciding to do parkour, it’s kind of a choreographed routine, much like a skateboard video or a parkour video,” said Atlas control lead Benjamin Stephens.
See for yourself:
Unlike its robotic dog Spot, which controversially hit New York City streets last year before being pulled, Atlas isn’t a production robot. Instead, it’s a research model meant to see how far the limits of robotics can be pushed.
In the past, Boston Dynamics has displayed the robot’s feats with videos of Atlas jogging and even busting out some cool dance moves.
Team lead Scott Kuindersma said in a statement that in about two decades, we can expect to coexist with robots that move “with grace, reliability, and work alongside humans to enrich our lives.”
Until then, some of us will continue to reserve our right to feel a bit queasy about the prospect of people being chased down by these skilled free-running (and dancing) machines.
South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash
What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?
It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.
The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.
The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.
“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”
The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.
Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.
Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.