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Watch a Robotic Hand Play the Piano With a More Human Touch

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The first, from “Toccata,” by the Italian composer Scarlatti, requires a series of punctuated, or staccato, raps, usually performed with the index finger. The engineers found that keeping this forefinger very stiff came closest to approximating how a human would play the notes. They made the surrounding digits less stiff, to ensure that the robot could also play progressions that were soft and slurred, or legato.

Next, the researchers used “Alligator Crawl,” by the American jazz pianist Fats Waller, to study their robot’s ability to play octaves. Big jumps, they found, require stretchy ligaments in the valleys between fingers but moderately stiff joints in the fingers themselves to ensure clear notes on landing.

Finally, Ms. Hughes’s team turned to the thumb, an especially complex digit. “Rhapsody in Blue,” by the American composer George Gershwin, helped them model how a thumb skates across keys to create a slide in pitch, called a glissando. Low stiffness in the thumb joints — the lowest the researchers tested — helped create a smooth glissando. It also allowed the index finger to cross over the thumb, a tricky maneuver that pianists employ often to flow between keys more easily.

Compared with many previous piano bots, this one showed flexibility in volume control, thumb movements and playing both staccato and legato, Ms. Hughes said. She next plans to add sensors, motors and components that act like tendons, which will help create a wider range of behaviors.

Ultimately, she hopes to create a robot that can play piano expressively, rather than just focusing on rigid accuracy.

“We’re going beyond simply treating notes as a list of instructions,” she said. “Piano playing is an art. We’re trying to introduce that complexity, depth and artistry into our robot’s behavior.”

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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