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Attorney General candidates debate as November election looms

By Timothy Michalik

October 13, 2018

Ahead of a highly-publicized Illinois State Attorney General election in November, Democratic nominee Kwame Raoul and Republican nominee Erika Harold, two staunchly divided candidates, agreed on two issues: legalizing marijuana sales and protecting immigrants from federal deportation—if state legislators pass those laws.“If the state of Illinois passed a law legalizing marijuana, then it would absolutely be my job as t...

OPINION: Fatness doesn’t need permission

OPINION: Fatness doesn’t need permission

October 1, 2018

Tess Holliday, a size-22 model, will grace the October cover of Cosmopolitan UK. Noted commentator Piers Morgan criticized Holliday Aug. 30 after the cover’s preview release, stating the magazine’s ...

Cholesterol exonerated, maybe

Cholesterol exonerated, maybe

March 2, 2015

Two sunny side up eggs and a strip of bacon graced the cover of Time magazine in March 1984, forming the distressed, frowning caricature of a human face. The message imparted to the American people by this ...

Genetic variety in gut critters tied to disease

Genetic variety in gut critters tied to disease

By Sports & Health Editor

February 23, 2015

The human gut is a teeming locus of bacterial enterprise. This ever-changing clump of activity—our gut microbiome—spans the length of the stomach and intestines and is colonized by trillions of microb...

Photography alumna Barbara Diener introduced her work Jan. 26 at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in the 600 S. Michigan Ave. Building for the opening reception of the “What Remains” exhibit.

Photography alumna finds home away from home

February 2, 2015

When 2013 photography alumna Barbara Diener’s father died, the artist felt compelled to reconnect with her heritage and reminisce about Mechernich, the small town in Germany where she grew up. Diener ...

Cooking robot may offer artificial culinary intelligence

By Sports & Health Editor

January 26, 2015

One of the greatest questions in developing of artificial intelligence is how to provide robots with a software template that enables them to recognize objects and learn actions by watching humans. Researchers from the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies and the National Information Communications Technology Research Centre of Excellence in Australia have developed a software system that allows robots to learn actions and make inferences by watching cooking videos from YouTube.“It’s very difficult [to teach robots] actions where something is manipulated because there’s a lot of variation in the way the action happens,” said co-author Cornelia Fermüller, a research scientist at the University of Maryland’s Institute for Advanced Computer Studies. “If I do it or someone else does it, we do it very differently. We could use different tools so you have to find a way of capturing this variation. ”The intelligent system that enabled the robot to glean information from the videos includes two artificial neural networks that mimic the human eye’s processing resulting in object recognition, according to the study. The networks enabled the robot to recognize objects it viewed in the videos and determine the type of grasp required to manipulate objects such as knives and tomatoes when chopping, dicing and preparing food. “In addition to [accounting for variation] there is the difficulty involved in capturing it visually,” Fermüller said. “We’ve looked at the goal of the task and then decomposed it on the basis of that.”Fermüller said the group classified the two types of grasping the robot performed as “power” versus “precision.” Broadly, power grasping is used when an object needs to be held firmly in order to apply force—like when holding a knife to make a cut. Holding a tomato in place to stabilize it is considered precision grasping—a more fine-grain action that calls for accuracy, according to the paper. When observing human activity in real life, robotic systems are able to perceive the movements and objects they are designed to recognize in three dimensions over time, Fermüller said. However, when the movement and objects are viewed in a video, that information is not as immediately understood. “The way we think of videos is as a three-dimensional entity in the sense that there are two dimensions of space and one dimension of time,” said Jason Corso, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan. “It’s not as 3D as the world we live in, but one can use a video … which is a spacetime signal, and from it correspond feature points that could be used to reconstruct the 3D environment that is being seen or imaged in that video.”According to the paper, the development of deep neural networks that are able to efficiently capture raw data from video and enable robots to perceive actions and objects have revolutionized how visual recognition in artificially intelligent systems function. The algorithms programmed into the University of Maryland’s cooking robot are one example of this neural functioning.“So what was used here was really the hand description and object tool description, and then the action was inferred out of that,” Fermüller said. Previous research on robotic manipulation and action recognition has been conducted using hand trackers and motion capture gloves to overcome the inherent limitations of trying to design artificial intelligence that can learn by example, she said. “Part of the problem is that robot hands today are so behind what biological manipulation is capable of,” said Ken Forbus, a professor of computer science and education at Northwestern University. “We have more dynamic range in terms of our touch sensing. It’s very, very difficult to calibrate, as there’s all sorts of problems that might be real problems and any system is going to have to solve them.”Forbus said some of the difficulty that presents itself in robotic design arises from the fact that the tools robots are outfitted with are far behind the ones humans are born with both physically and in terms of sense perception.“There is tons of tacit knowledge in human understanding—tons,” Forbus said. “Not just in manipulation, [but] in conceptual knowledge.”According to Forbus, artificial intelligence researchers have three ways to incorporate this type of conceptual thinking into intelligent systems. The first option is to try to design robots that can think and analyze in a manner superior to humans, and the second is articulating the tacit knowledge that humans possess by trying to boil it down into a programmable set of rules. The third way is to attempt to model the AI on the type of analogical thinking humans use as they discern information and make generalizations that help provide a framework for how to act during future experiences. “That’s a model that’s daunting in the sense that it requires lots and lots of [programmed] experience,” Forbus said. “But it’s promising in that if we can make analogical generalization work in scale … it’s going to be a very human-like way of doing it.”

Mark Wahlberg stars in director Rupert Wyatt’s third feature film, “The Gambler,” which is set to be released Dec. 26 through Paramount Pictures.

Director goes all in with new film ‘The Gambler’

December 8, 2014

Director Rupert Wyatt is still new to the Hollywood landscape. Having only directed three feature films—“The Escapist,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and “The Gambler”—he is still le...

Graphic artist compares average male body shape across countries

Average

By Assistant Sports & Health Editor

December 1, 2014

The average body mass index of the American male aged 30–39 is 28.6, nearly one point away from the medical qualification of being obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Na...

Menu labeling molds ‘architecture of choice’

By Assistant Sports & Health Editor

November 17, 2014

A recent study from the University of Glasgow in Scotland successfully linked calorie labeling on menus with reduced weight gain for the first time. Over the course of 36 weeks, a group of students given no calorie information gained eight pounds on average. The following year, a separate group was presented with prominently displayed labels on their dinner menus and at the serving point where they received their meals for another 36-week period. The latter group gained only four pounds on average—a decrease of Sc50 percent.The results were presented Nov. 5 during the Obesity Journal Symposium at The Obesity Society’s annual meeting in Boston.“We used prominent calorie labels—big and colorful—so they could not really be missed by the students,” said Charoula Nikolaou, lead author of the study and a Ph. D. student at the University of Glasgow’s School of Medicine. “All previous calorie labeling studies used quite small information—they’re supposed to be the same size as the price [of the meal].”About a dozen studies have looked at the relationship between calorie labeling and weight gain in U.S. chain restaurants and have seen little to no effect, according to Sara Bleich, associate professor of Health Policy at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and spokeswoman for The Obesity Society.“I think the biggest challenge for people is they don’t make a lot of sense of calorie information,” Bleich said. “Most people don’t know how X number of calories in a particular item would fit into a recommendation of about 2,000 calories per day. Even given that calorie benchmark, expecting people to make those calculations at the point of purchase is unlikely.”Bleich said pre-packaged foods research shows that consumers do not have a good sense of nutrient compositions, vitamin content or even how to properly read a label. When it comes to ordering from a menu, consumers are expected to not only understand what the nutrition content of the meal is but also how the calories will fit into daily recommendations. According to Nikolaou, calorie content is generally related to fat content. By displaying the number of calories in a meal, students were automatically being nudged away from higher-fat meals. The researchers also analyzed micronutrient information and found that the lower-calorie meals were no worse in terms of vitamin and mineral content. “We had some anxiety they’d end up with unbalanced meals if they just focused on calories,” said Mike Lean, professor and chair of Human Nutrition at the University of Glasgow. “But because of the emphasis on meals, not pieces of a meal, that tended not to be true.”Although calorie labeling is not a  treatment for obesity, it is a form of primary prevention that has been severely lacking worldwide, according to Lean. Research shows the trajectory of weight gain is set in early adolescence, rising in the teenage years and early adulthood before leveling off later in life. “Education has shown itself not to be effective, which is why food companies are very happy to put out a lot of educational materials—it doesn’t change the way people choose,” Lean said. Nikolaou called it “changing the architecture around food choices,” or redefining the factors that influence how people determine what food to order. Lean said the labels are not big enough or prominent enough to impact customers in New York City, where calorie labeling is legally mandated in franchised restaurants. The ambiguous results of prior calorie labeling studies seem to suggest that a highly-visible, daily reminder is necessary for successful results, he said.During a portion of the second year of the study, the labels were removed from menus. Nikolaou said this removal of the constant reminder resulted in a slight increase in the calorie content of the meals students chose.“They were relying on these labels, and if you took them away, even only for five weeks, they started to drift back,” Lean said. “They clearly did not automatically focus on the [meals] which we knew—but they didn’t know—to be lower in calories. They needed that regular nudge.”Another important finding was that the caterers, who Lean said had been resistant to the labels at the onset of the study, ended up reducing their food costs by a third. “There’s a lot of nonsense out there, people saying that lower-calorie foods or healthier foods are going to be more expensive,” Lean said. “The answer is no. They can be, but they don’t have to be.”While the participants were less apt to choose lower-calorie meals when the labels were removed, the low cost and daily nudging effect that calorie labeling provides may be able to influence long-term changes in consumer food choices, according to the study.“We’re optimists,” Lean said. “Changing the environment on a daily basis results in people eating that little bit less and not gaining weight. I’m quite sure there is an entraining effect, but it’s probably minor. We need a permanent change in the environment of making food choices.”

Adulthood more difficult to reach

By Assistant Sports & Health Editor

November 10, 2014

College students know more than anyone how hard it is to try to be an adult. Students living on their own suddenly must make decisions on their own, but oftentimes they feel lost and too intimidated to make those important decisions.An Oct. 30 National Academies Press report examines the developmental attributes of young adulthood—which is approximately ages 18–26—in relation to modern society, claiming it is much harder for ...

Decision fatigue fuels calorie cravings

Decision fatigue fuels calorie cravings

October 27, 2014

Self-control is an important element of dieting, but dietary habits may play a role in self-control.Cravings for high-calorie foods and the strength to resist them has been linked to the part of the brain known...

Pediatric medicine's damaging oversight

Pediatric medicine’s damaging oversight

October 13, 2014

In 1889, pediatric surgeon William Hill was removing the tonsils from children with obstructed airways to alleviate their struggles with breathing when he noticed unforeseen side effects of the procedure. T...

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