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Noninvasive Light-Sensitive Recombinase for Deep Brain Genetic Manipulation
A KAIST team presented a noninvasive light-sensitive photoactivatable recombinase suitable for genetic manipulation in vivo. The highly light-sensitive property of photoactivatable Flp recombinase will be ideal for controlling genetic manipulation in deep mouse brain regions by illumination with a noninvasive light-emitting diode. This easy-to-use optogenetic module made by Professor Won Do Heo and his team will provide a side-effect free and expandable genetic manipulation tool for neuroscience research. Spatiotemporal control of gene expression has been acclaimed as a valuable strategy for identifying functions of genes with complex neural circuits. Studies of complex brain functions require highly sophisticated and robust technologies that enable specific labeling and rapid genetic modification in live animals. A number of approaches for controlling the activity of proteins or expression of genes in a spatiotemporal manner using light, small molecules, hormones, and peptides have been developed for manipulating intact circuits or functions. Among them, recombination-employing, chemically inducible systems are the most commonly used in vivo gene-modification systems. Other approaches include selective or conditional Cre-activation systems within subsets of green fluorescent protein-expressing cells or dual-promoter-driven intersectional populations of cells. However, these methods are limited by the considerable time and effort required to establish knock-in mouse lines and by constraints on spatiotemporal control, which relies on a limited set of available genetic promoters and transgenic mouse resources. Beyond these constraints, optogenetic approaches allow the activity of genetically defined neurons in the mouse brain to be controlled with high spatiotemporal resolution. However, an optogenetic module for gene-manipulation capable of revealing the spatiotemporal functions of specific target genes in the mouse brain has remained a challenge. In the study published at Nature Communication on Jan. 18, the team featured photoactivatable Flp recombinase by searching out split sites of Flp recombinase that were not previously identified, being capable of reconstitution to be active. The team validated the highly light-sensitive, efficient performance of photoactivatable Flp recombinase through precise light targeting by showing transgene expression within anatomically confined mouse brain regions. The concept of local genetic labeling presented here suggests a new approach for genetically identifying subpopulations of cells defined by the spatial and temporal characteristics of light delivery. To date, an optogenetic module for gene-manipulation capable of revealing spatiotemporal functions of specific target genes in the mouse brain has remained out of reach and no such light-inducible Flp system has been developed. Accordingly, the team sought to develop a photoactivatable Flp recombinase that takes full advantage of the high spatiotemporal control offered by light stimulation. This activation through noninvasive light illumination deep inside the brain is advantageous in that it avoids chemical or optic fiber implantation-mediated side effects, such as off-target cytotoxicity or physical lesions that might influence animal physiology or behaviors. The technique provides expandable utilities for transgene expression systems upon Flp recombinase activity in vivo, by designing a viral vector for minimal leaky expression influenced by viral nascent promoters. The team demonstrated the utility of PA-Flp as a noninvasive in vivo optogenetic manipulation tool for use in the mouse brain, even applicable for deep brain structures as it can reach the hippocampus or medial septum using external LED light illumination. The study is the result of five years of research by Professor Heo, who has led the bio-imaging and optogenetics fields by developing his own bio-imaging and optogenetics technologies. “It will be a great advantage to control specific gene expression desired by LEDs with little physical and chemical stimulation that can affect the physiological phenomenon in living animals,” he explained.
KAIST Presents Innovations at CES 2019
Ten of the most innovative technologies spun off from KAIST made a debut at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2019, the world’s largest consumer electronics and IT exhibition being held in Las Vegas from January 8 to 11. The KAIST booth at the CES featured technologies made by KAIST research teams and five startup companies including LiBEST, Memslux, and Green Power. In particular, the KAIST Alumni Association invited 33 aspiring alumni entrepreneurs selected from the KAIST Startup Competition to the show. At the exhibition, KAIST is presenting innovations in the fields of AI and Bio-IT convergence for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. These include real-time upscaling from Full HD to 4K UHD using AI deep learning-based convolutional neural networks (Professor Munchurl Kim, School of Electrical Engineering) and an AI conversation agent that responds to user’s emotions (Professor Soo-Young Lee, School of Electrical Engineering). Other technologies include optimal drug target identification by cancer cell type through drug response prediction to be used in personalized cancer treatments (Professor Kwang-Hyun Cho, Department of Bio and Brain Engineering), a nanofiber-based color changing gas sensor with greater sensitivity than conventional paper-based color changing sensors (Professor Il-Doo Kim, Department of Materials Science and Engineering), and functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) for brain imaging and muscle fatigue measurement (Professor Hyeonmin Bae, School of Electrical Engineering). The KAIST booth also features startups founded by KAIST alumni including LiBEST with a flexible lithium polymer secondary cell optimized for smart wearable devices and Rempus with a high-performance lithium ion cell packaging technology for outstanding safety, high capacity, long life, and fast charging. Green Power and Smart Radar Systems are also joining the booth with a highly efficient and eco-friendly wireless charging system for electrical cars, and a 4D image radar sensor that detects 3D images and speed in real time for applications in self-driving cars, drones, and security systems respectively. Faculty-founded startup Memslux (CEO Jun-Bo Yoon, School of Electrical Engineering) is presenting a transparent surface light source solution for next-generation display devices. Associate Vice President of Office of University-Industry Cooperation Kyung Cheol Choi said, “I believe that universities should play a role in connecting technological innovations to business startups for creating value at a global level. In that sense, it is a great opportunity to present innovative technologies from KAIST and promote outstanding KAIST startups at CES 2019. Hopefully, this experience will lead to joint R&D, investment, cooperation, and international technology transfer contracts with leading companies from around the world.” Here are the five key technologies presented by KAIST at CES 2019.
Sound-based Touch Input Technology for Smart Tables and Mirrors
(from left: MS candidate Anish Byanjankar, Research Assistant Professor Hyosu Kim and Professor Insik Shin) Time passes so quickly, especially in the morning. Your hands are so busy brushing your teeth and checking the weather on your smartphone. You might wish that your mirror could turn into a touch screen and free up your hands. That wish can be achieved very soon. A KAIST team has developed a smartphone-based touch sound localization technology to facilitate ubiquitous interactions, turning objects like furniture and mirrors into touch input tools. This technology analyzes touch sounds generated from a user’s touch on a surface and identifies the location of the touch input. For instance, users can turn surrounding tables or walls into virtual keyboards and write lengthy e-mails much more conveniently by using only the built-in microphone on their smartphones or tablets. Moreover, family members can enjoy a virtual chessboard or enjoy board games on their dining tables. Additionally, traditional smart devices such as smart TVs or mirrors, which only provide simple screen display functions, can play a smarter role by adding touch input function support (see the image below). Figure 1.Examples of using touch input technology: By using only smartphone, you can use surrounding objects as a touch screen anytime and anywhere. The most important aspect of enabling the sound-based touch input method is to identify the location of touch inputs in a precise manner (within about 1cm error). However, it is challenging to meet these requirements, mainly because this technology can be used in diverse and dynamically changing environments. Users may use objects like desks, walls, or mirrors as touch input tools and the surrounding environments (e.g. location of nearby objects or ambient noise level) can be varied. These environmental changes can affect the characteristics of touch sounds. To address this challenge, Professor Insik Shin from the School of Computing and his team focused on analyzing the fundamental properties of touch sounds, especially how they are transmitted through solid surfaces. On solid surfaces, sound experiences a dispersion phenomenon that makes different frequency components travel at different speeds. Based on this phenomenon, the team observed that the arrival time difference (TDoA) between frequency components increases in proportion to the sound transmission distance, and this linear relationship is not affected by the variations of surround environments. Based on these observations, Research Assistant Professor Hyosu Kim proposed a novel sound-based touch input technology that records touch sounds transmitted through solid surfaces, then conducts a simple calibration process to identify the relationship between TDoA and the sound transmission distance, finally achieving accurate touch input localization. The accuracy of the proposed system was then measured. The average localization error was lower than about 0.4 cm on a 17-inch touch screen. Particularly, it provided a measurement error of less than 1cm, even with a variety of objects such as wooden desks, glass mirrors, and acrylic boards and when the position of nearby objects and noise levels changed dynamically. Experiments with practical users have also shown positive responses to all measurement factors, including user experience and accuracy. Professor Shin said, “This is novel touch interface technology that allows a touch input system just by installing three to four microphones, so it can easily turn nearby objects into touch screens.” The proposed system was presented at ACM SenSys, a top-tier conference in the field of mobile computing and sensing, and was selected as a best paper runner-up in November 2018. (The demonstration video of the sound-based touch input technology)
KAIST Seals the Deal for Kenya KAIST Project
KAIST will participate in Kenya’s strategic economic development plan under the provision of a turnkey-based science and technology education consultancy for the establishment of the Kenya Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (Kenya KAIST).KAIST signed the contract on November 30 with the Konza Technopolis Development Authority to establish Kenya KAIST. Korea Eximbank will offer a 95 million USD loan to the Kenyan government for this project. The project will include the educational and architectural design and construction of Kenya KAIST. The campus will be constructed in the Konza Techno City nearby Nairobi by 2021, with the first batch of 200 graduate students starting classes in 2022. KAIST, in consortium with Samwoo and Sunjin architecture and engineering companies, will take the lead of the three-year project, with the kick-off ceremony planned at the end of next January in Nairobi. The Kenyan government plans to transform Kenya into a middle-income country under Vision 2030 through promoting science, technology, and innovation for national economic growth. Nicknamed Africa’s Silicon Savannah, Konza Techno City is a strategic science and technology hub to realize this vision. To this end, the medium-term plan set a goal to provide specialized research and training in various leading-edge engineering and advanced science fields.In the two-phase evaluation of the consultancy bidding, KAIST won preferred bidder status in the technical proposal evaluation, outbidding three other Korean consortia. Invited to the financial proposal bidding, the KAIST consortium successfully completed month-long contract negotiations with Kenya last week.KAIST will develop academic curricula for six initial departments (Mechanical Engineering, Electrical/Electronic Engineering, ICT Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, and Agricultural Biotechnology), which will lay the ground work for engineering research and education in Kenya to meet emerging socioeconomic demands. In addition, KAIST will provide the education of basic sciences of math, physics, chemistry, and biology for students.It is also notable that the Kenyan government asked to develop an industry-academy cooperation program in Konza Techno City. It reflects the growing industrial needs of Kenya KAIST, which will be located in the center of the Konza Technopolis. It is anticipated that the technopolis will create 16,675 jobs in the medium term and over 200,000 after completion, positioning Kenya as an ICT hub within the region.KAIST also shares a similar history of establishment with Kenya KAIST, as it will be built with a foreign loan. KAIST, created by the Korean government in 1971 to drive the economic engine through advancement of science and technology with a six-million USD loan from USAID, has now become a donor institution that hands down science and technology education systems including the construction of campuses to underdeveloped countries.The successful case of KAIST has been benchmarked by many countries for years. For instance, KAIST set up the curriculum of the nuclear engineering program at the Khalifa University of Science and Technology in UAE in 2010. In China, Chongqing University of Technology is running its electrical engineering and computer science programs based on the educational systems and curricula offered by KAIST from 2015. In October, KAIST also signed an MOU with the Prince Mohammad Bin Salman College of Cyber Security, AI, and Advanced Technologies in Saudi Arabia to provide the undergraduate program for robotics.Among all these programs benchmarking KAIST, Kenya KAIST clearly stands out, for it is carrying out a turnkey-based project that encompasses every aspect of institution building ranging from educational curriculum development to campus construction and supervision.President Sung-Chul Shin is extremely excited about finalizing the deal, remarking, “It is of great significance that KAIST’s successful development model has carved out a unique path to becoming a global leading university that will benefit other countries. In only a half century, we have transitioned from a receiver to a donor institution, as the country itself has done.”“KAIST will spare no effort for Kenya KAIST to become a successful science and technology university that will play a crucial role in Kenya’s national development. I believe Kenya KAIST will be an exemplary case of an ODA (Official Development Assistance) project based on the development of science and technology to benefit underdeveloped countries,” he added.
KAIST Shows Strong Performance in Crypto Contest Korea 2018
(Awardees at the ceremony for Crypto Contest Korea 2018) A paper titled “Indifferentiability of Truncated Random Permutations” by PhD candidate Wonseok Choi and MS candidate Byeonghak Lee (under Professor Jooyoung Lee) from the KAIST Graduate School of Information Security (GSIS) won first place in Crypto Contest Korea 2018. Byeonghak Lee became a repeat winner since his paper titled “Tweakable Block Ciphers Secure Beyond the Birthday Bound in the Ideal Cipher Model” also received an award at Crypto Contest Korea 2017. The contest, hosted by the Korea Cryptography Forum, the Korea Institute of Information Security & Cryptology, and the National Security Research Institute and sponsored by the National Intelligence Service, was held for promoting cryptography in Korea. The total prize money is fifty million won with ten million won going to the first place winners. The contest was divided into three divisions: paper, problem solving, and idea. Among the three divisions, first place came from the paper division only. Besides first place, KAIST students showed outstanding performance in the contest. PhD candidate Seongkwang Kim received participation prize while he also received special prizes with MS candidate Yeongmin Lee. The hacking club GoN (under Professor Sang Kil Cha), comprised of undergraduate students from the GSIS was awarded the grand prize in the division of problem solving. The award ceremony was held during the Future Crypto Workshop 2018 on November 15. The awards ceremony for Crypto Expert Korea 2018 were also held there, and PhD candidate Ji-Eun Lee from the School of Computing and Byeonghak Lee received awards, the grand prize and runner-up prize respectively.
OUIC Presents the Six Most Promising Techs Transferrable to Local SMEs
KAIST will showcase the six most promising technologies for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) on November 14 in the Academic Cultural Complex. To strengthen the competitive edge of local SMEs in Daejeon, the Office of University-Industry made a survey of their technological needs and came up with the six most promising technologies. Developers will introduce their technologies during the session.Besides the introduction of the promising technologies, the session will also provide a program named University to Business (U2B) to match up technologies according to the SMEs’ needs. SMEs who wish to engage in technology transfers can receive counseling and other support programs during the session.First, Professor Seok-Hyung Bae from the Department of Industrial Design will present a technology for controlling cooperation robots. Professor Bae inserted flexible materials between the controllers to allow robots to use both hands stably and operate more accurately and swiftly. It can be applied to automatic robots, industrial robots, and service robots.Professor Hyun Myung from the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering will demonstrate a robot navigation system in a dynamic indoor and outdoor environment, which can be applied to robotics in logistics, smart factories, and autonomous vehicles. Providing robust simultaneous localization and mapping systems, this technology shows high-performing navigation with low-cost sensors.Meanwhile, Professor Siyoung Choi from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering will introduce a technology for forming stable adhesive emulsions. An emulsion is a stable mixture of water and oil. Conventionally, a small amount of surfactant is added to stabilize an emulsion. Here, Professor Choi developed a stable emulsion system without using any chemical substances. This technology can be applied to various fields, including the cosmetics, pharmaceutical, semiconductor, and painting industries. The session will also present smart IoTs platform technology developed by Professor Jinhong Yang from the KAIST Institute for IT Convergence. His technology minimizes errors occurring when multiple IoT devices are connected simultaneously. Professor Yong Keun Park from the Department of Physics will introduce a technology for measuring glycated hemoglobin by using the optical properties of red blood cells. This technology can be applied to make low-cost, small-sized measuring equipment. It can also be used for vitro diagnoses including diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, tumors, kidney disease, and infectious diseases. Professor Yong Man Ro from the School of Electrical Engineering will show technology for biometric access control. Conventional technologies for face recognition fall behind other biometrics. Professor Ro and his team developed a facial dynamics interpreting network which allows very accurate facial recognition by interpreting the relationships between facial local dynamics and estimating facial traits. This technology can be applied to security and communication in finance, computers, and information system.KAIST President Sung-Chul Shin said, “KAIST will continue to support SMEs to have stronger competitiveness in the market. Through technology transfer, we will drive innovation in technological commercialization where a university’s research and development creates economic value.”
Team KAT Wins the Autonomous Car Challenge
(Team KAT receiving the Presidential Award) A KAIST team won the 2018 International Autonomous Car Challenge for University Students held in Daegu on November 2. Professor Seung-Hyun Kong from the ChoChunShik Graduate School of Green Transportation and his team participated in this contest with the team named KAT (KAIST Autonomous Technologies). The team received the Presidential Award with a fifty million won cash prize and an opportunity for a field trip abroad. The competition was conducted on actual roads with Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAV), which incorporate autonomous driving technologies and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication system. In this contest, the autonomous vehicles were given a mission to pick up passengers or parcels. Through the V2X communication, the contest gave current location of the passengers or parcels, their destination, and service profitability according to distance and level of service difficulty. The participating vehicles had to be equipped very accurate and robust navigation system since they had to drive on narrow roads as well as go through tunnels where GPS was not available. Moreover, they had to use camera-based recognition technology that was invulnerable to backlight as the contest was in the late afternoon. The contest scored the mission in the following way: the vehicles get points if they pick up passengers and safely drop them off at their destination; on the other hand, points are deducted when they violate lanes or traffic lights. It will be a major black mark if a participant sitting in the driver’s seat needs to get involved in driving due to a technical issue. Youngbo Shim of KAT said, “We believe that we got major points for technical superiority in autonomous driving and our algorithm for passenger selection.” This contest, hosted by Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, was the first international competition for autonomous driving on actual roads. A total of nine teams participated in the final contest, four domestic teams and five teams allied with overseas universities such as Tsinghua University, Waseda University, and Nanyang Technological University. Professor Kong said, “There is still a long way to go for fully autonomous vehicles that drive flexibly under congested traffic conditions. However, we will continue to our research in order to achieve high-quality autonomous driving technology.” (Team KAT getting ready for the challenge)
Permanent, Wireless Self-charging System Using NIR Band
(Professor Jung-Yong Lee from the Graduate School of Energy, Environment, Water and Sustainability) As wearable devices are emerging, there are numerous studies on wireless charging systems. Here, a KAIST research team has developed a permanent, wireless self-charging platform for low-power wearable electronics by converting near-infrared (NIR) band irradiation to electrical energy. This novel technology can be applied to flexible, wearable charging systems without needing any attachments. Colloidal-quantum-dots (CQDs) are promising materials for manufacturing semiconductors; in particular, PbS-based CQDs have facile optical tunability from the visible to infrared wavelength region. Hence, they can be applied to various devices, such as lighting, photovoltaics (PVs), and photodetectors. Continuous research on CQD-based optoelectronic devices has increased their power conversion efficiency (PCE) to 12%; however, applicable fields have not yet been found for them. Meanwhile, wearable electronic devices commonly face the problem of inconvenient charging systems because users have to constantly charge batteries attached to an energy source. A joint team led by Professor Jung-Yong Lee from the Graduate School of Energy, Environment, Water and Sustainability and Jang Wok Choi from Seoul National University decided to apply CQD PVs, which have high quantum efficiency in NIR band to self-charging systems on wearable devices. They employed a stable and efficient NIR energy conversion strategy. The system was comprised of a PbS CQD-based PV module, a flexible interdigitated lithium-ion battery, and various types of NIR-transparent films. The team removed the existing battery from the already commercialized wearable healthcare bracelet and replaced it with the proposed self-charging system. They confirmed that the system can be applied to a low power wearable device via the NIR band. There have been numerous platforms using solar irradiation, but the newly developed platform has more advantages because it allows conventional devices to be much more comfortable to wear and charged easily in everyday life using various irradiation sources for constant charging. With this aspect, the proposed platform facilitates more flexible designs, which are the important component for actual commercialization. It also secures higher photostability and efficient than existing structures. Professor Lee said, “By using the NIR band, we proposed a new approach to solve charging system issues of wearable devices. I believe that this platform will be a novel platform for energy conversion and that its application can be further extended to various fields, including mobiles, IoTs, and drones.” This research, led by PhD Se-Woong Baek and M.S. candidate Jungmin Cho, was published in Advanced Materials on May 11. Figure 1. a) Conceptual NIR-driven self-charging system including a flexible CQD PVs module and an interdigitatedly structured LIB. b) Photographic images of a conventional wearable healthcare bracelet and a self-charging system-integrated wearable device. Figure 2. Illustration of the CQD PVs structure and performance of the wireless self-charging platform.
Center for Industrial Future Strategy Takes Off at KAIST
Improved Efficiency of CQD Solar Cells Using an Organic Thin Film
(from left: Professor Jung-Yong Lee and Dr. Se-Woong Baek) Recently, the power conversion efficiency (PCE) of colloidal quantum dot (CQD)-based solar cells has been enhanced, paving the way for their commercialization in various fields; nevertheless, they are still a long way from being commercialized due to their efficiency not matching their stability. In this research, a KAIST team achieved highly stable and efficient CQD-based solar cells by using an amorphous organic layer to block oxygen and water permeation. CQD-based solar cells are light-weight, flexible, and they boost light harvesting by absorbing near-infrared lights. Especially, they draw special attention for their optical properties controlled efficiently by changing the quantum dot sizes. However, they are still incompatible with existing solar cells in terms of efficiency, stability, and cost. Therefore, there is great demand for a novel technology that can simultaneously improve both PCE and stability while using an inexpensive electrode material. Responding to this demand, Professor Jung-Yong Lee from the Graduate School of Energy, Environment, Water and Sustainability and his team introduced a technology to improve the efficiency and stability of CQD-based solar cells. The team found that an amorphous organic thin film has a strong resistance to oxygen and water. Using these properties, they employed this doped organic layer as a top-hole selective layer (HSL) for the PbS CQD solar cells, and confirmed that the hydro/oxo-phobic properties of the layer efficiently protected the PbS layer. According to the molecular dynamics simulations, the layer significantly postponed the oxygen and water permeation into the PbS layer. Moreover, the efficient injection of the holes in the layer reduced interfacial resistance and improved performance. With this technology, the team finally developed CQD-based solar cells with excellent stability. The PCE of their device stood at 11.7% and maintained over 90% of its initial performance when stored for one year under ambient conditions. Professor Lee said, “This technology can be also applied to QD LEDs and Perovskite devices. I hope this technology can hasten the commercialization of CQD-based solar cells.” This research, led by Dr. Se-Woong Baek and a Ph.D. student, Sang-Hoon Lee, was published in Energy & Environmental Science on May 10. Figure 1. The schematic of the equilibrated structure of the amorphous organic film Figure 2. Schematic illustration of CQD-based solar cells and graphs showing their performance
Robotic Herding of a Flock of Birds Using Drones
A joint team from KAIST, Caltech, and Imperial College London, presents a drone with a new algorithm to shepherd birds safely away from airports Researchers made a new algorithm for enabling a single robotic unmanned aerial vehicle to herd a flock of birds away from a designated airspace. This novel approach allows a single autonomous quadrotor drone to herd an entire flock of birds away without breaking their formation. Professor David Hyunchul Shim at KAIST in collaboration with Professor Soon-Jo Chung of Caltech and Professor Aditya Paranjape of Imperial College London investigated the problem of diverting a flock of birds away from a prescribed area, such as an airport, using a robotic UVA. A novel boundary control strategy called the m-waypoint algorithm was introduced for enabling a single pursuer UAV to safely herd the flock without fragmenting it. The team developed the herding algorithm on the basis of macroscopic properties of the flocking model and the response of the flock. They tested their robotic autonomous drone by successfully shepherding an entire flock of birds out of a designated airspace near KAIST’s campus in Daejeon, South Korea. This study is published in IEEE Transactions on Robotics. “It is quite interesting, and even awe-inspiring, to monitor how birds react to threats and collectively behave against threatening objects through the flock. We made careful observations of flock dynamics and interactions between flocks and the pursuer. This allowed us to create a new herding algorithm for ideal flight paths for incoming drones to move the flock away from a protected airspace,” said Professor Shim, who leads the Unmanned Systems Research Group at KAIST. Bird strikes can threaten the safety of airplanes and their passengers. Korean civil aircraft suffered more than 1,000 bird strikes between 2011 and 2016. In the US, 142,000 bird strikes destroyed 62 civilian airplanes, injured 279 people, and killed 25 between 1990 and 2013. In the UK in 2016, there were 1,835 confirmed bird strikes, about eight for every 10,000 flights. Bird and other wildlife collisions with aircraft cause well over 1.2 billion USD in damages to the aviation industry worldwide annually. In the worst case, Canadian geese knocked out both engines of a US Airway jet in January 2009. The flight had to make an emergency landing on the Hudson River. Airports and researchers have continued to reduce the risk of bird strikes through a variety of methods. They scare birds away using predators such as falcons or loud noises from small cannons or guns. Some airports try to prevent birds from coming by ridding the surrounding areas of crops that birds eat and hide in. However, birds are smart. “I was amazed with the birds’ capability to interact with flying objects. We thought that only birds of prey have a strong sense of maneuvering with the prey. But our observation of hundreds of migratory birds such as egrets and loons led us to reach the hypothesis that they all have similar levels of maneuvering with the flying objects. It will be very interesting to collaborate with ornithologists to study further with birds’ behaviors with aerial objects,” said Professor Shim. “Airports are trying to transform into smart airports. This algorithm will help improve safety for the aviation industry. In addition, this will also help control avian influenza that plagues farms nationwide every year,” he stressed. For this study, two drones were deployed. One drone performed various types of maneuvers around the flocks as a pursuer of herding drone, while a surveillance drone hovered at a high altitude with a camera pointing down for recording the trajectories of the pursuer drone and the birds. During the experiments on egrets, the birds made frequent visits to a hunting area nearby and a large number of egrets were found to return to their nests at sunset. During the time, the team attempted to fly the herding drone in various directions with respect to the flock. The drone approached the flock from the side. When the birds noticed the drone, they diverted from their original paths and flew at a 45˚ angle to their right. When the birds noticed the drone while it was still far away, they adjusted their paths horizontally and made smaller changes in the vertical direction. In the second round of the experiment on loons, the drone flew almost parallel to the flight path of a flock of birds, starting from an initial position located just off the nominal flight path. The birds had a nominal flight speed that was considerably higher than that of the drone so the interaction took place over a relatively short period of time. Professor Shim said, “I think we just completed the first step of the research. For the next step, more systems will be developed and integrated for bird detection, ranging, and automatic deployment of drones.” “Professor Chung at Caltech is a KAIST graduate. And his first student was Professor Paranjape who now teaches at Imperial. It is pretty interesting that this research was made by a KAIST faculty member, an alumnus, and his student on three different continents,” he said. (Figure A. Case 1: drone approaches the herd with sufficient distance to induce horizontal deviation) (Figure B. Case 2: drone approaches the herd abruptly to cause vertical deviation)
'K-FLEX' Makes a Splash as a Flexible Endoscopic Surgical Robot
( Robot arms perform an incision during an ex-vivo test on a porcine gallbladder.) K-FLEX, a flexible endoscopic surgical robot developed by the KAIST Future Medical Robotics Research Center, opens a new chapter for minimally invasive robot-assisted surgery with its precision control of 3.7 mm diameter robotic arms. The two arms, placing at the end of flexible endoscopes, highlight impeccable precision control and robust mini-joint design technologies. While cruising through the complicated inner body pliably, it carries out procedures on the spot with its robotic arms. The research team under Professor Dong-Soo Kwon recently tested the device in-vivo, conducting a complicated endoscopic procedure dissecting a porcine gallbladder in collaboration with Professor Dae-Kyung Son of the National Cancer Center. The arms successfully manipulated the tissue safely. During the test, K-FLEX, inserted through an incision in the navel, snaked through the narrow passages of the complicated inner organs. When reaching the desired spot, one of the robot arms pushed aside and held up the nearby tissue to secure proper vision and space for the procedure. Meanwhile, a cautery needle mounted at the tip of the other hand removed the lesion tissue on the gallbladder. The tiny camera installed at the front of the robot arms relayed the internal conditions. The full procedure was able to be monitored from the master console. The two arms are placed onto 4.2 mm internal channels of an endoscope which is 17 mm in diameter. The arms can be deployable forward and backward and are extendable up to 7 cm for performing procedures. K-FLEX is made of domestically produced components, except for the endoscopic module. It will expand new medical robotics research while offering novel therapeutic capabilities for endoscopes. Flexible endoscopes are very promising for surgical applications because they can treat areas thought to be difficult to reach, such as the posterior side of an organ. Current rigid-type laparoscopic tools could not reach a lesion if it occurs in such serpentine and complicated areas. However, this flexible endoscopic surgery robot will bypass obstacles to reach the troubled area. The ability to seamlessly integrate effective actuation into millimeter-scale deployable mechanisms fits well with minimally invasive surgical procedures. This flexible endoscopic surgery robot, only half the size of current laparoscopic surgical robots, is deployable into natural orifices such as the mouth, anus, and vagina without requiring external incisions. Laparoscopic devices and robots require at least three to four external incisions to insert the devices; however, the applicability of internal incisions reduces the possibility of complications arousing from excessive bleeding and bacterial infections. Despite these advantages, it has remained challenging to manipulate the robotic arms of flexible endoscopes with integrated grabbing force, flexibility, and multiple degrees of freedom for clinical environments. The team focused on smaller but smarter devices. Dr. Min-Ho Hwang, a principal researcher of K-FLEX, said that developing tiny robots that are able to generate the necessary forces without compromising safety was the challenge. They created a robust but smaller-joint technology that can exert a relatively greater force even into millimeter scale. Professor Kwon said, “K-FLEX is the first flexible endoscopic surgery robot in Korea. We already confirmed the clinical adaptation through ex vivo tests and will see complete commercialization in two to three years.” The team believes K-FLEX will be very effective for surgery on incipient cancer cells in the stomach, colon, and thyroid. Professor Kwon and his eight researchers recently established a tech start-up called EasyEndo Surgical Inc. with these core technologies. In June, K-FLEX won the ‘Best Application Award’ and the ‘Overall Winner’ at the Surgical Robot Challenge 2018 held at Imperial College London. The Korea Research Foundation funded the research on K-FLEX. (The team conducts a procedure using K-FLEX, flexible endoscopic surgical robot.)
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