Part 2 of a two-part interview (Read part 1 here)
In the second part of the interview with Dr. Oren Shriki, we look at recent developments in invasive and non-invasive brain technologies and the scientific challenges which have to be surmounted for faster development of better technologies. Dr. Shriki talks about how brain technology might enter into our daily lives. We conclude with a discussion on the ethical aspects of brain technology, which might not be of significant concern at the moment, but have to be kept in mind, as the technology develops.
Applications of brain technology
Monitoring mental states
The first kind of application of brain technology could be for monitoring mental and cognitive states. EEG is a relatively affordable technology, which allows for recording brain activity and extracting measures of cognitive state. These measures can be combined with heartrate, blood pressure, pupil size etc to assess the mental state of a person. The information can be fed into a smartphone, so that users can tell at the end of the day whether they were relaxed or tensed and try to gain a better quality of life.
In general, Dr. Shriki believes that brain technology will move from just treating brain disorders into the healthy population, for stress reduction and preventive medicine applications in the healthy population.
At the next level, brain technology could be used for neural feedback, helping the subjects to control their mental state. Dr. Shriki said that eventually brain computer interfaces (BCI) could allow people to control external devices, like a Jedi.
Brain Computer Interfaces
In BCI technology, there are two major lines of research. One of them focuses on invasive technologies, which require surgery. Arrays of electrodes are implanted inside the brain, so that brain activity can be read with high resolution at any time and robotic arms could be controlled in a ‘pretty amazing manner’. The last decade has seen a lot of progress in this field.
Dr. Shriki said, “Nowadays, you can also provide subjects with some feedback. They can not only control something but also get sensory feedback from the robotic arm. This is quite impressive.”
But invasive technologies are very expensive, require complicated surgery and are accessible to a very limited population, at least for now.
Non-invasive brain-computer interfaces, where an EEG cap is placed on the scalp, have also seen improvement. But they are still not very attractive for the average consumer.
There are pros and cons of current non-invasive BCIs. Users can put them on or take them off whenever they want. But their resolution is relatively poor. Machine learning could help in this context, helping to predict the subject’s intent to a certain extent.
To explain, Dr. Shriki told us about a BCI in his lab, based on the idea of motor imagery. The subject is asked to imagine moving their right or left hand or squeezing the hand.
“We can classify your brain activity and we can know if you imagine moving your right hand or left hand. Then we can control something. For instance, we can use this to control a robot, make it move right or left. But it is limited to only two options. In another context, you might want to turn a certain device on or off. Some kind of machine learning algorithms might try to guess each time what you may like to do. I give you a few options, then you choose among them,” Dr. Shriki explained.
He went on to say that BCI interfaces will become smarter and smarter. They will try to predict your behaviour.
Once BCIs become cheaper and more reliable, we could see them entering the consumer market. People will start using brain-computer interfaces in their daily lives. People will learn to use BCIs. It similar to skill learning, like riding a bike or playing a musical instrument. If you practice more and more on using the BCI you will eventually become better.
Dr. Shriki said, “Currently, people are still not very motivated to practice. But if you could see tomorrow someone controlling very complex behaviour with his brain, you will be like ‘I want to do that too’ and maybe it will give you some motivation to practice.” It is a mutual, simultaneous learning process between the user and the machine.
Another potential technology is that of brain stimulation. The deep brain stimulation Dr. Shriki had mentioned earlier is an invasive technology. But there are also non-invasive technologies, using for example magnetic pulses.
Dr. Shriki believes that we are going to see a shift from simple stimulation which is done today to closed loop systems, which means that the stimulation itself is guided by the brain activity. So, the system will measure the brain activity of the subject and then will stimulate the brain in a way to obtain a certain desired goal or to optimise the brain activity. It could help healthy subjects gain more relaxed and meditative states. It could also be used to treat different disorders.
Scientific challenges in the development of brain technologies
Dr. Shriki identified four challenges in the development of brain technology. The first is understanding the neural code. If we want to decipher the intent of subjects, we need to understand the neural code. For instance, understanding how visual information is coded in neuron activity.
Understanding the neural code also requires understanding other aspects. Because the way information is coded by the brain is constrained by how the brain is built. So, the next challenge is understanding brain connectivity. Dr. Shriki mentioned the Human Connectome Project as an initiative in this area. This Project tries to understand the basic patterns of connectivity in the human brain, how different brain areas are connected to one another, in which direction the connections go, how strong they are. “We need to measure brain connectivity on a large scale, as well as small scale and understand how the connectivity changes when you learn things,” Dr. Shriki said.
The third challenge is about neural dynamics. Connectivity constrains the dynamics but still we need to understand the important principles that govern the dynamics of neurons. One such principle Dr. Shriki believes in is the idea of criticality mentioned earlier. There are other principles that govern neural dynamics and people are working on finding them. The Human Brain Project, a somewhat controversial EU Flagship initiative, with funding of over 1 billion dollars, aims to create a large scale simulation of a brain. They do very detailed computer simulations of the neurons and their interactions and try to understand neural dynamics.
But the ultimate challenge, what Dr. Shriki thinks is the most important one, is understanding learning in the brain. He said, “Why don’t we see a brain-inspired chip that is intelligent? Because we don’t understand the brain yet. Because we don’t understand learning in the brain. Learning is what differentiates us from computers. We can adapt very quickly, we learn quickly very complex things. The amazing things that people do with machine learning today, they are still not close to the human brain. In many aspects, they can do what we do an even outperform us. But in many other aspects they are still far behind.”
Overcoming all these challenges is a pre-requisite to brain technology. There are other challenges in translating the understanding to applications.
New technologies are required to measure brain activity and things like brain connectivity in a more elegant way. There are factors to be considered such as avoiding over-exposing the patient to MRIs and the cost of the equipment. The local neighbourhood clinic cannot afford to have an MRI machine.
Better non-invasive technologies have to be developed to improve both spatial and temporal resolutions of the measurement of brain activity. That will substantially improve what can be done with BCIs.
The American government’s BRAIN initiative, started under the Obama administration, seeks to address some of the challenges.
Role of government and policy makers in facilitating the development of brain technology
Dr. Shriki mentioned three concrete actions governments can take. The first is investment in translational neuroscience, to convert advances, findings in basic research into some products with applications. Such grants will help to bridge the gap between academic research and the market. Dr. Shriki said that the grants should be for both academia and the industry to encourage startup companies.
The second point is organisation of meetings around brain technology, bringing together brain scientists and entrepreneurs, people from the industry and investors.
“Scientists are used to regular scientific meetings. We just go there, we give high-level talks to our peers. The idea is to have workshops, popular science talks and one-on-one meetings between scientists and entrepreneurs to try to move to the next level. And move from bench to bedside, in the clinical context,” Dr. Shriki explained. Israel BrainTech is a good example of such a conference.
Finally, the government can promote educational programmes at the level of elementary, middle and high school around brain research. This is not easy but Masters or PhD students in the brain sciences can teach courses during or outside of school hours.
Dr. Shriki added, “Imagine that once a year a high school student receives a popular lecture about the brain. This will create motivation in young students. You can organise summer camps. They can conduct experiments, learn about the brain in a very hands-on manner. I did such summer camps and they were highly successful. I have some students in my lab now who participated in my summer camps.”
Ethics of brain technology
Dr. Shriki has taught courses on philosophy and ethics of science. Often there appears to be inadequate attention paid to these aspects. We asked him about potential ethical issues in brain technology. He described a few important ones.
BCIs could in principle invade privacy. Dr. Shriki gave an example, “You use the regular control to play the games. But you also have an EEG headset that allows you to perform some actions using your own brain. But now the system can present your brain some stimuli on the side. You don’t even notice, you don’t care much about them. But the system monitors your reaction to these stimuli and learns things about your brain. For instance, if those stimuli are meaningful for you, it would know it. Like your birthday, where you live, maybe some numbers. People have already shown that in principle you can extract some information from the brain. It’s very very hard but what they say is that you can reduce the complexity, reduce the search space. I may not be able to extract your credit card number but maybe I can reduce the number of options.”
Another ethical concern is about treatments. There is limited understanding regarding the working of the brain, as Dr. Shriki explained earlier. Because of that there is the risk that the treatment for an epileptic patient might actually exacerbate his epilepsy. Similar risks lie with regular medication. But in brain technologies, it is a bigger problem because it is not like trying to treat the heart or the blood system or muscl
es. The treatments are messing with something we don’t truly understand.
Yet another concern is the possibility of brain enhancement. Suppose people could increase their memory or their capacity for computation, at a price. This could worsen existing inequalities in society. People with money could buy the memory extension, do better in their exams and so on. It is important to keep in mind that similar things happen today, even without brain technology. The rich can send their kids to private schools which cost more and give a better education.
Another real dilemma is the ‘Minority Report’ scenario. In principle brain technology could identify people who pose risks to society.
Dr. Shriki provided a vivid description, “What would happen if someone knocked on your door now and said you are a very nice guy, you didn’t do anything wrong, you have no criminal record. But from your recent brain scan we found that you are a potential rapist. You need to come every week for electroshock therapy. Or we know from the structure of your brain that you might be very violent at some point. You need to come for treatment.”
“Of course, the minute you ask me, I will say you should not do something like that. If you have not done anything wrong, no one should accuse you,” he added.
He highlighted what is possibly the crucial factor in ensuring that the line is not crossed. It is the difference between objectively analysing a biological measure and trying to correct or improve it.
Dr. Shriki said that these ethical issues should not scare us away from developing brain technology, at least at this point, with the current technology. But these issues should be out there on the table and people should be aware of them.
Visiting China has just become more convenient for Singapore residents, thanks to an innovative feature added to the Changi Pay digital wallet. Launched in 2021 by Changi Airport Group (CAG), a wholly-owned subsidiary under the purview of Singapore’s Ministry of Finance. This digital wallet has introduced a game-changing collaboration with a fintech company and an innovative technology provider.
One of the most significant benefits of this collaboration is the ability for Changi Pay users to make secure payments at a wide range of merchants in China. The focus is on leveraging a third-party mobile and online payment platform in China, where mobile payments through QR codes have become vastly more popular than traditional methods involving cash or conventional bank cards.
Lim Peck Hoon, CAG’s Executive Vice President for Commercial, expressed her enthusiasm about the collaboration and its positive outcomes, stating, “We have been turbocharging our digitalisation efforts to enhance the travelling experience for our passengers, and we are proud to see this collaboration bear fruit.”
One of the immediate advantages that users will appreciate is the ability to transact in China without incurring the typical transaction fees associated with overseas credit card payments. This is a significant boon for travellers who often find themselves burdened by extra charges when making purchases abroad. Changi Pay has effectively eliminated this hassle, allowing users to enjoy their shopping and dining experiences without worrying about hidden fees.
Besides, Changi Pay has gone the extra mile by providing users with attractive exchange rates. This means that when making payments in China, users will benefit from favourable rates, ensuring that their money goes further. This is a practical advantage that can significantly enhance the overall travel experience, making it more affordable and enjoyable.
Further, Changi Pay has introduced an enticing incentive for its users. Those who opt to make payments in China using the digital wallet will receive e-vouchers. These vouchers can be redeemed for purchases at Changi Airport upon their return, effectively offering users extra value for their spending. It’s a win-win situation that adds another layer of appeal to using Changi Pay for international transactions.
This collaboration has not only streamlined international payments but has also aligned perfectly with CAG’s overarching mission to elevate the traveller’s journey through digital innovation. By addressing the pain points associated with overseas transactions, Changi Pay has demonstrated its commitment to making travel more convenient, cost-effective, and rewarding for its users.
Digital wallets streamline the entire travel payment process, eliminating the need to carry bulky wallets filled with cash and numerous payment cards. This convenience not only simplifies transactions but also enhances the overall travel experience by reducing stress and hassle.
Likewise, digital wallets often offer favourable exchange rates and eliminate or reduce transaction fees typically associated with foreign currency payments. This translates to savings for travellers, allowing them to allocate their budgets more efficiently.
Hence, digital wallets have evolved into tools that modern travellers simply cannot do without since they provide a streamlined, risk-free, and time-saving solution for them to manage the financial aspects of their trips.
Also, digital wallets increase the excitement and accessibility of exploration by making travel more comfortable, cost-effective, and rewarding. Because of this, digital wallets are quickly becoming an essential companion for travellers all over the world.
Agencies under the Ministry of Education and Skill Development and Entrepreneurship have inked eight memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with a leading private tech company, aimed at advancing digital skilling and training in emerging technologies for India’s youth.
During the signing ceremony, Union Minister of Education and Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Dharmendra Pradhan, said that India, with its vast and youthful population, has tremendous potential. To leverage this demographic advantage, it is essential to empower the youth with the necessary skills to thrive in the modern workforce.
As part of the agreements, specially designed courses will be offered to empower the youth with future-ready skills. This partnership will concentrate on jointly developing curricula to educate students across various levels, including school education, higher education, and vocational skills. The courses will cover emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (including generative AI), cybersecurity, cloud computing, and professional development skills. The collaboration encompasses three primary levels of education:
School Education: The private tech company will provide digital content for high school students, teachers, and trainers in schools identified by the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS), National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE), and Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS). The programme will be available online, through webinars, and in-person workshops organised by the company’s CSR implementation partners.
Furthermore, the company will update the CBSE’s (Central Board of Secondary Education) AI curriculum for Grades 11 and 12. It will also create a cyberskilling and blockchain curriculum for high school students.
Higher Education: Through the company’s CSR implementation partners, it will work closely with the Department of Higher Education, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), National Institute of Electronics & Information Technology (NIELIT), National Institute of Technical Teachers’ Training & Research (NITTTR), Chandigarh, and state skilling missions. The objective is to onboard affiliated students and faculty and grant them access to digital content, experiential learning opportunities, and new skill sets, equipping them for careers in the technical field.
Vocational Skills: The company will maintain its central partnership with MSDE and collaborate with the Directorate General of Training (DGT) as well as vocational education and skilling departments at the state level. The aim is to enrol job seekers, including those who have been unemployed for an extended period and individuals who have dropped out of school, into the company’s educational programme. This will empower them to acquire the technical and professional skills necessary for re-entering the workforce.
This collaboration represents a notable step towards realising the government’s vision of a ‘Skilled India’ and scaling up digital skills training and proficiency in emerging technologies through the private player’s educational programme. The MoUs will play a crucial role in enabling learners to fully harness the true potential of technology, transforming them into future wealth creators and successful entrepreneurs in society.
India has been actively working with tech giants and agencies to digitally upskill its youth. Earlier this month, the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship partnered with two industry stakeholders to provide cloud skills training to 1,500 individuals. Through the programme, participants go through a workforce development initiative tailored to individuals who are unemployed or underemployed. It encompasses fundamental cloud skills training alongside valuable career guidance, such as creating resumes and preparing for interviews.
By using real-world scenario-based exercises, hands-on labs, and coursework, the learners receive training in various technologies. This includes Linux, Python, networking, security, and relational databases, ensuring a well-rounded skillset for their professional development.
The LKS Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong (HKUMed) is integrating technology into its teaching and training methods. Over the past decade, HKUMed has formed its own multimedia production team to create interactive online teaching materials.
The launch of simulation wards at the Academic Building on Sassoon Road in 2022, equipped with high-fidelity simulators, has significantly advanced nursing education and interprofessional education, garnering recognition with the ‘Teaching and Learning Strategy of the Year’ award at THE Awards Asia 2023.
HKUMed was also among the pioneers in Asia to introduce extensive point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) education, providing senior medical students with portable devices for skill development in ultrasonography for bedside assessment and therapy. Furthermore, the institution has embraced cutting-edge augmented and virtual reality facilities for enhanced human anatomy education, ensuring students have continuous access to immersive learning experiences.
The Dean of Medicine at HKU emphasised the need for health professional students to broaden their perspective beyond clinical competence by appreciating the humanities in medicine and understanding sectors such as big data, artificial intelligence (AI), and informatics, which are transforming healthcare. He expressed gratitude to a philanthropist for his generous support to enhance AI integration into medical teaching, helping HKUMed maintain its excellence in training future healthcare professionals.
The transformative impact of AI on the world and the importance of meaningful applications in healthcare research, medical curricula and services to develop new therapies and enhance health and quality of life were stressed. He expressed his pleasure in supporting initiatives aimed at popularising AI education in Hong Kong and empowering the younger generation to utilise AI innovatively in education.
The philanthropist donated HK$30 million to HKUMed to support AI education, and in response, the institution committed to investing an additional HK$30 million to expand its digital learning capabilities, including hardware, software, and human resources, to further develop AI medical education. Scholarships and grants will be established to assist financially needy students and reward those excelling in AI learning.
The Director of Education Technology at HKUMed outlined plans to enhance health professional students’ digital health competencies through curriculum expansion. Initiatives include incorporating Generative AI (GenAI) technologies to simulate realistic patient scenarios, fostering a multimodal learning experience, and improving history-taking, clinical reasoning, and interpersonal skills. AI will also be used to capture and analyse interactions during teaching and assessments, providing timely feedback to enhance teaching, learning practices, and inter-professional health education.
Since the curriculum reform in 2019, HKUMed has involved students in innovative teaching and pedagogical developments through the ‘Student in Medical Education’ initiative, promoting a culture that recognises teaching as part of professional development. Active student participation in AI advancements continues through the Generative AI Resource Hub, a student-educator partnership initiative aimed at enhancing GenAI literacy for students and faculty members.
With the donation and matching fund, the enhancement of digital learning capacity at HKUMed will better prepare tomorrow’s healthcare professionals to meet society’s healthcare needs and safeguard public health in the future.
The initiatives undertaken by the LKS Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong (HKUMed) align with the broader efforts of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government to promote innovation and technology in various sectors, including healthcare.
HKUMed’s focus on integrating AI and digital learning into medical education contributes to the HKSAR’s goal of becoming a hub for technological innovation, fostering a skilled workforce capable of addressing the region’s healthcare needs and advancing the application of AI in healthcare services, thus reinforcing Hong Kong’s position as a leader in innovation and education.
OpenGov Asia reported earlier that HKPC Academy collaborated with a specialist company to incorporate interactive training content and hands-on exercises into the programme. This addition aims to make the programme more practical and industry-relevant, providing participants with the skills needed to master cutting-edge educational technologies and application solutions.
In a groundbreaking achievement for cancer treatment and multidisciplinary research, the Centre for Ion Beam Applications (CIBA) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) has been designated as an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Collaborating Centre for Research and Development of Accelerator Science and Multidisciplinary Applications.
This historic recognition, formalised through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was recently inked, distinguishes CIBA as the first of its kind in Singapore and elevates it to an elite echelon of global technical centres dedicated to nuclear science and technology.
At the heart of CIBA’s pioneering initiatives is the IAEA Coordinated Research Project (CRP), a visionary endeavour launched with a research coordination meeting in September 2023. This project, which focuses on single-cell imaging and irradiation utilising accelerator-based techniques, promises to be a transformative force in the fields of radiobiology and cancer treatment.
Digital technology serves as the backbone of the IAEA Collaborating Centre’s multifaceted operations. It assumes a pivotal role in data management and analysis, handling the extensive volumes of data generated by accelerator experiments and research endeavours. Advanced data analytics tools are deployed to extract valuable insights from this data, thereby propelling the advancement of accelerator science.
Another vital function of digital technology within the Collaborating Centre is simulation and modelling. These digital simulations are indispensable for optimising accelerator designs, forecasting outcomes, and assessing potential risks. Researchers can explore various scenarios and fine-tune their approaches, resulting in significant time and resource savings.
The integration of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) augments the Centre’s capabilities. These technologies expedite the analysis of complex datasets, facilitate pattern recognition, and optimise accelerator performance. Additionally, AI can automate routine tasks, freeing up researchers for more critical activities.
Documentation and reporting processes are streamlined through digital tools, aiding in the preservation of research findings, experiment protocols, safety procedures, and compliance with IAEA standards. This documentation is essential for transparency, regulatory adherence, and knowledge management.
Besides, digital technology bridges geographical divides, facilitating international collaboration among IAEA Collaborating Centres and partner institutions. Collaborators can effortlessly exchange information, share best practices, and jointly work on research projects. Digital technology serves as an enabler, fostering global cooperation and advancing accelerator science and multidisciplinary applications.
Within the purview of the Collaborating Centre, CIBA’s pioneering research initiatives encompass a wide array of applications. These include using ion beams to identify elemental composition and structural characteristics of materials, with applications ranging from advanced battery development for electric cars to microelectronics, environmental analysis, and biomedical research. Advanced ion beam techniques extend their relevance to space applications and integrated circuit (IC) fault detection, broadening their impact.
CIBA’s cutting-edge proton beam writing techniques have the potential to fabricate nanofluidic lab-on-chip platform technologies. These platforms enable molecular biology analysis, such as genetic sequencing, offering breakthroughs in understanding genetic and molecular processes.
In parallel, CIBA’s researchers are advancing single-ion fluorescence technology, a pivotal field in radiobiology and cancer research. This involves detecting light emitted by single ions, opening new avenues for studying cellular responses to radiation.
The Collaborating Centre’s focus also extends to optimising nuclear and X-ray (synchrotron-based) methods for analysing forensic and cultural samples. One of the most promising realms of research involves enhancing particle accelerators for radiobiology applications.
The ultimate goal is to elevate proton beam therapy, a cutting-edge form of radiation cancer treatment, to a new level of precision and effectiveness. This groundbreaking research endeavours to strengthen international collaborations, partnering with institutions such as the Singapore Nuclear Research and Safety Initiative (SNRSI) and the Singapore Synchrotron Light Source (SSLS).
The Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) unveiled a draft decree earlier this year concerning the management, provision, and use of internet services, slated to replace the existing Decree 72. Under the proposed regulations, social networks will be required to remove content that violates the rules, with corresponding measures taken against offending accounts, community pages, and content channels. According to MIC, these heavy sanctions are expected to help clean up cyberspace.
The new draft decree includes more stringent requirements and more severe penalties for offenders. Organisations and individuals offering services, whether within Vietnam or internationally, are mandated to prevent and delete content that breaches the law immediately, once this is required by MIC. In cases where unreasonable content is not removed as instructed, MIC will employ technical measures to block websites, applications, and platforms that offer these services.
A notable addition in the draft decree compels social networks to temporarily or permanently suspend the accounts, community pages, community groups, and content channels that frequently breach regulations or engage in severe violations that impact national security. The regulations designed by MIC aim to address the sources of violations and reduce the time and resources expended by agencies in blocking and removing content in violation.
An industry expert has noted that that information is spreading rapidly across both domestic and international social networks. Failure to promptly address harmful information could lead to significant consequences for individuals and businesses. Moreover, inaccurate information concerning government policies circulating on social networks could severely undermine the reputation and functioning of state agencies.
The call for the immediate removal of violating content and the decision to suspend offending accounts can effectively resolve multiple issues simultaneously. In such a scenario, platforms will bear the responsibility of monitoring user posts, while users will need to be accountable for the content they generate.
It is essential to establish clear guidelines regarding the types of violations that need to be addressed and how much time platforms are allowed to do this. If the violations have relations with national security, they must be handled immediately. In this case, platforms must remove information in violation as soon as the watchdog agency sends links containing the violating information, with no need to send written requests. For other types of violations, it may be more practical to provide platforms with a reasonable amount of time to conduct thorough investigations into the cases before taking action.
With the ongoing digital transformation, the volume of sensitive data stored on digital platforms has surged, underscoring the importance of securing data as a critical priority. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has issued a warning regarding an increasingly serious scam involving the utilisation of deepfake technology to capture the movements and voices of unsuspecting victims for fraudulent purposes. This manipulation has resulted in financial losses for numerous individuals. It is anticipated that this artificial intelligence (AI)-based deception will evolve further in the future, becoming even more sophisticated and deceptive.
Personal data serves as the foundational building blocks for government and business databases. As a result, these data are regarded as invaluable resources for organisations and individuals to gather and use. The legitimate and lawful use of this data yields significant value. However, illegal activities that compromise personal data, leading to infringements on national security, social order, and security, can have severe consequences.
The University of Sydney has acquired an advanced 360-degree rotating cockpit simulator, enabling students and researchers to replicate the experience of piloting various aircraft, including A380s and spacecraft. Located within the School of Aerospace, Mechanical, and Mechatronic Engineering, this New Zealand-manufactured simulator, called the Eight360 NOVA Simulator, is the sole one of its kind in Australian universities.
This cutting-edge simulator uses virtual reality technology, providing students and researchers with a comprehensive understanding of how theoretical concepts and design choices impact aircraft behaviour. It enhances the learning and research process by providing a hands-on experience and immersing students in flight operations environments.
What sets this simulator apart from traditional flight simulators is its unlimited rotational axes, allowing for complex manoeuvres like spins and inverted flight. This capability empowers researchers to gain insights into how both aircraft and humans perform in challenging conditions, as well as to test and pilot vehicles they’ve designed.
The simulator operates “untethered” thanks to a freely movable ball resting on rollers that are powered by electric motors, enabling precise control over the ball’s positioning at varying speeds. As pilots manipulate the controls, the ball adjusts its position to mimic the orientation and acceleration of a real-flight vehicle.
Associate Professor Nicholas Lawson, who heads the Aircraft Performance and Operations department and joined the university in 2021, emphasized the importance of the simulator in bridging the gap between theoretical study and practical experience in aerospace and aeronautics.
One of the benefits highlighted by a Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering student is the simulator’s immersive experience, significantly enhancing her understanding of aerospace and space engineering. The student, who is also representing the university at an international space conference, praised the simulator as an excellent hands-on complement to theoretical learning.
Furthermore, the simulator holds potential for simulating space environments, including the control of crewed vehicles on planetary surfaces, a development area led by Visiting Professor Gregory Chamitoff, a former NASA Astronaut.
The acquisition of the advanced 360-degree rotating cockpit simulator by the University of Sydney reflects the Australian government’s interests in promoting STEM education, fostering innovation, and developing the aerospace industry. This cutting-edge technology not only attracts students to STEM disciplines but also contributes to the growth of the country’s aerospace sector.
Additionally, the simulator’s potential for international collaboration in space-related research and its capacity to develop a highly skilled workforce aligns with the government’s goals for innovation, technology transfer, and workforce development. While primarily an academic asset, this initiative indirectly supports broader national objectives in education, industry, and international engagement.
OpenGov Asia reported earlier that the Aerostructures Innovation Research (AIR) Hub’s AIR Pass initiative is playing a crucial role in fostering innovation and growth within the aerospace and aviation sectors. This programme is tailored to assist startup companies as well as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in advancing their aerospace and aviation projects. The AIR Pass programme offers a comprehensive package that includes expert technical guidance, prototyping resources, and financial support for a span of up to six months for successful applicants.
Through close collaboration, the AIR Hub’s experts have played a pivotal role in the rapid design, production, and delivery of the EPS test rig. This intensive development phase, spanning just four months, culminated in the lead-up to the Avalon Airshow. The successful delivery of the EPS and accompanying test infrastructure for commercial demonstration marked a significant achievement.
In a groundbreaking move that promises to usher in a new era of innovation and sustainability, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has joined forces with the Mandai Wildlife Group in a visionary two-year partnership.
This collaboration seeks to drive digital transformation in Singapore’s wildlife parks, with a focus on three pivotal areas: Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs), sustainability, and immersive experiences. This bold initiative was formally launched with the signing of a Memorandum of Intent (MoI) at the iconic Singapore Zoo, setting the stage for Mandai Wildlife Group’s parks to become a veritable “living lab for innovation.”
“Our partnership with Mandai Wildlife Group expands on our existing digital transformation and innovation efforts, with the parks serving as a ‘living lab for innovation’ to support this endeavour,” said Leong Der Yao, Assistant Chief Executive, Sector Transformation, IMDA.
The IMDA-Mandai Wildlife Group partnership is not merely a symbolic gesture but a commitment to co-develop innovative solutions that will have real-world applications. At its core, this collaboration aims to tackle pressing challenges and identify untapped opportunities within the realm of wildlife conservation and entertainment. It’s a partnership that envisions a future where technology and nature converge to create a harmonious and sustainable coexistence.
One of the primary focal points of this collaboration is the development and deployment of Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs). These robots are poised to revolutionise the way wildlife parks operate, enhancing both efficiency and visitor experience. Unlike traditional AMRs designed for flat surfaces, the challenge here lies in adapting these robots to navigate the intricate and often uneven terrains of outdoor environments.
The IMDA and Mandai Wildlife Group are initiating a Call for Proposal that specifically targets outdoor AMRs equipped with tele-operation capabilities. This ambitious endeavour seeks to address existing industry challenges and technology gaps, with the ultimate goal of making these AMRs an integral part of daily park operations.
The identified use cases for these outdoor AMRs are diverse and compelling. A central operations platform, powered by tele-ops, will facilitate the management and coordination of multiple AMRs throughout the park premises. This not only streamlines operations but also ensures that these robots can work seamlessly together, enhancing overall efficiency.
Additionally, the introduction of AMRs for F&B delivery both to staff and visitors within the parks promises to revolutionise the dining experience. Visitors can now enjoy the convenience of ordering meals through a dedicated app, further enhancing their overall enjoyment of the park.
The collaboration also aims to automate and streamline visitor management services, such as location and ticketing services. This will significantly enhance the guest experience by reducing wait times and providing more personalised assistance. Moreover, the implementation of AMRs for surveillance purposes promises to improve security within the parks. These robots can navigate dimly lit and challenging terrains with ease, enhancing staff’s ability to respond swiftly to any guest needs or emergency incidents.
While these innovations are exciting on their own, they are part of a broader initiative by IMDA to enable the large-scale deployment of AMRs for commercial use. This partnership with Mandai Wildlife Group represents a critical step in achieving this vision.
By fostering collaboration between enterprises, technology partners, and the AMR community, IMDA aims to drive the adoption and interoperability of AMR systems across both indoor and outdoor environments. This initiative is poised to bring about tangible benefits for businesses in Singapore, ranging from increased productivity to the creation of new, high-value jobs.