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Surprise: Soulless Sex Robots Offer No Human Health Benefits

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Sex, like milk, does a body good: it lowers blood pressure, burns calories, lessens pain, improves sleep, and eases stress.

Unfortunately for well-heeled loners, though, there is no evidence (yet) to suggest sex robots—anthropomorphic devices with customizable genitalia—can cure physical, mental, or social aches.

A new report published this week in the journal BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health exposes a lack of clinical research data on sexbots—unsurprising given their recent rise to fame.

But limited availability and excessive price tags haven’t curbed curiosity.

“We became aware that doctors are being asked for their professional opinions on sex dolls and robots,” study co-author Chantal Cox-George, a doctor at St. George’s University Hospitals, told The Washington Post.

Some advocates defend the cyborgs as promoting safer sex: Imagine a red-light district full of robotic prostitutes made of bacteria-resistant fiber, and flushed for human fluids after use.

Sounds … gross. Yet optimistic.

“It is speculative whether the development of a sexbot marketplace will lead to lesser risk of violence and infections, or drive further exploitation of human sex workers,” the research paper said.

Perhaps they can provide therapeutic value, allowing folks to practice without pressure. Or, more likely, a racy robot may further isolate someone with sexual dysfunction, or alienate couples already struggling in the bedroom.

Cox-George and co-author Susan Bewley, an obstetrician at King’s College London, also examine sexbots’ potential to treat pedophiles and sex offenders (they “strongly caution against” it), as well as whether these tailor-made, idealized machines will change societal norms.

“There are worries about blurred boundaries to consent and permission for enacted violence when sexbot ‘personalities’ can be selected that simulate non-consensual sex—that is, rape,” the pair wrote.

For now, Cox-George and Bewley urge medical practitioners to follow the “precautionary principle”—i.e. avoid the clinical use of sexbots until their benefits have been empirically proven.

“There is a social responsibility to protect the public from harm, unless findings emerge to show no harm,” Cox-George said.

Get a behind-the-scenes look at how sex robots are made in this photo essay by brave European Pressphoto Agency photographer Aleksandar Plavevski.

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General

SpaceX Completes Final Flight Test, Teases Q2 Crewed Launch

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SpaceX successfully completed a launch escape demonstration of its Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket over the weekend.

A joint effort between Elon Musk’s aerospace firm and NASA, Sunday’s trial proved the SpaceX ship can safely separate from the rocket in case of an inflight emergency.

As part of the assessment—the final major evaluation before the capsule begins carrying astronauts to the International Space Station—SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about one-and-a-half minutes after liftoff.

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“As far as we can tell thus far, it’s a picture perfect mission. It went as well as one can possibly expect,” Musk, chief engineer at SpaceX, said in a statement. “This is a reflection of the dedication and hard work of the SpaceX and NASA teams to achieve this goal. Obviously, I’m super fired up. This is great.”

Members of SpaceX and the U.S. Air Force will (fingers crossed) recover the Crew Dragon—for return to the manufacturer’s Florida facility—and the Falcon 9, which broke apart in a blaze of glory (as planned).

“Today, we watched the demonstration of a system that we hope to never use, but can save our lives if we ever do,” according to Crew Dragon test flight astronaut Doug Hurley, who, alongside Bob Behnken, will fly to the ISS and back as part of the upcoming Demo-2 mission.

“It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point,” he continued, “and we can’t wait to take a ride to the Space Station soon.”

As you can see in the video above, the Crew Dragon triggered launch escape about one-and-a-half minutes after liftoff. All major functions were executed: separation, engine firings, parachute deployment, landing. The spacecraft splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean 10:38 a.m..

“This critical flight test puts us on the cusp of returning the capability to launch astronauts in American spacecraft on American rockets from American soil,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.

“We are thrilled with the progress NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is making and look forward to the next milestone for Crew Dragon,” he added.

That milestone may be only a few months away.

During a post-abort test press conference on Sunday, Musk announced that his company’s first crewed mission will occur in the second quarter of this year—between April and June, as reported by CNBC.

“We’re highly confident the hardware will be ready in Q1, most likely in February, but no later than March,” he said, hinting at a sooner-rather-than-later Demo-2.

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General

‘Human Screenome Project’ Wants to Record Your Every Digital Move

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With increased automation comes increased concerns over digital behaviors.

Does screen time really impair concentration, lead to anxiety and depression, hinder social conduct, and weaken our ability to tell reality from fiction?

Researchers at Stanford and Penn State universities want to find out by recording and analyzing everything people see and do on their phones.

Their so-called “Human Screenome Project” (a play on the Human Genome Project, aimed at mapping the world’s genes) promises a detailed approach to “observing the complexities of current digital lives.”

Our screen time is mostly invisible to researchers; studies tend to rely on participants to self-report usage, which is highly inaccurate.

But even when time spent on one app or website is measured more accurately via software, the numbers don’t necessarily reflect the various types of content in which folks engage.

For instance, one user’s hour on Facebook keeping up with social posts from friends may have very little in common with a neighbor’s hour on Facebook reading political news, or a co-worker’s hour on Facebook stalking and bullying strangers.

“No matter what you study, whether it’s politics, addiction, health, relationships, or climate action, if you really want to understand people’s beliefs and behaviors, you really need to look at their ‘screenome,’ because so much of our lives is now filtered through our digital devices,” Stanford medical professor and study co-author Thomas Robinson said in a statement.

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To properly diagram society’s digital life, researchers have installed software on personal devices (with the user’s consent), which records, encrypts, and transmits screenshots every five seconds—whether or not the handset is turned on.

Those images are funneled into the project’s shareable database, which can be used to observe moment-by-moment changes across content and screens, or to describe longer-term variations over days, weeks, or even years.

“We now have a way in which we can observe all of that movement and begin quantifying and studying it,” commentary co-author Nilam Ram, professor of human development and psychology at Penn State, said. “Now we’re in a position to be able to launch the Human Screenome Project as a large-scale, interdisciplinary effort that brings all that technology and domain experts together.”

The Stanford Screenomics Labs has so far collected more than 30 million data points from 600-plus participants.

That’s not enough, though.

“We need thousands and tens of thousands of people generating even more screen data,” according to co-author Byron Reeves, a professor in Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences.

Moving forward, researchers hope the project’s findings can be used to encourage healthier screen use.

“It’s not just giving people information about what they’re doing, but actually building interventions around it,” Robinson said. “If a person is struggling with becoming more physically active, we can identify their digital media use associated with periods of sedentary behavior and steer them, using precisely timed and personally tuned interventions, towards healthier outcomes.”

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Fashion

What’s It Like to Wear A 3D-Printed Sneaker?

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Adidas’ Alphaedge 4D sneaker takes footwear to the future. (Photo: Adidas / Twitter)

What does a shoe with a sole 3D-printed from a base of light and oxygen feel like on your feet? The short answer: a little heavier than you might expect, but pretty good. The long answer is way more interesting though, I promise.

One of the great sneaker innovations of the last decade was adidas’ innovations in 3D printing. Using a process called Carbon Digital Light Synthesis, they pioneered the adidas 4D line, a series of shoes with soles printed using a process primarily based on light and oxygen particles to create pliable, sturdy shoe soles that are designed to best aid in human performance.

The tech first launched in April of 2017 in tight, limited quantities that restricted accessibility. Since then though, it’s expanded, adorning dozens of adidas sneakers and becoming far more accessible to the public.

Traditional shoe soles of just about any kind are created with injection molding. Carbon Digital Light Synthesis does away with the process entirely, instead opting for an elaborate building process that went through 50 different designs before being settled on – the current process allowing for the sole’s performance to be tested early on in the design phase, which eliminates the need for prototypes.

When speaking with sneaker publication High Snobiety, adidas explained that, “It is a photochemical process. It works by projecting light through an oxygen-permeable window into a reservoir of UV-curable resin.

As a sequence of UV images are projected, the part solidifies and the build platform rises. Oxygen inhibits the photochemical reaction so that there is always a thin, liquid interface of uncured resin between the window and the printing part.” What sets this tech apart from traditional 3D printing is that UV-curable resin – traditional 3D printing uses plastics, which are stiffer and more difficult to mold.

So what’s the end result? What’s it like wearing a shoe that has been 3D-printed using light and oxygen?  Recently I got the chance to try out the adidas Alphaedge 4D and, well, it’s like I said: a little heavier than you might expect. Given that adidas’ most popular sneaker innovation of the last decade has been Boost foam, you’d expect a comparable lightness, right?

Boost is famous for being ultra lightweight and responsive. Wearing it makes you realize just how heavy every other shoe you’ve ever worn is. It’s cushy and pliable, making for one of the most comfortable shoes on the market today. Given this, wouldn’t a heavier shoe feel like something of a downgrade?

Not necessarily. Yes, these 4D soles have a bit more heft to them than something like an Ultra Boost. But the weight serves a purpose, the first being durability. It might not feel like running on a pillow the way that Ultra Boosts do when you first put them on, but the support is unreal.

The printed webbing absorbs and redistributes shock and movement as your foot strides, seeming to respond to individual muscles and each part of your foot accordingly. It also, in the world of professional sports, allows for maximum customizability. The structure of the webbing can easily be altered in the design process (again, without the need for creating prototypes) to suit the needs of the athlete in question.

It doesn’t hurt that the shoe’s upper is comprised of an ultra-lightweight knitted material similar to that of the Ultra Boost or the Nike Epic React Flyknit. The obvious benefit is that it doesn’t add any unnecessary weight to the shoe, though it’s perhaps more important to note that knit uppers cradle your foot far better than most materials. It locks your foot down into the sole and conforms to the shape and contour in order to maximize the shoe’s performance as well as that of your body.

I’m not going to lie – it takes a little while to get used to. There’s a peculiar sensation to the 4D soles that isn’t quite like anything I’ve ever felt in a shoe before. It’s like walking on a bed of super-light springs. Once you’ve gotten used to the peculiar sensation and the strange weightiness of it though, you won’t want to take it off. This tech marks such a leap forward into the future of sneakers that it honestly makes sense that you might not initially be prepared for the sensation of wearing them. How can you be prepared for lacing the future onto your feet?

You can pick a pair of adidas’s 4D sneakers for yourself over at their website.

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