Tech News

This professional grade Mirobot 6-Axis Mini Robot Arm is just the tool engineering students need.

TLDR: This amazingly precise robotic arm is a perfect tool for up-and-coming engineers, designed to teach the principles of manufacturing robotics right from your desktop.

Let’s get something out of the way quickly here. While there are any number of both fun and educational tinkerer sets to choose from out there, most are fundamentally toys. Oh sure, the lessons they offer and some of the functions they serve are certainly real enough, but at the end of the day, they’re mostly just enjoyable side diversions into the world of basic engineering.

But make no mistake. The WLKATA Mirobot 6-Axis Mini Robot Arm ($1,539.99, 8 percent off, from TNW Deals) is absolutely no toy. 

Designed specifically for engineering students, this professional grade, open source tool is essentially just like a robotic arm you’d find on a factory floor or in an ultra-precise lab setting…just at a tiny fraction of the price of those extremely expensive bigger brothers.

This arm comes ready to use right out of the box, packing hardware based on an Arduino control board with an open source programming origin, so it’s ready for any level of customization. With the same 6-axis range of movement found in larger industrial arms, this one only sits 9 inches high, allowing engineers and manufacturers to use this cute, yet powerful tool to simulate start fashioning real world robotic uses in a test setting right on a desktop.

And users know they’re getting it right with this arm, which features 0.2mm repeated positioning accuracy, making it ideal for both education purposes as well as light duty tasks, but with the same attention to intricacy and absolute precision robotic work demands.

Its programming produces smooth and stable movement, without a lot of the jerking or slight tremors found on arms that run on servos. Plus, this arm comes with a range of convenient attachments for all your arm modifications, with effectors to serve as a micro-servo gripper, a pen holder, a suction cup, a pneumatic two-finger gripper, a universal ball gripper, and even a GoPro carrier.

This kit also comes with a Bluetooth remote controller, designed to function just like a real industrial robot, with an accompanying act, so you can run the arm right through your smartphone.

Right now, students can get the WLKATA Mirobot 6-Axis Mini Robot Arm Professional Kit and The Educational Kit at nearly 10 percent off the regular price, cutting almost $150 off the total down to only $1,539.99 and $1,399.99 for the Education Kit

Prices are subject to change.

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Japanese app Tuna Scope uses AI to grade the quality of fish

A Japanese chain of sushi restaurants is using an AI-powered app to assess the quality of tuna — a key step in the preparation of sushi that traditionally requires years of training from experienced human buyers. But can it really replace a human’s fish sense?

The app, named Tuna Scope, was developed by Japanese advertising firm Dentsu Inc. It uses machine learning algorithms trained on thousands of images of the cross-sections of tuna tails, a cut of the meat that can reveal much about a fish’s constitution.

From a single picture, the app grades the tuna on a five-point scale based on visual characteristics like the sheen of the flesh and the layering of fat. For an experienced fish grader, these attributes speak volumes about the sort of life the fish led, what it ate, and how active it was — thus, the resulting flavor. Dentsu claims that its AI has captured the “unexplainable nuances of the tuna examination craft,” and in tests comparing the app with human buyers, the app issued the same grade more than four times out of five.

But sushi experts and fishmongers are a little more cautious about Tuna Scope’s ability to replace fish graders, especially those buying meat for high-end sushi and sashimi.

Dentsu’s app uses machine learning algorithms to assess the tuna from just a single picture.
Image: Dentsu

Keiko Yamamoto, a chef and sushi instructor based in London, told The Verge that it’s certainly possible to grade tuna based on visuals alone. Although we often judge the quality of produce based on touch, Yamamoto says with tuna, appearance is everything. “I’ve had to cut fresh tuna every two weeks, so I know what’s good, what’s not good,” she says.

Yamamoto says the exact qualities buyers are looking for can be hard to capture in words but are unmistakable to the trained eye. The highest-quality tuna has an intense bright red color and a certain degree of translucency, as if the flesh is almost glowing. “It looks bouncy, or soft, maybe, to your eye,” she says. “Good quality tuna is silkier and shiny.”

It seems possible to use AI to make basic assessments of the quality, says Yamamoto. She adds that she’s also not surprised that Japan is pursuing this tech, considering its aging population means traditional skills are not always passed down to younger generations.

Right now, according to The Asahi Shimbun, it seems Tuna Scope is only being used to grade fish for restaurant chain Kura Sushi, which offers cheap sushi and uses other cost-saving devices like robotic dishwashers. Kura Sushi reportedly purchases 70 percent of its fish for sushi overseas and is wary about its buyers traveling during the current pandemic. The app means local agents can make on-the-spot assessments instead.

Tsukiji Fish Market Holds First Auction For 2016

Chefs and fishmongers judge the quality of tuna based on the sheen and color of the flesh.
Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi / Getty Images

But while this sort of automation might work for a large chain like Kura Sushi, it won’t meet the demands of high-end chefs and sushi aficionados, according to Richard Cann, a sales manager at T&S Enterprises, a wholesale fishmonger that supplies many of London’s top Japanese restaurants, like Nobu in Mayfair and Zuma in Knightsbridge.

“We always have and always will do it by eye,” Cann tells The Verge. “I don’t think there’s a need to grade tuna with an app.”

This is partly to do with differences in the procurement process between chains and high-end restaurants. In Tuna Scope’s marketing material, buyers use the app to judge the quality of frozen tuna by snapping pictures of the tail section. But Cann says outfits like T&S Enterprises buy the tuna whole and unfrozen and divide it themselves into specific cuts.

In busy periods, Cann says his team receives two shipments a week of around fresh four tuna apiece, each of which can weigh upward of 500 pounds (226 kg) and has to be butchered by hand. Assessing the quality of the fish is not something that happens once, he says; it’s an ongoing process. “The guys who cut up our bluefin here, they’ve been doing it for 10, 15 years,” he says. “It’s a knack you pick up, you just know what’s good and know what’s bad.”

Cann says T&S has relationships with chefs around the city who trust its workers and, by extension, the quality of its fish. Trying to automate even part of the buying experience would break that chain of trust, he says. Because although the trade might be selling fish, “we’re a people business in everything we do.”

“We’d never use an app because we quite like human beings,” says Cann. “It’s good to have them around.”

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Tech News

Apple report card: How we grade everything released in 2020

What started out with an earnings warning, stock drop, and store closures ended up being a very successful year for Apple. Nearly every product in Apple’s catalog saw a refresh, a couple of new ones joined the fray, and tens of millions of devices were sold to happy customers.

Here’s our 2020 Apple product report card, where we give each segment of Apple’s business a grade from A to F.  Be sure to tune into the Macworld Podcast where our U.S. and U.K. writers debate everything that came out of Cupertino last year.


New products: iPhone SE, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max

iphone 12 pro hero01 Jason Cross/IDG

Michael Simon: First came the iPhone SE, which somehow made the iPhone 8 feel fresh again with a speedy chip, better camera, and lower price tag. Then we got OLED displays and 5G support across the board, better cameras, a new design, and a new charging and accessory system in the iPhone 12, along with a larger Max and a new 5.4-inch mini. Whether you’re comparing them to the iPhone 11 or the best Android phones of the year, the iPhone 12 lineup is among the best ever made and pushed the boundaries of what a smartphone can do. Grade: A

Jason Cross: The iPhone 12 is a great lineup, with good sizes, performance, and features across the line. That 5G is included without ballooning the price is a big feather in Apple’s cap. MagSafe has a lot of potential. And let’s not forget the iPhone SE, a really great budget alternative introduced early in the year. Yeah, I want an always-on display and ProMotion, but there’s no denying that these are stellar products. Grade: A

Roman Loyola: I usually buy a new phone every year, but this year I didn’t. My main reason for upgrading is 5G, and it’s just not widespread enough now to make the investment. That’s not Apple’s fault and that doesn’t mean that Apple’s offerings aren’t great—they are, as Michael and Jason point out. Grade: A


New products: MacBook Air (M1), 13-inch MacBook Pro (M1), Mac mini (M1), MacBook Air (Intel), 13-inch MacBook Pro (Intel), 27-inch iMac (Intel)

13in m1 mbp desk angle IDG

Michael Simon: Until November, the Mac was languishing through another year of perfectly fine and utterly forgettable products. But then the M1 landed. Apple shipped new models with the M1 chip and they were faster than nearly every Mac Apple has ever made while keeping the same prices (and even lowering it in the case of the mini). There’s plenty more I want to see—most of all a better webcam in the notebooks—but I’ve never been more excited for the Mac. Grade: A

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