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Humanoids, tentacle robots, and a move against weaponization: 5 recent robotics stories

New studies, innovations, and concepts coming out of the robotics space.



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Robotics is an exciting field, with developments happening all the time, all around the world — including a new exoskeleton design that can help increase walking speed and reduce effort.

Here are 5 recent stories out of the robotics space, including a pilot project involving a humanoid robot, a robot with tentacles, and a call to action against weaponizing robots.

Tackling loneliness with robots

Designed by the team out of GeriPARTy Laboratory, a humanoid robot named Grace will visit a nursing home in Montreal twice a week for the next eight weeks, as part of a pilot project by the city’s Jewish General Hospital.

As the CBC reports, Grace will help keep residents company over 30-minute sessions, helping break social isolation and loneliness — common among seniors — with the ultimate goal of improved mental health. She will generate responses to speech, tell jokes, and do reading exercises, with movement programmed into her eyes, neck, and hands. 

According to Dr. Paola Lavin, a research associate at the hospital, staffing shortages mean that robots can fill a critical gap in care, acting as an assistant rather than replacement. “She could be working [throughout] the day without fatigue, without all the mental burden of dealing with very strong emotions as we humans usually do.”

“Looks like curly hair come to life”

A robot hand + something heavy, delicate, or strangely-shaped could be a recipe for disaster…or probably just not work at all. The human hand’s grip — and our opposable thumbs — is quite something, isn’t it? 

But a new robotic design out of Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) has solved this problem in a very tentacle-like fashion. Or, in this case, a whole mess of small pneumatic tubes that look like a combination of a horror movie’s menacing sea creature mixed with an arcade claw game when in action.

As the team at Harvard explain, typical robotic hands/grippers use embedded sensors, feedback loops, or advanced machine learning algorithms — plus operator skill — to grasp and hold objects. This easier way is actually inspired by nature, or more specifically, jellyfish. Alone their tentacles are quite weak. Together, they can effectively take hold of objects in a variety of shapes and sizes. 

Each filament is approximately a foot long, made from hollow rubber, with one side thicker than the other. When pressurized, the tub then “curls like a pigtail,” or as Andrew Liszewsky of Gizmodo describes it, “like curly hair come to life.” In the real world, this could mean a better grip on things like soft fruits and vegetables, delicate tissue in a medical setting, or irregular shaped, delicate objects like glassware in a fulfillment warehouse.

A pledge to push back on robot weaponization

Noted robotics company Boston Dynamics is leading a group of fellow robot-makers to pledge against adding weapons to their creations, and pushing back against those who try to do so.

As reported in an exclusive by Axios, an open letter signed by Agility Robotics, ANYbotics, Boston Dynamics, Clearpath Robotics, Open Robotics, and Unitree Robotics highlights the “erosion of consumer trust” in robots as a significant reason for distrust in the idea of weaponization:

We believe that adding weapons to robots that are remotely or autonomously operated, widely available to the public, and capable of navigating to previously inaccessible locations where people live and work, raises new risks of harm and serious ethical issues.” 

In a statement to Axios, Boston Dynamics CEO Robert Playter emphasizing trust:

“We are concerned about recent increases in makeshift efforts by individuals attempting to weaponize commercially available robots… For this technology to be broadly accepted throughout society, the public needs to know they can trust it. And that means we need policy that prohibits bad actors from misusing it.”

Read the full open letter here.

New robotics facility for Amazon Canada

It’s the first facility of its kind, and one of only five globally, but Amazon Canada’s YOW3 in Barrhaven, Ontario will create more than 2,500 jobs, and allow employees to work alongside cutting-edge technology. 

The facility will store up to 20 million items at a time, with Amazon’s ROBIN, RWC4, and Kermit robots operating within. Both ROBIN and RWC4 are robotic arms. The former can segment, grasp, manipulate, identify, and place packages onto a sort bot, while the latter sorts totes and builds pallets.

“By using robots, we can help employees with tasks that involve heavy lifting or repetitive movements,” said Harsh Khaitan of Amazon Canada. “We pilot and implement technology with the goal of increasing safety, improving our employee experience, and delivering for our customers.”

In addition to these robotics, the facility includes Canadian-made semi-automated packing station and stow stations.

A fast-paced robotic system with serious skills

Sure, AI might have the capacity to beat humans at board games, but what about a robot that can hold its own in a ping-pong match?

i-Sim2Real is a robotic system project out of Google. The goal of the project, as reported by TechCrunch, is to build a system that “can work with and around fast-paced and relatively unpredictable human behavior.” 

Learn more about the project from the team, and see it in action here:

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AI, financing, and green skilling hot climate topics at the UN’s COP28 UAE

A look into trending climate topics for this year’s UAE-hosted COP28 climate summit



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COP28 is the 28th annual Conference of Parties (COP), an international climate summit held as an international treaty of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Taking place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, the summit runs from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12 and will be hosting world government leaders, scientists, researchers, and experts. Here, they’ll discuss and address current issues that hurt the environment, like heat waves, sea levels rising, global warming, and more.

First item on the docket? An assessment of global climate progress since COP21 — an assessment known as the first Global Stocktake (GST). 

What kind of progress? Let’s rewind eight years for a recap:

The 2015 Paris Agreement was adopted at COP21, hosted in Paris, where 194 countries (195 including the European Union) committed to keeping global temperature increases well below 2 degrees Celsius and ideally 1.5 degrees. 

Still, last year’s COP27 had countries butting heads about phasing out fossil fuels. Of course, most of the world is on board, save for some of the biggest fossil fuel producers like Russia and Saudi Arabia. 

This year, COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber is adamantly advocating action that keeps the world well below the 1.5-degree increase, and that includes capturing fossil fuel emissions, but not disqualifying them completely. 

Here are a few event topics on the docket at COP28:

  • Cleantech and AI: The road to net-zero is pathed almost completely with innovative tech like digital twin technology, the internet of things (IoT), cloud computing, AI, satellite mapping, and other tech types that the conference will speak to. 
  • Upskilling and education: With the rise of green and cleantech as long-standing climate solutions, the labour force needs to keep up with all the technical skills required to operate and develop the technology. COP28 has a few panels and lectures about sustainable digital skills, green skills, and sustainability leadership initiatives for youth and students.
  • Financing: Developing countries are in more need of financing than ever to come close to reaching their climate goals. Various panels discuss inclusive finance architecture, the role of philanthropy, tech startups, family offices, organic waste removal, affordable tech, and digital private-public relationships for climate financing. 

Interested in learning more about the panels, topics, or schedule?

Check out the COP28 UAE website for more details.

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mesh conference hits Toronto next week — here’s what’s in store

In one week, innovators and digital transformation leaders from across North America will gather at the Symes in Toronto for the mesh conference.



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In one week, innovators and digital transformation leaders from across North America will gather at the Symes in Toronto for the mesh conference. With a focus on four threads — business, media and technology, society, and marketing — mesh will connect, share, and inspire others to think about changing how we think, organize, operate and behave.

The mesh conference differs from your typical transformation and innovation event in part thanks to two simple rules: no slide decks and canned presentations, and no pay-to-play sessions. The result? Lively sessions where the audience is encouraged to engage with speakers throughout. 

The theme for this edition is “Human-powered, tech-enabled.” Speakers and attendees will explore the pivotal role of technologies in augmenting human capabilities to improve workplace diversity, enhance competitiveness, and even turn back time on human-induced environmental damage through “de-extinction”. 

The full mesh speaker lineup

Over the course of two days, more than 20 speakers will take part in the Toronto event on December 6-7, 2023. The full run-of-show, with speakers and sessions, includes:

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Dr. Michael Geist (Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law, University of Ottawa) and Tyler Chisholm (clearmotive marketing)

Canada’s digital policy has gone off the rails. What should the engaged community be doing?

Dr. Michael Geist (Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law, University of Ottawa) will join Tyler Chisholm (clearmotive marketing) to discuss the Meta ban on news, Google’s newly announced search policy around news (backed by $100 million for the industry) and podcasting regulations. Dr. Geist will explain why he has described the law as a “total policy disaster” and an “epic policy blunder” by the government. On the heels of his testimony before the CRTC, he’ll share his insights on what we might expect next and what engaged communities should be doing. Gain a greater understanding of the policy landscape and its impact on how we live and work. 

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Marissa McNeelands (Toast) and Elena Yusunov (Human Feedback Foundation)

Leveraging AI to create a more diverse and inclusive tech industry

Marissa McNeelands (CEO of Toast) will be joined by Elena Yunusov (Human Feedback Foundation) to discuss how her company works to eliminate gender bias in tech hiring. TOAST, Canada’s first female-focused talent partner, uses a unique AI-driven recruitment tool to help organizations diversify their tech teams and support women in tech careers. This session will explore the role that data and algorithms could play in fostering a more inclusive workforce.

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Natalie Black (Mia), Liberty White (CHOZEN MEDIA), Prieeyya Kaur Kesh (Mia), and Anne-Marie Enns (Mia)

AI, Creativity, and Inclusivity: Empowering Tomorrow’s Marketing Leaders

This panel explores how AI and creativity can foster economic empowerment through tech skills training and career growth. The panel will delve into the impact of AI on marketing, the importance of diversity and inclusivity in its design, and the role of continuous education. The session aims to understand economic empowerment through tech skills training, career growth, and a nurturing environment. Features Natalie Black (Mia), Liberty White (CHOZEN MEDIA), Prieeyya Kaur Kesh (Mia), and Anne-Marie Enns (Mia)

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Dana O’Born (Council of Canadian Innovators), Tracey Bodnarchuk (Canada Powered by Women) and Stuart MacDonald (Narrative Fund)

Innovating for Canada’s Competitive Edge

Join Dana O’Born (Council of Canadian Innovators), Tracey Bodnarchuk (Canada Powered by Women), and Stuart MacDonald (Narrative Fund) as they discuss the future of Canadian competitiveness through the lens of innovation and transformation. This session will explore the technology and energy industries and why innovation is a team sport. Looking at both growing and transitioning sectors, they will explore how Canada can leverage its strengths and overcome challenges to maintain a competitive edge in the global market and create a sustainable, prosperous future. 

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Ben Lamm (CEO of Colossal) and Chris Hogg (mesh conference / DJG / Digital Journal)

Why ‘de-extinction’ is vital to fighting climate change

Join Ben Lamm (CEO of Colossal) and Chris Hogg (DJG) for a riveting discussion on de-extinction and its role in combating climate change. Could the woolly mammoth, the Tasmanian tiger, and the dodo bird be agents of change? Learn about Colossal’s groundbreaking work in reviving extinct species and how this contributes to biodiversity restoration. We will delve into the technology behind halting extinction, preserving animal DNA, and reversing human-induced environmental damage. Explore how de-extinction can restore lost ecosystems, increase biodiversity, and contribute to environmental sustainability. This session promises to spark insightful discussions on the future of biotech and environmental conservation. 

mesh conference
Darnel J. Moore (

AI in Marketing: Magic Wand, Double-Edged Sword or Pandora’s Box

Darnel Moore will explore customer marketing strategies in the context of AI. We will delve into how AI can personalize content at scale and analyze customer behaviour while highlighting the importance of human insight and intervention in marketing. Have we crossed the line when the computer tracks, predicts and influences customer behaviours? Where and when is it best to deploy machine learning and AI in your marketing strategy? At what point in the process is it still best for humans to drive the process? How do we ensure that AI supports the customer journey and that the tools we deploy do not undermine an authentic, transparent relationship? Join us as we aspire to find where the balance is best placed between AI tools and human intention, avoid repeating the mistakes of social media and aim to harness the power of AI responsibly.

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Amy Peck (EndeavorXR) and Rika Nakazawa (NTT).

The Almighty AI: Friend or Foe for the Sustainability Agenda?

While headlines are dominated by the thrill and alarm of the rise in Artificial Intelligence applications and utility across industries, they have overshadowed another existential hot topic: Sustainability and ESG. This fireside chat will examine AI’s role in the Sustainability agenda for communities, businesses, and national states, and in what ways leaders across sectors are taking action today for impact tomorrow. We might even imagine new kinds of futures where artificial and collective intelligence collide in this unique chat forum. Features Amy Peck (EndeavorXR) and Rika Nakazawa (NTT).

mesh conference
Lori Nikkel (CEO, Second Harvest), Winston Rosser (VP, Second Harvest) and Mark Evans (Marketing Spark)

Amplifying Community Actions: Case Study of the Second Harvest Food Rescue App

Lori Nikkel (CEO of Second Harvest) and Winston Rosser (VP, Second Harvest) will join Mark Evans (Marketing Spark) to discuss their innovative approach to combating food waste and insecurity, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. They’ll share how their technology platform has facilitated partnerships between food donors and non-profits, enabling them to scale the redistribution of surplus food from coast to coast to coast. Learn about the increased efficiency that allowed them to connect 5,600 donors with 3,400 non-profits–rescuing 24 million pounds of food, averting 79.3 million pounds of greenhouse gases, and saving 13.2 billion litres of water in the last year alone. 

mesh conference
Colleen Pound (Proxure), Mary Jane Dykeman (INQ Law) and David Potter (Vog)

AI & Procurement: The Intersection of Innovation, Risk and Law

Join Colleen Pound (CEO of Proxure), Mary Jane Dykeman (INQ Law) and David Potter (Vog) for an enlightening session on the transformative role of AI and technology in professional services. They will delve into how these tools are levelling the playing field, particularly in procurement and legal services. Colleen, with her expertise in automation and predictive analytics, will shed light on procuring AI solutions. Mary Jane, a seasoned health and data lawyer, will discuss the legal and risk management aspects of AI adoption. This session promises a rich blend of insights from the tech startup and healthcare sectors.

Digital Journal is an official media partner of the mesh conference. Learn more and get tickets to the mesh conference, happening December 6-7 in Toronto, at

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Hong Kong FinTech Week 2023: How AI is redefining fintech

Experts gathered to discuss how AI is having a “transformative” impact on fintech and how to adapt for the future.



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Within the rapidly evolving fintech landscape, and AI as the newest Holy Grail of tech, experts explored how these two topics intersected at the eighth annual FinTech Week in Hong Kong. This year’s theme was “Fintech Redefined,” bringing together leaders of innovation, technology, and finance. 

Organized by the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau, InvestHK, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) and the Insurance Authority (IA), the conference ran from Nov. 2 to 3, attracting 30,000 attendees, with more than 500 exhibitors.

In the session “Beyond the Hype: The Real Impact of AI in Fintech” Stephen Choi, co-founder and CTO of trading platform Asklora, said they use generative AI in financial advisory, adding that AI has had, and will have, a transformative impact on fintech.

“This is where all of the investments are going, especially in the US,” he said, noting that some larger firms are dedicating their teams to tackling the first line of interaction to track the signals back from the client. 

Prompting the AI with, “Can you say this in a more human-like manner, and then talk to the user?” is getting them the result.

“So it’s not the robotic chat-bot that we’ve been seeing for the last five years,” he said.

Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, chairman and CEO of Sinovation Ventures. Photo courtesy of Dave Gordon

Adapting responsibly to AI and tech advancements

Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, chairman and CEO of Sinovation Ventures, spoke on the topic of rethinking artificial intelligence, asserting that it’s imperative to govern how it’s being used.

“You can use it to spread disinformation, to build a bomb and plan the next 9/11,” he said. “We need guardrails, so regulation is needed. It’s two wheels moving forward — one is regulation to protect people and enforce government laws, and then let technologists teach AI platforms not to say things that could hurt people.”

The session “New Technology Frontiers: How AI will Disrupt the Financial Service Industry” also dealt with security issues facing AI.

Wendy Wong, global chief information officer at HSBC noted: “This AI trend has been dropping like a storm. No tech has been adopted so fast. There’s so much experimenting — so many people doing things. At HSBC bank we have a thousand test cases. But we’re also putting in framework and governance to make sure we’re using it responsibly.”

Meanwhile, Nikhil Rathi, chief executive of the UK’s  Financial Conduct Authority, said the recent UK AI Safety Summit was important.

“We need wide collaboration on the benefits and risks, that will require global regulations to avert a potential increase in flash crashes,” he said.

Rathi ended with a prediction: “We can expect every twelve months, some kind of disruptive change, the way we organize our institutions, or the way the market behaves. Our workforce will need to constantly reskill and that will be fundamental.”

Where AI can add value for B2Bs looking to make a digital transformation

During the “Fireside Chat with the Pioneers” session, leaders of global Web3 companies discussed the decentralised fintech market and what lies ahead. Presenter and attendee Steve Rosenblum, founder of, said that AI for B2Bs can lead to increased efficiency and enhanced customer experience, depending on the company’s goals. 

“Your company needs to determine where AI can add value; for example, automating repetitive tasks, and productivity improvement,” he said. “Maybe this will save the economy in the long run. If we look at the past hundred years, the world [becomes] better when it improves productivity.” 

Libertify is a software-as-a-service platform that, using AI, touts itself as helping “personalize actionable investment decisions, based on users’ risk profiles, aiming to minimize drawdowns, and optimize portfolio performance.” Rosenblum added that these insights “neutralize the cognitive biases – that is, eliminates human emotions, and risk-manages the portfolio.” The information is then distilled, and presented through video content.

“Now it’s mainly processing documents, with CRM, from the supply chain, to make the right decisions quicker,” he said.

Given his experience in new technology, he recommended B2Bs train employees on AI concepts and tools — further suggesting that companies design AI solutions with scalability in mind to accommodate growing data volumes and user demands.

“Building an AI-ready workforce is crucial,” he said. “This will help employees understand the technology and its implications on their roles.” 

Importance of taking risks

In the final analysis, Rosenblum said he believes the Asia-Pacific region may outpace other parts of the world in AI in the foreseeable future, owing to the abundance of caution demonstrated by other parts of the world.

“We can see the real difference in speed between Asia and Europe. You [can easily] meet the C-level guys in Asia, you can access them quicker, and it’s a quick yes-no for a pitch. Within a week, we got a lot of interest, versus things that would have taken me over six months in France. The pace of business in Hong Kong is much quicker,” he said. 

“They want to implement innovations, but in Europe they are much more conservative. Probably because the financial sector is so regulated and slows down things, at the end of the day, because it’s about risk-taking, and no one really likes risk-taking.” 

Final takeaways

Attendee Peter Cook is an executive director of Australian stock exchange listed Novatti Group Limited, and the Chairman of the Australian dollar backed stablecoin AUDD.  

He said the conference had a high level of focus on digital assets, which include CBDCs, stablecoins, tokenization of securities and NFTs. 

“The energy and innovation in Asia for digital assets enterprises is high,” he said. “The conference allowed me to meet with many investors and industry partners to drive awareness of our Australian dollar-backed stablecoin.”

As many speakers attested, game-changing opportunities are afoot for fintech with regards to business growth. True to the conference’s theme “Redefining Fintech,” the combination of artificial intelligence and Web3 technologies are revolutionizing every aspect of business. 

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