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Buzzwords: Fake smiles, heart innovation and a citrus scent

Image credit: Dreamstime

From faking smiles to smelling like lemons post-workout, here’s what makes words like ‘artificial intelligence’ and ‘wearables’ tick in our brains.

Artificial intelligence 

Smiles at the ready! Or not...

You can never truly tell if a person’s smile is genuine or not. So, to try and tell a real or fake smile apart, researchers at the University of Bradford have developed computer software that can spot false facial expressions.

By analysing the movement of the smile across a person’s face, the most significant movements detected by the software developed by the team were around the eyes, supporting popular theories that a spontaneous, genuine smile is one that can be seen in a person’s eyes.

The software works by first mapping a person’s face from within a video recording and identifying the mouth, cheeks and eyes of the subject. It then measures how these facial features move through the progress of the smile and calculates the differences in movement between the video clips showing real and fake smiles.

The researchers tested the program using two different datasets, one containing images of people expressing genuine smiles, and another in which the images portrayed posed smiles.

They found significant differences in the way the subjects’ mouths and cheeks moved when comparing the real and the fake expressions. The movements around the subjects’ eyes, however, showed the most striking variation, with genuine smiles generating at least 10 per cent more movement in these muscles.

“Techniques for analysing human facial expressions have advanced dramatically in recent years, but distinguishing between genuine and posed smiles remains a challenge because humans are not good at picking up the relevant cues,” says Hassan Ugail, professor of visual computing at the university.

Although this may appeal to those interested in whether a person’s smile is genuine in a photo, for example, perhaps there are also more practical applications for AI algorithms, such as within the healthcare sector for diagnostics, or even in the more controversial driverless car. That being said, this rather niche application is a prime example of how far artificial intelligence can go and grow. The sky’s the limit.

3D printing 

At the heart of innovation

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh have developed a new technique which allows anyone to 3D-bioprint tissue scaffolds out of collagen, the major structural protein in the human body.

The technique – Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels (FRESH) – has allowed the researchers to overcome many challenges associated with existing 3D-bioprinting methods, and to achieve unprecedented resolution and fidelity using soft and living materials.

A first of its kind, the method is believed to bring the field of tissue engineering one step closer to being able to actually 3D-print a full-sized adult heart.

3D printed heart

The CMU team printed a neonatal-scale human heart from collagen

Image credit: Carnegie Mellon University

“What we’ve shown is that we can print pieces of the heart out of cells and collagen into parts that truly function, like a heart valve,” says Adam Feinberg, a professor of biomedical engineering (BME) and materials science & engineering, whose lab performed this work. “By using MRI data, we were able to accurately reproduce patient-specific anatomical structure and 3D-bioprint collagen and human heart cells.”

PhD student Andrew Hudson says that although collagen is a desirable biomaterial, it’s hard to print as it starts out as a fluid. To overcome this issue, the FRESH 3D-bioprinting method allows collagen to be deposited layer-by-layer within a support bath of gel, giving the collagen a chance to solidify in place before it is removed from the support bath.

Such innovations in this field will undoubtedly benefit those in need of heart transplants. But there’s still a long way to go. After all, if scientists manage to successfully 3D-print a full heart, they would then need to do rigorous trials to see whether artificial hearts are compatible.

Wearables 

Fragrance-releasing fabric for sweaty clothes? Erm, yes!

Imagine working out or chilling on a hot summer’s day and instead of smelling like sweat, your clothes smell of lemons. This is what a team from Portugal have been developing.

Researchers from the University of Minho have modified cotton fabric to release a lemony citronella aroma upon contact with sweat.

The team at the university in Braga developed two new strategies for releasing a fragrance called citronellol – a lemongrass-derived scent used in some insect repellents – into clothes.

Woman at the gym

In the future, sweaty clothes could release a lemony-scent

Image credit: Dreamstime

In their first approach, they used an odorant-binding protein (OBP), which binds to citronellol and other scent molecules. They then attached a protein domain to the OBP, a carbohydrate-binding module (CBM), which binds to the cotton.

In their second method, the team packaged the fragrance in liposomes that displayed CBMs, which anchored the lipid carriers and their cargo to the fabric. The team then exposed a modified cotton fabric to an acidic sweat solution, in which the low pH of the simulated perspiration caused the OBP and liposomes to release citronellol.

As a result, the team found that the OBP released a quick burst of scent in comparison to the liposomes, but the liposomes could hold more fragrance.

Although smart fabrics have been developed throughout the years, perhaps this particular research shows promise in creating fragrance-releasing gym clothes, for example, rather than in washing powder.

Nonetheless, there is potential in such developments, paving a way for sweaty gym-goers to smell like lemons instead of grim sweat, and if they somehow develop fabrics that release a smell of lavender or the quirkier, acquired-smelling bubble gum scent, then take my money!

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