Top Breakthroughs and Future Trends from April 2021

05/06/2021 - 13:57

Kirk Nankivell

Here are the top stories for the month of April 2021 (in mostly chronological order):

1. Bipedal Robots Are Learning To Move With Arms as Well as Legs

IEEE Spectrum

Most humans are bipeds, but even the best of us are really only bipeds until things get tricky. While our legs may be our primary mobility system, there are lots of situations in which we leverage our arms as well, either passively to keep balance or actively when we put out a hand to steady ourselves on a nearby object.

2. Xenobots 2.0: These Living Robots Self-Assemble From Frog Skin Cells

Singularity Hub

The line between animals and machines was already getting blurry after a team of scientists and roboticists unveiled the first living robots last year. Now the same team has released version 2.0 of their so-called xenobots, and they’re faster, stronger, and more capable than ever.



Elon Musk’s brain computer interface company Neuralink has shown off an impressive new demo: a nine-year-old macaque called Pager playing a game of Pong using only the signals in its brain.

4. How we found hints of new particles or forces of nature – and why it could change physics

The Conversation

Seven years ago, a huge magnet was transported over 3,200 miles (5,150km) across land and sea, in the hope of studying a subatomic particle called a muon. Muons are closely related to electrons, which orbit every atom and form the building blocks of matter. The electron and muon both have properties precisely predicted by our current best scientific theory describing the subatomic, quantum world, the standard model of particle physics.



The Russian Army is setting up its first armed military unit that features killer robotic tanks, state news agency TASS reports. The remotely piloted tank, called Uran-9, can be and be outfitted with 30mm automatic gun turrets, flamethrowers, and anti-tank missiles — yet another sign we’re headed towards a future in which automated weapons systems will be duking it out on the battlefield.

6. Breakthrough with Quantum Materials Pushes Biologically Inspired Learning Devices

UC San Diego

To Oleg Shpyrko, the brain is the ultimate device. For certain tasks, the human brain can outperform powerful computers, yet requires the energy output of a light bulb. As one example, the cybersecurity tests required before entering certain websites—picking out pictures of buses and street signs—demonstrate the agility of the human mind over the processing mechanics of a robot.

7. US and Japan to invest $4.5bn in next-gen 6G race with China


U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga have agreed to jointly invest $4.5 billion for the development of next-generation communication known as 6G, or "beyond 5G."



In a new video released by jetpack maker Gravity Industries, a jetsuit-wearing special ops soldier from the Netherlands Maritime Special Operations Force can be seen boarding a ship — by flying there from a nearby pursuit vessel.

9. Astronauts flying reused SpaceX rocket, capsule for 1st time

For the first time, NASA is putting its trust in a recycled SpaceX rocket and capsule for a crew. Astronaut Megan McArthur takes special pleasure in the reused spacecraft set to soar Thursday morning.

10. Post-Human Species

Isaac Arthur

As Humanity moves into the future, traveling to other worlds and exploring genetics, AI, transhumanism, and cybernetics, we may begin to diverge into a thousand post-human species.

11. Novel drug rejuvenates cellular cleaning to reverse Alzheimer's in mice


A key focus for medical scientists working to prevent or potentially treat Alzheimer's is coming up with ways to avoid the buildup of toxic proteins in the brain, which could include the use of ultrasound or maybe even regular deep sleep. A team at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine has uncovered another promising pathway, discovering that an experimental drug can supercharge a natural cellular cleaning mechanism to rid mice of these unwanted waste products, and reverse key symptoms of the disease.

12. Luminar will bring its LiDAR tech to Airbus planes and helicopters


Luminar is expanding its LiDAR system beyond autonomous vehicles for the first time. It has announced a partnership with Airbus to bring the laser-guided 3D-mapping tech to helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft with the goal of making flying much safer.

13. A New CRISPR Tool Flips Genes On and Off Like a Light Switch

Singularity Hub

CRISPR is revolutionary. It’s also a total brute. The classic version of the gene editing wunderkind literally slices a gene to bits just to turn it off. It’s effective, yes. But it’s like putting an electrical wire through a paper shredder to turn off a misbehaving light bulb. Once the wires are cut, there’s no going back.

14. Scientists harness molecules into single quantum state

Researchers have big ideas for the potential of quantum technology, from unhackable networks to earthquake sensors. But all these things depend on a major technological feat: being able to build and control systems of quantum particles, which are among the smallest objects in the universe.