A 74-year-old man who lost his left leg in an accident “felt like a big wind was behind” him, “pushing” him down the road as he walked with the help of an experimental exoskeleton that controls itself with artificial intelligence (AI).
Stan Schaar was one of a half-dozen lower-limb amputees participating in a study by a University of Utah team led by Professor Tommaso Lenzi at the Bionic Engineering Lab. Using strong battery-powered electric motors and embedded microprocessors, the exoskeleton wraps around the wearer’s legs, giving an amputee a chance to walk with less effort.
Amputation above the knee involves removing leg muscles during surgery, thereby reducing mobility and quality of life of amputees. “The consequence of this, even though you have the ability to move your hip, is your abilities in walking are quite impaired,” Lenzi said, adding that strength and range of motion are also affected.
Because prosthetic legs cannot replicate a human leg entirely, above-knee amputees must make greater exertion while using their remaining limb and muscles to compensate. Featuring a lightweight electromechanical actuator connected to the user’s thigh above the amputation, Lenzi team’s device aims to make walking feel natural. The device, which weighs a little more than five pounds, is composed of carbon-fiber, plastic composites and aluminum.
Electronics, microcontrollers and sensors use advanced control algorithms in the exoskeleton’s AI to assist “how the person moves,” study co-author Dante Archangeli said. The actuator can be swapped between the right and left of the waist harness for either leg and can restore much of the wearer’s sensation of walking on two healthy legs.
Unlike the powered suits of Hollywood movies, the exoskeleton just gives the user enough extra power for walking. Lenzi likened it to motorized bicycles that give riders help pedaling uphill. “It’s equivalent to taking off a 26-pound backpack. That is a really big improvement,” Lenzi said. With the exoskeleton, users’ metabolic rate is nearly identical to that of an able-bodied person.
Amputee Schaar said using the exoskeleton felt similar to his human leg. On first use, he felt as if his muscles were fused to the exoskeleton, helping him to relax and move forward. “I could probably walk for miles with this thing on because it was helping my muscles move,” Schaar said.
Lenzi said the exoskeleton may be on the market in two years. A grant from the U.S. Department of Defense funded its development for military veterans, and Lenzi received another grant earlier this year from the National Science Foundation for improvements to the device.
Ever Arturo and Luis Fernando are almost identical twins. They were born on Aug. 28, 2021, one minute apart. But they have one unusual and rare trait — while Ever has light skin, Luis has a darker one.
Arturo Vázquez and Diana Serrano, a young couple from Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico, were looking forward to the birth, but surprised when they first saw their children.
“The twins were supposed to be identical, both in features and skin tone. At first, I did not give the issue much importance. Maybe their skin tone changes after the first hours, I thought,” Vázquez told Zenger.
“The doctor had told us it was a very rare twin pregnancy. He said they came in two different amniotic sacs, but shared a single placenta. In the 4D ultrasound, we saw that both twins had identical features. They also had more or less of the same weight at birth. We knew it was a different pregnancy, but we didn’t know that they were going to have different skin tones,” Serrano said.
There are different types of twin pregnancies, said Juan Velázquez, an obstetrician chemist caring for the couple at Hospital Angeles in Culiacán.
Monozygotic twins are the result of a division in the fertilized egg. In contrast, dizygotic twins come from two eggs fertilized by two sperms in the same pregnancy, producing two fetuses with different characteristics.
“We have to reproduce, but this is like a clone of procreation. That’s what these babies are. The fact that the zygote clones itself is called the bipartite factor, which is believed to be present in all pregnancies. What activates it is a mystery because these babies’ [particularity] is not associated with genetics. It is a sporadic case, fortuitous,” he told Zenger.
Both babies share certain traits of monozygotic and dizygotic twins. Doctors do not know yet whether they are a case of the former or the latter. But a genetic matching test would help clear up doubts, said Velázquez.
“Monozygotic twins are clones in the genetic level, but they can have retinal variation, fingerprints, nevi, moles. … Monozygotic twins are the least common. There is one case in every 3,000 pairs of twins,” he said.
“I believe they are monozygotic because they are same-sex twins. These guys have [the] same genetic material, but they have a variant: while one has dark skin, the other is white,” she said.
After 35.6 weeks of a high-risk pregnancy, the twins were delivered through Cesarean section.
The children’s skin tone became less important when the parents discovered that one baby had a medical complication. Ever Arturo, the light-skinned twin, caught a lung infection after breaking his amniotic sac. He was taken to another clinic, where he remained hospitalized for 26 days, 17 on an artificial ventilator.
“A baby with an iron lung has a serious condition. Doctors tell us he is receiving all the attention [he needs], but they cannot guarantee he will make it. At any moment, he might not resist,” Serrano said. At present, Ever is out of danger.
Both Vázquez and Serrano are enjoying their first children as a couple. They have five more children from previous relationships.
“I feel very happy and motivated. When you have a baby, you feel motivated. But when you have two, you feel more driven to tenderness.” said Vázquez. “You want to hug them, buy them the same things: two little suits, two pairs of shoes, etc.”
“It caught my attention that there are records of similar cases in other countries. We did not want Mexico to be left behind,” he said.
Translated by Gabriela Alejandra Olmos, Edited by Gabriela Alejandra Olmos and Fern Siegel
Whether as Big V, his musical stage name, or Vito, his birth name used on movie sets, expect to see a lot of Vito “Big V” Tisdale, formerly of Kentucky-based Nappy Roots.
He is currently balancing the pursuit of a solo career while handling movie scripts. The musician and actor continues to spread his wings, tackling both occupations and using his time to live life and raise his kids since the COVID lockdown.
Back on the road and performing, Big V called on one of music’s most underrated gems, Urban Mystic, for his new single, “All On Me,” which will be released soon. V has also replaced a wild afro for a shiny bald head, but the deep, raspy voice that he is known for is still prevalent.
Zenger spoke with Big V, who compared Nappy Roots to The Temptations, highlights Urban Mystic’s talents, and much more.
Percy Crawford interviewed Vito “Big V” Tisdale for Zenger.
Zenger: You have been very busy. How is everything going?
Big V: Life is life! Life during COVID makes you realize what you got is what you got. Work it. I’m raising my kids, dropping a new record and just ready to get it.
Zenger: You are back on the road, booking shows and entertaining crowds. I’m sure that has been therapeutic for you.
Big V: You realize what the world means to you and what you mean to the world. You realize that people don’t have much time in this life, so you better start living and enjoying. Stop remembering pain. Start remembering the memories and have fun and create some more if you ain’t have enough. That’s what I’m back doing.
Zenger: You were recently on a film set of “Black And Blue Tears!” Continuously expanding the brand, I see.
Big V: This is my fourth film since COVID. I’ve always been an actor. In high school and out of college, I was drama and theater. I just never had the avenues in Nappy Roots. Everybody just wanted music, and I never got into Vito [Tisdale]. After COVID really hit, I decided to lose 40 pounds, get back daddy built and really get with a voice that I kept hearing — “Where Were You,” by Urban Mystic. I was like, man… Lionel Richie, K-Ci Hailey and Anthony Hamilton all in one. Me being King of Hick-Hop, that country sound right after Nelly, that whole country movement. He had the sound Lionel Richie had with The Commodores; it was just time to bring that back.
Zenger: Urban Mystic is one of my favorite artists, definitely one of the most under-appreciated talents out there.
Big V: Oh my my, this boy a superstar, man. I said, I wouldn’t mind reintroducing myself as people know me, with another singer. This guy is a star in his own right. I hope he bless me. I’m back at home with my own production team now, with the acting, I have acted as a grandfather, I have acted as a gangster in “45 Seconds,” and that was a pretty good cast.
I felt like it was time to put some soul in these scripts. I have my own beat time back at the house, Kyng Of Da Beatz, shout out to Ralph [Mumford], J [Mel], Pat [Solomon], the whole family. I know I missed somebody, but y’all know I smoke. Just moving around, being on the music scene got me ready for the music.
Zenger: You still provide music with a message. “One Blunt” is deep and requires a level of intellect to follow. We don’t get that on a consistent basis these days.
Big V: I like to look at myself as a last hard-copy artist. I come from a time with no pro tools, CDs, I had a tape out. When you were an Atlantic [Records} artist and training to be that guy, you always stay true to yourself within your training. No matter how sounds change. I would talk to Busta [Rhymes] or Twista, and guys who came before me, and they were like, “Man, this is a rollercoaster. Be true to yourself.”
I watched it happen in front of my face when he (Twista) ran into Kanye [West]. Kanye reintroduced him on “Slow Jamz.” I have always been a conscious rapper. Just being in reality is what Nappy Roots was based on. Me being the big voice in that, and the songwriter for “Awnaw” and “Po’ Folks,” the bigger records that really had my influence as far as working class.
My mom twisted tobacco and my daddy was a garbage man, and I learned to count from a man in a wheelchair, so all the stories are just forever. All I know is a life of reality. My son is a [University of] Kentucky Wildcat. We kept it home when he was recruited by the big boys. We appreciate life, living and enjoying what we know.
Zenger: Ask your son why they had to do that to my LSU Tigers last Saturday (laughing). [Kentucky’s football team beat LSU 42-21 on Oct. 9.]
Big V: (Laughing). You know SEC football. You already know how the tailgate was. I wore a loose shirt. Y’all got a down year, and we wanted to let ya’ll know it.
Zenger: You’re talking about keeping it at home, but I didn’t know rap music existed in Kentucky until Nappy Roots introduced me to it. That had to feel good to make that history happen being from a place not known for that type of content.
Big V: Yeah! I think if you’re a big game hunter, you know how the game hunters fly into a distant place where there is no road, there is no traffic or anything. You can find the biggest beast in the woods. When they figured out it was magic in St. Louis, and Nelly came out with, “Country Grammar,” to be the next phone call or the next ship out, you ask the A&R, “How did you find these boys? Why you signed these boys?”
Back then it was off the pure notion that they are going to be great or they not, off of somebody else’s word. Mike Caren said, “I heard a song by some songwriter that said, ridin’ on these country roads, I don’t know where to go, but I’m gonna ride… I gotsta ride these country roads.” He walked in the room, and he said, “Who wrote that?” I spit on the floor.
So, not to have a Dr. Dre or some big producer find us. To know that you swung that blow to get them right here, and to talk your craft over and over like Daniel-San and Mr. Miyagi [from “The Karate Kid” movies of the 1980s], and to still be relevant today, is like watching Aretha Franklin sing at the inauguration. Those other stars was out there when [Barack] Obama got into office, but they brought out the big fish. That old sewing machine that didn’t need pro tools.
Zenger: When can we expect the project with Urban Mystic and is this one feature or a collaborative album?
Big V: We are both independent and the sky is the view — it ain’t the limit. The single, “All On Me,” is done. We shot a piece of the video in Birmingham, [Alabama]. Shout out to Eugene’s Hot Chicken there. I can go down there just to eat (laughing).
We got this album, we got some ideas, and we both doing day parties and moving around and grinding. Right now, it’s just the single. We’re looking forward to making it do other situations. Within the next few weeks we will both have an EP ready. The single “All On Me,” will be printed up in a week or so. Urb is doing his thing. If you grew up in the ’80s it feels like Magic [Johnson] throwing it to [James] Worthy.
If you grew up in the ’90s, it feel like [Michael] Jordan just faded away against Isiah [Thomas] with Vinnie [Johnson] chasing him. If you’re a 2000 cat, The Mamba [Kobe Bryant]. It feels good, man. The song is like, “OK, I remember that feel.” Musiq Soulchild and Black Thought, 8Ball & MJG, that combination. Just to have that and to have some guys interested in moving it this way and moving it that way feels good. And it feels good to be back working at your craft. Shout out to Skinny [Deville] and the others, they still doing their thing with Nappy Roots. If you watch The Temptations, Skinny and Scales are like “Blue” [Melvin Franklin] and Otis [Williams], and here comes ole’ David Ruffin.
Federal U.S. data that showed an increase in commercial crude oil inventories was overshadowed by broader market issues surrounding energy inflation, analysts told Zenger.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration publishes weekly data on commercial storage levels of crude oil, gasoline and other refined petroleum products. Increases are usually indicative of lackluster demand, while the opposite holds for drains.
The administration reported Thursday, a day later than usual because of a federal holiday on Monday, that commercial crude oil inventories increased by 6.1 million barrels from the previous week.
That would normally send the price of oil lower, but a perfect storm of factors suggests the rally is continuing on momentum alone.
Giovanni Staunovo, a commodities analyst at Swiss investment bank UBS, said the weekly report was bearish.
“The support for crude prices has come from the IEA raising their demand estimates,” he said, referencing the International Energy Agency.
It was a trifecta week, with the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the Paris-based International Energy Agency and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries all issuing their monthly market reports for October.
In Moscow, it was a pantheon of energy figures as the Kremlin hosted its annual energy conference.
The International Energy Agency in its report Thursday said the ongoing rally in natural gas prices is creating tailwinds for other commodities. The industry looks to save costs by turning to other fuels, thereby transferring demand from gas to alternative products.
“Record coal and gas prices, as well as rolling blackouts, are prompting the power sector and energy-intensive industries to turn to oil to keep the lights on and operations humming,” the report read.
The ongoing rally is sparking concerns that energy inflation will undermine global economic health.
The White House has reached out to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to help soothe the market — but to no avail. White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said on Wednesday she was “not aware” if there’s been any outreach to domestic oil and gas companies about production.
Federal data show a small weekly increase in domestic crude oil production. But to date, the domestic sector is producing less than it did last year, when demand destruction during the height of the pandemic hammered the industry.
Through the first full week of October, domestic crude oil production is down 6.2 percent compared with last year. On the refining side, Phil Flynn, a senior energy analyst at The PRICE Futures Group in Chicago, said supply-chain issues may help explain some of the build in domestic crude oil inventories.
“It was a shocking build in crude oil inventories, but apparently the build wasn’t because demand was weak,” he said, “it was because of issues on the refining side.”
Edward Moya, a senior market analyst at broker OANDA, echoed that concern, telling Zenger some refiners are down because of regular maintenance.
Crude oil prices are up approximately 3.3 percent so far this week, as of early Friday.
A federal market report issued earlier this week estimated a 37 percent chance that West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for the price of oil, would post a fourth quarter average higher than $80 per barrel, though it was already above $82 in early Friday trading.
The last time U.S. crude oil prices were this high and OANDA’s Moya said the bulls have plenty of room to run was late October 2014.
“This weekly EIA crude oil inventory report should not change the very bullish short-term outlook for crude prices,” he said.
Though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is low, nearly 700 zoos across the country have received an experimental vaccine to help protect mammals from the virus.
The Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, Louisiana, has begun vaccinating its gorillas and orangutans against COVID-19, according to a statement from the zoo on Oct. 12.
Bob MacLean, Audubon’s senior veterinarian, said: “It’s very important to us to protect our animals against COVID-19 and the Delta variant.”
The vaccine has been authorized for use “on a case-by-case basis by the Department of Agriculture and the appropriate state veterinarians,” the zoo said.
Zoetis, described as an animal health company, is a former Pfizer subsidiary. It donated 11,000 doses of its vaccine to more than 70 zoos in the United States.
“Zoetis’ COVID-19 vaccine is uniquely formulated for animal species. Although the virus — or antigen — is the same as in human vaccines, vaccines for animals vary based on the carrier … that is used,” Zoetis said. “The unique combination of antigen and carrier ensures safety and efficacy for the species in which a vaccine is used.”
MacLean said the zoo “has been evaluating the scientific literature on animal susceptibility throughout the pandemic, and we are eager to protect our animals.”
After administering the vaccine to gorillas and orangutans, the Audubon Zoo said it will then move on to cats and mustelids such as otters.
“All the animals receiving the vaccine at the zoo and aquarium voluntarily participate in their own health care through positive reinforcement training and are not put under anesthesia to receive their vaccination,” said the Audubon Nature Institute. “They have been trained to sit, stand, or present their bodies during regular health checks by animal care and veterinary staff.”
All staff working in proximity with the animals have been following personal protection protocols since the start of the pandemic, the zoo said.
“This proactive measure is an additional layer of protection. The health of the animals in our care, staff and guests is our top priority,” MacLean said.
“Although there are no long-term studies since the virus emerged less than two years ago, development studies by Zoetis demonstrated the vaccine to be safe and have a reasonable expectation of efficacy in mounting an immune response in animals” MacLean said.
In 2020, a dog in Hong Kong “weakly” tested positive fo COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization. Three western lowland gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park tested positive for the coronavirus in January, the Agriculture Department reported.
“COVID nos fastidió”, dice Ruby Edelman. “Y surgió la pregunta de qué podíamos hacer para seguir adelante”.
Edelman, bailarín, coreógrafo y director ejecutivo del centro de danza Machol Shalem Dance House en Jerusalén, está acostumbrado a ser anfitrión de una variedad de bailarines, festivales y obras de danza durante todo el año, algo que a primera vista parecía completamente incompatible con el distanciamiento social que la pandemia de COVID-19 ha significado.
Sin embargo, el centro de danza estaba determinado a continuar con su trabajo, al brindar a los bailarines independientes una plataforma para sus creaciones, al hacer conexiones con influencers de todo el mundo y al promover la cultura de la danza en la ciudad.
“Examinamos nuevos campos e interfaces que pudieran funcionar con la danza, por ejemplo, todo el campo de las proyecciones y la colaboración interdisciplinaria del trabajo de video”, dijo. “No era lo que teníamos en mente. Luego, en algún momento, surgió la idea de la realidad virtual, porque comprendimos el potencial de crear una experiencia inmersiva”.
En poco tiempo, se dieron cuenta de que la realidad virtual podría incluso superar la experiencia de la vida real de un espectáculo de danza.
“Si te sientas en la primera fila, en el mejor de los casos puedes ver a todos los bailarines frente a ti. Pero, ¿y si te dejamos pararte en medio del escenario, con los bailarines a tu alrededor?”
Una vez que la idea se afianzó, el centro invitó a los bailarines a un estudio de 360 grados especialmente construido, donde fueron filmados de una manera bastante compleja con una multitud de cámaras.
Mediante tecnología de realidad virtual, las tomas se integraron de una manera que crea una experiencia completamente inmersiva para el espectador.
Justo a tu lado
Edelman dijo que Machol Shalem es el primer centro en Israel en crear espectáculos de danza de realidad virtual. Algunos de sus socios en el extranjero, particularmente en Singapur, han experimentado con tecnologías de realidad virtual ligeramente diferentes.
“Las cámaras crearon filmaciones estereoscópicas: cada dirección de cámara tenía dos lentes, como ojos, pero cada lente crea una ligera distorsión. Una vez que lo filmas de esa manera con dos lentes para cada dirección, cada ojo en el visor te da la sensación de que lo que está ante tus ojos es tangible y está justo al lado tuyo”.
“Cuando la gente se coloca el visor, se encuentra en medio del escenario, mientras los bailarines pasan junto a ellos, casi a través de ellos. Creamos una experiencia tridimensional que desafía a los sentidos en la manera más completa posible. La gente realmente intenta tocar a los bailarines cuando se acerca a ellos”.
Danza de realidad virtual
Toda esta filmación resultó en VR Dance, un festival de danza en colaboración con el Festival de Israel que presentó espectáculos de danza tanto en vivo como en realidad virtual durante el verano.
“Los visitantes entraron en una sala de espectáculos vacía, se sentaron en una silla giratoria, recibieron el visor de realidad virtual y la aplicación complementaria, se colocaron los visores y se hallaron inmersos de inmediato en el espectáculo”, dijo Edelman. “Una vez que se encendieron las luces, de repente se vieron rodeados de bailarines”.
Dijo que las respuestas fueron excelentes.
“La gente salió de allí como en una alucinación. Algunas personas incluso intentaron levantarse y bailar con los bailarines o tocarlos”.
“Ahora nos proponemos perfeccionarla y ver en qué otras formas podemos aprovecharla, tomar los elementos fuertes de esta tecnología que permiten este punto de vista poco común”.
Salón de espectáculos virtual
Otro festival internacional centrado en la realidad virtual ofrecerá una forma innovadora de ver la danza israelí desde el extranjero, el 14 de octubre.
“No podemos traer gente a Israel este año; todos los eventos como el nuestro que planearon tener invitados en el extranjero no pueden hacerlo”, dijo Edelman. “Podemos enviar videos como todos los demás, pero queremos … lanzarlos a un salón de espectáculos virtual”.
El plan es enviar 150 visores, en colaboración con el Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, a los visitantes que solían venir a Israel, y permitirles ver danza israelí desde su casa o en centros de danza en todo el mundo, dijo.
De cara al futuro, Edelman cree que las tecnologías como la realidad virtual están aquí para quedarse en el mundo de la danza, incluso en un mundo posterior a COVID.
“En primer lugar, lo que esta filmación permite es una experiencia donde no se ve el escenario desde atrás o desde el asiento. Es algo que puede funcionar como una invitación al desarrollo en términos de cómo vemos este medio.
“En segundo lugar, si cuando era joven iba por ahí con una cinta VHS para dársela a la gente para que la vieran y me invitaran a un festival, creo que lo siguiente será que la gente diga: ‘Me gustaría ver tu trabajo en 360 grados o realidad virtual para comprenderlo mejor’. Me parece que será el próximo estándar con el que la gente documentará la danza. Es como agregar olor o sabor a la transmisión”.