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Like any good gym, Lumin Fitness prides itself on the quality of its trainers. Chloe, an energetic young coach, promises to help you crush your fitness goals. The disciplined Rex, who has the air of a drill sergeant, encourages his clients to strive for excellence, but he is quick to warn that there won’t be any shortcuts. If you’re after a more mellow approach, Emma and Ethan are warm and quietly confident.

But Lumin Fitness is no ordinary gym. These trainers don’t exist—at least not physically. They’re virtual AI coaches, designed to guide gym goers through vigorous workouts on the tall LED screens that line the walls of the company’s first studio, which opened last month in Las Colinas, Texas. Although AI is becoming more widespread within fitness, it’s generally used in products such as smart mirrors, training apps, and smart cameras. Lumin Fitness’s founders claim it’s the first gym of its kind to integrate AI so fully into a studio.

They are also confident their system of AI trainers will encourage people to start working out even if they were previously put off gyms. The idea is to offer a more personalized approach to fitness that cuts out interactions with expert human trainers who could leave them feeling intimidated or unmotivated.

The darkened studio space can accommodate up to 14 people at once, either completing a solo workout program or participating in a high-intensity functional training class where a group performs movements such as squats, dumbbell presses, and sit-ups.

Each member works out within a designated station facing wall-to-wall LED screens. These tall screens mask sensors that track both the motions of the exerciser and the gym’s specially built equipment, including dumbbells, medicine balls, and skipping ropes, using a combination of algorithms and machine-learning models.

Once members arrive for a workout, they’re given the opportunity to pick their AI coach through the gym’s smartphone app. The choice depends on whether they feel more motivated by a male or female voice and a stricter, more cheerful, or laid-back demeanor, although they can switch their coach at any point. The trainers’ audio advice is delivered over headphones and accompanied by the member’s choice of music, such as rock or country.

Las Colinas Full Studio Set Up 1 scaled

Although each class at the Las Colinas studio is currently observed by a fitness professional, that supervisor doesn’t need to be a trainer, says Brandon Bean, cofounder of Lumin Fitness. “We liken it to being more like an airline attendant than an actual coach,” he says. “You want someone there if something goes wrong, but the AI trainer is the one giving form feedback, doing the motivation, and explaining how to do the movements.”

During warmup and cool-down sections before and after workouts, the LED screens display a faceless humanoid figure completing the motions as a visual aid to help the client follow along. Once the workout has begun, the screens depict simple motivational games, encouraging participants to fill up a virtual basket of balls by completing a sit-up, for example, or building a virtual block tower every time they finish a burpee.

This gamified approach to fitness could prove motivating for some people, says Andy Lane, a professor of sport psychology at the University of Wolverhampton in the UK. “It’s about providing enough reinforcement to light up their dopamine receptors and bosh, the person wants to do it again,” he says. “If you game it to make people feel good about their achievements as they progress, that’s good.”

The sensors allow Lumin Fitness’s system to track the number of reps clients complete and ensure that they’re maintaining the correct form. If they arch their back when they’re supposed to be keeping their spine straight, for example, the system doesn’t count it as a completed movement until they do it correctly. This helps people get the full benefit from each exercise, and avoid injuring themselves in the process.

As members return to the gym, the system tracks their development over time through their

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: Welcome to the AI gym staffed by virtual trainers 
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Published Date: Mon, 09 Oct 2023 08:50:55 +0000

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The Download: the EU AI Act is here, and preventing deadly cancer

This is today’s edition of The Download our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

Why the EU AI Act was so hard to agree on

On Saturday, European Union lawmakers announced they’d finally agreed the terms of the final version of the EU AI Act, a major package of laws regulating the industry. To get the full low-down on what’s happened, sign up to read our AI newsletter, The Algorithm, later today.

First proposed back in 2021, the Act is now the world’s first comprehensive AI legislation. But it’s been a long and rocky road: the governing bodies missed an initial deadline for a final package last Wednesday, and details are still emerging.

Tate Ryan-Mosley, our senior tech policy reporter, has dug into the key sticking points of the legislation—and what comes next. Read the full story.

This story is from The Technocrat, our weekly tech policy newsletter, which was sent before the legislation was finalized. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Friday.

How to prevent the deadliest gynecological cancer

—by Golda Arthur, an audio journalist and podcast producer

In 2018, we found out that my mom, Teresa, had stage 4 ovarian cancer. While the odds were stacked against her, she somehow survived after a brutal six months of chemotherapy.

When the cancer came back 11 months later, she tested positive for a gene mutation, which contributed to the development of her cancer. She urged her three kids to get tested to see if we have it too. My results revealed that I do.

I’ll shortly have surgery for prophylactic removal of my ovaries and my fallopian tubes, as a way to make sure I don’t go through what my mom has gone through: four rounds with this cancer in the last five years.

In some ways, things are looking up. But there’s no getting away from those grim statistics—most women who get ovarian cancer die from it. So while removing my organs is not an ideal plan of action, it’s the only one we’ve got so far. Read the full story.

5 things we didn’t put on our 2024 list of 10 Breakthrough Technologies

No one can predict the future, but at MIT Technology Review we spend much of our time thinking about what it might hold.

Each year, we put together a list of 10 Breakthrough Technologies, picking the advances that we think have the greatest potential to change our lives (for better or worse). We’ve done this for more than 20 years, and next month we’ll reveal our picks for the 2024 list.

Every year, our reporters and editors nominate technologies that they think deserve a spot, and we spend weeks debating which ones should make the cut. Here are some of the technologies we didn’t pick this time—and why we’ve left them off, for now. Read the full story.

—Amy Nordrum

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Elon Musk has restored conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ X account  
After conducting yet another poll gauging X users’ opinions. (CNN)
Jones was first banned in 2018 for spreading antisemitism and hate speech. (WP $)
Musk now says users should only be banned in response to illegal activity. (Bloomberg $)
There’s still no sign of X becoming the promised ‘everything app’. (NY Mag $)

2 AI’s Effective Accelerationism movement wants progress—at any cost
No guardrails, no gatekeepers—and few rules. (NYT $)+ You’re either an E/acc or a decel, according to its followers. (Bloomberg $)

3 SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy spaceplane will launch today
After its launch on Sunday was postponed due to poor weather conditions. (NBC News)
China launched its second methane-powered rocket over the weekend. (Bloomberg $)

4 The next generation of semiconductors is here
And the world’s biggest chipmakers are locked in a race to be first to make them. (FT $)
A US university is building a major chip research facility. (WSJ $)
Huawei’s 5G chip breakthrough needs a reality check. (MIT Technology Review)

5 These engineers are working to make the internet feel faster
A new internet standard could eradicate buffering and glitches for good. (The Verge)
How to fix the internet. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Americans bought more than a million electric cars this year
But not every state is equipped to keep them charged. (NY Mag $)
Why getting more EVs on the road is all about charging. (MIT Technology Review)

7 We need to grow more resilient crops
Extreme weather events and the changing climate mean we have to switch up how we approach agriculture. (Undark Magazine)
Heat is bad for plant health. Here’s how gene editing could help. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Not every robot needs to look like a human
In fact, a lot of them would be more effective if they didn’t. (Insider

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: the EU AI Act is here, and preventing deadly cancer
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Published Date: Mon, 11 Dec 2023 13:10:00 +0000

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The Download: inside the first CRISPR treatment, and smarter robots

This is today’s edition of The Download our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

The lucky break behind the first CRISPR treatment

The world’s first commercial gene-editing treatment is set to start changing the lives of people with sickle-cell disease. It’s called Casgevy, and it was approved last month in the UK. US approval is pending this week.

The treatment, which will be sold in the US by Vertex Pharmaceuticals, employs CRISPR, which can be easily programmed by scientists to cut DNA at precise locations they choose.

But where do you aim CRISPR, and how did the researchers know what DNA to change? That’s the lesser-known story of the sickle-cell breakthrough, which doesn’t rely on fixing the genes responsible for the mutation that leaves patients’ hemoglobin molecules misshapen. Instead, it’s a kind of molecular bank shot—thankfully, one with a happy ending. Read the full story.

—Antonio Regalado

Read more about the sickle-cell breakthrough:

+ I received the new gene-editing drug for sickle cell disease. It changed my life. As a patient enrolled in a clinical trial for Vertex’s new exa-cel treatment, Jimi Olaghere was among the first to experience CRISPR’s transformative effects. Read the full story.

+ The first CRISPR cure might kick-start the next big patent battle. Vertex Pharmaceuticals plans to sell a gene-editing treatment for sickle-cell disease. A patent on CRISPR could stand in the way. Read the full story.

These robots know when to ask for help

The news: A new robot training model, dubbed “KnowNo,” aims to teach robots to ask for our help when orders are unclear. At the same time, it ensures they seek clarification only when necessary, minimizing needless back-and-forth. The result is a smart assistant that tries to make sure it understands what you want without bothering you too much.

Why it matters: While robots can be powerful in many specific scenarios, they are often bad at generalized tasks that require common sense. That’s something large language models could help to fix, because they have a lot of common-sense knowledge baked in. Read the full story.

—June Kim

Medical microrobots that travel inside the body are (still) on their way

The human body is a labyrinth of vessels and tubing, full of barriers that are difficult to break through. That poses a serious hurdle for doctors. Illness is often caused by problems that are hard to visualize and difficult to access. But imagine if we could deploy armies of tiny robots into the body to do the job for us. They could break up hard-to-reach clots, deliver drugs to even the most inaccessible tumors, and even help guide embryos toward implantation.

We’ve been hearing about the use of tiny robots in medicine for years, maybe even decades. And they’re still not here. But experts are adamant that medical microbots are finally coming, and that they could be a game changer for a number of serious diseases. Read the full story.

—Cassandra Willyard

This story is from The Checkup, our weekly biotech newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Thursday.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Use of deepfake pornography apps is soaring  
Links to the disturbing AI ‘nudifying’ services are rife on X and Reddit. (Bloomberg $)
The viral AI avatar app Lensa undressed me—without my consent. (MIT Technology Review)

2 TikTok is embarking on an anti-hate speech campaign
Spurred by the criticism the platform received over Israel-Hamas videos (The Information $)
TikTok’s algorithm means everyone’s feed is siloed, though. (The Verge)
The conflict has forced Meta’s oversight board to investigate two posts. (Wired $)
Republicans are repeating bogus claims to try and get TikTok banned. (Motherboard)

3 A major Abu Dhabi-based AI company is cutting ties with China
G42 is ditching its Chinese hardware contracts in favor of US suppliers. (FT $)

4 We’re learning more about how vaping affects us
It’s better than smoking. But that doesn’t mean it’s good for you, either. (New Scientist $)
Social media is full of posts promoting vaping to young users. (The Guardian)

5 The US wants to build the next revolutionary particle collider
But it could take years to get the project off the ground. (NYT $)

6 The Milky Way is likely to devour the galaxies surrounding it
It’s looking like dark matter could have something to do with it. (Ars Technica)

7 Our microbiomes aren’t diverse enough
And our sedentary lifetimes and antibiotics are to blame. (Proto.Life)
We’re learning a lot more about the vaginal microbiome. (Scientific American $)
How gene-edited microbiomes could

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: inside the first CRISPR treatment, and smarter robots
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Published Date: Fri, 08 Dec 2023 13:10:00 +0000

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The lucky break behind the first CRISPR treatment

dr. stuart orkin analyzing chromosomal spectra march 1985 crop jpg

The world’s first commercial gene-editing treatment is set to start changing the lives of people with sickle-cell disease. It’s called Casgevy, and it was approved last month in the UK. US approval is pending this week.

The treatment, which will be sold in the US by Vertex Pharmaceuticals, employs CRISPR, the Nobel-winning molecular scissors that have had journalists scrambling for metaphors: “Swiss Army knife,” “molecular scalpel,” or DNA copy-and-paste. Indeed, CRISPR is revolutionary because scientists can so easily program it to cut DNA at precise locations they choose.

But where do you aim CRISPR? That’s the lesser-known story of the sickle-cell breakthrough. The disease is caused by faulty hemoglobin, the molecule that carries oxygen in the blood. To cure it, though, Vertex and its partner company, CRISPR Therapeutics, aren’t fixing the genes responsible for the mutation that leaves those molecules misshapen. Instead, the new treatment involves a kind of molecular bank shot—an edit that turns on fetal hemoglobin, a second form of the molecule which we have in the womb but lose as adults.

You can think of how the edit works as a kind of double negative. It adds a misspelling to the turbo-booster of another gene, BCL11A, that is itself what inhibits the production of fetal hemoglobin in adult bodies. Without that booster, there’s less inhibition, and more fetal hemoglobin. Got it?

“When you inhibit the enhancer, you inhibit the inhibitor,” says Daniel Bauer, a professor at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University, who helped work it out. “It is kind of complicated.”

The important thing is a happy ending—and this edit really works. Some patients say they lived in fear of dying, either from an acute attack of sickling (when their red blood cells start blocking vessels) or from slow, insidious organ damage. Now early volunteers say they’re grateful—and, after living with disease their whole lives, even a little shocked—to be cured.

Newborn theory

The idea that fetal hemoglobin can protect against the disease is an old one. Sickle-cell is most common in people with African ancestry. A doctor on Long Island, Janet Watson, had noticed in 1948 that newborns never showed its signs—the main one being misshapen, crescent-shaped red blood cells. That was pretty odd for an inborn condition.

“Sickle-cell disease should occur in infancy as often as later in life,” Watson wrote. But since it didn’t, Watson hypothesized that the fetal form of the molecule, active in the womb, was protecting babies for a few months after birth, until it was replaced by the adult version: “The theory that at once presents itself is that fetal hemoglobin is unable to produce sickling.”

She was right. But it took another six decades to learn how the switch-over worked—and how to flip it back. Many of those discoveries were made in the laboratory of Stuart Orkin, a Harvard researcher who published his first paper in 1967 and who’s lived through several eras of research on blood diseases, starting near the dawn of molecular biology.

“I am one of the last men standing,” Orkin told me with a grin when I met him for a corned-beef sandwich.

Dr. Stuart Orkin analyzing chromosomal spectra
Stuart Orkin analyzing DNA from individuals with blood disorders in his lab in 1985.BOSTON CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL

He’s a clever scientist who a long time ago decided to study how the blood system is regulated. Logistically, it was a great topic; blood cells are easy to get hold of and study.

“I like to solve a problem, and here is a problem that could be solved,” Orkin says. “How does the system work, and then can you do anything about it?”

Special sauce

Bill Lundberg, the former chief scientific officer of CRISPR Therapeutics, the biotech that first started developing the treatment eight years ago (Vertex later joined as a partner), says the company’s sickle-cell project directly made use of Orkin’s findings. “Stu’s role is really underappreciated,

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By: Antonio Regalado
Title: The lucky break behind the first CRISPR treatment
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Published Date: Thu, 07 Dec 2023 14:00:09 +0000

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