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Young Vietnamese scientist builds robotic arm for the disabled



For more than a decade, Dr. Nguyen Anh Tuan, who now works at the University of Minnesota in the U.S., has been researching a single topic: the development of a chip and associated technology to support a robotic arm that helps the disabled regain a true sense of touch.

To many fans of science movies like Star Wars, robotic arms may be an old fairy tale.

For technology scientists like Dr. Tuan, what he has researched and accomplished over the past decade is only a modest fraction of what was shown in science films decades ago.

Lucky to explore passion early

Born in 1992, he admits that he knew what his passion was as a young student.

Tuan was also fortunate to study with Prof. Yang Zhi when he was teaching at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Yang found the Vietnamese man to have a lot of potential as a researcher, even though he was only a freshman, and invited him to work in his laboratory. 

Both Prof. Yang and Dr. Tuan strongly believe that they can develop a possible interface that connects a person’s brain to computers, thanks to the brain and neurological signals.

If their idea proves successful, it would usher in a new era of linking humans and computers in unimaginable ways.

The topic was covered in some key parts of Tuan’s doctoral thesis and he was able to win the most outstanding doctoral thesis award from the National University of Singapore in 2014 and the same award later at the University of Minnesota in 2021.

While studying at NUS, Tuan and his colleagues managed to develop a chip processor that can both read brain signals and stimulate nerve tissue. They could also figure out the new algorithms that process brain signals effectively. 

The combination between the chip and the new algorithms creates a two-way neural interface that connects human neural tissue and computers. This is an important technological area of the ambitious project to develop a robotic arm.

In other ways, they have created an AI-based system that translates the electrical information from the nerves into commands for executing the appropriate arm, hand, and finger movements built into the arm, according to Nvidia’s website.

Dr. Tuan and other collaborators in Prof. Yang’s lab firmly believe that one day they will be able to make a robotic arm that will restore a natural sense of touch to disabled people who have lost their arm or arms for some reason.

Although it may not be in the near future, they are confident in their ability to make it work. 

Profile photo of Dr. Nguyen Anh Tuan (photo by Dr. Nguyen Anh Tuan)

This supplied photo shows Dr. Nguyen Anh Tuan.

The first of its kind

Despite the significant achievements, both Prof. Yang and Dr. Tuan are not satisfied. The two do not want their scientific research to remain on paper forever, but to do some good for the community after all.

After many discussions between them, Prof. Yang decided to return to the U.S. in 2015 to find a new path for their research and application.

He did not come back alone. Dr. Tuan became a postdoctoral fellow in the department of biomedical engineering at the University of Minnesota and joined Yang’s lab at Minnesota State University in 2016 to further realize their dream of a robotic arm.

His work with his team is detailed in a paper titled ‘A Portable, Self-Contained Neuroprosthetic Hand with Deep Learning-Based Finger Control.’

They got an excellent opportunity to apply their research in 2017 when Prof. Yang’s lab was invited by Nerves Company to participate in a project to develop a neurological interface that helps armless people flexibly control a robotic arm and regain their natural sense of touch in the arm.

Tuan’s team used their innovative chip, which they had been developing for many years, in this project to replace the popular signal brain receivers utilized by many teams at the time.

They were able to quickly develop an AI algorithm capable of decoding the neurological signals received from a patient with nearly 100 percent accuracy.

Their technological system, which processes brain signals, is able to help a patient control their prosthetic arm naturally.

Accordingly, amputees can now control their prosthetic limbs simply by thinking about the movement.

This means they can use their own minds to control each of the prosthetic’s five fingers, instead of performing a few pre-programmed actions, as is the case with some existing products.

Because this type of prosthetic arm connects directly to the neutral neurological system rather than through parts that remain in the patient’s arm, its effectiveness does not depend on disability status. 

Using neural decoders and Deep Learning, this system allows humans to control pretty much anything digital with their thoughts, including playing video games and a piano, according to the Nvidia company’s blog.

“As far as I know, our neuroprosthetic arm is the first of its kind in the U.S., as we are developing a prosthetic arm that uses microelectrodes and artificial intelligence to decode neural signals to help amputees regain their natural ability to control their lost limb,” Dr. Tuan proudly told Tuoi Tre News

Prof. Yang founded Fasikl, of which he is now CEO, in 2019 with the aim of attracting investment from domestic and foreign partners.

The team behind Fasikl has filed five patents for approval, including neural interface technology and AI.

One has been approved by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the other four are pending.

The team is working with some leading physicians at the University of Minnesota to expand the testing scale.

Indeed, Fasikl is not only focusing on amputees but also wants to use its product to diagnose and treat other diseases with diminished consciousness, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and painful nerve conditions.

Volunteer Cameron Slavens sits next to Nguyen Anh Tuan as he visits the lab at the University of Minnesota in the U.S. (photo by Dr. Nguyen Anh Tuan)

Volunteer Cameron Slavens sits next to Dr. Nguyen Anh Tuan as he visits the lab at the University of Minnesota in the U.S. in this supplied.

Gratitude to volunteers

Dr. Nguyen Anh Tuan, who has been working with Nerves Company since 2016, had the chance to work with two former soldiers, Cameron Slavens and Shawn Findley, who live in Texas.

It would be unforgettable for Tuan to observe the moment when the two could regain a real sense of touch after dozens of years. 

To them, Tuan and the other members of his team owe a great debt of gratitude.

They gave him and the team a valuable opportunity to test an innovative technology that is still too new to be safe for the public. 

“If we can commercialize the arm, the very first thing I would like to do is make it available to the volunteers who participated in our testing phase with great enthusiasm and fairness,” said Dr. Tuan.

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Concert dedicated to Trịnh Công Sơn to take place at Hà Nội Opera House




Young singer Hoàng Trang performs at Trịnh Ca Club. Photo courtesy of Trịnh Ca

HÀ NỘI A live concert programme will take place in Hà Nội next month to commemorate 22 years since the day composer Trịnh Công Sơn passed away.

Giấc Mơ Trịnh (Trịnh’s Dream), is organised by artists and founders of the Trịnh Ca Club founded 15 years ago as a rendezvous for audiences and singers who love music composed by Trịnh Công Sơn.

Located in Cầu Giấy District, Trịnh Ca Club hosts music shows featuring Trịnh and other outstanding composers of Vietnamese love and romantic music. Weekly, the live shows are also live streamed on its Fanpage to serve audiences abroad. With its activities, Trịnh Ca plays an important role in the development of Vietnamese contemporary music.

To mark 15 years since its establishment, Trịnh Ca Club co-operated with Vàng Son Một Thuở Company to organise Trịnh’s Dream, under the direction of famous musician Nguyễn Quang who have directed many music shows nationwide. The concert shows will be held on April 1 and 2 at Hà Nội Opera House. 

According to Quang, Trịnh’s Dream shows do not delve into the biography of the late musician Trịnh Công Sơn or how the songs were born, but explore how the songs affect audiences and singers.

“Everybody will have a different perspective,” said Quang.

“The songs will follow each other to express each person’s dreams and thoughts. The message of the programme is to love each other and help each other build our dreams and aspirations. Everyone will discover themselves in it.”

Audiences will enjoy 20 famous songs that have a strong position in Vietnamese audiences’ hearts. However, these songs are remixed to bring a new feeling to audiences.

They are remixed in acoustic style and there will be 60 microphones arranged on the stage to amplify the sound. The director doesn’t use other digital and electronic equipment to preserve the modest and truthful sound from the voice of singers and the beat of instruments.

Singer Lê Tâm said that Trịnh Ca’s familiar artists and audiences will come to the music night as a pilgrimage to Trịnh’s realm. What connects listeners and singers is the empathy in those ideas and philosophies.

She said: “Some people say that the more Trịnh’s music is heard, the more absorbed you are, the more you understand and the more you love it. There are songs to listen to today, listen to tomorrow, but sometimes they take years to understand and take in.”

The concerts will feature generations of singers famed with Trịnh’s songs, including those born in the 1970s like Bích Ngọc, Mai Loan, Thanh Hương and also those born 1990s like Hoàng Trang or Trịnh Trí Anh. That continuation of generations is essential to maintain the goodness of Trịnh’s music and love that Trịnh Ca’s teahouse has pursued for many years. Among them, Hoàng Trang, 25, is a young singer who has become a phenomenon recently with new expressions of Trịnh’s famous songs.

A statue of composer Trịnh Công Sơn at Trịnh Ca Club. — Photo courtesy of Trịnh Ca

The night shows mark 22 years since the talented musician passed away, but the people who built Trịnh Ca expect to let his love and faith in the good things in life continue into a non-stop flow.

Through this, organisers once again affirm the great influence of Trịnh Công Sơn: “Although he has left the temporary realm for many years, his music always has a strong vitality.” VNS


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The green moss in Rớ Hamlet creates spectacular scenery




The green moss beach attracts many tourists to Phú Yên Province. VNA/VNS Photo Xuân Triệu

PHÚ YÊN — Lying on the south central coast of Việt Nam, Phú Yên Province is a peaceful and romantic environment that has attracted many visitors.

As well as popular places such as Ghềnh Đá Đĩa with overlapped rocky plates, Ô Loan Lagoon and Vũng Rô Bay offer deep blue water and romantic views. 

An embankment area full of green moss in Rớ Hamlet, Phú Đông Ward, Tuy Hòa City has recently become another attractive destination for tourists.

Tourists take photos on the green moss beach. — VNA/VNS Photo Xuân Triệu

The concrete blocks and stone slabs on the embankment against coastal erosion which are covered with green moss create beautiful scenery.

Visitors are recommended to arrive at the destination in early morning to be able to contemplate the charming and poetic scene. VNA/VNS Photo Xuân Triệu

Visitors are recommended to arrive at the destination from around 5 or 6am to be able to enjoy the charming and poetic scenery. At the crack of dawn, the water recedes, revealing layers of green moss shining under the first sunlight of the day.

Green moss makes concrete blocks look  a little different. — VNA/VNS Photo Xuân Triệu

The most beautiful time to visit Rớ Hamlet is from January to the end of April. This is when the moss carpets wake up to life after long summer and winter days.

As the hamlet is a famous tourist attraction in Phú Yên, the way to it is quite safe and easy to find. Tourists could either take a taxi or drive a motorbike themselves, following of Google Maps or asking hospitable locals along the way for directions.

The green moss in Rớ Hamlet has made it a must-visit destination in Phú Yên Province. -— VNA/VNS Photo Xuân Triệu

Tourists need to take caution stepping on the slippery and wet moss. They should not pick or trample on moss to preserve the inherent intact beauty of Rớ Hamlet. VNS



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Beyond skin deep: the impact of beauty standards on young women



Illustration by Trịnh Lập

 by Trương Khánh Linh

 “If you worry too much about your looks, how on earth will you be able to make time for other important things in life?” My grandmother’s words resonated with me as I stood in front of the mirror, scrutinising every part of my body that I deemed to be imperfect.

It was a thought that had crossed my mind many times before, but for some reason, her words hit me differently this time. It made me wonder where this obsession with beauty came from and what impact it had on women.

When I asked my 71-year-old grandmother about her thoughts on the beauty standard in today’s world, she shared her own experiences with me. She explained that when she was younger, beauty standards were much less rigid and there was less pressure to conform to a certain look. However, she has noticed that in recent years, there seems to be a lot more emphasis on physical appearance.

“I worry that women are spending too much time and money on trying to look a certain way, instead of focusing on more important things in life. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look nice, but when it becomes an obsession that takes away from other aspects of your life, that’s when it becomes a problem,” she said.

To gain a better understanding, I reached out to young women in their 20s to discuss their perception of beauty and their insecurities.

Phạm Hương Giang, a 22-year-old college student, shared her struggles with acne: “I feel like I’m constantly hiding behind makeup. I’ve tried tons of skincare products and spent every dime I made to get rid of my acne, but nothing seems to work.”

She is currently saving up money to get better treatment. The pressure mostly comes from people around her like her friends and family. Their unsolicited comments on her appearance pressure her to change herself.

Nguyễn Thị Thu Hà, a 21-year-old student, said: “When I was younger, I felt great about my body, but as I got older, I began to feel like I didn’t measure up to the beauty standards that society set for women. Thinness and ‘perfection’ seemed to be the only acceptable ways of looking, and I felt like I had to be thin and conventionally attractive to be valued or accepted.”

I bet that all women my age are familiar with the infamous “IU’s diet”, named after a popular South Korean singer and actress. The diet is said to be one of the most effective ways to lose weight but involves eating only an apple for breakfast, a sweet potato for lunch, and a protein shake for dinner. This extreme diet is just one example of the pressure women face to conform to narrow beauty standards. On top of that, countless workout videos on YouTube promote getting rid of natural body features such as hip dips and the lack of a thigh gap. No wonder women of this generation are super self-conscious and highly critical of their bodies.

I, in fact, have witnessed plenty of women, even teenagers, try these insane methods. My 15-year-old sister once told me: “I have to be skinny or else I will die.” I was so shocked after hearing the sentiment.  

Despite the negative impact, there are positive developments in the form of body positivity and body neutrality movements. These movements aim to challenge societal beauty standards and promote inclusivity and diversity.

One prominent voice in the body positivity movement is Lê Thụy, a Vietnamese TikTok influencer. Thụy is known for her confidence and her effortlessly funny videos, where she shows her bare face with acne and even displays her armpit hair, which is often considered taboo for women. When first posting TikTok videos, she received a lot of criticism from the viewers. However, despite a lot of negativity, she continues to rise above it and make people fall in love with her wonderful personality.

Speaking from my personal experience, as someone who has struggled with body image issues in the past, the concept of body neutrality has been incredibly helpful for me. For years, I felt like my worth was entirely tied to my appearance, and I spent a lot of time and energy trying to meet society’s narrow beauty standards.

When I first heard about body neutrality, I was sceptical. It seemed counterintuitive to focus on something other than appearance when it came to body image. But as I learned more about the movement, I began to see its benefits. By shifting my focus away from appearance and towards my body’s functionality, I was able to start appreciating it for what it could do rather than how it looked. I started to view my body as a tool that allowed me to run, dance, and explore the world, rather than simply as something to be judged based on appearance.

Another positive development is the increasing availability of cosmetic surgery. While many criticise the cosmetic surgery trend, I believe it has given women the freedom to make choices about their appearance.

However, it’s important to recognise that cosmetic surgery is not a panacea. While it can help women feel more confident, it does not address the root cause of societal beauty standards that perpetuate negative stereotypes about women’s appearance.

As a woman myself, I’ve felt the pressure to conform to certain beauty standards, whether it’s through social media, cultural expectations, or the availability of cosmetic surgery.

But I’m heartened to see positive developments on the horizon. It’s important to remember that beauty is subjective and comes in all shapes and sizes and that we should be promoting inclusivity and diversity rather than adhering to narrow, unattainable standards. After all, every woman deserves to feel beautiful and confident in her own skin, regardless of whether she fits into someone else’s idea of what is “beautiful”. VNS 



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