Apr 24, 2017

Controlling robot swarms with augmented reality

posted by Larra Morris

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At New York University, Jared Alan Frank has turned to augmented reality (AR) to develop a robot control interface that runs on a conventional smartphone or tablet. The system uses the device’s camera to capture details from a scene and overlay virtual objects, as other AR applications do. But in this case, you can simply tap and swipe on the screen to make the robots move or pick up objects.

“You no longer need some of the expensive laboratory-grade equipment that roboticists normally use to do their projects, such as motion capture systems,” says Frank, a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering.
via IEEE Spectrum

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Apr 21, 2017

Rat birth control could curb New York's pest problem

posted by Larra Morris

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The battle between humans and rats has been raging for thousands of years, and while we might have strength, size and smarts on our side, rats have their own secret weapon: the ability to breed like crazy. Now, the City of New York – a notorious rat hotspot – is working with biotech company SenesTech to disarm that tactic, with a birth control substance called ContraPest that renders both males and females infertile. The method is said to be humane, environmentally friendly and pose no risk to humans, pets and other animals.
via New Atlas

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Image: gdolgikh/Depositphotos

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Apr 19, 2017

Console repairmen explain why cockroaches love PS4s

posted by Laura Domela

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First, there were snakes on a plane. Then, we had sharks in tornadoes. Now, there is a darker and more prevalent combination of pests and unlikely places they exist: cockroaches in your PS4.

I heard about the PS4’s roach problem at an independent console repair shop on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. XCubicle is a clean and well-kept business where locals drop off their broken consoles to get diagnosed and repaired. Its co-founder, Patrick Che, was listing the types of repair issues he encounters on a day-to-day basis: coins inside disc drives, 3DS mods gone wrong. That’s when he pointed to the “roach bags,” black garbage bags heaped up in the corner of the room.

“You see those bags?” he asked. “Those are bags full of roaches. Those are all dead by now.” Che added that roach-infested PS4s are so common that XCubicle now charges a $25 “roach fee.” They get at least one each week. Other console repairmen interviewed say that at least half of the PS4s they receive are loaded with roaches.
via Kotaku

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Apr 19, 2017

Algorithm aims to predict bickering among couples

posted by Larra Morris

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Smartphone apps could eventually predict arguments among couples and help nip them in the bud before they blow up. For the first time outside the lab, artificial intelligence has helped researchers begin looking for patterns in couples’ language and physiological signs that could help predict conflicts in relationships.

Most of conflict-monitoring experiments with real-life couples have previously taken place in the controlled settings of psychology labs. Researchers with the Couple Mobile Sensing Project at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, took a different approach by studying couples in their normal living conditions using wearable devices and smartphones to collect data. 
via IEEE Spectrum

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Apr 17, 2017

Robot ray swims using high-voltage artificial muscles

posted by Larra Morris

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This robotic ray, developed at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, is propelled by soft flapping wings made of dielectric elastomers, which bend when electricity is applied to them. Dielectric elastomers respond very quickly with relatively large motions, but they require very high voltages (on the order of 10 kilovolts) to get them to work. Traditionally, dielectric elastomers are covered in insulation, but for this aquatic application the researchers instead just submerged everything insulation free, relying on the water to act as both electrode and electric ground.
via IEEE Spectrum

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Apr 16, 2017

Tesla's autopilot predicts a crash freakishly early

posted by Laura Domela

There's been a fair amount of controversy over Tesla's Autopilot feature, so if you've got your doubts about the capabilities of assisted driving technology when it comes to preventing accidents, it's worth taking a look at this.

New dashcam footage from the Netherlands shows the safety features in Tesla Autopilot detect a potential highway collision between the two cars travelling ahead of the driver, just moments before a violent impact takes place.
via Science Alert

Click here for the full dash cam video

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Apr 13, 2017

Leaf veins may lead to longer battery life

posted by Larra Morris

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There have been many, many discoveries that promise longer battery life, but one of the latest is rare in taking its inspiration from one of the most common structures in nature: the leaf vein. Scientists have crafted a porous material that mimics the highly optimized flow of nutrients in plant leaves. The team used an evaporation-based process to arrange zinc oxide nanoparticles into networks with pores of various sizes that behave like you'd expect in a leaf, maximizing the transfer of material while minimizing the necessary energy.
via Engadget

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Image: Gregory Dubus via Getty Images

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