NASA put the first man on the moon, built an international space station, made the Hubble Space Telescope (which still gives us gorgeous shots of the universe), yadda yadda. Those are old news, right? But then, as I’ve recently been thinking about it, I realize the people at NASA just never seem to run out of surprises throughout the decades. They went surprisingly sustainable, announcing the launch of a recycled supply rocket. They went surprisingly cute, making their satellites capture pictures of more than a million penguins. They even have a (non-surprisingly) fantastic podcast.
Another one is coming from NASA in a tiny gift box. A four-pound autonomous space helicopter will be launched alongside their 2020 rover mission to Mars. And the experimental device is only the size of a softball!
Traveling at the speed of light, it’ll still take several minutes for any commands sent from Earth to reach the helicopter, so the flying rover will have to be at least partially autonomous as it provides scientists and other autonomous vehicles with the first long-term bird’s-eye view of the planet.
NASA made the tiny space helicopter carry batteries and other hardware that were customized to be as light as possible. And aside from being incredibly light, the device also needs to have incredibly fast mechanisms or functions in order to survive the conditions in Mars.
[T]he Martian atmosphere is practically non-existent. The air pressure at the planet’s surface is lower than it is at a helicopter’s maximum altitude when flying above Earth. In order to take off, the tiny flying robot needs to spin it’s two blades ten times faster — 3,000 times per minute — than it would on Earth[.]
Once the new rover and its passenger — the tiny space helicopter — reach Mars in 2021, they will be scanning for signs of life, identifying hazards for future astronauts, and assisting other ground-based rovers in ongoing geology research.
By then, all of us should prepare for more Martian surprises in store. Again, care of NASA’s coolness.
Nowadays, children have become more eager to explore issues outside of the classroom. Anything from vehicular traffic to eye diseases are inspiring them to create. Next in line as America’s Top Young Scientist is Gitanjali Rao, whose handmade device detects lead contamination in water.
“I had been following the Flint, Michigan, issue for about two years,” [said] Rao… “I was appalled by the number of people affected by lead contamination in water and I wanted to do something to change this.”
The determined seventh-grader, with the help of her engineer parents and local universities, came through with Tethys. Using carbon nanotube sensors, the device can accurately detect lead and send information to any smartphone. She subsequently won the Young Scientist challenge and pocketed $25,000.
“Advice I would give to other kids would be to never be afraid to try,” Gitanjali said. “I had so many failures when I was doing my tests. It was frustrating the first couple of times, but towards the end, everything started coming together.”
Rao intends to invest part of the prize money into developing Tethys. The rest will fund her schooling — bright minds deserve the best education.
It’s more than likely that we call groups of ravens an unkindness due to their unforgiving intelligence. A Swedish experiment training birds to earn food rewards had one raven hacking the project entirely. The thoughtful budgie even took the time to teach other birds the secret. Now, startup Crowded Cities is testing the brainpower of crows, using them to pick up litter.
The idea is to train the crows to drop cigarette butts in a ‘Crowbar,’ which scans the item to confirm it’s a cigarette butt, and then gives the crow a food reward to reinforce the behavior.
Considering the amount of cigarette butts that end up on sidewalks annually (about 4.5 trillion), these crows could make a difference. The butts are not only non-biodegradable, but toxic to marine life. For ultimate efficiency, the Crowbar uses a simple give-and-take mechanism.
[Everything] is done with the intention that the crow will fly away and inform others of this system, so that more crows participate in cigarette butt collecting.
Research has found that crows are as cognitive as apes, so the success of the Crowbar should be anticipated.
I wouldn’t be surprised if one day AI systems ruled the world. While there are skeptics, most people in the technological industry remain pretty optimistic. And with good reason. A system built by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology can recreate video games by observing them for only 2 minutes.
The team did this by training the AI on footage of two distinct types of players making their way through Level 1 of Super Mario Brothers. One that adopted an “explorer” style of play and the other a “speedrunner” style, where they headed straight for the goal.
The system managed to rebuild an accurate representation of the game with only minor deviations. It’s impressive and also far less creepy than an AI creating its own language.
“Our AI creates the predictive model without ever accessing the game’s code, and makes significantly more accurate future event predictions than those of convolutional neural networks,”
Okay, so its capabilities are still sort of spooky, but useful, nonetheless. The program, which is algorithm-based, could be vital in pattern recognition, among other things. In the end, the model is an effective training method that can also be easily controlled by users — phew!
Distracted driving survivors have Apple Watches and shock bracelets to thank for sparing their lives. However, car accidents remain abundant — but not if researchers at the University of Waterloo have anything to say about it. A new artificial intelligence software can now alert cars when you’re texting and driving, which can prevent oncoming disasters.
This system can detect signs of distraction, which could be caused by texting or talking on the phone, reaching into the backseat, or anything else that causes a change in head and face position.
With the rise of self-driving vehicles comes the simultaneous ascent of new safety features. In other words, you can count on your car to pick up the slack.
“The car could actually take over driving if there was imminent danger, even for a short while, in order to avoid crashes.”
Majority of crashes are caused by human error. Researchers claim that autonomous vehicles can save tens of thousands of lives every year. Of course, this isn’t to hand over free passes to reckless drivers. Staying focused remains a number one priority for anyone behind the wheel.
So far, we’ve used artificial intelligence much to our advantage in whatever way possible. We’ve built devices as trivial as visual emotion masks, but overall, people feel mostly optimistic. But now that we know AI can serve purposes of various degrees of impact, developers from McGill University are developing an AI that can recognize hate speech on social media.
Instead of focusing on isolated words and phrases, they taught machine learning software to spot hate speech by learning how members of hateful communities speak… They focused on three groups who are often the target of abuse: African Americans, overweight people and women.
Previous softwares detecting abusive language have proven unsuccessful due to the misleading nature of online slang. That and the fact that machines aren’t well-versed in sarcasm. The system, however, was able to identify racist slurs and avoided false positives. And I believe this first step in compiling data about sites that condone and even encourage abusive language can lead to finding solutions in the future. Perhaps hopefully, not just online. After all, our material reality reflects our online visual reality, and vice versa.
“Comparing hateful and non-hateful communities to find the language that distinguishes them is a clever solution… [But] ultimately, hate speech is a subjective phenomenon that requires human judgment to identify,”
While it won’t eliminate every online bully, it’s a commendable attempt at making the Internet a safer environment.
The world of dentistry is now more futuristic than ever. Alternative treatments include some unexpected new contenders such as green tea extract and squid ink. Like all whitening and strengthening products, however, results take time — unless you’re working with this Swiss startup. Kapanu has created a dental augmented reality device that allows patients to “try on” their future smiles.
It works by matching a 3D scan of the person’s mouth cavity… to scans of known sets of good teeth… Once the software locks onto the user’s mouth and teeth, it overlays the improved teeth — and that’s where the fun starts.
Because the program is interactive, users can edit the spacing between teeth, as well as their shape. While the system may seem like a teeth-only version of The Sims, the fact that replacement teeth are molded down to every detail is mind-blowing.
Once the patient has customized their teeth and given them a preview in the AR “virtual mirror,” the final model is sent off for manufacture wherever it is replacement teeth are made.
Shown at the International Dental Show in Cologne, the dental augmented reality program immediately hit some marks for investors. As an independent operator, Kapanu has yet to lay down its terms for commercial use. In the meantime, I’ll remember to stay off the sweets.
With the rise of solar power comes a great hurdle — bringing it into households. While scientists at the University of Exeter have masterminded glass solar blocks, those at UC Berkeley are working down to the atom. To bring cheaper options to the table, UCLA research teams are testing a solar gadget that creates hydrogen and electricity.
Along with the usual positive and negative electrodes, the device has a third electrode that can either store energy electrically or use it to split water into its constituent hydrogen and oxygen atoms – a process called water electrolysis.
The pocket-fitting tool produces clean energy to power appliances and vehicles. It also incorporates nickel, iron, and cobalt into hydrogen production, replacing platinum, which is scarce.
“Hydrogen is a great fuel for vehicles: It is the cleanest fuel known, it’s cheap and it puts no pollutants into the air – just water,” says [study head Richard] Kaner.
With a lot of work, UCLA’s newest contraption could do wonders for infrastructure and hydrogen cars. It may even bring a little sunshine to rural communities.
The era of Energizer batteries has climaxed. Nowadays, the electrochemical cells are powered by unusual sources, spit included. Other new devices don’t even need them. At any rate, updated technology can’t phase them out entirely — so inventor group Ossia has paved middle ground. The solution? A battery that only requires air to charge.
[Ossia’s Cota] transmitter broadcasts a directed and concentrated RF signal towards a given device in a room, which is absorbed by the gadget’s own RF antennas inside, and turned into usable power.
Alas, for gadgets such as iPhones and Fitbits, RF antennas will have to be external. But, as tech circles are, Ossia has an alternative up its sleeve: the Cota Forever Battery.
Featuring the exact same size, form factor, and power output of a traditional AA battery, it can be inserted into a battery-powered device to instantly and easily make it compatible with Cota wireless power transmitters.
Ever dream of never having to switch out obnoxious television remote batteries? It may be time to wake up — the future’s just arrived!
Medical e-skin sensors have made it easier and more affordable to detect illnesses. Devices such as nanochips have made treating these illnesses even simpler. Still, not every health condition is easy to pick up. To rule out melanoma, students from McMaster University have created Skan, which uses heat to test for skin cancer.
It works using a series of thermistors, which are inexpensive and highly accurate temperature sensors, to detect the temperature response of a patch of skin to sudden cooling.
The readings are then processed by an algorithm that uses time, temperature, and spacial readings to create a heat map, and show any spots with heat irregularities that could be a melanoma.
It is important to tackle melanomas in their early stages as they metabolize faster than normal cells. But as with most outdated technology, current detection apparatuses cost more than an arm and a leg.
There are already detection methods using thermal imaging, but they currently use thermal imaging cameras that cost upwards of $26,000.
Estimates project Skan to cost $1,000, truly a fraction of the price of traditional machines. Considering how quickly survival rates drop when melanoma gets its way, investing in Skan may be the way to go.