Review: HP Envy 34 Curved All-in-One (2017)

Wired News - Sat, 03/06/2017 - 11:00am
Very few computers make a statement just by sitting on top of your desk. The post Review: HP Envy 34 Curved All-in-One (2017) appeared first on WIRED.
Categories: Science

Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen Unveils World's Biggest Plane

Slashdot - Sat, 03/06/2017 - 10:00am
Frosty Piss quotes a report from The Seattle Times: The huge Stratolaunch finally rolled out of its hangar in Mojave, Calif., Wednesday for the first time. Built by Paul Allen's Scaled Composites, the twin hulled monster will go through months of ground tests before a first flight. Jean Floyd, chief executive at Stratolaunch Systems, said in a statement that the empty airplane, powered by six used 747 engines, weighs approximately 500,000 pounds. The jet will have a three-person crew: pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer in the flight deck of the starboard fuselage, while the port fuselage cockpit is empty and unpressurized. Stratolaunch is intended to carry a rocket slung beneath the central part of the wing, between the two fuselages, and release it at 35,000 feet. The concept is that the rocket will then launch into space and deliver satellites into orbit.

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SpaceX Successfully Launches Used Dragon Cargo Ship in Historic First - Sat, 03/06/2017 - 9:20am
For the first time in the history of commercial spaceflight, a used spacecraft has blasted off on a mission to deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS).
Categories: Science

In Photos: SpaceX's 1st Reused Dragon Spacecraft Blasts Off - Sat, 03/06/2017 - 9:07am
SpaceX made history on June 3, 2017 when it launched a used Dragon cargo craft to the International Space Station for the first time. See images of the liftoff, and the successful landing of the company's Falcon 9 rocket, here.
Categories: Science

JRR Tolkien Book 'Beren and Luthien' Published After 100 Years

Slashdot - Sat, 03/06/2017 - 7:00am
seoras quotes a report from BBC: A new book by Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien is going on sale -- 100 years after it was first conceived. Beren and Luthien has been described as a "very personal story" that the Oxford professor thought up after returning from the Battle of the Somme. It was edited by his son Christopher Tolkien and contains versions of a tale that became part of The Silmarillion. The book features illustrations by Alan Lee, who won an Academy Award for his work on Peter Jackson's film trilogy. It is being published on Thursday by HarperCollins on the 10th anniversary of the last Middle Earth book, The Children of Hurin.

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Categories: Science

FCC Seeks To Increase ISP Competition In Apartment Buildings

Slashdot - Sat, 03/06/2017 - 3:30am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Exclusive deals between broadband providers and landlords have long been a problem for Internet users, despite rules that are supposed to prevent or at least limit such arrangements. The Federal Communications Commission is starting to ask questions about whether it can do more to stop deals that impede broadband competition inside apartment and condominium buildings. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai yesterday released a draft Notice of Inquiry (NOI) that seeks public comment "on ways to facilitate greater consumer choice and to enhance broadband deployment in multiple tenant environments (MTEs)." The commission is scheduled to vote on the NOI at its June 22 meeting, and it would then take public comments before deciding whether to issue new rules or take any other action. The NOI discusses preempting local rules "that may expressly prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting the provision of telecommunications services" in multi-unit buildings. But one San Francisco regulation that could be preempted was designed to boost competition by expanding access to wires inside buildings. It's too early to tell whether the FCC really wants to preempt any state or city rules or what authority the FCC would use to do so. The NOI could also lead to an expansion of FCC rules, as it seeks comment on whether the commission should impose new restrictions on exclusive marketing and bulk billing arrangements between companies and building owners. The NOI further seeks comment on how "revenue sharing agreements and exclusive wiring arrangements between MTE owners and broadband providers may affect broadband competition" and "other contractual provisions and non-contractual practices that may impact the ability of broadband providers to compete in MTEs." The NOI also asks whether the commission should encourage cities and states to adopt model codes that promote competition in multi-unit buildings, and the document asks what practices those model codes should prohibit or mandate.

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Categories: Science

'Our Streets Are Made For People': San Francisco Mulls Ban On Delivery Robots

Slashdot - Sat, 03/06/2017 - 2:05am
Norman Yee, an American elected official in San Francisco, has recently proposed legislation that would prohibit autonomous delivery robots -- which includes those with a remote human operator -- on public streets in the city. In a statement provided to Recode, Yee said, "our streets and our sidewalks are made for people, not robots." He also worries that many delivery jobs would disappear. The proposed legislation is causing a headache for one high-tech startup in particular. The tech company is called Marble, which uses bots fitted with camera and ultrasonic sensors to deliver small packages and food within a one or two mile radius. The delivery robots themselves travel at a walking pace and use cameras and sensors to avoid pedestrians and navigate pavements. The Guardian reports: San Francisco police commander Robert O'Sullivan is in favor of the legislation, fearing the robots could harm children, the elderly, and those with limited mobility. "If hit by a car, they also have the potential of becoming a deadly projectile," he told a local TV station. Marble CEO Matt Delaney says these fears are unfounded. "We care that our robots are good citizens of the sidewalk," he says. "We've taken a lot of care from the ground up to consider their need to sense and intuit how people are going to react."

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Chemical 'dance' of cobalt catalysis could pave way to solar fuels

Science Daily - Sat, 03/06/2017 - 1:39am
In a new study, scientists have been able to see for the first time an especially important chemical step in the process of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen - the basic reaction at the heart of creating entirely renewable fuels from solar energy.
Categories: Science

Scientists Decipher the Neural Code For Faces

Slashdot - Sat, 03/06/2017 - 1:25am
New submitter akakaak writes: In a new paper published in Cell, researchers Le Chang and Doris Tsao claim to have uncovered "The Code for Facial Identity in the Primate Brain." They develop a model representing each face as a vector in a 50-dimensional "face-space," and show that the firing rate for each face-sensitive neuron represents the location along a single axis through this space. This allows them to accurately predict the appearance of a viewed face from the collective recorded activity of the neurons. This work is a major advance in the decoding of complex neural representations, and refutes exemplar-based models of face recognition. Further reading: Scientific American

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VR glove powered by soft robotics provides missing sense of touch

Kurzweil AI - Sat, 03/06/2017 - 1:20am

Prototype of haptic VR glove, using soft robotic “muscles” to provide realistic tactile feedback for VR experiences (credit: Jacobs School of Engineering/UC San Diego)

Engineers at UC San Diego have designed a light, flexible glove with soft robotic muscles that provide realistic tactile feedback for virtual reality (VR) experiences.

Currently, VR tactile-feedback user interfaces are bulky, uncomfortable to wear and clumsy, and they simply vibrate when a user touches a virtual surface or object.

“This is a first prototype, but it is surprisingly effective,” said Michael Tolley, a mechanical engineering professor at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego and a senior author of a paper presented at the Electronic Imaging, Engineering Reality for Virtual Reality conference in Burlingame, California and published May 31, 2017 in Advanced Engineering Materials.

The key soft-robotic component of the new glove is a version of the “McKibben muscle” (a pneumatic, or air-based, actuator invented in 1950s by the physician Joseph L. McKibben for use in prosthetic limbs), using soft latex chambers covered with braided fibers. To apply tactile feedback when the user moves their fingers, the muscles respond like springs. The board controls the muscles by inflating and deflating them.*

Prototype haptic VR glove system. A computer generates an image of a virtual world (in this case, a piano keyboard with a river and trees in the background) that it sends to the VR device (such as an Oculus Rift). A Leap Motion depth-camera (on the table) detects the position and movement of the user’s hands and sends data to a computer. It sends an image of the user’s hands superimposed over the keyboard (in the demo case) to the VR display and to a custom fluidic control board. The board then feeds back a signal to soft robotic components in the glove to individually inflate or deflate fingers, mimicking the user’s applied forces.

The engineers conducted an informal pilot study of 15 users, including two VR interface experts. The demo allowed them to play the piano in VR. They all agreed that the gloves increased the immersive experience, which they described as “mesmerizing” and “amazing.”

VR headset image of a piano, showing user’s finger actions (credit: Jacobs School of Engineering/UC San Diego)

The engineers say they’re working on making the glove cheaper, less bulky, and more portable. They would also like to bypass the Leap Motion device altogether to make the system more self-contained and compact. “Our final goal is to create a device that provides a richer experience in VR,” Tolley said. “But you could imagine it being used for surgery and video games, among other applications.”

* The researchers 3D-printed a mold to make the gloves’ soft exoskeleton. This will make the devices easier to manufacture and suitable for mass production, they said. Researchers used silicone rubber for the exoskeleton, with Velcro straps embedded at the joints.

JacobsSchoolNews | A glove powered by soft robotics to interact with virtual reality environments

Abstract of Soft Robotics: Review of Fluid-Driven Intrinsically Soft Devices; Manufacturing, Sensing, Control, and Applications in Human-Robot Interaction

The emerging field of soft robotics makes use of many classes of materials including metals, low glass transition temperature (Tg) plastics, and high Tg elastomers. Dependent on the specific design, all of these materials may result in extrinsically soft robots. Organic elastomers, however, have elastic moduli ranging from tens of megapascals down to kilopascals; robots composed of such materials are intrinsically soft − they are always compliant independent of their shape. This class of soft machines has been used to reduce control complexity and manufacturing cost of robots, while enabling sophisticated and novel functionalities often in direct contact with humans. This review focuses on a particular type of intrinsically soft, elastomeric robot − those powered via fluidic pressurization.

Categories: Science

'Instantly Rechargeable' Battery Could Change the Future of Electric Cars

Slashdot - Sat, 03/06/2017 - 12:45am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Daily: A technology developed by Purdue researchers could provide an "instantly rechargeable" method that is safe, affordable and environmentally friendly for recharging electric and hybrid vehicle batteries through a quick and easy process similar to refueling a car at a gas station. John Cushman, Purdue University distinguished professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary science and a professor of mathematics, presented the research findings "Redox reactions in immiscible-fluids in porous media -- membraneless battery applications" at the recent International Society for Porous Media 9th International Conference in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Cushman co-founded Ifbattery LLC (IF-battery) to further develop and commercialize the technology. "Designing and building enough of these recharging stations requires massive infrastructure development, which means the energy distribution and storage system is being rebuilt at tremendous cost to accommodate the need for continual local battery recharge," said Eric Nauman, co-founder of Ifbattery and a Purdue professor of mechanical engineering, basic medical sciences and biomedical engineering. "Ifbattery is developing an energy storage system that would enable drivers to fill up their electric or hybrid vehicles with fluid electrolytes to re-energize spent battery fluids much like refueling their gas tanks." Mike Mueterthies, Purdue doctoral teaching and research assistant in physics and the third co-founder of Ifbattery, said the flow battery system makes the Ifbattery system unique. "Other flow batteries exist, but we are the first to remove membranes which reduces costs and extends battery life," Mueterthies said. Ifbattery's membrane-free battery demonstrates other benefits as well. "Membrane fouling can limit the number of recharge cycles and is a known contributor to many battery fires," Cushman said. "Ifbattery's components are safe enough to be stored in a family home, are stable enough to meet major production and distribution requirements and are cost effective." For the visual learners, Purdue Research Park has uploaded a video about Ifbattery's "instantly rechargeable" method.

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