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As more private drone operators take to the skies for the first time in 2015, privacy concerns appear to be at an all-time high. Drone Labs recently introduced its Drone Detector solution, alerting users to a drone's presence - able to detect recreational and commercial drones. Instead of using acoustics-based solutions, the Drone Detector uses multi-factor authentication to identify a drone's presence.
"To be clear, most [drone] pilots are responsible, law-abiding people," said Zain Naboulsi, co-founder and CEO of Drone Labs. "We [at Drone Labs] are drone pilots ourselves. Unfortunately there are some bad pilots out there who don't follow the rules. We are committed to protecting people from unwanted drone invasions."
The FAA estimates up to 30,000 commercial drones flying by 2030 over the United States, but hasn't estimated the number of private drones.
The University of California, San Francisco Medical Center at Mission Bay officially opens on Sunday, February 1, and will make use of 25 autonomous robots. Each robot is pre-programmed with the hospital's floor plans, and can autonomously navigate the best route to get to assigned areas - taking supplies to and from labs, stock rooms, the pharmacy and kitchen.
The robot is unable to answer voice commands, but can say 70 different phrases to communicate with staff and visitors. Furthermore, it has 30 onboard infrared and sonar sensors, a laser and camera, providing better ability to avoid collisions.
"Tissue samples, blood samples need to get from point A to point B very fast," said Ken Goldberg, UC Berkeley professor of robotics, in a statement to CNET. "You can't afford to wait for someone to show up. The robot that never gets distracted, never stops for coffee, could be great for these critical deliveries."
A bit of a weird one for the world today: NASA has repurposed the the original processor that powered the first PlayStation from Sony in its probe sent to Pluto.
The MIPS R3000 CPU was the chip found in the original PlayStation, but NASA is using the CPU to control thrusters, guidance, and other systems in its probe to Pluto. The processor has been "radiation hardened" to survive the harsh elements of the sea of stars that we call space, too. The PlayStation may have used a 33MHz R3051 CPU, but the New Horizons spacecraft features a 12MHz Mongoose-V CPU.
An Imagination spokesman told Electronics Weekly: "It is found in workstations and servers designed by companies such as Evans & Sutherland, DEC, Silicon Graphics, Tandem Computers and Whitechapel Workstation. Most notably, it was the CPU chosen for the original PlayStation game console from Sony and is still being used by Toshiba in a range of microcontrollers". Seven years after it launched, the New Horizons spacecraft has "awoken" and is taking a look at Jupiter. It is a whopping 3.5 billion miles from the Sun, and should start orbiting the dwarf planet soon.
The US Army Research Laboratory is developing a new type of battery for the battlefield, with scientists testing different materials. Ideally, they want to create a battery that corrodes slower - if it all - and the rechargeable batteries have less charge/discharge cycles, while increasing stability during high-voltage scenarios.
Over the next few months, the ARL team wants to begin evaluations of larger battery cells from commercial manufacturers, so they are able to analyze safety and performance. If approved, the ARL will have created new batteries that are lighter and can last longer during use in tough environments.
"We help to develop new battery materials that are lighter and last longer for the Soldier, so he doesn't have to carry so many batteries," said Cynthia Lundgren, Chief of the Electrochemistry Branch of the Power and Energy Division in the Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate. "If we could raise the voltage of a single cell - energy density is a direct function of the voltage - we could make the battery lighter."
Quadcopters are starting to hit the mainstream market in force, thanks to their recently lowered pricing, ease of flying for beginners and various camera opportunities including GoPro recording or First Person View (FPV) flying - as seen below mounted on normal two-winged, one propeller R/C aircraft.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has issued a warning this holiday season, stating on their Twitter that pilots should be aware that they must "remember to keep 30m away from vehicles, buildings & people." This comes after a Melbourne man ended up crashing his drone in the middle of a police operation and almost taking down an officer with it.
Little-known to most, if you're looking to use a quadcopter for commercial filming purposes, you must actually obtain an official license - with only a handful of people holding these nation-wide, so I'm told.
Artificial intelligence is developing at a rapid rate, and Elon Musk wants to make sure robots don't one day try to overtake mankind. The donated funds will be used to help support AI research activities, especially projects with a focus on non-threatening AI development.
"Here are all these leading AI researchers saying that AI safety is important," Musk recently said regarding AI. "I agree with them, so I'm today committing $10M to support research aimed at keeping AI beneficial for humanity."
Physicist Stephen Hawking joined Musk and signed an open letter that pledged AI would be developed in a productive, safe manner for humans. The Future of Life Institute published the open letter, which has generated great interest from tech and science industry leaders.
The United States Air Force is boosting pay for drone pilots, and using additional manpower from the Air Force Reserves, in an effort to fill a drone pilot gap. Drone pilots are in high demand by the US military, with current pilots working up to 14 hours per day, six days per week, according to the US Air Force.
Current drone needs to help battle ISIS in Iraq and Syria have placed additional strain on the Air Force, despite initial plans that demand would drop after most troops were withdrawn from Afghanistan. Now, the Air Force is trying to find ways to entice pilots to stay in the military and continue leading operations.
"We thought we were drawing down and had a plan in place to man this enterprise that would, if we had actually drawn down, we'd be fine right now," said General Mark Welsh, US Air Force chief of staff, in a statement to the media. "We've met the operational demand signal, but we're doing it by putting people in a position where they're not having a debate whether they want to continue doing this."
ShotSpotter technology is being used in areas with high levels of crime and gun violence, which helps law enforcement respond faster to gun shots. Using microphones located around "problem areas" of cities, the ShotSpotter system is able to provide instant locations of gunshots within 10 feet.
The use of the system allows police to investigate shootings that often times aren't reported after they occur. However, it is rather expensive to deploy, with costs ranging from $60,000 up to $100,000 per year per square mile.
"It helps us catching guys and it helps us with officer safety," said Orlando Cuevas, Camden County police chief, in a statement to CBS News. "Now these officers are not traveling blindly into an area where a gunshot is."
Duke University researchers have grown human skeletal muscles in a research lab, with the manufactured creation able to contract and respond like native tissue. It's possible the lab-created muscles can help with drug research and so researchers are better able to study diseases.
Researchers used human cells that progressed past stem cells but didn't reach full muscle tissue yet - and the myogenic precursors were allowed to form into muscle fibers located in a custom 3D scaffolding.
"One of our goals is to use this method to provide personalized medicine to patients," said Nenad Bursac, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Duke University, in a press statement. "We can take a biopsy from each patient, grow many new muscles to use as test samples and experiment to see which drugs would work best for each person."
It's hard to predict what will happen as robotics technology matures, and artificial intelligence software advances, but there is growing concern that robots could end up taking jobs from humans. In Germany and other European Union (EU) nations look to solve political problems, there is growing concern that robots - and not immigrants from other nations - could lead to a shrinking work force.
"What's fundamentally different is that (these advances) have the ability to affect a broader set of workers," said Jeremy Bowles, a researcher at the Bruegel Institute in Brussels, Belgium. Bowles believes humanoid robots will be able to carry out human tasks that could one day impact white-collar employees.
However, a counter-argument is that the rise of robotics will help spur the economy, as there will be additional opportunities for businesses. "Robotics is seen as a pivotal technology, which is not only going into robotics per se but into so many other branches and technologies," said Uwe Haas, secretary general of the European Union's robotics program. "It will create new jobs because [it will make] new businesses possible."