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Science, Space & Robotics Posts - Page 8

Suitable Technologies shows off store staffed by robots

What better way to sell a product than a working in-store demonstration? That's the ideology of Suitable Technologies, which is using its telepresence robots in its Palo Alto, California-based store. The retail location is a live demonstration of the Beam Remote Presence System, featuring a wheeled base and two support beams for a screen.



The telepresence technology, which costs $20,000 - with a $2,000 consumer version available - also includes Wi-Fi radios, cameras and microphones.

Continue reading 'Suitable Technologies shows off store staffed by robots' (full post)

Rinspeed Budii autonomous car concept to be unveiled at auto show

Automotive futurist company Rinspeed will publicly debut its "Budii" autonomous-driving concept vehicle in March 5, 2015, during the 2015 Geneva Motor Show. The vehicle is reportedly based on the BMW i3 and will be fully autonomous, learning the "habits and preferences" of the driver. Budii is an electric-powered car that the automaker hopes will become a driver's "best buddy."


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Rinspeed showed off the XchangE, a modified Tesla Model S, autonomous vehicle during the 2014 Geneva Motor Show.


Autonomous vehicle research is evolving rapidly, with a number of automakers interested in self-driving car concepts. Rinspeed believes publicly available autonomous cars will one day be inevitable, but will take multiple stages before they are common on roadways.

UK pilots also reporting close calls with small drones in the skies

It's not just commercial pilots in the United States reporting a growing number incidents with small drones, as a pilot in the UK flying into Heathrow Airport said he saw a drone flying close to the airport. The pilot of the Airbus 320 airliner estimates the drone was about 700 feet off the ground, with the UK Civil Aviation Authority issuing it a Class A (serious risk of collision) labelling.


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The UK doesn't allow drones less than 44 pounds to go above 400 feet in elevation, and they cannot fly near commercial airspace and airports. However, it's possible private drone operators might not be aware of the restrictions - and are unaware of potential dangers.


Trying to prevent incidents between small drones and airliners is being left up to national governments, though they are responding slowly. Both the US and British governments are considering safety rules for airspace around airports, which would hold drone operators accountable for flying safely.

Artificial skin able to feel sensations like rain drops, human touch

Researchers have made great progress in prosthetics development in recent years, and a team in Korea and the United States have pushed things even further. Amputees will be able to better experience the world around them by using prosthetics equipped with "smart skin," able to allow them to feel sensations.


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The unique elastomer soft polymer has integrated temperature, pressure and humidity sensors, along with electrodes that are able to stretch and stimulate the patient's existing nerves. Trying to develop technology able to send control commands from the nervous system to the prosthetic - and sensory feedback from the prosthetic back to the nervous system has proven to be difficult.


"Previously, these robots or prosthetic arms/legs did not have skins that enable high resolution/sensitivity sensing of pressure, strain, temperature, humidity," said Kim Dae-Hyeong, author co-study, in a statement to CBS News. "We focused on this point by developing high density/sensitivity sensor array that is similar with the real human skin."

US government expanding legal drone use, but progress not fast enough

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given permission to four companies now able to operate drones for commercial purposes, granting five new exemptions. Specifically, UAS, Woolpert, Clayco, and VDOS Global will fly drones to help conduct oil rig flare stack inspections, aerial surveying, and monitoring construction sites. All flying drones must be within visual sight of the operator and weigh less than 55 pounds, according to the FAA.


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"Unmanned aircraft offer a tremendous opportunity to spur innovation and economic activity by enabling many businesses to develop better products and services for their customers and the American public," said Anthony Foxx, Transportation Secretary. "We want to foster commercial uses of this exciting technology while taking a responsible approach to the safety of America's airspace."


The FAA granted seven exemption waivers to movie studios earlier in 2014, and has received 167 requests.

Continue reading 'US government expanding legal drone use, but progress not fast enough' (full post)

Military developing unmanned underwater vehicles, including eels

Researchers from Singapore have demonstrated a unique robotic eel that is able to travel through the water in a similar fashion as a real eel. The prototype is able to move quietly and could become an excellent stealth tool to sneak up on ships and other water-based vehicles.


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Militaries are interested in using underwater robots to help conduct research, map the sea floor, check for mines, and other operations. The eel robot should prove to be adaptable to varying environments, such as hulls, reefs, and other geological formations.


"Anguilliform [eel like] fish consume less energy when on a long distance journey than regular autonomous underwater vehicles," said Jianxin Xu, a researcher from Singapore, in a statement to Defense One. "They are highly maneuverable and flexible, making them more suitable than Gliders for navigation... they're less detectable than robot subs that propel themselves the same way as conventional subs."

Real estate agents embracing drone flights to promote properties

Real estate agents are increasingly using drones to help sell homes and commercial properties, giving prospective buyers an extremely unique view. Being able to capture aerial photographs and record video is proving popular among buyers unable to visit locations in-person.


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Using drones also allows real estate agents an opportunity to scout out potential development opportunities, looking at buildings that can be redeveloped or vacant sites that can be purchased.


The price of drones continues to decrease, and as governments try to determine how to create drone flying guidelines, will only increase in popularity in the real estate industry.

Samsung quietly moving ahead with robot innovation, filing new patents

Samsung is best known for its consumer electronics products, but the South Korean technology giant has shown increased interest in robotics development. The company has filed a large number of patents related to robotics technology, designed for government, military and consumer use. Samsung will continue dumping large amounts of resources into research and development of robotics, as the autonomous industry continues to mature at a rapid pace.


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The Samsung SGR-1 robotic military sentry already is in use in the tense Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea - and has the ability to identify targets up to two miles away, with weaponry that includes a machine gun and a grenade launcher.


Many Japanese companies are developing robots that can be used in the consumer market, but Samsung appears more interested in creating solutions for professional use. Using the Internet of Things infrastructure, expect new generations of Samsung-created robotics to use the SmartThings platform.

The world's largest telescope will be completed by 2024

The European Southern Observatory's Council has announced that it has approved plans to start construction of the world's largest telescope, which will be built-in Chile, and completed by 2024.


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Tim de Zeeuw, the Director General of the ESO said in a statement: "The decision taken by Council means that the telescope can now be built. Major industrial construction work for the E-ELT is now funded and can proceed according to plan". The ESO will build the massive telescope on top of a mountain in Chile called Cerro Armazones, in Chile's Atacama Desert.


Back in mid-2012, the telescope was approved, but construction could only start once 90% of the funding required had been secured. This has now obviously happened, with de Zeeuw adding: "the most powerful of all the extremely large telescope projects currently planned". How big will the telescope be? We should see it featuring a 39m aperture optical and infrared telescope, which means we should see scientists capable of seeing the details of Earth-sized exoplanets, and study star populations in nearby galaxies. de Zeeuw added: "the next few years will be very exciting".

Sen. Feinstein wants drone legislation focused on drone safety

Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) is drafting legislation that would create laws focused on drone flight safety, asking the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to "aggressively confront" the rise in "highly-capable, inexpensive drones" that are being operated by private citizens. The vocal California Senator wants the FAA to make it clear to drone operators that they are responsible for their actions, including ensuring privacy rights are upheld - and that drones don't get too close to aircraft.


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"It is my intent to introduce legislation to codify and expand the moratorium on private drone use without specific authority from the FAA that is already in place," the Feinstein letter wrote. "This expanded moratorium would cover any such use that could threaten the airspace, it would require a safety certification for expansions of private drone use, and it would be backed up by substantial criminal penalties if manned aircraft or people are put at risk."


Sen. Feinstein isn't a big fan of drone use in the United States, and previously voiced privacy concerns as the small flying aircraft hit the skies.

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