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There should be plenty of new drone fliers in the new year, as drone sales are reportedly soaring ahead of Christmas. Amazon is selling more than 10,000 drones per month alone, according to industry officials, as interest increases while prices continue to fall.
"It's out of control," said Patric Egan, editor at UASNEWS.com. "I was at the grocery store and you can buy a drone. Everybody's selling them now. It's going to get weird."
However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said there have been more than 40 drone safety incidents per month, and that number will only increase as novice operators take their shiny new toys to the sky. The FAA instructs hobbyists to fly drones only by line of sight, and not to use video image tools, but it's not difficult to find video equipment available for sale online. Drone owners can also purchase long-range radio links, another feature that should only be utilized by experienced drone operators.
iRobot has announced the Create 2, a preassembled robot platform that is based off the company's successful Roomba robot. This new platform will allow educators to boost interest in STEM research among students, with a robot unit, 3D printable files, faceplate drilling template, and educational instructions and projects lined up for students.
The platform is now available for $199.99, and has everything necessary for students to immediately begin developing their own robotics platform.
"As a global leader in robotics technology, iRobot believes its greatest social responsibility is to ignite students' passion for STEM-related careers through the excitement of robots," said Colin Angle, iRobot chairman and CEO, in a press statement. "Robots have a cool factor unlike any other learning tool. Create 2, with its online resources, reliable hardware born of the award winning Roomba, and ease of customization simply delivers more robot than anything available to students an educators at or near its price. We are so excited to be able to make this available to the educational community."
The US Navy and Boston Engineering created a new underwater drone called the GhostSwimmer, a reconnaissance drone that looks just like a shark. GhostSwimmer measures five feet in length, weighs around 100 pounds, and can "swim" in water from 10 inches to 300 feet in depth. The UUV can operate while tethered or swim independently, with personnel controlling it using joysticks.
"GhostSwimmer will allow the Navy to have success during more types of missions while keeping divers and sailors safe," said Michael Rufo, Boston Engineering Advanced System Group director, in a press statement.
The US Navy has boosted efforts to create a fleet of unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) it can use or reconnaissance, security - and one day help launch stealth attacks - against select targets. There is increased research into robotics and drone development based on natural movement of wild animals.
Stanford University will study artificial intelligence over the next 100 years, as part of a long-lasting study to see how AI impacts the US economy, war, crime, and society as a whole. There is growing concern that AI developments, while extremely impressive, could displace human workers and create something that may have disastrous long-term effects.
"Loss of control of A.I. systems has become a big concern," said Dr. Horvitz, Microsoft Research managing director, in a statement to the New York Times. "Rather than simply dismiss these dystopian claims, he said, scientists instead must monitor and continually evalutate the technologies. Even if the anxieties are unwarranted, they need to be addressed."
Dr. Horvitz will lead a committee of leading computer, math and engineering professors and representatives from around the country - and carefully chosen scientists will create a report on the current state of AI that will be published in late 2015.
Students studying unmanned aerial systems and aviation at the Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, will be able to test their creations in a custom 40-foot high pavilion. The school wanted students to be able to test their flying aircraft in a controlled environment, while also not worrying about any Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) restrictions.
"We think it is really important for students to be able to experience the capabilities of flying, said Deb Norris, Sinclair VP for workforce development and corporate services, in a statement published by the Associated Press.
As drones are expected to have a larger role in the United States, colleges and universities want to prepare students for job opportunities - and to give them real-world training in how to design, repair, and use them.
Seattle non-profit group Urban Death Project has a wacky idea: to provide human composting, so recently deceased human bodies can be used to help nurture plant life. Non-profit organizers want to begin the service within three years, but must complete fundraising and build a facility to conduct research. The Washington State Department of Licensing said the group will also have to receive a license to operate as a funeral home.
The bodies would be stored up to 10 days in a refrigeration unit, and no embalming would be required.
"The idea is to fold the dead back into the city," said Katrina Spade, founder and executive director of the Urban Death Project, in a statement. "The options we currently have for our bodies are lacking, both from an environmental standpoint, but also, and perhaps more importantly, from a meaning standpoint."
American workers will need to diversify and learn new skillsets, as a growing number of robots are beginning to take hold in the workforce. Recent technological developments have allowed newer generations of humanoid robots, such as models being used in manufacturing, logistics, clerical work, and other key industries.
Economists and researchers have shown concern that robots in the workforce could cannibalize human jobs, despite creating a number of new positions. However, there is great potential for humans to work alongside robots to help complement skillsets and help human workers boost productivity, while robots ease the workload.
"This isn't some hypothetical future possibility," said Lawrence H. Summers, former US Treasury secretary, when speaking about robot workers being developed. "This isn't some hypothetical future possibility. This is something that's emerging before us right now."
Excessive use of social media in itself can be addicting, especially as access to Twitter, Facebook and other sites is readily available, but the habit also shows links to substance abuse and other impulse control disorders. In a study that was published in the "Addiction" journal, researchers from the University of Albany discovered 10 percent of users suffer from "disordered social networking use," with people addicted to social media more likely to have drinking problems.
Survey respondents who suffered from disordered social networking use also reported problems related to emotion regulation and poor impulse control. These respondents also had strong urges to browse Facebook, and became irritable when they were unable to reach the social networking website.
"Our findings suggest that disordered online social networking may arise as part of a cluster of risk factors that increase susceptibility to both substance and non-substance addictions," said psychologist Julia Hormes, who led the University of Albany study, in a statement.
Sir Richard Branson wanted to explore the deepest oceans in the world, but has scrapped those plans to put his energy into Virgin Galactic. Originally announced in 2011, the Virgin Oceanic wanted to conduct five dives at the deepest depths across the world, but the company's DeepFlight Challenger was unable to withstand stress tests.
Here is what Branson said in an open letter published in August: "Starting new ventures takes a 'screw it, let's do it' attitude - business is also knowing when to change tack. We are still highly passionate about exploring the bottom of the ocean. However, we are now widening the focus and looking for new technology to help us explore the ocean."
Meanwhile, a catastrophic event struck its Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo, and his team will closely analyze an investigation report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
The Fujisoft-organized annual robot sumo competition occurred over the weekend, and featured remote-controlled and autonomous robotic sumo bots throwing down. The event hosted in Tokyo featured teams from 10 different countries, and continually grows in popularity.
The Mirai Robo Koken team from a Japanese high school won the radio-controlled portion of the event, which featured 10 different robots. Operators used remote controls to help guide their respective robots in the sumo tournament.
The Robotu Skola team from Latvia capturing the autonomous tournament - featuring 31 different robotic sumo models. Autonomous sumo robots were required to use pre-programmed movements to help find rival robots and push them out of a small ring.