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Topics - fahad.faisal

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The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) said this week that it is aiming to issue electric scooter permits next month, and the staff who have been reviewing the 12 permit applications will make their recommendations in the coming weeks. The move to require permits came after Bird, Spin and LimeBike unveiled their e-scooter sharing programs earlier this year, resulting in hundreds of scooters peppering public areas and taking up sidewalk space. They quickly became a nuisance and in April, the city told the three companies that they had to remove their scooters from the streets. Permit applications opened up soon thereafter.

Companies seeking a permit to operate in the city had to submit an application by June 7th, and the SFMTA has been reviewing the dozen applications it received, assessing them for safety, sustainability, access, accountability, financial impact and other measures. Up to five companies will be selected to participate in a year-long pilot program that will evaluate the scooters and their impact. As many as 1,250 scooters may be allowed to operate in San Francisco during the first six months of the trial, and depending on how things play out, an additional 1,250 may be approved for the last half of the trial period.

Once the final firms are selected, the SFMTA will work with them to finalize and clarify the permit terms and conditions. Permits should be issued in August.

Source: SFMTA

2
Tesla's Model 3 is very quick, especially if you spring for the dual-motor Performance variant, but it's still tame for safety's sake. What if you want to launch an all-out assault on a race course? You might have that option soon. YouTuber Marques Brownlee recently had an opportunity to drive the Model 3 Performance on a track, and he pointed out an experimental "Track Mode" that takes the gloves off. The in-testing feature switches on "stability control and powertrain settings configured for track driving," and it's no secret what that means: you can drift, understeer and otherwise push the electric car past its usual limits.

It's not certain when this will reach customers, or even what the final name will be. And as enthusiasts will tell you, it's not a novel concept -- many sports cars have the option to turn off handholding features. It's still relatively rare among street-going electric vehicles, though, and serves as another signal that Tesla is interested in EV performance beyond straight-line acceleration. The greater challenge may be the "Augmented Mode" for the upcoming Roadster. It's one thing to turn features off in the name of courting experienced drivers, it's another to use them to improve a driver's abilities.

Source: Marques Brownlee

3
A robot can show how it's feeling (insofar as a robot can feel) with its face, but that's not the only way living beings do it. Humans have their goosebumps, for instance, while cats and dogs will raise their fur. Cornell wants to bring that nuance to synthetic beings. Its researchers have crafted a robot that uses a soft, adjustable skin to provide a tactile indication of a robot's emotion -- as the university put it, you can feel its feelings. It may develop goosebumps if it's happy, spikes if it's angry, or just a timid response if it's sad and needs a hug.

The elastomer skin contains separate sets of goosebump and spike generators, each of which is joined by fluidic chambers. When the robot wants to bare its soul, a quiet two-pump system applies pressure to the generators at the strength and frequency needed to convey those feelings. It's relatively subtle, and shouldn't kill the preciousness moment with loud mechanical noises.

Cornell's tech isn't particularly sophisticated at the moment (the design is likened to a 3D-printed oyster), and it's not about to fool you into thinking a robot needs some TLC. However, this could matter in the long run as scientists produce more sophisticated AI systems and artificial skins. If robots are ever going to be advanced enough to display something resembling real human emotion, they'll ideally show all the cues associated with those feelings.

Source: Guy Hoffman

4
Rolls-Royce showed off a handful of small robots this week that could aid in the inspection and repair of airplane engines sometime in the future. Though still under development, the tiny robots could lead to faster, less labor-intensive engine inspections as well as cost reductions for engine maintenance. The technologies, which were displayed at the Farnborough Airshow, are being developed in partnership with other companies as well as researchers at the University of Nottingham and Harvard University.

Swarm robots are small, cockroach-inspired robots that in theory will be able to be delivered inside of an engine and with small cameras, provide a look inside. This way, the engine wouldn't have to be removed from the plane in order for an inspection to take place. Researchers at Harvard University are working on scaling down the robots, which, as of now, are still too big for this type of work.

Along with the Swarm robots, Rolls-Royce also displayed a periscope-like robot that could be embedded within an engine itself and could always be on the lookout for any repairs that may need to be performed. A pair of snake-like robots were also on display, and their flexible design would allow them to travel throughout an engine, sort of like an endoscope, and then work together to perform repairs. And lastly, Rolls-Royce displayed its remote boreblending robots, which could be installed in an engine by pretty much anyone and an expert can then control it remotely, negating the need for these specialists to travel to an aircraft's location to perform certain repairs.

"While some of these technologies, such as the Swarm robots, are still a long way from becoming an everyday reality, others, such as the remote boreblending robot, are already being tested and will begin to be introduced over the next few years," James Kell, an on-wing technology specialist with Rolls-Royce, said at the airshow. "We have a great network of partners who support our work in this field and it is clear that this is an area with the potential to revolutionise how we think about engine maintenance."

Source: Roll-Royce

5
Scientists can only do so much to discover new chemical reactions on their own. Short of happy accidents, it can take years to find new drugs that might save lives. They might have a better way at the University of Glasgow, though: let robots do the hard work. A research team at the school has developed a "robot chemist" (below) that uses machine learning to accelerate discoveries of chemical reactions and molecules. The bot uses machine learning to predict the outcomes of chemical reactions based on what it gleans from direct experience with just a fraction of those interactions. In a test with 1,000 possible reactions from 18 chemicals, the machine only needed to explore 100 of them to predict study-worthy reactions in the entire lot with about 80 percent accuracy.

The University said it found four reactions just through this test, and one reaction was in the top one percent of unique responses.

That may not sound like a great success rate, and it will ideally get better. However, it's easy to see the robot dramatically speeding up the discovery process by letting scientists focus on the handful of reactions that are most likely to pan out. That could accelerate the development of new treatments, new battery formulas and extra-strong materials. And it wouldn't necessarily cost jobs -- rather, it could help chemists focus on the trickier aspects of research instead of plowing through mundane tests.

Source: University of Glasgow

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DARPA's efforts to propel military technology forward often manifest in a diverse fashion, spanning everything from drone submarine development to a biostasis program that aims to buy more time to rescue soldiers on the battlefield. The SHRIMP program, short for SHort-Range Independent Microrobotic Platforms, is another potentially life-saving initiative that is being designed to navigate through hazardous natural disaster zones.

What differentiates SHRIMP from microrobotics limited by SWaP (size, weight and power) constraints is its size. DARPA has managed to shrink the tech down to the size of an insect -- a scale of mm-to-cm. Program manager Dr. Ronald Polcawich says the smaller scale is what gives SHRIMP robots an advantage over larger robots -- which are too large to inspect damaged environments.

Downsizing robotics comes with various trade-offs, which notably include the loss of technical power and control to effectively carry out tasks. To combat such challenges, DARPA plans to pursue actuator materials and mechanisms that would prioritize factors like strength-to-weight ratio and maximum work density. Advances in these areas could equip SHRIMP with both the endurance and ability required to execute critical tasks.

The SHRIMP robots are part of DARPA's push to drive forward functional microrobotics that offer unrestricted mobility, dexterity, and maneuverability. They're set to undergo rigorous "Olympic-style" trials which will scrutinize SHRIMP's capacity to jump, lift increasingly larger masses, and traverse inclines and measure its overall efficacy. The tests are expected to begin in March 2019. DARPA says it anticipates a total of $32 million to help fund research and development.

Source: DARPA

7
As you might imagine, you can't just grab extra-soft sea creatures like jellyfish or octopuses when you want to study them. Not if you want them to remain intact, anyway. Thankfully, researchers at Harvard's Wyss Institute have a far more delicate solution. They've created a robot arm (the RAD sampler) whose petal-like fingers can quickly form a ball shape around an animal, capturing it without risking any harm. It's simpler than it looks -- it uses just a single motor to drive the entire jointed structure, so it's easy to control and easier still to repair if something breaks.

To date, the arm has only been useful for catch-and-release experiments. In the future, though, biologists could outfit the machine with cameras and sensors to collect information about whatever's inside the sphere, whether it's the material composition, size or the genetic sequencing. If that happens, researchers could study fragile undersea critters in their native habitats and glean insights that wouldn't be available above water or with dead specimens.

Source: Wyss Institute

8
Every model Cadillac sells will be available with semi-autonomous features starting in 2020. The luxury automaker's Super Cruise system for hands-free highway driving will be available across its entire model line in two years; currently, it's exclusive to the CT6 sedan. After 2020, the feature will make its way to other GM lines including Chevrolet, Buick and GMC, according to TechCrunch.

More than that, Cadillac is also working on a "high volume" crossover vehicle that will debut around 2023 and feature vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication, allowing the car to talk to everything from other vehicles, to infrastructure and other sources. So, for example, if there's road work up ahead or a light that's about to change, the car will know ahead of time and plan accordingly.

Much like how Super Cruise will make its way to other brands, so too will the V2X system, USA Today reports. And of course, Chevy is working on fully-autonomous vehicles, saying that those will first serve as taxis -- a byproduct of SoftBank's recent $2.25 billion investment.

The only way we'll get to a world where every car on the road can talk to each other is if more automakers get on board, and making sure that every new vehicle that rolls off the lot has a set of autonomous capabilities is the fastest way for us to get there. Now, we just need more automakers to follow the lead of GM and others to make it happen.

Source: TechCrunch, USA Today

9
Despite numerous advances in emergency medical care over the past decade, humans are still susceptible to bleeding out like Hefty bags filled with vegetable soup. This is especially problematic when people are seriously injured in remote areas or combat operations. Some 17,000 people die from hemorrhagic shock in the US annually (that's roughly 46 people per day). What's more, the American medical community could soon face significant shortages of transfusable blood stocks. Per a 2011 analysis from the National Blood Collection and Utilization Survey, the US could see a shortfall of around 4 million units of blood annually by 2030.

Combined with the need for transfusions during surgery, the dangers of transmitting infectious disease through shared blood, and the continuing lack of qualified blood donor volunteers, we could soon face a serious medical crisis. If only there were a synthetic stand-in that we could use to keep patients alive until they reached a hospital and received proper medical care.

Of course, it isn't like we haven't been trying. The medical community has been working to find a suitable oxygen-carrying blood replacement since the 17th century after William Harvey figured out the pulmonary system. Early attempts were crude, at best. Beer, milk, urine, animal blood -- even mixtures of wine and opium were considered, tested and failed.

Research continued in earnest through the 20th century, up until WWII, when interest in transfusion technology exploded. However, postwar research was almost immediately hamstrung by a number of debilitating side effects which couldn't be resolved with the technical know-how of the time. The emergence of HIV in the 1980s and the Mad Cow Disease scares in the 1990s further impeded advancements in the field.

Turns out that synthesizing a suitable replacement for blood -- even just its oxygen-carrying aspect -- is incredibly difficult. Only two precursors have proved usable to date: recombinant hemoglobin and perfluorocarbons (PFCs). Both offer unique benefits but also a host of dangerous side effects. Hemoglobin-based treatments bind to oxygen more easily than PFCs because that's what the molecule does naturally, but releasing raw hemoglobin into the bloodstream can have toxic effects. As such, Dr. Andre Palmer of the Ohio State University explains, these treatments must be "encapsulated" in larger molecules to keep them from slipping through the pores of the blood vessel and into surrounding tissues where they cause oxidative tissue injury.

PFCs, on the other hand, are inert materials that can carry up to 50 times as much oxygen as blood plasma but less than hemoglobin-based treatments. What's more, PFCs are insoluble in water and must be mixed into a fatty lipid emulsion before being transfused into the bloodstream. Not only do PF-based treatments have difficulty delivering oxygen to the tissues that most need it, Dr. Dipanjan Pan, an Associate Professor in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Illinois, told Engadget the materials themselves don't have a very long shelf life.

As such, only one oxygen-carrying blood substitute has been approved by the FDA. Fluosol-DA-20, received the FDA's blessing in 1989 but because of extensive side effects was withdrawn from the market just five years later. No hemoglobin-based blood replacement has ever garnered FDA approval. But that could soon change thanks to the independent research conducted by doctors Palmer and Pan.

Dr. Pan's research, carried out in conjunction with Dr. Allan Doctor, professor of pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, was funded by grants from both the UK's NIH and the US Department of Defense. The result is a product called Erythromer.

"This is not a blood substitute," Pan explained. "This is for an oxygen carrier that can be given as an oxygen-delivery vehicle that can kind of act as a stop-gap measure to keep the injured alive until they get to the hospital."

Erythromer is human-derived hemoglobin produced in powder form, which enables it to be stored for up to six months -- far longer than the 42 days that blood lasts on ice. The hemoglobin molecules are coated with a cross-linked synthetic polymer which automatically collects oxygen atoms from high pH areas of the body and releases them in oxygen-deprived tissues where the pH is low. Since this material is man-made, there is very little risk that doctors will unwittingly transmit bloodborne disease as HIV, H1N1 or Zika along with it.

Dr. Pan and his collaborators are initially looking to develop Erythromer for military applications. However, Dr. Pan foresees numerous civilian uses, from mass casualty incidents to emergency response in rural areas and developing nations. Even NASA has expressed interest in the technology when sending astronauts to far-flung worlds like Mars.

A polymerized hemoglobin (PolyHb) developed by Dr. Palmer and his team works in much the same way as Erythromer. It too is derived from natural hemoglobin, wrapped in a protective polymer case to prevent hemoglobin's toxic side effects and is designed "to give the patient enough time to get to a hospital to get a blood transfusion because ultimately, if you lose blood, the best thing you can be transfused with is blood," he explained. And like Erythromer, PolyHb can be powdered, reducing its mass and weight by more than half.

This could prove a boon to combat medics who will, in theory, be able to treat up to 10 wounded soldiers at a time with their on-hand supply of PolyHb, double what then can with traditional blood packs. All they'd need is some purified water with which to re-liquify the powdered platelets. As NBC News points out, nearly 90 percent of preventable in-field deaths are the result of hemorrhagic shock.

PolyHb will give you 24 hours or 48 hours -- hopefully, enough time to be transported to a medical facility to get a blood transfusion. That's not a long enough half life to make the material useful in treating chronic blood-oxygenation diseases like Sickle Cell or COPD, but it should keep you alive long enough to seek proper medical care.

Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that either Erythromer or PolyHb will be able to do more than transport oxygen for the time being, meaning that a full-on synthetic blood replacement remains tantalizingly out of reach for the foreseeable future.

"You'd have the oxygen carrying therapeutic, and then you'd have something that initiates clotting, for example," Dr. Palmer points out. "So it is possible to mix two different therapeutics together to achieve extra functions." However, as of yet, nobody has managed to create a material that does both.

10
Apple has added a new API to its ResearchKit framework that will allow apps to monitor Watch users for signs of Parkinson's disease, 9to5Mac reports. The API will be able to track two symptoms associated with the movement disorder -- tremors and dyskinesia -- continuously throughout the day. Apps monitoring these two activities would then be able to display the recorded data, showing instances of the symptoms per day, hour or minute.

Both Apple and outside researchers have been working on ways to use ResearchKit tools to monitor mobile device users for a range of diseases and disorders. Scientists at Cardiogram, for example, have demonstrated how the Apple Watch can be used to spot signs of a stroke through irregular heartbeats while researchers at Stanford teamed up with Apple to study how the Watch can be used to detect arrhythmias. Others have used ResearchKit tools to aid in the detection of autism, melanoma and epilepsy.

Apple will make the Movement Disorder API available to developers with the second developer release of watchOS 5, 9to5Mac reports, and it has released a sample study app on its ResearchKit GitHub page.

11
Sonos just announced the Beam, a smaller, smarter Playbar. It's all good and well to see it on stage, but what does it sound like? Luckily I just got to spend some time with it to find out -- and on first pass it feels like a winner. Not just for the rich, cinematic sound (which it appears to have) though. The Beam is also an all-around tantalizing prospect: a compact soundbar, Alexa replacement, that could also replace your regular music system. This all-in-one configuration won't be for everyone, but for those without a lot of living space that want to avoid the clutter of multiple speakers, it's definitely appealing.

When Sonos CEO, Patrick Spence, took to the stage this morning, he said the company wanted to "help people listen better." This might be grade-A marketing speak, but it does hint at a problem facing the modern living space: too many gadgets. With TVs, AV systems, smart speakers and more perched around our most-used room, it's easy to see that we're risking overload. A situation that only gets more complex as each of these devices slowly adopts Alexa or Google Assistant.

The Beam aims to slice through some of that noise, while at the same time performing the whole other job of multi-room audio that Sonos is famous for.

In my demo, the company set up a faux front room, with a couch, TV and Beam. The first task was simply to play some music, which was kicked off not by the app (which Sonos users have come to know and... tolerate), but by Alexa. This functionality isn't new for Sonos, but it shows that the company is making it a core feature of all its new hardware.

The pop ditty we heard sounded great, just as you'd hope from a premium speaker with vocals pushing through the center. This isn't a given as soundbars (which the Beam is at its core) because they're often configured for wider, cinematic sound stages. A representative explained that it was important that music sound just as good as movies, and it looks like they got that right, with more focus on the center speakers (of the four full-range woofers and one tweeter in Beam).

We made a quick hop to a movie, again via Alexa (after a clearly pre-prepared skit where one of our hosts pretended to hunt for the remote) and the transition to a wider soundstage was seamless. A tense clip of Westworld and a moody scene from Arrival sounded just as wide and immersive as you'd hope. And, I will say, for a speaker this size (it's 60 percent smaller than the Playbar), surprisingly impactful. As if to drive the point home, a clip from Wall-E showed off the Beam's spatial abilities, as our robot friends zipped from left to right of the screen.

With the Playbase ($699) and the Playbar (also $699) still in the Sonos lineup, you might be wondering where Beam ($399) fits. The answer is simple: in smaller rooms, for the most part. As the lower price might indicate, the Beam comes with fewer speakers (five, to the Playbase's 10), meaning there are some audio compromises here (no sub-woofer for one). That said, there's enough new stuff here -- Airplay 2, HDMI and Alexa support for starters) that for those looking to spruce up their front room, or even make that first step into the world of Sonos, this is a great way to do it.

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Samsung's C-Lab has nurtured a few dozen creative ideas into fully fledged startups over the last couple of years, and a trio of new companies have just joined the incubator's alumni. Their products include a mini smart greenhouse, a portable directional speaker and an artificial intelligence-based user research platform.

Plantbox, which was created by new company Agwart, is probably the most interesting of the three. It's a greenhouse about the size of a small refrigerator which houses seed capsules. Plantbox can identify the type of seed based on the capsule and tweaks the temperature, humidity, lighting, air quality and nutrients to foster the plant's health and growth. Since this is 2018, there is of course an app through which you can monitor and control Plantbox's environment.

S-Ray is another product that's taking flight under the startup Catch Flow. It's a speaker which pushes sound in one direction to limit who can hear the audio. That could prove useful if you're on a conference call and can't wear headphones, which might reduce feedback. Samsung says S-Ray is around a tenth of the size of a typical directional speaker, and it can maintain good volume levels and sound quality while running on lower power than previous speakers. There are a few different models, including a neckband -- though at that point, you might as well sport earphones.
Lastly, For Makers created AppBee, which uses AI to predict users' characteristics based on how they use their phone, as long as users opt in. The aim is to match clients with users, though it's not completely clear what that entails. Samsung says For Makers "hopes to produce more reliable research results at a lower cost compared to conventional, untargeted surveys to enable creators (startups and large corporations alike) to refine products based on user feedback."

The startups went through three months of business training before they were spun out on May 31st. Samsung started C-Lab in 2012 as a way to help employees develop their creative ideas. The startup spin-off policy started in 2015, and the latest companies bring the total number of startups to make it through the program to 34. It's not an entirely altruistic program, though. Incubators typically take a stake in their companies, and Samsung has invested in previous C-Lab graduates.

Source: Samsung

13

Amarjot Singh, YouTube
Drone-based surveillance still makes many people uncomfortable, but that isn't stopping research into more effective airborne watchdogs. Scientists have developed an experimental drone system that uses AI to detect violent actions in crowds. The team trained their machine learning algorithm to recognize a handful of typical violent motions (punching, kicking, shooting and stabbing) and flag them when they appear in a drone's camera view. The technology could theoretically detect a brawl that on-the-ground officers might miss, or pinpoint the source of a gunshot.

As The Verge warned, the technology definitely isn't ready for real-world use. The researchers used volunteers in relatively ideal conditions (open ground, generous spacing and dramatic movements). The AI is 94 percent effective at its best, but that drops down to an unacceptable 79 percent when there are ten people in the scene. As-is, this system might struggle to find an assailant on a jam-packed street -- what if it mistakes an innocent gesture for an attack? The creators expect to fly their drone system over two festivals in India as a test, but it's not something you'd want to rely on just yet.

There's a larger problem surrounding the ethical implications. There are questions about abuses of power and reliability for facial recognition systems. Governments may be tempted to use this as an excuse to record aerial footage of people in public spaces, and could track the gestures of political dissidents (say, people holding protest signs or flashing peace symbols). It could easily combine with other surveillance methods to create a complete picture of a person's movements. This might only find acceptance in limited scenarios where organizations both make it clear that people are on camera and with reassurances that a handshake won't lead to police at their door.

Source: ArXiv.org

14
Good news, space fans: NASA has given the Juno spacecraft the time (and money) it needs to be able to accomplish its missions. The probe, which left our planet in 2011 and reached Jupiter in 2016, was supposed to wrap things up in February this year. Now, NASA has agreed to fund the project until fiscal year 2022 and to extend its science operations for 41 more months. That means Juno will be orbiting the gas giant until July 2021 and will spend the months after that analyzing data.

Juno originally had a short lifespan, since it was supposed to orbit Jupiter every 14 days. Unfortunately, something went wrong with the valves in its fuel system (and those are necessary for main engine burns), so it got stuck doing 53-day orbits instead of 14-day ones like its ground team planned. Longer orbits mean it needs more time to collect the amount of data NASA wanted to get -- this extension will give the agency the chance to learn everything it can about the biggest planet in our solar system.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said in a statement:

"With these funds, not only can the Juno team continue to answer long-standing questions about Jupiter that first fueled this exciting mission, but they'll also investigate new scientific puzzles motivated by their discoveries thus far. With every additional orbit, both scientists and citizen scientists will help unveil new surprises about this distant world."

In the past two years that it's been orbiting Jupiter, Juno already beamed back a lot of crazy interesting information about the planet. We learned that its poles are packed with storms the size of Earth, for instance, and that the belts we see in many Jupiter photos vary in depth and nature. The spacecraft also took some of the closest images of the planet we've ever seen, including snapshots of the Great Red Spot that show the storm's finer details.

Source: NASA

15
Bloomberg recently reported that Andy Rubin's Essential is in a big enough trouble that the Android founder is considering giving it up for sale. The company didn't confirm if there's truth to that, but it doesn't look like it's letting any issue it's dealing with affect its software updates: Essential has announced on Twitter that it has released Android P Beta 1 for its bezel-less ceramic phone. While the phonemaker referred to the software update as "Beta 1," it confirmed to Android Police that it's identical to the second Android P Beta Google just released.

The software comes with improved adaptive brightness range, stability fixes, security patches, as well as over a hundred new emoji. Like any other beta update, though, users will have to be prepared to deal with bugs and crashes. Since it's not intended for public release, only people who signed up for Essential's Android P Developer Preview will see an over-the-air update on their phones.

Source: Essential

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