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249 MPH? Japanese Unveil World’s Fastest Bullet Train

Train speeds are improving all the time. Did you know, for example, that Japan has just unveiled a bullet train that can move as fast as 249mph?

The Japanese have a unique habit when it comes to innovation, and tend to be pretty good at taking inventions higher than ever before. Well, with the new ALFA-X, you will be able to see a train that can hit speeds you would barely be able to believe.

When you get on a train, the aim is to get you somewhere without wasting any time. It’s the obvious and main reason to get a train; to help you get to somewhere faster than you would if you had just gone on-foot or alone.

For many people, trains are getting faster and faster than we can imagine. Often, if you were to find out the pace that a train was moving at, you would likely be surprised at just how fast it is.

The power of this train is already making experts blush; though it won’t be actually in service until, it’s estimated, 2030. So, someone has 11 or so years to board a train that can go close to 250mph!

This new treat will be used at around 224mph on average, which would mean that it would travel on average 10kph faster than the Chinese equivalent, the Fuxing Hao. This has the same top speed capacity, but it’s likely that the ALFA-X will win on consistency.

Historical Speed

At around 72ft in the nose area alone, the ALFA-X is an imposing piece of modern locomotive history. It’s going to help change the entire industry, it is hoped, bringing to light an even higher than expected standard for the future.

The futuristic, modern design will obviously make it stand out, while the imperious design style – with 10 cars in total – ensures it will be efficient as well as stylish.

The train will be part of the new Shinkansen high-speed railway lines which are appearing all across Japan. Testing will begin between Aomori and Sendai, during the evening, and will be a 3-year testing plan. This will provide ample time to perfect the overall style of the train, and make sure that it is capable of meeting expectations performance-wise.

Interestingly, the Shinkansen N700S only was agreed to be put into operation in 2020, which can hit speeds of around 186mph. This, though, will simply blow it away, adding a new level of power and pace onto the railway tracks of Japan. While it may not be as fast as trains using magnetic levitation, this will ensure that this particular kind of bullet train can still keep up with the very best.

The bullet train has become a major part of Japanese travel culture, and for that reason many would be sad to see it go. Make no mistake, though, this new kind of train shows that – even with the growth of the maglev trains – there is still much love for bullet trains in Japan and beyond.

Train speeds are improving all the time. Did you know, for example, that Japan has just unveiled a bullet train that can move as fast as 249mph?
The...

Fashion Lifestyle Tech News

UK Using Smart Billboards to Secretly Ad-target Shoppers

Many shopping centers in the UK have adopted a new kind of ad technique that involves surveillance cameras in shopping center billboards. These cameras are used to spy on you in order to show you the “correct” advertisement. The new technology has the ability to identify your age, gender, and even mood.

The smart boards detect how long certain customers look at advertisements and then change what they display depending on who is walking past.

So far, The Sunday Times has happened upon 50 of these screens in the UK; several of them can be found at Westfield shopping center in Shepherd’s Bush, London.

Apparently, companies utilizing this equipment don’t legally need to inform their shoppers that they are being filmed because the system complies with the UK’s data protection laws. Since no individually identifying information is being collected or stored, no laws are being broken.

First Company to Try This

One of the first companies to try this system out is Ocean Outdoor. The LookOut system is found in multiple tracking billboards throughout the UK.

Tim Bleakley, the company’s chief executive, told The Sunday Times: “We pioneered a facial detection technology which identifies the characteristics of the face to allow you to talk to advertisers about mood, gender, emotion and those kinds of things. We can measure the level of happiness or sadness. We can measure the dwell time.”

Bleakley told of how satisfied the supermarket executives of Waitrose were when they sprayed fake snow into the store and saw how evidently ‘customer happiness levels’ rose.

The cameras installed into the billboards spend every hour analyzing the shoppers to see what kind of people shopped and when they shopped. At times, shoppers are even inserted into adverts, a feature called ‘interactive advertising.’ One promotional video from Ocean Outdoor implied that the technology can determine how many ‘affluent’ people are in the area.

One of the billboards at Canary Wharf stated that 49 percent of people walking past that day were “affluent” and earned “over £100,000 ($129,000).”

The technology of Ocean Outdoor can be used on roadside billboards to figure the price of passing cars and advertise expensive things to those it thinks have lots of money.

Quividi is a French firm that also sells the facial detection technology and says that it collects and processes images of people in milliseconds but then deletes them forever once their basic profile information has been taken. Determining someone’s gender can be done with 90 percent accuracy within a five-year age bracket.

Many shopping centers in the UK have adopted a new kind of ad technique that involves surveillance cameras in shopping center billboards. These...

Lifestyle Tech News

Canon Takes on Fuji with New Instant-Print CLIQ Cameras

The trend of instant print cameras has been storming the market in the last five or so years, and of course, Fujifilm has been at the forefront. In an age so accustomed to everything being on their phones, what was normal for the generations previous is novel to this generation – physical photos.

As companies begin to realize this, they’re wanting in. Fujifilm shouldn’t be the only one to profit, so Canon is one of the first to successfully – well, possibly, anyway – create their own instant print camera.

Their new cameras have just debuted and should be available for purchase in a month or two, but for starters, don’t even consider buying the cheaper one which they’re calling the IVY CLIQ. It has a horrible flash – which you’ll absolutely need with these cameras – and no access to the associated app, but more on that later. The CLIQ+, in Europe it’s the Zoemini S, is the more advanced version.

Unfortunately, Canon’s dependence on digital printing keeps them from surpassing Fujifilm, but their device is actually quite simple and easy to use. It contains 8 megapixels in the small sensor – more than enough to send the 2×3” Zink printer holding up to ten sheets of paper they’ve built into the camera.

If you’re in a hurry and want to keep it simple, it can spit them out in a matter of seconds, but you also have the option to edit them, add borders, crop, make duplicates, and more! This is where the app comes in.

Companion App

The more advanced camera comes with a companion app which you can download on your phone. While this sounds novel, it may also be one of the downfalls of Canon’s latest product. The current market is thriving off of people that are tired of taking hundreds of photos on their phones just to never look at them again.

The concept of having a handheld photo keepsake without ever having to pull out your phone is exciting. So, having to mess around with an app on your phone doesn’t really capitalize on the current trend.

But who knows? Maybe the younger generation who could care less about quality and just like adding captions or funny edits to their photos and handing them out to friends will love these cute, colorful Canon cameras.

The other downfall is that Zink prints just aren’t good. They’re much cheaper than Instax Minis – less than half the price –, but they are for a reason. The resolution and color reproduction aren’t worth comparing with instant film standards. Instax, on the other hand, can capture color and detail quite well for an instant print camera.

The CLIQ+, or Zoemini S, will be sold for $160 while the IVY CLIQ with fewer megapixels, no app, and worse quality will cost just $100. However, the one pro of the IVY CLIQ is the happy yellow color it comes in!

The trend of instant print cameras has been storming the market in the last five or so years, and of course, Fujifilm has been at the forefront. In...

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Health Tech News

Advancement of AI Opens Health Data Privacy to Attack

A new study led by professor Anil Aswani of the Industrial Engineering & Operations Research Department (IEOR) in the College of Engineering at UC Berkeley has revealed that what we’ve seen as exciting advances in artificial intelligence may be just the opposite.

He and his team discovered that the advances open the door for more and new threats to the privacy of health data. In the midst of current AI developments, current laws and regulations are no longer enough to keep our health statuses private. You can view all of their research on JAMA Network Open.

Aswani’s study, partially funded by UC Berkeley’s Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity, proved that artificial intelligence can identify individuals through tracking and learning daily patterns in step data (like that collected by activity trackers, smartwatches, and smartphones) and then correlating it to demographic data.

After gathering two years’ worth of data encompassing over 15,000 Americans, he concluded that the privacy standards associated with 1996’s HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) legislation require dire change.

We Need to Look at That

“We wanted to use NHANES (the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) to look at privacy questions because this data is representative of the diverse population in the U.S.,” Aswani says.

“The results point out a major problem. If you strip all the identifying information, it doesn’t protect you as much as you’d think. Someone else can come back and put it all back together if they have the right kind of information.”

“In principle, you could imagine Facebook gathering step data from the app on your smartphone, then buying health care data from another company and matching the two,” he explains. “Now they would have health care data that’s matched to names, and they could either start selling advertising based on that or they could sell the data to others.”

The problem is not with the advancements and devices themselves but with how one can misuse these devices for their own personal gain.

“I’m not saying we should abandon these devices,” he says. “But we need to be very careful about how we are using this data. We need to protect the information. If we can do that, it’s a net positive.”

From this study covering step data, Aswani suggests that more than just the specific area of research could be affected. “HIPAA regulations make your health care private, but they don’t cover as much as you think,” he says.

“Many groups, like tech companies, are not covered by HIPAA, and only very specific pieces of information are not allowed to be shared by current HIPAA rules. There are companies buying health data. It’s supposed to be anonymous data, but their whole business model is to find a way to attach names to this data and sell it.”

As AI advance, information is easier to retrieve, and employers, mortgage lenders, credit card companies, and others could begin to use it in illegal and unethical ways.

“Ideally, what I’d like to see from this are new regulations or rules that protect health data,” he says. “But there is actually a big push to even weaken the regulations right now. For instance, the rule-making group for HIPAA has requested comments on increasing data sharing.

The risk is that if people are not aware of what’s happening, the rules we have will be weakened. And the fact is the risks of us losing control of our privacy when it comes to health care are actually increasing and not decreasing.”

A new study led by professor Anil Aswani of the Industrial Engineering & Operations Research Department (IEOR) in the College of Engineering at UC Berkeley has revealed that what we’ve seen as exciting advances in artificial intelligence may be just...

Tech News

Alcatraz AI is Building Face ID for Corporate Badges

Ever experience the frustration of heading out of work for lunch and getting back to the office just in time to only realize that you left your badge upstairs on your desk? Now, you’re late and stuck waiting downstairs for one of your co-workers to be gracious enough to bring your badge down to you so that you can get back in.

Meanwhile, your boss is none too happy with you. And perhaps this is your third or fourth strike!

Well, it’s time you met Alcatraz AI, a start-up that wants to replace all the badge readers in your office with a Face ID-like camera system. With Alcatraz, any of the multiple sensors have the capability to identify faces and unlock doors effortlessly.

High-security buildings have made fingerprints and iris scanners a regular commodity, but your everyday business would end up with traffic jams at the door if they started using a fingerprint system. On top of all that, every time a new employee is hired, their biometric information would have to be added to the system.

This process would be tedious, especially for large companies with lots of employees.

Facial Authentication

However, with Alcatraz AI, facial authentication guarantees a quick, painless process. You begin with a badge, like the one you have now, but after you’ve used it a few times, Alcatraz Al has scanned your face enough to form a model. From then on, you can always leave your badge on your desk – or at home, for that matter –, and simple facial recognition will get you in the door.

Alcatraz Al has built custom hardware with three different sensors that include both traditional RGB sensors and infrared sensors for 3D mapping which they would install. Once everything is set and running, companies only need to pay an annual fee to continue using the platform.

Alcatraz AI can even detect tailgating – that is, someone trying to get in somewhere secure by following in an authorized person. It gives customers analytics and real-time notifications.

Overall, the process is much simpler and easier, and the ongoing license cost should be the same as what your company previously used to pay guards. The start-up has raised nearly $6 million already from Hardware Club, Ray Stata, JCI Ventures, Ruvento Ventures, and Hemi Ventures.

Ever experience the frustration of heading out of work for lunch and getting back to the office just in time to only realize that you left your badge upstairs on your desk? Now, you’re late and stuck waiting downstairs for one of your co-workers to be...

Tech News

Apple Introduces Its Own Credit Card

Apple Inc. is driven to do more and more to create more users and to make its users happier. The company is continually advancing and introducing newer technology, and now they’ve announced they’ll be releasing their very own credit card in partnership with Goldman Sachs and Mastercard.

Integrating the Apple Card will be especially useful for those who have already made it a habit to use the Wallet app and Apple Pay. According to Tim Cook, Apple CEO, Apple Pay will reach 10 billion transactions this year and will be available in over 40 countries by the year’s end.

Over 70 percent of American businesses accept Apple Pay, and more are being added to that number daily while countries like Australia are already at 99 percent acceptance.

Signing up for the Apple Card is simple; all you have to do is sign up from your iPhone, and within a few minutes, you’ll be able to use it with Apple Pay. You’ll have complete control over the card from your Wallet app.

If you want to see you credit card bill, your recent transactions, or keep track of your spending, you just tap the card, and all the information is at your fingertips. You can even see where you spent the money. When you tap a transaction, the location shows up in a miniature Apple Map.

Go Titanium

You’ll also get a hard, titanium card along with the virtual one with a laser-etched name, but there’s no card number, no CVV code, no expiration date, and no signature on the card. All of that information can only be found on the Wallet app, and each device will have a different credit card number.

Every transaction gives you an instant 2 percent cash back, and with Apple purchases, it’s 3 percent! Physical transactions, however, are only eligible for 1 percent cash back. The cash back is credited to your account daily instead of at the end of the month.

All of your private information is guaranteed to be secure; in fact, Apple won’t even be able to see what you bought, where you bought it, or what you paid for it. Goldman Sachs agrees not to sell your data for advertising or marketing.

What makes this card even more unique than it already is is that you will have no late fees, no annual fees, no international fees, and no over-limit fees. You can easily set up a monthly plan to pay off your balance if you aren’t able to, and customer support is always at your fingertips via text messages through the Messages app.

Apple says the card will be available to customers in the U.S. this summer.

Apple Inc. is driven to do more and more to create more users and to make its users happier. The company is continually advancing and introducing newer technology, and now they’ve announced they’ll be releasing their very own credit card in partnership...

Tech News

AI Google Doodle Lets Users Make Bach-Music

Google’s innovation and creativity never ceaseto amaze, and one of our favorite features is its goal of honoring different men, women, and key holidays through the Google doodle on their search engine homepage. In honor of German composer Johann Sebastian Bach’s birthday, Google created and released its first artificial intelligence-powered doodle.

Google made the doodle available internationally in over seventy countries and set it to run for a full forty-eight in most of those countries. Users had the freedom to create their own melody and allow the Al built into the doodle to form the melody they created into one that matches Bach’s own style.

But that’s not all the doodle was built to do! Users could also hear their melodies in a rock genre, seeing how it transforms the notes to sound like a Bach melody, and exactly how Google did all this is in a behind-the-scenes video they released later on.

Google’s Magenta, Google’s People + AI Research team, and doodle teams collaborated together to create the Bach doodle. Magenta is a mind-blowing project that uses machine-learning to create music – not just a single melody but harmonies and smooth transitions, as well. Then, Google’s PAIR program does the research to creates technologies that shape the approach to work with AI.

The Google team created a model called Coconet through Magenta which was able to pick out Bach’s individual style through a dataset of over 300 of his own harmonies. As a result, Coconet could match the doodle users created to Bach’s works. “Coconet is trained to restore Bach’s music from fragments: we take a piece from Bach, randomly erase some notes, and ask the model to guess the missing notes from context. The result is a versatile model of counterpoint that accepts arbitrarily incomplete scores as input and works out complete scores,” said the blog post from Magenta.

Which Calendar?

According to the Julian Calendar, Bach was born on March 21, which is now March 31 on the Gregorian calendar used today. Google decided to honor him on the original date of March 21, however, and then had the doodle run for forty-eight hours instead of just twenty-four.

What Google wanted was for users to learn more about the composer himself as they created melodies through the doodle, and what a creative and fun way to remember the famous composer! The doodle is still accessible now in the doodle archive online, so if you didn’t get a chance to use it for yourself, you still can.

Google’s innovation and creativity never ceaseto amaze, and one of our favorite features is its goal of honoring different men, women, and key holidays through the Google doodle on their search engine homepage. In honor of German composer Johann Sebastian...

Animals Tech News

Lobster Inspired Body Armor

As fantastical as it sounds, our next innovation in defensive body armor for our military and law enforcement officer’s may be inspired by a million-year-old sea creature who is not only a tough customer but also happens to be delicious when served with a side of melted butter.

Ming Guo, from the mechanical engineering department of MIT, had a breakthrough when he was enjoying a lobster at dinner. He noticed that lobsters have membranes between their joints that is as strong as tire rubber.

He realized that this naturally growing material was nearly impossible to chew but was also flexible and soft. His thought was that this material would be perfect in the joints of body armor.

A study released in Acta Materialia states: “The knowledge learned from the soft membrane of natural lobsters sheds light on designing synthetic soft, yet strong and tough materials for reliable usage under extreme mechanical conditions, including a flexible armor that can provide full-body protection without sacrificing limb mobility.”

Ming explains, “We think this work could motivate flexible armor design. If you could make armor out of these types of materials, you could freely move your joints, and it would make you feel more comfortable.”

The Flawed Effectiveness of Kevlar

While bulletproof vests are a valuable tool for law enforcement officers and military, they do have a few drawbacks. Kevlar’s effectiveness only spans around five years, at which time they should be replaced. Kevlar is also bulky and unforgiving, not suitable for all body types.

In particular, women frequently need to have Kevlar vests altered.  Because Kevlar is bulky, it interferes with concentration and marksmanship abilities. Making the vests more mobile decreases their effectiveness.

To be truly effective, body armor needs to be flexible and light to allow the wearer to move freely.  It also needs to be tough and made from materials that are abundant for ease and affordability of manufacturing.

As hard as it is to imagine a lobster-inspired bulletproof vest, the body armor of the crustacean fulfills all of these qualities. Researchers from MIT and Harvard are currently exploring how best to harness the benefits of lobster armor for human use.

Learning from Lobsters

Even though lobster armor brings to mind a cartoon character with claws and a bright red suit, it’s not so far-fetched.  As body armor evolves to be stronger and more flexible, chances are that bulky armor, made from cloth and Kevlar, will become a distant memory.

Science fiction films hint at ways that body armor will improve.  In fact, the Robert Rodriguez film, Alita: Battle Angel, hints that in the distant future, humans will sport robotic body parts.

For now, MIT scientists are taking their cues from a million-year-old lobster who has evolved to fit their habitat perfectly.  Their armor protects them from temperature extremes and other intense under-water conditions, and one day, it may protect our LEO’s and military from equally intense conditions on duty and in the battlefield.

As fantastical as it sounds, our next innovation in defensive body armor for our military and law enforcement officer’s may be inspired by a million-year-old sea creature who is not only a tough customer but also happens to be delicious when served with a...

Tech News

U.S. Senators To Limit Facial Recognition Data

This week, Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced their Commercial Facial Recognition Privacy Act which is aimed at commercial users of Facial Recognition technology.

Your face can be the most important part of your personal identity. It distinguishes you from everyone else on the planet. It can unlock your smartphone and grant you access to your bank account. It is commonly used by law enforcement to accurately and successfully identify a wanted person in a crowd or even match a simple image with a database of known criminals.

The whole concept kind of conjures up the image of an Orwellian “Big Brother” creeping across the country.

Increasingly, people are becoming concerned about how their data is being collected and used, including data that is being collected through facial recognition technology. A message to the press, Senator Blunt said that we need guardrails to ensure that this technology will continue to develop but must implement responsibly.

If this bill passes, it will require companies to notify customers when facial recognition technology is being used. This could manifest in something similar to “CCTB in Operation” signage. This bill would also restrict the redistribution or dissemination of data to third-parties without the express consent from the end user.

Get Consumer Consent

This bill requires that in order for consumers to give consent they must be informed before commercial parties can collect and share all data collected through facial recognition (Blunt). All parties would have to meet data security, minimization, and retention standards set down by the Federal Trade Commission and National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Keep in mind, facial recognition is nothing new. It’s been a large part of security and surveillance applications for decades. That said, its use in a commercial application while on the rise, many consumers remain unaware that “Big Brother” technology is often hidden in plain sight!

Both Senators believe their bill will make sure people are given information and, more importantly, control over how their data is used and shared with companies that are using facial recognition technology. This legislation is an important move toward protecting privacy and empowering consumers. Blunt encourages all his colleagues to support this bill.

This week, Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced their Commercial Facial Recognition Privacy Act which is aimed at commercial users of Facial Recognition technology.

Your face can be the most important part of your personal identity. It...

Tech News

USB-4 – Get Thunderbolt Speeds

What if a USB cable could provide the same smooth, fast data transfer speeds as a Thunderbolt port?  If that excites you, wait until you meet the USB4, the next generation of mobile devices and PCs.

USB4 will deliver data at incredible speeds when it’s connected via USB cables on compatible devices:  up to 40 Gigabits per second.  Intel has created the Thunderbolt 3 for the USB group, and USB4 bases its technology on Intel’s advanced tech.  Thunderbolt 3 will be available to use royalty-free.

USB Implementers Forum released a press release explaining that they’re built in; this next logical step for the Universal Serial Bus tech will mean that Thunderbolt will become a more affordable tech for manufacturers to include in their devices.

5K Support

Android Central  explains that the sky is the limit; devices could include 100 watts of on-demand power, support for up to eight lanes of DisplayPort data, and 40Gbps transfer rates.   Two 4K HDR displays, at 60 HZ each, or a 5K display could be supported fully.

This will mean that two 4K HDR displays at 60 Hz or one 5K display would be fully supported.  If the tech becomes more affordable to include n devices, it will definitely bring down purchasing costs for devices supporting USB4.

As Jason Ziller, Intel’s General Manager of Client Connectivity explains, “Releasing the Thunderbolt protocol specification is a significant milestone for making today’s simplest and most versatile port available to everyone. By collaborating with the USB Promoter Group, we’re opening the doors for innovation across a wide range of devices and increasing compatibility to deliver better experiences to consumers.”

To fully benefit from the max data transfer speed, you will need to have cables that are 40Gbs-certified; these are USBC to USBC only.  The USB4 will be fully compatible to all Thunderbird 3 devices and all USB specifications.

Microsoft, HP, Intel, and Apple are among the 50 tech companies that are going to be taking part in a final review of USB4 tech. They will release the specs around mid-year. The exciting part of these companies taking part in the testing is that it is predicted that they will use these new specifications when they do become available.

The USB4 is expected to be released next year.

What if a USB cable could provide the same smooth, fast data transfer speeds as a Thunderbolt port?  If that excites you, wait until you meet the USB4, the next generation of mobile devices and PCs.

USB4 will deliver data at incredible speeds when it’s...

Tech News

Microsoft Brings An End To Fake News?

Social media feeds are positively choked with fake news sources from all sides, leaving readers and viewers distrustful and confused.  Now, a new app from the Microsoft Edge browser called NewsGuard claims to weed out the false news sources.

The app will use color coding, with “red” indicating a high probability of being a false news source and “green” being a safe site. The app will come pre-installed in its browser.

Fake news as a recognized term has only been around for a few years, but the concept of fake news predates the term by centuries. It has been known by the term “yellow journalism,” and has always involved spreading propaganda and self-serving information to the masses.  In fact, yellow news has been credited with getting the US involved with the Spanish-American War.

The NewsGuard App

NewsGuard, according to Microsoft, isn’t intended to be a way to censor news or infringe on free speech.  The intention is to give readers the information they need to properly understand the reliability of what they are reading and help them decide if they should share the news source on social media, per Microsoft’s corporate vice president of security and trust, Tom Burt.

The app itself isn’t new, but it was something that had to be manually downloaded and installed by its users.  It allows flexibility for its users to set up their own filters while maintaining its warning color system.  The app currently only works for US and large international news sources and sites.

Wall Street Journalist and publisher Gordon Crovitz is now a CEO of NewsGuard.  He explains, “We’re delighted to be able to reach millions of people through Microsoft Edge for mobile, giving news consumers more information about the sources of news they see online based on basic journalistic criteria of credibility and transparency.”

NewsGuard uses experienced journalists to vet companies and their news articles.  They work with The Information founder, Jessica Lessin, General Michael Hayden, former CIA director, and other highly seasoned professionals.  The news sources are broken down and labeled according to their content, credibility, ownership, and sources of financing.

A few examples of how various cites would be labeled include:

RT: This Russian news site is a well-known source of Russian propaganda.  NewsGuard will label this as “proceed with caution.”
The Daily Mail:  This is a British news source, and NewsGuard warns its readers that it has had to pay damages for false reporting on several high-profile stories.
The New York Times:  This is an American news source that is well known for having influence on public debate and will be labeled this way by NewsGuard.

This tool is one of the first of its kind, but with the bombardment of fake news all over social media, it’s likely that NewsGuard will be the prototype for many more.

Social media feeds are positively choked with fake news sources from all sides, leaving readers and viewers distrustful and confused.  Now, a new app from the Microsoft Edge browser called NewsGuard claims to weed out the false news sources.

The app will...

Tech News

New Record: Most Autonomous Cars In A Row

In November of 2018, China’s Changan Automobile manufacturing company set a Guinness World Record for the longest parade of autonomous cars.  The car line featured 55 of the self-driving vehicles, traveling two miles at 30 km/h (or 18.6 mph) with a distance of two car lengths between them. The parade lasted nine minutes and seven seconds.  The record was set on a test track in Chongqing.

Yang Guo, an engineer for the autonomous car lineup at Changan Automobile, explained that while each car had a “driver,” they were not permitted to have any contact with the cars’ autopilot systems.  In fact, the parade was originally intended to feature 56 cars before one driver became disqualified by engaging with the car as it drove.

Better Lane Detection

Engineers were able to make alterations to the vehicle sensors to allow them to have better detection for lanes and increased sensitivity to the positions of the cars in front of them.  By reducing the vehicles’ event and object detection and the automatic response to these factors, the vehicles were able to be programmed to drive much closer together than they would under normal driving conditions.

The test track allowed the dynamic driving tasks to be lowered from five percent to one percent because a controlled driving area, such as the test track, has far fewer variables than are found under normal driving conditions.

Changan Automobiles is hoping that by setting the record, they are showing the world China’s commitment to inventing new technologies.  Changan’s Executive Vice President, Tan Benhong, explains,

“The artificial intelligence and new energy of automobiles is a very important trend in the future development of automobiles. As the world’s first brand to break this record, we will make more efforts in the field of intelligence.”

In November of 2018, China’s Changan Automobile manufacturing company set a Guinness World Record for the longest parade of autonomous cars.  The car line featured 55 of the self-driving vehicles, traveling two miles at 30 km/h (or 18.6 mph) with a...

Tech News

Could Two-Handed Robots Make Ecommerce Faster?

Ever since the rise of the internet as our main source of buying and selling, the speed in which we can get goods has been incredible. Every year, it feels simpler and faster to just do all of your shopping online, as it can often be delivered to you so fast and so easy. eCommerce, then, looks set to change the way in which we shop for at least a generation to come.

However, with the rise of machine learning and AI, we could be about to see another quantum leap: starting with ambidextrous robots (ambidextrous= using both hands equally well).

Massive warehouses are needed to help fulfill the incredible orders being taken online, which obviously means trying to get staff to help manage said orders. However, it looks like we’re moving towards trying to automate the whole experience instead, with the use of ambidextrous robots.

This became clear from a UC Berkeley paper which was produced in mid-January, in the Science Robots journal.

Engineers at UC Berkeley have been using decades of progress so far to come up with new algorithms that could help to compute robot pick points, allowing robots to work with a large variety of objects without having to undergo the training that they would need to normally.

The postdoctoral researcher on this project, Jeff Mahler, who is also the lead author, said: “Any single gripper cannot handle all objects,

“For example, a suction cup cannot create a seal on porous objects such as clothing, and parallel-jaw grippers may not be able to reach both sides of some tools and toys. ‘Ambidextrous’ robots offer greater diversity.”

How Might This Change eCommerce?

At the moment, the robots used in the majority of fulfillment centers will be using the standard suction cup session mentioned above. This can limit the range and style of objects that it could actually pick up and work with, which would drastically limit their usage in a warehouse environment.

With ambidextrous robots, though, this would not be quite the case. This would make them compatible with more than one gripper type, allowing for much easier for the robot to decide which gripper is most likely to succeed when picking up any given item.

This would help to ensure that, by using a reward function, ensuring that fulfillment could be much faster and far less rigid in what it can and cannot pick up.

The researchers managed to train functions for using a parallel-jaw gripper and then a suction cup gripper to a two-armed robot. The result was that it could take on 25 objects never seen before with around 300 picks in an hour, with around 95% reliability: that’s incredible.

While this might not be commonplace yet just in every warehouse, it’s definitely something that we can expect to arrive in the next few years – with massive, positive results for the already in-demand eCommerce industry.

Ever since the rise of the internet as our main source of buying and selling, the speed in which we can get goods has been incredible. Every year, it feels simpler and faster to just do all of your shopping online, as it can often be delivered to you so fast...

Tech News

Breakthrough: Sending Sound On Laser

Researchers at MIT have discovered a way to send audio signals directly to someone’s ear at a distance using laser beams. The system uses a photoacoustic effect in which water vapor in the air absorbs light then forms sound waves.

This research could pave the way for allowing audible messages to be sent to agents, spies or possibly law enforcement, warning them of encroaching danger.

How It Works:

Researchers used a laser beam that fired at wavelengths absorbed by water.  By sweeping the beam at the speed of sound, they were able to generate sound that can only be heard at distance from the transmitter.

After many tests, they discovered this would allow a message to be sent to a specific individual instead of just anyone who happened to be passing by the laser path.

The scientists said this system can be used in dry locations because, at any given time, there is moisture in the air, especially around people.  Also, the lasers are very safe to one’s ears, eyes, and skin while localizing an audible signal to an individual at any setting.

They also discovered a method that works by modulating rather than sweeping a beam.  The traditional modulation method offers sound with a much higher fidelity where the laser sweeping offers a sound with louder audio.

To date, the system will work at more than 8 feet or 2.5 meters.  Scientists are currently working to increase the distance and believe they will eventually have a very significant commercial technology for future use.

We look forward to hearing more about this new and exciting technology, so stay tuned!

Researchers at MIT have discovered a way to send audio signals directly to someone’s ear at a distance using laser beams. The system uses a photoacoustic effect in which water vapor in the air absorbs light then forms sound waves.

This research could...

Tech News

Robot Hotel Fires Half Its Robotic Workers

If you are concerned about losing your job in hospitality to artificial intelligence soon, there is no need to worry.

A hotel in Nagasaki, Japan called the Hen-na (“Strange”) Hotel ‘fired’ more than 50% of the 243 robots working there because instead of providing benefits to guests, they turned out to be quite inconvenient.

The hotel used robots to check-in guests, take luggage to rooms and answer queries. There is even a robot in each room called Chu-ri who helps turn off lights, set alarms and provide weather forecasts.

Multi-Lingual Robot

Describing the experience of a guest at the hotel, their website says that you will be greeted at the front desk by multi-lingual robots who will help check you in or out. In the cloakroom, a robotic arm will take your luggage and store it.

These fun moments are a mix of human and robotic, and they will definitely warm your heart.

Also, as soon as you register your face with their facial recognition system, the struggle of carrying a room key around and worrying about losing it is completely gone.

Human Touch

This type of Android paradise sounds blissful on paper. But the experience of the guests staying at the hotel is quite the opposite. Most of the time, they still need receptionists to answer questions at the front desk and the Chu-ri robots break down regularly.

The Wall Street Journal says that Yoshihisa Ishikawa’s robot regularly talked to him in the middle of the night because it was triggered by his snoring.

This hotel received attention worldwide in 2015 when it was first opened. It was a glimpse of what the future could possibly look like. Now, technology has advanced to a point where the hotel ‘staff’ are outdated and cost too much to repair when they are broken.

For now, it is unclear whether the hotel plans to restock its robotic population, but at least the guests can sleep through the night without malfunctioning robots in their rooms.

If you are concerned about losing your job in hospitality to artificial intelligence soon, there is no need to worry.

A hotel in Nagasaki, Japan called the Hen-na (“Strange”) Hotel ‘fired’ more than 50% of the 243 robots working there...