Watch a Boston Dynamics humanoid robot wander around outside

A Boston Dynamics Robot walks in the woods.

Above: A Boston Dynamics Robot walks in the woods.

Boston Dynamics, that company Google bought in 2013, has begun to testing one of its humanoid robots — those that are designed to function like humans — out in the wild.

Marc Raibert, the founder of Boston Dynamics, talked about and showed footage on the research during a talk on Aug. 3 at the 11th Fab Lab Conference and Symposium in Cambridge, Mass.

“Out in the world is just a totally different challenge than in the lab,” Raibert said at the conference, which was organized by the Fab Foundation, a division of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Bits and Atoms. “You can’t predict what it’s going to be like.”

Boston Dynamics has tested its LS3 quadruped (four-legged) robot out in natural settings in the past. But humanoid robots are different — they can be much taller and have a higher center of gravity. So keeping them moving through rugged terrain, as opposed to paved asphalt, which is what Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robots dealt with recently during the DARPA Robotics Challenge, can be more tricky.

See for yourself how this humanoid robot performs in the woods.

Boston Dynamics’ Atlas Robot Tested Outside

 

JORDAN NOVET

 

 

 

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Meet WalkCar, a new transportation device .

By Chris Smith

Meet WalkCar, a new transportation device even cooler than Lexus’s hoverboard

There’s now a sleek,and small device called the WalkCar that can drive you to work and then hide in your backpack while you charge it near your desk.

Created by Japanese company Cocoa Motors, the WalkCar is a skateboard-like device that has Segway-like powers. The device can carry an individual of up to 265 pounds (120kg) at up to 6.2mp/h (10km/h), for distances of up to 7.4 miles (12km).

“I thought, ‘what if we could just carry our transportation in our bags, wouldn’t that mean we’d always have our transportation with us to ride on?’ and my friend asked me to make one, since I was doing my masters in engineering specifically on electric car motor control systems,” Cocoa Motors’ Kuniako Saito told Reuters.

The gadget needs just three hours to reach a full charge and will cost around $800 on Kickstarter when it launches in the coming months, Reuters reports. The gadget is expected to ship in spring 2016.

The WalkCar is made of aluminum and weighs between 4.4 pounds and 6.6 pounds – that’s between 2kg and 3kg – depending on whether it’s an indoor or outdoor version.

To start it, the user simply has to stand on it. Stepping off it stops the vehicle. Just like with the Segway, shifting your weight from left to right would change the direction (you can see it in action in the video onYOUTUBE.com          “WalkCar” car in a bag /Japan, cocoa motors.Inc

This article was originally published on BGR.com

 

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The Pope’s Lead Astronomer Says Aliens Exist But They Probably Aren’t Catholics

BY TRACE WILLIAM COWEN

Image result for Are will alone

Perhaps the biggest component of the “Are we alone in the universe?” debate, for some, is the resulting dismantling of religious institutions here on Earth following inarguable proof that such institutions are decidedly anti-universe. For the religiously inclined, the question arises: Would inhabitants of another planet, likely within another universe entirely, even have knowledge of the respective god of one respective religion or another? The answer, of course, is a relatively firm “No.” Now, just three short centuries after the Catholic Church violently condemned Galileo for suggesting that Earth wasn’t the center of the universe, the Vatican Powers That Be are joining the realistic side of this debate.

Following NASA’s announcement of a possible Earth-like sister planet, Father José Gabriel Funes once again expressed his updated thoughts on the possibility of extraterrestrial life. “It is probable there was life and perhaps a form of intelligent life,” says Funes, director of the Vatican Observatory in Rome. “[Though] I don’t think we’ll ever meet a Mr Spock.” When pressed about the inherent contradictions of such an expression from a person of such devout Christian faith, Funes gives an admirably forthright response. “The Bible is not a scientific book. If we look for scientific responses to our questions in the Bible, we are making a mistake.”

Funes also believes, in a humorous act of deflection, that this theoretical extraterrestrial life likely aren’t Catholics, wouldn’t have the slightest clue as to who Jesus is, and most definitely haven’t experienced similar events of supposed religious importance. “The discovery of intelligent life does not mean there’s another Jesus,” offers Funes. “The Incarnation of the son of God is a unique event in the history of humanity of the universe.” That’s perfect, isn’t it? A powerful religious figure admits to the increasing likelihood of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe (i.e. aliens), but in the same breath reinforces the outmoded belief that humans are the center of everything.

Sorry, aliens. Please don’t visit us until we have our shit together.

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Inflatable space elevator gets a lift

Top floor, please.Thoth Technologies

Technically speaking, getting to space hasn’t become any easier over the past half century or so. It still requires using huge rockets to create a massive enough amount of force to push a payload beyond the grip of Earth’s gravity.

Enter the concept of the space elevator, which uses much simpler gravity-defying technologies to access space.

So far, most space elevator concepts have been the stuff of sci-fi, and any plans to actually build one have remained on the rather distant horizon. But “push button” access to space took a step toward reality in late July when the US Patent and Trademark Office granted a patent to a Canadian company for its invention of an inflatable space elevator tower.

Thoth Technology, based in Pembroke, Ontario, devised a tower design using pressurized segments that reach up to 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) into the stratosphere where a platform could be constructed for purposes of communications, tourism or as a launch platform for reaching space. Unlike blasting off from near sea level, as most space launches do now, getting into orbit or beyond from the top of a space elevator more than 20 times taller than the highest structures on Earth would be more like an aircraft takeoff.

“Astronauts would ascend to 20 km by electrical elevator. From the top of the tower, space planes will launch in a single stage to orbit, returning to the top of the tower for refueling and re- flight,” Brendan Quine, the inventor, said in a statement.

This elevator is far less ambitious than others we’ve reported on like plans from Japan’s Obayashi Corporation, which hopes to extend a space  elevator quarter of the way to the moon by 2050.

The company sees space elevators leading to a new era of space travel when paired with other new technologies like self-landing rockets of the kind that SpaceX is working on.

Getting to that point will involve some new innovations that this patent doesn’t really address, however. The invention here is focused on the construction of the tower itself, but how to construct and maintain a strong, reliable elevator cable 12 miles long is the real challenge in the space elevator universe. In fact, it’s the focus of a space elevator conference taking place later this month.

The patent does suggest “the mechanism for elevating and lowering cars may be provided by frictional contact, at least one winch mechanism located along the length of the elevator core structure, or by inductive means” but each of those mechanisms would still need to be invented or customized to this design.

For now, we’re stuck having to ride fire to space, but the “slow space” movement is well under way and the invention of the new genre of space elevator music can’t be far behind.

                                                    Image result for space elevator

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It’s a new space race with China to the Moon and Mars

 By Richard Sammon,

Courtesy NASA

 

Concept rendering of the Orion, NASA’s spacecraft for deep-space exploration.

A new space race looms on the horizon.

The goal: Putting men on the moon again (and maybe women this time, too), echoing the expensive and exhilarating missions that led to Neil Armstrong’s historic step onto the lunar surface in 1969.

A return to the moon seems likely sometime late in the 2020s – more than 50 years after the first trip there. It would be followed, sometime in the 2030s, by a manned flight to Mars, using a lunar base as a departure point.

A U.S.-led team will reach the moon first, just as Americans outpaced the Soviets last time. But China will be nipping at NASA’s heels, poised to win the new race if budget cuts or problems – either political or scientific – disrupt America’s timetable.
So why is a costly return to space under consideration even as many members of Congress are looking to cut federal spending and trim the budget deficit? One factor to weigh is that NASA’s budget won’t be much different than it is now, about $18 billion a year. Private companies will kick in billions more, as will countries eager to partner with the U.S.

Another consideration: There is vast potential for scientific gains in health care, technology and telecommunications. Medical experiments, a boon for universities and private companies that partner with NASA, will help astronauts deal with the effects of prolonged weightlessness. Here on Earth, those studies may lead to advances in treating bone and muscle problems in older people.

And there’s a good chance that space missions will lead to the creation of new products that will find uses in daily life. The first era of space exploration brought a number of advances that are now taken for granted: Memory foam for mattresses and pillows. Cordless power tools. Scratch-resistant eyeglass lenses. Even freeze-dried food.

The renewed interest in space travel will also create a string of business opportunities for companies of all sizes. At one end of the scale, SpaceX is getting $1.6 billion to develop and fly rockets. The company, just one of the joint ventures pushed by NASA’s brass, has had a mixed track record so far.

Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK and others will work on lucrative contracts for space vehicles to carry humans and cargo, and will provide other major components and gear. While those giant firms will land much of the space program’s main work, the contracts will require countless subcontractors to provide parts and perform some tasks.

Nearly every state will benefit to a degree, though the bulk of the work will be in states with existing space industry ties: Florida and Texas, of course, but also Alabama, California, Maryland and Virginia.

 

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NASA’s Mission to Europa

Let's Talk About NASA's Mission to Europa

The search for life in the Solar System is about the hunt for water. Wherever we find liquid water on Earth, we find life. I’m talking everywhere. In the most briny, salty pools in Antarctica, in the hottest hot springs in Yellowstone, under glaciers, and kilometers deep underground.

So we go searching for liquid water in the Solar System.

You might be surprised to learn that Jupiter’s moon Europa has the most water in the entire Solar System. If you took all the water on Earth, collected it into a big sphere, it would measure almost 1,400 kilometers across.

Europa’s water would measure nearly 1,800 kilometers.All that water exists in a layer around Europa, encased in a layer of ice. How thick? We don’t know.

Is there life down there? We don’t know. You can say there might be, and it wouldn’t be untrue. However, if you say there isn’t, that’s way less interesting for clickbait purposes. Whenever we don’t know the answers to fundamental and intriguing questions like that, it’s time to send a mission.

Good news! An actual mission to Europa is in the works right now. In 2015, NASA approved the development of an orbiter mission to Europa. If all goes well, and nothing gets cancelled, a spacecraft will launch in the 2020s, carrying 9 instruments to Europa. Most will be familiar cameras, mass spectrometers, and the like, to study the surface of Europa to a high level of resolution. Over the course of 45 flybys, the spacecraft will get down as close as 25 kilometers and capture it with incredible resolution.

Perhaps the most exciting, and controversial instrument on board the new Europa Orbiter mission will be its ice-penetrating radar. Mission planners battled over installing a radar this sophisticated, as it will be an enormous drain on the orbiter’s power.

This for us is incredibly exciting. It will allow the spacecraft to map out the depth and thickness of Europa’s icy exterior. Is it thick or thin? Are there pockets of water trapped just below the surface, or is it tough shell that goes on for dozens of kilometers?

The worst case scenario is that the shell goes thicker than the radar can reach, and we won’t even know how far it goes.

Whatever happens, the Europa orbiter will be a boon to science, answer outstanding questions about the moon and the chances of finding life there.

We’re just getting started. What we really want to send is a lander. Because of the intense radiation from Jupiter, the Sun, and space itself, the surface of the ice on Europa would be sterilized. But dig down a few centimeters and you might find life that’s protected from the radiation.

A future Europa lander might be equipped with a heated drill attached to a tether. The lander would be have with a heat-generated radioisotope thermoelectric generator, like most of NASA’s big, outer Solar System spacecraft.

But in addition to using it for electricity, it’ll use the raw heat to help a tethered drill to grind through the ice a few meters and sample what’s down there.

Drilling more than a few meters is probably the stuff of science fiction. Russian scientists in Antarctica drilled for almost two decades to get through 4,000 meters of ice above Lake Vostok. Imagine trying to get through 100 kilometers of the stuff, on a distant world, with a robot.

But, since I’ve talked about moving the Sun, and terraforming the Moon, maybe I shouldn’t put any bounds on my imagination. Nuclear-powered Europa submarines will get us swimming with the singing Europan space whales in no time.

Europa is the best place to search the Solar System for life, and I’m excited to see what the upcoming Europa Orbiter mission turns up. And I’m even more excited about the possibility of any future lander missions.

Fraser Cain – Universe Today

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Engineers create world’s first white laser beam

Image result for white laser

Researchers at Arizona State University have created the world’s first white laser beam, according to a new study published in Nature. More work needs to be done to perfect this technology, but white lasers could serve as a potential alternative light source — both in people’s homes and in the screens of their electronics. Lasers are more energy efficient than LEDs, and the ASU researchers claim that their white lasers can cover 70 percent more colors than current standard displays.

 

The researchers also suggest the technology could be used beyond consumer electronics. They suggest white lasers could be used in Li-Fi, a developing technology that uses multiple colors of light to enable high-speed wireless internet access. Currently, LEDs are being used to develop Li-Fi technology, which could be 10 times faster than current radio-based Wi-Fi. Ning and his colleagues argue that Li-Fi using white lasers could be 10 to 100 times faster than LED-based Li-Fi.

WHITE LASERS COULD SERVE AS A POTENTIAL ALTERNATIVE LIGHT SOURCE

For the past 50 years, lasers have been able to emit every single wavelength of light — except for white. The problem is that typical lasers only beam one specific wavelength of light at a time. To create white, the ASU researchers manufactured three thin semiconductor lasers — each as thick as one-thousandth of a human hair — and lined them up parallel to one another. Each semiconductor emits one of the three primary colors and are then combined together to form white. The entire device can also be tuned to create any color in the visible spectrum.

White lasers won’t be showing up in our electronics any time soon, however. For this study, the researchers had to pump electrons into the semiconductors with an additional laser light. The engineers will have to design white lasers to run on battery power before they can be used for commercial applications.

  

This image shows mixed emission color from the semiconductor lasers in the colors of red, green, blue, yellow, cyan, magenta, and white. (ASU/Nature Nanotechnology)

 

Japanese scientists fire a 2 quadrillion-watt laser, the most powerful ever

 

Brad Reed
Japanese scientists fire a 2 quadrillion-watt laser, the most powerful ever

death-star-laser
Lasers. They’ve captured our imaginations for decades and were even at the center of one of Dr. Evil’s most beloved running gags in the Austin Powers movies. And now a team of researchers at Osaka University in Japan claims that they’ve fired the most powerful laser in the history of the world for the first time… and thankfully it didn’t take out any small planets with it.

The researchers say that the laser “instantaneously concentrated energy equivalent to 1,000 times the world’s electricity consumption and entered the record books as the most powerful laser beam ever emitted.” This giant laser is 100 meters long and can emit a beam that’s as powerful as 2 petawatts (i.e., 2 quadrillion watts).

So with all that energy, this massive laser must have blown something up, right? Sadly, the reality was a lot more boring than that.

“The energy of the laser beam itself was only powerful enough to run a microwave for about two seconds,” the researchers explain.

Even so, this is an incredibly cool achievement, especially when you consider the goal is to eventually increase the laser’s power to 10 petawatts.

Phys.org informs us that this team of researchers first talked about their mega-laser in an article in the journal Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion back in 2012 but apparently they’re just now getting around to actually firing it at record-breaking power.

Hopefully, this device doesn’t fall into the hands of a rogue oceanographer who figures out how to attach it to a giant shark. Because if there’s one thing that should scare us, it’s sharks with laser beams attached to their heads.

This article was originally published on BGR.com

 

 

Terrafugia unveils new TF-X flying car design

This article, Terrafugia unveils new TF-X flying car design, originally appeared on CNET.com. Terrafugia unveils new TF-X flying car designThe updated TF-X. Terrafugia Getting a light plane-car hybrid off the ground seems to be an arduous process. The TF-X, by American flying car company Terrafugia, was announced in May 2013, and will be in development some years yet. The updated TF-X. TerrafugiaTerrafugia unveils new TF-X flying car design But if your interest needed a pique, the company has announced something new: the updated exterior design of the TF-X (or outer mold line). In addition, Terrafugia said, the new design for the TF-X has been successfully tested in a one-tenth scale model wind tunnel, which is currently on display at the EAA AirVenture aviation convention in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. “The model will be tested at the MIT Wright Brothers wind tunnel, the same tunnel that was used to test models of Terrafugia’s Transition. The wind tunnel test model will be used to measure drag, lift and thrust forces while simulating hovering flight, transitioning to forward flight and full forward flight,” Terrafugia wrote. tfx3.jpg The original 2013 design of the TF-X. Terrafugia The TF-X is the successor to the company’s Transition aircraft, which was successfully flown at EAA AirVenture in 2013. The company, founded in 2006 by MIT aeronautics and management graduates in Woburn, Massachusetts, was expected to start delivering its first Transition units at a projected $279,000 in 2015 or 2016. However, delivery of the first units was originally expected in 2011 and has been postponed several times since then — and it’s still expected to take a couple more years and cost up to $400,000, according to a report on Engadget. The newer flying car will be a hybrid electric vehicle. It will have the capacity to carry four people, fit into a standard single-car garage, and be both street-legal and easy to fly — taking, on average, around five hours to learn to operate in the skies. It will also, Terrafugia claims, be able to take off and land vertically, with “auto-landing” at approved sites. tfx2.jpg from left to right: street mode; take off and landing mode; and flight mode. Terrafugia In May of 2013, Terrafugia said the development of the TF-X would take between eight to 12 years. So far, it seems to be sticking to that timeline. You can read more about what the flying car has to offer (and sign up for email updates) on the Terrafugia website.

Michelle Starr

 

The Robots are Here — and You should be Worried

KATHLEEN ELKINS

irobot robot
According to an Oxford University study, 47% of US jobs could be automated within one to two decades.

It’s no surprise that technology is getting better, faster, and smarter. But is it at the expense of its makers?

Anxiety has been building around the second machine age and its implications for our economic future, and it may have reached a tipping point.

Just last week, Silicon Valley venture capitalists and executives published an open letter on the digital economy, calling for public-policy changes and new organizational models to account for this era of drastic technological change.

The authors write, “The digital revolution is the best economic news on the planet.”

But not everyone agrees. Several scholars have been sounding the alarm on the danger of technological progress.

During a presentation at the Carnegie Council for Ethics and International Affairs this week, researcher Wendell Wallach said technology is now destroying more jobs than it creates.

“This is an unparalleled situation and one that I think could actually lead to all sorts of disruptions once the public starts to catch on that we are truly in the midst of technological unemployment,” said Wallach, a consultant, ethicist, and scholar at the Yale University Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics.

Martin Ford, a software developer and Silicon Valley entrepreneur, recently published the book “Rise of the Robots” in an effort to generate a conversation around the prospect of a jobless future.

We’re not worried enough, he says. Most people don’t understand the “mind-boggling” speed that technology is advancing at.

“When people talk about robots, they’re mostly imagining factories, but the factory jobs have been gone for decades,” Ford tells Business Insider.

rise of the robotsAmazon

In May, Shenzhen Evenwin Precision Technology, a manufacturing company based out of Dongguan in southern China, announced it would soon be replacing 90% of its 1,800 employees with machines. The 200 employees not receiving pink slips will take on a new role — overseeing the robotic workforce.

This is part of a larger trend in southern China, where robots are poised to invade several manufacturing companies.

If that isn’t unsettling enough, consider the Oxford University study, “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerization,” which predicts that 47% of US jobs could be automated within one to two decades.

It’s no longer just the “dangerous, dirty, and dull” jobs on the block. Technology is also poised to replace white-collar positions, like lawyers, reporters, and financial analysts, to name a few.

While certain sectors, such as healthcare and education, are safer than others for the time being, Ford believes most industries will eventually be at risk.

But it’s not as much about what industry you work in, Ford explains, as it is the function you perform. Think about your job, he says, and consider whether or not any smart person could figure out how to do it if they watched you work or studied your past work patterns.

If so, then it’s a pretty good bet that an algorithm will eventually be able to figure it out as well, he warns. “If you look far enough into the future, say 50 years and beyond, there aren’t any jobs that you could say absolutely for sure are going to be safe.”

With creative computing underway, even the most artful of jobs could be at risk. Algorithms can now write symphonies and paint original paintings, Ford tells us.

Toyota RobotKoichi Kamoshida/Getty

“We should be concerned,” says Ford. “Primarily because we don’t have an alternate for people to lose their jobs.

“I’m not arguing that the technology is a bad thing. It could be a great thing if the robots did all our jobs and we didn’t have to work. The problem is that your job and income are packaged together. So if you lose your job, you also lose your income, and we don’t have a very good system in place to deal with that.”

The economic consequences could be dramatic, he says. Jobs drive consumption, and consumption drives our economy.

“Without consumers, we’re not going to have an economy. No matter how talented you are as an individual, you’ve got to have a market to sell it to,” Ford says. “We need most people to be OK. We need some reasonable level of broad-based prosperity if we’re going to continue to have a vibrant, consumer-driven economy.”

Of course, what Ford sees as a disaster, others see as an opportunity. The New York Times recently highlighted a study by the McKinsey Global Institute that presents a more cheerful outlook.

“By 2025, McKinsey estimates, these digital talent platforms could add $2.7 trillion a year to global gross domestic product,” the Times wrote. “And the digital tools, the report states, could benefit as many as 540 million people in various ways, including better matches of their skills with jobs, higher wages, and shorter stints of unemployment.”

Other experts point to the Industrial Revolution, which ultimately led to more employment opportunities, and say the same will happen during the second machine age. Some believe an increase in computing prowess will simply eliminate old jobs and introduce new ones, resulting in a net-zero effect — or even an increase in jobs.

However, Ford doesn’t believe the past will predict the future in this case. “On January 2, 2010, The Washington Post reported that the first decade of the 21st century resulted in the creation of no new jobs. Zero,” he writes in “Rise of the Robots.” “In other words, during those first 10 years there were about 10 million missing jobs that should have been created — but never showed up.”

The solution to this job displacement is not a simple one.

In the past, when low-skilled workers lost their jobs to technology, the conventional advice was to go to school for a better education and training and find more intellectual work in an office. This solution will no longer be effective, Ford says, because technology is coming after those higher-skilled jobs as well.


robot

robotChinaFotoPress/GettyRobots are invading the service sector, where most of our jobs are.

“Investment in education and training will unlikely solve our problems. We must look beyond conventional policy prescriptions,” says Ford.

His solution is a radical one: To effectively restructure our entire system.

Ford suggests a guaranteed income.

“You give people a minimum — a survivable income. Not something so generous that they just sit around and do nothing, but you give them enough so they don’t have to worry about basic survival,” he explains. “Some people would be lazy, but most others would want more and would work part-time, start small businesses, or work a more traditional job if they could find one.”

Ford is not the only one proposing such extreme changes.

Scott Santens, a leader in the basic-income movement — a worldwide network of thousands of advocates — agrees that job growth is not keeping pace with technology and encourages government-provided income as a remedy.

“It’s not just a matter of needing basic income in the future; we need it now,” Santens told The Atlantic. “People don’t see it, but we are already seeing the effects all around us, in the jobs and pay we take, the hours we accept, the extremes inequality is reaching, and in the loss of consumer spending power.”

It’s unlikely Ford and Santens’ proposal would become a reality, at least any time soon. “In today’s environment, such a radical solution is completely unthinkable,” Ford admits. “But the paradox is that it’s ultimately what we’re going to need in the future. It’s unclear how we’re going to get there.”

For now, it might be time to consider strategies for staying ahead of the robots before they come for your job.