The United Kingdom plans to send its first lunar rover to the Moon in 2021 — and the robot is unlike any that came before it.
Not only will the rover created UK-based space startup SpaceBit be the smallest one in history, but it will also have legs rather than wheels — a design innovation that could allow it to explore previously unreachable areas of the Moon.
SpaceBit unveiled the rover on Thursday at the science and tech festival New Scientist Live, noting that the bot will hitch a ride to the Moon’s surface aboard U.S. space robotics company Astrobotic’s 2021 mission.
The 1 kilogram (2.2 pound) robot is shaped like a cube with four legs, which it will use to gather video and other data for scientists during its 10-Earth-days-long mission.
SpaceBit and Astrobotic are hopeful that the mission will illustrate the benefits of giving rovers legs — and lead to future missions in which legged rovers explore the Moon’s tubular caves.
“The legs could be better for steep, rocky terrain, and basically any place where wheels start to struggle,” Astrobotic’s CEO John Thornton told New Scientist
READ MORE: Plans for UK’s first moon rover announced at New Scientist Live [New Scientist]
More on Moon rovers: See the Moon Rover Toyota Is Building for Japan’s Space Program
Ghost post! Google creates world’s most powerful computer, NASA ‘accidentally reveals’ …and then publication vanishes
Google’s new Quantum Computer reportedly spends mere minutes on the tasks the world’s top supercomputers would need several millennia to perform. The media found out about this after NASA “accidentally” shared the firm’s research.
The software engineers at Google have built the world’s most powerful computer, the Financial Times and Fortune magazine reported on Friday, citing the company’s now-removed research paper. The paper is said to have been posted on a website hosted by NASA, which partners with Google, but later quietly taken down, without explanation.
Google and NASA have refused to comment on the matter. A source within the IT giant, however, told Fortune that NASA had “accidentally” published the paper before its team could verify its findings….
Cell phone dependency is now called compulsive communicating.
Chain dialers call continually to get another fix…
Cell phones, mobile e-mail, and all the other cool and slick gadgets can
cause massive losses in our creative output and overall productivity…
Cell phone radiation changes the shape of brain proteins, causing them to clump together and form pathological protein fibrils like those found in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease patients…
For the first time, police in the U.K. are going to have to defend their use of facial recognition tech in court.
British office worker Ed Bridges is claiming that South Wales Police scanned his face at least twice without his permission. He believes these scans violated his human rights, an assertion he will present during a three-day court hearing that kicked off in Cardiff on Tuesday — and if the court agrees with Bridges, the ruling could profoundly alter future use of facial recognition tech by law enforcement.
Bridges says he first noticed police scanning his face while he was out shopping in Cardiff in December 2017.
“I popped out of the office to do a bit of Christmas shopping and on the main pedestrian shopping street in Cardiff, there was a police van,” Bridges told BBC News. “By the time I was close enough to see the words ‘automatic facial recognition’ on the van, I had already had my data captured by it.”
“That struck me as quite a fundamental invasion of my privacy,” he added.
Bridges says the second scan occurred while he was attending a peaceful anti-arms protest.
Setting A Precedent
With the support of human rights organization Liberty, Bridges launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to take the U.K. police to court.
“Facial recognition technology snatches our biometric data without our knowledge or consent, making a mockery of our right to privacy,” Liberty lawyer Megan Goulding said in a press release. “It is discriminatory and takes us another step towards being routinely monitored wherever we go, fundamentally altering our relationship with state powers and changing public spaces. It belongs to a police state and has no place on our streets.”
This is the U.K.’s first legal case on law enforcement’s use of facial recognition tech, so if the court agrees with Bridges and Liberty, it’ll set a precedent that could shape the future of the controversial technology throughout the nation — and possibly even beyond it.
READ MORE: Police facial recognition surveillance court case starts [BBC News]
More on facial recognition: Police Said You Could Skip Public Facial Recognition. They Lied.
Massachusetts startup Alaka’i has designed a flying car that the company touts as the “first air mobility vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells” in a flashy announcement video. The big promise: ten times the power of conventional lithium batteries without compromising on carbon emissions.
The hydrogen fuel cells give the five-passenger Skai a maximum range of 400 miles (640 km) with a flight time of up to four hours.
The company has been working on the design for four years, and is hoping to receive Federal Aviation Administration certification before the end of 2020.
Six rotors enable vertical take-off and landing, enabling the vehicle to essentially fly like a massive drone. An “Airframe Parachute” ensures that the Skai doesn’t simply drop out of the air in the case of a propeller failure.
But Skai remains an ambitious dream until Alaka’i receives all the relevant government and regulatory approvals. And then there’s the fact that hydrogen fuel is pretty hard to come by in most parts of the world.
CEO Stephan Hanvey admitted that it could take another ten years until flying cars become practical to ferry passengers from city to city in an interview with the Associated Press.
But it’s an exciting prospect, and a potential alternative to the limitations of current-state lithium batteries that could enable flying cars to cover a lot more ground — if hydrogen as a fuel source ever takes off.
READ MORE: Skai could be the first fuel cell-powered flying taxi [Engadget]
More on flying taxis: Study: Flying Cars Could End Up Being Greener Than Electric Cars
Game Of Drones
The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has officially funded a program to come up with a brain-machine interface — in the form of a headset designed to let military personnel control anything from “active cyber defense systems” to “swarms of unmanned aerial vehicles” through brain activity alone, according to a press release.
The agency is hoping such an interface could make it easier for service members to carry out complex tasks and help them multitask as well.
“Just as service members put on protective and tactical gear in preparation for a mission, in the future they might put on a headset containing a neural interface, use the technology however it’s needed, then put the tool aside when the mission is complete,” said program manager Al Emondi in the press release.
DARPA has an ambitious timeline for the headset. First on the agenda: figure out a way to record electrical signals in the brain and how to relay information back to the brain tissue.
Once that’s settled, DARPA is hoping to turn that ability into a brain-machine interface that’s useful in a military context, such as controlling drone swarms. Let’s just hope it turns out to be more accurate at controlling drones in active combat than the $150 mind-controlled drone that hit Kickstarter in March.
READ MORE:DARPA Funds Ambitious Brain-Machine Interface Program [IEEE Spectrum]
More on brain-machine interfaces: Elon Musk: Brain-Computer Interface Update “Coming Soon”
Sensors could one day monitor the recovery of patients.
2.6 Billion People Lack Access to Electricity. The World Needs Sustainable Energy Now.
Communities lacking electricity are forced to rely on dangerous fuels that can result in pollution and even cause premature death. The Global Maker Challenge received over a thousand submissions from innovators with potential solutions to help these communities.