Welcome to Cyber Dump number 72, your look at what's happening in this insane age of technology that we live in. As always, all the source links mentioned and a transcript are below. Lots happening this week, so let's get started.
The trend of drones being used in transporting and delivering goods continues, and they're coming in all different shapes and sizes. This drone, the APT by Bell recently completed it's first beyond visual line of sight experiments at a testing site in Oklahoma. This particular drone can carry up to 60lbs, and apparently is pretty efficient with it's hybrid fixed wing design.
Drones have also been moving into other industries, such as agriculture. I've mentioned a few farm related drones in the past that were mainly for surveying and monitoring crops, but Quaternium recently uploaded a video highlighting potential benefits of using drones for spraying too, especially when fields are waterlogged from heavy rain and the regular machines can't access them.
In other news, the Finnish Border Guard will begin operating the Schiebel CAMCOPTER S-100 for coastal surveillance purposes. It launches directly off coast guard ships, and is a heavy duty beast with lots of different cameras for tracking vessel traffic and accident response.
More self-driving truck trials happening, this time in Texas. Truck company Aurora, which is partly backed by Amazon, will begin tests with a small fleet of vans travelling commercial routes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The trucks are expected to be operating in Texas by the end of the year.
Soft robotics is another interesting area of technology currently being heavily researched right now. This hybrid soft exoskeleton glove by a team at Yale uses tendons and some sort of air compressor system to inflate and deflate rubber sacks, allowing for gripping of objects
The project was part of the RoboSoft2020 event covering all sorts of soft robots, and if you want to see more, their Youtube channel has a bunch of projects showcased on it.
VIRTUAL / AUGMENTED REALITY
Here's a very cool breakthrough in hand tracking technology. A team of researchers at Cornell announced a wristband called the Fingertrak. It has 4 thermal cameras pointed toward the hand and uses deep learning to accurately guess hand movement from silhouettes.
This allows you to track finger movements even when other sensors can't see your hands, e.g. when you're reaching behind your head or something, adding another piece of the puzzle to greater immersion.
Researchers at MITCSAIL have designed a robotic hand that can sense what it is holding, leading to a high level of dexterity. The fingers kind of act like a tongues taste buds with a grid of sensors that can individually measure things like pressure and direction.
In the examples shown, the robot could successfully manipulate cables and plug them into sockets.
A team at Imperial College London have also been developing a malleable robot that can be rearranged depending on user requirements.
A team at the University of Tokyo recently showed off a demo of the VarioLight 2. Using a high speed camera, projector and rotational mirror setup, this system can dynamically map video onto a ball in real time. Not sure what the use cases would be, but it's pretty nifty.
Researchers at the University of Michigan Engineering have designed a new robotic leg, using a motor design inspired by hardware used on the International Space Station. Not only is this motor extremely quiet compared to other robotic legs, but also requires half the battery power due to it's regenerative braking-type power harvesting features.
3D printing company Polymaker have teamed up with polymer maker Covestro and recently announced their own 3D printed fabric at the TCT Asia exhibition in Shanghai.
There's not a tonne of details, but they claim to have developed a new processing technology for creating these fabrics, where the elasticity, strength and hardness can be programmed into the design.
A couple weeks ago Belgian construction company created what I believe to be the first 2 story 3D printed building, using a massive 32x32 foot concrete printer.
The building is more of a proof of concept for this nascent application of the technology, but the team believes the technique could save around 60% on both the cost and time spent constructing a house. I'd be interested to see if this could open up new creative shapes for buildings outside of just concrete cubes.
Dutch researchers have successfully 3D printed a new type of antibacterial bone implant. This technique involves printing porus titanium bone, and infusing it with strontium and silver nanoparticles. Apparently the reaction between those two elements creates a natural antibacterial effect.
Hardware hacker Damien Weber has created an addon for the Prusa i3, which basically transforms it into a mini automated factory that can continuously spit out printed parts.
The custom designed arm is controlled by an Arduino, and communicates with the printer via Octopi, to automatically sweep across the bed, releasing completing prints. All of the files and code are open source too. Great job Damien.
A hidden gem of a Youtube channel that I want you to check is one called SunShine. This guy is rethinking what's possible with 3D printing, by creating a whole range of objects with compliant mechanisms, aka prints that intentionally bend to fulfill a certain function.
For example he has created a really ingenious bed levelling indicator that prints in a single piece with no supports. You simply attach it to your print head, and as you move it across the bed, the indicator will show you which areas are higher or lower.
He also used similar concepts to create a grabber mechanism, which works perfectly as a PCB holder for soldering. Definitely check out his projects, this dude is great.
NODE viewer Chris McCormick recently released a really interesting app over at slingcode.net. It's basically a web development tool, allowing you to make, run and share web apps through the browser. What's really cool about it is that the entire thing is contained inside a single HTML file, that can be downloaded and launched locally or even offline.
I'd love to see this as the start of a trend. Fully featured apps that just work, completely platform agnostic, without tracking, phoning home, subscriptions or any of that nonesense we're accustomed to. This method would also really lend itself to distribution through the peer-to-peer web too.
I've been trying to convince Chris to restyle it more like a text editor such as Sublime Text, and add collaborative editing via WebRTC. I think that'd make it incredible. What do you all think?
THIS WEEK ON NODE
I was kind of surprised by the reaction the watch prototype video got the other day, but I'm glad people seem to like it.
I've got a lot of things cooking at the minute, and will have some more hardware to show you soon. Speaking of, a friend and I are working on something potentially very exciting but we might need an extra hand or two to bring it into reality.
We think we may have come up with a new type of FDM 3D printer, that both prints maybe 4 times faster than a regular printer, plus can potentially print with multiple colours and materials at once. If you're an engineer with experience making machines from scratch, or a high level programmer with experience developing firmware for this sort of thing, please get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org).
In the meantime, I just want to say thanks for watching, I appreciate you all, and I'll see you in the next video. See ya.
Music: Xtract - Audiotool Day 2016 (CC License)