Tesla announces full self-driving hardware on all models


Tesla released a video of a commute from home to office, including parking as a demonstration of its fully self-driving hardware. "The person in the driver's seat is only there for legal reasons. He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself."

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Interactive clothing via dynamic projection mapping


Technically, cloth is a "deforming non-rigid surface," so projecting a stable image onto clothes is a big technological challenge. To solve it, Ishikawa Watanabe Laboratory combined two new techniques that allow stable projection of an image onto clothes even as they move. Read the rest

Bridge demolition fails in spectacular fashion


A large crowd came out to watch The Broadway Bridge in Little Rock, Arkansas be demolished. Either the bridge builders were very good, or the demolition team was very bad (maybe both), because the bridge withstood an impressive explosion. Read the rest

Watch spiderbots weave a hammock-like web


Maria Yablonina developed a system for wall-climbing robots to weave fibers into useful structures on vertical surfaces, like this hammock-like web that can support a human. The bots can even trade the threaded bobbin between units. Read the rest

NASA's forgotten 3mm gauge movie camera


Dino Everett of USC's Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive shows off a nifty little gadget: a working 3mm movie camera developed by Eric Berndt in 1960 for NASA's Mercury missions. Read the rest

Adorable doglike robot can climb fences and open doors


The Ghost Minitaur is the latest iteration of terrifyingly cute agile legged robots. I for one welcome our doglike robot overlords. Read the rest

Controversial road diet reduced accidents, say scientists


Los Angeles is a car town, so it's controversial to promote "road diets," a form of roadway reconfiguration intended to slow cars and reduce collisions, especially with cyclists and pedestrians. Scientists reviewed data from one controversial road diet and found that crashes were cut in half, and unsafe speed crashes dropped to zero.

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What is "design fiction?"

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I've been writing "design fiction" for years (see, for example, Knights of the Rainbow Table), and when people ask me to explain it, I say something like, "An engineer might make a prototype to give you a sense of how something works; an architect will do a fly-through to give you a sense of its spatial properties; fiction writers produce design fiction to give you a sense of how a technology might feel." Read the rest

Sobering overview of the future of autonomous weaponry


Sarah A. Topol profiles Mary Wareham and several other experts concerned about the near future of autonomous weapons. Read the rest

Electronic temporary tattoo measures how drunk you are

University of California San Diego nanoengineers developed a flexible, wearable sensor that measures the blood alcohol level of its wearer and transmits the info to a mobile device. From UCSD News:

The device consists of a temporary tattoo—which sticks to the skin, induces sweat and electrochemically detects the alcohol level—and a portable flexible electronic circuit board, which is connected to the tattoo by a magnet and can communicate the information to a mobile device via Bluetooth.

The device could be integrated with a car’s alcohol ignition interlocks, or friends could use it to check up on each other before handing over the car keys, he added.

“When you’re out at a party or at a bar, this sensor could send alerts to your phone to let you know how much you’ve been drinking,” said Jayoung Kim, a materials science and engineering PhD student.

"Noninvasive Alcohol Monitoring Using a Wearable Tattoo-Based Iontophoretic-Biosensing System" (ACS Sensors)

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Neural Dust: tiny wireless implants act as "electroceuticals" for your brain


UC Berkeley researchers are developing "Neural Dust," tiny wireless sensors for implanting in the brain, muscles, and intestines that could someday be used to control prosthetics or a "electroceuticals" to treat epilepsy or fire up the immune system. So far, they've tested a 3 millimeter long version of the device in rats.

“I think the long-term prospects for neural dust are not only within nerves and the brain, but much broader,“ says researcher Michel Maharbiz. “Having access to in-body telemetry has never been possible because there has been no way to put something supertiny superdeep. But now I can take a speck of nothing and park it next to a nerve or organ, your GI tract or a muscle, and read out the data."

Maharbiz, neuroengineer Jose Carmena, and their colleagues published their latest results on "Wireless Recording in the Peripheral Nervous System with Ultrasonic Neural Dust" in the journal Neuron.

From UC Berkeley:

While the experiments so far have involved the peripheral nervous system and muscles, the neural dust motes could work equally well in the central nervous system and brain to control prosthetics, the researchers say. Today’s implantable electrodes degrade within 1 to 2 years, and all connect to wires that pass through holes in the skull. Wireless sensors – dozens to a hundred – could be sealed in, avoiding infection and unwanted movement of the electrodes.

“The original goal of the neural dust project was to imagine the next generation of brain-machine interfaces, and to make it a viable clinical technology,” said neuroscience graduate student Ryan Neely.

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Tesla car involved in fatal crash while in Autopilot mode, U.S. says

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, with a Model S. Reuters
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today said it is opening a preliminary investigation into 25,000 Tesla Model S cars, following the death of a driver who was killed using the vehicle's Autopilot mode.

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How to use sand to hold up a car

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 9.49.54 AM

This well-made video from Practical Engineering explains why soil is not a good building material, and then shows how to mechanically stabilize it so it can bear weight.

Dirt is probably the cheapest and simplest construction material out there, but it's not very strong compared to other choices. Luckily geotechnical engineers have developed a way to strengthen earthen materials with almost no additional effort - Mechanically Stabilized Earth (aka MSE or Reinforced Soil). If you look closely, you'll see MSE walls are everywhere. Thanks for watching, and let me know what you think!

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Putting two elevators in one shaft


As high rises replace their elevator up/down buttons with panels that you enter a floor into, which then direct you to a specific elevator, they create the possibility of adding more cars to each shaft, radically increasing the efficiency and throughput of a building's lifts. Read the rest

Scientists built the world's smallest nano-engine


University of Cambridge researchers have built the world's smallest working engine. The device, powered by light, could be the basis of future nanoscale machines that are just billionths of a meter in size. Fantastic Voyage, here we come! From the University of Cambridge:

The prototype device is made of tiny charged particles of gold, bound together with temperature-responsive polymers in the form of a gel. When the ‘nano-engine’ is heated to a certain temperature with a laser, it stores large amounts of elastic energy in a fraction of a second, as the polymer coatings expel all the water from the gel and collapse. This has the effect of forcing the gold nanoparticles to bind together into tight clusters. But when the device is cooled, the polymers take on water and expand, and the gold nanoparticles are strongly and quickly pushed apart, like a spring. The results are reported in the journal PNAS.

“It’s like an explosion,” said Dr Tao Ding from Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory, and the paper’s first author. “We have hundreds of gold balls flying apart in a millionth of a second when water molecules inflate the polymers around them.”

“We know that light can heat up water to power steam engines,” said study co-author Dr Ventsislav Valev, now based at the University of Bath. “But now we can use light to power a piston engine at the nanoscale.”

"Little ANTs: researchers build the world’s tiniest engine" (Thanks, Brad Wieners!)

"Light-induced actuating nano transducers" (PNAS) Read the rest

Treescrapers are bullshit


Architects love to render their buildings covered and ringed in trees: trees that sprout from balconies, dot roofs, climb walls. Read the rest

Watch this team of tiny micro-robots pull a car

Stanford engineers demonstrated how six tiny microTug robots -- with gripping, adhesive feet inspired by geckos -- can work together to pull a 4,000 pound car on polished concrete, albeit very very slowly.

The researchers from Stanford's Biomimetics & Dexterous Manipulation Laboratory published their work on the microTug bots in the current issue of the journal IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters.

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