Whiskers are a fantastic natural sensor that enables cats, fish, seals, and many other animals to detect not just direct contact but even air flow indicating an approaching object. In a fascinating example of biomimicry, University of Queensland engineer Pauline Pounds and her colleagues have developed tiny whisker sensors for drones. According to the researchers, the whiskers are well-suited for "navigating through dark, dusty, smoky, cramped spaces, or gusty, turbulent environments with micro-scale aircraft that cannot mount heavier sensors such as lidars." At IEEE Spectrum, Evan Ackerman writes:
The whisker fibers themselves are easy to fabricate—they’re just blobs of ABS plastic that are heated up and then drawn out into long thin fibers like taffy. The length and thickness of the whiskers can be modulated by adjusting the temperature and draw speed. The ABS blob at the base of each whisker is glued to a 3D-printed load plate, which is in turn attached to a triangular arrangement of force pads (actually encapsulated MEMS barometers)...
It can detect forces as low as 3.33 micronewtons, meaning that the researchers had to be careful not to stand too close to the whiskers while making measurements since the force of their breathing would throw things off. This sensitivity allows the whiskers to detect the wave of air generated by objects moving towards them, perhaps not in time for the drone to actually stop, but certainly in time for it to take other steps to protect itself, like cutting power to its motors. The whiskers can also be used to measure fluid flow (a proxy for velocity through the air), and of course, at slow speeds they work as contact sensors.
"Sensitive Whiskers Could Make Small Drones Safer" (IEEE Spectrum)
“The Senate on Thursday unanimously passed legislation to ban the use of the social media app TikTok on federal devices, weeks after the House approved a similar measure,” reports The Hill:
The Trump administration’s plan to ban various Chinese technologies, and doing business with various Chinese tech entities, is a clear sign of “madness” in U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, wrote China’s state-run tabloid Global Times in an editorial on Thursday.
Facebook is banning the pro-Trump Republican PAC “The Committee to Defend the President” from advertising, after the PAC repeatedly posted content identified as false by third-party fact-checkers. “As a result of the Committee to Defend the President’s repeated sharing of content determined by third-party fact-checkers to be false, they will not be permitted to advertise […]
Creating a fantasy world for a video or role-playing game is tough enough. In addition to all the game framework and functionality that goes into a build of any size, creators invariably sweat over the most minute details of every weapon, outfit, or other distinctive objects in their game. Even if your game is set […]
We get it. You don’t have to go to the office anymore. That’s no excuse for letting your grooming go positively feral. We’re not saying you need to be GQ cover model-ready every Monday through Friday. But at least put in some effort to keep yourself relatively trimmed, clean, and on point. Even if you […]
With everybody cooped up inside right now, it’s no surprise that many houses are starting to get a little bit…well, funky. Yeah…they smell. With everybody running around and sweating and working and cooking and everything else, odors get trapped inside your home. And don’t even get us started on what happens when litter boxes and […]