Robotics

Tiny Robots Climb Walls Carrying More Than 100 Times Their Weight 17

Posted by samzenpus
from the carrying-a-heavy-load dept.
schwit1 writes: Mighty things come in small packages. The little robots in this video can haul things that weigh over 100 times more than themselves. The super-strong bots — built by mechanical engineers at Stanford — will be presented next month at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Seattle, Washington. The secret is in the adhesives on the robots' feet. Their design is inspired by geckos, which have climbing skills that are legendary in the animal kingdom. The adhesives are covered in minute rubber spikes that grip firmly onto the wall as the robot climbs. When pressure is applied, the spikes bend, increasing their surface area and thus their stickiness. When the robot picks its foot back up, the spikes straighten out again and detach easily.
Displays

Oculus Rift: 2015 Launch Unlikely, But Not Impossible 66

Posted by Soulskill
from the is-the-future-here-yet dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Earlier this week during Facebook's 2015 Q1 earnings call, the company seemed to suggest that a 2015 Oculus Rift release date was unlikely. At least, that's what a report about the call from Gamasutra indicated, saying, "It doesn't sound like Oculus will ship the consumer version of its Oculus Rift VR headset this year, or at least not in very large quantities." However, an equity analyst has chimed in to say that the language used during the call shouldn't be interpreted colloquially, concluding that "...there is no information here that rules out Oculus shipping in 2015."
Power

Tesla To Announce Battery-Based Energy Storage For Homes 272

Posted by timothy
from the but-in-the-meantime-here's-this-preemptive-announcement dept.
Okian Warrior writes: Billionaire Elon Musk will announce next week that Tesla will begin offering battery-based energy storage for residential and commercial customers. The batteries power up overnight when energy companies typically charge less for electricity, then are used during the day to power a home. In a pilot project, Tesla has already begun offering home batteries to SolarCity (SCTY) customers, a solar power company for which Musk serves as chairman. Currently 330 U.S. households are running on Tesla's batteries in California. The batteries start at about $13,000, though California's Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PCG) offers customers a 50% rebate. The batteries are three-feet high by 2.5-feet wide, and need to be installed at least a foot and a half off the ground. They can be controlled with a Web app and a smartphone app.
DRM

Microsoft, Chip Makers Working On Hardware DRM For Windows 10 PCs 284

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-what-users-wanted dept.
writertype writes: Last month, Microsoft began talking about PlayReady 3.0, which adds hardware DRM to secure 4K movies. Intel, AMD, Nvidia, and Qualcomm are all building it in, according to Microsoft. "Older generations of PCs used software-based DRM technology. The new hardware-based technology will know who you are, what rights your PC has, and won’t ever allow your PC to unlock the content so it can be ripped. ... Unfortunately, it looks like the advent of PlayReady 3.0 could leave older PCs in the lurch. Previous PlayReady technology secured content up to 1080p resolution using software DRM—and that could be the maximum resolution for older PCs without PlayReady 3.0." Years back, a number of people got upset when Hollywood talked about locking down "our content." It looks like we may be facing it again for 4K video.
Graphics

NVIDIA Quadro M6000 12GB Maxwell Workstation Graphics Tested Showing Solid Gains 66

Posted by samzenpus
from the check-it-out dept.
MojoKid writes: NVIDIA's Maxwell GPU architecture has has been well-received in the gaming world, thanks to cards like the GeForce GTX Titan X and the GeForce GTX 980. NVIDIA recently took time to bring that same Maxwell goodness over the workstation market as well and the result is the new Quadro M6000, NVIDIA's new highest-end workstation platform. Like the Titan X, the M6000 is based on the full-fat version of the Maxwell GPU, the G200. Also, like the GeForce GTX Titan X, the Quadro M6000 has 12GB of GDDR5, 3072 GPU cores, 192 texture units (TMUs), and 96 render outputs (ROPs). NVIDIA has said that the M6000 will beat out their previous gen Quadro K6000 in a significant way in pro workstation applications as well as GPGPU or rendering and encoding applications that can be GPU-accelerated. One thing that's changed with the launch of the M6000 is that AMD no longer trades shots with NVIDIA for the top pro graphics performance spot. Last time around, there were some benchmarks that still favored team red. Now, the NVIDIA Quadro M6000 puts up pretty much a clean sweep.
Businesses

We'll Be the Last PC Company Standing, Acer CEO Says 415

Posted by timothy
from the fate-is-fickle dept.
Velcroman1 writes: At a sky-high press conference atop the new World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, Acer unveiled a sky-high lineup of goods – and placed a flag in the sand for the sagging PC industry. "There are only four or five players in the PC industry, and all of us are survivors," Jason Chen, CEO of Acer Corp, told an international group of reporters. "We will be the last man standing for the PC industry." To that end, the company showed off a slew of new laptops and 2-in-1s, the new Liquid X2 smartphone, and introduces a new line of gaming PCs, called Predator. I suspect Apple will outlive Acer; who do you think will fall next (or rise next)?
Intel

Intel 'Compute Stick' PC-Over-HDMI Dongle Launched, Tested 173

Posted by Soulskill
from the minimally-elegant-product-names dept.
MojoKid writes: Intel has officially announced the availability of their Compute Stick HDMI dongle, and has lifted the embargo on early tests with the device. The Compute Stick is essentially a fully-functional, low-power, Atom-based system with memory, storage, and an OS, crammed into a dongle about 10cm long. There will initially be two compute sticks made available: one running Windows (model STCK1A32WFC) and another running Ubuntu (model STCK1A8LFC). The Windows 8.1 version of the Compute Stick is packing an Intel Atom Z3735F processor, with a single-channel of 2GB of DDR3L-1333 RAM and 32GB of internal storage, though out of the box only 19.2GB is usable. The Ubuntu version of the Compute Stick has as a similar CPU, but is packing only 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. All sticks have USB and MicroSD expansion capability. It doesn't burn through any benchmarks, but for multi-media playback, basic computing tasks, web browsing, HD video, or remote access, the Compute Stick has enough muscle to get the job done, and it's cheap, too: $99 — $149.
AI

Japan Looks To Distributed Control Theory To Manage Energy Market Deregulation 53

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-could-possibly-go-wrong dept.
Hallie Siegel writes: Japan's power industry is currently centralized, but it aims to deregulate by around 2020. Coupled with this major structural market change, the expansion of thermal, nuclear and renewable power generation will place additional demands on the management of the country's energy market. Researchers from the Namerikawa lab at Keio University are working with control engineers, power engineers and economists to designing mechanical and control algorithms that can manage this large-scale problem.
Robotics

Learn About FIRST's New Embedded Linux Controller (Video) 26

Posted by Roblimo
from the rocking-and-socking-more-powerfully-than-ever dept.
Our interviewee today is Mike Anderson, an adviser to FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Team 116 at Herndon High School in Virginia. He's here to tell us about the new embedded Linux controller FIRST is using this year. It is apparently a bit short of documentation at this stage, so team 116 and others have been posting what they learn at Chief Delphi, which is 'the' FIRST online discussion forum (and fun to read to keep up with all things FIRST). We've talked about FIRST before. We've taken you to FIRST competitions, and looked behind the scenes at the building of a FIRST robot, and will no doubt keep covering a selection of FIRST activities in the future.
Networking

The Logistics of an eSports Tournament 48

Posted by timothy
from the who-ordered-450-large-pepperoni-pizzas? dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Wargaming's hugely popular World of Tanks game sees its biggest tournament of the year, The Grand Finals, taking place this weekend. In an interview published today, the developer's eSports director, Mohamed Fadl, reveals just what goes into preparing a tournament for both thousands of spectators at the venue, and millions more streaming online.

"The infrastructure behind such an event is the most challenging task," he reveals. "Ten highly qualified IT managers, 28 on-air casters and around 50 additional TV staff will be doing their best...A TV level production setup, 170 computers, a total of 1.3GB/s bandwidth and 16 cameras plus 14 player cameras." And all for just 12 teams playing one strategy game.
Government

USPS Shortlists 'HorseFly' Octocopter Drone Delivery Service 67

Posted by timothy
from the why-they-want-9-digit-zip dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The likes of GM and Nissan are keeping unusual company in the bidding war to build and deliver the next generation of delivery vehicles for the U.S. Postal Service. Workhorse Group Inc. have made it to the 16-company shortlist with their octocopter drone delivery system, developed by the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering and Applied Science. The self-guiding UAV 'HorseFly' has multiple hardware and software redundancy systems and launches from its special host van 'WorkHorse' to get the parcel the final hurdle to the door. The drone can recharge itself wirelessly in two minutes at base, and calculates its own routes from the van to the destination door.
Robotics

Robot Workers' Real Draw: Reducing Dependence on Human Workers 287

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-can-do-your-job-and-won't-complain-about-the-coffee dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Zeynep Tufekci writes in an op-ed at the NY Times that machines are getting better than humans at figuring out who to hire, who's in a mood to pay a little more for that sweater, and who needs a coupon to nudge them toward a sale. It turns out most of what we think of as expertise, knowledge and intuition is being deconstructed and recreated as an algorithmic competency, fueled by big data. "Machines aren't used because they perform some tasks that much better than humans, but because, in many cases, they do a "good enough" job while also being cheaper, more predictable and easier to control than quirky, pesky humans," writes Tufekci. "Technology in the workplace is as much about power and control as it is about productivity and efficiency."

According to Tufekci technology is being used in many workplaces: to reduce the power of humans, and employers' dependency on them, whether by replacing, displacing or surveilling them. Optimists insist that we've been here before, during the Industrial Revolution, when machinery replaced manual labor, and all we need is a little more education and better skills. Tufekci points out that one historical example is no guarantee of future events. "Confronting the threat posed by machines, and the way in which the great data harvest has made them ever more able to compete with human workers, must be about our priorities," concludes Tufekci. "This problem is not us versus the machines, but between us, as humans, and how we value one another."
AMD

AMD Publishes New 'AMDGPU' Linux Graphics Driver 88

Posted by Soulskill
from the doing-it-right dept.
An anonymous reader writes: AMD has made available its new AMDGPU Linux graphics driver comprised of a brand new DRM/KMS kernel driver, a new xf86-video-amdgpu X11 driver, and modifications to libdrm and Gallium3D. This new AMDGPU driver is designed for supporting AMD's next-generation hardware with no support differences for currently supported Radeon GPUs. While yet to be released, this new AMDGPU driver is the critical piece to the new unified driver strategy with Catalyst where their high performance proprietary driver will now become limited to being a user-space binary component that uses this open-source kernel driver.
Hardware

For High-End CPUs, Qualcomm Ditches TSMC For Samsung 27

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-fab-enough dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A report at Re/code says Qualcomm will have its next-gen Snapdragon 820 CPU made at Samsung's foundries, instead of TSMC's. The report points out a couple of good reasons for the switch: first of all, Samsung's plants run on a 14nm process, while TSMC still uses a 20nm process. Second — and more telling — Samsung recently ditched Qualcomm's Snapdragon processors for their new Galaxy S6 smartphone, opting to use their own Exynos chips instead. With the phone expected to sell upwards of 70 million units, that's a huge missed opportunity for Qualcomm. It's feasible Qualcomm could get Samsung to drop its own chips, because the Snapdragon 820 will have an onboard LTE modem. That would reduce the cost of assembling a phone, and also free up some space to make it smaller.
Intel

New PCIe SSDs Load Games, Apps As Fast As Old SATA Drives 159

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-don't-need-a-race-car-if-you're-just-driving-to-work dept.
crookedvulture writes Slashdot has covered a bunch of new PCI Express SSDs over the past month, and for good reason. The latest crop offers much higher sequential and random I/O rates than predecessors based on old-school Serial ATA interfaces. They're also compatible with new protocols, like NVM Express, which reduce overhead and improve scaling under demanding loads. As one might expect, these new PCIe drives destroy the competition in targeted benchmarks, hitting top speeds several times faster than even the best SATA SSDs can muster. The thing is, PCIe SSDs don't load games or common application data any faster than current incumbents—or even consumer-grade SSDs from five years ago. That's very different from the initial transition from mechanical to solid-state storage, where load times improved noticeably for just about everything. Servers and workstations can no doubt take advantage of the extra oomph that PCIe SSDs provide, but desktop users may struggle to find scenarios where PCIe SSDs offer palpable performance improvements over even budget-oriented SATA drives.
Power

Utilities Battle Homeowners Over Solar Power 533

Posted by timothy
from the one-hand-giveth dept.
HughPickens.com writes Diane Cardwell reports in the NYT that many utilities are trying desperately to stem the rise of solar power, either by reducing incentives, adding steep fees or effectively pushing home solar companies out of the market. The economic threat has electric companies on edge. Over all, demand for electricity is softening while home solar is rapidly spreading across the country. There are now about 600,000 installed systems, and the number is expected to reach 3.3 million by 2020, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. In Hawaii, the current battle began in 2013, when Hawaiian Electric started barring installations of residential solar systems in certain areas. It was an abrupt move — a panicked one, critics say — made after the utility became alarmed by the technical and financial challenges of all those homes suddenly making their own electricity. "Hawaii is a postcard from the future," says Adam Browning, executive director of Vote Solar, a policy and advocacy group based in California.

But utilities say that solar-generated electricity flowing out of houses and into a power grid designed to carry it in the other direction has caused unanticipated voltage fluctuations that can overload circuits, burn lines and lead to brownouts or blackouts. "At every different moment, we have to make sure that the amount of power we generate is equal to the amount of energy being used, and if we don't keep that balance things go unstable," says Colton Ching, vice president for energy delivery at Hawaiian Electric, pointing to the illuminated graphs and diagrams tracking energy production from wind and solar farms, as well as coal-fueled generators in the utility's main control room. But the rooftop systems are "essentially invisible to us," says Ching, "because they sit behind a customer's meter and we don't have a means to directly measure them." The utility wants to cut roughly in half the amount it pays customers for solar electricity they send back to the grid. "Hawaii's case is not isolated," says Massoud Amin. "When we push year-on-year 30 to 40 percent growth in this market, with the number of installations doubling, quickly — every two years or so — there's going to be problems."
Cellphones

Does Lack of FM Support On Phones Increase Your Chances of Dying In a Disaster? 350

Posted by timothy
from the well-if-you-put-it-that-way dept.
theodp writes "You may not know it," reports NPR's Emma Bowman, "but most of today's smartphones have FM radios inside of them. But the FM chip is not activated on two-thirds of devices. That's because mobile makers have the FM capability switched off. The National Association of Broadcasters has been asking mobile makers to change this. But the mobile industry, which profits from selling data to smartphone users, says that with the consumer's move toward mobile streaming apps, the demand for radio simply isn't there." But FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate says radio-enabled smartphones could sure come in handy during times of emergency. So, is it irresponsible not to activate the FM chips? And should it's-the-app-way-or-the-highway Apple follow Microsoft's lead and make no-static-at-all FM available on iPhones?
Data Storage

Kingston HyperX Predator SSD Takes Gumstick M.2 PCIe Drives To 1.4GB/sec 51

Posted by timothy
from the sure-hope-those-drives-appreciated-it dept.
MojoKid writes Kingston recently launched their HyperX Predator PCIe SSD that is targeted at performance-minded PC enthusiasts but is much less expensive than enterprise-class PCIe offerings that are currently in market. Kits are available in a couple of capacities and form factors at 240GB and 480GB. All of the drives adhere to the 80mm M.2 2280 "gumstick" form factor and have PCIe 2.0 x4 connections, but are sold both with and without a half-height, half-length adapter card, if you'd like to drop it into a standard PCI Express slot. At the heart of the Kingston HyperX Predator is Marvell's latest 88SS9293 controller. The Marvell 88SS9293 is paired to a gigabyte of DDR3 memory and Toshiba A19 Toggle NAND. The drives are rated for read speeds up to 1.4GB/s and writes of 1GB/s and 130 – 160K random 4K IOPS. In the benchmarks, the 480GB model put up strong numbers. At roughly $1 per GiB, the HyperX Predator is about on par with Intel's faster SSD 750, but unlike Intel's new NVMe solution, the Kingston drive will work in all legacy platforms as well, not just Z97 and X99 boards with a compatible UEFI BIOS.
Android

Google Adds Handwriting Input To Android 124

Posted by timothy
from the dreaming-of-sheep-is-next dept.
BarbaraHudson writes: The Reg is reporting on the release of Google Handwriting Input for Android smartphones and tablets: "The Chocolate Factory's research arm says handwriting recognition is needed because touchscreen keyboards remain modestly effective and while 'Voice input is an option, but there are situations where it is not feasible, such as in a noisy environment or during a meeting." The Google Research Blog notes that it allows recognition both on-device and in the cloud (by tapping on the cloud icon) in any Android app.

It works as advertised on my smartphone, so now I can type, speak, or scribble my searches, texts, etc.
Robotics

Drought and Desertification: How Robots Might Help 124

Posted by timothy
from the droids-you're-looking-for dept.
Hallie Siegel writes Groundwater levels in California's Central Valley are down to historic lows and reservoirs have been depleted following four consecutive years of severe drought in the state. California is set to introduce water rationing in the coming weeks, and though the new rationing rules will focus on urban areas and not farms for the time being, they serve as a warning bell to farmers who will inevitably need to adapt to the effects of climate change on food production. John Payne argues that long term solutions are needed to help make agriculture drought resistant and looks at some of the ways that robotics might help.