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Do Robots Need Passports? Should They? 164 164

Hallie Siegel writes: With countries evolving different regulations over robotic devices, law professor Anupam Chander looks into whether robots crossing borders will need passports, and what the role of international trade law should be in regulating the flow of these devices. Fascinating discussion on what happens when technology like robots crosses over international borders, as part of this year's We Robot conference in Seattle.

An Origami Inspired Bacteria-Powered Battery 27 27

jan_jes writes: Origami is the Japanese art of paper folding created by Akira Yoshizawa, which can be used to create beautiful birds, frogs and other small sculptures. Last year a team of engineers from MIT and Harvard has developed an origami flat-pack robot (YouTube video) which can fold itself and crawl away without any human intervention. But now a Binghamton University engineer says this technique can be applied to building batteries, too. The battery generates power from microbial respiration, delivering enough energy to run a paper-based biosensor with nothing more than a drop of bacteria-containing liquid. This method should be especially useful to anyone working in remote areas with limited resources. The total cost of this potentially game-changing device is "five cents."
Hardware Hacking

Pi Stays Sky High In 2015 Hacker SBC Survey 32 32

DeviceGuru writes: The results from the 2015 Hacker SBC Survey cohosted by and the Linux Foundation's community site have just been announced and, not surprisingly, RPi won two of the top three slots. With 1721 voting in the survey, the ten most popular single board computers turned out to be the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, Beaglebone Black, Raspberry Pi Model B+, Odroid-C1, DragonBoard 410c, Odroid-XU3, Parallella, Arduino TRE, Edison Kit for Arduino, and Odroid-U3. The report includes scores for all 53 SBCs that were listed in the susrvey, along with data on feature preferences, targeted applications, and the nature of participants' use of [SBCs], and more.

Inspectors Warn Faulty Valves In New-Generation EPR Nuclear Reactor Pose Meltdown Risk 126 126

Bruce66423 writes: Valves for the new generation of French reactors being built now have raised substantial safety concerns on top of the existing issues about the quality of the steel used for the containment vessel. Similar to the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, France’s nuclear safety watchdog found “multiple” malfunctioning valves in the Flamanville EPR that could cause its meltdown. The Telegraph reports: "The watchdog reportedly cited 'multiple failure modes' that could have 'grave consequences' on the safety relief valves, which play a key role in regulating pressure in the reactor. Owned by state-controlled French utilities giant EDF, Flamanville lies close to the British Channel Islands and about 150 miles from the southern English coast. Designed to be the safest reactors in the world and among the most energy-efficient, the €9 billion (£6.5 billion) EPR has suffered huge delays in models under construction in France, Finland and China. It is now due to enter service in 2017, five years later than originally planned."

AMD Radeon Fury and Fury X Specs Leaked, HBM-Powered Graphics On the Way 66 66

MojoKid writes: A fresh alleged leak of next AMD Fiji graphics info has just hit the web and there's an abundance of supposedly confirmed specifications for what will be AMD's most powerful graphics card to date. Fiji will initially be available in both Pro and XT variants with the Fiji Pro dubbed "Fury" and Fiji XT being dubbed "Fury X." The garden variety Fury touts single-precision floating point (SPFP) performance of 7.2 TFLOPS compared to 5.6 TFLOPS for a bone stock Radeon R9 290X. That's a roughly 29-percent performance improvement. The Fury X with its 4096 stream processors, 64 compute units, and 256 texture mapping units manages to deliver 8.6 TFLOPS, or a 54-percent increase over a Radeon R9 290X. The star of the show, however, will be AMD's High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) interface. Unlike traditional GDDR5 memory, HBM is stacked vertically, decreasing the PCB footprint required. It's also integrated directly into the same package as the GPU/SoC, leading to further efficiencies, reduced latency and a blistering 100GB/sec of bandwidth per stack (4 stacks per card). On average HBM is said to deliver three times the performance-per-watt of GDDR5 memory. With that being said, the specs listed are by no means confirmed by AMD, yet. We shall find out soon enough during AMD's E3 press conference scheduled for June 16.

Microsoft Manufacturing Surface Hub In the US 124 124

overThruster writes: According to the New York Times, Microsoft has chosen to manufacture its Surface Hub in Wilsonville, Oregon. The announcement follows Apple’s decision to build the Mac Pro in Texas. "It makes a lot of sense to manufacture in the U.S.," said Steve Hix, an entrepreneur who founded several Portland-area tech companies, including one that had a manufacturing facility in Wilsonville. "The key issue is quality."

Ask Slashdot: What Hardware Is In Your Primary Computer? 558 558

An anonymous reader writes: Here's something we haven't done in a while: list the specs of your main system (best one) so we can see what kinds of computers Slashdot geeks use. Context would be interesting, too — if you're up for it, explain how and why you set it up as you did, as well as the computer's primary purpose(s). Things you can list include (but are not limited to): CPU, motherboard, video card, memory, storage (SSD/HDD), exotic Controllers (RAID or caching), optical drives, displays, peripherals, etc. We can compare and contrast, see what specs are suitable for what purposes, and perhaps learn a trick or two.

Ex-CIA Director: We're Not Doing Nearly Enough To Protect Against the EMP Threat 182 182

An anonymous reader writes: Last week saw the release of an open letter written to President Obama by a committee of notable political, security and defense experts — which includes past and present members of Congress, ambassadors, CIA directors, and others — on the country's concerning level of vulnerability to a natural or man-made Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP). An EMP has very real potential for crippling much of our electrical grid instantaneously. Not only would that immediately throw the social order into chaos, but the timeline to repair and restart the grid in most estimated scenarios would take months to a year or more.

Executive Director of the EMP Task Force Dr Peter Pry said, "Well, the short answer to [why we aren't defending against EMPs] is called the North American Electric Reliability Corporation. They used to be a trade association or a lobby for the 3,000 electric utilities that exist in this country. ... There is no part of the U.S. government that has the legal powers to order them to protect the grid. This is unusual, because in the case of every other critical infrastructure, there's an agency in the U.S. government that can require them to take actions for public safety. For example, the Food & Drug Administration can order certain medicines kept off shelves to protect the public safety. ... The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission doesn't have those legal powers or authorities."

Why So Many Robots Struggled With the DARPA Challenge 44 44

stowie writes: The DARPA Robots Challenge concluded recently, and three teams were given prizes for completing all the tasks. The other robots in the competition struggled — not only were they unable to complete the required tasks, many of them were unable to even stay standing the entire time. So why did these robots have such a hard time? "DARPA deliberately degraded communications (low bandwidth, high latency, intermittent connection) during the challenge to truly see how a human-robot team could collaborate in a Fukushima-type disaster. And there was no standard set for how a human-robot interface would work. So, some worked better than others. The winning DRC-Hubo robot used custom software designed by Team KAIST that was engineered to perform in an environment with low bandwidth. It also used the Xenomai real-time operating system for Linux and a customized motion control framework. The second-place finisher, Team IHMC, used a sliding scale of autonomy that allowed a human operator to take control when the robot seemed stumped or if the robot knew it would run into problems." If nothing else, the competition's true legacy may lie in educating the public on the realistic capabilities of high-tech robots.

A Computer That Operates On Water Droplets 67 67

Okian Warrior notes a Stanford project to build a basic computer that operates on water droplets. One of its creators, Manu Prakash, says the goal is not to compete with digital computers for manipulating data (though they can theoretically perform all of the same computations). Instead, "Our goal is to build a completely new class of computers that can precisely control and manipulate physical matter. Imagine if when you run a set of computations that not only information is processed but physical matter is algorithmically manipulated as well." The biggest obstacle in creating the water computer was figuring out a way to develop a clock mechanism. The team decided to use a rotating magnetic field, which is both precise and easy to control. To get it to interact with the water, they put arrays of tiny iron bars on glass slides, and then added a layer of oil, and finally another glass slide. Magnetized water droplets are injected into this scaffolding, and the magnetic field can then easily push them along paths created by the iron. "It's about manipulating matter faster," Prakash said.

Ghost Towns Is the First 8K Video Posted To YouTube -- But Can You Watch It? 181 181

Iddo Genuth writes: 4K videos and movies are still far from common and now 8K seems to start making its appearance online. A few days ago, what might be the first 8K video entitled "Ghost Towns" was published on Youtube and you can now watch it for yourself in its full 7680 × 4320 pixel glory — that is if you happen to have access to a 8K display (or projector).

The video was created by cinematographer Luke Neumann who used a 6K EPIC DRAGON camera using some advanced and complex techniques such as shooting in portrait orientation and then stitched the video together in Adobe After Effects. Some shots simply scaled up by 125% from 6.1K to meet the 7.6K standard and handheld stuff was 6K scaled up by 125% and sharpened up.

Youtube is now offering an 8K option and according to Google: "8K video has been supported since 2010, but that labeling for 8K video (the 4320p/8K quality setting like pictured above) was added "earlier this year — but presumably there was noting to view — until now...

G7 Vows To Phase Out Fossil Fuels By 2100 298 298

Taco Cowboy writes: The G7 group of countries has issued a pledge that they will phase out fossil fuels by the end of this century. The announcement was warmly welcomed by environmental groups. "Angela Merkel took the G7 by the scruff of the neck," said Ruth Davis a political advisor to Greenpeace and a senior associate at E3G. "Politically, the most important shift is that chancellor Merkel is back on climate change. This was not an easy negotiation. She did not have to put climate change on the agenda here. But she did," Davis said. The G7 plege includes a goal proposed by the EU to cut emissions 60% on 2010 levels by 2050, with full decarbonisation by 2100.

How Today's Low-Power X86 & ARM CPUs Compare To Intel's Old NetBurst CPUs 77 77

An anonymous reader writes: In trying to offer a unique look at how Intel x86 CPU performance has evolved since their start, Phoronix celebrated their 11th birthday by comparing modern CPUs to old Socket 478 CPUs with the NetBurst Celeron and Pentium 4C on an Intel 875P+ICH5R motherboard. These old NetBurst processors were compared to modern Core and Atom processors from Haswell, Broadwell, Bay Trail and other generations. There were also some AMD CPUs and the NVIDIA Tegra K1 ARM processor. Surprisingly, in a few Linux tests the NetBurst CPUs performed better than AMD E-Series APUs and an Atom Bay Trail. However, for most workloads, the 45+ other CPUs tested ended up being multiple times faster; for the systems where the power consumption was monitored, the power efficiency was obviously multiple times better.

Robotic Assistive Devices For Independent Living 17 17

Hallie Siegel writes: Kavita Krishnaswamy has extreme physical disabilities that severely limit her mobility. She also has drive and a keen mind. I met her last month at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), where she attended via BEAM. In this article, Kavita shares her Phd research to develop robotic assistive devices that give independence to people with severe disabilities. Interesting work on the need for 'multi-modal' interfaces — ie. interfaces that allow the users to interact with the assistive device in different ways, including speech recognition and brain-computer interface.

Debunking the Batteriser's Claims 172 172

An anonymous reader writes: Last week we discussed news about the "Batteriser," a small device that fits around a battery and extends its lifetime. Many of us were skeptical, particularly with the claim that it could extend battery life up to 8x. Now, David L. Jones at the EEVBlog explains exactly why the device won't be as good as its creators claim. The technology itself, he says, does actually work at extending battery life, and has existed for a long time. What this company seems to have done is just shrink it down to a more useful size. Unfortunately, their claims about when a battery stop working and how much energy is left don't really hold up. Batteroo, the company making the Batteriser, claims products stop working when a battery's voltage drops below 1.3v, but a simple test of common household gadgets finds that to be untrue. Further, the percentage of energy left in the battery after this cutoff can vary wildly. Sometimes it will be 80%, but most of the time it won't, and it's frequently 20% or lower for Alkaline batteries. Jones writes, "I'm genuinely baffled as to why Batteroo would need to resort to claims like 8 times life. This thing would still sell like hot cakes if they claimed realistic practical figures. 50% increase in your battery life? – great, countless people would still buy it at the super low price point it's at."

Robots Compete In Navigating Simulation Of Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Plant 64 64

schwit1 writes: A new DARPA Robotics Challenge completed its final competition recently. 25 teams operated robots around a landscape designed to simulate the hazardous environment that aid workers found after the Fukushima Daiichi reactor in Japan melted down multiple times in 2011. Engineers tried to help, but disaster ensued, rendering a huge area around the plant uninhabitable after toxic steam was released into the skies. The radioactive leftovers are still emitting a million watts of heat. First prize is $2m, second prize is $1m, and third gets $500,000.

First ISS-To-Earth 'Handshake' Demonstrates Space-to-Ground Remote Control 21 21

Zothecula writes: NASA astronaut Terry Virts, aboard the International Space Station, and ESA telerobotics specialist André Schiele, in the Netherlands, made space history this week with the first telerobotic "handshake" between space and Earth. Using special force feedback joysticks that acquire force data and create the sensation of pressure, Virts and Schiele brought the agencies closer to allowing astronauts in remote locations to naturally and safely control robotic devices and perform potentially dangerous or otherwise impossible tasks.

Intel Skylake & Broxton Graphics Processors To Start Mandating Binary Blobs 193 193

An anonymous reader writes: Intel has often been portrayed as the golden child within the Linux community and by those desiring a fully-free system without tainting their kernel with binary blobs while wanting a fully-supported open-source driver. The Intel Linux graphics driver over the years hasn't required any firmware blobs for acceleration, compared to AMD's open-source driver having many binary-only microcode files and Nouveau also needing blobs — including firmware files that NVIDIA still hasn't released for their latest GPUs. However, beginning with Intel Skylake and Broxton CPUs, their open-source driver will now too require closed-source firmware. The required "GuC" and "DMC" firmware files are for handling the new hardware's display microcontroller and workload scheduling engine. These firmware files are explicitly closed-source licensed and forbid any reverse-engineering. What choices are left for those wanting a fully-free, de-blobbed system while having a usable desktop?
Data Storage

How To Store Your Data For 1 Million Years 110 110

Whiteox writes with Fast Company's article about Robert Grass and his team, which is exploring how to use DNA as a data storage mechanism, along with others working on truly long-term storage. Both commercial interests and academic researchers are interested in protecting data not just for years or decades, but for multi-century stretches, right out into the millions. From the article: The idea of storing information on DNA traces back to a Soviet lab in the 1960s, but the first successful implementation wasn't achieved until 2012, when biologist George Church and his colleagues announced in the journal Science that they had encoded one of Church's books in DNA. More recently, reports the New Yorker, the artist Joe Davis, now in residence at Church's lab, has announced plans to encode bits of Wikipedia into a particularly old strain of apple, so that he can create "a living, literal tree of knowledge. "Impressive," writes Whiteox, "but I wonder if our future selves can make life from our archived data?"

NAND Flash Shrinks To 15/16nm Process, Further Driving Prices Down 60 60

Lucas123 writes: Both Micron and Toshiba are producing NAND flash memory based on 15 and 16 nanometer process technology, which reduces die area over a 16GB MLC chip by 28% compared with previous die technology. Additionally, Micron announced its upcoming consumer USB flash drives and internal SSDs will also use triple-level cell NAND flash (a technology expected to soon dominate the market) storing three bits instead of two for the first time and further reducing production cost. The advancement in NAND flash density has been driving SSD pricing down dramatically over the past few years. In fact, over the last year, the average price for 128GB and 256GB SSDs have dropped to $50 and $90, respectively, for system manufacturers, according to DRAMeXchange. And prices for consumers have dropped to an average of $91.55 for a 128GB SSD and $164.34 for a 256GB SSD.