It's undeniable that, despite its pitfalls, tech has improved not only human lives but the well-being of nature as well, and a new development in AI-powered cameras may help save endangered species.
It's no secret that many animal species in Africa are in danger of being wiped out. For example, experts estimate that the African elephant population, once 2 million strong, may face total extinction in just decades. These tragic deaths are in large part due to poaching, but with human resources limited, it's been difficult to stop poaching before it happens. But a new vision-processing technology may help stop that. It's called TrailGuard AI.
Maybe you're reading this on your smartphone. Take a moment to look at it. Perhaps you've got several accessories for it--a case, maybe a screen protector--but you know what? You're missing something. A robotic finger.
Yes, you heard me right. French researchers agree, by the way. As a matter of fact, they've been working on a project called MobiLimb that will sate your need to have a robotic finger poking out of the bottom of your smartphone.
Imagine--it's a normal day, you're driving like normal, and your truck suddenly ends up flipped over. In the accident, your spinal cord is compressed and you're given minimal chances to walk again.
That's the story of Kelly Thomas, whose life was flipped upside down when she was paralyzed from her waist down at age 19. But now, thanks to research by the University of Louisville, she's up on her feet once more.
Using a breakthrough device, called the RestoreAdvanced SureScan MRI Neurostimulator, Kelly Thomas took her first steps since her accident earlier this year. The surgically implanted device works by sending electrical pulses into her spine, which in turn sends signals to her legs. With a little concentration, Thomas, along with some of the other patients that participated in the study, is able to walk.
Have you ever looked at NASA's nearly $20 billion budget and wonder, "What's in it for me?" Sure, going out and studying Mars is all fine and dandy, but what immediate benefit do you, the taxpayer, get from all this spending?
Believe it or not, it's a lot more than you think, and NASA has a new interactive website that gives you an in-depth look at how space research directly impacts your everyday life. It's called NASA Home and City. You can choose to explore either an average household or an adorable little city. Clicking nodes on each of the buildings and in the rooms displays an interesting factoid about how those items came about through NASA's research. It's super fun to use, and it's actually quite engaging!
Here's a few tidbits I found interesting.
Inside the hospital, you can take a look, among other things, at how researchers developed improved contact lenses in lower gravity environments. Neat!
If you've ever been caught in the midst of a major natural disaster, unfortunately, it's not difficult to visualize the destructive power of nature. For those of us who haven't, mere numbers or weather-talk may not translate fully into real-word effects.
But the Weather Channel has been crafting some sobering, frightening, and visually impressive videos that help people understand how terrible nature's fury can really be. Using mixed reality based on the gaming engine Unreal, the Weather Channel drops real people in the midst of simulated natural disasters. The purpose of the videos is to remind people to stay safe during intense weather. Here's three for you to check out:
Hurricane Florence Flooding Levels
When we hear "6 feet of water" on television, it sounds like a lot--but do we really know what it looks like? In this video, Greg Postel gets digitally dropped in the middle of the Hurricane Florence flooding to show how bad it gets.
Proxima Centauri is the closest star to us besides the sun, and coincidentally, also has a planet orbiting around it--known only as Proxima Centauri b--that's inside the habitable zone. In case you didn't know, that means that, with the right amount of atmospheric pressure, it's possible that Proxima Centauri b could have liquid water on its surface.
So, some say, forget Mars. It's about time we started looking for alien life on this extrasolar neighbor of ours.
But alas, without the warp drives of Star Wars legend, such an idea seems pretty far-fetched. Proxima Centauri b lies 4.2 light years from our home planet. In layman's terms, that's about 25 trillion miles. Yes, with a "t." To put that distance in perspective (as if you needed it), Pluto lies 4.67 billion miles away from Earth. NASA's New Horizons probe took over nine years to travel that distance. Suffice it to say, it would take much, much longer to travel 25 trillion miles.
But, in the perseverant spirit of humanity, some people believe we should still shoot for it. Instead of using traditional rockets, let's use lasers.
The project is called Breakthrough Starshot, a $100 million venture that's trying to reach Proxima Centauri b within the next fifty years. The idea is to use an earth-based array of lasers to slingshot a spacecraft towards the Alpha Centauri star system at about 134 million mph. With that kind of wicked speed, the little probe would arrive at Proxima Centauri in right around 20 years. Good Lord willing and the creek don't rise, as we say in the South.
Take a look at this handy animation showing how such a craft would work:
For many of us, walking is second nature. Most babies learn to walk by the time they're one, and as such, it's kind of something we take for granted.
For robots, the road to walking on two feet has been much more difficult.
Take Honda's recently retired ASIMO robot, for example. Development on this humanoid bot started back in the 80s, and the finished product wasn't unveiled until the 2000s. When ASIMO was introduced to the world, it was the first robot to have the ability to walk like people--on two legs. Honda only just stopped working on ASIMO in June of this year.
Honda's robot is impressive--he can climb stairs, dance, recognize people's faces, and more. But of course, that impressiveness came at a cost. Not counting the decades of development that went into ASIMO, the robot is decked out with a complex array of motors and sensors that total up to around $1 million. To achieve Honda's vision of having ASIMO-like robot helpers in homes across the country, the cost is going to have to drop way down.
How do we make bipedal (two-legged) robots feasible for everyone? For researchers at the University of Tokyo, the answer is strap a drone onto the top of them. Take a look at their Aerial-Biped bot in action:
The question of whether life exists on Mars has been debated for decades, and the discussion continues today. Bolstered by the recent discovery that there's actually a 12-mile body of water under an ice cap Mars' south pole, scientists are beginning to wonder if there might really be some kind of bacterial life on the Red Planet.
But believe it or not, Mars may have been more friendly to life many, many years ago than it is today.
Researchers have discovered areas on the planet's surface that indicate that Mars may have once had the right atmosphere to support liquid water, including finding areas that appear to by long-dried riverbeds or mineral deposits that could not have formed without liquid water. It's some parts speculation, but astronomers continue to look for more clues into the Martian past.
What's indisputable, though, is that the Mars that we see today can't support liquid water on the surface. Why? Again, there's a lot of ongoing research into that particular question, but prevailing theories suggest that it's due to asteroid collisions causing Mars to lose chunks of atmosphere, in addition to strong solar winds, against which Mars has no protection (such as Earth's magnetosphere). Over time, these factors essentially sapped Mars of its atmosphere, meaning that it no longer had the right pressure for liquid water on the surface.
But could we make Mars livable again? Martian colonies have been mankind's dream for a while now, but with the conditions on the surface, any colonists brave enough to relocate would be subjected to a life of spacesuits and powdered food. What if we could fix this by making Mars more like Earth--i.e., terraform it to our needs?
Robots are making their way into the food industry--but they might not take your job with them.
A new startup company, Creator, has opened a "closed-beta" restaurant, of sorts, in downtown San Francisco. The restaurant is staffed similarly to any other fast-food joint, and it might strike you as tech-savvy that the wait staff take your order on an iPhone. But the real star of the show is two conveyor-belt style machines that autonomously assemble your burger for you.
Using ingredients stored in long clear tubes and over 300 sensors, these bots can assemble your customized burger in just minutes. The efficiency of the machine is astonishing, with an output of 120 burgers per hour. And the best part is, you lose none of the freshness you would enjoy at any made-to-order burger establishment--the machine toasts your bun to golden, slices the ingredients as they are dispensed, and grills the burgers fresh for each order.
As of the time of writing, eight kids have been rescued from the Tham Luang cave in Thailand. The rescue effort has been dangerous, and the divers, SEALs, and others involved deserve to be commended for their heroism.
But the effort has not been without its complications. Sadly, one former Thai Navy Seal Petty Officer, Saman Kunan gave his life in the effort to save these young children trapped in the depths of the cave. The youth soccer team, known as the Wild Boars, has been trapped since June 23, a total of 16 days and counting. With oxygen levels dropping low and monsoons on their way, rescue workers were forced to brave the perilous underground conditions earlier than anticipated to get the kids out of the cave.
Thankfully, the need for more efficient and less dangerous rescues has been swiftly responded to. Of all places, it came from Elon Musk's SpaceX.
The enterprising billionaire tweeted on July 7 that he had been speaking with cave experts in Thailand about how to make the six-hour trek through the caves to the children safer, which is especially necessary for the kids, who reports say have no diving experience.
I'm a sci-fi/fantasy lover & writer who especially likes talking about Star Wars and futuristic tech. I like finding new things & finding the beauty in old things, especially in my "Everyday Snippets" series. I hope you'll join me on my blog and unleash your imagination!