Top Stories for the Week of July 19, 2017

  • Episode 513
  • July 19, 2017
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Here are the stories we're following for the week of Wednesday July 19, 2017

Autonomous race cars are now a thing.

The sleek, low-slung driverless Roborace car was on display in New York City for the Formula E races this weekend, but it was the workhorse DevBot that took to the track.

You can recognize DevBot by its bubble-like cockpit, where a human sits ready to take the wheel if the autonomous car needs a literal hand.

Given Formula E‘s one-day structure, with qualifying sessions early in the day and the race in the afternoon, Roborace is able to take advantage of the empty track in the middle of the day for demonstrations of its artificial intelligence system on wheels. DevBot did a practice run early Saturday morning, then spent an hour taking laps in front of the crowd in the afternoon.

DevBot has an array of sensors plus advanced GPS for navigating the track, which is not preprogrammed into the car’s computers. It reads the track and learns the route as it goes, which means DevBot drives much more slowly than the Formula E cars. The driver took control for a lap, likely to train the AI at speed and an in-car camera behind the driver’s shoulder was projected on large screens around the track so spectators could see if — and when — the driver had to put hands on the wheel.

The completely driverless Roborace car did take a lap on its own in Paris, but it was moving more slowly than DevBot in New York.

There’s no official word on when Roborace vehicles will be ready to actually race. There was an optimistic idea that the field of 20 driverless cars would be taking to the track in the 2017/2018 season, but DevBot’s demonstration on Saturday showed that a fully autonomous race later this year is unlikely.


Sent to us by: Jeff Weston

A newly-demonstrated 3D printed heart works much like a real one.

The science of prosthetics has been advancing by leaps and bounds over the last few years, and research into soft robotics has been especially complementary. The same techniques that go into making a robot arm that flexes and turns like a real one can go into making more complex, subtle organs — like the heart, as Swiss researchers have demonstrated.

One problem with artificial hearts is that metal and plastic mechanisms can be difficult to integrate with tissue, or damage the blood because of their unnatural movement style.

A small team at ETH, led by doctoral student Nicholas Cohrs, has created what they say is the first artificial heart that’s entirely soft, with its pumping mechanism achieved by causing the silicone ventricles to pump very much like a real heart.

The heart was created using a 3D-printed method that lets the researchers make a complex inner structure while still using soft, flexible material as its structure. The whole thing is basically one single part, so there’s no need to worry about how different internal mechanisms fit together.

This heart is a proof of concept, not built for actual implantation — so the materials they made it from don’t last more than a few thousands beats. That’s about half an hour. But the plan, obviously, is to have materials and designs that work for much longer than that.


Sent to us by: Jeff Weston

We have found our greatest weapon against the coming Robot apocalypse!

A security robot in Washington DC suffered a watery demise after falling into a fountain by an office building.

The stricken robot, made by Knightscope, was spotted by pedestrians whose photos of the aftermath quickly went viral on social media.

For some, the incident seemed to sum up the state of 21st Century technology.
"We were promised flying cars, instead we got suicidal robots," wrote one worker from the building on Twitter.

Peter Singer - author of Wired for War, a book about military robotics - commented, "Steps are our best defence against the Robopocalypse."

It is not the first accident involving Knightscope's patrolling robots, which are equipped with various instruments - including face-recognition systems, high-definition video capture, infrared and ultrasonic sensors.

Last year, a 16-month-old toddler was run over by one of the autonomous devices in a Silicon Valley shopping centre. Don't worry; his injuries weren't serious.

And earlier this year, a Californian man was arrested after attacking a Knightscope robot. That man, who was drunk at the time of the incident, later said he simply wanted to "test" the machine, according to Knightscope.


Sent to us by: sparklyballs

Google is giving Glass one more try.

Google is reviving its failed Glass project, the smart headset designed to augment everyone's vision, as a product for businesses.

The internet giant said it is designing an upgraded version of the Glass headset, released in 2013, that will have a better battery life and be more comfortable to wear.

The revamped headset will be called Glass Enterprise Edition and is designed for use in industries such as manufacturing and healthcare. Google says it can augment users' vision with hands free information as they work.

While the company publicly ditched the smart eyewear, stopping sales and deleting the Glass social media accounts, Google has quietly kept it alive for the past two years.

Google has spent this time working with dozens of partners to create customised software for certain industries and businesses. It has tested the new product in the US with firms including DHL, doctors at Dignity Health and agricultural machinery manufacturer AGCO.

The firms reported the tool had helped improve efficiency and reduce the time taken for administrative tasks.


Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson

Microsoft SQL Server 2017's first release candidate has landed and - yes! - it runs on Linux!

Microsoft's long, gentle embrace of Linux continues with the first release candidate of SQL Server 2017.

Microsoft said the early release would land in the middle of this year. Arguably, since this is only the RC1-level release, Microsoft's SQL-Server-on-Linux is running late.

There's not much detail on what's in the box, with this Technet blog post only saying: "SQL Server 2017 support for Linux includes the same high availability solutions on Linux as Windows Server, including Always On availability groups integrated with Linux native clustering solutions like Pacemaker."

There's also Active Directory authentication, so domain-joined Windows or Linux clients can use their domain credentials to sign into SQL Server.

As Microsoft discussed last December when the first public preview landed, getting SQL Server onto Linux needed an abstraction layer, which the company has dubbed “Drawbridge”.

Drawbridge provides a host extension running as a Linux application. This initialises SQLPAL, which offers the Windows calls needed to launch SQL Server.

It's not only about Linux: other goodies in the release candidate include analytics in either R or Python; graph data processing for discovering complex many-to-many relationships; and Adaptive Query Processing to auto-tune the database.

TLS support is also built into the release to encrypt data between the SQL server and clients.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

Support for Ubuntu 16.10 Ends Tomorrow

Are you an Ubuntu user? If you're using Ubuntu 16.10 Yakkety Yak, it hits end of life tomorrow, July 20.

Released on October 13, 2016, Ubuntu 16.10 is a short-term release with a 9-month support cycle.

That support period is about to end.

This means that no further maintenance updates, critical security upgrades or updated packages will be released by Ubuntu developers, and no official support will be given.

Third party developers who distribute software via PPAs or other repositories often end support for EOL releases too.

Although the software itself will continue to work, it’s highly recommend that you upgrade to a supported version of Ubuntu such as the current short-term release Ubuntu 17.04, or the current LTS release, Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, to ensure you continue getting security updates and critical fixes.

The supported upgrade path from Ubuntu 16.10 is to Ubuntu 17.04.

Ubuntu 17.04 continues to be actively supported with security updates and select high-impact bug fixes — and will continue to receive them until February of next year.


Sent to us by: Garbee

In a rather comical social experiment, a UK WiFi provider has tricked users into agreeing to a thousand hours of community service.

Unwitting customers in the United Kingdom who didn't read the terms and conditions for use of a public WiFi hotspot agreed to perform 1,000 hours of community service, including unclogging sewers and scraping gum off the street.

The gag was conceived by WiFi provider Purple. The company inserted the clause into its terms and conditions -- the technically legally binding agreement consumers approve in exchange for use of free Internet, though virtually few actually read the terms. The company said it did so to call attention to the fact consumers are regularly agreeing to terms that they may not actually like, including granting access to private information and data about their web browsing habits.

Other community service tasks agreed to by users included "providing hugs to stray cats and dogs" and "painting snail shells to brighten up their existence." The agreement also promised a prize to anyone who actually became aware of the prize's existences after reading the terms and conditions -- yet after two weeks only one person came forward to claim the prize.

This isn't the first time a stunt like this has been pulled. In 2014, cybersecurity firm F-Secure ran a similar experiment in London, operating a wifi hotspot that anyone could use – in exchange for their firstborn child. The so-called “Herod clause” was clearly stated in the terms and conditions, and six people still signed up. Though it’s not clear how many of them simply dislike their eldest children.


Sent to us by: The Albuquerque Turque


Technology TV is On Summer Break

Episode 660 will be live August 12! See you then.

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