Google is the latest company to branch out into delivery by drone, it revealed Thursday. The technology giant started running its first test flights earlier this month as part of Project Wing, a secretive, 2-year-old program exploring drone delivery.
A team of Google engineers and experts on unmanned aerial vehicles, called UAVs, safely carried out more than 30 test flights this month, transporting an assortment of goods including chocolate bars, a water bottle, radios, a first aid kid, dog treats and a cattle vaccine 1 kilometer. It conducted the tests on a farm in Queensland, Australia, to avoid the FAA’s strict guidelines that limit the use of UAVs in the United States.
Google developed its own prototype hybrid drone with fixed wings and four rotors for the tests. It is 1.5 meters wide and can soar as high as 60 meters, far enough up to dodge houses and trees.
Drones have the potential to revolutionize how goods are transported. In typical Google fashion, the company is presenting Project Wing as a way to make the word better, rather than as a tool to boost its bottom line; an early goal of the program was to deliver defibrillators to heart attack victims.
Now Google imagines using the vehicles to deliver medicine and help the environment. UAVs can rise above traffic congestion, make a beeline for remote locations where roads are shoddy or nonexistent, and potentially cut down on pollution by replacing cars or trucks. In emergencies where regular routes are blocked, a drone could quickly ferry water and medicine to people in need.
The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal got an inside look at the previously undisclosed program, which was headed by MIT roboticist Nick Roy and Google[x] lab director Astro Teller.
“What excited us from the beginning was that if the right thing could find anybody just in the moment that they need it, the world might be a radically better place,” Teller told Madrigal.
Actual drone delivery, at least by Google, is still years off. The project’s next goal is to determine if delivery by UAV is even viable. Then it will focus on safety features to handle potential problems like midair collisions and crashes. It also wants to reduce the noise made by its drones and fine tune navigation features to address issues like privacy.
Project Wing is part of Google[x], the company’s lab dedicated to making big technical leaps, like Google Glass and self-driving cars. The department is led by Google co-founder Sergey Brin.
This is not the first time Google has taken to the skies. It purchased a drone company, Titan Aerospace, for a reported $ 60 million in April. It is also working on Project Loon, which is testing the use of high-altitude balloons to bring Internet connections to remote areas. It also works with Makani, a company developing airborne wind turbines that hover between 80 and 350 meters in the air.
The Art of Movement is a monthly show that highlights the most significant innovations in science and technology that are helping shape our modern world.
(CNN) — It’s the Earth-orbiting research lab as big as a five-bedroom house, complete with two bathrooms, a gym and a huge bay window — but how much do we know about what goes on at the International Space Station?
We watched as astronauts played football in space during the World Cup, we listened to Chris Hadfield croon his rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” and we’ve all seen the odd space selfie snapped in zero gravity.
Sure, the lucky few who have gone up to the International Space Station (ISS) seem to be having fun. But there’s also a serious side to the astronauts’ sojourns among the stars that we don’t often hear about.
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“We are bettering the human experience on Earth. Going further, going beyond,” says Stephanie Buskirk Dudley, an ISS payload operations director (POD) who helps coordinate all the research conducted at the facility. “We learn things by doing science that we never even knew we would learn. And it’s actually because we are there.”
If the ISS is a crazy space circus, then Buskirk Dudley is one of the ringmasters leading the ever-changing scientific troupe.
She explains: “We’ve got cameras looking at all over the Earth from the space station that are helping with disaster research and coastal erosion. We have one coming for ocean temperature and warming of the oceans. We are doing research that affects every single person on the planet.”
Science among the stars
It became humanity’s home away from home in October 2000 when the first six astronauts arrived on board and the ISS has been busy ever since. The permanently orbiting facility — which has cost an estimated €100 billion (just under $ 135 billion) according to the European Space Agency — has since been inhabited constantly by astronauts as they work tirelessly to answer some of science’s most intriguing questions.
Often we see some of the more entertaining demonstrations appear on social media. Just last month Canadian astronaut Reid Wiseman uploaded the world’s first #SpaceVine of a spectacular fireball experiment called FLEX-2, which examines how fuel ignites in space. Here on Earth, we thought it looked pretty cool. For scientists, the results could yield new insights into fuel efficiency for engines on Earth and safer future spacecraft production.
Another seemingly quirky experiment involves sending 40 mice up to the station later this year, which will be their home for six months — roughly a quarter of a mouse’s average lifespan. The rodents’ journey to space may look like an odd move for scientists but it is hoped the “moustronauts” will provide valuable biomedical insight into how spaceflight affects the human body.
These are just some of the hundreds of investigations taking place every day aboard the floating outpost by scientists from all around the world. The mammoth task is coordinated by the Payload Operations Integration Center (POIC) at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
Buskirk Dudley is one of 23 certified PODs who plan every minute detail involving space station research. Pioneering research is conducted 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and the key to success is planning, she says. “[It takes] a great team of people doing many different jobs. Everybody is an expert in their own little field. It really takes a whole team with a lot of hard work and planning.
“We’ve got, for instance, ultrasound on board the station and we have perfected training non-medical personnel — astronauts — to perform on themselves and get good results for doctors on Earth. And that is directly applicable to countries in which medicine is not as available as it is in the U.S. and the UK.”
The success of ultrasound experiments by non-medical personnel in space has led scientists to believe that back on Earth, patients could be trained to perform their own ultrasound exams and send the images to doctors in situations where a medical facility is difficult to access.
Buskirk Dudley adds: “Over half of the population of the world, for instance, is a woman. We are doing research on bone health every single day and just that one experiment alone could help over 50% of the world’s population. That is just human research: we’ve got biological research, we’ve got material research, combustion, particle physics — the whole gamut of research we’re doing every single day.
“Today, the crew is upgrading the ‘Robonaut’ (a humanoid robot on the ISS). Our eventual goal is to give him legs and have him do maintenance tasks to free up the crew for more science. When we originally flew him, he was just a torso and arms. And they are doing robot surgery to upgrade all his internal electronics so they can eventually add legs to him.”
‘It’s research for the world’
But Buskirk Dudley is keen to point out that it’s a truly International Space Station, not simply an American enterprise. POIC is one of five international control centers working to synchronize the research at the ISS. Other similar control centers are located in Germany, Japan, Russia and, of course, back at Mission Control at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
“Even though it’s NASA science that we’re doing, the scientists are all over the world. It’s not just science in the U.S.,” says Buskirk Dudley. “The scientists that we work with are not at those control centers. They are in their lab, in their university, in their house perhaps — all over the world. We’ve enabled them to do the science wherever they might be.”
Cheryl Nickerson is a professor at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University. She is one such trailblazing scientist at the forefront of cellular biomechanics, who has achieved remarkable success using the ISS to conduct unique spaceflight research into diseases such as salmonella.
“The microgravity environment of spaceflight offers a unique environment for ground-breaking biotechnology and biomedical innovations and discoveries to advance human health in infectious disease, cancer, aging, bone and muscle-wasting diseases, and advances in tissue engineering,” she says.
“Our research demonstrated that spaceflight increased the virulence of salmonella and globally altered the gene expression of this pathogen in unique ways that are not observed using traditional experimental approaches on Earth.”
And she’s not done there. Later this year, commercial carrier SpaceX will fly the professor’s latest NASA-funded experiment, Micro-5, to the space station, where her team will monitor the salmonella infection process in real-time when the human surrogate host and pathogen are simultaneously exposed to spaceflight.
For Nickerson, the ISS is invaluable for the ongoing pursuit of knowledge.
“If properly implemented, the legacy of an ISS research portfolio consisting of hypothesis-driven, impeccably designed and executed experiments will have a lasting impact on our nation’s scientific capability, economy, and quality of our lives.”
(CNN) — What would you do if you only had one day to live? Probably not spend time downloading and fiddling with a mobile app, we’re guessing.
But a new app, Sobrr, wants you to embrace life in just that way. It lets you create a social network geared toward meeting new people around you, sharing photos and videos of what you’re up to and supporting other users who are also living it up. Or whatever.
Using GPS, Sobrr identifies other users close to you and shows them your posts. They may then “cheer” or comment on those posts and, if both parties agree, they can become “24-hour friends.” There’s an option for users who hit it off to make each other permanent parts of their network.
The kicker is that, anything you do using the app is totally erased after 24 hours. Texts you send to other users disappear after a few seconds and photos or videos you share can go away nearly as quickly.
The app’s co-founder, Bruce Yang, says that in an era when your third-grade teacher can find you on Facebook and anyone you’ve ever met at work wants to network on LinkedIn, people are craving an app like Sobrr. It lets them share without worrying their actions will go down on their permanent record.
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“It promotes sharing only the most refreshing contents and leading a casual relationship with no strings attached,” said Yang, an alum of Fitbit, LinkedIn and Microsoft.
So, you can call Sobrr the anti-Facebook. But if you want to call it Tinder meets Snapchat meets Foursquare, you wouldn’t be that far-off either.
The app’s name reflects the moment the idea first dawned on Yang — the morning after a Las Vegas bachelor party. He says he noticed all of his fellow partyers rushing onto their social media accounts to make sure they hadn’t shared any incriminating info about the previous night.
No, Yang says, his app isn’t just another tool for the hookup culture or a way to send naughty photos without having to answer for them later. But if somebody wants to use it that way? He’s not here to stop them.
“From the party animals that I’ve surveyed, more than half admitted that they want to meet new people in the party, and crave for a one-night stand,” he said.
Sobrr lets users post content “that they might otherwise feel too embarrassed to post on other platforms,” he said. Yang also said it’s important for users “to have their own space and little secrets.”
But he maintains that “naughty stuff” is only a small part of what users have been sharing in the month since the app’s release.
“We understand that ‘hooking up’ is the need of many users on the platform, but we really value more of the casual interaction and conversation on the platform — the foreplay of hooking up,” he said. “People are more attracted by each other based on their life moments or a common interest.”
It’s possible the Silicon Valley startup is onto something. In the past year or so, ephemeral messaging apps such as Snapchat, Confide and Wickr have flourished.
So far, the app’s user base remains relatively small, boasting 10,000 users in the weeks it’s been available exclusively for Apple’s mobile devices. Whether more folks will flock to it to live a more carefree social media life, or merely hide the evidence from their wild nights out, remains to be seen.
(CNN) — Getting a foothold on the property ladder can be a challenge at the best of times, and the prospects for many of us have been battered further by the global recession.
But necessity is the mother of invention and there are routes to home ownership that are not blocked by estate agents and eye-watering fees. For the aspirational, willing to bend their backs and broaden their minds, the materials for a dream house are all around us; in tin cans, tires and scrap metal, ready for construction projects anywhere from city centers to tropical islands at minimal expense.
High concept architects Infiniski of Spain have carved a niche in recycled construction that does not compromise on aesthetics. Their stylish designs are spreading through Europe, Asia and Latin America, with around 85% of the materials pre-used. The basic components are shipping containers supplemented with wooden pallets, which in addition to dramatically reducing cost, also have the benefit of providing a cooling effect in hot climates.
Thousands of square meters of scrap aluminum came together for this towering complex in Colorado, courtesy of Donald ‘Cano’ Espinoza, a Native American veteran of the Vietnam War. Beer cans, hubcaps and window frames provide much of the raw material for four separate buildings, with four floors in the largest. Cano uses the gleaming site as a farm and reportedly does not encourage visitors.
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Launched in Madrid in 2010, the brainchild of German ‘garbage artist’ H.A. Schult — who had also produced a whole army from trash. The hotel was constructed from the contents of landfills and beaches to highlight the environmental impact of waste. The rooms were fully disinfected to allow guests to sleep safely, and the hotel took an international tour to raise awareness.
Don Justo’s Cathedral
An astonishing labour of love, for over 50 years former monk and farmer Justo Gallego has been singlehandedly creating a cathedral close to Madrid, modeled on St Peter’s basilica in Rome. Standing over 40 meters high, complete with cloisters, crypt and grand domes, the epic structure has been built entirely from discarded materials; broken bricks and tiles for the walls and oil drums for the columns. Despite working from 4am each day, 89-year-old Gallego may still require another decade to complete the project.
British artist Richart ‘Rishi’ Sowa built himself one floating island in Mexico, but when that was destroyed by a hurricane, he replaced it with Joyxee. Measuring a spacious 20 meters in diameter, the island floats on 100,000 plastic bottles with cabins of recycled wood. Complete with beaches and waterfall, the island has become a popular tourist attraction as well as an extravagant home for Sowa.
Home sweet homeless
Designer Gregory Kloehn re-purposed a New York dumpster into an apartment, featuring a separated kitchen, bathroom and sun deck. He then expanded the concept, accessorizing waste disposal units further with abandoned washing machine, bicycle tires and scrap wood, for as little as $ 30 a time. Several of these have been made available for the city’s homeless community.
Originating in New Mexico, the Earthship designers are now exporting their sustainable building principles as far afield as Malawi and Haiti. Steel-belted rubber provides the primary building component for the distinctively shaped off-grid structures, with interior walls composed of colored glass from reclaimed bottles. Energy is also harvested from the immediate environment at minimal cost. The company run courses across the world teaching their methods adapted to local resources.
An entirely recycled concept creation in the British city of Brighton draws on an imaginative range of construction materials. Thousands of toothbrushes and video tapes make up the wall insulation, bicycle tires hold the windows in place, with supporting roles for denim jeans and chalk waste. The “house of waste” will be monitored over a trial period to determine whether the design could be reproduced at scale.
A place in the woods
American artist Ethan Hayes-Chute makes found wood his foundation, which have been displayed around the world in a series of inhabitable installations. The designs explore themes of “quiet, solitude and isolation”, leaning to a rough-edged aesthetic that the average hermit could realistically aspire to.
Dutch artist group Refunc made use of locally-sourced car tires for the walls of a chic garden cabin, completed with the windows of a bankrupted local business and recovered steel. The group have become masters of tire re-purposing, having also used them as a building block of furniture and vehicle construction in South Africa.
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(CNN) — If you’re trying to create the perfect 21st-century city, it helps to start with a blank slate. Even if that slate is a sweltering strip of sand.
That’s essentially what the government of Qatar and its developers are trying with Lusail, an ambitious planned city on 28 square miles of waterfront desert along the Persian Gulf. Now under construction, the compact city will contain a commercial district, a lagoon, four islands, two marinas, an upscale shopping mall, a hospital, a zoo, two golf courses and housing for some 250,000 people.
It also will feature an 86,000-seat soccer stadium, surrounded by a moat, that’s expected to host the final game of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Residents and visitors will get around via a light-rail network, a water-taxi system and a network of underground pedestrian tunnels. And all the energy, communications and transportation systems will be run with the help of computers from a single command center, making Lusail a “smart” city that can automatically adapt to changing traffic and weather conditions.
“It’s very much an opportunity to build a vision of the future,” said Barry Hughes, senior vice president at HOK, the global architectural firm that designed Lusail’s Marina Mall shopping center.
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Funded by the oil-rich Qatari government, Lusail can offer innovative solutions to urban problems because it’s being built from the ground up. For example, the city’s gas, electric and water lines are being laid out in an underground network of tunnels, allowing for maintenance work that won’t disrupt buildings, roads or people above.
The city will be fitted with a network of surveillance cameras, monitored around the clock, to keep streets safe.
Buildings will be cooled by solar power and chilled water pumped through a vast network of pipes, which the city’s developers say is cheaper and more energy efficient than electrical air conditioning. Human waste will be disposed not through sewer lines but a more efficient network of pneumatic, or vacuum tubes, not unlike the ones at your bank’s drive-up window.
Some 20,000 workers — a small city unto itself — are building Lusail at an estimated cost of $ 45 billion. Developers hope to complete the city by 2019, three years before Qatar is scheduled to become the first Arab country to host the World Cup.
But all the city’s sparkling features will lose some of their luster if soccer’s big global tournament gets moved to another locale. Some activists have been pressuring FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, to reconsider Qatar for a variety of reasons: allegations of bribery, the country’s condemnation of homosexuality and the blistering summer heat, which can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
There also have been allegations that Qatar has used slave labor — mostly migrant workers from Nepal — to build Lusail’s infrastructure. A report last year by the Guardian, the UK newspaper, said at least 44 construction workers had died of heart attacks and other ailments in a two-month period of 2013 amid grueling conditions.
The state-run Lusail Real Estate Development Company, which is spearheading construction of the city, has said it’s “extremely concerned” about the slave-labor allegations. In a statement on its website, the company added that it’s investigating the charges, which involve one of its subcontractors.
“Lusail City will not tolerate breaches of labor or health and safety law,” the company said in the statement, posted in response to the Guardian article. It declined to respond to CNN’s requests for comment.
In response to criticisms, Qatar in May announced reforms to its labor laws, which had bound workers to a single employer and left them open to exploitation. This appeared to satisfy FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who called the changes “a significant step in the right direction.”
As for the brutal heat, Qatar says its stadiums will contain advanced, open-air cooling systems that will keep World Cup players and fans comfortable.
Meanwhile, Lusail continues to rise slowly in the Qatar desert.
Anchoring the city’s skyline will be four commercial towers, up to 75 stories each. These will be surrounded by five-star hotels, an entertainment district and the Marina Mall, a retail palace measuring more than 600,000 square feet.
Scheduled to open in 2017, the mall is a cluster of five interconnected pods, shaped like giant boulders, with cantilevered white roofs to repel the heat. Its architects want the space to evoke desert canyons. A canal runs through it, and waterfalls splash throughout.
The scope and design of the mall echoes the grand, futuristic vision for Lusail itself.
“It is a very ambitious and optimistic plan,” said Daniel Hajjar, a senior vice president in HOK’s Dubai office.
It’s a plan that has helped land Qatar the World Cup. But Hajjar said Lusail will be completed even if FIFA has a change of heart and finds a new host for the event.
“Qatar has a path … they’re pursuing,” he said. “It won’t affect their decision to move forward and get it built.”