Category: CNN Tech

  • Try these strategies for cutting down on smartphone usage
  • Creating boundaries can help your kids, sleep, health and love life
  • You don’t need to completely unplug to be more present in the moment
  • Try creating house rules like a designated phone-free room

(CNN) — As smartphones bleed into all parts of our life, a common New Year’s resolution for 2015 will be to cut down on phone usage and be more present in the moment.

It’s harder than it sounds.

Know why you look

Some people can easily turn off or ignore their phones. But many have the urge to compulsively “just check,” no matter what conversations and activities are going on around them.

That’s because each notification, like and communication is a stimulant that acts as a pleasure hit to the brain, according to Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, a clinical psychologist and author of “The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age.” It creates an instant sense of excitement and being needed.

The irresistible urge to look at a smartphone screen also can stem from a fear of missing out and compulsive and addictive behaviors.

If you lie and say you’re checking your phone for work when you’re not, or wake up in the middle of the night and have the urge to look at your smartphone, it might be time to cut back.

Agree on ground rules

Phone checking is contagious. One person picks up their device, then everyone else in the room takes it as a cue to check theirs.

At home, this makes it hard for one person to change their behavior without the help of their family. It’s easy to justify scanning Twitter when everyone else around you has already tuned out.

Come up with an understanding of how you’re allowed to use technology at home. Set aside specific times for smartphones, such as everyone can check for 15 minutes after dinner. Create screen-free zones in your home, by designating rooms where nobody is allowed to check their smartphones or tablets.

Start with the bedroom, where fewer glowing screens can improve your sleep and maybe your love life. Buy an old-fashioned alarm clock and leave the phone in another room, or just have a ban on phones for one hour before bed.

Listen to your kids

Parents are increasingly absorbed in their smartphones while with their kids, whether it’s at the playground, in a restaurant or at home. Steiner-Adair says she often sees children who are frustrated and fatigued from trying to get their parents’ attention.

“At a certain point, children feel like being at the park and pushing me on the swing must not be that much fun to you because you’re talking to somebody else,” she said.

Look for cues from kids that you’re too absorbed in your devices. Younger children might throw away or hide a phone, or throw tantrums to get attention. Older kids might tell you directly or withdraw into their own devices.

There is the argument that smartphones allow us to be more flexible about when and where we work, allowing for more time physically spend with families. But always being just semi-present can have a negative impact on kids.

“Kids often feel like you’re not really here, you’re not paying attention,” says Steiner-Adair.

Replace the phone time with something real

Levi Felix is the founder of Digital Detox, which arranges retreats where people pay to hand over their screens and spend time in nature, talking face-to-face with people, and reconnecting with the real world.

He suggests replacing the times you’re checking your phone with real-world experiences. Take a step back and ask yourself why you reach for your phone. Are you looking for a connection or are in search of a community? Does the constant archiving of your life stem out of a fear of dying? Or is it just boredom?

Make a list of things you want to accomplish and keep that piece of paper on you. When you feel the urge to check creeping in, take out the paper instead of your phone.

Instead of automatically Instagraming or tweeting about a good experience, try something more analog.

“Document it in different ways that ingrain you more in the experience, like drawing or writing about it,” said Felix.

Use technology to limit technology

Many phones already have built-in tools that can help you create boundaries.

First, turn off notifications. Use filters to make any necessary exemptions so that your boss or grandmother can always get through. Use away messages to let people know you won’t be responding to their emails. Set expectations about when you are working and stick to them.

Parental controls are a great way to self-discipline. Set timers for yourself, turn off access to distracting apps during certain hours.

There’s even an app called Moment for tracking your phone usage like calories. Perhaps a little reality check about how much you pick up your device will help motivate you to put it away.

Learn to be bored and uncomfortable

One casualty of smartphones is quiet time. The brain needs a break from constant input and stimulation to rest.

“If you feel anxious or bored and you turn to a screen every time you’ve got free time, that’s a sign you’ve lost some essential ways of being with yourself,” said Steiner-Adair.

Devices can also be a quick escape from an awkward in a social situation or a way to avoid interacting with someone when you’re mad or upset.

Instead of disappearing in a device, force yourself to spend time in the messy, mind-numbingly dull, or unpleasant real-world situations around you. It might give you something good to tweet about.




CNN.com – Technology

The RoboSimian disaster-response robot has four limbs, seven cameras and a LiDAR system.
The RoboSimian disaster-response robot has four limbs, seven cameras and a LiDAR system.

  • NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has designed the ape-like robot RoboSimian
  • The disaster-response robot is competing in the DARPA Robotics Challenge finals
  • RoboSimian has four limbs, no head and multiple cameras

(CNN) — When we imagine the robots of the future, they often look and move like humans, standing up on two legs and using a pair of arms to grab and move objects. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is working on a different kind of robot for disaster response that’s designed to move like an ape.

Headless but covered with seven cameras that act as “eyes,” the RobotSimian has four identical limbs that do double duty as arms and legs. Together, they ably move the robot across rough terrain and rubble but can also pick up and manipulate objects. It has wheels it can coast on if the surface is smooth enough.

The RoboSimian is JPL’s final entry into the DARPA Robotics Challenge, a 27-month-long competition among some of the world’s top robotic talent to create an emergency response robot. In situations such as a nuclear disaster, one of these robots could go into environments too dangerous for human rescue workers and execute simple tasks such as lifting debris off survivors or turning off a valve.

In June, RoboSimian and up to 18 other finalists will have to make their way through an obstacle course that simulates eight common scenarios. Each robot will attempt to drive a car, move across rubble, use a tool and climb stairs, all without a human controlling it. DARPA says the final competitors should be as competent as a 2-year-old child. The winning team will receive a $ 2 million prize.

JPL used leftover parts from RoboSimian to create another robot called Surrogate. The more traditional upright robot has a flexible spine, head and two arms. While better at manipulating objects, Surrogate ran on tracks and wasn’t as adept at traversing the complicated terrain that is common in a disaster. After considering both candidates, the team decided to take RoboSimian to the finals.

One trade-off is that RoboSiman is slower than many other competitors. JPL’s team is working with the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Caltech to increase the robot’s walking speed.

“It is intentionally the tortoise relative to the other hares in the competition. We feel that a very stable and deliberate approach suites our technical strengths and provides a model for one vital element of the ‘ecosystem’ of robots that we expect to be deployed to disaster scenarios in the future,” said JPL’s Brett Kennedy, who is supervisor of the Robotic Vehicles and Manipulators Group.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is most known for designing robotics for space exploration, such as the Mars rovers. But the DARPA competition was an opportunity for the JPL group to take its existing robotics research and compare approaches directly to other talented teams.

NASA also has a long history of taking technology developed for space exploration and using it here on Earth.

RoboSimian software was influenced by programs used to control the Mars rovers. In both cases, the system is designed to let the robots work as autonomously as possible when communication with a human operator is dropped. Spotty communications are common in disaster scenarios (and on Mars).

The team has thought hard about all aspects of RoboSimian’s design, even making sure it has the right look.

“We included industrial designers in the team in an effort to create a robot that looked professional rather than either threatening or overly cute,” said Kennedy. “Basically, we wanted the perceptual equivalent of a St. Bernard.”

While JPL is focused on perfecting the ape-like design for Earth-bound applications for now, this is just one stop in the circular life of NASA technology.

“We intend to spin the technologies developed for the terrestrial RoboSimian back out to applications in space,” said Kennedy.

“These tasks include assembly and maintenance of orbital structures; exploration of low-gravity bodies like asteroids, comets, and moons; exploration of caves and cliffs on Mars or our moon; and even preconstruction of habitats wherever humans care to venture in the solar system.”




CNN.com – Technology

This artist's impression shows what NASA's HAVOC plan for a human colony on Venus would look like over the clouds of the planet.This artist’s impression shows what NASA’s HAVOC plan for a human colony on Venus would look like over the clouds of the planet.
Venus has a surface temperature hot enough to melt lead and its atmospheric pressure is the equivalent of diving a mile underwater. This artist's impression shows a lighting storm seen from the planet's atmosphere.Venus has a surface temperature hot enough to melt lead and its atmospheric pressure is the equivalent of diving a mile underwater. This artist’s impression shows a lighting storm seen from the planet’s atmosphere.
The Galileo spacecraft took this picture of cloudy Venus. The planet is similar to Earth in size and mass - and so is sometimes referred to as Earth's sister planet - but it has a quite different climate. The Galileo spacecraft took this picture of cloudy Venus. The planet is similar to Earth in size and mass – and so is sometimes referred to as Earth’s sister planet – but it has a quite different climate.
The planet is constantly shrouded in thick clouds and a runaway greenhouse effect is ongoing.The planet is constantly shrouded in thick clouds and a runaway greenhouse effect is ongoing.
An ultraviolet image taken from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft shows Venus at the top left of the sun.An ultraviolet image taken from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft shows Venus at the top left of the sun.
Venus transiting in front of the Sun.Venus transiting in front of the Sun.
The blue color of this image is used to show contrasts in cloud patterns. This image was taken with a violet filter. The blue color of this image is used to show contrasts in cloud patterns. This image was taken with a violet filter.
The Magellan probe orbited Venus from 1990 to 1994 and peered through the clouds: this image was created by emitting and re-detecting cloud-penetrating radar.The Magellan probe orbited Venus from 1990 to 1994 and peered through the clouds: this image was created by emitting and re-detecting cloud-penetrating radar.
Surface views of Venus. The center image is centered at the north pole. The other four are centered around the equator. Surface views of Venus. The center image is centered at the north pole. The other four are centered around the equator.
This image is part of the first color panoramic view from Venus. A TV camera on the Soviet Venera 13 lander that parachuted to the surface in 1982 transmitted it.This image is part of the first color panoramic view from Venus. A TV camera on the Soviet Venera 13 lander that parachuted to the surface in 1982 transmitted it.

  • NASA is studying the possibility of sending a manned mission into the relatively benign atmosphere of Venus
  • The concept involves sending an aeroshell that would contain a folded helium airship in the planet’s atmosphere
  • At 30 miles above the planet’s surface, the gravity, atmosphere and radiation protection is similar to that of Earth
  • The space agency says the mission could involve creating a floating blimp city for a permanent manned presence

Editor’s note: Tomorrow Transformed explores innovative approaches and opportunities available in business and society through technology.

(CNN) — Imagine a blimp city floating 30 miles above the scorching surface of Venus — a home for a team of astronauts studying one of the solar system’s most inhospitable planets.

NASA is currently doing just that; floating a concept that could one day see a 30-day manned mission to Earth’s closest planetary neighbor.

Eventually, the mission could involve a permanent human presence suspended above the planet.

Deep heat

NASA’s floating ‘habitat’ above Venus?

Also known as the morning star, and named after the goddess of love and beauty because it shone the brightest of the five planets known to ancient astronomers, Venus is a hot, sulphurous, hellish place whose surface has more volcanoes than any other planet in the solar system.

With a mean temperature of 462 degrees Celsius (863 degrees Fahrenheit), an atmospheric pressure 92 times greater than Earth’s and a cloud layer of sulphuric acid, even probes to Venus have lasted little more than two hours. Its surface is hot enough to melt lead and its atmospheric pressure is the equivalent of diving a mile underwater.

But above this cauldron of carbon dioxide at an altitude of 50km (30 miles) scientists say the conditions are as close to Earth’s as you’ll find anywhere in the solar system.

The gravity at this altitude is only slightly lower than that of Earth, its atmospheric pressure is similar and the aerospace provides enough protection from solar radiation to make it no more dangerous than taking a trip to Canada.

Creating HAVOC

Known at NASA as HAVOC – High Altitude Venus Operational Concept – engineers and scientists at the Systems Analysis and Concepts Directorate at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, have been working on a preliminary feasibility study on how robots and humans could make a Venus mission a reality.

“The atmosphere of Venus is an exciting destination for both further scientific study and future human exploration,” said aerospace engineer Christopher A. Jones of the Space Mission Analysis Branch.

“One concept is a lighter-than-air vehicle that could carry either a host of instruments and probes, or a habitat and ascent vehicle for a crew of two astronauts to explore Venus for up to a month.”

He said the study showed the mission would require less time to complete than crewed missions to other planets and could even be a practice run for a Mars mission.

Closer to Earth

Venus has the advantage of being much closer to Earth. Its minimum distance to Earth is 38 million kilometers, compared with 54.6 million to Mars.

“The kind of multi-decade mission that we believe could succeed would be an evolutionary program for the exploration of Venus, with focus on the mission architecture and vehicle concept for a 30-day crewed mission into Venus’s atmosphere,” he said.

At the heart of the concept is the logistically difficult task of sending a spacecraft into the atmosphere of Venus without landing it.

The HAVOC model involves placing the astronauts inside an ‘aeroshell’ that would enter the atmosphere at 4,500 miles per hour.

Decelerating during its descent to just 450 meters per second and then deploying a parachute, the shell would fall away to reveal a folded airship. Robotic arms would unfurl the blimp which would be inflated with helium to allow the airship to float 30 miles above the planet’s fiery surface.

Jones said the key technical challenges for the mission include performing the “aerocapture” maneuvers at Venus and Earth (the process of entering the orbit of both planets), inserting and inflating the airships, and protecting the solar panels and structure from the sulphuric acid in the atmosphere.

“With advances in technology and further refinement of the concept, missions to the Venusian atmosphere can expand humanity’s future in space,” he said.

Permanent mission

Ultimately, NASA could seek a permanent manned presence in Venus’s atmosphere.

With advances in technology and further refinement of the concept, missions to the Venusian atmosphere can expand humanity’s future in space
Christopher A. Jones

Suspended in a gondola beneath the airships, astronauts would not have to contend with the physical challenges of zero gravity, where weightlessness causes muscles to wither and bones to demineralize.

And at a mere 167 degrees Fahrenheit (75 degrees Celsius) — just 30 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth — even current technology has the ability to contend with everything that Venus could throw at the mission.

Even so, HAVOC is envisioned as a multi-phase campaign and robotic missions would have to be sent to test technologies and better understand the atmosphere.

While NASA has no current plans to fund the concept, the Langley-based team continues its work with the hope the space agency could make the plan come to fruition within several decades.

“Eventually, a short duration human mission would allow us to gain experience having humans live at another world, with the hope that it would someday be possible to live in the atmosphere permanently,” Jones said.

Read more from Tomorrow Transformed:

Wind farms of the future go underwater

Is the Darknet a glimpse into the web of the future?

China’s impact on the future of e-commerce




CNN.com – Technology

Snapscan is a mobile payments system that works using QR codes. The South Africa based startup won MTN App of the Year in 2013 and used the prize money to set up all of Cape Town's Big Issue magazine vendors with "snapcodes" so that they can accept payments via the app. Snapscan is a mobile payments system that works using QR codes. The South Africa based startup won MTN App of the Year in 2013 and used the prize money to set up all of Cape Town’s Big Issue magazine vendors with “snapcodes” so that they can accept payments via the app.
Riders from Sendy's fleet of bike couriers. The Kenya-based startup offers an Uber-style motorbike delivery service that gives customers the ability to track where their delivery is in real time via a phone app.Riders from Sendy’s fleet of bike couriers. The Kenya-based startup offers an Uber-style motorbike delivery service that gives customers the ability to track where their delivery is in real time via a phone app.
A screen grab from the Sendy app shows what the courier tracking system looks like.

A screen grab from the Sendy app shows what the courier tracking system looks like.

Gamsole's Traffic Jam game for Windows phones. The Nigerian startup is the poster child for African game developers -- their games have been downloaded nine million times globally since launch.

Gamsole’s Traffic Jam game for Windows phones. The Nigerian startup is the poster child for African game developers — their games have been downloaded nine million times globally since launch.

Gamsole founder Abiola Olaniran. The Nigeria-based game developer recently received an innovation grant from Microsoft and launched a talent competition for illustrators and designers.Gamsole founder Abiola Olaniran. The Nigeria-based game developer recently received an innovation grant from Microsoft and launched a talent competition for illustrators and designers.
Nigeria-based startup Delivery Science is all about using data and analytics to help Africa's nascent e-commerce sector manage inventory and delivery more efficiently.Nigeria-based startup Delivery Science is all about using data and analytics to help Africa’s nascent e-commerce sector manage inventory and delivery more efficiently.
Kenya-based Angani hopes to grab a chunk of the burgeoning cloud-computing market in Kenya -- and in future across East Africa -- by offering an affordable "pay-as-you-go" service. Pictured are Angani co-founder Phares Kariuki (front) and Chief Technical Officer Brian Muita in the company's data center.Kenya-based Angani hopes to grab a chunk of the burgeoning cloud-computing market in Kenya — and in future across East Africa — by offering an affordable “pay-as-you-go” service. Pictured are Angani co-founder Phares Kariuki (front) and Chief Technical Officer Brian Muita in the company’s data center.
South African businessman and Wyzetalk co-founder Gys Kappers. Wyzetalk is an invite-only social platform for business, which allows workers to collaborate more efficiently. It is currently used by companies in industries across travel and tourism, food and drink and technology. South African businessman and Wyzetalk co-founder Gys Kappers. Wyzetalk is an invite-only social platform for business, which allows workers to collaborate more efficiently. It is currently used by companies in industries across travel and tourism, food and drink and technology.
BRCK is a black box that contains a self-powered, mobile WiFi device. Its creators describe it as "a backup generator for the internet" and say they designed it with the aim of solving Africa's connectivity issues.BRCK is a black box that contains a self-powered, mobile WiFi device. Its creators describe it as “a backup generator for the internet” and say they designed it with the aim of solving Africa’s connectivity issues.
The huge potential impact and scale of BRCK powered it to a $  1.2 million seed funding round, after raising $  172,000 in a Kickstarter campaign in 2013.The huge potential impact and scale of BRCK powered it to a $ 1.2 million seed funding round, after raising $ 172,000 in a Kickstarter campaign in 2013.

  • This year, African entrepreneurs built businesses that can solve the continent’s problems
  • Founder of African tech blog Techloy.com, Loy Okezie names his 10 top startups of 2014
  • List includes, Uber-style motorbike delivery, pay-as-you-go cloud computing
  • Other big hitters: Snapscan mobile payments, Gamsole game developers

Editor’s note: Nigerian new media entrepreneur Loy Okezie is the Founder and Chief Editorial Officer of Techloy.com, a leading source of technology news, opinion and analysis.

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN) — 2014 has been another amazing year for startups in Africa.

More and more entrepreneurs turned their attention to building businesses that can solve the continent’s problems and provide services it has long awaited.

Enterprises emerged to fix problems in payments, traffic and talent, while more entrepreneurs raised more money from investors than ever before.

Here, in no particular order are 10 of the most exciting young companies of the year.

(Irofit’s) offering — mobile payments over mobile networks — is unique. It’s something that hasn’t been done before.

The list includes the startups I consider to have the most potential, to be the most viable — not necessarily the most popular or hyped.

Sendy

Where: Kenya

In a nutshell: Uber-style motorbike delivery service.

What’s unique: Africa has delivery services and courier services but never before Uber-style so you can track exactly where the deliver rider is via your phone app.

Sending packages is usually expensive and difficult in big, congested African cities like Nairobi and Lagos. Many people use motorbikes to get to work to avoid getting stuck in traffic, so using motorbikes for deliveries is a smart, cheap, local solution.

Future moves: Sendy is in a very strong position because e-commerce is growing and at some point those kinds of sites could integrate with companies like Sendy. It could also potentially be acquired by a foreign company, perhaps Amazon, if they decide to expand to Kenya or South Africa and want to invest in a delivery service that understands the terrain.

Angani

Where: Kenya, East Africa region

In a nutshell: Pay-as-you-go cloud computing

What’s unique: This is nothing new internationally, but the cloud computing space in Kenya is nascent. Angani are coming into the market trying to make prices affordable. What makes it cool is that you pay for what you use. You choose a plan and go.

Future moves: It may be difficult for Angani to scale in a short time, given that all of their competitors in this new and growing market are established players. It remains to be seen whether their tactic of driving competition with low prices will attract enough customers.

Irofit

Where: Nigeria

In a nutshell: Mobile payments without internet

(Gamsole is) celebrated as the biggest success story of any African game developers.

What’s unique: Their offering — mobile payments over mobile networks — is unique. It’s something that hasn’t been done before. Making mobile payments over the internet can often be an issue in Africa, so Irofit are leveraging more widespread mobile networks.

Future moves: They launched very recently, and no one has used the app yet. But Irofit raised $ 600,000 in just six months earlier this year, showing that there are big players who think the startup has real potential.

Wyzetalk

Where: South Africa

In a nutshell: Invite-only social platform for business

What’s unique: A business platform for companies to help their employees to more effectively communicate. Staff can use the platform to collaborate on projects, set up meetings, instant message, share files and more.

Future moves: Wyzetalk has been around since 2011, but they have built the company steadily, winning round after round of funding, which shows they must be doing something right. It is currently used by companies from a variety of industries including travel and tourism, tech and food and drink. They have a very solid model and are likely to keep growing.

Gamsole

Where: Nigeria, Global

In a nutshell: Gaming company

What’s unique: Celebrated as the biggest success story of any African game developers, this startup has been developing games in the Windows phone market for a couple of years. Gamsole was incubated in the 88mph accelerator and since then their games have seen 9 million downloads globally.

Future moves: Gamsole recently received an innovation grant from Microsoft and are looking for new talent with a recently launched competition for illustrators and designers that offers $ 4,000 to the winner. They are also yet to launch a global smash hit game.

Snapscan

Where: South Africa

In a nutshell: Make payments via your mobile phone

This product (BRCK) is quite ingenious.

What’s unique: A service, not dissimilar to Apple Pay, which allows people to make payments with their mobile phone by simply taking a photo of a QR code and punching in the amount they want to pay.

Future moves: Less than a year after launch, the system was being used by 12,000 small businesses. There is huge potential for this service: There is an appetite for convenience in payments and there is an opportunity to leverage on Africa being mobile first. They have the potential to expand into other markets and maybe even compete with Apple Pay and Google Wallet.

Delivery Science

Where: Nigeria

In a nutshell: Delivering smarter using big data

What’s unique: This startup is all about using big data and analytics to help companies in Africa’s emerging e-commerce sector manage inventory and deliver more efficiently. Delivery Science offer to completely manage a company’s logistics from what’s in the warehouse to innovative ideas like verification codes for deliveries to ensure the right person gets a package.

Future moves: The company was started this year by a team who have successfully launched other startups and who are knowledgeable in delivery and logistics. They have the right idea and the knowledge to serve the market in Nigeria.

Paysail

Where: Ghana

In a nutshell: Out-of-the-box payroll management application.

What’s unique: Right now, many companies in Ghana still use spreadsheets to organize employee pay. Paysail offers an all-in-one service that comes with Ghanian tax codes programmed in to make company accountants’ jobs easier.

Future moves: It’s a new idea. It’s different. Most of the companies — like this one — that are incubated in the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology in Ghana try to reach other markets. Right now, no one is doing anything like this in next-door Nigeria, which means the Paysail application has opportunity to offer an incredible change.

Andela

Where: Nigeria, pan-Africa

In a nutshell: Training graduates as developers, matching them with employers

What’s unique: Andela is focused on helping employers from all over the world find talent from Africa. They take it a step further by identifying raw talent and paying them to learn to become developers, then matching them with global employers looking for talent. The company currently has a local office in Nigeria and a company in the United States.

Future moves: This company’s approach is very smart. In Africa there is a desperate need for talent — we don’t have enough developers, let alone quality developers, because universities don’t qualify graduates in technologies for the future. There is also a huge market globally, so this company has a massive opportunity.

BRCK

Where: Kenya, all of Africa.

In a nutshell: A self-powered, mobile WiFi device.

What’s unique: BRCK is a blackbox described by its makers as “a backup generator for the internet,” with the aim of solving Africa’s connectivity issues. In Africa, there are power outages on a daily basis so getting online and staying online anywhere and anytime in these parts as well as other parts of the world requires a device that can seamlessly switch between multiple networks to provide access, even in remote areas. That’s where BRCK comes in.

Future moves: This product is quite ingenious. The potential impact and scale of this company is the reason it closed a $ 1.2 million seed funding round, after initially raising $ 172,000 in a Kickstarter campaign last year. BRCK has the potential to provide internet connectivity to rural areas across the world, where Internet access can be unstable.




CNN.com – Technology

A working prototype of Google's self-driving car has cameras and sensors, but no permanent driver controls.
A working prototype of Google’s self-driving car has cameras and sensors, but no permanent driver controls.

  • Google debuted its new, fully functioning driverless car prototype
  • The round white car still includes temporary manual controls for a back-up driver
  • While cute, the vehicle still has many serious issues to address before it can hit public roads

(CNN) — Google’s new driverless-car prototype is downright hugable.

The company unveiled its latest self-driving vehicle on Monday, and it looks like a cartoon koala crossed with a smart car wearing a fez.

Unlike the mock-up car Google first shared in May, this version is fully functional. It even has real headlights. The round, white and gray car is designed without permanent driving tools like a gas pedal or wheel. However, to comply with California state law, there are still removable, temporary controls for the required “safety driver” — a real person who needs to be in the car and ready to take over in an emergency. The goal is to eventually remove any interior controls so that passengers can take a nap or knit while the car does all the work.

Google’s self-driving car team will continue to test the vehicle on a private track in California, where it works its way around traffic lights and mock construction zones. Google has said it’s interested in launching a pilot program for the cars in the coming years.

When the tech company first started experimenting with self-driving technology, it modified existing cars, like a Toyota, Audi and Lexus, by adding multiple cameras and sensors and an onboard computer. Now Google has moved on to making its own car from scratch. The car’s dome-like shape is optimal for giving sensors the widest field of view.

A car could help put people’s minds at ease about the controversial technology. Before self-driving cars can start ferrying us to work, companies need figure out ethical issues (does it hit a deer or crash into the median?), improve basic driving functions, and work with governments on legislation to allow driverless cars on all roads.

Google is just one of many companies developing driverless car technology. Universities and major auto manufacturers such as BMW and Mercedes are working on similar vehicles. Google hopes to have its version on the road by the end of the decade.




CNN.com – Technology

Sarah Koenig hosts the popular podcast
Sarah Koenig hosts the popular podcast “Serial,” which in its first season covered a 1999 murder.

  • The podcast “Serial” ends Thursday
  • It’s drawn millions of viewers in its first season
  • Here’s a look at the podcast by the numbers

(CNN) — The podcast “Serial” is wrapping up its first season on Thursday as a bona fide success.

Since its debut in the fall, the podcast has captured the attention of millions of listeners as it unraveled the story of a young woman’s murder in Baltimore in 1999. According to CNN Money, it’s become so popular that it’s even giving other podcasts a boost.

Just how much of an impact has “Serial” had on popular culture? Let’s take a look at the numbers:

12 – Weekly episodes in Season 1 of “Serial.”

January 13, 1999 – The date of Baltimore, Maryland, area high school student Hae Min Lee’s murder.

2 – Number of trials. The first ended in a mistrial. The second ended in Adnan Syed’s conviction in 2000.

Life plus 30 years – Syed’s sentence.

4 – Number of potential suspects discussed by the podcast.

20 – Percentage of respondents to Buzzfeed’s unscientific “Definitive ‘Serial’ Obsessive Poll” who feel unsure as to whether Syed is guilty or not.

7 – Percent who think he is guilty.

21 minutes – Time frame during which the prosecutors alleged Syed was able to drive from Woodlawn High School to the neighborhood Best Buy, where Hae was strangled. During episode five, host Sarah Koenig and her producer, Dana, attempt to recreate the drive in that time, and make it.

5 million – “Serial” is the fastest podcast ever to reach 5 million downloads, according to Apple.

1.26 million – The average number of times each episode of “Serial” has been downloaded.

1 – Podcasts created to discuss the “Serial” podcast: Slate.com has the “Slate Serial Spoiler Special.”

39 million – Americans who have listened to a podcast in the past month, from a report by Edison Research.

About 28,000 – Members of a subreddit on Reddit.com for talking about the case.

$ 25,000 – Amount some subredditors want to raise for a scholarship fund in Hae Min Lee’s name.

8 – Students from the Innocence Project Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law who are helping with the podcast by researching and investigating leads.

At least 1,275 – Retweets of a joke made by Best Buy on Twitter about “Serial.” “We have everything you need – Unless you need a payphone.” This references a lengthy discussion of testimony about calls purportedly made from a pay phone in the parking lot of the Best Buy store. However, the existence of the pay phone back in 1999 is disputed. The tweet was later deleted and replaced with an apology from Best Buy.




CNN.com – Technology

The Kepler space observatory is the first NASA mission capable of finding Earth-size planets in or near the habitable zones of stars. Launched in 2009, Kepler has been detecting planets and planet candidates with a wide range of sizes and orbital distances. Yes, we are finding new planets.The Kepler space observatory is the first NASA mission capable of finding Earth-size planets in or near the habitable zones of stars. Launched in 2009, Kepler has been detecting planets and planet candidates with a wide range of sizes and orbital distances. Yes, we are finding new planets.
No probe has ever gone to Pluto, but New Horizons aims to change that. The craft, launched in 2006, is set to arrive at the solar system's tiny former planet in June 2015. The image here depicts New Horizons sailing past Jupiter.No probe has ever gone to Pluto, but New Horizons aims to change that. The craft, launched in 2006, is set to arrive at the solar system’s tiny former planet in June 2015. The image here depicts New Horizons sailing past Jupiter.
Dawn is designed to orbit the protoplanet Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres -- the two most massive bodies in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The mission, launched in 2007, will provide scientists with new knowledge of how the solar system formed and evolved. Dawn arrived at Vesta in 2011 and will orbit Ceres in March.Dawn is designed to orbit the protoplanet Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres — the two most massive bodies in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The mission, launched in 2007, will provide scientists with new knowledge of how the solar system formed and evolved. Dawn arrived at Vesta in 2011 and will orbit Ceres in March.
This image shows the Curiosity Mars rover doing a test drill on a rock dubbed "Bonanza King" to see if it would be a good place to dig deeper and to take a sample. Curiosity is the most advanced rover ever built, and is seeking to see if Mars is, or ever was, habitable for life forms.This image shows the Curiosity Mars rover doing a test drill on a rock dubbed “Bonanza King” to see if it would be a good place to dig deeper and to take a sample. Curiosity is the most advanced rover ever built, and is seeking to see if Mars is, or ever was, habitable for life forms.
This image was taken on March 10, 2013, by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Launched in 1997, the probe is orbiting Saturn and its numerous moons. Cassini has provided new understanding, not to mention breathtaking photos, of that corner of the solar system.This image was taken on March 10, 2013, by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Launched in 1997, the probe is orbiting Saturn and its numerous moons. Cassini has provided new understanding, not to mention breathtaking photos, of that corner of the solar system.
NEOWISE may be making us safer. The mission uses a space telescope to hunt for asteroids and comets, including those that could pose a threat to Earth. During its planned three-year survey -- through 2016 -- NEOWISE will rapidly identify and characterize near-Earth objects, gathering data on their size and other measurements.NEOWISE may be making us safer. The mission uses a space telescope to hunt for asteroids and comets, including those that could pose a threat to Earth. During its planned three-year survey — through 2016 — NEOWISE will rapidly identify and characterize near-Earth objects, gathering data on their size and other measurements.
An artist's rendering of the Deep Impact flyby spacecraft releasing its impactor, 24 hours before the impact event, in July 2005. Pictured from left to right are comet Tempel 1, the impactor and the flyby spacecraft. The impactor was a 370-kilogram mass with an onboard guidance system. The flyby spacecraft included a solar panel, a high-gain antenna, a debris shield and instruments for high- and medium-resolution imaging, infrared spectroscopy and optical navigation (yellow box and cylinder, lower left).An artist’s rendering of the Deep Impact flyby spacecraft releasing its impactor, 24 hours before the impact event, in July 2005. Pictured from left to right are comet Tempel 1, the impactor and the flyby spacecraft. The impactor was a 370-kilogram mass with an onboard guidance system. The flyby spacecraft included a solar panel, a high-gain antenna, a debris shield and instruments for high- and medium-resolution imaging, infrared spectroscopy and optical navigation (yellow box and cylinder, lower left).
The Stardust spacecraft, shown in an artist's rendering, was launched on February 7, 1999, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a Delta II rocket. The primary goal of Stardust was to collect dust and carbon-based samples during its closest encounter with Comet Wild 2 (pronounced "Vilt 2," named after its Swiss discoverer).The Stardust spacecraft, shown in an artist’s rendering, was launched on February 7, 1999, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a Delta II rocket. The primary goal of Stardust was to collect dust and carbon-based samples during its closest encounter with Comet Wild 2 (pronounced “Vilt 2,” named after its Swiss discoverer).
The Surveyor series of missions was the first U.S. effort to make a soft landing on the Moon. The missions tested the high-energy Atlas/Centaur rocket and new spacecraft design; two-way communications to control spacecraft activities from the ground; and a groundbreaking, elegant landing method, with three steerable rocket engines controlled by onboard radar.The Surveyor series of missions was the first U.S. effort to make a soft landing on the Moon. The missions tested the high-energy Atlas/Centaur rocket and new spacecraft design; two-way communications to control spacecraft activities from the ground; and a groundbreaking, elegant landing method, with three steerable rocket engines controlled by onboard radar.
A model of Explorer 1, held by JPL's Director William Pickering, scientist James Van Allen and rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun (from left to right). The team was gathered at a news conference at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington to announce the satellite's successful launch. America's first satellite had been launched a few hours before, on January 31, 1958.A model of Explorer 1, held by JPL’s Director William Pickering, scientist James Van Allen and rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun (from left to right). The team was gathered at a news conference at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington to announce the satellite’s successful launch. America’s first satellite had been launched a few hours before, on January 31, 1958.
Of all the NASA missions, none has visited as many planets, rings and moons as the twin Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft, which were launched in 1977. Voyager 1, now more than twice as distant as Pluto, is farther from Earth than any other object made by humans.Of all the NASA missions, none has visited as many planets, rings and moons as the twin Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft, which were launched in 1977. Voyager 1, now more than twice as distant as Pluto, is farther from Earth than any other object made by humans.

  • NASA spacecraft, once thought junk, gets new life
  • Kepler has now found another exoplanet — a planet outside our solar system
  • New planet is 2.5 times the diameter of Earth, orbits star 180 light-years away

(CNN) — Kepler is still on the beat.

The NASA spacecraft, which is designed to seek out other worlds but hit a snag when parts failed last year, found another planet thanks to some nifty repurposing by the space agency and its partners, NASA confirmed Thursday.

The recently found world is named HIP 116454b and has a diameter 2.5 times the size of Earth’s, said NASA in a press release. That would make it smaller than Neptune, the next-largest planet in our solar system.

HIP 116454b orbits its star, which is in the direction of the constellation Pisces, in nine days and is too close to support life as we know it, the agency added. It’s 180 light-years away.

11 cool space missions you should know about

But it adds another tidbit to our knowledge of the universe — something scientists didn’t think was possible when a part of the craft broke down last year.

“Last summer, the possibility of a scientifically productive mission for Kepler after its reaction wheel failure in its extended mission was not part of the conversation,” said Paul Hertz, NASA’s astrophysics division director, in a statement.

Mars has gas, and Curiosity finds organic matter

But scientists and engineers came up with a new strategy that uses pressure from sunlight to take the place of the failed reaction wheel, which helps point the spacecraft in the right direction. Kepler is now free to continue its mission, called K2 by NASA.

“K2 is uniquely positioned to dramatically refine our understanding of these alien worlds and further define the boundary between rocky worlds like Earth and ice giants like Neptune,” said Kepler/K2 project scientist Steve Howell in NASA’s press release.

Let the hunt continue.

Space-based solar power: Energy of the future?




CNN.com – Technology

A new software tool called Kinematics makes it easy to turn plastic into posh duds.A new software tool called Kinematics makes it easy to turn plastic into posh duds.
Boston-based design studio Nervous System, led by Jessica Rosenkrantz and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg developed Kinematics after previously working on a similar project for Google.Boston-based design studio Nervous System, led by Jessica Rosenkrantz and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg developed Kinematics after previously working on a similar project for Google.
This little black dress is made from tiny, interlocking bricks of plastic.This little black dress is made from tiny, interlocking bricks of plastic.
"Frankly, when you work on something complex like this in a completely digital world for so long, the biggest surprise is that it actually works as intended, from the compressing to the fit, draping, and movement," says Rosenkrantz.“Frankly, when you work on something complex like this in a completely digital world for so long, the biggest surprise is that it actually works as intended, from the compressing to the fit, draping, and movement,” says Rosenkrantz.
An X-Ray of the chain mail like material reveals the hidden hinges.An X-Ray of the chain mail like material reveals the hidden hinges.
The printing process takes over two days and results in a boulder-sized block of dusty plastic.The printing process takes over two days and results in a boulder-sized block of dusty plastic.
Technicians excavate the dress hidden in the mass of plastic.Technicians excavate the dress hidden in the mass of plastic.
At $  3,000 a pop, don't expect to see Kinematics clothing on bargain racks, but it is making a mark on fashion and tech.At $ 3,000 a pop, don’t expect to see Kinematics clothing on bargain racks, but it is making a mark on fashion and tech.

  • A design studio has created a 3D printed dress that sways like real fabric
  • The software behind the process combines origami techniques with 3D printing
  • The company originally developed the concept as part of a Google project
  • At $ 3,000 a pop, it isn’t quite ready for the retail market yet

Editor’s note: Tomorrow Transformed explores innovative approaches and opportunities available in business and society through technology.

(WIRED) — The design studio Nervous System has created a novel process that allows a 3-D printed dress to move and sway like real fabric. The bespoke software behind it, called Kinematics, combines origami techniques with novel approaches to 3-D printing, pushing the technology’s limits.

Instead of pinning fabric to a dress form, a Kinematics garment starts as a 3-D model in a CAD program. Kinematics breaks the model down into tessellated, triangular segments of varying sizes. Designers can control the size, placement, and quantity of the triangles in a Javascript-based design tool and preview how the changes will impact the polygonal pinafore. Once the designer is satisfied, algorithms add hinges to the triangles uniting the garment into a single piece and compress the design into the smallest possible shape to optimise the printing process, often reducing the volume by 85 percent.

After two days of printing at Shapeways, a dusty boulder of plastic emerges from an industrial-sized 3-D printer. Technicians remove excess dust like archeologists in search of a long-buried garment. The plastic parts are cleaned and dyed, resulting in a little black (or white) dress made from tiny, interlocking bricks of plastic.

No Gimmicks for this Gown

Designer Jessica Rosenkrantz made sure the gown was more than mere gimmickry. Buttons, cleverly modelled into the triangles make it easy to don and doff. Unlike other 3-D printed clothing that feels like a suit of armour, the long dress flows and moves as the model strides and twirls.

What Cities Would Look Like if Lit Only by the Stars

Comfort was a key concern. Rosenkrantz wore 3-D printed jewellery for weeks at a time in an attempt to catch design features that chafe. She built her wardrobe piece by piece, starting with a bracelet, then a belt, and finally a bodice before moving on to a dress. Rosenkrantz brought an old-school tailor’s approach to the project, but was happy to leverage modern technology. For example, 3-D scans of the model’s body ensured a perfect fit. She worked with Shapeways to optimise the print quality and aesthetics. As a result, her garment and its Github repository recently were acquired by the Museum of Modern Art.

Making It Work

Nervous System originally developed the Kinematics concept as part of a project for Google. The goal was to help add bit of cool to a pavilion promoting Android phones. Nervous System figured out how to print bracelets on MakerBots by reducing dimensional designs to flat pieces of plastic that could be printed in under an hour and folded like origami. Google was pleased with the promotion, but Nervous System believed the concept could be used to make garments. “We’d done some simulations and made some animations showing that we could do it hypothetically,” says Rosenkrantz.

These hypothetical simulations precipitated a software engineering effort one year in the making. Scaling up from a wrist-worn wearables to cocktail dress posed a particular challenge. The hinges linking the triangles must be small enough to let the fabric flow, but robust enough to avoid a wardrobe malfunction.

These mechanical challenges were exacerbated by limitations in 3-D printing technology. Pieces made with the technology have a grain, like wood, and certain orientations create stronger parts. The solution was to revamp the software. “We were able to do so much design-wise without ever printing anything,” says Rosenkrantz. “We knew not only exactly what the final piece would look like but also how it would behave.” Simulating folds was slow and inaccurate at first. Test prints of belts with 77 hinges worked beautifully, but scaling up to the 700 or more needed to create a dress repeatedly broke the software. Physics engines were tossed aside like fabric swatches.

15 Incredible Photos That’ll Remind You to Be Awed by Planet Earth

Originally, the simulator would fold the clothes down into a ball. “Sort of like you are wadding clothes up to toss in you hamper,” says Rosenkrantz. “It looked cool but it wasn’t the most efficient way to get the volume of our designs down.” So Rosenkrantz and partner Jesse Louis-Rosenberg developed a collision-based simulator that replicates how one might fold clothes to put them in a drawer.

The project pushed design, fashion, and fabrication in surprising ways. “To 3-D print structures in this crazy compressed form and have them unfold; that almost sounds like science fiction,” says Rosenkrantz. “Frankly, when you work on something complex like this in a completely digital world for so long, the biggest surprise is that it actually works as intended, from the compressing to the fit, draping, and movement.”

Printing also required special development. Nervous System needed to develop new tools to load its software. “We’ve been working with Nervous and our community over the years to push the machines to their limits,” says Carine Carmy of Shapeways. “From how densely we can pack the trays so you can print 1,000 products at once versus just one, to how long you need to run them so we can produce products more quickly, to how precise and detailed the prints can be so that you can design with micron precision.”

Ready to Wear?

Next up for Nervous System is improving the speed and adding new mechanisms and structures that will allow simulating different materials — think of a stout tweed versus a gossamer silk. Ultimately, the team thinks can be expanded for other applications like Skylar Tibbits Hyperform project.

At $ 3,000 a pop, Nervous System isn’t quite ready to commercialise its wearable wares. “That is a very high number although perhaps considerably lower than the price of most other 3-D printed garments,” she says. “We’re hoping to bring the price down before we start selling clothing.”

Read more from WIRED:

21 Awesomely Well-Designed Products We’re Dying to Own

The Ruins of the USSR’s Secret Nuclear Cities

What Would Your Ideal, Photoshopped Face Look Like? 14 People Find Out

Subscribe to WIRED magazine for less than $ 1 an issue and get a FREE GIFT! Click here!


Copyright 2011 Wired.com.



CNN.com – Technology

'Smart drugs' have been shown to improve memory and cognitive function‘Smart drugs’ have been shown to improve memory and cognitive function
Substances such as modafinil (provigil) and piracetam are commonly used in industries such as software development.Substances such as modafinil (provigil) and piracetam are commonly used in industries such as software development.
US air force pilots were among the first to trial modafinil in 1950s tests to improve alertness.US air force pilots were among the first to trial modafinil in 1950s tests to improve alertness.
Smart drugs are increasingly popular at Ivy League colleges such as Harvard, with surveys showing approximately one in five students are users. Smart drugs are increasingly popular at Ivy League colleges such as Harvard, with surveys showing approximately one in five students are users.
The profile of cognitive enhancement substances received a boost with 2011 movie Limitless, starring Bradley Cooper as a 'perfect' version of himself.The profile of cognitive enhancement substances received a boost with 2011 movie Limitless, starring Bradley Cooper as a ‘perfect’ version of himself.
Dave Asprey, CEO of The Bulletproof Executive, has done much to popularize cognitive enhancement through his yak butter-infused Bulletproof Coffee.Dave Asprey, CEO of The Bulletproof Executive, has done much to popularize cognitive enhancement through his yak butter-infused Bulletproof Coffee.
Th ex-Silicon Valley entrepreneur hopes the coffee will serve as a gateway to more advanced biohacking. Th ex-Silicon Valley entrepreneur hopes the coffee will serve as a gateway to more advanced biohacking.
Smart drugs could dramatically change the way we work.Smart drugs could dramatically change the way we work.

  • People in high-performance industries increasingly turn to cognitive enhancement drugs, known as nootropics
  • Advocates argue they can improve memory and focus, among other benefits
  • Expert studies have shown few negative side effects and areas suited to the use of such substances
  • Pressure on employers, regulators to take a firm position on contentious issue

Editor’s note: Smart Business explores the ways companies are thinking smart to thrive in our digitized world.

(CNN) — How did you wake yourself up this morning? Perhaps through a morning run, or hitting the yoga mat. Some favor good old caffeine, or new-age nutritional supplements.

Tom Rice, a London-based film producer in his late 20s, has a new routine. It includes a little fish oil, a shot of espresso, and 800mg of the cognitive-enhancement drug Piracetam.

“It enables you to think quicker and feel sharper,” says Rice. “Although I’ve only started recently so it’s hard to quantify the full effects.”

Rice has held a longstanding interest in nootropics — substances that improve brain function — as a means of enhancing his performance in a demanding business that requires tireless application.

“I have previously taken Modafinil (also known as Provigil) and found it incredibly useful when I really need to focus… when I have a lot of practical stuff to do, like writing emails and reading scripts.”

Retailer brings back ‘Made in America’

The producer emphasizes the value of healthy sleep and balanced diet, but through research and networking, has also developed an open attitude to cognitive enhancement.

Designer dresses that you can rent

“I don’t want to be on the frontier trying designer drugs but there are interesting developments that are worth keeping tabs on. Piracetam has been around since the 1970s, and from reading the accounts and the research, I felt the risk was negligible.

“I’m not desperate to find solutions to the problems I’m facing, but at the same time I’d love to find something that makes me function more effectively if it has a track record showing it is safe and effective.”

A growing trend

Rice’s approach is very far from unusual. “Smart drugs” that first entered the market in the mid-20th century, often through army experiments to keep fighters alert, have now reached saturation point in education, the start-up scene and many of the most demanding industries.

Studies have shown improved memory and focus, while establishing few negative side effects. In the US and much of Europe, nootropics are typically available only through prescription, but enthusiasts find willing suppliers from overseas.

Dave Asprey, a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur and now CEO of The Bulletproof Executive, producing cognitive enhancement substances, says that use is now commonplace at the highest levels of business.

“When I meet people through work who run companies have many zeroes in their bank accounts, it’s uncommon that they don’t have a baggie full of supplements. They say ‘this is what I take for my brain.'”

This represents progress based on improved understanding of biology and brain function, Asprey believes.

“Intelligent people want to control their own biology. We understand neural pathways better so we can create custom supplements that help the brain work better, and improve energy so that tasks that required drudgery don’t seem so hard…Cognitive burdens can become effortless.”

Some organizations have cultures where it is expected that employees go the extra mile to finish an all-nighter
Michael Schrage, MIT Center for Digital Business

“There is great evidence that natural and pharmaceutical supplements can increase energy, and measurably change your ability to focus and relax.”

The CEO cites “entrepreneurs and disruptive innovators” as demographics that have been quick to adopt and benefit from cognitive enhancement, as well as people over 50 that want to retain their mental sharpness.

Challenge to business culture

The growing spread of these substances create conundrums for business and employers.

“Where can you draw the line between Red Bull, six cups of coffee and a prescription drug that keeps you more alert,” says Michael Schrage of the MIT Center for Digital Business, who has studied the phenomenon. “You can’t draw the line meaningfully – some organizations have cultures where it is expected that employees go the extra mile to finish an all-nighter. “

“If you work at a company with espresso machines all over the place I don’t think your boss will be surprised if you have prescription for an amphetamine.”

Schrage associates the spread of such substances with “high performance industries” such as trading, investment banking, journalism and software development. He views them as within a holistic field of performance enhancement that includes big data analytics, traditional nutrition and behavior — anything for an edge.

“For the companies it’s a question of culture — do they care more about the person or performance? Some company managers care, some don’t. Some only care about the quality of work and anything else is your (the employee’s) issue.”

Schrage adds that given the global race between businesses, it would be a risk for US companies to crack down on substances that competitors abroad could benefit from.

Risks and rewards

Neuroscientist and leading cognitive enhancement expert Professor Barbara Sahakian of the University of Cambridge feel there is value in the field, albeit tempered with uncertainty.

“I’m keen for government to look at this closely because some of them could be useful. Modafinil is licensed in the US for shift work because it keeps people awake and can help prevent accidents.”

“Modafinil seems more effective and efficient with lower side effects than caffeine, and there has been a lot of discussion about the safety of young people drinking a lot of Red Bull…if people are going to enhance themselves to stay awake longer it would be better to have safe methodologies.”

Sahakian would like to see further studies into the long term effects of Modafinil and other substances on healthy users, which could enable it to become more accessible, rather than the current supply route typically from unregulated international suppliers that may use dubious ingredients.

The professor’s studies with impaired users have found that Modafinil does improve cognitive function, in areas such as memory retention and task-related motivation. Initial follow-ups with healthy volunteers have shown similarly encouraging results.

Results also showed suitability is heightened for certain roles: “We found it improved the ability to start down one pathway but then find a new solution, which is particularly relevant to entrepreneurs.”

In addition to further safety tests, Sahakian believes ethical issues must be taken into account.

“There could be concerns about coercion. If these drugs are normalized within a company, would everyone be expected to take them?”

Yet a landmark British academy report into the effect of enhancement in the workplace addressed the question from the perspective of equality — whether all employees would have fair access to the drugs and their potential benefits.

As the smart pills continue to cut a swathe through the working world, it is no longer possible to ignore them.




CNN.com – Technology

This bio-drone might resemble a propeller-powered egg carton, but already the designers say it has the ability to fly into environmentally sensitive areas and leave almost no trace. This bio-drone might resemble a propeller-powered egg carton, but already the designers say it has the ability to fly into environmentally sensitive areas and leave almost no trace.
Made from a substance that combines mushroom fibres and cloned paper wasp spit, Lynn Rothschild, the NASA developer guiding students from Stanford-Brown-Spelman working on the project, says the drone could be made to disappear simply by crashing it into a stream or puddle.Made from a substance that combines mushroom fibres and cloned paper wasp spit, Lynn Rothschild, the NASA developer guiding students from Stanford-Brown-Spelman working on the project, says the drone could be made to disappear simply by crashing it into a stream or puddle.
The team grew cellulose "leather" to coat the fungal body of the flying craft and then covered the sheets with proteins sourced from the saliva of paper wasps -- a water resistant material that the insects use to cover their nests.The team grew cellulose “leather” to coat the fungal body of the flying craft and then covered the sheets with proteins sourced from the saliva of paper wasps — a water resistant material that the insects use to cover their nests.
The team is working on perfecting the biodegradable drone and is studying how to build its sensors from modified E. coli bacteria, the bacteria most commonly found in the intestines of humans and animals. The team is working on perfecting the biodegradable drone and is studying how to build its sensors from modified E. coli bacteria, the bacteria most commonly found in the intestines of humans and animals.
The circuits are printed from silver nanoparticle ink in an effort to make the machine as biodegradable as possible.The circuits are printed from silver nanoparticle ink in an effort to make the machine as biodegradable as possible.

  • NASA is guiding a team building a bio-drone that can self-destruct and leave no trace if it crashes
  • The drone is made from a substance that combines mushroom fibers called mycelium
  • The unmanned aerial vehicle is also coated in substance made from a protein found in wasp spit
  • NASA says the UAV could be used to fly into environmentally sensitive areas such as coral reefs

Editor’s note: Tomorrow Transformed explores innovative approaches and opportunities available in business and society through technology.

(CNN) — A bio-drone that dissolves after use leaving no trace it ever existed may sound like the stuff of a James Bond film, but NASA and a team of researchers are actually building one.

Made from a substance that combines mushroom fibers and cloned paper wasp spit, the drone might resemble a propeller-powered egg carton, but its designers say it has the ability to fly into environmentally sensitive areas and leave almost no trace.

Lynn Rothschild, the NASA developer guiding students from Stanford-Brown-Spelman working on the project, says the drone could be made to disappear simply by ditching it into a stream or puddle.

She said her interest in unmanned aerial vehicles was sparked by work on environmentally sensitive areas in her Earth Science group at NASA.

The exciting future of drones

High-speed drone crash caught on tape

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“Periodically, UAVs get lost — for example on coral reefs or in other sensitive habitats,” she said in an interview with the project team.

“As I started to hear about this, I thought, ‘Well, wouldn’t it be useful if the UAV was biodegradable, so if it crashed somewhere that was sensitive, it wouldn’t matter if it dissolved.”

The mushroom-like substance known as mycelium, which makes up the chassis of the drone, is being hailed as the new plastic — a plastic that has the advantage of degrading quickly.

The team grew cellulose “leather” to coat the fungal body of the flying craft and then covered the sheets with proteins sourced from the saliva of paper wasps — a water resistant material that the insects use to cover their nests.

The circuits are printed from silver nanoparticle ink in an effort to make the machine as biodegradable as possible.

Despite a heavy preponderance of biological parts, the team said the project had its limits.

“There are definitely parts that can’t be replaced by biology, ” said Stanford University’s Raman Nelakanti.

At its first short flight at the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition in Boston, the team used a standard battery, motor and propellers to fly the drone.

Nevertheless, the team is working on making other parts biodegradable and is studying how to build its sensors from modified E. coli bacteria, the bacteria most commonly found in the intestines of humans and animals.

There are definitely parts that can’t be replaced by biology
Raman Nelakant, Stanford Universit.

The team said that ultimately the drone could be sent into areas where it might not be expected to return such as wildfires or nuclear accidents, sending data and never coming back.

While the parts degrade naturally, the team also experimented with enzymes that would help the drone self-destruct, breaking it down further on impact.

Creating a drone that does not infect the environment has been another challenge for the team.

“If you have living organisms acting as biosensors and the plane crashes, there certainly could be problems as the plane interacts with the environment,” Rothschild said.

“Hopefully people could think of this in advance, and design such that this never becomes a problem.

“For example, on crashing, the cells might die. Or the cells could be attenuated. There are all sorts of other processes to keep them from contaminating the environment. But that, to me, is the largest concern with a biological UAV – having living things on the UAV.”

Read more from Tomorrow Transformed:

The first ever 3D-printer President

The hottest apps in tech right now

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CNN.com – Technology