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These Drones Can Plant 100,000 Trees in One Day

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Billions of trees are felled each year, according to the Rainforest Action Network, and planting a tree requires more time and effort than cutting one down. That makes keeping up with deforestation rates challenging for conservationists. The minds behind one tech startup think they can speed up global tree-planting efforts by taking the burden off humans and placing it on drones.

BioCarbon Engineering has assembled a fleet of drones that can plant thousands of trees a day, as Fast Company reports. The company will soon focus its efforts on Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River delta, an area that’s seen rapid loss of its mangrove trees due to aquaculture, agriculture, and logging. Estimates place the amount of regional mangroves destroyed in the past 30 years between 75 and 83 percent. Starting in September, BioCarbon will partner with Worldview International Foundation to aid restoration efforts started by human hands.

Spreading seeds from aircraft (like helicopters) is not a new strategy. These methods are valued for their speed, but chances of tree survival are hurt in the process. To come up with an efficient way of planting that doesn’t damage seeds, BioCarbon had to get innovative.

After the company maps a plot of land from above and analyzes the best spots for planting, their drones fly low to the ground and fire nutrient-packed seed pods into the soil. This way, more seeds end up in places where they’ll thrive rather than on rocks or in streams where they’ll go to waste.

With one human pilot for every six drones, the company is able to get 100,000 pods in the ground a day. Even in places with regulations restricting pilots to one drone at a time, the vehicles are 10 times faster and half as expensive as human labor. Worldview International Foundation, which has worked with the Irrawaddy delta community to plant 750 hectares of trees so far, hopes to expand that area by 250 hectares with help from BioCarbon Engineering. The team also plans to continue employing locals to assemble seed pods and cultivate saplings.

To get a closer look at their planting process, check out the video below.

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[h/t Fast Company]

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People With Limited Mobility Can Now Use Amazon Alexa to Control Exoskeletons
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One of the challenges that comes with engineering exoskeletons that compensate for limited mobility is giving control to the people who wear them. Some systems use hand controls, while others can detect faint signals in the wearer’s muscles and respond accordingly. Now one exoskeleton startup is taking advantage of a technology that’s become mainstream in recent years: voice recognition.

As Engadget reports, Bionik Laboratories has integrated Amazon’s Alexa into its ARKE lower-body exoskeleton. The apparatus is designed for people with spinal chord damage or a history of stroke or traumatic brain injury that has hindered their movement below the waist. After strapping into the suit, wearers will now be able to use it just as they would a television set or stereo enabled with Alexa. Saying “Alexa, I’m ready to stand,” brings the joints to an upright position, and the command “Alexa, I’m ready to walk” prompts the legs to move forward. An Amazon Echo device must be within hearing range for the voice control to work, so in its current state the exoskeleton is only good for making short trips within the home.

Compatibility with Alexa isn’t the only modern feature Bionik worked into the design. The company also claims that ARKE is the first exoskeleton with integrated tablet control. That means if users wish to adjust their suit manually, they can do so by typing commands into a wireless touchpad. The tablet also records information that physical therapists can use to make more informed decisions when treating the patient.

Before the ARKE suit can be made available to consumers, it must first undergo clinical trials and receive approval from the FDA. If the tests go as planned Bionik hopes to have a commercial version of the product ready by 2019.

[h/t Engadget]

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Including Smiley Emojis in Your Work Emails Could Make You Look Incompetent
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If you’re looking to give your dry work emails some personality, sprinkling in emojis may not be the smartest strategy. As Mashable reports, smiley emojis in professional correspondences rarely convey the sentiments of warmth that were intended. But they do make the sender come across as incompetent, according to new research. For their paper titled "The Dark Side of a Smiley," researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel looked at 549 subjects from 29 countries. After reading emails related to professional matters, participants were asked to judge the "competence and warmth" of the anonymous sender. Emails that featured a smiley face were found to have a "negative effect on the perception of competence." That anti-emoji bias led readers to view the actual content of those emails as less focused and less detailed than the messages that didn’t include emojis. Previous research has shown that sending emojis to people you’re not 100 percent comfortable with is always a gamble. That’s because unlike words or facial expressions, which are usually clear in their meanings, the pictographs we shoot back and forth with our phones tend to be ambiguous. One study published last year shows that the same emoji can be interpreted as either positive or negative, depending on the smartphone platform on which it appears. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to communicate effectively without leaning on emojis to make you look human. Here are some etiquette tips for making your work emails sound clear and competent. [h/t Mashable]

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