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Microsoft’s Autonomous Gliders Stay in the Air by Mimicking Birds of Prey

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When designing different ways for vehicles to move, engineers will often look to nature. Animals have had millions of years to evolve locomotion methods that get them where they’re going fast without burning a ton of energy. Now, researchers at Microsoft have chosen the hawk, a master of energy-efficient air travel, as the model for their new autonomous gliders.

As Co.Design reports, the tech company’s “infinite soaring machine” can move through the skies without generating its own propulsion. Instead, it seeks out warms streams of air to provide the upward push, much like a hawk does.

While riding air currents doesn't take up a lot of energy, it does require some sophisticated artificial intelligence. As a substitute for millennia of animal instinct, Microsoft “trained” its glider to fly by plugging it into a video game-like simulator that showed hawks in flight. By repeatedly subjecting the technology to these virtual experiments, researchers eventually developed algorithms capable of recreating the scenes in the real world.

Using onboard sensors, the sailplane can independently navigate the skies without a motor. The gliders are no more than a few feet long, which means they don’t serve much of a practical purpose outside of research. But the aircraft’s simple design is exactly what makes them appealing to engineers.

With less hardware to worry about, they can focus on refining AI software which can be used in different types of autonomous vehicles in the future. And by testing AI navigation in the air instead of on the road, Microsoft gives themselves a much bigger test track to work with.

You can watch the infinite soaring machine take to the skies in the video below.

[h/t Co.Design]

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Live Smarter
How to Spot the Convincing New Phishing Scam Targeting Netflix Users
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Netflix may send customers the occasional email, but these messages will never ask you to provide them with personal or payment info. You'll want to keep this in mind if you encounter a new phishing scam that The Daily Dot reports is targeting the video streaming service's subscribers in Australia and the UK.

MailGuard, an Australian email security company, was the first to take notice of the fraudulent emails. While similar scams have targeted Netflix users in the past, this current iteration appears to be more convincing than most. At first (and perhaps even second) glance, the messages appear to be legitimate messages from Netflix, with an authentic-looking sender email and the company’s signature red-and-white branding. The fake emails don’t contain telltale signs of a phishing attempt like misspelled words, irregular spacing, or urgent phrasing.

The subject line of the email informs recipients that their credit card info has been declined, and the body requests that customers click on a link to update their card's expiration date and CVV. Clicking leads to a portal where, in addition to the aforementioned details, individuals are prompted to provide their email address and full credit card number. After submitting this valuable info, they’re redirected to Netflix’s homepage.

So far, it’s unclear whether this phishing scheme has widely affected Netflix customers in the U.S., but thousands of people in both Australia and the U.K. have reportedly fallen prey to the effort.

To stay safe from phishing scams—Netflix-related or otherwise—remember to never, ever click on an email link unless you’re 100 percent sure it’s valid. And if you do end up getting duped, use this checklist as a guide to safeguard your compromised data.

[h/t The Daily Dot]

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Weather Watch
Heated Mats Keep Steps Ice-Free in the Winter
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Amazon

The first snow of the season is always exciting, but the magic can quickly run out when you remember all the hazards that come with icy conditions. Along with heating bills, frosted cars, and other pains, the ground develops a coat of ice that can be dangerous for pedestrians and drivers alike. Outdoor steps become particularly treacherous and many people find themselves clutching their railings for fear of making it to the bottom headfirst. Instead of putting salt down the next time it snows, consider a less messy approach: heated mats that quickly melt the ice away.

The handy devices are made with a thermoplastic material and can melt two inches of snow per hour. They're designed to be left outside, so you can keep them ready to go for the whole winter. The 10-by-30-inch mats fit on most standard steps and come with grips to help prevent slipping. A waterproof connector cable connects to additional mats so up to 15 steps can be covered.

Unfortunately, this convenience comes at a price: You need to buy a 120-volt power unit for them to work, and each mat is sold separately. Running at $60 a mat, the price can add up pretty quickly. Still, if you live in a colder place where it's pretty much always snowing, it might be worth it.

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