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Driverless Shuttles Could Help Seniors Get Around in Rural Japan

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Japan has the largest proportion of senior citizens of anywhere on Earth, and the country is coming up with innovative ways to care for this growing demographic. This includes building robot companions, whimsical retirement communities, and most recently, a fleet of driverless buses. As Reuters reports, trials of autonomous shuttles are underway in aging rural communities in Japan.

One such area is Nishikata, where about a third of the town’s population of 6300 are age 65 or older. Public transit isn’t as accessible there as it is in Tokyo, 71 miles south, and driving just isn’t an option for many older residents. These new vehicles from Japanese software maker DeNA Co. are designed to transport seniors to shops, banks, medical centers, and other places they would have trouble reaching otherwise.

The company’s Robot Shuttle features six seats and travels at speeds around 6 mph. The long-term plan is to work with the government to turn highway rest stops into points where elderly riders can board and be driven to their destinations.

Nishikata’s elderly population numbers represent Japan overall, but in some remote communities, seniors are already the majority. This top-heaviness is only expected to get worse in coming decades. If the shuttle system trials are a success, Japan could see driverless bus systems throughout its rural areas as soon as 2020.

[h/t Reuters]

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Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
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Pop Culture
How to Perform the Star Wars Theme—On Calculators
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

The iconic Star Wars theme has been recreated with glass harps, theremins, and even cat meows. Now, Laughing Squid reports that the team over at YouTube channel It’s a small world have created a version that can be played on calculators.

The channel’s math-related music videos feature covers of popular songs like Luis Fonsi’s "Despacito," Ed Sheeran’s "Shape of You," and the Pirates of the Caribbean theme, all of which are performed on two or more calculators. The Star Wars theme, though, is played across five devices, positioned together into a makeshift keyboard of sorts.

The video begins with a math-musician who transcribes number combinations into notes. Then, they break into an elaborate practice chord sequence on two, and then four, calculators. Once they’re all warmed up, they begin playing the epic opening song we all know and love, which you can hear for yourself in all its electronic glory below.

[h/t Laughing Squid]

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Somnox, Kickstarter
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technology
This Cuddly Robot Is Designed to Lull You to Sleep
Somnox, Kickstarter
Somnox, Kickstarter

For people seeking all the benefits of a human sleeping companion without the human part, there’s a new Kickstarter-backed product. As Mashable reports, Somnox, the self-proclaimed “world’s first sleep robot,” is designed to give you a more comfortable, energizing night’s rest.

The bean-shaped cushion is the perfect size and shape for cuddling as you drift to sleep. Beneath its soft exterior is hardware designed to get you to deep sleep faster. Somnox rises and falls to mimic the movements of human breathing. Lay with the pillow long enough and the designers claim your breath will naturally sync to its rhythm, thus prepping your body for sleep.

Somnox can also be set to play sounds and music. Some content, like guided mediation, lullabies, and gentle heart beats, come built-in, but you can also upload audio of your own. And you don’t need to worry about shutting it off: Once you've customized its breathing and audio behaviors through the app, the device does what it's programed to do and powers down automatically.

Having a robotic sleep aide will cost you: You need to pledge about $533 to the team’s Kickstarter to reserve one. Even with the steep price tag, the campaign surpassed its funding goal.

[h/t Mashable]

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