New MIT Technology to Help Drones Dodge Obstacles May Make Deliveries Easier

Jonathan How, MIT
Jonathan How, MIT

New technology developed by MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) may help drones dodge collisions as they fly, making things like drone pizza delivery a whole lot more plausible on a large scale.

Whether you’re a human or a drone, moving through a city always involves a certain amount of uncertainty. Will that light turn green as you approach? Will a pedestrian bump into you? Will a pigeon fly in your face? Will there be a sudden road closure for a parade, or a newly installed crane at a construction site? And if there’s one thing that machines tend to be bad at, it’s dealing with uncertainty. For a fast-flying drone, navigating with a static map just won’t cut it in the real world.

So CSAIL researchers created NanoMap, a new system that can model uncertainty, taking into account that, as a drone flies, the conditions around it might change. The technology helps the drone plan for the fact that it probably doesn’t know precisely where it is in relation to everything else in the world. It spends less time calculating the perfect route around an obstacle, relying instead on a more general idea of where things are and how to avoid them, allowing it to process and avoid potential collisions more quickly.

It features depth sensors that constantly measure the distance between the drone and the objects around it, creating a kind of image for the machine of where it has been and where it is going. “It’s kind of like saving all of the images you’ve seen of the world as a big tape in your head,” MIT researcher Pete Florence explains in a press release. “For the drone to plan motions, it essentially goes back into time to think individually of all the different places that it was in.”

In testing, the NanoMap system allowed small drones to fly through forests and warehouses at 20 miles per hour while avoiding potential collisions with trees and other obstacles.

The project was funded in part by the Department of Defense’s DARPA, so it could be used as part of military missions, but it would also be helpful for any kind of drone-based delivery—whether it’s ferrying relief supplies to combat zones or your latest Amazon Prime package.

Google Is Celebrating Friends's 25th Anniversary With Hilarious Easter Eggs

Getty Images
Getty Images

On September 22, the more-popular-than-ever show Friends turns 25 years old, and this pop culture milestone has generated all kinds of celebrations, like the release of Central Perk coffee, a LEGO set, a “How You Doin’?” T-shirt, a jewelry collection, a theatrical Friends marathon, and more. To properly prepare for the anniversary, you’ll probably want to head to Google to learn more about the show, right? Well, now the search engine giant is even getting in on the fun with some Friends-inspired Easter eggs. 

All you need to do is either Google your favorite character’s full name or the first name followed by “Friends.” Not to give too much away—it really is a nice surprise—but type in “Joey Tribbiani.” A pizza icon will appear under the Knowledge Panel (located beneath the picture) on the right side of the screen. Click on the pizza to see an animation, followed by one of Joey's most recognizable (and relatable) lines. To annoy coworkers, friends, family members, and/or anyone else in earshot, just keep clicking on the icon. 

But the best Easter egg pops up when you Google “Friends glossary.” At the top of the page, you'll get funny definitions for words like pivot, woopah, unagi, unfloopy, and plenty of other running jokes from the show. Between the glossary and the Easter eggs, you won’t be able to get “Smelly Cat” out of your head, but you'll at least wind up with a unique trifle recipe.

PopSockets Is Rolling Out a Line of Drink Holders

PopSockets
PopSockets

PopSockets have become something of a fidgeting consumer’s dream. The cute and accordion-esque accessory knob that attaches to phones allows for an improved grip and gives people something to noodle with. Now, the company is hoping you’ll recognize the value in having a PopSockets appliance for your hot and cold drinks.

The PopThirst Cup Sleeve and the PopThirst Can Holder resemble insulated sleeves you can purchase for beverages. But these sleeves have a socket for a PopGrip attachment, which you can thread between your fingers to make for a more secure grip. This might be beneficial in the car, where bumpy roads can prompt more spills.

A PopSockets PopThirst cup sleeve is pictured
PopSockets

Holding a drink with the PopGrip acting as a handle seems a little more precarious. Most people will not do this, but if they do, you will probably find the consequences on Instagram.

Since going on sale in 2014, PopSockets has become a phone accessory giant, moving 100 million units in 2018.

The PopThirst Cup Sleeve and Can Holder are both one-size-fits-all and retail for $15 each.

[h/t The Verge]

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