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Jonathan How, MIT
Jonathan How, MIT

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.

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The Design Tricks That Make Smartphones Addictive—And How to Fight Them
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iStock

Two and a half billion people worldwide—and 77 percent of Americans—have smartphones, which means you probably have plenty of company in your inability to go five minutes without checking your device. But as a new video from Vox points out, it's not that we all lack self-control: Your phone is designed down to the tiniest details to keep you as engaged as possible. Vox spoke to Tristan Harris, a former Google design ethicist, who explains how your push notifications, the "pull to refresh" feature of certain apps (inspired by slot machines), and the warm, bright colors on your phone are all meant to hook you. Fortunately, he also notes there's things you can do to lessen the hold, from the common sense (limit your notifications) to the drastic (go grayscale). Watch the whole thing to learn all the dirty details—and then see how long you can spend without looking at your phone.

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New Lobster Emoji Gets Updated After Mainers Noticed It Was Missing a Set of Legs
Emojipedia
Emojipedia

When the Unicode Consortium released the designs of the latest batch of emojis in early February, the new lobster emoji was an instant hit. But as some astute observers have pointed out, Unicode forgot something crucial from the initial draft: a fourth set of legs.

As Mashable reports, Unicode has agreed to revise its new lobster emoji to make it anatomically accurate. The first version of the emoji, which Maine senator Angus King had petitioned for in September 2017, shows what looks like a realistic take on a lobster, complete with claws, antennae, and a tail. But behind the claws were only three sets of walking legs, or "pereiopods." In reality, lobsters have four sets of pereiopods in addition to their claws.

"Sen. Angus King from Maine has certainly been vocal about his love of the lobster emoji, but was kind enough to spare us the indignity of pointing out that we left off two legs," Jeremy Burge, chief emoji officer at Emojipedia and vice-chair of the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee, wrote in a blog post. Other Mainers weren't afraid to speak up. After receiving numerous complaints about the oversight, Unicode agreed to tack two more legs onto the lobster emoji in time for its release later this year.

The skateboard emoji (which featured an outdated design) and the DNA emoji (which twisted the wrong way) have also received redesigns following complaints.

[h/t Mashable]

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