Could Color-Coded Maps Be the Answer to City Parking Problems?

Coord
Coord

Driving in a city isn't as simple as traveling from Point A to Point B. For many motorists, it's interpreting the parking signs, scoping out curb space, and avoiding tickets once they've already reached their destination that are the challenges. A new website aims to make the urban parking process a little easier to navigate: As City Lab reports, the new Curb Explorer tool from Coord uses a handy color-coded system to map out which San Francisco curbs are fair game for drivers and which are off limits.

You can navigate Coord's San Francisco street map like you would any other digital map. But instead of just a starting point and destination, Coord asks for more information about your parking needs, such as the day and time you plan to be arriving, the type of vehicle you're driving, and its uses. Based on those variables, the map highlights curbs in different colors that signify their parking availability. Red means no parking allowed, light blue indicates free parking, and dark blue means paid parking. Whether you're looking to park some place all day or for just a few minutes, you can input that information in the system and the map will update itself accordingly.

The new tool isn't just for private car owners: It's also for the employees of ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, who received over 75 percent of the lane-obstruction tickets issued by San Francisco police between April and June of 2017. Since November 2017, the city has rolled out dedicated pick-up and drop-off zones for such vehicles and now Coord makes it easy for drivers to find them.

Coord has a map for only one city at the moment, and even drivers in San Francisco may find it difficult to use. It's not an app; rather, it's a website that can be accessed through mobile, and the focus is just on parking rules rather than finding you a space. But if the technology is successful it may eventually work its way into other cities and even into established navigation apps.

Color-coded city map.
Coord

Color-coded city map.
Coord

[h/t City Lab]

This Amateur Rocketeer Builds Functioning, Miniature Replicas of SpaceX Rockets

Jeff J Mitchell, Getty Images
Jeff J Mitchell, Getty Images

Amateur rocketry is a hobby that predates NASA. Hobbyists have successfully made it to space using rockets built without the massive budgets and resources available to larger organizations. And some of these rockets do more than reach incredible heights: As Motherboard reports, Joe Barnard, a 25-year-old rocketeer from Nashville, Tennessee, is working on making model rockets capable of propulsive landings, the same trick that makes some SpaceX rockets reusable.

Most rocket boosters that propel loads past the Earth's atmosphere are designed to go only one way. In 2015, Elon Musk's space exploration company SpaceX made history when it successfully maneuvered the boosters used to launch its Falcon 9 rocket back onto the landing pad. SpaceX says its latest version of the rocket can be re-flown up to 100 times, saving the company millions of dollars per launch.

Joe Barnard is bringing this same level of innovation to the amateur rocketry world. He first became interested in aerospace engineering after watching early SpaceX videos, and instead of earning a degree in the field, he taught himself the basics. He's since made rocketry into a career, founding Barnard Propulsion Systems (BPS), a small business that sells supplies to other hobbyists, and working on rockets of his own.

Like the rockets at SpaceX, Barnard's creations use thrust vectoring—the technology that makes it possible to navigate and stabilize a rocket after launch—only on a much smaller scale. He's built miniature models of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets, and as is the case at SpaceX, his launches don't always run smoothly.

Barnard is still perfecting propulsive landings in amateur rockets, but for now he says each failure is a learning experience. You can watch the progress of his experiments on his YouTube channel.

[h/t Motherboard]

This High-Tech Skin Turns Almost Any Object Into a Robot

iStock
iStock

Instead of trading in their low-tech toys for fancy new gadgets, kids of the future may have the option to turn Teddy into a cyborg. As Gizmodo reports, researchers at Yale University have invented a robot "skin" that can give mobility to just about any inanimate object that can bend.

The researchers describe how this technology, called OmniSkins, works in a paper published in Science Robotics. The material, made from elastic sheets that contain sensors and actuators, can be wrapped around any malleable surface and controlled remotely or with on-board light sensors, essentially turning the item into a makeshift robot. The actuators in OmniSkins manipulate the object, while sensors can gauge exactly how much pressure needs to be applied to perform an action.

The project was largely funded by NASA, and it's easy to see how the tech might be used on one of the agency's missions in the future. On board a spacecraft, every cubic inch of space is precious, and the ability to repurpose something into a robotic arm or rover in a pinch would be invaluable to astronauts.

But the technology has potential applications on Earth as well, and not just to allow stuffed animals to walk on their own. Add a few of the skins to a shirt and it could automatically adjust your posture throughout the day, or you could use them to create a gripper to handle hard-to-reach objects.

You can see OmniSkins in action in the video below.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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