Google Street View Cars Are Now Testing for Air Quality, Too

iStock
iStock

Google Street View has literally changed the way we see the world. Now, the tech giant wants to show people which areas of their neighborhood are the most polluted.

As Tech Crunch reports, 50 of Google's Street View cars—which capture images for Google Maps—will be outfitted with internet-connected air quality sensors produced by San Francisco-based startup Aclima.

This project marks the latest development in Google's partnership with the tech and climate science company. Beginning in 2015, Google equipped its Street View cars with Aclima air sensors and asked drivers to cruise around Oakland, California, on weekdays from May 2015 to May 2016.

The result was a scientific study which revealed that air pollution levels can vary greatly—with five to eight different readings—along the same city street, and even within the same block.

"We found you can have the best air quality and the worst air quality all on the same street," Aclima founder Davida Herzl tells TechCrunch. "Understanding that can help with everything from urban planning to understanding your personal exposure."

The sensors will be used to monitor the levels of particulate matter in the air, as well as carbon monoxide and dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and nitric oxide. To start, cars with air sensors will be deployed in just one U.S. city—Houston—while others will be sent to drive around Mexico City and Sydney while going about their usual business of capturing images for Google Maps. The data will then be uploaded to Google BigQuery, where the public will have access to it.

[h/t Tech Crunch]

Charge Your Gadgets Anywhere With This Pocket-Sized Folding Solar Panel

Solar Cru, YouTube
Solar Cru, YouTube

Portable power banks are great for charging your phone when you’re out and about all day, but even they need to be charged via an electrical outlet. There's only so much a power bank can do when you’re out hiking the Appalachian Trail or roughing it in the woods during a camping trip.

Enter the SolarCru—a lightweight, foldable solar panel now available on Kickstarter. It charges your phone and other electronic devices just by soaking up the sunshine. Strap it to your backpack or drape it over your tent to let the solar panel’s external battery charge during the day. Then, right before you go to bed, you can plug your electronic device into the panel's USB port to let it charge overnight.

It's capable of charging a tablet, GPS, speaker, headphones, camera, or other small wattage devices. “A built-in intelligent chip identifies each device plugged in and automatically adjusts the energy output to provide the right amount of power,” according to the SolarCru Kickstarter page.

A single panel is good “for small charging tasks,” according to the product page, but you can connect up to three panels together to nearly triple the electrical output. It takes roughly three hours and 45 minutes to charge a phone using a single panel, for instance, or about one hour if you’re using three panels at once. The amount of daylight time it takes to harvest enough energy for charging will depend on weather conditions, but it will still work on cloudy days, albeit more slowly.

The foldable panel weighs less than a pound and rolls up into a compact case that it can easily be tucked away in your backpack or jacket pocket. It’s also made from a scratch- and water-resistant material, so if you get rained out while camping, it won't destroy your only source of power.

You can pre-order a single SolarCru panel on Kickstarter for $34 (less than some power banks), or a pack of five for $145. Orders are scheduled to be delivered in March.

300-Foot Wide Floating Saucer of Ice Forms on a River in Maine

iStock.com/Onfokus
iStock.com/Onfokus

People are crowding the banks of Presumpscot River in Westbrook, Maine to see a strange natural phenomenon. As temperatures in Maine have plunged, a giant, floating ice disk has formed on the river's surface, NBC News reports—and it's gaining worldwide attention.

The ice disk appeared when a cold snap hit the Portland, Maine suburb earlier in January. It isn't unusual to see ice chunks floating down the Presumpscot River this time of year, but this floe is notable for its size (roughly 300 feet across!) and shape. From land, it looks like a near-perfect circle, prompting comparisons to flying saucers and the moon. And as of Wednesday, January 16, the disk had been slowly spinning counter-clockwise.


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The uncanny sight is actually the result of a natural process. According to experts, the disk likely formed when a chunk of river ice got caught in a vortex powered by a waterfall 100 feet upstream. As the ice spun it would have bumped into the shore continuously, smoothing out its rough edges into a smooth circle.

CBS 13 reports that the giant ice pancake stopped spinning on Wednesday after getting caught on another piece of ice near the the riverbank. It continuous to attract spectators and serve as a landing pad for local ducks.


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[h/t NBC News]

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