European Flying Car Company Receives $10 Million Investment

Flying cars have been zipping through our science fiction films and TV shows for decades, but in the real world they’ve yet to take off. It’s not that the technology isn’t there—flying cars that utilize vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) technology have been a possibility for years. But there are many roadblocks, like safety and cost, that have prevented them from becoming mainstream. Despite all the barriers, at least one group of venture capitalists still believes that flying cars are the future. As TechCrunch reports, the venture firm Atomico is investing €10 million (about $10.7 million) in a German vertical take-off and landing plane developer called Lilium Aviation.

Lilium cites several reasons why their concept will succeed where others have fizzled out. Their vehicles will be relatively cheap, for one, with the cost of a commuter trip comparable to that of an Uber ride. They also claim that their product will be safer and more energy-efficient than other VTOL passenger drones in development.

When they’re commercial-ready, the electric-fan powered pods will be presented as an alternative to helicopters and conventional planes. The aircraft will eventually have a range of 185 miles and reach speeds of 185 MPH. Lilium writes on their website:

“What if the way you thought about distances radically changed? Imagine, you could have breakfast in Munich, go shopping in Milano and enjoy dinner in Marseille […] Commuters will use VTOL aircrafts to land directly on landing pads extending from their balconies, on rooftops and assigned landing areas. No need to wait for the bus, no need to conform with plane and train schedules.”

Founded in 2015, this latest investment marks a major step forward for the company. After expanding their team of specialists and engineers with the new funds, they plan to begin full-scale test flights within the next year.

[h/t TechCrunch]

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Undersea Internet Cables Could Be Key to the Future of Earthquake Detection
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Considering that 70 percent of the planet is covered by oceans, we don't have all that many underwater earthquake sensors. Though there's plenty of seismic activity that happens out in the middle of the ocean, most detection equipment is located on land, with the exception of a few offshore sensor projects in Japan, the U.S., and Canada.

To get better earthquake data for tremors and quakes that happen far from existing sensors, a group of scientists in the UK, Italy, and Malta suggest turning to the internet. As Science News reports, the fiber-optic cables already laid down to carry communication between continents could be repurposed as seismic sensors with the help of lasers.

The new study, detailed in a recent issue of Science, proposes beaming a laser into one end of the optical fiber, then measuring how that light changes. When the cable is disturbed by seismic shaking, the light will change.

This method, which the researchers tested during earthquakes in Italy, New Zealand, Japan, and Mexico, would allow scientists to use data from multiple undersea cables to both detect and measure earthquake activity, including pinpointing the epicenter and estimating the magnitude. They were able to sense quakes in New Zealand and Japan from a land-based fiber-optic cable in England, and measure an earthquake in the Malta Sea from an undersea cable running between Malta and Sicily that was located more than 50 miles away from the epicenter.

A map of the world's undersea cable connections with a diagram of how lasers can measure their movement
Marra et al., Science (2018)

Seismic sensors installed on the sea floor are expensive, but they can save lives: During the deadly Japanese earthquake in 2011, the country's extensive early-warning system, including underwater sensors, was able to alert people in Tokyo of the quake 90 seconds before the shaking started.

Using existing cable links that run across the ocean floor would allow scientists to collect data on earthquakes that start in the middle of the ocean that are too weak to register on land-based seismic sensors. The fact that hundreds of thousands of miles of these cables already crisscross the globe makes this method far, far cheaper to implement than installing brand-new seismic sensors at the bottom of the ocean, giving scientists potential access to data on earthquake activity throughout the world, rather than only from the select places that already have offshore sensors installed.

The researchers haven't yet studied how the laser method works on the long fiber-optic cables that run between continents, so it's not ready for the big leagues yet. But eventually, it could help bolster tsunami detection, monitor earthquakes in remote areas like the Arctic, and more.

[h/t Science News]

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AI Remade Old Music Videos, and You'll Never See 'Sabotage' the Same Way Again
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From rewriting Harry Potter scripts to naming guinea pigs, getting artificial intelligence to do humans' bidding is the latest trend in internet entertainment. Now, we can all enjoy AI remakes of iconic music videos such as "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys, "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler, and "Take On Me" by A-Ha.

As spotted by Co.Design, these "neural remakes" were uploaded to YouTube by Mario Klingemann, an artist-in-residence at Google Arts. The AI model he created is capable of analyzing a music video and then creating its own version using similar shots lifted from a database of publicly available footage. The results are then uploaded side-by-side with the original video, with no human editing necessary.

"Sabotage," a spoof on '70s-era cop movies, might be the AI's "most effective visual match," at least by Co.Design's estimate. The AI model found accurate matches for vintage cars and foot chases—and even when it wasn't spot on, the dated clips still mesh well with the vintage feel of the original video. Check it out for yourself:

"Total Eclipse of the Heart," a bizarre video to begin with, spawned some interesting parallels when it was fed through the AI model. Jesus makes a few appearances in the AI version, as does a space shuttle launch and what appear to be Spartan warriors.

And finally, 11 years after the original rickroll, there's now a new way to annoy your friends: the AI version of Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up," featuring John F. Kennedy and Jesus, yet again. This one is presented on its own in full-screen rather than split-screen, but you can rewatch the original video here.

To see more videos like this, check out Klingemann's YouTube channel here.

[h/t Co.Design]

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