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These Cardboard Drones Are (Highly Useful) Paper Airplanes for the Military

Otherlab
Otherlab

The U.S. military has started playing with paper airplanes. DARPA, the Defense Department’s technology lab, is funding research into inexpensive, biodegradable cardboard drones that can deliver supplies and then disappear, as the MIT Technology Review reports.

Designed by Otherlab, Aerial Platform Supporting Autonomous Resupply Actions (APSARA) gliders are made of heavy-duty cardboard that ships flat, like IKEA furniture. They’re cheap to mass-produce, so it’s not risky to send them into remote areas where the military might otherwise lose another pricey drone. Soldiers can assemble them in the field if necessary.

There’s no engine or battery, just a small set of electronics to allow the glider to navigate to its destination. They can carry 2.2 pounds (one kilogram) of blood, medicine, or other humanitarian supplies into areas that don’t have road or plane access, including onto the battlefield.

According to Otherlab’s press release, a military transport plane stocked with hundreds of pre-programmed cardboard gliders could deliver supplies to an area the size of California in one go. However, this design is just a trial run for the concept. According to Air & Space magazine, Otherlab plans to make the final product out of mycelium (living root structures from mushrooms) that could be activated when the glider is released. The spores would digest the frame, and within a few days, the drone would disappear completely.

If you thought the military’s drone programs were secretive now, just wait until they have drones that can eat themselves.

[h/t MIT Technology Review]

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Amazon Is Reportedly Working on a Home Robot
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If you feel as though Amazon’s various Echo devices, Dash buttons, Kindle readers, Prime boxes, and other products have left you needing even more of the shopping giant’s presence in your life, you’re in luck. According to reports, the company is working on a robot that could soon be locomoting around your home and collecting terabytes of data in the process.

Bloomberg reports that Amazon is currently working on development of the robots under the project name “Vesta,” after the Roman goddess of hearth and home. The speculation is that Amazon wants to finalize a design that would allow the robot to move from one room to another and utilize an on-board camera to acquire information about their human companion. Those familiar with the project believe that it might be a kind of mobile Alexa, Amazon’s current AI interface that allows people to order products and acts as a kind of universal remote for the home.

With a camera and wheels, a portable Alexa might be able to be more proactive in checking for bathrooms low on toilet paper or kitchen cupboards that might need more packaged goods. It might also be able to respond to commands when its owner has moved to an area out of Alexa’s reach.

The size, features, battery life, price, and adorableness of the robot are all still unknown. If the project continues to move forward, it might be beta-tested in Amazon employee homes in late 2018, before coming to market in 2019.

[h/t the Verge]

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Watch a Robot Solve a Rubik's Cube in .38 Seconds
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The record for fastest Rubik's Cube completion is impressive, just 4.69 seconds as of September 2017, but the record held by a robot is hard to believe—even when you see it with your own eyes.

Blink and you might miss the feat accomplished in the video below, shared by The Kid Should See This. In it, a robot transforms the jumbled kid's toy into a cube with perfectly uniform sides in just 0.38 seconds, a time that earned the machine the record for fastest Rubik's Cube completion by a robot in March 2018.

The secret to the robot's remarkable Rubik's Cube skills is a smart software that can determine the color of each square from webcam images. From there, it calculates the exact movements necessary to produce a perfect cube, and then it makes them in a fraction of a second.

The biggest issue for the team wasn't engineering the robot to be super fast: It was making sure the cube didn't fall apart as it was being scrambled. To their surprise, they only destroyed four toys during the process.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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