'Dallas & Robo' pairs a trucker and a robot to save the solar system


Earlier the month, YouTube announced a new Kat Dennings- and John Cena-led animated series for its Red, soon to be Premium, platform -- a buddy comedy from the company behind BoJack Horseman about a space trucker and a robot. YouTube has now released a trailer for the eight-episode series and in it we see the Dennings-voiced Dallas driving through space in her flame-painted truck and hanging out in bars with her Cena-voiced robot pal. She describes them as a "boozy ex-stock car racer and an overly sensitive AI," while superimposed text says they're "accidentally saving the solar system one trucking job at a time." Oh, and Dallas' truck is apparently registered under the name Harry Undersack. You can check out the trailer below.

Alta Devices' solar technology selected to help power Hybrid Tiger UAV


The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) will use Alta Devices' "highly efficient, flexible, and light-weight" solar technology to help power the "breakthrough" Hybrid Tiger UAV. The Hybrid Tiger is a project designed to create a Group-2 UAV that will stay aloft for at least three and a half days, and Alta Devices says that technologies developed for the project will be applicable to other unmanned vehicles. "Widespread use of small UAVs in both the military and industry has been limited to-date by endurance. The Hybrid Tiger will demonstrate that very long endurance flights, with sophisticated telemetry and capabilities, can be achieved with the inclusion of solar arrays," says Jian Ding, Alta Devices CEO. "This project will open the door for many new solar powered UAV applications, and we look forward to achieving next generation breakthroughs via this cooperative effort."

The first wireless flying robotic insect takes off


To power RoboFly, the engineers pointed an invisible laser beam (shown here in red laser) at a photovoltaic cell, which is attached above the robot and converts the laser light into electricity.Mark Stone/University of Washington Insect-sized flying robots could help with time-consuming tasks like surveying crop growth on large farms or sniffing out gas leaks. These robots soar by fluttering tiny wings because they are too small to use propellers, like those seen on their larger drone cousins. Small size is advantageous: These robots are cheap to make and can easily slip into tight places that are inaccessible to big drones. But current flying robo-insects are still tethered to the ground. The electronics they need to power and control their wings are too heavy for these miniature robots to carry.

Laser-Powered Robot Insect Achieves Lift Off

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

For robots of all sizes, power is a fundamental problem. Any robot that moves is constrained in one way or another by power supply, whether it's relying on carrying around heavy batteries, combustion engines, fuel cells, or anything else. It's particularly tricky to manage power as your robot gets smaller, since it's much more straightforward to scale these things up rather than down--and for really tiny robots (with masses in the hundreds of milligrams range), especially those that demand a lot of power, there really isn't a good solution. In practice, this means that on the scale of small insects robots often depend on tethers for power, which isn't ideal for making them practical in the long term. At the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Brisbane, Australia, next week, roboticists from the University of Washington, in Seattle, will present RoboFly, a laser-powered insect-sized flapping wing robot that performs the first (very brief) untethered flight of a robot at such a small scale.

This Insect-Sized Flying Robot Is Powered by Lasers


In 1989, two MIT artificial intelligence researchers made a terrifying prediction. "Within a few years," wrote Rodney Brooks and Anita Flynn, "it will be possible at modest cost to invade a planet with millions of tiny robots." Their paper "Fast, Cheap and out of Control: A Robot Invasion of the Solar System,", argued that small, autonomous "gnat robots" would soon become cheap enough to solve problems en masse. Nearly three decades later, those millions of tiny robots have yet to take over, at least not exactly like Brooks and Flynn envisioned. While they were right in some ways--the world has more than 700 million active iPhones--the vision of the fast, autonomous, tiny, buzzing bot is still a dream.

From solar-powered shirts to drunken droids: what the smarthome will look like

The Guardian

If the invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck, as the French philosopher Paul Virilio suggested, then what does that make the invention of the Nest learning thermostat? As our homes fill up with more connected devices, funnelling every aspect of our lives into the great cloud of big data, the answer could be something much more alarming than just a few more faulty appliances cluttering up our cupboards. This is one of the unsettling questions at the heart of The Future Starts Here, an exhibition about to open at the V&A in London. It promises to be less of a showcase of Tomorrow's World-type gadgetry than a thought-provoking probe into where exactly this new generation of smart technology is taking us. "People seem scared of the future at the moment," says Rory Hyde who, with co-curator Mariana Pestana, has spent the last two years trawling university laboratories and touring Silicon Valley to gather 100 hot-out-of-the-factory innovations, from a low-cost satellite to a solar-powered shirt that can charge a smartphone.

Solar spy drone can fly for a year without maintenance or fuel

Daily Mail

A solar-powered spy drone that can fly for a year without maintenance or fuel could one day carry out missions for the British military. The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) uses the sun to power its engines during the day as well as recharge its batteries for overnight operation. Known as Phasa-35, the aircraft could one day be used for surveillance and provide vital communications to remote areas at altitudes of up to 70,000ft (21,000m). Work is already underway to prepare the first drone for flight tests in 2019, according to British defence giant BAE Systems, which is developing the aircraft. A solar-powered spy drone (artist's impression) that can fly for a year without maintenance or fuel could one day carry out missions for the British military Engineers from BAE and Farnborough-based firm Prismatic announced Thursday they would collaborate on the development of the UAV.

NASA's InSight Lander Will Probe Mars, Measure Its Quakes


For the first time since launching the Curiosity rover in 2011, NASA is sending a spacecraft to the surface of Mars. Surface missions are sexy missions: Everyone loves roving robots and panoramic imagery of other worlds. But the agency's latest interplanetary emissary won't be doing any traveling (it's a lander, not a rover). InSight--short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport--will be the first mission to peer deep into Mars' interior, a sweeping geophysical investigation that will help scientists answer questions about the formation, evolution, and composition of the red planet and other rocky bodies in our solar system. The mission is scheduled to launch some time this month, with a window opening May 5. When the lander arrives at Mars on November 26 of this year, it will land a few degrees north of the equator in a broad, low-lying plain dubbed Elysium Planitia.

Smart systems key to future of cheaper and cleaner energy supply

Guardian Energy

The home of the future looks an increasingly attractive place to live this week, after millions of households received the unwelcome news that their energy bills were going up again. Switching supplier is one quick fix to rising bills. But in the long run, industry players say the answers may lie in a coming revolution in how we use energy in our homes, turning them into mini power stations and reducing our reliance on energy companies such as British Gas and EDF. For consumers, cost and convenience will be big factors. For energy firms, there is a chance to rebuild trust and transform themselves from mere suppliers into more profitable service companies.

Google now purchases more renewable energy than it consumes as a company


Google announced in a blog post that it now purchases more renewable energy than it consumes as a company. Google began these efforts in 2017, with the goal of purchasing as much renewable energy as it uses across its 13 data centers and all of its office complexes. To be clear, Google is not powering all of its energy consumption with renewable energy. It's matching what it consumes with equal amounts of purchased renewable energy. For every kilowatt-hour of electricity consumed, it buys a kilowatt-hour from a wind or solar farm built specifically for Google.