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Uber spins out Postmates' robot delivery division into a separate company

Engadget

Uber is spinning off Postmates' autonomous delivery division into a separate startup called Serve Robotics. The company inherited the unit when it acquired Postmates last year for $2.65 billion. According to Bloomberg, Uber will invest approximately $50 million in a Series A financing round that will make the company a minority stakeholder in Serve Robotics. The startup will operate independently of its former parent. However, it will maintain a close relationship with the company through a partnership that will see its sidewalk robots deliver groceries and other essentials to Uber customers.


Insect-like drones can take a beating and keep flying

Engadget

Insect-like drones have taken one large step closer to becoming a practical reality. Researchers at Harvard, MIT and the City University of Hong Kong have developed tiny insect-inspired drones that can not only maneuver in extremely tight spaces, but withstand bumps if things go wrong. The key is a switch to an actuation system that can flap the drones' wings while surviving its share of abuse. To date, drone makers wanting to go this small have had to ditch motors (which lose effectiveness at small sizes) in favor of piezoelectric ceramic-based rigid actuators. The new drones rely on soft actuators made from rubber cylinders coated with carbon nanotubes.


DJI officially unveils its cinematic FPV drone

Engadget

As leaks suggested, DJI is releasing a cinematic first-person view drone that works with its FPV Goggles. The FPV comes with the latest version of the goggles and there's an optional one-handed motion controller. The company is calling it a hybrid drone that blends elements of cinematic FPV devices and racing drones, but it leans more toward the former category. The company is hoping to make first-person drone flying more accessible by bringing its features to a cinewhoop-style drone. The DJI Virtual Flight app should help beginners practice before they actually start flying.


Hitting the Books: The Brooksian revolution that led to rational robots

Engadget

We are living through an AI renaissance thought wholly unimaginable just a few decades ago -- automobiles are becoming increasingly autonomous, machine learning systems can craft prose nearly as well as human poets, and almost every smartphone on the market now comes equipped with an AI assistant. Oxford professor Michael Woolridge has spent the past quarter decade studying technology. In his new book, A Brief History of Artificial Intelligence, Woolridge leads readers on an exciting tour of the history of AI, its present capabilities, and where the field is heading into the future. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. In his 1962 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, the philosopher Thomas Kuhn argued that, as scientific understanding advances, there will be times when established scientific orthodoxy can no longer hold up under the strain of manifest failures.


Volkswagen is using its electric ID.Buzz van to test self-driving tech

Engadget

Volkswagen at one time said its electric ID.Buzz van would reach dealerships by 2022 (that announcement has been removed but you can view it in the Internet Archive), but news from its commercial division confirms that at least an unveiling is still on deck for next year. Beyond that, VW autonomous driving exec Christian Senger said "This year, for the first time, we are conducting field trials in Germany, in which the self-driving system by Argo AI will be used in a version of the future ID. Argo AI is the autonomous driving technology that Ford and VW have partnered to invest in and develop. The commercial vehicles team is developing vans to use the self-driving tech in that are based on the ID.Buzz to power a ride-hailing and pooling concept with autonomous vans that can operate in urban areas. With the announcement VW also released this concept sketch (above) of the self-driving test vehicle that Germans may see on roads any moment now.


NASA's Perseverance rover carried a family portrait of its robotic siblings to Mars

Engadget

Like any good piece of high-tech hardware, NASA's Perseverance rover features an Easter egg hidden in plain sight. Since landing on Mars on February 18th, NASA has been sharing thousands of photos captured by the rover. And if you look close enough, as Space did, you'll catch a decal bolted to the top of its body. That decal depicts Perseverance and every single other NASA rover to successfully make it to the surface of Mars. This plaque I carry pays tribute to those who've gone before me, and to new possibilities ahead.


Netflix is making a Terminator anime with the studio behind 'Ghost in the Shell'

Engadget

A Terminator anime from the legendary studio behind the Ghost in the Shell franchise is coming to Netflix. The streaming giant didn't share any details on the plot, but showrunner Mattson Tomlin, who worked on Project Power for Netflix, told Variety he plans to approach the franchise in a way that "breaks conventions, subverts expectations and has real guts." If you're an anime fan, you need no introduction to Production I.G. In addition to adapting Masamune Shirow's seminal manga, the studio has worked on popular series like Psycho-Pass and Eden of the East. The most terrifying killing machine in sci-fi history is back, just like it promised.


The Morning After: 'Cyberpunk 2077' runs into another delay

Engadget

Cyberpunk 2077's woes have continued long after the game launched, with all the issues that entailed. CD Projekt Red announced yesterday that we'll have to wait until the second half of March for the next big patch. The developer cited that recent ransomware hack as the major culprit -- it initially planned to launch the 1.2 patch in February. As you're probably aware, February ends this week. The news is especially frustrating for PS5 owners as the game hasn't returned to the PlayStation Store since it was pulled.


Zoom's automatic closed captions will roll out to everyone in the fall

Engadget

Closed captions will soon be widely available on Zoom. The video conferencing app has announced that it's working towards making automatic closed captioning available to all of its users by the fall of 2021. Currently, the built-in AI-powered feature is locked behind a paywall and can only be accessed by paid account holders -- a Zoom subscription costs at least $150 a year per license. Everybody else has to provide their own captions by typing them up or using a third-party service. In an effort to help free account holders in need of live transcriptions, such as those with hearing loss, Zoom is accepting automatic closed captioning requests until the fall when the feature is done rolling out.


ZTE shows off an under-display facial recognition system

Engadget

At MWC Shanghai, ZTE revealed an under-display 3D structured light system that will support Face ID-style facial recognition. The company, which was the first manufacturer to include an under-display selfie camera in a mass-produced smartphone, may have found a balance between allowing enough data to pass through the display to make the system work and ensuring the screen still looks good when the camera isn't being used. ZTE is compensating for for light transmission loss through the screen by cranking up the pixel density of the projector (which creates a 3D map of your face) by over ten times. To help make that region of the screen look more consistent with the rest of the display, it improved the pixel density of the area above the camera from 200ppi to 400ppi. It also boosted the panel refresh rate to 120Hz.