AINews


And the Award for Most Nauseating Self-Driving Car Goes to …

MIT Technology Review

In many ways this year's CES looked a lot more like an autonomous-car show than a consumer electronics show. There were announcements aplenty from the likes of Ford, Baidu, Toyota, and others about self-driving vehicles, upcoming driving tests, and new partners. In a parking lot across from the Las Vegas Convention Center, several companies offered rides; you could even schedule a ride in a self-driving Lyft through the company's app and get dropped off at one of many casinos on the Strip. A couple of miles away in downtown Las Vegas, an eight-passenger autonomous shuttle bus ran in a loop around Fremont Street. It was part of an ongoing test between commuter transit company Keolis, autonomous-car maker Navya, and the city.


Robotic implant could help children with rare disorder eat again

New Scientist Online News

Some children are born with their oesophagus in two segments, so the tube doesn't connect to their stomach. A new robotic implant might help treat this serious condition, known as oesophageal atresia. The robot consists of two steel rings, some sensors and a motor, all sealed in a protective waterproof skin. The device is attached to the outside of one section of the oesophagus and gently elongates it by moving the rings apart. Once the organ is long enough, the two segments can be stitched together.


How smart speakers stole the show from smartphones

The Guardian - Technology (UK)

The battle now raging between the big technology companies for consumer cash is focused on the voice-controlled smart speaker. Having already conquered the pocket with the ubiquitous smartphone, big tech has been struggling to come up with the next must-have gadget that will open up a potentially lucrative new market – the home. A pilot light was lit when Amazon's Echo launched in 2014 and became a sleeper hit. Now the voice controlled smart speaker is rapidly becoming the next big thing, capable of answering questions, setting timers, playing music, controlling other devices about the home, or even potentially selling products. "The last 12 months have been explosive for smart speakers, which have surged into the mass market for two reasons.


Before Self-Driving Cars Become Real, They Face These Challenges

WIRED

In the spring of that year, the good Swedes at Volvo introduced Drive Me, a program to get regular Josefs, Frejas, Joeys, and Fayes into autonomous vehicles. By 2017, Volvo executives promised, the company would distribute 100 self-driving SUVs to families in Gothenburg, Sweden. The cars would be able to ferry their passengers through at least 30 miles of local roads, in everyday driving conditions--all on their own. "The technology, which will be called Autopilot, enables the driver to hand over the driving to the vehicle, which takes care of all driving functions," said Erik Coelingh, a technical lead at Volvo. Now, in the waning weeks of 2017, Volvo has pushed back its plans.


Cargo Industry Tests Seaplane Drones to Deliver Freight

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

Two years after World War II, billionaire Howard Hughes personally piloted his "Spruce Goose" troop transport aircraft on the first and only flight of the largest seaplane ever built. It lasted barely a minute. Now, more than 70 years later, a U.S. startup is testing a new seaplane concept--one that could evolve into huge cargo drones that fly 109 metric tons of freight across the Pacific, touch down autonomously over water, and unload at ports around the world. The startup Natilus was founded in 2014 with a dream of building large cargo drones to deliver international freight for about half the price of piloted aircraft, and much faster than ships. In December, Natilus planned to test the water-taxiing capabilities of a small prototype drone with a 9-meter wingspan in San Francisco Bay.