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This robot made a 100,000-domino 'Super Mario Bros.' mural in 24 hours

Engadget

A new robot known as the Dominator has set a Guinness World Record for placing 100,000 dominos in just over 24 hours. Created by YouTuber and former NASA engineer Mark Rober, the Dominator is the result of more than five years of work. Rober had help from two freshmen from Stanford University and a Bay Area software engineer in creating the googly-eyed robot. The group programmed more than 14,000 lines of code, and outfitted it with components like omnidirectional wheels and 3D-printed funnels to create what Rober says is a "friendly robot that's super good at only one thing: setting up a butt-ton of dominos really, really fast." Up against professional domino artist Lily Hevesh, the Dominator used its ability to lay down 300 tiles all at once to work about 10 times faster than a human. It took the robot about two hours to put down over 9,000 dominos.


FDA clears Synchron's brain-computer interface device for human trials

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A company that makes an implantable brain-computer interface (BCI) has been given the go-ahead by the Food and Drug Administration to run a clinical trial with human patients. Synchron plans to start an early feasibility study of its Stentrode implant later this year at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York with six subjects. The company said it will assess the device's "safety and efficacy in patients with severe paralysis." Before such companies can sell BCIs commercially in the US, they need to prove that the devices work and are safe. The FDA will provide guidance for trials of BCI devices for patients with paralysis or amputation during a webinar on Thursday.


Watch Cassie the bipedal robot run a 5K

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Cassie, a bipedal robot that's all legs, has successfully ran five kilometers without having a tether and on a single charge. The machine serves as the basis for Agility Robotics' delivery robot Digit, as TechCrunch notes, though you may also remember it for "blindly" navigating a set of stairs. Oregon State University engineers were able to train Cassie in a simulator to give it the capability to go up and down a flight of stairs without the use of cameras or LIDAR. Now, engineers from the same team were able to train Cassie to run using a deep reinforcement learning algorithm. According to the team, Cassie teaching itself using the technique gave it the capability to stay upright without a tether by shifting its balance while running.


Nothing's Ear 1 wireless earbuds arrive on August 17th

Engadget

Nothing, the hardware startup from OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, has officially unveiled its first product: the Ear 1 wireless earbuds. If you've been following the teasers, you're probably familiar with the buds by now. Nothing already revealed the $99 price tag, pitting them against affordable rivals like the Amazon Echo Buds, OnePlus Buds and Google's Pixel Buds A; showed off the transparent design; and detailed the active-noise cancellation (ANC), which relies on a three-microphone setup. All that was really left was the release date and some gaps around specs, which are getting filled in today. The Ear 1 will initially be available online at nothing.tech as part of a limited drop on July 31st starting at 9AM ET.


The Morning After: Lucasfilm hired a YouTuber with deepfake skills

Engadget

The power of deepfake tech to hone digital effects into incredibly realistic video can't be underestimated. We've seen a top-level Tom Cruise impersonator transformed with a high-level deepfake artist, and now companies -- and film studios -- are taking notice. Luke Skywalker's CGI face in The Mandalorian was met with a lot of criticism, and one fan's efforts to improve it resulted in a new job. Lucasfilm has hired YouTuber Shamook to ensure future projects won't have wobbly representations of actors that are either much older or perhaps even deceased now. The latter, however, remains an ethical conundrum in itself, as demonstrated by the recent Anthony Bourdain documentary.


Amazon's second-gen Echo Buds fall to a Prime Day low at Best Buy

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Amazon's latest Echo Buds have dropped to below $100 for the first time since Prime Day. Best Buy is offering the active noise-canceling earbuds for $80, down from their normal price of $120. The Alexa-powered buds were already affordable, but the latest deal should help sway the neutrals. Especially considering that they were only released in April. Amazon improved its Echo Buds in all the right places with the second-gen model.


Why every robot needs a spiffy hat

Engadget

First developed more than 100,000 years ago, clothing is one of humanity's earliest -- and most culturally significant -- inventions, providing wearers not just protection from the environment and elements but also signifying social status, membership in a community and their role within that group. As robots increasingly move out of labs, off of factory floors and into our everyday lives, a similar garment revolution could soon be upon us once again, according to a new research study out of New York's Cornell University. "We believe that robot clothes present an underutilized opportunity for the field of designing interactive systems," the team argues in What Robots Need From Clothing, which was submitted to the In Designing Interactive Systems Conference 2021. "Clothes can help robots become better robots -- by helping them be useful in a new, wider array of contexts, or better adapt and function in the contexts they are already in." "I started by looking at how different materials would move on robots and thinking about the readability of that motion -- like, what is the robot's intention based on the way materials move on the robot," Natalie Friedman, a PhD student at Cornell Tech and lead author on the paper, explained to Engadget.


Autonomous quadrotor beats two human pilots in a drone race

Engadget

Unlike self-driving cars, autonomous drones can generally get from "A" to "B" safely, but could they beat a human pilot in a drone race? So far the answer has been "no way," but now, researchers from the University of Zurich (UZH) have created an algorithm that allowed an AI-powered drone to beat two human pilots on an experimental race track. The work could lead to more efficient drones for rescues, deliveries and other chores. In the past, researchers have built simplified models of quadrotor systems or flight paths to calculate the optimum trajectory. This time, however, they fully accounted for the drone's limitations.


Activision Blizzard execs respond to harassment and discrimination lawsuit

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The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard this week over alleged sexual harassment and discrimination against women. In a memo to staff obtained by Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier, Blizzard Entertainment president J. Allen Brack wrote that "the allegations and the hurt of current and former employees are extremely troubling." Brack wrote that everyone should feel safe at Blizzard and that "it is completely unacceptable for anyone in the company to face discrimination or harassment." He noted it requires courage for people to come forward with their stories, and that all claims brought to the company are taken seriously and investigated. "People with different backgrounds, views, and experiences are essential for Blizzard, our teams, and our player community," Brack wrote.


Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony included a light display with 1,800 drones

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There may not have been any fans in the Olympic Stadium, but Japan still found a way to put on a show for the opening of the 2020 Summer Games. The host country charmed early with the parade of nations, which featured an orchestrated video game soundtrack, and then showed off the type of creativity it's known for with a performance involving the Olympic pictograms. But Tokyo saved the biggest spectacle for last. Towards the end of the ceremony, a fleet of 1,824 drones took to the skies above the Olympic Stadium. Initially arrayed in the symbol of the 2020 Games, they then took on the shape of the Earth before a rendition of John Lenon's "Imagine," which was reworked by Hans Zimmer for the Olympics, played across the stadium.