Popular Science


Robotic ships from Rolls-Royce (not that one) could carry out naval missions without a crew

Popular Science

In 2016, the Navy christened Sea Hunter, a 132-foot-long, fully autonomous vessel designed to patrol the ocean and look for submarines lurking beneath the surface. Rolls-Royce (not the car company) released a concept for an autonomous naval vessel last week, one that would be powered by Rolls-Royce engines and controlled by its own systems. "If navies want to seriously start to move into this space, this is what that ship would look like," says Edgar Wright, a senior engineer at Rolls-Royce, "We're already seeing smaller unmanned surface vehicles performing missions like patrol and minehunting, but what the larger platform gets you is creased range and persistence." There is already a thriving ecosystem of smaller, unmanned and remotely controlled aquatic vessels.


The Plimp is a plane-blimp mashup that promises safe air transport

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With a rigid, winged body held underneath a massive helium-containing envelope, their craft is billed as a fusion of both airplane and blimp technology. Egan Airships, the company formed by twin brothers James and Joel Egan, debuted their Plimp at the InterDrone exposition earlier this month. The first model is unmanned, making it a plane blimp drone, built within FAA limits. Because half of the weight of the vehicle is offset by the helium envelope (the big, blimp-like pouch on the top of the vehicle), the craft is larger than a typical drone: 28 feet long, and 7 feet in diameter.


20 percent off a smart car charger and other good deals happening today

Popular Science

For the first time, the Anker Roav SmartCharge Car Kit is on sale for 20 percent off. If you put the code ANKERFMA at checkout, you can save $6. Beyond charging your devices, it uses Bluetooth and FM radio to connect to your car's stereo, so you can play music and answer phone calls. It's got two USB quick-charging ports, and let's you use the Roav app to find your car in case you've forgotten where you parked it.


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Popular Science

Here's how her newest voice came into the world: Someone read aloud from a book, and Apple recorded it. Apple's goal with those recordings was to gather natural-sounding words and phonemes, or the sounds that comprise our words. To better understand the qualities of Siri's new voice, I sent clips of her speaking American English to Molly Babel, an assistant professor in the department of linguistics at the University of British Columbia. Babel asked me to record Siri saying specific words--among them pasta, pool, and boot--and a passage, well known in linguistics, that contains a plethora of word-sounds.


Apple's new Face ID system uses a sensing strategy that dates back decades

Popular Science

On Tuesday, in addition to three shiny new iPhone models, Apple announced Face ID, a slick new way for people to biometrically unlock their phones by showing it their, well, face. Among the sensors that comprise what the company calls the TrueDepth camera system that enable Face ID are an infrared camera and a dot projector. One step in the facial-identification process is that the TrueDepth camera system takes an infrared image; another piece of hardware projects those thousands of infrared dots on the face, Schiller explained. "We use the IR image and the dot pattern, and we push them through neural networks to create a mathematical model of your face," he said.


The Marine Corps wants to 3D print cheaper drones

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With the area surveilled, the aptly-named Scout drone flies back, and suffers a rough landing, snapping a wing. McNeal was one of the people who submitted a proposal to last year's Marine Corps Logistics Innovation Challenge, a program designed to crowdsource ideas about 3D printing and wearable technologies. There, he found the Nomad design, a simple fixed-wing drone design by Alejandro Garcia. In February, the Marine Corps partnered with Autodesk's Pier 9 residency program, and by the time the residency ended in June, McNeal had a new, 3D printed drone prototype, nicknamed "Scout.


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The researchers were able to get autonomous modular robots--robots that have the ability to control themselves, like the Roomba vacuum cleaner--to join forces and make one cohesive megabot. Researchers who study swarming insects like termites and ants know that these animals can accomplish things in coordinated groups that they could never manage on their own: carrying large objects, taking out predators, and creating intricate structures. A single powerful robot needs a redesign every time users come up with a new task for it; a bot built for building things can't be expected to pivot to search-and-rescue missions. At the same time, robot swarms provide something a single robot can't--redundancy.


Weather forecasts aren't perfect, but they're getting there

Popular Science

High-temperature predictions have improved significantly over the past 12 years, according to a new report from ForecastWatch, a Columbus, Ohio-based company that assesses the accuracy of weather forecasts. But there's a lot riding on weather forecasts, and a relatively small boost in accuracy can make a big difference when a country is faced with a natural disaster. And as weather forecasts become ever more sophisticated, you may come to realize that they've infiltrated other realms of technology to innocuously improve more typical days as well. Having more precise forecasts in future could cut down on the number of people who have to seek shelter, and help those in the path of the worst of the weather make crucial decisions.


People who hear voices in their head can also pick up on hidden speech

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"But roughly 5 to 15 percent of the general population will have some experience of hearing unusual voices at some point in their lives. "There's an increasingly popular theory on how our brain makes sense of the world. To see if priming might play a role in hearing voices, Alderson-Day and his colleagues including researchers from University College London, and the University of Porto in Portugal, took two groups of people--those who claimed to hear voices but were otherwise mentally healthy and those who were also healthy but didn't hear voices--and placed them into functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machines. Because a lot of us have some experience hearing voices--if you've ever heard a voice (your mom perhaps) calling your name in an empty house you've experienced some level of auditory hallucination--only people who had recently and relatively frequently heard voices were included in this group.


Drones will fly into the path of the eclipse to study weather

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For the atmospheric scientist however, the eclipse provides a shining opportunity to directly study how the sun influences weather patterns by heating the atmosphere. To that end, a team of researchers from Oklahoma State University and the University of Nebraska is going to spend Monday tracking changes in the atmosphere in the path of the eclipse. And to get just how the eclipse changes the weather in the low sky, the team will fly drones during the totality. "There's an impact during what we call the diurnal cycle, the night-day boundary, the sun comes out, starts heating up the ground, and that's where a lot of our unstable weather phenomena starts to form," says Jamey Jacob, a professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Oklahoma State University.