Washington Post


NASA needs SpaceX to prove it can fly astronauts safely. Saturday's test flight is called a 'crucial step.'

Washington Post

The Securities and Exchange Commission is all over him. The Air Force inspector general is auditing his launch certifications. And even NASA, one of his most ardent supporters, is reviewing the safety culture at SpaceX after Elon Musk smoked a joint on a podcast. If that wasn't enough pressure, the billionaire entrepreneur is facing one of the most crucial moments in SpaceX's history early Saturday, when the spacecraft designed to carry humans is scheduled to lift off from a storied launch site here. Although the Dragon spacecraft won't be carrying astronauts -- only a mannequin with sensors and about 400 pounds of cargo -- the flight will mark a significant step toward the restoration of human spaceflight from U.S. soil since the space shuttle was retired nearly eight years ago.


NASA needs SpaceX to prove it can fly astronauts safely. Saturday's test flight is called a 'crucial step.'

Washington Post

The Securities and Exchange Commission is all over him. The Air Force inspector general is auditing his launch certifications. And even NASA, one of his most ardent supporters, is reviewing the safety culture at SpaceX after Elon Musk smoked a joint on a podcast. If that wasn't enough pressure, the billionaire entrepreneur is facing one of the most crucial moments in SpaceX's history early Saturday, when the spacecraft designed to carry humans is scheduled to lift off from a storied launch site here. Although the Dragon spacecraft won't be carrying astronauts -- only a mannequin with sensors and about 400 pounds of cargo -- the flight will mark a significant step toward the restoration of human spaceflight from U.S. soil since the space shuttle was retired nearly eight years ago.


Huawei pleads not guilty to accusations it stole T-Mobile's trade secrets

Washington Post

Two divisions of the Chinese networking giant Huawei pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that it stole trade secrets from America's third-largest wireless carrier, T-Mobile, in a bid to copy its technology. In federal court in Seattle, Huawei -- one of the world's biggest wireless equipment makers -- said it was not guilty of committing trade secret theft, nor of conspiring to hide such a plan. The case involves Huawei Device Co., Ltd. and Huawei Device USA. A jury trial has been set for March 2, 2020, before Chief Judge Ricardo S. Martinez of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. The pleas follow a 10-count indictment unsealed last month alleging in part that the Huawei divisions tried to collect information about a robotic arm that T-Mobile used to simulate human touch on its smartphones.


Your next FedEx delivery could be a pizza

Washington Post

FedEx is getting into the pizza delivery business, but no one will be greeting hungry customers at the door. As companies scramble to develop technology to get food, groceries and shipments to customers in hours, even minutes, FedEx unveiled an early model of an autonomous delivery robot on Tuesday. The shipper is teaming up with Pizza Hut, Walmart, Walgreens and other companies on the delivery program. The initiative highlights the surging demand for speedier delivery and the race to develop autonomous technology for what's known as the "last-mile," or the final step of the logistics journey from warehouse or kitchen to a customer's front door. Experts say merchants and shipping companies will increasingly move toward automation to lower costs and speed up delivery, with fleets of drones and bots eventually dropping off goods without direct assistance from human staff.


Sprint's 5G wireless launch, planned for May, could be the country's first

Washington Post

Sprint customers in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas and Kansas City will be among the first to test the company's 5G wireless network when it launches in May, executives said Monday. Expect an additional five markets -- Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix and Washington, D.C. -- to come online by the first half of the year, said Sprint chief executive Michel Combes. The impending launch could make Sprint the first U.S. wireless carrier to offer a mass-market 5G service for smartphones in a global race to provide faster download speeds and support for new applications such as self-driving cars. Customers of Google Fi, the wireless service run by Google on Sprint's network, will be able to connect to Sprint's 5G capabilities, as well, Combes said -- though it is unclear when Google Fi customers will gain access to 5G smartphones that can take advantage of the new technology. Company officials declined to say how Sprint's 5G plans will be sold to consumers, or at what price.


At this fast food drive through, the person taking your order might not be a person at all

Washington Post

The drive through window is often considered the most harrowing assignment inside a fast-food restaurant. A nonstop whirlwind of multitasking, the gig involves organizing multiple orders, communicating with the kitchen, counting money and negotiating with an endless stream of customers who range from polite and coherent to angry and inebriated –– all for a minimum wage reward. If that juggling act wasn't hard enough, a giant timer hangs in many drive through kitchens, adding urgency to each task, former workers say. Though the drive through gantlet has broken many a fast food worker, the newest employee at Good Times Burgers & Frozen Custard in Denver will not be feeling the heat anytime soon. That's because she's an artificially intelligent voice assistant –– emotion-free and immune to stress –– with the ability to operate a drive through window without fatigue, bathroom breaks or compensation.


MIT scientists are using lobsters to develop a new form of flexible body armor

Washington Post

Imagine a highly sophisticated body armor that is a tough as it is flexible, a shield that consists largely of water, but remains strong enough to prevent mechanical penetration. Now imagine that this armor is not only strong, but also soft and stretchy, so much so that the wearer is able to move their body parts with ease, whether they're swimming in water, walking across the ground or rushing to escape danger. That description might sound like a suit worn by a fictional hero in the DC Comics franchise, but it actually describes portions of a lobster's exoskeleton. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard believe the soft membrane covering the animal's joints and abdomen ---- a material that is as tough as the industrial rubber used to make car tires and garden hoses ---- could guide the development of a new type of flexible body armor for humans, one designed to cover joints like knees and elbows. The researchers' findings appeared in a recent edition of the journal Acta Materialia.


Parkland school turns to experimental surveillance software that can flag students as threats

Washington Post

Kimberly Krawczyk says she would do anything to keep her students safe. But one of the unconventional responses the local Broward County school district has said could stop another tragedy has left her deeply unnerved: an experimental artificial-intelligence system that would surveil her students closer than ever before. The South Florida school system, one of the largest in the country, said last month it would install a camera-software system called Avigilon that would allow security officials to track students based on their appearance: With one click, a guard could pull up video of everywhere else a student has been recorded on campus. The 145-camera system, which administrators said will be installed around the perimeters of the schools deemed "at highest risk," will also automatically alert a school-monitoring officer when it senses events "that seem out of the ordinary" and people "in places they are not supposed to be." The supercharged surveillance network has raised major questions for some students, parents and teachers, like Krawczyk, who voiced concerns about its accuracy, invasiveness and effectiveness.


Friendly nurse or nightmare-inducing machine? How culture programs our taste in robots.

Washington Post

Slowly and silently, they glide across the floor wearing bright yellow dresses that look like they were plucked from a haunted 1920s boarding school. No, you haven't encountered some Mothman-like terror entombed inside a department store mannequin, the byproduct of a twisted, futuristic fever dream. You've merely stepped inside Mongkutwattana General Hospital in Bangkok, where a team of robot nurses has been unleashed to make life easier. Their job: ferrying documents between eight stations inside the health-care facility, a job that used to be carried out busy human nurses, hospital director Reintong Nanna told Newsflare last year. "These robotic nurses help to improve the efficiency and performance of working in the hospital," he said.


A new 3-D printing technique creates solid objects using rays of light

Washington Post

On the Starship Enterprise, replicators were devices that were used "to dematerialize matter and then reconstitute it in another form," according to Startrek.com. For Captain Picard's hungry crew, in particular, that usually meant nostalgically reconstituting meals on demand to appease a sudden craving. Though we remain a long way away from being able to transmogrify matter into a chocolate sundae on command, a team of real-life researchers has created a 3-D printer that can create entire objects simultaneously instead of creating them one painstaking layer at a time like most printing techniques. The new approach ---- known as Computer Axial Lithography (CAL) ---- carves an object out of a synthetic resin that solidifies when it comes into contact with particular patterns and intensities of light. Using a device dubbed "the replicator," researchers from University of California, Berkeley and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory used the technique to create tiny airplanes and bridges, copies of the human jaw, a screwdriver handle and minuscule copies of Rodin's Thinker.