Robots


Kroger starts testing self-driving grocery delivery in Arizona

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You now have a chance to try Kroger's self-driving grocery delivery... if you happen to live in the right part of Arizona. The chain has launched its driverless delivery pilot at a single Fry's Food Stores location in Scottsdale, giving you a chance to receive foodstuffs courtesy of Nuro's autonomous vehicles. Order through the Fry's website or app and the robotic courier can deliver either the same day or next day for a $6 flat fee. You'll have to live in the same 85257 ZIP code, so you can't make them drive across town just to satisfy your curiosity. Sadly, you won't see Nuro's custom R1 vehicle (above) roll up to your home in the earliest stages of the pilot -- it'll be a modified Toyota Prius instead, and the very first phase will include a just-in-case driver.


Director Tony Kaye puts out a casting call for robots

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For one of his next films, director Tony Kaye (American History X, Lake of Fire) needs a robot, but rather than using computer-generated effects to depict one, as filmmakers have done in the past, he wants to cast an actual AI robot. Deadline reports that Kaye and producer Sam Khoze came up with the idea for the upcoming film 2nd Born, a follow to the soon-to-be-released 1st Born. The robot Kaye and Khoze have in mind would be one trained in various acting methods and techniques, according to Deadline. And aside from casting it, the two also hope for it to be recognized by the Screen Actors Guild. It centers on a young couple whose Iranian and American families have to come together to support them during their complicated first pregnancy.


Ford takes an anti-Uber approach to self-driving cars

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As Uber and Tesla have learned, it doesn't take a lot of bad press to shatter public trust on autonomous vehicles. Ford has taken that lesson to heart, saying it would rather instill confidence in self-driving cars than be first to market. In a letter to the US Department of Transportation (DoT) and 44-page report called "A Matter of Trust," the automaker detailed how it plans to safely test its self-driving vehicles on public roads. The death of a pedestrian involving a Uber self-driving vehicle with a safety driver in particular seemed to affect the public's opinion of self driving cars. Prior to that, 44 percent of US adults said they'd be okay riding in autonomous cars.


Netflix's 'Next Gen' trailer features John Krasinski as your robot buddy

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Netflix's movies and shows couldn't compete at Cannes this year, but the streaming titan did come home with more content -- including worldwide distribution rights (except in China) for the animated film Next Gen. The company released the first trailer for the film, which is arriving on September 7th. Netflix paid $30 million for the rights, which may have been one of the biggest deals coming out of the festival; With footage, it's clear what the streaming company saw in the film. Featuring the voice talents of Charlyne Yi, John Krasinski, Michael Peña, Constance Wu, Jason Sudeikis and David Cross, Next Gen seems like Big Hero 6 crossed with I, Robot. It looks bright, earnest and full of jokes -- a crisp family-friendly film with pretty good computer-animated visuals for a non-Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks production.


NASA picks early winners for its ISS robot arm challenge

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NASA's bid to crowdsource an arm for its Astrobee cube robot is starting to bear fruit. The agency and Freelancer.com have chosen early winners for the Astrobee Challenges Series, each of which has designed a key component for the robotic appendage. South African grad student Nino Wunderlin produced an attachment mechanism, while Filipino conceptual engineer Myrdal Manzano crafted a "smart" attachment system. Indian software engineer Amit Biswas, in turn, developed a simple deployment mechanism. There's still a ways to go when nine of the contests in the challenge have yet to be unlocked.


Honda adds driver assist tech to all 2019 Honda Civics

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In 2014, Honda added driver-assist technology called Sensing to its higher-end trim packages on select models. The system is part of the automaker's plans to bring Sensing to all its vehicles by 2022 and perfect self-driving cars by 2025. This year, however, the company will include Sensing safety features for all trim levels of the Civic Sedan and Coupe. The updated autos will arrive as the 10th-generation of the Civic line of cars launches next year. The company promises updated styling and a new Sport trim for both sedan and coupe along with the Sensing technology.


Material with eagle-like grasp could lead to grippier robot hands

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Most materials bulge out when you squeeze them, pushing the energy outside. But that's not always what you want -- wouldn't it sometimes be better for them to collapse and hold the energy inside? These exotic materials (known as auxetics) already exist on a basic level, but they tend to be so fragile that you can only use them once. A team of UK scientists may have a better way: they've designed auxetic materials that can repeatedly collapse and store energy many times without breaking or expending additional energy, grabbing on much like an eagle's talon. The key was to produce 3D lattices that are both curved to distribute forces and fold in ways that latch on to the energy, with a "building block" inside ratcheting like the claws of a bird of prey.


Tesla will open its security code to other car manufacturers

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Tesla might just get into the habit of releasing source code for its in-car tech. Elon Musk has signaled his intention to post the source code for Tesla's car security software, letting any automaker roll it into their own machines. It would be "extremely important" to ensure the safety of future self-driving cars, he argued, and that's not without merit. You really don't want intruders crashing your car or otherwise causing havoc, especially when you're not at the wheel. Musk didn't provide a timeline for availability, and you might not want to get your hopes up when it took years for Tesla just to post any source code.


NASA looks to build a robot that can search other planets for bacteria

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While NASA's rovers have looked for signs of life outside of our world, they haven't searched for life directly. But Melissa Floyd, a scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, is working on a device that might change that. She wants to build an instrument that could look through soil and rock samples for evidence of bacteria or another type of single-celled microorganism called archaea. These organisms are thought to have been the first to appear on Earth and Floyd began to wonder if maybe life on nearby planets evolved like it did on our own. "I had this idea, actually a major assumption on my part: what if life evolved on Mars the same way it did here on Earth?


French secret service intercepts drone near president's summer home

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This week, the French secret service (Groupe de sécurité de la présidence de la République, or GSPR) took down a drone that was flying in the airspace above Fort de Brégançon. This spot on the French Riviera is well known as the summer home of the French presidents. It's unclear whether President Emmanuel Macron and his wife were in residence at the time. The concern over the drone centers on whether it might have been an assassination attempt on the French president. Earlier this month, the Venezuelan president may have been targeted in a drone attack.