Sphero's been amusing us with its collection of robotic balls, like its adorable BB-8, for eight years. But lately the company has been getting away from the toy aspect of its products and embracing its educational potential. It's had an app that can be used to program many of its current bots for a while now, but that's only for budding coders -- what do kids interested in hardware have to tinker with? Indeed, Sphero is about to release its first robot specifically made to be physically modded, called the RVR. RVR -- that's pronounced "Rover" -- is a big change for Sphero.
IKEA's latest effort to improve its environmental footprint has taken a decidedly aquatic bent. The company has designed a remote-controlled boat, the Good Ship IKEA, that clears trash from the water. It may look cutesy (it's modeled after the SMÅKRYP bath toy), but it's very much functional. They use environmental cleanup boat technology that can collect up to 44lbs of debris at a time -- a small fleet could keep a river relatively pristine. Like some aerial drones, the remote control provides a first-person view thanks to a camera.
The cute Japanese robots keep coming. Sony's adorable Aibo pups are already on to their sixth litter and now Sharp is upgrading its RoBoHon line, too. In case you need reminding, that's the robot smartphone that -- like all good droids -- can sing and dance. Along with pricey LTE and WiFi-only models, the second-gen RoBoHon range includes a cheaper "seated" bot that costs 79,000 yen plus tax (around $715). Of course, that means it can't walk, but it will still be able to bust-a-move to certain songs using the top half of its body.
Amazon is staking a claim in the EV market after it led a $700 million investment round in electric pickup truck and SUV maker Rivian. Other details about the investment aren't being disclosed, but previous shareholders are involved and Rivian is remaining an independent company. Rumors suggested this week Amazon and GM would both invest, but it's not clear if the latter took part in this round. Nor did Rivian disclose how much of the company Amazon now owns. "We are excited to have Amazon with us on our journey to create products, technology and experiences that reset expectations of what is possible," Rivian's CEO RJ Scaringe said.
Dubai International Airport is the latest to halt flights over a drone scare following similar incidents at London's Gatwick and Heathrow. The world's third-busiest airport temporarily stopped operations for just under 30 minutes due to "unauthorized drone activity," according to a tweet from the Dubai Media Office. Incoming flights were permitted to land during the disruption, reports The New York Times, which occurred between 10.15AM and 10.45AM local time. Operations are now reportedly back to normal. "Dubai Airports has worked closely with the appropriate authorities to ensure that the safety of airport operations is maintained at all times and to minimize any inconvenience to our customers," the airport said.
Prisons in Hong Kong are testing a variety of high-tech services that will allow correctional facilities to better track inmates, according to the South China Morning Post. The city's Commissioner of Correctional Services, Danny Woo Ying-min, claimed the new services will be used to monitor for abnormal behavior among the incarcerated, prevent self-harm, and operate the prisons more efficiently. The "smart prison" initiative includes strapping inmates with fitness tracker-style wristbands that monitor location and activity, including heart rate. Some facilities will also start to use video surveillance systems that can identify any unusual behavior, fights and attempts to inflict harm on one's self. Correctional Services is also testing robots that will be used to search for drugs in feces from inmates.
When Netflix said that David Fincher and Tim Miller's Love, Death and Robots was an animated series for mature audiences, it wasn't kidding around. The streaming giant has posted the trailer for the 18-story anthology, and you definitely won't be watching this with younger viewers. The title is not only apt, but can sometimes describe one scene -- there are multiple displays of robot sexuality, for starters. The trailer doesn't show enough to indicate whether these will be thought-provoking tales or simply a bit risqué, but it's certainly enough to raise eyebrows (and ears, given the thumping industrial soundtrack). And even if you don't care for it, look at it this way: it might open the door for more adult-oriented animation on Netflix.
Waymo likes to boast that its self-driving cars can handle tough situations, and now it has some extra data to back up its claims. The California DMV has published manufacturers' reports for autonomous vehicle disengagements (moments when a human had to intervene), and Waymo's disengagement rate fell in 2018 to 0.09 for every 1,000 driverless miles -- that's half as many instances as in 2017. To Waymo, that's evidence the cars are better at dealing with "edge cases," those once-in-a-lifetime situations that used to require human adaptability. The Alphabet-owned brand added that it now has over 10 million real-world miles to date, and more than 7 billion simulated miles. GM's Cruise Automation was comparable to Waymo's 2017 with an 0.19 disengagement rate, while the next-closest performances were from startups like Zoox (0.50), Nuro (0.97) and Pony.AI (0.98).
Drone manufacturer DJI announced today that it is updating the geofencing system it uses in Europe to prevent drone pilots from flying the unmanned aircraft in places where they don't belong. The updated Geospatial Environment Online (GEO) 2.0 system will be introduced in 19 European countries and is expected to roll out over the course of this month. According to DJI, the GEO 2.0 system creates stronger boundaries around airports to keep drones from interrupting flight plans. It will place 3/4th of a mile boundaries around runways and will fence off flight paths at the end of the runway where planes take off and land. The geofenced boundaries are based on recommendations from the Civil International Organization's standards for airspace safety.
If you've ever wondered how you look through the eyes of a robot, you may soon find out. Engineers at the UK-based Engineered Arts are working with a British art gallery owner to create a human-looking robotic artist with the ability to draw, according to Reuters. The artificial intelligence, named Ai-Da, will use a bionic hand equipped with a pencil to sketch what it sees. Ai-Da will essentially be an attempt to automate what you'd expect to get from a caricature artist on a boardwalk. The bot uses cameras housed in its eyeballs to see what is in front of it, and AI-powered computer vision to identify humans, track their features, and mimic their expressions.