Pepper-picking robot could change agricultural industry

A pepper-picking robot developed by EU-funded CROPS project, lead by Dr. Bontsema, has become the first in what could be a wave of agricultural robots.

The robot runs on a rail system, has snake like arms with pincers, and uses a stream of snapshots for movement to be able to pick fruits. The robot however was slow and inefficient and Dr. Bontsema is creating another project called SWEEPER to make faster robots ready for commercialization.

‘A robot system will improve food safety and give the opportunity to selectively harvest for higher quality,’ said Dr Jan Bontsema, Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture.

Dr. Bontsema’s team is working to make robots smarter. “We introduced in CROPS the so-called ROS software, robot operating system and we will continue this in SWEEPER,”he said. “With that software you get a kind of plug and play system so if you want to use a different camera, for example, it’s no problem at all.”


NASA planning mission to asteroid 16 Psyche

NASA is planning a mission to asteroid 16 Psyche, located in the large asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Psyche was revealed to have a core similar to Earth, which would have it made up of iron, nickel, and rare materials such as gold, platinum, copper, cobalt, and others.

“It’s such a strange object,” said Lindy Elkins-Tanton, the lead scientist on the NASA mission and the director of Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration.

Spacecraft Elkins-Tanton, which will be launched by 2023, will be sent to observe the asteroid and transmit back data. The spacecraft will reach the asteroid around 2030 and will give scientists better information about the asteroid.


Airbus developing prototype for flying car

Airbus Group is preparing to test a prototype of a self piloted flying car. The company created the Urban Air Mobility division last year to create concepts for flying cars.

“One hundred years ago, urban transport went underground, now we have the technological wherewithal to go above ground,” Airbus CEO Tom Enders told the DLD digital tech conference in Munich.

The aim is to allow people to use an app to book vehicles. This would save money and reduce costs for city infrastructure. “With flying, you don’t need to pour billions into concrete bridges and roads,” he said.

The company is the world’s largest maker of commercial helicopters. Therefore, while no designs have yet been published of this potential flying car, we can generalize that it may look like a helicopter.

Take a Tour of the White House with President Obama

Felix & Paul Studios and Oculus have partnered together to release “The People’s House,” a 360-degree tour of the White House guided by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

The tour will be able on Facebook and Oculus Video for the Rift and Gear VR. The tour goes through various areas of the White House and its grounds. The tour is 8 minutes long. With just a few days left this VR tour will mark the exit into the Obamas time at the White House. The footage was shot last November and December.

With the 360-degree view users can look around to see what each area looks like and take in the experience. There’s a longer version that’s closer to 20 minutes coming later this year, according to the VR studio Felix & Paul, which filmed the experience, which will have more depth and sharpness.


Illumina may sequence a genome for $100

DNA sequencing company Illumina has unveiled a machine that may one day sequence a whole genome for less than $100. The company’s CEO Frank deSouza showed the machine, NovaSeq, at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in downtown San Francisco. He said that the machine could decipher an entire human genome in less than an hour.

Cost of sequencing has gone down tremendously. In 2006 Illumina’s first machine could sequence a human genome for $300,000 and slowly costs went down, last year it would cost $1,000 and now $100. The machines however cost much higher, as expected. The NovaSeq 5000 costs $850,000 and the NovaSeq 6000 costs $985,000.

Harvard, the Broad Institute of MIT, the Chan-Zuckerberg Biohub, and biotech companies Human longevity Inc. and Regeneron are ready to test NovaSeq.


ShapeScale creates 3D scans of users to help with fitness goals

ShopScale is aiming to create a new way to lose weight using 3D scanning technology that will scan the users body and monitor weight loss and gain.

The company is envisioning a tech friendly solution to monitoring and encouraging healthy weight loss. The technology comes with an app that can help visualize progress and create graphs or maps to track success throughout the body and help users know where to focus.

The app can also help identify whether or not the users diet and workout plan is helping in their specific goal.

The device uses an RGB depth camera that rotates around the user as the user stands on a scale. The camera captures photos of the user to create a 3D body.


Japanese Insurance agency installs AI system replacing human workers

Fukoku Mutual life Insurance is turning to artificial intelligence to increase productivity and save money.

The artificial intelligence system is based on IBM’s Watson explorer. The system can analyze massive amounts of data including images, audio, and video. It will be used to read tens of thousands of medical certificates, calculate length of visit or stay, analyze patients medical history, and calculate payouts.

The installation of the artificial intelligence system would replace 34 employees. Other companies such as Dai-Ichi LIfe Insurance and Japan Post Insurance are either interested in AI or have begun implementing AI systems.


ODG unveils AR/VR glasses

Osterhout Design Group (ODG) known for making smart glasses for the military and other organizations has made its first consumer product: augmented and virtual reality glasses.

ODG unveiled the R-8 and R-9 models. The R-9 will ship around Q2 of 2017, is priced around $1799, and is targeted for light enterprise. The R-8 is smaller than the R-9, is set for under $1,000, and is targeted for personal uses such as watching movies, sports, gaming, education, and more.

The glasses will come with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chip, the newest chip aimed at AR and VR. The glasses will run on Android and with an investment from 21 Century Fox and a collaboration with OTOY, a virtual reality firm, and LA’s up new HD content will be created for the devices.


Amazon wins patent for flying warehouse to deploy delivery drones

Amazon has plans to use an air blimp as a flying warehouse to launch drones for delivery. The company has been awarded a patent for the flying warehouse which is described as an “airborne fulfillment center”.

The warehouse would float at an altitude of 45,000 and be stocked of products. The products would then be delivered via drone, potentially within minutes. When a customer orders a product, a drone, using little power, would glide down and fly to its destination.

“When the UAV departs the AFC, it may descend from the high altitude of the AFC using little or no power other than to guide the UAV towards its delivery destination and/or to stabilize the UAV as it descends,” the patent filing explains.

The airship would be refueled using a shuttle, so that means it would be constantly airborne.

While the patent may have gone through, getting permission will be complex and may take awhile for approval so we may not be seeing these anytime soon.


Las Vegas now drawing 100% power from renewable energy

Las Vegas has moved on to 100% renewable energy for which they have spent the better part of a decade. The city partnered with NVEnergy the past year to run government buildings, community center lights, parks, and the city hall.

The city met its goal after Bouldar Solar 1 went online, a large scale project near Bouldar City. The city is powering more than 100 facilities with renewable energy. Along with solar energy the city will also tap into the Hoover Damn by the end of 2017.

Las Vegas began in 2008 with sustainable energy programs that implemented solar array installations and energy saving measures. The city’s energy savings from renewable sources is estimated at roughly $5 million annually.