Robotics

Learning Simple Robot Programming With a 'Non-Threatening' Robot Ball (Video) 4 4

Gobot, it says here, "is a framework for robotics, physical computing, and the Internet of Things, written in the Go programming language." And in today's video, interviewee Adrian Zankich (AKA "Serious Programming Guy at The Hybrid Group") says that an unadorned robot ball -- in this case the Sphero -- is about the least threatening robot you can possibly use to teach entry-level robot programming. Start with Go language? Cylon.js? Use whichever you prefer, Adrian says. Mix and match. It's all fun, and they're both great ways to get into programming for robotics and Internet of Things applications. Open source? You bet. Here's the Hybrid Group's gobot GitHub repository for your perusing pleasure. This (and more) is all in the video, which Tim Lord shot at the recent Solid Conference, where there was a rather high background noise level (but thankfully not high enough to make Adrian hard to understand). And besides the video, there's even more material in the transcript.
AI

NVIDIA Hopes To Sell More Chips By Bringing AI Programming To the Masses 11 11

jfruh writes: Artificial intelligence typically requires heavy computing power, which can only help manufacturers of specialized chip manufacturers like NVIDIA. That's why the company is pushing its Digits software, which helps users design and experiment with neural networks. Version 2 of digits moves out of the command line and comes with a GUI interface in an attempt to move interest beyond the current academic market; it also makes programming for multichip configurations possible.
Portables

Two-Pounder From Lenovo Might Be Too Light For Comfort 64 64

MojoKid writes: With the advent of solid state storage and faster, lower-powered processors that require less complex cooling solutions, the average mainstream notebook is rather svelte. Recently, however, Lenovo announced their LaVie Z and LaVie Z 360 ultrabooks and at 1.87 and 2.04 pounds respectively, they're almost ridiculously light. Further, with Core i7 mobile processors and fast SSDs on board, these machines perform impressively well in the benchmarks and real world usage. If you actually pick one up though, both models are so light they feel almost empty, like there's nothing inside. Lenovo achieved this in part by utilizing a magnesium--lithium composite material for the casing of the machines. Though they're incredibly light, the feeling is almost too light, such that they tend to feel a little cheap or flimsy. With a tablet, you come to expect a super thin and light experience and when holding them in one hand, the light weight is an advantage. However, banging on a full-up notebook keyboard deck is a different ball of wax.
Communications

The IT Containers That Went To War 54 54

1sockchuck writes: Parachuting a container full of IT gear into a war zone is challenging enough. In the mountains of Afghanistan, helicopters had to deliver modular data centers in three minutes or less, lest the choppers be targeted by Taliban rockets. UK vendor Cannon recently spoke with DataCenterDynamics, sharing some of the extreme challenges and lessons learned from deploying portable data centers for military units in deserts and mountains. The same lessons (except, hopefully, with a lower chance of being shot) would apply in lots of other extreme enviroments, too.
United States

Prototype Wave Energy Device Passes Grid-Connected Pilot Test 50 50

coondoggie writes: A prototype wave energy device advanced with backing from the Energy Department and U.S. Navy has passed its first grid-connected open-sea pilot testing. According to the DOE, the device, called Azura, was recently launched and installed in a 30-meter test berth at the Navy's Wave Energy Test Site (WETS) in Kaneohe Bay, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. This pilot testing is now giving U.S. researchers the opportunity to evaluate the long-term performance of the nation’s first grid-connected 20-kilowatt wave energy converter (WEC) device to be independently tested by a third party—the University of Hawaii—in the open ocean, the DOE said.
Supercomputing

Supercomputing Cluster Immersed In Oil Yields Extreme Efficiency 60 60

1sockchuck writes: A new supercomputing cluster immersed in tanks of dielectric fluid has posted extreme efficiency ratings. The Vienna Scientific Cluster 3 combines several efficiency techniques to create a system that is stingy in its use of power, cooling and water. VSC3 recorded a PUE (Power Usage Efficiency) of 1.02, putting it in the realm of data centers run by Google and Facebook. The system avoids the use of chillers and air handlers, and doesn't require any water to cool the fluid in the cooling tanks. Limiting use of water is a growing priority for data center operators, as cooling towers can use large volumes of water resources. The VSC3 system packs 600 teraflops of computing power into 1,000 square feet of floor space.
Robotics

The DARPA Robotics Challenge Was a Bust; Let's Try Again 35 35

malachiorion writes: The DARPA Robotics Challenge, the biggest and most well-funded international robotics competition in years, was a failure. After years of grueling work on the part of brilliant roboticists around the world, and millions in funding from the Pentagon, the finals came and went with little to no coverage from the mainstream media. The only takeaway, for those who aren't extremely dialed into robotics, is that a ton of robots fell down in funny ways. There were winners, but considering how downgraded the tasks were, compared to the ones initially announced in 2012, it was closer to the first DARPA Grand Challenge, where none of the robot cars finished, than the Urban Challenge, which kicked off the race to build deployable driverless cars. So just as DARPA regrouped after that first fizzle of a race, here's my argument for Popular Science: It's time to do it again, and make falling, and getting up, mandatory.
United States

Japanese and US Piloted Robots To Brawl For National Pride 107 107

jfruh writes: Japan may have just lost the Women's World Cup to the U.S., but the country is hoping for a comeback in another competition: a battle between giant robots. Suidobashi Heavy Industry has agreed to a challenge from Boston-based MegaBots that would involve titanic armored robots developed by each startup, the first of its kind involving piloted machines that are roughly 4 meters tall. "We can't let another country win this," Kogoro Kurata, who is CEO of Suidobashi, said in a video posted to YouTube. "Giant robots are Japanese culture."
Technology

Brain-Inspired 'Memcomputer' Constructed 53 53

New submitter DorkFest writes: "Inspired by the human brain, UC San Diego scientists have constructed a new kind of computer that stores information and processes it in the same place. This prototype 'memcomputer' solves a problem involving a large dataset more quickly than conventional computers, while using far less energy. ... Such memcomputers could equal or surpass the potential of quantum computers, they say, but because they don't rely on exotic quantum effects are far more easily constructed." The team, led by UC San Diego physicist Massimiliano Di Ventra published their results in the journal Science Advances.
Transportation

Solar Impulse 2 Completes Record-Breaking Flight 21 21

An anonymous reader writes: Solar Impulse 2, the airplane powered only by the sun's light, has completed its flight from Japan to Hawaii. The distance sets the record for manned, solar-powered flight, both by distance (7,200 km, according to the BBC) and by time spent aloft (118 hours). This was one leg in a longer journey to fly around the world, and by far the longest they've attempted. Their next leg will send them across the rest of the Pacific Ocean, landing in Phoenix, Arizona. Then they'll stop off at New York before crossing the Atlantic Ocean on their way back to the journey's starting point, Abu Dhabi. Pilot Andre Borschberg was in good shape, despite spending almost five consecutive days in command of the aircraft. He was only allowed to sleep for up to 20 minutes at a time, so he took about a dozen naps every day. He did this at an altitude of 9,000 meters, and while taking medication to prevent thrombosis. Borschberg's partner, Bertrand Piccard, will fly the aircraft during the next leg to Phoenix. This will happen as soon as the plane is checked out and meteorologists think the weather will be placid enough for a safe crossing.
Movies

How To Design Robot Overlords For "Robot Overlords" 16 16

Hallie Siegel writes: Ever wonder how they make robots look so awesomely real in movies? Visual effects expert Graham Edwards goes behind the scenes with the makers of Robot Overlords to take you through the development of the robots in this movie, from script development and sketches, to filming and post FX. Really cool to see how these robots come to life.
Cellphones

Turing Near Ready To Ship World's First Liquid Metal Android Smartphone 92 92

MojoKid writes: Liquid Metal is an alloy metal (technically, bulk metallic glass) that manages to combine the best features of a wide variety of materials into one product. Liquid Metal also has high corrosion resistance, high tensile strength, remarkable anti-wear characteristics and can also be heat-formed. Given its unique properties, Liquid Metal has been used in a number of industries, including in smartphones. Historically, it has been limited to small-scale applications and pieces parts, not entire products. However, Turing Robotic Industries (TRI) just announced pre-orders for the world's first liquid metal-frame smartphone. The Turing Phone uses its own brand of Liquid Metal called Liquidmorphium, which provides excellent shock absorption characteristics. So instead of making a dent in the smartphone casing or cracking/chipping like plastic when dropped, a Turing Phone should in theory "shake it off" while at the same time protecting the fragile display from breaking. The Turing Phone does not come cheap, however, with pricing starting at $610 for a 16GB model and escalating quickly to $740 and $870 respectively for the 64GB and 128GB models, unlocked. Pre-orders open up on July 31.
Hardware Hacking

Ask Slashdot: What Is Your Most Unusual Hardware Hack? 210 210

An anonymous reader writes: Another Slashdotter recently asked what kind of things someone can power with an external USB battery. I have a followup along those lines: what kind of modifications have you made to your gadgets to do things that they were never meant to do? Consider old routers, cell phones, monitors, etc. that have absolutely no use or value anymore in their intended form. What can you do with them? Have you ever done something stupid and damaged your electronics?
Nintendo

A Look At the Rare Hybrid Console Built By Sony and Nintendo 37 37

An anonymous reader writes: Long before Sony and Nintendo were rivals, the two companies were partners for a brief time. In 1988 the duo started work on SNES-CD, a video game media format that was supposed to augment the cartridge-based SNES by adding support for higher-capacity CDs. In 1991 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Sony introduced the "Play Station" (yes, with a space) but it never saw the light of day. Now, more than two decades later, Imgur user DanDiebold has uploaded images of the unreleased console. This particular model (about 200 Play Station prototypes were created) confirms that the system was supposed to be compatible with existing SNES titles as well as titles to be released in the SNES-CD format. In other words, it would have been the world's first hybrid console: game developers and gamers alike would be able to use both SNES cartridges and CDs. If you want to learn more about this particular prototype, check out the following thread on Assembler Games.
Robotics

Volkswagen Factory Worker Killed By a Robot 338 338

m.alessandrini writes: A worker at a Volkswagen factory in Germany has died, after a robot grabbed him and crushed him against a metal plate. This is perhaps the first severe accident of this kind in a western factory, and is sparking debate about who is responsible for the accident, the man who was servicing the robot beyond its protection cage, or the robot's hardware/software developers who didn't put enough safety checks. Will this distinction be more and more important in the future, when robots will be more widespread?
Displays

SlideN'Joy Extender Adds Up To Two More Screens For a Multi-Monitor Laptop 79 79

MojoKid writes: Nothing beats the portability of a notebook when it comes to getting work done while on-the-go, but with that portability comes a number of caveats like a smaller keyboard and being forced to use a touchpad if you don't want to lug around a portable mouse. Then there's also the limitation of a single display, for those who need more screen real estate for certain tasks. Enter Sliden'Joy, a Kickstarter project that's set to launch on July 6. There's not a lot of technical detail given about it so far, but the basics are easy to understand. Sliden'Joy effectively hooks onto your notebook to allow you to extend one or two screens out of either side, giving you an effective dual or triple monitor setup. Two models of Sliden'Joy are going to be produced, offering either 1 or 2 displays, and sizes of 13, 15, and 17-inch are all going to be supported. There's no word on pledge levels quite yet, but the ultimate goal is to reach 300,000€ ($~332,000 USD) in 30 days.
United States

How the Next US Nuclear Accident Might Happen 127 127

Lasrick writes: Anthropologist Hugh Gusterson analyzes safety at US nuclear facilities and finds a disaster waiting to happen due to an over-reliance on automated security technology and private contractors cutting corners to increase profits. Gusterson follows on the work of Eric Schlosser, Frank Munger, and Dan Zak in warning us of the serious problems at US nuclear facilities, both in the energy industry and in the nuclear security complex.
Data Storage

Where Facebook Stores 900 Million New Photos Per Day 121 121

1sockchuck writes: Facebook faces unique storage challenges. Its users upload 900 million new images daily, most of which are only viewed for a couple of days. The social network has built specialized cold storage facilities to manage these rarely-accessed photos. Data Center Frontier goes inside this facility, providing a closer look at Facebook's newest strategy: Using thousands of Blu-Ray disks to store images, complete with a robotic retrieval system (see video demo). Others are interested as well. Sony recently acquired a Blu-Ray storage startup founded by Open Compute chairman Frank Frankovsky, which hopes to drive enterprise adoption of optical data storage.
Hardware Hacking

Celebrating Workarounds, Kludges, and Hacks 145 145

itwbennett writes: We all have some favorite workarounds that right a perceived wrong (like getting around the Wall Street Journal paywall) or make something work the way we think it ought to. From turning off annoying features in your Prius to getting around sanctions in Crimea and convincing your Android phone you're somewhere you're not, workarounds are a point of pride, showing off our ingenuity and resourcefulness. And sometimes artful workarounds can even keep businesses operating in times of crisis. Take, for example, the Sony employees, who, in the wake of the Great Hack of 2014 when the company's servers went down, dug out old company BlackBerrys that, while they had been abandoned, had never had their plans deactivated. Because BlackBerrys used RIM's email servers instead of Sony's, they could still communicate with one another, and employees with BlackBerrys became the company's lifeline as it slowly put itself back together. What hacks and workarounds keep your life sane?
Earth

Ask Slashdot: What To Do With Empty Toner Cartridges? 189 189

New submitter MoarSauce123 writes: Over time I accumulated a number of empty toner cartridges for a Brother laser printer. Initially, I wanted to take a local office supply chain store up on their offer to give me store credit for the returned cartridge. For that credit to be issued I would have to sign up for their store card providing a bunch of personal information. The credit is so lousy that after the deduction from the sales price of a new toner cartridge the price is still much higher than from a large online retailer. And the credit only applies to one new cartridge, so I cannot keep collecting the credit and then get a cartridge 'for free' at some point.

I also looked into a local store of a toner refill chain. Their prices are a bit better, but the closest store is about half an hour away with rather odd business hours. Still, at the end they charge more than the large online retailer asks for a brand new cartridge. For now I bring the empty cartridges to the big office supply store and tell them that I do not want their dumb store credit. I rather have big corp make some bucks on me than throw these things in the trash and have it go to a landfill. Are there any better options? Anything from donating it to charity to refilling myself is of interest.