This aerial robot has sections of independently-controlled propellers
From Popular Mechanics:
A team of researchers at the University of Tokyo’s JSK Lab built a flying drone that can twist and change its shape in midair. The researchers believe their drone could be used to navigate small spaces and interact with different objects, using its changing shapes to pick up and manipulate all kinds of different things.
The drone is called “Dual-rotor embedded multilink Robot with the Ability of multi-deGree-of-freedom aerial transformatiON,” or DRAGON for short. Fortunately, the drone’s designers are better at robotics than they are at acronyms.
The DRAGON drone is made up of a handful of separate sections, and each section has its own independently-controlled propellers. Even though the sections are attached to each other, this allows each section to move on its own. Semi-autonomous software decides what shape the drone will take and how each section will move to reach that shape.
Talk to your computer…with your mind!
From MIT News:
MIT researchers have developed a computer interface that can transcribe words that the user verbalizes internally but does not actually speak aloud.
The system consists of a wearable device and an associated computing system. Electrodes in the device pick up neuromuscular signals in the jaw and face that are triggered by internal verbalizations — saying words “in your head” — but are undetectable to the human eye. The signals are fed to a machine-learning system that has been trained to correlate particular signals with particular words.
The device also includes a pair of bone-conduction headphones, which transmit vibrations through the bones of the face to the inner ear. Because they don’t obstruct the ear canal, the headphones enable the system to convey information to the user without interrupting a conversation or otherwise interfering with the user’s auditory experience.
The device is thus part of a complete silent-computing system that lets the user undetectably pose and receive answers to difficult computational problems. In one of the researchers’ experiments, for instance, subjects used the system to silently report opponents’ moves in a chess game and just as silently receive computer-recommended responses.
This solar apiary is a boon for bees
From Fast Company:
At a solar farm surrounded by orchards near Medford, Oregon, native flowers are beginning to bloom between the solar panels, and 48 beehives sit at the edge of the field. The solar farm, called Eagle Point, is now the largest “solar apiary” — a solar energy project designed to benefit pollinators — in the country.
“For me, it comes from a place of wanting to change the culture of solar and really taking into consideration more than just the panels,” says Julianne Wooten, environmental manager for Pine Gate Renewables, the North Carolina-based solar power company that developed the site.
In 2017, the company began working on a new project to keep land productive at its solar farms, reintroducing native plants, and, in some cases, working with farmers or ranchers to plant crops or graze animals around the panels. A non-profit called Fresh Energy helped connect the company with a local beekeeper who happened to be looking for a new home for some of his hives.
For pollinators, sprawling solar plants can provide space for much-needed habitat. For nearby farms growing crops that rely on pollinators — at a time when thousands of wild pollinators are at risk of extinction, and beekeepers are still struggling to maintain their populations of honeybees – this type of project can also play a role in supporting the food supply.
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