Monthly Archives: March 2016

The new technology a self-driving car still needs development

This accident, the first caused by a self-driving car after nearly 2.4 million kilometres of autonomous driving, suggests that Google’s vehicles still need more common sense. A human driver would probably have just driven over the sandbags.

Researchers at the University of La Laguna in the Canary Islands are building a system which might have helped Google’s Lexus see the sandbags for the non-threat they were. They use Microsoft Kinect cameras, originally developed for the Xbox One gaming console, to improve self-driving cars’ obstacle avoidance at close range.

Self-driving cars typically use a combination of sensors to detect and avoid obstacles. Radar and laser-based lidar systems are generally used for objects at long range, while ultrasonic detectors and stereo cameras sense cars and pedestrians closer in.

Obstacles close to the ground like ramps, kerbs and sandbags are difficult to make out, says Javier Hernandez-Aceituno, lead author of the study: “Laser-based sensors are not suitable for this task because they detect ramps as obstacles. Ultrasonic sensors are also unsuitable due to their low precision.”

Hernandez-Aceituno decided to try using a Kinect, a depth-sensing camera that uses an infrared laser to capture an instantaneous 3D map of objects up to about 4 metres away.

Last year, he and his colleagues installed a Kinect on an experimental golf cart called Verdino. A low-speed self-driving vehicle, Verdino is also equipped with laser rangefinders and stereo cameras from a PlayStation 4.

They set the Verdino loose on an outdoor course with ramps, kerbs and stairs, using one obstacle detection program to process data from all the sensors.

Misjudged ramp
The laser rangefinder ignored the lowest steps and incorrectly decided that the ramp was too steep to navigate. The camera gave inaccurate results for very near and far obstacles, and suffered from false detections.

The Kinect, however, produced more accurate results and fewer false positives than the stereo camera. Its biggest problem was spurious obstacles created by reflections of sunlight, although Hernandez-Aceituno was able to filter these out.

“The Kinect sensor vastly outperforms stereo vision at accurately detecting obstacles on the road,” says Hernandez-Aceituno, “[and] allows an autonomous vehicle to navigate safely in areas where laser rangefinders cannot detect obstacles.”

Combine energy and Technology to keep drones aloft for over an hour with a miniature fuel cell

Researchers at the Pohang University of Science and Technology (Postech) have created a miniature fuel cell they claim not only provides enough energy to keep a drone in the sky for over an hour, but may well find applications in powering everything from smartphones to cars in the not-too-distant future.

Developed by Professor Gyeong Man Choi and his Ph.D. student Kun Joong Kim at Postech, the new solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) is claimed by the researchers to be the first to use porous stainless steel in combination with thin-film electrolyte, all brought together using a technique known as tape casting-lamination-cofiring. Allied with electrodes of low heat capacity, this amalgamation not only results in increased performance, but also in higher long-term durability.

The team has aimed to improve upon previous SOFCs that used silicon but whose lithographically-etched components exhibited rapid degradation or low durability when experiencing thermal-expansion during operation, resulting in physical alignment problems with the electrolyte. As a result, silicon-based fuel cells are, according to the researchers, not seen as a viable replacement in electronic devices that require fast on/off capabilities. Using stainless steel, the team claims to overcome the biggest problems that have dogged SOFCs, namely the high operating temperatures of the units that results in longer start-up times and issues surrounding mechanical and chemical compatibility.

Referred to as a third-generation fuel cell, the Postech team’s device boasts a simple structure and does not have any problems with corrosion of loss of the elctrolyte. It showed a peak power density of around 560 mW per cubic centimeter at 550° C (1,022° F) and maintained this power density during rapid thermal cycling. With this sort of power density and reliability, the team suggests the device may offer an alternative to lithium-ion batteries in a range of mobile electronics, such as smartphones and laptops. At just 78 mm2 per cell in size, the Postech device is also claimed to have fast on and off times similar to lithium-ion batteries and superior power densities that would allow smartphones that would only need to be charged once a week.

The Postech device generates power by converting hydrogen (in this case, “Wet” H2 gas comprising 97 percent H2 and  3 percent H2O mixture) supplied as fuel gas to the anode to create electricity. It does this through the use of a solid oxide material acting as the electrolyte that allows the conduction of negative oxygen ions from the cathode to the anode. These ions diffuse through the solid oxide electrolyte to the anode where they oxidize the fuel. This reaction produces electrons, which then flow through an external circuit to provide power.

Whilst the fuel cell is still in the prototype phase, the researchers believe that their research could result in the development of larger, less expensive (but with much higher-power density) fuel cells for use in vehicles in the not-too-distant future.

The results of this research were recently published were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

 

Source : http://www.gizmag.com

Speeds Up Your iPhone 6s Device

The iPhone 6s is among Apple’s fastest devices ever released. But if you’re pleased with the speed of Apple’s A9 chip, your iPhone can fake a speed increase that translates to real world results.

The glitch was found by 9to5Mac’s Jeff Benjamin. The iDownloadBlog alumni points out that, even without a jailbroken device, you can completely remove the animations from your device. Instead of tapping on an app and waiting for it to expand on screen, you’re taken right to the app—no waiting. Check Jeff’s video for details on how to reenact on your own iDevice.

 

Enacting the Assistive Touch accessibility feature allows you to begin removing animations from your iPhone. Once enabled, you’ll want to return to the homescreen and swipe down to access Spotlight search (what you use to search your entire device). If you swipe down and then up at the right moment, your iPhone will weirdly remove animations from your phone experience. As Jeff notes in the video, it doesn’t have to do with how fast or slow you go, just a matter of timing it right, similar to what we see in the video. Rebooting your phone resets the glitch and reenables animations. You can follow the steps once again to remove animations.

Jailbreak users have known of the perils of iOS animations for a while. Cydia tweaks like NoSlowAnimation and FakeClockUp have allowed jailbroken iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users to shorten animations, remove them altogether or even lengthen them—should said iOS user be a masochist.

With the iOS glitch now widely known, there is a good chance that we could see a patch for the glitch in Apple’s release of iOS 9.3. Along with a potential fix for the newfound “error,” users can look forward to Night Shift. The feature made popular by f.lux allows the device to adjust colors at the end of the day to offer a warmer hue—providing colors presumably better for one’s sleep patterns.

Much like jailbreak users, Apple may patch this glorious use of a bug very soon. Until then, enjoy living life in the fast lane.

Source : http://www.popsci.com