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These drones learn about their world (and each other) as they fly

University of Sheffield's environment-sensing drone

Flying robots can already spot some objects by themselves and occasionally improvise, but they’d ideally never need help — they should find their way around even if they’re in unfamiliar territory. The University of Sheffield may be close to fulfilling that dream. Its experimental quadcopters combine reference points in camera footage with barometric and ultrasonic sensors to not just map their environment, but understand it; they can detect interesting objects and investigate all on their own. This could be particularly handy for rescue crews and others in hazardous situations, since they could identify survivors or operate machinery while keeping human intervention to an absolute minimum.

Crucially, these drones also know how to deal with each other; they gradually learn to predict other robots’ behavior and coordinate so that they can pass by without collisions. Researchers believe they’ll eventually get entire copter squadrons collaborating on projects without requiring pre-programmed routines. The world-sensing technology is still young, but it hints at a future where airborne automatons handle riskier (or simply very complex) jobs without needing close oversight.

Filed under: Robots, Science


Source: University of Sheffield


Most of the NSA’s intercepted messages involve ordinary people

The NSA's data on Abu Hamza

It’s no secret that the NSA’s surveillance efforts reach far and wide. However, we now know which sort of people get caught in that dragnet — and most of them, it turns out, are very ordinary. About 90 percent of users in a cache of Intercepted messages (leaked by Edward Snowden to the Washington Post) were innocents who either talked to suspects or simply happened to be in the wrong chat room at the wrong time. Some of the information is very personal, too, ranging from kids’ school records to couples’ love affairs.

The NSA has US authority to spy abroad, and the intercepted data shows that these large-scale sweeps can be effective in fighting hostile governments or terrorists. Some of the messages led to the capture of bomber Muhammad Tahir Shazad (aka Abu Hamza, pictured here), for instance. With that said, there are concerns that the agency is holding on to personal info that will never, ever be relevant to its investigations. It’s not held to the same standards for incidental content gathering as agencies like the FBI, which has to stop wiretapping if a family member is on the line.

There’s also a worry that the NSA isn’t doing enough to protect US residents’ privacy. While analysts masked 65,000 references to Americans in the cache, the Post believes that roughly 900 of the visible email addresses also belong to stateside users; it’s not known if they’re all legal targets. Whether or not they are, leaked internal chats suggest that NSA team members play fast and loose with their definition of “foreign.” They may only look at the languages in use, or make assumptions about the origins of chat room participants and internet connections.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is quick to argue that Snowden didn’t leak raw intelligence data, and insists that there are tight safeguards that limit access to trained agents; in theory, the unfiltered stream doesn’t get into the wrong hands. Snowden was trained, however, and he claims that his private contractor role offered a direct look at the content without supervision. The fear isn’t that information escapes into the wild, though. Rather, it’s that the material both represents a breach of regular people’s privacy and carries the potential for abuse — as we’ve learned in the past, NSA agents aren’t always on their best behavior.

Filed under: Cellphones, Internet


Source: Washington Post


Take a nap the right way with CatNap


How many times have you been dead tired and said that you were just going to close your eyes for a minute and then end up oversleeping returning to either class or work late? That has probably happened to everybody at some point or another and a new app called CatNap plans on making it easier for you to wake up from that much needed sleep.

Let’s face the facts. With most alarm clocks out there, including the default one on your cell phone or even Timely, setting a quick 30 minute nap is a task that is not as easy as it should be. CatNap looks to change that and makes setting the alarm as easy as tapping a button.

Simple open the appropriately themed cat-themed app and drag the cat onto the desired time. The default options are 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 1 hour, or a custom alarm. Upon having cat go onto the time you want, the alarm is set. You really cannot ask for something easier than that. When time expires the alarm sounds giving you the option to snooze or dismiss the alarm.

The app does exactly what it says it does and how it is supposed to do it. In fact this app is so great, the developer has dedicated it to Cinderella, who definitely could have used this alarm.

CatNap is a free app that is ad-supported on the Google Play Store.

The post Take a nap the right way with CatNap appeared first on AndroidGuys.


Inhabitat’s Week in Green: solar homes, ‘Soofa’ benches and a levitating transportation system

Solar Decathlon Europe is officially underway in Versailles, where 20 teams of students from 17 different countries are competing to build the world’s most efficient solar-powered homes. Like the American version, the European Solar Decathlon has attracted some truly innovative entries. For example, a team of students from Berlin presented a plan for refurbishing a turn-of-the-century apartment building with solar panels.

Preservation was a popular theme in this year’s competition; the Atlantic Challenge Team, which is based in France, presented a plan for rehabilitating a 120-year-old building into solar-powered, modular apartments. A team from Delft University of Technology designed and presented a renovation project that was inspired by greenhouses. The Rhode Island School of Design produced an innovative house that consumes 90 percent less energy than the typical home and is powered almost entirely by the sun. And the RhOME for denCity team produced a design for a top-floor apartment that incorporates a series of clever passive strategies.

Global renewable energy capacity has nearly doubled over the past nine years, with wind and solar energy carrying the biggest gains. According to a new report, China is far and away the world leader in wind energy, and Germany is tops when it comes to solar production. While renewable energy production continues to grow, clean energy storage technology is starting to catch up. Scientists at USC recently developed a new type of rechargeable battery that is cheap to build, water-based and made out of green components with no toxic chemicals and no metals. And in other renewable energy news, Boston officials announced plans to roll out a series of solar-powered “Soofa” public benches that will enable citizens to charge their phones while they rest. The attractive charging stations double as environmental monitors, and they can charge two phones at a time.

A high-speed, levitating, energy-efficient transportation system could soon be coming to the Israel Aerospace Industry campus in Lod, Israel. The “jet-like” vehicles employ state-of-the-art passive magnetic levitation technology, which could revolutionize urban and suburban public transportation. And after political wrangling, Tesla has received approval to build its first service center in New Jersey. This spring, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission banned Tesla from operating dealerships within the state, but that is expected to change soon because the state Assembly just voted unanimously to allow Tesla to sell its cars directly to consumers.

It’s officially mosquito season in many parts of the Northern hemisphere, and one Sri Lankan newspaper has created the world’s first mosquito-repellant newspaper, so you can catch up on current events in peace. The Mawbina newspaper teamed up with the ad agency Leo Burnett Sri Lanka to create the mosquito-repellant papers as part of a public health campaign. Speaking of public health, a scientist just cooked up a new supervirus in a lab that could potentially wipe out humanity — don’t ask us why.

It’s also air-conditioning season, and Inhabitat has come up with three simple tips to help you save money on your energy bill this summer. Coffee drinkers in London can now feel a little bit less guilty about ordering a latte, because the world’s first recyclable paper cup is about to hit the streets in the United Kingdom. And a startup named Modern Meadow recently obtained $10 million in funding to bioengineer cow-free leather. The company uses a tissue-engineering technique known as “biofabrication” to grow leather from skin cells, and it doesn’t cause any harm to animals.

Filed under: Misc



Gadget Rewind 2005: Nabaztag

If robotic rabbits could multiply, we’d be overrun by “kawaii” (the Japanese word for “cute”) by now. Thankfully, Violet’s 2005 Nabaztag robo-bunny has kept its socializing strictly to the digital realm. This adorably designed, WiFi-enabled techno-pet was created as a hub for delivering streams of user data through color, motion and sound. In fact, interaction with this “smart object’s” ambient notifications and playful exterior aimed to provide a relaxing and peaceful experience. Did we mention it was also programmed to perform Tai Chi (with its ears)?

Nabaztag could communicate notifications and alerts to users in several ways, but perhaps the most soothing of these options was through color notifications on its face and belly. It could convey changes in the weather, air quality or even express its mood (a random selection) by displaying predefined color codes and moving around its ears.

It was more than just a silent companion for users — Nabaztag could also be set to read emails, text messages and news headlines from your favorite RSS feeds, and take over alarm clock duties in the morning. It even featured limited voice command abilities. But this robotic rabbit wasn’t all business. If you were feeling social, its “find friends” option could surprise you with random messages from other connected Nabaztags around the world.

While Violet would eventually push out an upgraded version of Nabaztag in 2006 that came outfitted with an RFID sensor, the fate of the line as a whole was not secure. It changed hands several times over the years and suffered several server outages that had the connected bunnies go offline — much to the chagrin of its global user base. Despite all that change and uncertainty, the robo-bunnies did eventually find a home in 2011 with owner Aldebaran, a new name in Karotz and a new stablemate in Pepper the robot.

Did you own a Nabaztag? Add it to your Engadget profile as a device you had (or still have) and join the discussion to reminisce or share photos of your device with other like-minded gadget fans.

Filed under: Household



Get instant temperatures with Robocat’s Thermodo

Thermodo Both Models

How many times have you looked at your Google Now or other weather related service to see the temperature only say it’s 80 degrees out when it felt like a scorching 100 degrees or more? Well Robocat’s Thermodo aims to warm up the thermometer playing field by giving users an instant temperature.

After opening the package, I found some pretty nice contents. There were two small brown sleeves as Theremodo comes in two flavors, the standard edition and the premium edition. The differences between the two are pure aesthetics. The regular edition of Thermodo is a nice black plastic version. The premium version is a nicely engraved metal version that looks beautiful. Functionality between the two are the same, but to be clear, for review purposes, we used the premium edition. Inside the packaging there was also a pretty cool Robocat sticker and an extension cable meant to give some distance between your device and the Thermodo to increase the accuracy due to internal heat given off from your device.

The accessory is easy enough to hook up to the phone. You either just plug it into the headphone port or plug it into the extension cable and then the headphone port. After installation all that needs to be done is to open up the app for Thermodo.

I will admit, upon launching the service initially, I was not impressed. The temperature was changing frequently. This however ended up being my fault as my Galaxy Note 2 was not supported. Please make sure that you check their supported devices before purchasing one as not all phones can work with Thermodo. Luckily, I have a Nexus 5 and it is a supported device, so I gave it all another round.

There are two basic ways you can run the thermometer as I mentioned earlier, so I’ll give a quick runthrough of both methods.

The first one is plugging the Thermodo directly into the Nexus 5. If you do this, it is recommended to go into the settings and turn on the option for it to compensate for the device heat. I did this and set it on warm. My first thoughts are that Thermodo did not seem accurate as the temperature was constantly changing. The temperature keeps going up and did not stop at all, but just kept increasing, even after about 5 minutes. The reason I think this is happening is because as my cell phone is turned on, the cell phone is slowing heating up, which is causing the Thermodo to turn up.

In comparison, when I hooked Thermodo into my Nexus 5 via the extension cable, the temperature was stable. It was showing a solid 82.2 degrees, fluxuating every now and again to an 82.1 or an 82.3 but pretty much in the same area. This seemed much more accurate for us and I would agree that it is probably around 82 degrees right now in my home, unfortunately.

Thermodo App

Despite the shortcomings when Thermodo is connected directly to the smartphone, the device worked superbly when using the extension cable. Thermodo is a great tool for weather enthusiast or outdoorsmen who need to know the real temperature for various reasons. You can get the Thermodo for $29.99 via their website or The Premium Thermodo is available for $44.98 also on their website or

The post Get instant temperatures with Robocat’s Thermodo appeared first on AndroidGuys.


Grab the Samsung Gear Fit for only $99


Hurry folks, Amazon are selling the Samsung Gear Fit for only $99. At half price of the normal $199 price tag, this is a great deal if you want to take advantage of Samsung’s fitness tracking platform.

The Gear Fit features a 1.8-inch curved Super AMOLED display, Bluetooth LE connectivity, a heart rate monitor, and is dust and water-resistant. A 210 mAh battery is also thrown in that will last three to four days per charge with typical usage or five days with low usage. The wearable device will track your steps and can show you your phone’s notifications when paired with the latest Galaxy phones.

If you pick one up , let us know what you think of it in the comments below.

Source: Amazon

The post Grab the Samsung Gear Fit for only $99 appeared first on AndroidGuys.


Download and try out the new (slightly laggy) Android L Calculator

Android L CalculatorThe novelty of Android L has somewhat waned over the last week (probably due to Independence Day swinging by), but that doesn’t mean that people have stopped working on ways for other people to try parts of the new previewed operating system. We’ve seen the “Heaps Up” notifications ported to devices, as well as the Android L keyboard as a standalone app for all devices (rooted or not), and today we get to take a look at the Android L calculator thanks to XDA member, virjog. According to virjog, the calculator was converted from demo code on the Polymer Project site into an apk which you can download below:

Android L Calculator APK

It’s not a perfect port; the calculator seems to lag quite a bit (at least, it does on my Note 2 with Android 4.4.2) and the scientific functions seems to be broken or inoperable. That said, standard arithmetic seems to be working and it’s enough to get an idea of how the new Material Design aspects have been incorporated into Android L. If you download it and manage to get it working well on your device, let us know what device you tried it on and what version of Android you have.

What do you think of Material Design so far? Do you think this is a good direction for Android to be going in? Let us know what your thoughts are.

Source: XDA

ord = window.ord || Math.floor(Math.random()*1E16);

The post Download and try out the new (slightly laggy) Android L Calculator appeared first on AndroidSPIN.


Is this Xperia Z3′s about screen?

xperia z3 featured____

About a week ago we shared alleged images of Sony Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact smartphones. Now we have some software leaks when it comes to Sony’s future flagship phone.

Alleged about screen from Xperia Z3 has leaked (image below). Model mentioned on this screenshot is D6653 which should be the model number for Sony’s upcoming flagship device. We can also see that the device is supposedly going to sport a Snapdragon 801 chip which is in high demand lately and will run on Android 4.4.4 KitKat.

Xperia Z3 about screen____

We’ll let you decide if you believe this to be true or not and if we get any more information we’ll make sure to share them. The device is expected to launch in September during IFA, so let’s wait and see what we get.

Source: XperiaBlog
Via: PhoneArena

The post Is this Xperia Z3′s about screen? appeared first on AndroidGuys.


Qualcomm briefly takes down Android code for CyanogenMod, Sony and itself

CyanogenMod's mascot, Cid

The Android community just got a big (if brief) scare. In the space of a few days, Qualcomm has both made and retracted a Digital Millennium Copyright Act request that took down 116 code repositories (many of them Android-focused) that were allegedly using the chip maker’s confidential technology. As it turns out, quite a few of the targets were legitimate users running the company’s open source software. And you’ll definitely recognize some of the names — the move shut down code bases maintained by the CyanogenMod custom ROM team, Sony and even Qualcomm itself. Suffice it to say that the removal would have created a lot of headaches if you wanted to modify Android for the many, many devices with Snapdragon processors.

As for the cause? Qualcomm isn’t commenting on what led to the slip-up, but it tells Android Police that it will be taking a more cautious approach from now on. In addition to closely reviewing code, it will be “reaching out collaboratively” to find a peaceful solution to any disputes before the legal notices start flying. It won’t be shocking if some of the original request recipients still find themselves in hot water, but Android tinkerers can rest easy for at least a little while.

Filed under: Cellphones, Mobile, Sony


Via: Android Police

Source: Ausdroid

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