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Lockheed Martin’s hypersonic aircraft plans are taking shape

For years, Lockheed Martin has been working on hypersonic (Mach 5 and above) aircraft like the SR-72, which could reach virtually any part of the world within a couple of hours. These vehicles have long been seen as distant prospects (the SR-72 might not reach service until 2030 at the earliest), but they now appear to be coming together. Lockheed tells the press that it expects to fly a demonstrator hypersonic aircraft “the size of an F-22” at a cost of less than $1 billion. That’s no mean feat when some conventional programs cost more, and it’s a hint that hypersonic technology is becoming a practical reality.

This vehicle won’t be crude, either. While the existing Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept project will rely on a booster to reach the altitude where its ramjet kicks in, the new concept embraces the SR-72’s “turbine-based combined cycle,” where conventional jet tech meets a ramjet. That would let it transition from takeoff to hypersonic speeds without needing a booster engine or helper aircraft in the early stages.

Lockheed’s work will still take a while to come to fruition. It’s readying a demonstrator aircraft for 2018, and the first hypersonic vehicles in the 2020s (such as HAWC) will likely be weapons. Still, these are positive signs. Although the military is the target customer right now, the developments could lead to hypersonic passenger aircraft that get you across continents in the same time that a short-hop flight takes today.

Via: Foxtrot Alpha

Source: DefenseNews, Reuters


MIT mods a Kinect camera to take reflection-free photos

Photos taken through glass, say of the skyscrapers surrounding the one you’re in, are often ruined by glare. That’s why MIT Media Lab’s Camera Culture Group is researching for ways to make a camera that can shoot clear photos through windows. The team developed a system that beams light onto whatever you want to shoot and measures the arrival times and the intensity of light reflected by objects, including glass. They used an ultrafast streak camera for the system’s earlier iterations. But for this particular project, they used and modified a device with a depth sensor that’s easy to find and buy: a Kinect camera.

Modifying the Kinect to be able to do what they want wasn’t easy. The group had to join forces with Microsoft Research to make sure the camera beams specific frequencies of light and to develop an algorithm that can separate reflections from different depths. You can read the technical explanation behind their work on MIT’s website, but you can see the results in the image above.

Paris Diderot University physics professor Laurent Daudet said he particularly enjoyed that the team used a consumer product for their work. “For this challenging problem,” he added, “everyone would think that you’d need expensive, research-grade, bulky lab equipment. This is a very elegant and inspiring line of work.” The system could lead to reasonably priced cameras with built-in anti-glare feature, but most likely not anytime soon.

A different team from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory also worked with Google to develop an algorithm for reflection-free photos. Their method involves using different frames from a short video to separate obstructions (reflections, fences, etc.) from the actual object you want to capture.

Source: MIT


One of the most profitable patent trolls has been defanged

Uniloc, perhaps best known as Patent Troll in Chief, suffered a pretty devastating blow today. The company has long asserted that its “software activation” patent that’s beguiled everyone from Microsoft (to the tune of $388 million) to Electronic Arts gives it clearance to sue just about anyone who uses a form of online authentication for software. Until now, according to the Kansas City Business Journal. The Patent Trademark and Appeals Board has ruled that Uniloc’s patent number 5,490,216 is invalid via an inter partes review (IPR). Essentially an IPR is a way for inventors to challenge a patent without getting federal courts involved.

To win, Sega of America, Ubisoft, Cambium Learning Group (an educational software developer), Lexmark subsidiary Kofax and Star Trek Online publisher Perfect World Entertainment fought back with something different. Uniloc has been using an apparently vaguely written Australian patent for its DRM system. That was filed a year prior to submitting it domestically, after other companies had released similar systems. The PTAB sided with the aforementioned companies, agreeing that Uniloc’s practice wasn’t on the up and up.

“Ultimately the PTAB gave undue credibility to a lone expert opinion that was authored by petitioners’ counsel,” Unilock USA president Sean Burdick wrote in an email. “Congratulations to Erise IP [the law firm representing Ubisoft and Co.] for pulling wool over the eyes of the Patent office.” And that, my friends, is what we call irony. Uniloc can still appeal, of course, but hasn’t done so yet. If that email is any indicator, chances are high that this isn’t the last we’ll hear from Burdick.

Via: Ars Technica

Source: Kansas City Business Journal


DARPA’s next challenge could lead to AI-powered radios

So far, the solutions to wireless spectrum crunches have involved either offering relatively untapped airwaves or reusing frequencies that were previously assigned to something else. However, DARPA knows this can’t go on forever — and it’s looking for help to devise a clever way around the problem. The military research agency has launched a new Grand Challenge that will have teams develop artificial intelligence-powered radios that cooperate with each other to avoid wireless congestion. Rather than force devices to use narrow frequency ranges regardless of how crowded they may be, DARPA would like to see those gadgets negotiate frequency sharing whenever they need it.

The competition will take a while. It doesn’t start until 2017, and won’t pick a winner until early 2020. DARPA will even have to create a giant wireless testbed to see how the competitors fare in relatively realistic conditions. It could be worthwhile, though, as the winner will scoop up a $2 million prize.

The institution notes that there could be clear advantages to AI-based radios in the military, which could keep communications up and running on the battlefield. However, they’d also mitigate problems for just about everyone — you wouldn’t have to worry about your smartphone’s data bogging down in a busy part of town, or watch nearby networks interfere with your drone flight. Wireless technologies like 5G or unlicensed cellular could become that much more practical, as you wouldn’t see their potential wasted by arbitrary spectrum rules.

Source: DARPA, Spectrum Collaboration Challenge


Apple May Launch 5.8-Inch OLED iPhone With Curved Glass Casing and Screen in 2017

Apple is planning a major overhaul of the iPhone for 2017, including the adoption of an all-new curved glass casing paired with a curved 5.8-inch AMOLED display, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Seeking to move away from the metal casing designs that are no longer unique, Apple will reportedly take the glass-backed design used for the iPhone 4 and 4s “to the next level” in building the 2017 iPhone.

We expect the 2017 new iPhone model to adopt a structural design similar to that of iPhone 4/ 4s, meaning it will be equipped with glass on both the front and back sides, and a metal frame surrounded the edges. The difference is that the new model will likely come with a curved screen and curved glass casing, with other important features including a 5.8-inch AMOLED display, wireless charging, and more biometric recognitions (facial or iris). Given the curved design, the new model may look smaller than an existing 5.5-inch iPhone.

Kuo lays out two scenarios for Apple’s 2017 lineup, depending on availability of the AMOLED displays needed for the new phone. If supplies are sufficient, Apple would launch a 4.7-inch LCD-based iPhone paired with the new 5.8-inch AMOLED iPhone as a larger option. But if AMOLED display production is unable to meet the entire large-screen demand, Kuo believes Apple will launch 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch LCD iPhones similar to today’s lineup, with the 5.8-inch AMOLED model being a third option at the high end.

Such a major change in 2017 would be part of a significant departure from Apple’s usual pattern of keeping the same general body style for two years before making major changes. The current iPhone 6s and 6s Plus represent the second year of the current body style, and normally this year’s iPhone 7 would be expected to see a significant external redesign to freshen up the look. Leaks and rumors have, however, suggested changes could be fairly minor in the iPhone 7.

Previous rumors have suggested Apple is looking to launch a 5.8-inch OLED iPhone in 2017 or 2018, with Apple rumored to be working with several different OLED display manufacturers.

Related Roundup: iPhone 6s
Tags: Ming-Chi Kuo, iPhone 7s, iPhone 8
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Foxconn and Sharp reportedly sign takeover deal on March 31st

All the fuss over Foxconn’s protracted acquisition of Sharp might come to a close soon. Reuters tipsters understand that the two tech giants will finally sign the takeover deal on March 31st, a day after they hold board meetings to approve it. Sharp may not be so happy with the end result, mind you. Foxconn is supposedly slashing its offer for Sharp’s shares by ¥100 billion (about $884 million), possibly owing to the liabilities it discovered at Sharp last month. Neither side has commented on the apparent leak, but it won’t take long to learn whether or not there’s any truth to the story.

If everything goes forward, the alliance could represent a sea change in the tech industry. Foxconn would not only get the freedom to make major consumer products under a brand it owns, but take display manufacturing under its wing — it could assemble more of a given device entirely in-house. That could be particularly crucial for Apple, which is rumored to be making OLED iPhones in 2018. Apple could turn to its biggest manufacturing partner for screens and avoid supporting mobile rivals like LG and Samsung, both of which currently dominate the OLED space.

Source: Reuters


‘Holoportation’ demo makes live-video holograms look easy

Last June Microsoft showed off its HoloLens tech that created holograms from live video. Now it’s putting that into practice and giving it an official name: Holoportation. It uses multiple 3D cameras to capture a subject from all angles, creating a “temporally consistent model” that can mimic the feeling of someone being in a room with you. During a TED Talk,Alex Kipman used it to virtually meet with a colleague in front of a Mars backdrop, but this lab demo from Microsoft Research shows something a bit more realistic. That is, so long as you’re wearing one of the $3,000 augmented reality headsets.

The setup is in an incredibly controlled environment (the remote location and where the video hosted by Microsoft Research’s Shahram Izadai are laid out pretty similarly), but it definitely shows the potential of using the device as a means of long-distance communication. You can even record a portion of a holoportation session and play it back, shrinking it down to size to fit on your coffee table. It’s pretty neat! But it’s still incredibly early. Artifacts resulting from compression or motion tracking are still present, a reminder that this is still a prototype, and break the illusion a bit.

Check out the picture-in-picture shots and you’ll see the somewhat flickery and translucent images that go part and parcel with the headset at this point. Despite that, it’s hard to not get at least a little excited for a future where real-time holographic meet-ups with a loved one (or a zombie) exist.

Via: Gamasutra

Source: Microsoft Research

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