This entire barley field was planted and harvested without humans

October 4, 2017 by  
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Drones and autonomous machinery just seeded, tended, and harvested a crop of barley in the United Kingdom without drivers on tractor seats or farmers working the field. A project of Hands Free Hectare , the barley field explored the idea of autonomous farming . Hands Free Hectare, an effort of Harper Adams University and Precision Decisions , recently celebrated a successful harvest. They set out to be the first project to plant, care for, and harvest crops with solely drones and autonomous machines, funding the project with under £200,000, or around $265,037, which they said was a low budget compared with other autonomous farming vehicle projects. They drew on open source technology and machinery farmers could purchase today. Related: Swinging robot inspired by sloths could help future farmers Mechatronics researcher Martin Abell of Precision Decisions said in a statement, “This project aimed to prove that there’s no technological reason why a field can’t be farmed without humans working the land directly now and we’ve done that. We set out to identify the opportunities for farming and to prove that it’s possible to autonomously farm the land, and that’s been the great success of the project.” The researchers predicted they’d harvest around five metric tons, according to Abell, who said they hadn’t quite reached their target, but their agronomist “predicted 4.5 tonnes and it looks like he’s on the money.” Automation is the future of agriculture, according to researcher Kit Franklin of Harper Adams University, who said in the team’s first press release from late last year, “It’s not about putting people out of jobs ; instead changing the job they do. The tractor driver won’t be physically in the tractor driving up and down a field. Instead, they will be a fleet manager and agricultural analysts, looking after a number of farming robots and meticulously monitoring the development of their crops .” What will happen to the barley? The Hands Free Hectare researchers plan to use it in a beer . They also aim to repeat their experiment with a winter crop. + Hands Free Hectare Via Hands Free Hectare Images via Hands Free Hectare Facebook and Hands Free Hectare Twitter

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This entire barley field was planted and harvested without humans

Elon Musk urges UN to ban artificially intelligent killer robots

August 21, 2017 by  
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The same man who brought you PayPal , Tesla and SpaceX is now urging the UN to ban the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in weaponry. Elon Musk believes that artificially intelligent “killer robots” are “morally wrong” and a potential threat to humanity – and he’s petitioning the UN along with 115 other experts in robotics to prevent “a third revolution in warfare.” In a letter to the United Nations, the experts ask for killer robot technology to be added to the list of weapons banned under the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. ”Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend,” the letter says. “These can be weapons of terror , weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways.” The urgent tone of the letter cannot be missed. The leaders warn, “we do not have long to act” and add, “Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.” The BBC reports that a killer robot is a fully autonomous weapon capable of selecting and engaging targets without human intervention. Developed for the purpose of war, the technology could be a potential threat to humanity. For this reason, the experts in robotics are requesting autonomous “kill functions” be banned. The UN group focusing on autonomous weaponry was scheduled to reconvene this Monday. However, the meeting has now been postponed to November. Related: Elon Musk has a simple plan to power the US entirely on renewable energy This isn’t the first time the faction of the UN has considered a ban on killer robot technology. In 2015, more than 1,000 tech experts, researchers, and scientists wrote a letter warning about the dangers of autonomous weaponry. Stephen Hawking, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Musk were among the signatories. Via BBC Images via Depositphotos , Pixabay , OnInnovation

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Massive new data center to be built in chilly Norway to offset energy use

August 21, 2017 by  
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Every like and tweet costs energy, which isn’t great for climate change. That’s why the American-Norwegian data company Kolos is building a new data center in northern Norway. Designed to be the largest in the world, it will be powered strictly by renewable energy sources and the cold climate and low humidity will help offset energy demands. Kolos partnered with architecture design firm HDR to finance and design the center, which will make internet use significantly more sustainable. Data centers require huge amounts of power due to their cooling demands, so why not put one in a fjord that sits within the Arctic Circle ? Kolos’ proposal will be a fortress of data, the design of which is inspired by Norway ‘s spectacular landforms, mountains and glaciers. Related: How Sweden plans to heat homes with internet searches Kolos says the new facility will rely mostly on wind and hydroelectricity harvested from the surrounding waterways to meet its energy needs, reducing energy costs by 60 percent. The project will provide a record-breaking 1,000 MW of power and about 2000 to 3000 new jobs. + Kolos + HDR Via New Atlas

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Massive new data center to be built in chilly Norway to offset energy use

This robotic "eel" hunts down the source of water pollution

July 27, 2017 by  
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Lake Geneva’s latest resident—all four feet of it—is neither man nor beast. Dubbed the Envirobot , the critter is a biomimetic robot designed by Swiss researchers to pinpoint the source of pollution in tainted waters. Bereft of fins or propellers, Envirobot slithers through water like an eel, leaving mud and aquatic life undisturbed. Just as stealthily, it uses sensors to gather data from various locations, which it transmits to a remote computer in near-instantaneous fashion. Even for an automaton, Envirobot is uncommonly clever. Besides its capacity to follow a preprogrammed path, it can also make its own decisions, independently sniffing out the origin of the contamination. Related: Fukushima robot finds lava-like deposits thought to be melted nuclear fuel “There are many advantages to using swimming robots,” said Auke Ijspeert, head of biorobotics at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne , in a statement . “They can take measurements and send us data in real-time—much faster than if we had measurement stations set up around the lake.” The serpentine design, which is supported by a series of small electric motors, has several advantages, as well. “Compared with conventional propeller-driven underwater robots, they are less likely to get stuck in algae or branches as they move around,” Ijspeert said. “What’s more, they produce less of a wake, so they don’t disperse pollutants as much.” Funded through a grant from Switzerland’s Nano-Tera program, Envirobot comprises several modules. Some of these contain conductivity and temperature sensors; others have miniaturized biological sensors that harbor bacteria, small crustacean, or fish cells that respond to water toxicity in different ways. The modular tack also makes it easy for engineers to change Envirobot’s composition or vary its length when the occasion calls for it. “The robot can be easily taken apart, transported to a remote water reservoir, for example, and put back together to begin testing,” said Behzad Bayat, another biorobotics scientist at EPFL. Already, Envirobot has taken several dips in Lake Geneva. It recently underwent a test that simulated water pollution by diffusing salt into a tiny area just off the shore, changing the water’s conductivity. The ersatz eel, researchers said, performed swimmingly. Although the ultimate goal is for Envirobot to pick up heavy metals and other pollutants, field tests for the “eel’s” biological components are trickier to carry out. “We obviously can’t contaminate a lake like we do the test water in our lab,” said Jan Roelof van der Meer, project coordinator and head of the department of fundamental microbiology at the University of Lausanne . “For now, we will continue using salt as the contaminant until the robot can easily find the source of the contamination. Then we will add biological sensors to the robot and carry out tests with toxic compounds.” + École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne [Via Techcrunch ]

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This robotic "eel" hunts down the source of water pollution

Giant robots and 3D printers are building a futuristic house in Switzerland

July 12, 2017 by  
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Researchers from ETH Zurich University plan to use giant robots and 3D printers to build “the first house in the world to be designed, planned and built using predominantly digital processes.” The DFAB House will fuse cutting-edge technologies – including 3D printing, robotic fabrication and prefab construction – to create a futuristic home worthy of the Jetsons. The researchers will collaborate with business partners to build the three-story, 656-square-foot house as part of the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Digital Fabrication project. They will build it at NEST– research facility in Dübendorf, Switzerland , operated by the Empa institute. Related: Floating timber pavilion transforms a Swiss lake into an exciting new public square “Unlike construction projects that use only a single digital building technology, such as 3D-printed houses, the DFAB House brings a range of new digital building technologies together,” said the project’s initiator, ETH professor Matthias Kohler. Related: A 10K tiny house 3D-printed in 24 hours A six-foot tall robot mounted on caterpillar tracks will build steel-wire mesh sections which will have a dual role–it will function as formwork and reinforcement for concrete walls. The mesh is then filled with a concrete mix that forms a load-bearing wall topped with a 3D-printed ceiling slab. The house is scheduled to complete in summer 2018. It will function as a residential and working space for guest researchers and partners of the NEST project. + ETH Zurich + Empa Via Dezeen

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Giant robots and 3D printers are building a futuristic house in Switzerland

Adorable AI robot stolls the beach scribbling poems in the sand

July 4, 2017 by  
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Forget the beach balls and margaritas – nothing says relaxing day at the beach like robot-created poetry. Designer Yuxi Liu has created Poet on the Shore – an adorable AI-powered robot that rolls around the beach scribbling lines of poetic prose in the sand. Liu created the battery-powered robot for her Design Informatics thesis at the University of Edinburgh. The adorable mod cube uses four wheels on continuous tracks to easily and autonomously cruise over the sand. Equipped with an anemometer (a device that measures wind speed) as an antenna, the robot picks up on various environmental factors that are recorded into the machine’s data stream. Related: Meet Gita, an intelligent autonomous cargo robot that can carry your stuff Using artificial intelligence technology, the robot is able to piece together this data to create varying verses of poetry, which are imprinted in its tracks as it cruises over the sand. The robot’s vocabulary is programmed with general grammar and spelling conventions, but is free to arrange the words in any form it pleases. According to Liu, the robot “enjoys watching the sea, listening to the sound of waves lapping on the beach, the murmurs of the winds, children’s conversing, and the incessant din of seabirds. Most of the time, it roams alone to listen and feel. Sometimes, it writes verses into the sand, and watches the waves wash them away.” The Poet on the Shore is part of a series Liu created called, “I, Machine”, which explores the “sense, sociability and morality of machines.” + Poet on the Shore Via PSFK

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Adorable AI robot stolls the beach scribbling poems in the sand

Federal court stunts EPA plans to suspend methane emissions rule

July 4, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump in February instructed cabinet members “to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens placed on the American people,” and it appears Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt has taken that to mean attack the environment and public health . He attempted to suspend a rule put in place under President Barack Obama to regulate methane emissions from new gas and oil wells. But now a federal appeals court has dealt Pruitt and Trump a blow. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled yesterday that the EPA can’t suspend the Obama-era rule. In a two to one decision, the court said under the Clean Air Act , the EPA doesn’t have the authority to obstruct the rule. Pruitt had placed a 90-day moratorium on enforcing portions of the methane rule – and then stretched that moratorium to two years. He also said his move wasn’t subject to court review. But the federal appeals court called his decision unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious. Related: In surprise vote, Senate keeps Obama’s methane rules in place Judges Robert Wilkins and David Tatel said, “EPA’s stay, in other words, is essentially an order delaying the rule’s effective date, and this court has held that such orders are tantamount to amending or revoking a rule.” Pruitt’s efforts to foment climate change as much as he can haven’t been put to a full stop. The court did say the EPA does have the right to reverse the rule – but will have to go through a new rule-making process to get there. When it comes to greenhouse gases, methane is 25 more times powerful than carbon dioxide , according to The New York Times. American Petroleum Institute spokesperson Reid Porter said 2012 standards had already done some work in cutting methane emissions. In a statement he said, “A stay is needed to allow for regulatory certainty as EPA continues the formal process to review the rule making.” Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp took a different view, saying, “The court’s decision ends the continued pollution by the oil and gas industry that’s been illegally allowed by Pruitt.” Via The New York Times Images via Wikimedia Commons and Ken Doerr on Flickr

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Swinging robot inspired by sloths could help future farmers

April 17, 2017 by  
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Over 7 billion people live on Earth, which means feeding our growing population will require us to produce food more efficiently than we are now. Could Robots could help us ramp up food production? Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) scientists believe so. They designed Tarzan, a robot inspired by swinging sloths, that could help future farmers more effectively monitor their crops . Take a look at the video below to see Tarzan in action. Tarzan is a two-armed robot that would hang suspended above a field on a wire, and move back and forth by swinging – like the mammal infamous for being lazy. But robot Tarzan is anything but lazy; it could snap images of plants and send them back to the farmer so either a human or an algorithm could analyze crop growth. Georgia Tech mechanical engineering assistant professor Jonathan Rogers said in a video, “What that’s going to allow people to do is essentially have an automated way to analyze how their crops are doing and what their crops need in real time, and maybe even providing that to their crops without them having to go walk the field themselves.” Related: World’s first robot-run farm to churn out 11 million heads of lettuce per year Georgia Tech researchers will take Tarzan to the field this summer at a four acre test field growing soybeans near Athens, Georgia . Plant geneticists from the University of Georgia used to have to walk the fields taking notes on crop growth there in the hot July sun, but Tarzan could help them analyze the crops more efficiently. According to the university, “With Georgia Tech robots dangling over the field, UGA researchers will be able to get more frequent measurements and to avoid some laborious field work. Someday, they may be able to stay at their laptops miles away, in the air conditioning, scanning a steady stream of images and data sent back from the robots.” As sloths are energy efficient , the team is working on making their robot sloth energy efficient and envision it powered by the sun one day. Via Georgia Tech and Wired Images via Georgia Tech and Eric Kilby on Flickr

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Thailands first LEED Platinum vertical village to rise in Bangkok

April 17, 2017 by  
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Thailand’s wealthiest man, Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, has teamed up with architecture firm SOM to plan One Bangkok, a $3.5 billion project that will be first in Thailand to target LEED Platinum certification for Neighborhood Development. Located in the heart of the capital next to Lumphini Park, the 16.7-acre mixed-use development is one of the largest private-sector developments in Thailand to date. The “people-centric” project will include luxury amenities, public spaces, and sustainable design technologies to reduce energy use. SOM designed One Bangkok to “foster community and promote well-being in a dense urban environment” using attractive streetscapes, eight acres of public plazas, and a mixed-use program. In addition to public space, the 1.83-million-square-meter project will comprise five Grade-A office towers, five luxury hotels, three luxury residential towers, and retail. An estimated 60,000 people are expected to live and work in the district upon completion in 2025. Related: SOM designs pedestrian-friendly revamp for the heart of Philadelphia To achieve LEED Platinum certification for Neighborhood Development, One Bangkok will centralize energy and water-management systems to maximize efficiency. The landscape optimizes stormwater management efficiency by reducing runoff and retaining rainwater onsite for absorption and return to groundwater. Green spaces are also integrated into the buildings on higher levels, from cascading green terraces to networks of sky gardens. The first stage of One Bangkok is expected to open in 2021. + SOM Renderings via SOM , Diagram via PPtv Thailand

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Thailands first LEED Platinum vertical village to rise in Bangkok

Gorgeous bamboo gridshell combines Cambodian design with mathematical forms

April 17, 2017 by  
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Mathematics is beautiful, a truth not lost on architects. Luca Poian Forms designed a gorgeous bamboo pavilion that draws inspiration from the Enneper minimal surface for its striking appearance. Conceived as a landmark structure for Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park, the pavilion combines innovative digital tools with low-tech and sustainable bamboo construction that also references traditional Cambodian design. Created as a submission for the Building Trust’s Camboo Bamboo Landmark Design Challenge , Luca Poian Form’s proposal responds to the competition’s call for an innovative and temporary pavilion to help popularize bamboo as a modern and desirable material in Cambodia. The architects designed a structure that uses locally sourced bamboo in ways both familiar and novel to Cambodia. The sculptural pavilion’s split bamboo roofing references traditional weaving while its undulating arches are inspired by the Ennerper surface as well as the radiating arms of the ancient Goddess Prajnaparamita. Related: Zaha Hadid Architects Win Bid to Design Mathematics Gallery in London’s Science Museum “Known for its characteristic tensile strength, bamboo is a building material that lends itself excellently to the construction of sustainable grid-shell structures,” wrote the architects. “Celebrating the material’s qualities, our proposal derives a grid-shell pattern from the trajectory of the structure’s principal stresses under gravity, effectively eliminating shear forces and maximising the pavilion’s overall stiffness. The result is highly sculptural, structurally coherent, and spatially expressive: a structure that is timeless in its architectural language and innovative in its structural and tectonic approach.” The 110-square-meter pavilion design received an honorable mention in the design competition. + Luca Poian Forms Via divisare Images via Luca Poian Forms

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