Paul Miller writes: Mayor Clint Eastwood became famous playing fictional tough guys like Rowdy Yates and Dirty Harry. Lately, he’s achieved even greater fame as the director of films about real-life heroes — including Iraq vet Chris Kyle and pilot Sully Sullenberger.
Now, Eastwood is working on his next project, about three friends who stopped a terrorist attack two years ago on a train in France. One of them, a U.S. Air Force enlisted man named Spencer Stone, did something very few people have done and lived to tell about: Without a weapon or anything to defend himself, he charged a fanatical and heavily armed enemy, knocking him to the ground. And then he and his friends, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, disarmed the man and rendered him unconscious, saving dozens, if not hundreds, of innocent lives in the process.
“It was a very important event, because there were so many people on the train, and the guy had hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and he could have done a tremendous amount of damage,” Eastwood said. “And there’s no reason to think he wasn’t going to.”
At his office on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, Eastwood is busy these days refining the shooting schedule, while his casting directors are choosing the actors, costumers are picking the outfits, and set designers are planning the shots — all routine tasks for a major Hollywood picture. But the film, “The 15:17 to Paris,” which Eastwood says will probably be released later this year, has a story that promises to be unprecedented in its heart-stopping impact, yet which carries a timeless message of people putting their lives on the line to protect others.
“My buddies and I were on a trip around Europe,” Stone told The Pine Cone this week from a family cabin at Lake Tahoe. He’d known the men — Sadler, a student at Sacramento State, and Skarlatos, a member of the Oregon National Guard — since their childhood in a Sacramento suburb. “Anthony and I started the trip in Rome, and then we went to Venice, Munich and Berlin. And then Alek, who was coming off a tour of duty in Afghanistan, joined us in Amsterdam.”
Their next destination was to be Paris, and on August 21, 2015, they boarded a high-speed train set to leave Amsterdam at 3:17 p.m. (15:17 on the 24-hour clock used in Europe) for the French capital. “As we boarded,” Stone said, “we noticed there didn’t seem to be any security — no metal detectors, no bag check. Nothing.”
But they didn’t think much about it, and the men — off duty and in civilian clothes — soon settled into their first class seats, had a meal and a little wine, checked the internet, and promptly went to sleep.
“We were always on the go, and for us, trains rides were a chance to take a nap,” Stone said.
A brief stop at the Gare Midi in Brussels woke them up — but for only a moment, Stone said. They had no idea a 25-year-old Moroccan man, Ayub El Ghazzani, had boarded in Brussels carrying a deadly backpack.
A man running and glass shattering
As the train hurtled through the European countryside, the three friends dozed, and the next thing Stone remembers was being awakened when a train crew member sprinted past him toward the front of the train. Taking off his noise-reducing headphones, Stone says he heard glass shatter behind him, and people gasping and screaming. Turning around to look in the direction of the noise, he saw El Ghazzani, shirtless and with a backpack attached to his chest, bend down at the end of the car and pick up an assault rifle.
“It was an AK-47, and he was trying to load a round, and I immediately knew he was a terrorist,” Stone said.
And this was no movie. Suddenly confronted with what was sure to be a life-or-death situation, the Air Force man hesitated for just a moment. Read the rest of this entry »
The Japanese robotics manufacturer Kawasaki has created a bot that can prepare nigiri sushi in under a minute.
As robots get more advanced, they will likely take over many jobs in the future — including those of sushi chefs.
For a sneak peak at this impending automation, look no further than a new creation from robotics manufacturer Kawasaki. The robot can make sushi in under a minute.
First spotted by Gizmodo, the video shows a miraculous bot that assembles nigiri, the traditional type of sushi in which a piece of raw fish sits on a little ball of rice.
Erik Ortiz reports: Police in Dallas used a robot with an explosive device to kill a suspect involved in a coordinated ambush against officers.
“We saw no other option but to use our bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate where the suspect was. Other options would have exposed our officers in grave danger.”
— Mayor Mike Rawlings
The suspect was holed up inside the El Centro College parking garage for several hours overnight Thursday before police moved to “blast him out,” Mayor Mike Rawlings said Friday. The negotiations with the unidentified suspect had stalled.
“We saw no other option but to use our bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate where the suspect was,” Rawlings told reporters. “Other options would have exposed our officers in grave danger.”
The mayor said the suspect was killed by the device, and disputed earlier reports that he might have shot himself.
At least three other suspects were involved in the attack on officers during a protest Thursday night about police-involved shootings elsewhere in the country. Five officers were killed and seven others were injured, as well as two civilians.
Typically, police forces have bomb squads that employ remote-controlled robots for dismantling explosive devices.
But using robots with explosives or munitions to root out or even kill suspects appears far less routine…(more)
Source: NBC News
The first suspect in the Dallas police shooting was identified as Micah X. Johnson, 25, the Los Angeles Times reported. Johnson was a resident of the Dallas area who had no ties to terror groups or a criminal history. Law enforcement said he has relatives in Mesquite, Texas.
Five police officers were killed late Thursday by shooters during a peaceful protest over the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile earlier this week. Dallas Police Chief David Brown said negotiations with one suspect broke down early Friday and a bomb robot was used to kill the suspect. Read the rest of this entry »
Artificial Tongue Application Potential Not Yet Fully Explored But We Suspect You Have Ideas Not Mentioned Here
This might the first post we’ve done that falls into the categories “Food & Drink” and “Robotics”. I have a feeling it won’t be the last. TechCrunch reports:
Researchers in Denmark have created an artificial tongue to find out whether expensive wine actually tastes any better than the cheap stuff.
The research, first published in ACS Nano, claims that an optical nanosensor based on surface plasmon resonance (SPR) can discern how you experience the sensation of dryness in wine. And they say this nanosensor can judge the way the tannins will hit your flavor sensors better than the finest wine critic can.
Some may argue that it takes a human, not a robot, to discover what is worth a sip. However, the researchers at Arhaus University argue that the nanosensor is free from the human critic’s personal prejudice. They may have a point. There’s a lot that goes into making wine taste a certain way. Everything from the variety of the grape to the minerals in the soil to what kind of sunlight the grapes received chemically affects the taste and smell of the wine from season to season – in even the same grape.
According to MarketWatch, over 31.4 billion 750 ml bottles of wine are bought and sold throughout the world every year. While some standard ratings have been placed on wine and there’s a decent following in wine personalities and what they recommend, everyone has different tastes in what they like. This makes it particularly hard to decide which wine will do at the local grocery store. Read the rest of this entry »
There’s been a lot of discussion and a tremendous amount of speculation lately about the nature of drones and their role in our society as useful tools and hobbyist toys.
Last year, while celebrating my birthday in Maine, I was given a drone fitted with a high-definition camera. After a quick introduction to the mechanics of operating the contraption and a few words about its idiosyncrasies, I loaded the appropriate app on my iPad and went down to the beach.
In just a few minutes I was hooked. In near silence, the drone rose, hovered, and dove, silently and surreptitiously photographing us and the landscape around us. The photos and video were stunning. By assuming unusual vantage points, the drone allowed me to “see” so much more of my surroundings than usual. The view I was “seeing” on my iPad with the help of the drone would have otherwise been…
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The Future of Underwater Surveillance?
For Defense Tech, Kris Osborn reports: The Navy is testing a stealthy, 4 foot-long fish-shaped autonomous underwater vehicle designed to blend in with undersea life and perform combat sensor functions, service officials explained.
The so-called “bio-memetic” undersea vehicle is currently being developed as part of the Chief of Naval Operations Rapid Innovation Cell, or CRIC – a special unit set up by CNO Adm. Jonathan Greenert in 2012 to explore the feasibility of rapidly turning around commercially available technologies for Naval military use.
“You could have a sub with a fish-like UUV tethered onto a cable, giving real time feedback as opposed to current ones that come back for a download…”
— Capt. Jim Loper, Navy Warfare Development Command
“It mimics a fish. It looks like a fish. We call it robo-tuna, affectionately, but it is a UUV (unmanned undersea vehicle). It does not have a propeller or a jet. It actually swims by flipping its tail around,” said Capt. Jim Loper, concepts and innovation department head, Navy Warfare Development Command, Norfolk. Read the rest of this entry »
For Gizmodo, Casey Chan writes: In the future, we’ll get the news from fair and balanced android newscasters that’ll somehow terrify us more than the cable newspeople we have today. These android newscasters are frighteningly lifelike and can interact with humans, read the news and Tweets, tell a joke and basically replace the lousy talking heads on TV.
The android newscasters were shown off in Japan at the Android: What is a Human? exhibition in Tokyo. At times, the two robots demoed—Kodomoroid and Otonaroid—look and act so real that they seem like human actors pretending to be a robot.
Japanese scientists on Tuesday unveiled what they said was the world’s first news-reading android, eerily lifelike and possessing a sense of humour to match her perfect language skills. Duration: 01:20
Ohio doctors insert microchip into Ian Burkhart’s brain allowing him to move hand for first time since accident
For the Telegraph, Rosa Prince reports: A young American paralysed in a swimming accident has become the first patient to move his hand using the power of thought after doctors inserted a microchip into his brain.
“Physically, it was a foreign feeling. Emotionally it was definitely a sense of hope and excitement to know that it’s possible.”
Ian Burkhart was able to open and close his fist and even pick up a spoon during the first test of the chip, giving hope to millions of accident victims and stroke sufferers of a new bionic era of movement through thought.
Doctors at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center created the “Neurobridge” technology, whereby a microchip reads patients’ thoughts in order to replace signals no longer transmitted by their broken bodies, in conjunction with engineers from Battelle, a non-profit research centre.
While doctors have seen some success in recent years in getting stroke victims to manoeuvre robotic arms
using their thoughts, Mr Burkhart is the first to move his own body.
Paralysed from the chest down during a swimming accident four years ago, the 23-year underwent surgery in April to drill into his skull and implant a chip into his brain.
At just 0.15 inch wide, the chip has 96 electrodes which ‘read’ what he is thinking and is housed in a port inside his skull.
After weeks of practice sessions, when Mr Burkhart focused intently on wiggling his fingers while the chip responded by moving an animated hand on a computer screen, the first proper test took place last week. Read the rest of this entry »
For FT.com, Chris Bryant writes: Cleaning the Sydney Harbour Bridge used to be a dangerous, dirty and laborious job. As soon as a team of workers, operating a sandblaster, reached one end of the iconic structure they had to start again to keep 485,000 square metres of steel pristine.
“Ten years ago it took five minutes for a robot just to recognise the object in front of it was a table…”
Now two robots called Rosie and Sandy, built by SABRE Autonomous Solutions, blast away paint and corrosion all day long without a break. They determine which area needs most attention via a laser scan and move about on rails.
“A sand blaster can slice through flesh. Automating jobs like that is a good thing, it helps improve the quality of human work,” says Roko Tschakarow, head of the Mobile Gripper Systems Division at Schunk, which supplies the lightweight robot arm for the Sydney robots.
“Many aspects of robotics are now reaching a critical mass . . . service robotics is coming.”
— Alin Albu-Schaeffer
Rosie and Sandy are at the forefront of a wave of new autonomous robots that have broken out of the factory and could be coming to your workplace soon.
At the Automatica robot and automation fair in Munich this week the organisers devoted a whole section to so-called “service robots” for the first time.
Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for manufacturing, engineering and automation demonstrated a Care-O-Bot that sweeps office floors and empties waste paper bins. Pal Robotics showed Stockbot, which walks the aisles in a shop or warehouse to check inventory at night.
Oppent’s autonomous vehicles ferry laundry or waste around hospitals, YaskawaMotoman’s dual arm robot prepares laboratory samples and OC Robotics, a Bristol-based company, supplies snake-arm robots to inspect hazardous or confined spaces such as nuclear power plants and inside aircraft wings.
Compared to the size of the industrial robotics market, service robot applications are still somewhat niche. Robot researchers are also wary of overpromising after several false technological dawns in the past. Read the rest of this entry »
Caked in red silt, NASA’s Curiosity rover looks like it’s been trekking through a Martian dust storm in this latest interactive panorama. But nothing can tarnish the joy of seeing this incredible machine hard at work on another planet.
The dust-covered robot is currently preparing for its third drilling operation on Mars, at a site nicknamed the Kimberley. In recent days, engineers have inspected and scrubbed the dust from a spot on a rock they named “Windjana,” after a gorge in Western Australia. (Too bad the rover can’t turn its wire bristle dust removal tool on itself.) Curiosity has already done preparatory drill work and will soon sample some of Windjana’s interior. The rover will run this sample through a series of tests to give scientists a better understanding of the history of water in this area...(read more)
Note: Some good stuff can be found in IMDB’s Trivia page
Frances Martel reports: 2013 was a banner year for uncalled for expansion of China’s borders, from the Senkaku Islands Air Identification Defense Zone to a state TV show claiming the entirety of the Philippines for China. But on the economic front, China plans an expansion of a completely different kind: the use of robots to make manufacturing even cheaper.
Canada’s Globe and Mail has a feature out this week on China’s increased push to replace human labor with automated work. While China boasts some of the cheapest labor in the world–hence their domination of the manufacture of many simple to make items–salaries are, by necessity, increasing. This, argues author Scott Barlow, is pressuring the Chinese government to stay competitive economically with other nations by suppressing the growing wages. And to do that, he continues, businesses need to hire fewer people.
Leo Kelion reports: Google has revealed it has taken over seven robotics companies in the past half a year and has begun hiring staff to develop its own product.
A spokesman confirmed the effort was being headed up by Andy Rubin, who was previously in charge of the Android operating system.
The spokesman was unwilling to discuss what kind of robot was being developed.
But the New York Times reports that at this stage Google does not plan to sell the resulting product to consumers.
Instead, the newspaper suggests, Google’s robots could be paired with its self-driving car research to help automate the delivery of goods to people’s doors.
It notes the company has recently begun a same-day grocery delivery service in San Francisco and San Jose, called Google Shopping Express.
That would pitch the initiative against Amazon’s Prime Air Project, which envisages using drones to transport goods to its customers by air.
“Any description of what Andy and his team might actually create are speculations of the author and the people he interviewed,” said Google of the NYT article. Read the rest of this entry »
John Biggs writes: Welcome to our continuing series featuring videos of robots that will, when they become autonomous, hunt us down and force us to work in the graphene factories of Mars. Below we see Wild Cat, a fully untethered remote control quadrupedal robot made by Boston Dynamics, creators of the famous Big Dog. This quadruped can run up to 16 miles an hour and features a scary-sound internal gas engine that can power it across rough terrain. Wild Cat was funded by the DARPA’s M3 program aimed at introducing flexible, usable robots into natural environments AKA introducing robotic pack animals for ground troops and build flocking, heavily armed robots that can wipe out a battlefield without putting humans in jeopardy.
Next up we have ATLAS, another Boston Dynamics bot that can walk upright on rocks. Sadly ATLAS is tethered to a power source but he has perfect balance and can survive side and front hits from heavy weights – a plus if you’re built to be the shock troops of a new droid army. ATLAS can even balance on one foot while being smacked with wrecking balls, something the average human can’t do without suffering internal damage. I can’t wait for him to be able to throw cinder blocks!
The Dextrus hand is the working prototype resulting from Joel Gibbard’s Open Hand Project, an open source hardware initiative that aims to lower the cost of robotic prosthetics dramatically. Dextrus is a fully-functional robotic hand, with features and capabilities similar to leading advanced prosthetics, but at a small fraction of the cost.