AI News, Matternet’s Package Delivery Drones

Matternet’s Package Delivery Drones

The company says that these drones, each the size of a large shoebox, could be delivering packages within a couple of years, if it can get clearance to use the drones in U.S. airspace.

It describes its network as a “physical Internet,” and its drones would deliver important lightweight packages containing, perhaps, medications to take to patients in remote areas, and blood tests to bring back from these patients to the labs.

Andreas Raptopoulos: The basic idea is to rethink our transportation infrastructure and try to ask the basic question: For countries that haven’t yet developed adequate road infrastructure, would it make sense for them to go through the whole cycle of investing in road infrastructure—the billions of dollars that would require and the many years it would take to build it—or is there a better technology to start resolving some of these transportation needs?

So we thought, Would it be possible to create a network, a node network, where these vehicles could be transporting autonomously small goods between ground stations, and in that way set up a new type of transportation infrastructure, create a new paradigm of transportation that doesn’t rely on roads?

This type of application, of transportation mode, would not only have applications in places that don’t yet have roads, like the developing world, but in many places here, in the developed world, like our cities and megacities, where we do have transportation infrastructure but it is very inefficient because of congestion.

We figured it would make a lot of sense to start at places in the developing world, where there is a very high level of need and people are willing to take much higher risk in trying something out because they have a very, very pressing problem.

The timing of it is unknown, but in any way that you see it, we think it is really necessary for corporations to start thinking, companies to start operating networks, to really understand how such a network can operate at scale.

And it is a place where people—around 80 people from 35-plus countries—every summer gather there to talk about advanced technologies and how we can use them to address humanity’s grand challenges.

And we saw that people who are locked in the cycle of poverty, of extreme poverty, which is about 1.4 billion people in the world, two-thirds of them do not have access to reliable transportation.

So we understood that in order to really think of a world that is able to get these people participating in the economy, we really need to figure out a way for them to get access to commercial hubs and develop transportation networks around them.

The original vision was to start at a small scale and eventually go up in the payload capacity of those vehicles, carrying heavier and heavier goods, eventually coming to the point where we could do transportation of maybe groceries and other heavy products.

The second version of the ground station is the one that is only able to do battery swap, and you need those stations in places where you don’t have a customer facing a need for that type of place.

They use only GPS and other sensors on board to navigate a certain path, and because we have fixed locations we fly in the network, we only fly between those marked locations, we either have a ground station or a pad, we are able to preauthorize the actual routes these vehicles fly.

Who would have imagined 30 years ago, when we had very cumbersome, very big mobile phones, only available to very rich people, who would have imagined that this type of telephony network would be available to everybody and it would be the biggest tool for economic growth in places like Kenya or Haiti?

And in order to create a new industry, you need big players, strong players, that have an intense need around the problem we are trying to solve, to get into that space and start thinking about it, with real applications.

Is Velo3D Poised to Revolutionize 3-D Printing—and Robotics?

Velo3D, based in Santa Clara, Calif., has $22.1 million in venture investment to do something in 3-D printing: That makes it fourth among 2015’s best-funded stealth-mode tech companies in the United States, according to CB Insights.

This dollar number is about all the hard news that has come out of this startup, founded in 2014 by Benyamin Butler and Erel Milshtein.But job postings, talks at conferences, and other breadcrumbs left along Velo3D's development trail—has created a sketchy outline of this company’s plans.

At the time, industry experts indicated that there wouldn’t be cheap metal printers coming anytime soon, but rather, would only come after “a significant breakthrough on the materials side,” OpenSLS’s Andreas Bastian told GigaOmin 2014.

And if they haven’t yet found the answer, they certainly think they can get there, as their latest want-ads show: the company has listings posted for a lead mechanical engineer experienced with the implementation of laser scanning systems who is interested in “revolutionizing metal manufacturing.” It’s also looking for multiple recent graduates in physics or materials science with lab experience to implement its “disruptive vision of metal 3D printing.” And the company last year petitioned for an H1B visa for a senior metallurgist.


Although the Richter scale is the most common way of comparing earthquakes, you might also see

use instruments called seismometers to record earth tremors and draw charts on

a piece of paper that's slowly wound underneath it at constant speed by an electric motor. If

an earthquake (or something like a mining explosion or a building collapse) makes the ground vibrate, the pen jiggles about.

Seismometers are usually set up with three separate traces so they can record ground movements in all three directions at once.

and accelerometers.) Photo: A seismometer drawing three charts (one of them shown in closeup) of the Loma Prieta earthquake in San Francisco, California as it happened on October 17, 1989. Photo

We can't stop earthquakes and we can't prevent their energy from traveling through the

In effect, instead of making the building a rigid extension of the foundations, you stand the upper part of the building on lots of very sturdy rubber feet so it can move about more freely. The

earthquake struck the building in 1994, scientists found that

the isolators helped to reduce shaking of the building by about two

Other buildings are mounted on giant hydraulic devices called dampers, a bit like car shock

absorbers, that soak up the ground's shaking motion before it can

Animation: How the Taipei 101 mass damper works: The hydraulic rams (red and gray) that support the damper (yellow ball) help to slow the skyscraper's sway in a similar way to the dampers (shock absorbers) in a car's suspension.

If the wind or an earthquake wobbles the building one way, the damper tries to stay where it is, dragging on the hydraulics and effectively pulling the building back again.

We don't always have to take such elaborate steps to protect ourselves against the power of

earthquake zone, why not spend a few minutes now considering how well

earthquake zone, why not spend a few minutes now considering how well

RISC Maker

Installed as president of Stanford University in 2000, Hennessy is responsible for a student population of some 14 000 and a program that boasts graduate schools of business, law, medicine, and engineering and offers undergraduate degrees in over 60 fields, including archaeology, drama, feminist studies, and music.

He helped evangelize RISC in the early 1980s when most people didn't believe computers with such an architecture would ever be much use, and he started a company that proved them wrong.

He led the development of a new way of organizing cache memory in multiprocessors that in the late 1980s experts said was unworkable, but is today in wide use.

The dominant small computer at that time was Digital Equipment Corp.'s PDP-8 minicomputer, with a memory of up to 4096 12-bit words and a processing speed of a few hundred thousand instructions per second.

And then we made a really important decision—we put red and green lights on the front and covered the whole thing in black Contac paper, which was absolutely crucial to get the right effect.'

Flush with the success of his tic-tac- toe computer, which won an award at a local science fair, Hennessy decided to major in electrical engineering in college.

but a device was needed to control the scanner and keep the X-ray intensity as low as possible by scanning as quickly as possible, yet still capture an adequate image.

While the resulting system was only an academic prototype and was never used commercially, Hennessy says that some of the ideas that emerged in both specifying and checking real-time constraints were later incorporated in real systems.

To implement the complex 3-D transformations, which required using floating-point arithmetic, the design resorted to microcode, a series of stored instructions that are not program addressable.

But in 1981, Carver Mead, a professor at the California Institute of Technology (Pasadena) known to Hennessy through Mead's landmark work on VLSI, started a company to commercialize some Caltech research that demonstrated how to design VLSI chips from high-level descriptions.

Aware of the work Hennessy had done on the microcode generation language for the geometry engine, the charismatic Mead easily convinced him to spend one day a week working for his nascent company.

Hennessy ended up helping to define the microarchitecture, which included a pipeline and the engine for implementing the instruction set, for what was to become the MicroVAX 1, a computer released by DEC in 1984.

To generate ideas, he organized a series of brainstorming sessions as a graduate seminar, asking this question of the group: given that VLSI will soon become the technology of choice, how should we change the way we design computers?

(The project was never brought to market, although the ideas influenced later IBM products, including the PowerPC architecture.) Somebody else who also concluded that microcode was unnecessary was David Patterson, a professor of computer science at the University of California at Berkeley.

So Hennessy, with a handful of graduate students and the occasional collaboration of other professors, spent about 18 months designing, building, and testing a VLSI chip, along with compilers and a simple test computer, to prove the technology.

risc02.jpg Hennessy wrote papers and began giving talks about this new computer architecture, thinking that existing computer companies would be quick to embrace such an obvious technical improvement.

Using the analogy of train tracks, Patterson added, 'While perhaps changing the width of train tracks might make technical sense, given the investment of infrastructure, it will never happen.'

Since the initial technical research at MIPS was done, Hennessy, as cofounder and chief scientist, ended up becoming chief evangelist, doing cold calls on computer companies in an effort to convince potential customers that this first RISC microprocessor was going to change the world of computing.

In the final deadline crunch, Hennessy jumped in as needed, from working on the compiler team, to writing test code, to debugging the processor, and the MIPS R2000 came out on schedule.

MIPS chips are now used primarily in embedded applications, including products such as the Sony PlayStation, Hewlett-Packard color laser writers, Cisco Systems network switches, and digital set-top boxes.

Back at The Farm—again In 1988 Hennessy was running the Computer Systems Laboratory at Stanford, teaching introductory computer architecture to graduate students, and putting together a group of researchers to explore how the RISC approach might be employed in parallel computing.

'The key questions we asked,' he says, 'were: what was the right balance of hardware and software mechanisms, and how should the mechanisms change with larger numbers of processors?'

In small-scale multiprocessors, a technique called a snooping cache is used to maintain consistency among the individual cache memories associated with each processor.

So in the 1980s, several groups around the country, including researchers at Caltech and Intel, were trying to optimize an approach called message passing, which avoids shared memory.

That is, each of the multiple, physically distributed memories has a dedicated cache, and the computer maintains a directory with each memory, keeping track of which processor has which memories in its cache.

Steps to the presidency While Hennessy went on being involved in research for some years, his administrative functions at Stanford were increasing, as he stepped up to department chairman, then dean of engineering, then provost, and, now, president.

in computer science, State University of New York at Stony Brook, 1975 and 1977 First job: grocery store stocker and bagger Patents: one, for a method of extending computer word lengths from 32 bits to 64 bits, first used in the MIPS R4000 Most recent book read: Truman by David McCullough Favorite books: Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov, and Lincoln by David Herbert Donald Favorite periodical: New York Review of Books Favorite music: Michael Kamen's 'Symphony for a New Millennium,' any Puccini opera Computer: Macintosh G4 Cube with 21-inch Cinema display Favorite Web sites: Google and MyYahoo Favorite expression: 'Charge!'

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