January 22, 2017

A leap in affordability and power to weight ratio with Fabric Pneumatic Exoskeleton Technology

Roam Robotics wants to create light and affordable exoskeletons that will be usable by a lot of people for everyday use.

They are developing a new generation of robotic orthotics that are constructed entirely out of fabric. These devices omit the rigid materials used in traditional exoskeleton designs for inflatable structures using high-strength fabrics to greatly reduce part count and costs without sacrificing performance. The resulting orthotics systems provide power to weight ratios that are unmatched by existing exoskeleton systems at a fraction of the cost.

Semiconductor for next generation power electronics

Researchers have demonstrated the high-performance potential of an experimental transistor made of a semiconductor called beta gallium oxide, which could bring new ultra-efficient switches for applications such as the power grid, military ships and aircraft.

The semiconductor is promising for next-generation “power electronics,” or devices needed to control the flow of electrical energy in circuits. Such a technology could help to reduce global energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by replacing less efficient and bulky power electronics switches now in use.

The transistor, called a gallium oxide on insulator field effect transistor, or GOOI, is especially promising because it possesses an “ultra-wide bandgap,” a trait needed for switches in high-voltage applications.

The schematic at left shows the design for an experimental transistor made of a semiconductor called beta gallium oxide, which could bring new ultra-efficient switches for applications such as the power grid, military ships and aircraft. At right is an atomic force microscope image of the semiconductor. (Purdue University image/Peide Ye

Astronomer searches for signs of life on Wolf 1061 exoplanet

SF State astronomer Stephen Kane is searching for signs of life in one of the extrasolar systems closest to Earth.

As one of the world’s leading “planet hunters,” Kane focuses on finding “habitable zones,” areas where water could exist in a liquid state on a planet’s surface if there’s sufficient atmospheric pressure. Kane and his team, including former undergraduate student Miranda Waters, examined the habitable zone on a planetary system 14 light years away. Their findings will appear in the next issue of Astrophysical Journal in a paper titled “Characterization of the Wolf 1061 Planetary System.”

“The Wolf 1061 system is important because it is so close and that gives other opportunities to do follow-up studies to see if it does indeed have life,” Kane said.

But it’s not just Wolf 1061’s proximity to Earth that made it an attractive subject for Kane and his team. One of the three known planets in the system, a rocky planet called Wolf 1061c, is entirely within the habitable zone. With assistance from collaborators at Tennessee State University and in Geneva, Switzerland, they were able to measure the star around which the planet orbits to gain a clearer picture of whether life could exist there.

When scientists search for planets that could sustain life, they are basically looking for a planet with nearly identical properties to Earth, Kane said. Like Earth, the planet would have to exist in a sweet spot often referred to as the “Goldilocks zone” where conditions are just right for life. Simply put, the planet can’t be too close or too far from its parent star. A planet that’s too close would be too hot. If it’s too far, it may be too cold and any water would freeze, which is what happens on Mars, Kane added.

Conversely, when planets warm, a “runaway greenhouse effect” can occur where heat gets trapped in the atmosphere. Scientists believe this is what happened on Earth’s twin, Venus. Scientists believe Venus once had oceans, but because of its proximity to the sun the planet became so hot that all the water evaporated, according to NASA. Since water vapor is extremely effective in trapping in heat, it made the surface of the planet even hotter. The surface temperature on Venus now reaches a scalding 880 degrees Fahrenheit.

Arxiv - Characterization of the wolf 1061 Planetary System

Improved Artificial Intelligence will allow pilots to control drone wingmen

F-35s, F-22s and other fighter jets will soon use improved “artificial intelligence” to control nearby drone “wingmen” able to carry weapons, test enemy air defenses or perform intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions in high risk areas, senior Air Force officials said.

Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias said that technology was progressing quickly at the Air Force Research Lab - to the point where much higher degrees of autonomy and manned-unmanned teaming is expected to emerge in the near future.

An F-35 computer system, Autonomic Logistics Information System, involves early applications of artificial intelligence wherein computers make assessments, go through checklists, organize information and make some decisions by themselves – without needing human intervention.

“The more autonomy and intelligence you can put on these vehicles, the more useful they will become,” Zacharias said.

This development could greatly enhance mission scope, flexibility and effectiveness by enabling a fighter jet to conduct a mission with more weapons, sensors, targeting technology and cargo, Zacharias explained.

For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaisance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.

Drones could be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots.

Star Trek Discovery Show delayed

CBS All Access' Star Trek: Discovery has been delayed again as the series continues casting. The series is set roughly a decade before the events (2258-2260) of the original Star Trek series, the series follows the crew of the USS Discovery as they discover new worlds and civilizations, while exploring the franchise's signature contemporary themes.

The revival for the streaming platform has cast James Frain as Spock's father, producer CBS Television Studios announced Wednesday, as sources confirm that the show's planned May debut has been pushed.

The character Sarek was born in 2165. He is the son of Skon of Vulcan and the grandson of Solkar (the first Vulcan ambassador to Earth). Sarek was married twice, and had two sons.

James Frane will play Sarek

January 21, 2017

Telsa Autopilot 2.0 could be ten times safer than human only driving which could eventually save over 1 million lives per year worldwide

Based on actual first year driving data, Tesla vehicles with first generation Autopilot had a crash rate that was 40% less than regular cars without Autopilot.

Elon Musk said that the Autopilot team is aiming for the second generation Autopilot to reduce the crash rate by 90%.

If achieved, it would mean that all of Tesla’s vehicles produced since October 2016 would crash on average only once for every ten crashes by vehicles without the advanced driver assist system.

That’s 1.3 crash per million miles before Autopilot’s Autosteer feature down to 0.8 crash per million miles after Autosteer – a 40% reduction in crash rate verified by NHTSA – and now they are aiming for 0.1 crash per million miles after the introduction of what the company has been calling ‘Enhanced Autosteer’ with Tesla’s second generation Autopilot hardware.

Autopilot 2.0 has more cameras, including a triple front-facing camera setup, and the new vehicles are also now equipped with an onboard supercomputer capable of supporting Tesla Vision, the automaker’s new in-house image processing system:

Elon Musk has pledging that by the end of 2017, he’ll produce a Tesla that can drive itself from Los Angeles to New York City, no human needed.

Traffic deaths in the United States rose 10.4 percent in the first half of this year compared with the same period in 2015, maintaining a steady climb. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration noted that Americans drove about 50.5 billion more miles in the first six months of 2016 than in the first half of 2015, an increase of 3.3 percent. But that does not account for the rise in the number of deaths: to 17,775 in the first six months of 2016 from 16,100 in the same period in 2015.

If all cars in the USA had autopilot 2.0 or better driver assistance systems by 2025, then traffic deaths could be reduced to less than 4000 per year instead of 35,000.

There were 1.25 million road traffic deaths globally in 2013.

Exosuit reduces energy needed to walk by 23%

A new study shows, that in test group of seven healthy wearers, they clearly saw that the more assistance provided to the ankle joints, the more energy the wearers could save with a maximum reduction of almost 23% compared to walking with the exosuit powered-off. This is the highest relative reduction in energy expenditure observed to date with a tethered exoskeleton or exosuit.

Wearers significantly adapted their gait with increasing levels of assistance. The changes were most significant at the ankle joint but also at the hip as the exosuit included straps coupling the assistance from the back of the lower legs to the front of the hip in a beneficial manner.

Science Robotics - Assistance magnitude versus metabolic cost reductions for a tethered multiarticular soft exosuit


When defining requirements for any wearable robot for walking assistance, it is important to maximize the user’s metabolic benefit resulting from the exosuit assistance while limiting the metabolic penalty of carrying the system’s mass. Thus, the aim of this study was to isolate and characterize the relationship between assistance magnitude and the metabolic cost of walking while also examining changes to the wearer’s underlying gait mechanics. The study was performed with a tethered multiarticular soft exosuit during normal walking, where assistance was directly applied at the ankle joint and indirectly at the hip due to a textile architecture. The exosuit controller was designed such that the delivered torque profile at the ankle joint approximated that of the biological torque during normal walking. Seven participants walked on a treadmill at 1.5 meters per second under one unpowered and four powered conditions, where the peak moment applied at the ankle joint was varied from about 10 to 38% of biological ankle moment (equivalent to an applied force of 18.7 to 75.0% of body weight). Results showed that, with increasing exosuit assistance, net metabolic rate continually decreased within the tested range. When maximum assistance was applied, the metabolic rate of walking was reduced by 22.83 ± 3.17% relative to the powered-off condition (mean ± SEM).

Last year, Harvard’s soft exosuit team proved that its wearable robot could lower energy expenditure in healthy people walking with a load on their back

Russia is an active but shrinking geopolitical player where the future will be mostly bipolar between USA and China

By the 2030s — Russia may become less dangerous than Iran, which military strategist Andrew Krepinevich forthcoming study from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments ranks currently at No. 3.

Krepinevich's analysis of Russia is similar to Nextbigfuture. Nextbigfuture had noted that long term low oil and gas prices and shrinking population are trends that will weaken Russia over the coming decades.

Nextbigfuture also notes that the USA and China do not need to fight or have conflict. The USA and China can both be economic winners who prosper in peacetime.

The USA and China are nearing economic and technological parity. China's military strength will lag the USA for about 20 years.

China is still behind the USA in several technological areas. In particular with large airplane engines and with aircraft carriers.

However, the gap is closing and China is competitive with the United States on overall scientific research budgets.

Europe was able to mount a program to create Airbus and become competitive with Boeing and has continued to match Boeing airplane technology.

There is no reason to think that the US will be able to create a sustainable military dominance like the 1990 to 2015 period while China is an economic and scientific research peer.

Any leads will be temporary and copied by the other.

China is still projected to average 4-6.5% GDP growth for the next decade while the USA is projected to be at 1-3% growth.

China has surpassed the USA on purchasing power GDP and will likely surpass the USA on nominal GDP in the 2025-2030 timeframe.

Krepinevich is at odds with defense officials like Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Joseph Dunford, Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley, and Defense Secretary-designate James Mattis, who all put Russia first. Mattis is also a hardliner on Iran.

Official America First Energy Plan embraces $50 trillion in uptapped shale oil and gas

The Whitehouse has issued an America First Energy Plan

* Goal lower cost of energy
* deregulate energy
* they embrace shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans. We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own. We will use the revenues from energy production to rebuild our roads, schools, bridges and public infrastructure.
* wants clean coal technology
* will focus EPA on fighting air and water pollution

US will be building missile defenses and 350 ship navy

President Trump has issued a series of official Whitehouse policy statements. "Making Our Military Strong Again" says they will end the defense sequester and submit a new budget to Congress outlining a plan to rebuild our military. We will provide our military leaders with the means to plan for our future defense needs.

We will also develop a state-of-the-art missile defense system to protect against missile-based attacks from states like Iran and North Korea.

Cyberwarfare is an emerging battlefield, and we must take every measure to safeguard our national security secrets and systems. We will make it a priority to develop defensive and offensive cyber capabilities at our U.S. Cyber Command, and recruit the best and brightest Americans to serve in this crucial area.

In various speeches and documents, the Trump campaign said it would build a 350-ship fleet, up from the currently planned 308. The Air Force will apparently get up to 1,200 fighters.

Another document, the America First Foreign Policy, the Trump Administration declares that “Peace through strength will be at the center” of its foreign policy.

As expected, they say that “Defeating ISIS and other radical Islamic terror groups will be our highest priority.” In one key declaration, they declare that the U.S will “engage in cyberwarfare to disrupt and disable propaganda and recruiting” of those terrorists.

Other Statements in the whitehouse documents
* in pursuing a foreign policy based on American interests, we will embrace diplomacy.
* the USA is withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and making certain that any new trade deals are in the interests of American workers

Peak Smartphones is near

Smartphones will continue to grow through Gartner’s forecast period, but their share of the semiconductor pie will peak in 2017 at 25.4% and their overall amount of chip revenue will max out at $97.7 billion in 2018 as growth shifts to mid- and low-end models.

PCs and ultramobiles (below) will be flat this year. Growth will be slight through 2020, though the segment will continue to decline as a slice of the overall chip market.

In this market, “money has been going to stock buybacks and M and A — it’s the quickest way to get into new markets,” said Patton of GlobalFoundries, noting Qualcomm’s whopping deal to buy NXP to expand its automotive and IoT business.

Russia will make 400 T90M tanks with Armata upgrades like an autoloaded 125 mm gun

Russia is making an improved T90M variant of the T90 tank which will feature many of the technologies developed for Russia’s revolutionary T-14 Armata. The T-90M will be remanufactured from Russia’s existing fleet of T-90As — will be far less costly than the fearsome, but expensive, Armata.

This approach will not only improve the reliability and firepower of the tank, but also significantly increase the demand for such a machine on the world market.

Four hundred T-90As, which are in service with the Russian Federation Armed Forces would fall under such a modernization plan.

The tank will receive an upgraded 125-millimeter smoothbore gun called the 2A82–1M — the same as that on the Armata — and a new fire control system, which is characterized by high levels of accuracy, rate of fire and has an increased barrel life — about 900 shots.

The T-90M will also incorporate advanced defensive systems such are slat armor, active protection systems and new reactive armor. The T-90M is likely to directly incorporate a version of the Armata’s Afghanit active protection system as well as the Malachite reactive armor package.


Larger Armata on the left, T90S on the right

January 20, 2017

Tesla production could hit 183,000 cars in 2018 as electric cars start going prime time hitting 15-25% of all cars by 2025

Morgan Stanley said it has increased its expectations for the Tesla Model 3, now saying the launch will take place later this year, and raised its sales forecast for Teslas overall to 183,000 in 2018 from its previous target of 114,000, although this is still 64% lower than the company’s 500,000 ambition for 2018. Morgan Stanley’s overall volume projection for 2020 is about two thirds less than Tesla’s 1 million. It doesn’t expect net profitability under U.S. GAAP rules before 2019 and free cash flow generation until very late 2018.

Tesla’s Model 3, base price close to $30,000 but probably averaging closer to $45,000, will go on sale by the end of 2017, and is charged with being a big volume success for Tesla, and its first serious profit generator.

Morgan Stanley said electric cars are now getting ready for prime time.

“EVs are no longer just a trend, they are a core strategy for (manufacturers) to address both increasingly stringent regulator targets,” the bank said.

Late last year Morgan Stanley raised its estimate for battery-only global electric car sales to between 10 and 15% of the global market by 2025. That was more than three times higher than the average of current expectations then. Volkswagen expects this to hit 25%. Currently global market share is an almost invisible less than 2%.

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