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Look, Ma: No Hands! Pilot Drones With Just Your Torso

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Drones are in, but joysticks are out.

Scientists at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) have developed a modern, intuitive way to pilot unmanned aerial vehicles—using your torso.

Perhaps a little odd to watch, the immersive—and seemingly effective—process leaves your head free to look around, “much like a bird,” according to the research institute.

“Our aim was to design a control method which would be easy to learn and therefore require less mental focus from the users so that they can focus on more important issues, like search and rescue,” Jenifer Miehlbradt, of EPFL’s Translational Neuroengineering Laboratory, said in a statement.

“Using your torso really gives you the feeling that you are actually flying,” she continued. “Joysticks, on the other hand, are of simple design but mastering their use to precisely control distant objects can be challenging.”

(Not for children of the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, who grew up on television, computer, and arcade games.)

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The team placed infrared markers across the upper body of 17 willing participants, monitoring movement and muscle activity during simulated drone flights.

As patterns emerged, researchers realized only the four markers on the torso were necessary—in flight simulators and real-world obstacle courses.

Not only did the human body outperform joystick control in precision and reliability, but it required minimal training sessions, meaning anyone can jump into the hot seat if necessary.

“Data analysis allowed us to develop a very simple and intuitive approach which could also be used with other populations, machines, and operations,” Bertarelli Foundation Chair Silvestro Micera said. “The approach significantly improves the teleoperation of robots with non-human mechanical attributes.”

Moving forward, researchers are working to make their torso strategy completely wearable—something like the Fly Jacket, developed by Carine Rognon, a researcher at EPFL’s Laboratory of Intelligent Systems.

The lightweight garment translates the torso strategy into control commands, without external motion detectors; it allows pilots to control a drone intuitively by leaning forward or backward, and pivoting their upper body.

“The Fly Jacket not only produces an immersive and intuitive flight control experience, but also frees the human hands for other tasks,” co-author Dario Floreano, head of the Laboratory of Intelligence Systems, said. “This could be very useful for firefighters or rescuers to quickly and precisely identify locations where help is needed.”

Results of EPFL’s study were published in this week’s issue of PNAS.

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Watch: Passengers Freak Out Over New Tesla Roadster’s Record-Setting Acceleration

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When Tesla announced its new version of the Roadster, which can accelerate in zero to 60 mph in 1.9 seconds, a lot of people were doubtful.

But a new video of the first test rides in the new Roadster, unveiled by Tesla on YouTube on Friday, shows that the “quickest car in the world” could actually be close to becoming a reality.

The video shows passengers’ hilarious reactions as the Roadster demonstrates its record-setting acceleration.

Reactions included a lot of “Holy S%!#” and “Oh My God” and “Holy F%!#”

According to Tesla, the all-new Roadster can travel 620 miles on a single charge – a new record for an all-electric vehicle.

“[It’s] the fastest production car ever made, period,” said Tesla founder Elon Musk. (Photo Credit: Tesla, Inc.)

The four-seater supercar can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 1.9 seconds and from zero to 100 mph in 4.2 seconds, and it boasts a top speed of 250 mph.

The all-new Roadster will cost $200,000 at launch (the first 1,000 are available for a ‘Founders Series Price’ of $250,000), and will be available in 2020.

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Cuba Rolls Out Mobile Internet Service to Citizens for the First Time

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Cubans will now be able to access the internet on their mobile phones, according to state-run telecom agency ETECSA.

The announcement is a milestone for the Communist-run country, which has long been considered one of the least connected countries in the world, and one of the last without mobile internet.

Starting Thursday, December 6, citizens would be able able to start subscribing to internet access via a 3G mobile network.

In a news show broadcast on Tuesday, ETECSA executives announced a range of packages valid for 30 days from 600 MB for the equivalent of $7 dollars to 4 GB for $30. Without a package, 100 MB will cost users $10, Reuters reported.

With average state wages at around $30, the cost for mobile internet will likely be out of reach for most Cubans, even though users get a bonus 300MB use of local .cu domain websites.

The list of packages for the connection to mobile internet from mobile phones is displayed on a woman’s phone screen in Havana, Cuba on December 6, 2018. (Photo Credit: Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images)

Until today, citizens have mostly relied on Wi-Fi hotspots and internet cafes for mobile internet access, and the 3G service has been restricted to state-employed journalists and foreign businesses among others, according to BBC News.

“It was about time this became a possibility for Cubans too,” Havana resident Joaquin Montiel, 58, told Reuters. “But for some, like me, it’s still a remote one.” Montiel said he would not be able to afford a cellphone with 3G technology on his salary of less than $20 per month as a salesman in a state company.

Still, the launch is seen by many as a sign that the country is further softening its tough stance on individual freedoms. Internet was only largely available to tourist hotels and state-run clubs until 2013, when the island country began opening internet cafes.

It wasn’t until 2015 when the first Wi-Fi hotspot opened at a cultural centre, and other public spaces followed, the BBC reported. But many Cubans have complained about having to brave the elements just to use the Wi-Fi at the hotspots, which also lack of privacy. In 2017, ETECSA offered a limited number of home connections.

To reduce the risk of being overwhelmed with demand, ETECSA is rolling out the new 3G service will be rolled out over a three-day period.

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Robot Vacuum Showdown: Neato Versus Roomba

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Cleaning can be a pain sometimes, especially if you have to use a clunky vacuum to suck up nasty debris. Thankfully though, technology has gifted us with handy smart home devices, including Neato […]

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