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Researchers Have Invented a Quieter, Less Terrifying Airplane Toilet

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If you’re a frequent flyer, you know how loud airplane toilets could be. Flushing could produce a noise so terrifyingly loud, it almost seems like the whole lavatory is being sucked out through that tiny hole.

But changes might be coming: Researchers from Brigham Young University have invented a vacuum-assisted toilet that is about half as loud as the regular airplane commode.

“People have told us they don’t want their kids to be scared to use the bathroom on a flight,” said lead researcher Kent Gee, BYU professor of physics. “So, we’ve used good physics to solve the problem.”

While aviation tech has developed, the airline industry hasn’t been able to improve vacuum-assisted toilets over the last 25 years. That’s because getting airplane toilets to flush with very little water requires a partial vacuum, which at 38,000 feet, pulls air at nearly half the speed of sound. When things move at that speed, any disturbance at all to the flow — like the bend of a pipe or a valve — generates significant noise.

And with cabins now quieter than ever due to newer airplanes, toilet flushes reverberate much more throughout the cabin.

“Airline companies have always had standards for the toilet noise, but they’ve never met those and there has never been much pressure to do so,”said Scott Sommerfeldt, BYU professor of mechanical engineering. “Now with the reduced cabin sound levels, the sound of the toilet flushing is more noticeable and customers are pushing back.”

To solve the problem, the BYU team focused on three valve conditions during the flush cycle: the initial noise level peak associated with the flush valve opening, an intermediate noise level plateau associated with the valve being fully opened and the final noise level peak associated with the flush valve closing.

The researchers added additional piping to increase the distance between the toilet bowl and the flush valve and made the pipe attachment at the bowl more of a gradual bend as opposed to a sharp 90-degree angle.

Tests of the new contraption show aeroacoustically-generated noise dropped up to 16 decibels during the flush valve opening and about 5 to 10 decibels when the valve is fully opened.

“It’s a great mix between physics and engineering,” said grad student Michael Rose, lead author on the team’s paper published in Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics. “The toilet is much quieter and now kids won’t think they’re going to get sucked out.”

The researchers have filed three patents on the new toilet and are now working with an industry partner to bring it to market. The invention works with existing airplane toilets — only the elbow need be removed during a retrofit, while the valve and the bowl can remain where they are.

The vacuum-assisted tech could also be used for toilets on cruise ships and trains and even in green building projects where housing units are looking at ways to reduce water usage.

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Virtually Try On Makeup During YouTube Tutorials

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For a makeup novice like me, buying cosmetics can be a bit of a gamble: How do I know if it’s worth spending $30 on a new shade of lipstick I’m not sure suits me?

Google may have the answer.

Subsidiary YouTube this week introduced AR Beauty Try-On—a new interactive feature that lets viewers virtually test drive makeup while following along with content creators to get tips and product reviews.

While a video plays at the top of the screen, users can stream their own face below; simply tap the screen to virtually apply a palette of colors to your lips, cheeks, eyes, etc.

Find the perfect pink stain? Click the “shop” button to make your purchase.

The feature—available through Google’s in-house branded content program FameBit—is still in the early stages of development. M·A·C Cosmetics is the first brand to launch an AR Beauty Try-On campaign.

Google is helping YouTube beauty fans pick their next lipstick (via Google/YouTube)

There is no word on what merchandise, specifically, will be available for virtual appraisal.

YouTube, however, promised realistic product samples for a variety of skin tones. (How far that spectrum reaches remains unclear.)

Augmented reality and makeup go way back; the technology has long been used to create social media makeup filters and promote e-commerce. As TechCrunch pointed out, Sephora, Ulta, L’Oréal, and even Target have all employed this tactic before.

The difference, though, is that YouTube’s Beauty Try-On feature is more focused on creating an AR-powered ad campaign than a fun photo.

Google continues courting advertisers with its immersive mobile display format Swirl, which makes it easy to rotate a product, zoom in and out, or play an animation.

Brands can also tap into the new 3D editor Poly to create display ads with custom backgrounds and realistic reflections.

All three tools—including AR Beauty Try-On—will be available this summer.

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Domino’s Brings Autonomous Pizza Delivery to Houston

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Domino’s delivery drivers may want to start looking for work elsewhere.

The pizza company has partnered with robotics firm Nuro to autonomously distribute dinner—no human-to-human eye contact necessary.

Using the next-gen unmanned R2 vehicle, Domino’s expects to start serving select Houston customers “later this year.”

Lucky folks who order online from a participating pizza shop can opt in to Nuro’s autonomous delivery and track the car from Domino’s to your door. Er… your driveway.

Without a real live person to carry and hand over a greasy feast, you’ll have to actually leave the house—even if it’s just to walk 10 feet. Which may put a damper on your Friday-night PJ party for one. (Just don’t forget the keys.)

Once the wheeled pod arrives, simply enter a unique PIN to retrieve your food from the storage compartment—hopefully before the neighbors spy your fluffy bunny slippers.

“We are always looking for new ways to innovate and evolve the delivery experience for our customers,” Domino’s Executive Vice President Kevin Vasconi said in a statement. “The opportunity to bring our customers the choice of an unmanned delivery experience—and our operators an additional delivery solution during a busy store rush—is an important part of our autonomous vehicle testing.”

This isn’t Domino’s first high-tech rodeo: The restaurant chain in 2015 crowdsourced the “ultimate delivery vehicle,” before introducing what they claimed at the time was the world’s first autonomous delivery robot—Domino’s Robotic Unit, or DRU.

Around the same time, former Googlers Jianjun Zhu and Dave Ferguson teamed up to form Nuro, which develops autonomous delivery vehicles.

The firm officially launched in early 2018 with the unveiling of its first product, the R1 electric self-driving local commerce car. Weighing in at 1,500 lbs., the stocky sedan is designed to carry only cargo, with space for 12 grocery bags in the first model.

“We are excited to expand our autonomous delivery service in Houston with Domino’s,” according to Cosimo Leipold, Nuro’s head of partner relations.

“Domino’s delivers millions of pizzas around the world every day, and the company shares our passion for focusing on the customer experience,” he continued. “We see incredible opportunity in offering Nuro’s world-class autonomous technology to Domino’s customers, accelerating our shared mission to transform local commerce.”

This marks Domino’s first real use of delivery automation.

A previous tie-in with Ford, as CNET pointed out, was “just smoke and mirrors”; its so-called self-driving car featured a human driver hidden behind blacked-out windows.

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Watch: YouTuber Simone Giertz Turns Tesla Model 3 Into Cool Pickup Truck

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Simone Giertz, a famous YouTuber who describes herself as the “queen of shitty robots,” was done waiting for Elon Musk to debut his new Tesla pickup truck, so she decided to turn a Tesla Model 3 into a functional pickup truck herself and the results are jaw-dropping.

Giertz, who has more than 1.5 million subscribers on YouTube, spent over 12 months planning her “Truckla” creation, which combines Tesla’s smooth electric ride with pickup truck features, The Verge reported. The YouTuber collaborated with a group of automobile experts, including Boston-based car modifier Richard Benoit, Bay Area maker Marcos Ramirez, and German designer Laura Kampf to get the job done. Giertz showcased her cool “Truckla” project in a YouTube video, which has more than 200,000 views so far.

[embedded content]

“I really want an electric pickup truck, and more specifically, I really want a Tesla pickup, but they haven’t released one yet,” Giertz said in her video. “And, rumors have it, they are going to announce one this summer, but then it’s going to be like years before you can actually have one and I don’t have time to wait for that.”

She added, “Elon Musk, this is me challenging you to making the world’s first functional Tesla pickup truck. I know people call me the ‘queen of shitty robots,’ and that my track record isn’t terribly impressive so far, but I have an angle grinder and a welder, and I’m not afraid to use them.”

[embedded content]

Giertz’s truck combines elements of a Tesla Model 3, a sedan, and a pickup. However, there are also some other standard truck features, including a lumber rack and Hella lights, that don’t make it look like a weird hybrid vehicle. Creating this pickup truck also came with its challenges: The Tesla Model 3 had trouble starting after some parts were stripped and the car was notifying Tesla headquarters about “its many faults.” Thankfully though, the “Truckla” came to life and people can’t get enough of it.

Last month, Musk mentioned Tesla’s pickup truck project at Tesla’s annual shareholders meeting, Engadget noted. No other updates have been provided yet, except that the company might unveil its “sci-fi” pickup vehicle at the end of the summer. Until then, Giertz’s “Truckla” will serve as creative inspiration for automobile fans everywhere.

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