17 March 2017

The latest stories: read, ranked and summarised by our curators.


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3 Star
MMC completes Thai trial of Spider power line stringing drone

Drone manufacturer MMC has successfully completed a power line stringing project for the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand. The project took place in the mountainous region of Saraburi, between towers standing over 450 metres apart in lush forest. MMC's Spider drone was able to string the power lines between the pylons in 20 minutes, despite windy conditions. The drone-based solution also allows for power line installations to take place without the usual deforestation and environmental damage.

Tags: Drones,Thailand,electricity companies,MMC,Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand

Dubai Police to employ robot cops

The United Arab Emirates' first-ever robot police officer will join the Dubai Police in May, according to law enforcement officials. The police force is also working to build a DNA data bank and has plans for a quarter of its officers to be robots by 2030. “We planned for a security system for the future of the city to tackle future crimes. By 2025, Dubai will be one of the best five cities in the world on security level”, said Brigadier Abdullah Bin Sultan, Director of the Future Shaping Centre of Dubai Police.

Tags: Robots,Dubai,UAE,Law & regulation

AI-powered 3D printing project paints like Rembrandt

The Next Rembrandt project, a collaboration between US advertising firm J Walter Thompson Amsterdam, Dutch bank ING and Microsoft, have trained a deep-learning algorithm using 346 paintings by the Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn and then used the AI to create a new painting mimicking the artist's subject matter and style. A 3D printer equipped with a special paint-based UV ink was then used to replicate the paint layers and brushwork style characteristic of Rembrandt's oeuvre. The painting is expected to go on public exhibition.

Tags: ING Bank,3D printing,Deep learning,Micro insurance,Art Market News,J. Walter Thompson

2 Star
Chinese start-up raises $30m for kids programmable robot building kits

Start-up Makeblock has raised $30m in a series B venture funding so it can create robot-building kits and toys for children that could help set them on the path to becoming software developers or robotic engineers. The Shenzhen-based company has products in use in more than 20,000 schools and customers in 140 countries. It uses graphical programming to transform code generation into a game, in which counters are placed on a screen and used to create code. Shenzhen Capital and Evolution Media China led the funding round.

Tags: Robots,Education technology,EdTech Strategies,Digital Learning,Makeblock,Shenzhen Capital,Evolution Media China

Flyboard Air hovercraft maker banned from flying in France

Franky Zapata, the inventor of the Flyboard Air has been told by the French authorities that he would be placed under investigation if he continued test flights. Officials said Zapata could be charged with “failure to comply with the minimum rules for overflight and operation of an aircraft without the necessary qualifications”. Unveiled in 2016, the Flyboard Air uses an "Independent Propulsion Unit" for flight and can reach 10,000 feet and speeds of 93mph. Zapata has said that, as a result, he will have to leave France to continue his work.

Tags: France,Drones,Future transport,Flyboard Air

CSIRO develops 3D-printed catalyst for chemical production

Researchers at Australia's CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) have developed a catalyst that could significantly improve the efficiency of chemical and drug production. The new technology combines catalyst and flow reactor technology and is the first example of the technology that could be commercialised. Usually, catalysts must be removed at the end of industrial processing to ensure that they do not leach into the product, "an often tedious, time-consuming and costly task". However, CSIRO's new method coats and immobilises the catalyst on 3D-printed specially designed rods using CSIRO’s Cold Spray technology, a process that removes the need to filter out the catalyst.

Tags: 3D printing,Fuels, lubricants and chemicals,Breakthrough pathways to fuels and chemicals

Researchers significantly improve quality of 3D-printed products

Researchers at the Waseda University have developed a process that they claim not only dramatically improves the quality of 3D-printed resin products but also makes them cheaper. Kensuke Takagishi and Professor Shinjiro Umezu developed and tested a method called 3D Chemical Melting Finishing (3D-CMF), which they say achieves more precise shaping and uses less solvent, reduces complexity, provides improved surface texture and higher structural rigidity and eliminates troublesome waste dust. The pair have published their results Nature's Scientific Reports journal.

Tags: 3D printing,3D Print Technology,Advanced materials,Other stories of interest

1 Star
Chinese 'radio wave gun' safely disables drones

Police in Wuhan, China, have demonstrated a radio wave gun which disabled six drones in front of a stadium of football fans. The police showcased the technology and plan to buy 19 more of the devices before the city's marathon next month. In response to the growth of the market and increasing concerns over safety and security, the Chinese government plans to make drone owners register their vehicles. Manufacturers will also be asked to install "electronic fences" that prevent drones from flying into restricted areas, says the head of China's civil aviation administration.

Tags: Drones,China

US man files lawsuit alleging a robot killed his wife

The husband of a woman killed at work at Ventra Ionia's facility in Michigan has filed a lawsuit claiming that Wanda Holbrook was killed by a robot that "hit and crushed Wanda's head between a hitch assembly it was attempting to place". The victim performed maintenance on robots as part of her job. William Holbrook has requested an unknown amount in damages, citing the faulty product and the malfunction of safety systems were jointly liable for her death. Following Wanda Hollbrook's death, the Michigan occupational and health administration fined Ventra Ionia $7,000.

Tags: Robots,USA,Legal,Law & regulation

Food robotics firm Chowbotics raises $5m in funding round

California-based Chowbotics, formerly known as Casabots, has closed a $5m funding round with input from investors including Techstars Ventures, Foundry Group, Galvanize Ventures and the Geekdom Fund. The company's first product is called Sally, a robot capable of serving measured quantities of more than 20 different salad ingredients. The technology is not designed to replace humans, but instead aims to solve several problems in food production workflows, including "compromised cleanliness and efficiency", according to the company. 

Tags: Robots,Food,California,Techstars,Foundry Group,Chowbotics