Automatic recognition of jellyfish with artificial intelligence

Aequorea victoria.

The jellyfish sighting app, MedusApp, recently incorporated artificial intelligence (AI) to automatically recognize different species of jellyfish. Until now, this app only required users to select the species of jellyfish from a catalog provided; now the user can upload photos and have the species automatically identified before uploading them to the app for publication.

MedusApp, which is freely available in Spanish and English for both Android and iPhone, has been developed by researchers from the University of Alicante (UA) and two computer scientists from the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV), in collaboration with the CIBER of Diseases (CIBERES) and the Immunoallergy Laboratory of the Fundación Jiménez Díaz Health Research Institute (IIS-FJD). Since its launch in 2018, the platform has amassed more than 100,000 downloads and 6,000 jellyfish sightings. “Thanks to the collaboration of citizens and their sightings, we have been able to train the AI software with several thousand real photos to generate a mathematical model with a total of 25 species, that will ultimately help the app automatically recognize the most common jellyfish,” a novelty update that the programmers from the UPV Eduardo Blasco and Ramón Palacios have highlighted.

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Ambitious Spanish start-up Trucksters uses AI to halve transit times

By Stuart Todd

Spanish start-up Trucksters has launched an express road freight service to the UK, using artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce transit time.

The operation will start with two routes, one covering the centre and north of Spain, and the other part of the Mediterranean area, carrying mostly foodstuffs.

Trips are completed in 28 to 34 hours, a reduction of almost 50% on standard transit times, with the time-saving made possible by the use of a relay system of drivers, based on AI, which allows the service to operate non-stop, Truckster co-founder and head of growth Gabor Balogh told The Loadstar.

Madrid-based Trucksters already operates a relay service between Spain and the Benelux, Germany and Poland.

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Drover AI is using computer vision to keep scooter riders off sidewalks

By Rebecca Bellan

Shared micromobility companies have been adopting startlingly advanced new tech to correct for the thing that cities hate most — sidewalk riding. Some companies, like Bird, Neuron and Superpedestrian, have relied on hyperaccurate GPS systems to determine if a rider is riding inappropriately. Others, like Lime, have started integrating camera-based computer vision systems that rely on AI and machine learning to accurately detect where a rider is.

The latter camp has largely leaned on the innovations of Drover AI, a Los Angeles–based startup that has tested and sold its attachable IoT module to the likes of Spin, Voi, Helbiz, Beam and Fenix to help operators improve scooter safety and, most importantly, win city permits.

Drover, which was founded in May 2020, closed out a $5.4 million Series A Wednesday. The startup will use the funds to continue building on the next generation of PathPilot, Drover’s IoT module that contains a camera and a compute system that analyzes visual data and issues commands directly to the scooter. Depending on the city’s needs, the scooters will either make noises to alert a rider that they’re driving on the sidewalk or slow them down. The new version, called PathPilot Lite, will do much of the same, except it will be more integrated, better and cheaper, says Drover’s co-founder and chief business officer Alex Nesic.

Drover has modules on over 5,000 vehicles with orders for over 15,000 more that the company needs to deliver by the end of the year, according to Nesic.

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Space startups turn to 3D printing to meet expected demand

By Shouvik Das

Indian space technology startups, which are starting to put funds towards manufacturing facilities, are turning to 3D printers to achieve scale. For startups like IIT Madras-incubated Agnikul Cosmos, Hyderabad-based Skyroot Aerospace, Pixxel Space and more, 3D printers are going to help achieve initial scale before they can move towards traditional processes like injection molding.

While 3D printers will never help achieve industrial scale, executives from these firms said that their current production needs will be met using 3D printers.

For instance, Agnikul Cosmos unveiled its own rocket engine facility in Chennai on July 13. Srinath Ravichandran, chief executive of Agnikul, told Mint that the company initially plans to fully 3D print two rocket engines every week, and a total of eight engines per month — all of which will be required to assemble its in-house launch vehicle, called Agnibaan.

Skyroot Aerospace, too, will use 3D printers to build rocket engines, Pawan Kumar Chandana, CEO of the firm, said. Presently the firm is partnering with manufacturing vendors in Bengaluru and Chennai who use 3D printers, but it plans to set up its own factory in future, according to Chandana.

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The World’s First Solar-Powered Mass Market Electric Car Is Almost Here

The Sion is a compact car wrapped entirely in solar panels. Its maker claims solar power alone is enough to meet most daily driving needs.

By Sissi Cao 

A compact, affordable electric car powered in part by solar energy is about to hit the assembly line, marking the maturity of a clean energy approach previously thought to be infeasible for automobiles. A final design of the vehicle, called the Sion, made by German EV startup Sono Motors, was unveiled today (July 25) at a company event in Munich. Production and delivery are expected to start in the second half of next year in Europe, with the U.S. and other international markets to follow.

The idea of powering a passenger car with solar isn’t new. But unsuccessful attempts, including a prototype built by the General Motors in the 1950s, had earlier engineers convinced that solar isn’t a suitable energy source for everyday driving needs, due to limitations in energy storage, conversion and (obviously) weather.

Sono proposes to solve this challenge with a hybrid approach. On one hand, to maximize energy output, the Sion is wrapped entirely in solar panels (except for windows). The car’s exterior is covered with more than 450 “solar half-cells” that, in normal weather, can provide up to 70 miles of driving range per week, according to a press release.

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Amazon rolls out Rivian electric delivery vehicles

Amazon plans to roll out its Rivian custom electric delivery vehicles in more than 100 cities by the end of this year.

By Becky Schultz

Amazon is partnering with Rivian to roll out thousands of custom electric delivery vehicles to more than 100 cities by the end of 2022, and 100,000 across the U.S. by 2030, the company stated. The electric vehicles – which Rivian asserts to be the first long-range electric commercial step-in vans – are already hitting the road in Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Nashville, Phoenix, San Diego, Seattle and St. Louis, among others.

The vehicles are a product of a partnership announced in 2019 when Amazon co-founded and became the first signatory of The Climate Pledge, committing to reach net-zero carbon across the company’s operations by 2040. As part of the pledge, Amazon is developing a more sustainable delivery fleet, the company noted, including working with Rivian to decarbonize its last-mile logistics.

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Real driverless cars are now legal in Shenzhen, China’s tech hub

y Rita Liao

There are plenty of autonomous driving vehicles testing on the roads of Shenzhen today:, Baidu, DeepRoute, AutoX, you name it. But these vehicles are not really the unmanned vehicles that tech upstarts envision for the future, as they have been required to operate with a safety driver behind the wheel.

A set of provisions introduced by the Shenzhen government is bringing the industry one step closer to a driverless future. The “Silicon Valley of China” that’s home to the likes of Huawei, Tencent and DJI is historically known for its progressive economic policies, so it’s unsurprising that the city just became the first in China to have laid out comprehensive rules governing smart and connected vehicles.

The regulation, which is set to take effect on August 1, grants permission for autonomous driving vehicles to operate without a human in the driver’s seat — though only within areas designated by the city’s authorities.

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Americans’ Confidence in Higher Ed Drops Sharply

By  Karin Fischer

Public confidence in higher education’s ability to lead America in a positive direction has sunk steeply in recent years, falling 14 percentage points just since 2020.

Two years ago, more than two-thirds of Americans said colleges were having a positive effect on the country, according to a survey conducted by New America. In the most recent version of the survey, released Tuesday, barely half agreed.

As with other recent public-opinion polling, New America’s findings reveal a yawning partisan gap. While nearly three-quarters of Democrats saw higher education’s contributions in a positive light, just 37 percent of Republicans did.

Yet the think tank’s annual Varying Degrees survey found that a strong majority, more than 75 percent, thought that some education beyond high school offered a good return on investment for students. And public perception of online education improved markedly in the latest poll, with nearly half of Americans saying it was comparable in quality to in-person education, up from just a third in 2021.

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Astrobee Space-Bots Mark a New Milestone in Human-Robot Teamwork

Astrobee Space-Bot NASA 

By Keith Cowing

Humans won’t trek alone in future crewed missions to deep space. Robots are a central part of NASA’s plan for operating and maintaining spacecraft as humans return to the Moon, explore Mars, and venture beyond.

In past experiments, the robots have operated one at a time or have needed more hands-on support from their human colleagues. This video shows the first time that two Astrobees worked independently, side by side with humans, in separate modules of the station. Bumble tested its navigation ability in the Harmony module and gathered new station mapping data, while Queen captured its first 360-degree panoramic image of the interior of the orbital laboratory.

The mapping and imaging experiments are part of the Integrated System for Autonomous and Adaptive Caretaking (ISAAC) project, managed at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. The project uses the Astrobee system, a set of three cube-shaped robots plus a docking station designed and built at Ames. The Astrobees, which first launched to the space station in 2018, can operate fully autonomously or under remote control by astronauts or ground operators.

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NASA wants your help designing a starshade to observe exoplanets

Artist’s concept of the prototype starshade, a giant structure designed to block the glare of stars so that future space telescopes can take pictures of planets. Credit: NASA/JPL

By Matt Williams

The field of exoplanet study has come a long way in recent decades. To date, 5,063 exoplanets have been confirmed in 3,794 systems beyond our own, with another 8,819 candidates awaiting confirmation. In the coming years, tens of thousands of more planets are expected to be found, thanks to next-generation observatories. The ultimate goal in this search is to find planets that are “Earth-like,” meaning they have a good chance of supporting life. This is no easy task, as rocky planets located within their parent star’s habitable zones (HZs) tend to orbit closely, making them harder to see.

To make this process easier, NASA is designing a hybrid observatory consisting of a “Starshade” that will block out a star’s light so that a ground-based telescope can directly image planets orbiting it. The concept is known as the Hybrid Observatory for Earth-like Exoplanets (HOEE), and NASA is looking for public input to make it a reality. To that end, they have launched the Ultralight Starshade Structural Design Challenge, where participants are asked to develop a design for a lightweight starshade structure that could be used as part of the HOEE concept.

The challenge is being hosted by GrabCAD, a Massachusetts-based startup that hosts a free cloud-based platform that helps engineering teams collaborate and manage, view, and share Computer-Aided Design (CAD) files. The NASA Tournament Lab is managing the challenge, which supports the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) study of the HOEE concept. The challenge is part of NASA’s Prizes, Challenges, and Crowdsourcing program, overseen by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD).

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The Future of Electric, Sustainable, Off-Grid and Autonomous Recreational Vehicles

By Lynn Walford

Through advanced technology, recreational vehicle and trailer companies are making their vehicles and customer experiences more sustainable. Winnebago, Thor Industries and Living Vehicle are working on electrifying the recreational vehicle (RV) space.

Advanced technologies include an electric RV, hydrogen extended-range electric RV, self-powered trailer and solar-powered trailers that extract water from the air.

Creative EVs for Hospitals, Schools and Road Trips

Winnebago is famous for making mobile outdoor lifestyle motorhomes and trailers. The company is adding advanced technologies to its RVs.

“We are really focused on advanced technologies which are coming in the next five, seven to ten years,” says Ashis Bhattacharya, Winnebago Industries senior vice president, Business Development and Advanced Technology.

Bhattacharya notes that making an electric RV is not as easy as making an electric car.

He says an electric RV requires energy management that includes many internal systems that generate, store and consume electricity. The systems include battery-systems, inverters, lithium batteries, car batteries and appliances. Appliances in an RV that need electricity are air conditioners, water heaters, induction cooktops, infotainment systems and plumbing systems.

Data and connectivity for smart products are part of the technology development process. Materials, weight, insulations and structural strength are important. The less weight on the vehicle, the more weight is available for the owner, the driver, their family and everything, says Bhattacharya.

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The Omnid Mocobots: New mobile robots for safe and effective collaboration

Three Omnid mocobots working collaboratively with a human on a pipe assembly task. The 16kg pipes feel weightless to the human and can be easily and intuitively manipulated due to the assistance of the Omnids.

By Ingrid Fadelli

Teams of mobile robots could be highly effective in helping humans to complete straining manual tasks, such as manufacturing processes or the transportation of heavy objects. In recent years, some of these robots have already been tested and introduced in real-world settings, attaining very promising results.

Researchers at Northwestern University’s Center for Robotics and Biosystems have recently developed new collaborative mobile robots, dubbed Omnid Mocobots. These robots, introduced in a paper pre-published on arXiv, are designed to cooperate with each other and with humans to safely pick up, handle, and transport delicate and flexible payloads.

“The Center for Robotics and Biosystems has a long history building robots that collaborate physically with humans,” Matthew Elwin, one of the researchers who carried out the study, told TechXplore. “In fact, the term ‘cobots’ was coined here. The inspiration for the current work was manufacturing, warehouse, and construction tasks involving manipulating large, articulated, or flexible objects, where it is helpful to have several robots supporting the object.”

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