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space technology

Space Debris Tracking Technology Is LeoLabs’ Mission

Low-Earth orbit is an elite contender for huge commercial growth, but it is also a space where the risk of explosions happening from debris impact is a concern for businesses targeting the technology opportunity. That is the issue LeoLabs focuses on, a startup spun out of SRI International to find, map, and help dodge collisions with debris floating in low-Earth orbit (LEO).

space technology

LeoLabs is announcing $4 million in investment from SRI International, Airbus Ventures, Horizons Ventures, and is adding the Midland Space Radar facility in Midland, Texas to its organization of ground-based radar monitoring facilities, which help it track the objects it’s mapping. The problem LeoLabs is hoping to solve is helping the growing number of ventures working with cubsats and smallsat networks, as well as emerging ventures looking to put people into low-Earth orbit for short tourist flights.

Evading collisions in LEO is a serious concern because it is already a crowded region of space. Collisions in LEO stand to amplify the problem. Objects crashing into one another results in more debris and more dangerous navigation of LEO space overall. There are already some choices for keeping clear of other objects in LEO. The United States Air Force maintains a public catalog that will alert those registered to use it about potential crashes. The company believes more advanced tools are needed.

LeoLabs’ solution has unique abilities including accuracy to within 100 meters, along with verification mechanisms: data offered up on a predefined schedule, tracking of each piece of debris and object in LEO multiple times per day, the ability to track up to 250,000 new objects that aren’t tracked by public monitoring systems today, and an API so that customers can use the info with their own systems via tight integration. CEO Dan Ceperley stated, “We provide raw data. Plus, we provide services built on top of this data to address specific customer needs, such as avoiding collisions. Finally, we are heavily investing in the data services platform that will enable third-parties to innovate on top of the data.”

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autonomous technology trucking

Will Semi-Truck Autonomous Technology Soon Take Over The Roads?

Autonomous trucking startup Embark is unveiling its technology for the first time, showing off a competitor for Uber’s Otto that uses neural networks and deep learning to teach trucks how to drive on their own through their own processes of trial and error and practice. Embark’s trucks are approved to test on Nevada roads. The company’s technology is capable of handling potential obstacles like a slow car occupying the lane in front, and pass on undivided highways. According to Embark co-founder and CEO Alex Rodrigues, it can handle fog, darkness, and glare having learned to do so on its own.
For the time being, the technology Embark has created is not designed to replace human drivers altogether.

autonomous technology trucking

Rather, its intentions are to take over control on long stretches of relatively boring and straightforward driving, while also passing control to human drivers when it enters complex driving scenarios like those found in cities. The company’s foundation was based on the fact that there’s presently a truck driver shortage, and its technology can help add to the number of routes a human driver can handle by decreasing their actual time spent actively driving. Even though driving is, across categories, a huge employment category in the country, it is also true that most overland freight providers are also looking to add to their organization of capable drivers.

Rodrigues’ team at Embark includes SpaceX alumni, as well as people from Audi’s autonomous team. The startup also has funding from Maven Ventures, which also backed Cruise, the self-driving company GM acquired for $1 billion to help jump-start its own autonomous vehicle development efforts. There’s no specific schedule of deployment of the autonomous truck, but the company is ramping its engineering hiring aggressively and hopes also to build out its group of testing vehicles for its Nevada trials. With Uber’s Otto facing strong legal challenges from Alphabet’s Waymo, now might be exactly the right time for a new self-drive trucking startup to roll out.

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technology nasa

NASA Technology Discovers Seven “Earthlike” Planets

NASA technology has found seven planets with features that resemble Earth and are rotating around a star. This makes them the strongest candidates in the search for extraterrestrial life among planets outside of our solar system. These new planets all inhabit another solar system which includes seven planets that have rocky terrain and a relatively warm climate.

technology nasa

These are promising signs in terms of identifying starting points for the search for both water and life. The planets all orbit TRAPPIST-1, a so-called ‘ultracool dwarf’ star. The TRAPPIST-1 star is a tenth the size of Earth’s sun, and gives off around a quarter of the radiant heat. The planets are much closer to the sun, as well. The one closest in has a ‘year’ (the time it takes it to orbit the star) of a little over one day, and the one the furthest out completes its own annual cycle in 20 days.

Discovering the TRAPPIST-1 system and its terrestrial planets was a giant milestone. Before the discovery, we were basically limited to four candidates, one of which was our own. These new celestial bodies the size of Earth were originally found when scientists were studying the TRAPPIST-1 star they had been observing since 2015, and noticed decreases in the star’s brightness, caused by the momentary occlusion of the star by the passage of three of the system’s planets across its surface. NASA has been quick to temper expectations from observers who think this might signal favorable possibilities in terms of the discovery of alien life. The likelihood is slim, and it is early yet in terms of figuring out if the planets have other characteristics they share with Earth beyond rockiness and relative warmth owing to their placement in the so-called “habitable zone” of TRAPPIST-1, like whether they even have atmospheres and the presence of water or other gases like oxygen. According to NASA scientists, discovering this many planets orbiting a star so close with basic Earth-like characteristics is a promising sign.

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Snapchat And The Future Of Snap Inc.

The Snapchat app being confusing to the older generation was addressed with a redesign just ahead of filing for its IPO. Additionally, the app has grown beyond its original use case, which focused on communication, and now includes short, easily digestible content from a number of sources, including media and entertainment properties. It seems these shifts may be paying off. According to a new report out today from eMarketer, much of Snapchat’s growth is now being driven by older Americans. The analyst firm says in 2017, 6.4% of Snapchat’s users will be between the ages of 45 and 54, which is up from the 4.2% previously projected. That is still a small piece of the pie for an app whose main demographic is young adults and teens. However, eMarketer says that all projections for users older than 45 have increased, while projections for users younger than 24 have slightly decreased.


The latest is associated with the increasing competition from Facebook-owned Instagram, the firm’s report says. Since the launch of Instagram’s own Snapchat – like Stories feature, growth decreased by 82%. That slowdown might not be all Instagram’s doing. International competition from apps like Snow, as well as technical errors in the rollout of new products, could have also created problems. But eMarketer is now predicting the gap between Snapchat and Instagram will broaden. The former closed out 2016, just 6.8 million users behind Instagram. By 2021, eMarketer thinks Instagram will have grown to have 9.5 million more users than Snapchat. This year, Snapchat will capture 36.8% of the U.S. social network user base compared with Instagram’s 40.3%.

Meanwhile, Snapchat’s growth among older Americans has much to do with Snapchat’s content deals, which have more recently included those with the NFL, NBCUniversal, Turner, Hearst, and Disney along with others. For example, Snapchat recently announced expansions in original programming with shows from A+E Networks and BBC’s Planet Earth II. Jaimie Chung, eMarketer’s forecasting analyst stated, “The usage trends are largely the result of a shift in the primary use case of Snapchat. Older groups are now more likely to tune in for content. The platform has multiple partnerships with television networks for mini-episodes. Meanwhile, the younger groups are less likely to add Snapchat when Instagram Stories can fulfill their broadcasting needs.”


Smaller Satellite Company Gives Boeing A Run For Their Money

According to Wall Street Journal, Boeing is in the process of changing the way a satellite is constructed, with an eye toward automating a lot of the process. This will make it more simple to boost production while also developing overall efficiency. The efforts of the company reflect the basic transformation of the private space industry, driven by pressure put on incumbents by new entrants with a more nimble approach to getting the job done.


The rarefied atmosphere housed by private contractors has not been very crowded, and has proven a place for the companies that do exist to make a lot of money out of lucrative government contract that have large built-in margins. However, pressure from smaller players like SpaceX, which drastically undercuts Boeing on the cost of rocket launches, has meant the legacy operators need to rethink how they conduct business. Boeing’s satellite business lead Paul Rusnock told the Wall Street Journal that his company is now taking measures like putting 3D printing to use wherever possible, and sampling the designs of the satellites so they require fewer moving parts in order to minimize error rates and speed up production.

Satellites have been especially dependent on specialized, one-off parts that cost a lot to produce. Use of more standard, cross-purpose and modular satellite components is driving new efficiencies in production. The Wall Street Journal also states that there is a lot that can be done with simulated testing, and self-check protocols run by satellite themselves that replace previous expensive efforts to achieve the same results. With upstart providers offering cost of construction for new satellites that run at roughly 1/100th the price of what Boeing has commonly charged, and production cycles that can design new ones in a small fraction of the time, it is a likely necessity more than anything else that has pushed Boeing to rethink how it approaches the industry.

technology gm lyft

GM And Lyft May Launch Autonomous Technology In Test Bolts In 2018

Technology has evolved and can now be seen in self-driving groups of vehicles may be sharing the roads with human drivers sooner than many of us predicted. Beginning in 2018, General Motors will field thousands of self-driving technology-based electric test vehicles, primarily based on the Chevy Bolt platform, Reuters reported. According to the report, the fleets of cars will mainly be used with partner Lyft for on-demand ride-hailing service technology.

technology gm lyft

This is much sooner than the anticipated 2020 date Ford and others have been aiming for large-scale deployment of self driving vehicle groups in similar ride-sharing functions. The report calls this a launch of “test fleets,” so these cars will still likely not be positioned as a commercial debut of a service, but it sounds like we may still see them in active service with customers, since Lyft is said to be planning to operate them in a test capacity in multiple states among its ride-sharing service fleet.

General Motors has said in the past that it intends to start piloting its self-driving vehicle technology in ride-sharing services “sooner than you might think.” The company has also been sharing periodic updates from GM-owned Cruise, which is actively testing autonomous Bolt EVs driving city streets in San Francisco, as well as in Arizona, with plans to expand to Michigan roads soon.

In the course of testing its Cruise fleet, General Motors has made use of a smartphone app that allows a user to choose a beginning and end point for the trip, and it’s very likely we’ll see similar technology used in any consumer-facing trials at a larger scale. In May of 2016, General Motors and Lyft previously discussed plans to begin testing self-driving taxi service on public roads “within a year.”

Lyft rival Uber also announced that Daimler would be the first automaker joining its so-called self-driving vehicle platform, which is open to all OEMs and will allow them to operate fleets of their own autonomous cars on Uber’s network for ride-hailing services. The tie-up between Lyft and General Motors has seemed a more exclusive arrangement, and it looks likely to stay that way at least through this test period, if this report is accurate.

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peloton technology

Semi Trucks Communicate Through New Technology

Peloton Technology has partnered with Omnitracs, a fleet management company, to provide platooning technology in 2017. Research has been done on the potential effects of semi trucks being able to travel in groups. It may be more fuel-efficient, it might be easier on the drivers, and it might be safer. Now, it may be coming to a highway near you.

peloton technology

Peloton is going to begin pre-orders for its Class 8 truck platooning system this year. This will permit two semi trucks to platoon using V2V radar and communications, with one leading and one following. The system is like an amped up radar-based cruise control, with the trucks themselves sharing essential positional and driving data. The trucks aren’t driving themselves. This is not autonomous technology. The driver is still in charge of steering and will still need to focus on the road. This system will work like adaptive cruise control with automatic emergency braking, but the V2V layer permits the follow truck to engage that automatic braking within a tenth of a second of the lead truck hitting the brakes. According to Peloton Technology, this meets the SAE definition for Level 1 autonomy.

Each group is currently limited to two trucks, so you won’t run into large convoys of linked trucks taking up miles of roadway. And the cloud-based system limits the use of platooning further to specified roads in safe driving conditions. As with all semi-autonomous systems available today, when things get complicated, the driver has to take over complete control. The most direct benefit, according to Peloton Technology’s calculations, is the fuel efficiency. The lead truck in one of these platooning pairs will see 4.5% fuel savings, and the follow truck will see 10%. Omnitracs customers who have the Peloton system fitted to their trucks will be able to route pelotoning pairs as often as possible.


New Stream TV Technology App Revealed By Comcast

Comcast is unveiling a new streaming technology app called Xfinity Stream, which will replace its older Xfinity TV app on mobile devices, as well as deliver many features for cable subscribers, including on-demand programming, DVR recordings, access to live TV, and more. It will also be home to Comcast’s internet TV service targeted at cord cutters, Stream TV. This IPTV service is set to roll out nationally later this year under new branding.

streaming technology

Stream TV has not had much attention since its reveal in 2015, mostly because it’s still only available in select markets. Currently, those in Boston and Chicago metros can subscribe to the live streaming technology service, which is being targeted at those who no longer want to pay for cable. Stream TV includes access to the local broadcast stations (ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, NBC, PBS, Telemundo, and Univision), as well as HBO. The service has been criticized for not being on par with PlayStation Vue or Sling TV, but is not really targeted at the true cord cutter. Rather, Stream TV is meant to appeal to those who mostly watch TV at home, where a laptop or mobile device is used as their primary screen.

Comcast plans to roll out Stream TV nationwide later this year to all the markets where Comcast is available. At the time of the nationwide reveal, Stream TV will also be rebranded to eliminate confusion between it and this new “Stream TV” app. The application will then continue to serve both Comcast customer bases: those streaming TV cord cutters as well as the traditional subscribers to cable TV. As for the new Stream TV app itself, it now allows subscribers to Xfinity cable TV to tune in to over 200 live TV channels.

In addition, TV customers can choose from 40,000 on-demand titles, including both TV shows and movies, thousands of which can be downloaded for offline viewing, the company says. DVR recordings can be downloaded for offline access, and the DVR can be programmed remotely. Stream TV subscribers will have access to the same general feature set, but will only be able to view those channels and on-demand titles included in that subscription. Downloads are not available for the broadcast networks or HBO in this package, so on-demand viewing may be limited.

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VR & AR Technology to Help Vision Impaired

You don’t need perfect vision for virtual reality technology, however it helps. Otherwise, you’re going to have issues with accommodating glasses, ocular distances maxing out, eye tracking not working, to name just a few. Researchers from Stanford want to simplify things for people with vision problems while using VR. Common conditions like farsightedness and nearsightedness affect millions of people. Combined with how VR presents depth of field and other effects, this leads to optical troubles and inconsistencies that can cause headaches and nausea.


VR headsets often allow for adjusting things like the distance from your eye to the screen and how far apart your eyes are. However, for many, it’s not enough. Stanford’s Gordon Wetzstein said, “Every person needs a different optical mode to get the best possible experience in VR.” His team’s research describes a set of mechanisms that together comprise what they call an adaptive focus display. One idea uses a liquid lens, the shape of which can be adjusted for certain circumstances; like when the focus of the game is on an object that the viewer normally would not be able to focus on. The screen itself could also be moved in order to better fit the optical requirements of someone with a given affliction.

Wetzstein stated, “The technology we propose is perfectly compatible with existing head mounted displays. However, one also needs eye tracking for this to work properly. Eye tracking is a technology that everyone in the industry is working on and we expect eye trackers to be part of the next wave of [head-mounted displays]. Thus, our gaze-contingent focus displays would be directly compatible with those.” In the paper, both commercial and built-from-scratch headsets are used to prototype various methods of adjusting optical qualities of the displays. The team tested these with 173 participants at last year’s SIGGRAPH conference. The news release reports an “improved viewing experiences across a wide range of vision characteristics.”

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New iPhone May Come With Wireless Charging Technology

Apple is now a member of the Wireless Power Consortium. As spotted by 9to5mac, the website has recently been revised to highlight Apple as one of the 213 members. This revision feeds rumors that Apple is going to add wireless charging technology in the next iPhone. While wireless charging technology is nothing new, Apple has been very careful about this feature. The Apple Watch already works with a magnetic cable that charges your device wirelessly. But the iPhone has never had such a feature.


When wireless charging first became familiar, it was either slow or your phone battery would become hot. If this feature isn’t implemented properly, it could damage batteries over time. In addition to that technical obstacle, companies were competing to set the standard. The technology is now ready to come out, and Apple is ready to move ahead. Reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo from KGI Securities has already said that the next iPhone should feature wireless charging in addition to the Lightning port.

In September, Apple could introduce three different iPhone models. In addition to the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, there should be a higher-end “pro” model. It is not clear if all iPhones, or just the top model, will have wireless charging. Similarly, nobody knows for sure if Apple is going to put the charger in the box or ship the phones with a Lightning cable.

There are many companies in the Wireless Power Consortium, including LG, Samsung, HTC, Qualcomm, and Huawei. So the recent advertisement does not mean much about Apple’s plans. It is hard to dismiss it when you combine it with the current rumors. Now, if only somebody could tell Apple that the Lightning port is sort of useful. If you blink for a second, Apple could use this opportunity to remove that one last port on the iPhone.

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