By BeauHD from Slashdot's end-of-story department
Google is shutting down its Spotlight Stories immersive entertainment unit, according to an email sent out by Spotlight Stories executive producer Karen Dufilho Wednesday evening. "Google Spotlight Stories is shutting its doors after over six years of making stories and putting them on phones, on screens, in VR, and anywhere else we could get away with it," Dufilho said in her email sent to supporters of the studio. Variety reports: Spotlight Stories originally began as a group within Motorola, tasked with exploring the future of storytelling for mobile devices. The group then became part of Google's Advanced Technologies and Products (ATAP) group, and went on to produce a number of 360-degree videos and VR experiences with creators like Glen Keane, Justin Lin, Jorge Gutierrez and Aardman Animation, the makers of "Wallace and Gromit." "Pearl," a Spotlight Story from Patrick Osborne, the director of Disney's Oscar-nominated short film "Feast," was nominated for an Academy Award, and won a Creative Arts Emmy for Outstanding Innovation in Interactive Programming in 2017. Most recently, Spotlight Stories released "Age of Sail," an animated short film directed by Oscar-winning animator John Kahrs.
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By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Robotic hands have a tough time getting a grip on pliable objects, but it's not for lack of trying -- most make do with rigid pincers that aren't designed for precision grasping. Fortunately, if a newly published paper is any indication, more versatile systems are on the horizon. In it, researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and Harvard describe a novel gripper design that's capable of lifting items in a range of weights, shapes, and sizes.
The team's hollow, cone-shaped gripper comprises three parts -- a 3D-printed, 16-piece silicone rubber skeleton with a gripper-to-mount connector encased by an airtight skin -- that together collapse in on objects as opposed to clutching them. It was inspired by the "magic ball," an origami design that's folded from a rectangular piece of paper pre-creased with a repeating, offset pattern that reversibly changes between a spherical and cylindrical shape. The gripper is powered by a pneumatic vacuum and covered by either a 27-inch latex rubber balloon or a TPU-coated nylon fabric sheet, depending on the configuration. The researchers tested three: one with a self-folded fabric skin skeleton, a second with a rubber-molded skeleton, and a third with a tougher rubber skeleton.
[...] In one experiment where the team mounted the gripper on a robot to test its strength, it managed to lift and grasp objects -- 12 food items, 19 different bottles and cups, and 14 miscellaneous items, some weighing over four pounds -- that were 70 percent of its diameter and up to 120 times its weight without damaging them. It currently works best with cylindrical objects like bottles and cans, according to Shuguang Li, a joint postdoctoral student at MIT CSAIL and Harvard's John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), which makes it a natural fit for factory production lines.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department
Ben Jervey from DeSmogBlog writes about how Toyota is "using questionable logic" to claim hybrid vehicles are superior than electric vehicles, when in reality it's only saying that because it decided years ago to invest in gasoline-electric hybrids and fuel cells in the long term instead of battery production. This decision is now coming back to haunt them. From the report: There are at least 12 car companies currently selling an all-electric vehicle in the United States, and Toyota isn't one of them. Despite admitting recently that the Tesla Model 3 alone is responsible for half of Toyota's customer defections in North America -- as Prius drivers transition to all-electric -- the company has been an outspoken laggard in the race to electrification. Now, the company is using questionable logic to attempt to justify its inaction on electrification, claiming that its limited battery capacity better serves the planet by producing gasoline-electric hybrids. For years, Toyota leadership has shunned investment in all-electric cars, laying out a more conservative strategy to "electrify" its fleet -- essentially doubling down on hybrids and plug-in hybrids -- as a bridge to a future generation of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. As Tesla, Nissan, and GM have led the technological shift to fully battery electric vehicles, Toyota has publicly bashed the prospects of all-electric fleets. (See, for instance, the swipe the company took at plug-in vehicles in this recent Toyota Corolla Hybrid commercial.)
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's out-of-sight-out-of-mind department
According to a report from Yonhap News Agency, Samsung's vice president of its display R&D group, Yang Byung-duk, said the company is working on making the entire front of its phones a screen, with no need for bezels or a camera cutout of any kind. He said that "though it wouldn't be possible to make (a full-screen smartphone) in the next 1-2 years, the technology can move forward to the point where the camera hole will be invisible, while not affecting the camera's function in any way." The Verge reports: The comments come less than a month after Samsung announced its latest flagship, the Galaxy S10, which is the company's first phone to have a "hole-punch" cut out from its display for the selfie camera. Yang called the S10's Infinity-O display a "milestone" for the company, but suggested that Samsung eventually plans to place the selfie camera under the display itself, removing the need for any cut out or pop-up mechanism.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's because-Pi department
"When users hit 'play' on the virtual tape deck, the algorithm actually 'performs' the piece," the report says. "This way, the 114-year song can fit in just one gigabyte of space, which is mostly comprised of the digits of Pi. The virtual tape deck was also a solution to a built-in quirk of browsers such as Chrome, Safari, and Firefox -- users must click on a webpage to trigger a sound." From start to finish, the song lasts 999,999 hours, "a limitation imposed by only considering the first one billion digits of Pi."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cross-platform-support department
Microsoft is bringing its Xbox Live network to iOS and Android devices. "The software giant is launching a new cross-platform mobile software development kit (SDK) for game developers to bring Xbox Live functionality to games that run on iOS and Android," reports The Verge. "Xbox Live features like achievements, Gamerscore, hero stats, friend lists, clubs, and even some family settings will all be available on iOS and Android." From the report: It's all part of a bigger push from Microsoft to make its Xbox games and services available across multiple platforms. Game developers will be able to pick and choose parts of Xbox Live to integrate into their games, and it will all be enabled through a single sign-in to a Microsoft Account. Microsoft is using its identity network to support login, privacy, online safety, and child accounts. Microsoft wants game developers to take a similar Minecraft approach and bring Xbox Live to more mobile games. Some iOS and Android games already have Xbox Live Achievements, but they're only enabled in titles from Microsoft Studios at the moment and this new SDK will open up Xbox Live functionality to many more games.
If you were hoping to see Xbox Live on Nintendo Switch then you might have to wait a little longer. "Our goal is to really unite the 2 billion gamers of the world and we're big fans of our Xbox Live community, but we don't have any specific announcements as it relates to Switch today," reveals Choudhry. Xbox Live on PlayStation 4 also looks unlikely, but Microsoft is open to the idea if Sony is willing to allow it. "If you've watched us for the past few years, we've taken a very inclusive approach," says Choudhry. "Phil [Spencer] has been very proactive on issues like crossplay, cross-progression, and uniting gamer networks, and we're willing to partner with the industry as much as we possibly can."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's connecting-the-dots department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency order grounding all Boeing 737 MAX aircraft on March 13, citing new data that showed a possible link between the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight and the crash of a Lion Air flight off the coast of Indonesia last October. In an interview with NPR's David Greene this morning, acting FAA Director Dan Ewell said that "newly refined satellite data" from a flight telemetry system had led the agency to make the move. Both Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 (ET302) and Lion Air Flight 610 (JT610) were recently acquired 737 MAX 8 aircraft, and both were lost with all aboard just minutes after take-off. According to the emergency order issued by the FAA, "new information from the wreckage concerning the aircraft's configuration just after takeoff that, taken together with newly refined data from satellite-based tracking of the aircraft's flight path, indicates some similarities between the ET302 JT610 accidents that warrant further investigation of the possibility of a shared cause for the two incidents that needs to be better understood and addressed."
The source of the data in question is a combination of telemetry feeds from the flights' Automatic Dependent Surveillance(ADS) system. Introduced in the US in 2001 and more widely worldwide in the wake of the crash of Malaysian Airlines flight 370 in 2014, Europe has required most aircraft to carry the UHF-band ADS-Broadcast (ADS-B) system since 2017, and the FAA has mandated ADS-B for most aircraft by 2020. While ADS-B data was initially meant to be picked up by other aircraft and ground stations, it is also tracked by satellites. Other, less-granular telemetry data sent in the subscription-based ADS-addressed/Contract (ADS-A/ADS-C) format, the Future Air Navigation System(FANS), and the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) are also picked up by satellite.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's whatever-floats-your-boat department
An anonymous reader shares a report: As more and more laptops find their way into middle and high schools, educators are using Google Docs to do collaborative exercises and help students follow along with the lesson plan. The students, however, are using it to organize running conversations behind teachers' backs. Teens told me they use Google Docs to chat just about any time they need to put their phone away but know their friends will be on computers. Sometimes they'll use the service's live chat function, which doesn't open by default, and which many teachers don't even know exists. Or, they'll take advantage of the fact that Google allows users to highlight certain phrases or words, then comment on them via a pop-up box on the right side: They'll clone a teacher's shared Google document, then chat in the comments, so it appears to the causal viewer that they're just making notes on the lesson plan. If a teacher approaches to take a closer look, they can click the "Resolve" button and the entire thread will disappear.
If the project isn't a collaborative one, kids will just create a shared document where they'll chat line by line in what looks like a paragraph of text. "People will just make a new page and talk in different fonts so you know who is who," Skyler said. "I had one really good friend and we were in different homerooms. So, we'd email each other a doc and would just chat about whatever was going on." At the end of class, they just delete a doc or resolve all the comments. Rarely does anyone save them the way previous generations may have stored away paper notes from friends.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Pilots now spend more time learning automated systems than practicing hands-on flying, so newer pilots are less comfortable with taking manual control when the computer steers them wrong, according to interviews with a dozen pilots and pilot instructors at major airlines and aviation universities around the world. "The automation in the aircraft, whether it's a Boeing or an Airbus, has lulled us into a sense of security and safety," said Kevin Hiatt, a former Delta Air Lines pilot who later ran flight safety for JetBlue. Pilots now rely on autopilot so often, "they become a systems operator rather than a stick-and-rudder pilot."
As a result, he said, "they may not exactly know or recognize quickly enough what is happening to the aircraft, and by the time they figure it out, it may be too late." [...] While automation has contributed to the airline industry's stellar safety record in recent years, it has also been a factor in many of the crashes that have still occurred around the world. A 2011 study by a federal task force found that in about 60 percent of 46 recent accidents, pilots had trouble manually flying the plane or handling the automated controls. Complicated automation systems can also confuse pilots and potentially cause them to take action they shouldn't, pilots said.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
That's the finding presented by a team of scientists who have published their results this week in an article in the magazine Physics Today. From a report: They explain that our methods of calculating which planet is "the closest" oversimplifies the matter. But that's not all. "Further, Mercury is the closest neighbor, on average, to each of the other seven planets in the solar system," they write. Wait -- what?
Our misconceptions about how close the planets are to one another comes from the way we usually estimate the distances to other planets. Normally, we calculate the average distance from the planet to the Sun. The Earth's average distance is 1 astronomical unit (AU), while Venus' is around 0.72 AU. If you subtract one from the other, you calculate the average distance from Earth to Venus as 0.28 AU, the smallest distance for any pair of planets. But a trio of researchers realized that this isn't an accurate way to calculate the distances to planets. After all, Earth spends just as much time on the opposite side of its orbit from Venus, placing it 1.72 AU away.
One must instead average the distance between every point along one planet's orbit and every point along the other planet's orbit. The researchers ran a simulation based on two assumptions: that the planets' orbits were approximately circular, and that their orbits weren't at an angle relative to one another.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
physburn writes: The Register has spoken to some experts to get a better understanding of the risk quantum computers present to the existing encryption systems we have today. Richard Evers, cryptographer for a Canadian security biz called Kryptera, argues that media coverage and corporate pronouncements about quantum computing have left people with the impression that current encryption algorithms will soon become obsolete. But they will not be ready for at least 10 years, he said. As an example, Evers points to remarks made by Arvind Krishna, director of IBM research, at The Churchill Club in San Francisco last May, that those interested in protecting data for at least ten years "should probably seriously consider whether they should start moving to alternate encryption techniques now." In a post Evers penned recently with his business partner Alastair Sweeny, he contends, "The hard truth is that widespread beliefs about security and encryption may prove to be based on fantasy rather than fact." And the reason for this, he suggests, is the desire for funding and fame.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's PSA department
Dropbox has quietly removed unlimited device linking for free accounts, meaning that unless you upgrade to one of its paid plans, which start at $8.25 per month, you will be restricted to three devices for a single account. From a report: The change was rolled out earlier this month, though it's worth noting that those who had linked more than three devices prior to March 2019 won't be directly affected. However, anyone who already exceeds the new limit will be impacted at some point, as they won't be able to add any more devices to their account in the future, and if they upgrade to a new phone, tablet, or computer, the three device limit will catch up with them.Read Replies (0)