How to Make Drones Behave in Flight

Unmanned aerial vehicles, better known as drones, have become a staple of everyday life. As more take to the air, the issue of how to avoid collisions between drones and aircraft, and other drones, is becoming a serious problem. As VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists are working on solutions.

How to Make Drones Behave in Flight

Unmanned aerial vehicles, better known as drones, have become a staple of everyday life. As more take to the air, the issue of how to avoid collisions between drones and aircraft, and other drones, is becoming a serious problem. As VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists are working on solutions.

New York Firm Makes New Oscars Using 3-D Technology

The original Oscar statue was hand carved by Los Angeles sculptor George Stanley.  For decades the statuettes have been made by a Chicago trophy company and gold-plated. 

But last year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided they wanted to return to the original bronze figure made using the lost wax process.  The Academy chose Polich Tallix as the foundry to cast the bronze figures.

3-D Scans Merge Previous Versions

They started by scanning a classic Oscar from 1928 and the 2015 model and entering the information into a 3-D printer.

“We have the three different versions,”  said Daniel Plonski, the 3-D artist and the head of production. “We have the classic statue, the recent 2015 version and the third version which we created.”

The new design is then 3-D printed in wax and a mold of that statue is made to make another wax figurine for each statuette. 

Plonski says the 3-D printing makes the process much quicker, but just as faithful to the Art Deco original.

“So before it required a great deal of hand-sculpting and carving,” hei said.  “And now all of that can be done completely with a digital environment. Once we have our design created we can send it to our 3-D printer which produces the 3-D wax patterns.”

Lost Wax-casting Process

The new Oscar is then dipped in a ceramic slurry, and once it is cured, fired in an oven at 871 degrees Celsius.  Molten bronze is then poured into the ceramic mold and allowed to cool. 

Production manager Paul Pisoni says the molds are not reused – that each Oscar is a brand new casting.

“One mold is only good for one Oscar and then it gets cracked and destroyed so therefore we have to make one of these molds for every piece of metal that we cast in the foundry,” he said.

After some cleanup, the bronze statuettes are polished to a mirror finish and electroplated with 24 karat gold at another firm in Brooklyn, New York.  The base of each Oscar is also cast in bronze, and is given a smooth, black finish.

Pisoni says since they don’t know who wins, they have to engrave a bronze plate with all the nominees’ names.

And the Oscar Goes to…

When the actual winner is announced, the correct plate is attached in the center of the base.

The whole process takes about three months. The final product stands about 34 centimeters tall and weighs about 3.9 kilograms. And the gleaming statues will be on full display at Sunday’s ceremony in Los Angeles.

New York Firm Makes New Oscars Using 3-D Technology

The original Oscar statue was hand carved by Los Angeles sculptor George Stanley.  For decades the statuettes have been made by a Chicago trophy company and gold-plated. 

But last year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided they wanted to return to the original bronze figure made using the lost wax process.  The Academy chose Polich Tallix as the foundry to cast the bronze figures.

3-D Scans Merge Previous Versions

They started by scanning a classic Oscar from 1928 and the 2015 model and entering the information into a 3-D printer.

“We have the three different versions,”  said Daniel Plonski, the 3-D artist and the head of production. “We have the classic statue, the recent 2015 version and the third version which we created.”

The new design is then 3-D printed in wax and a mold of that statue is made to make another wax figurine for each statuette. 

Plonski says the 3-D printing makes the process much quicker, but just as faithful to the Art Deco original.

“So before it required a great deal of hand-sculpting and carving,” hei said.  “And now all of that can be done completely with a digital environment. Once we have our design created we can send it to our 3-D printer which produces the 3-D wax patterns.”

Lost Wax-casting Process

The new Oscar is then dipped in a ceramic slurry, and once it is cured, fired in an oven at 871 degrees Celsius.  Molten bronze is then poured into the ceramic mold and allowed to cool. 

Production manager Paul Pisoni says the molds are not reused – that each Oscar is a brand new casting.

“One mold is only good for one Oscar and then it gets cracked and destroyed so therefore we have to make one of these molds for every piece of metal that we cast in the foundry,” he said.

After some cleanup, the bronze statuettes are polished to a mirror finish and electroplated with 24 karat gold at another firm in Brooklyn, New York.  The base of each Oscar is also cast in bronze, and is given a smooth, black finish.

Pisoni says since they don’t know who wins, they have to engrave a bronze plate with all the nominees’ names.

And the Oscar Goes to…

When the actual winner is announced, the correct plate is attached in the center of the base.

The whole process takes about three months. The final product stands about 34 centimeters tall and weighs about 3.9 kilograms. And the gleaming statues will be on full display at Sunday’s ceremony in Los Angeles.

Constant Email, Text, Social Media Checks Lead to Stress

Nearly 90 percent of Americans say they “constantly or often” check their email, texts and social media accounts leading to increased stress, according to a report from the American Psychological Association (APA).

Those who said they checked constantly showed, on average, higher stress levels than those who checked less often.

Using a 10-point scale, where one is “little or no stress” and 10 is “a great deal of stress,” constant checkers reported a 5.3 stress level compared to 4.4 for those who were less glued to their smartphones.

Working Americans who check their work email on days off reported a stress level of 6.

“The emergence of mobile devices and social networks over the last decade has certainly changed the way Americans live and communicate on a daily basis,” said Lynn Bufka, PhD, APA’s associate executive director for practice research and policy.

“Today, almost all American adults own at least one electronic device, with many being constantly connected to them. What these individuals don’t consider is that while technology helps us in many ways, being constantly connected can have a negative impact on both their physical and mental health.”

The study found parents realized the stressful effects of constant checking on their children, with 94 percent of parents saying they try to manage their child’s usage and 58 percent reporting feeling as if their child is “attached” to their device.

Moreover, 45 percent of parents said technology is making them feel disconnected from their families, 58 percent reported being worried about “the influence of social media on their child’s physical and mental health.”

Constant checkers are also more negatively impacted by social media, the study found, citing 42 percent of constant checkers said discussing politics on social media caused them stress. That was compared with 33 percent in the “non constant checking” category.

Perhaps one of the most telling findings was that 65 percent of Americans “somewhat or strongly agree” that unplugging at times or taking a “digital detox’ is important for mental health. Only 28 percent said they actually did take breaks from technology.

“Taking a digital detox is one of the most helpful ways to manage stress related to technology use,” Bufka said. “Constant checkers could benefit from limiting their use of technology and presence on social media. Adults, and particularly parents, should strive to set a good example for children when it comes to a healthy relationship with technology.”

The survey was conducted online between Aug. 5 and 31, 2016, among 3,511 adults 18 or older living in the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association.

Constant Email, Text, Social Media Checks Lead to Stress

Nearly 90 percent of Americans say they “constantly or often” check their email, texts and social media accounts leading to increased stress, according to a report from the American Psychological Association (APA).

Those who said they checked constantly showed, on average, higher stress levels than those who checked less often.

Using a 10-point scale, where one is “little or no stress” and 10 is “a great deal of stress,” constant checkers reported a 5.3 stress level compared to 4.4 for those who were less glued to their smartphones.

Working Americans who check their work email on days off reported a stress level of 6.

“The emergence of mobile devices and social networks over the last decade has certainly changed the way Americans live and communicate on a daily basis,” said Lynn Bufka, PhD, APA’s associate executive director for practice research and policy.

“Today, almost all American adults own at least one electronic device, with many being constantly connected to them. What these individuals don’t consider is that while technology helps us in many ways, being constantly connected can have a negative impact on both their physical and mental health.”

The study found parents realized the stressful effects of constant checking on their children, with 94 percent of parents saying they try to manage their child’s usage and 58 percent reporting feeling as if their child is “attached” to their device.

Moreover, 45 percent of parents said technology is making them feel disconnected from their families, 58 percent reported being worried about “the influence of social media on their child’s physical and mental health.”

Constant checkers are also more negatively impacted by social media, the study found, citing 42 percent of constant checkers said discussing politics on social media caused them stress. That was compared with 33 percent in the “non constant checking” category.

Perhaps one of the most telling findings was that 65 percent of Americans “somewhat or strongly agree” that unplugging at times or taking a “digital detox’ is important for mental health. Only 28 percent said they actually did take breaks from technology.

“Taking a digital detox is one of the most helpful ways to manage stress related to technology use,” Bufka said. “Constant checkers could benefit from limiting their use of technology and presence on social media. Adults, and particularly parents, should strive to set a good example for children when it comes to a healthy relationship with technology.”

The survey was conducted online between Aug. 5 and 31, 2016, among 3,511 adults 18 or older living in the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association.

Google to Help Publishers Find Malicious Comments on Articles

Alphabet Inc’s Google and subsidiary Jigsaw launched on Thursday a new technology to help news organizations and online platforms identify abusive comments on their websites.

The technology, called Perspective, will review comments and score them based on how similar they are to comments people said were “toxic” or likely to make them leave a conversation.

It has been tested on the New York Times and the companies hope to extend it to other news organizations such as The Guardian and The Economist as well as websites.

“News organizations want to encourage engagement and discussion around their content, but find that sorting through millions of comments to find those that are trolling or abusive takes a lot of money, labor, and time. As a result, many sites have shut down comments altogether,” Jared Cohen, President of Jigsaw, which is part of Alphabet, wrote in a blog post.

“But they tell us that isn’t the solution they want. We think technology can help.”

Perspective examined hundreds of thousands of comments that had been labelled as offensive by human reviewers to learn how to spot potentially abusive language.

CJ Adams, Jigsaw Product Manager, said the company was open to rolling out the technology to all platforms, including larger ones such as Facebook and Twitter where trolling can be a major headache.

The technology could in the future be expanded to trying to identify personal attacks or off-topic comments too, Cohen said.

Perspective will not decide what to do with comments it finds are potentially abusive; rather publishers will be able to flag them to their moderators or develop tools to help commenters understand the impact of what they are writing.

Cohen said a significant portion of abusive comments came from people who were “just having a bad day”.

The initiative against trolls follows efforts by Google and Facebook to combat fake news stories in France, Germany and the United States after they came under fire during the U.S. presidential vote when it became clear they had inadvertently fanned false news reports.

The debate surrounding fake news has led to calls from politicians for social networks to be held more liable for the content posted on their platforms.

The Perspective technology is still in its early stages and “far from perfect”, Cohen said, adding he hoped it could be rolled out for languages other than English too.

Tech Breakthroughs Take Backseat in Upcoming Apple iPhone Launch

When Apple Inc launches its much-anticipated 10th anniversary iPhone this fall, it will offer an unwitting lesson in how much the smartphone industry it pioneered has matured.

The new iPhone is expected to include new features such as high-resolution displays, wireless charging and 3-D sensors.

Rather than representing major breakthroughs, however, most of the innovations have been available in competing phones for several years.

Apple’s relatively slow adoption of new features both reflects and reinforces the fact smartphone customers are holding onto their phones longer. Timothy Arcuri, an analyst at Cowen & Co, believes upwards of 40 percent of iPhones on the market are more than two years old, a historical high.

That is a big reason why investors have driven Apple shares to an all-time high. There is pent-up demand for a new iPhone, even if it does not offer breakthrough technologies.

It is not clear whether Apple deliberately held off on packing some of the new features into the current iPhone 7, which has been criticized for a lack of differentiation from its predecessor. Apple declined to comment on the upcoming product.

Still, the development and roll-out of the anniversary iPhone suggest Apple’s product strategy is driven less by technological innovation than by consumer upgrade cycles and Apple’s own business and marketing needs.

“When a market gets saturated, the growth is all about refresh,” said Bob O’Donnell of Technalysis Research. “This is exactly what happened to PCs. It’s exactly what happened to tablets. It’s starting to happen to smartphones.”

Apple is close-mouthed about upcoming product features, but analysts and reports from Asian component suppliers and others indicate that high-resolution displays based on OLED technology – possibly with curved edges – are likely to be part of the anniversary phone. A radical new design is not expected, according to analysts.

Some of the anticipated new technologies, notably wireless charging, remain messy. Samsung Electronics Co Ltd phones, for example, feature wireless charging but support two different sets of standards, one called Qi and the other AirFuel.

Apple recently joined the group backing Qi. But there are still at least five different groups working on wireless charging technology within Apple, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

As to 3-D sensors, there is already one hiding in the iPhone 7. The front camera features what is known as a time-of-flight sensor, which helps it autofocus and is used in numerous phones including the Blackberry, according to TechInsights, a firm that examines the chips inside tech devices.

That sensor could be upgraded to a higher-resolution version that could handle 3-D mapping for facial recognition, said Jim Morrison, vice president at TechInsights.

Some analysts also speculate the company could remove the phone’s home button, placing it and a fingerprint sensor beneath the front display glass, based on patents the company has filed.

Slow growth

Global smartphone sales were up only 2.3 percent to 1.47 billion units in 2016, according to IDC. Many carriers in the United States have stopped subsidizing phones, causing phone buyers to think harder about their next purchase.

Apple will likely make a heavy marketing push around the phone’s 10th anniversary.  “IPhone set the standard for mobile computing in its first decade and we are just getting started. The best is yet to come,” Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said in a statement Jan. 8, the date the iPhone was announced by then-CEO Steve Jobs in 2007.

In 2015, the last year it disclosed the figure, Apple spent $1.8 billion on advertising, up 50 percent from the year before and nearly four times the $467 million it spent in 2007 when it first released the iPhone.

And the company continues to excel at selling higher-priced phones. Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri attributed the most recent quarter’s record-setting 78.3 million iPhones sold to the iPhone 7 Plus, which for the first time included a new dual camera feature not found in other models.

The iPhone 7 Plus tops out at $969 with memory upgrades and a jet black finish. O’Donnell of Technalysis Research believes that with the next iPhone, Apple might even introduce a $1,000-plus ultra-premium device for the real Apple-crazed folks out there who want to stand out.”

 

At Indian Observatory, Family Records Daily Life of the Sun

In the early morning darkness, Devendran P. walks up a hill to a solar observatory in India’s southern hill town of Kodaikanal, trudging the same path his father and grandfather walked in a century-old family tradition of studying the sun.

Once inside, he pulls a rope to open shutters in the dome and positions a six-inch telescope used since 1899 to photograph the sun and preserve a daily record of its activity.

“The sun, like stars, has a lifetime of 10 billion years,” Devendran told Reuters during a recent visit to the observatory in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu. “If you want to know about any small changes, you need to have a large amount of data.”

Daily activity of the sun

The observatory run by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics has a key role in providing a continuous stream of data on the sun and its influence on Earth and surrounding space, said R. Ramesh, a professor at the institute.

“Some of the discoveries made, based on data obtained in the Kodaikanal observatory, are so fundamental to solar physics that they vastly improved techniques used at observatories even today,” Ramesh said.

The Evershed effect of gas motion in sunspots, discovered in 1909 by the then director of the observatory, John Evershed, is one such example, he added.

In the observatory library, shelves stretch to the ceiling, packed with volumes of handwritten records and thousands of film plates of the sun. Authorities have launched a project to digitize and preserve the data collected over the past century.

Devendran’s grandfather, Parthasarathy, joined the observatory in 1900, a year after it relocated from Madras, the state capital, to Kodaikanal, situated more than 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) above sea level, offering ideal weather to study the sun.

Like his father and grandfather, Devendran has no formal education in astronomy. His interest was piqued during a visit to the observatory when he was a child.

He became a fulltime sunwatcher in 1986 and says the six-inch (15-cm) telescope has never failed his family.

“It has never required any major overhaul, or change of parts, because we all take care of it,” he said.

More than three decades of observation has made him feel close to the sun, despite its distance of more than 149 million kms (93 million miles) from Earth. It’s a feeling enhanced by the devout family’s worship of the Hindu sun god Surya, he said.

“I feel more religious than other people, as I can see that there is a universal power which is controlling everything,” he said.

His 23-year-old son, Rajesh, expects to carry on the family tradition, but with one difference. He has a master’s degree in physics.

“I get amazed by what my father does here,” Rajesh said. “I think observing the sun is in my blood.” 

At Indian Observatory, Family Records Daily Life of the Sun

In the early morning darkness, Devendran P. walks up a hill to a solar observatory in India’s southern hill town of Kodaikanal, trudging the same path his father and grandfather walked in a century-old family tradition of studying the sun.

Once inside, he pulls a rope to open shutters in the dome and positions a six-inch telescope used since 1899 to photograph the sun and preserve a daily record of its activity.

“The sun, like stars, has a lifetime of 10 billion years,” Devendran told Reuters during a recent visit to the observatory in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu. “If you want to know about any small changes, you need to have a large amount of data.”

Daily activity of the sun

The observatory run by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics has a key role in providing a continuous stream of data on the sun and its influence on Earth and surrounding space, said R. Ramesh, a professor at the institute.

“Some of the discoveries made, based on data obtained in the Kodaikanal observatory, are so fundamental to solar physics that they vastly improved techniques used at observatories even today,” Ramesh said.

The Evershed effect of gas motion in sunspots, discovered in 1909 by the then director of the observatory, John Evershed, is one such example, he added.

In the observatory library, shelves stretch to the ceiling, packed with volumes of handwritten records and thousands of film plates of the sun. Authorities have launched a project to digitize and preserve the data collected over the past century.

Devendran’s grandfather, Parthasarathy, joined the observatory in 1900, a year after it relocated from Madras, the state capital, to Kodaikanal, situated more than 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) above sea level, offering ideal weather to study the sun.

Like his father and grandfather, Devendran has no formal education in astronomy. His interest was piqued during a visit to the observatory when he was a child.

He became a fulltime sunwatcher in 1986 and says the six-inch (15-cm) telescope has never failed his family.

“It has never required any major overhaul, or change of parts, because we all take care of it,” he said.

More than three decades of observation has made him feel close to the sun, despite its distance of more than 149 million kms (93 million miles) from Earth. It’s a feeling enhanced by the devout family’s worship of the Hindu sun god Surya, he said.

“I feel more religious than other people, as I can see that there is a universal power which is controlling everything,” he said.

His 23-year-old son, Rajesh, expects to carry on the family tradition, but with one difference. He has a master’s degree in physics.

“I get amazed by what my father does here,” Rajesh said. “I think observing the sun is in my blood.” 

Google Ventures Into Ride-sharing Service

Ride-sharing giant Uber is getting some stiff competition from a former ally, Google.

The search giant is reportedly adding a ride-sharing component to its popular Waze navigation application, according to The Wall Street Journal.

However, unlike Uber and Lyft, Google “wants to persuade regular drivers using its navigation app to pick up people who are heading in the same direction,” according to the report.

According to the report, the new service will be rolled out in several U.S. and Latin American cities in the coming months. The company reportedly had successful trial runs of the service in San Francisco and Israel.

“Can we get the average person on his way to work to pick someone up and drop them off once in a while? That’s the biggest challenge,” Waze CEO Noam Bardin told the newspaper.

Waze rides are going to reportedly cost less than Uber and Lyft, the Journal reports, saying a ride from downtown Oakland to downtown San Francisco would be $4.50. That compares to $10.57 for UberPool and $12.40 for Lyft Line.

The Journal reports Waze driver will also not be like Uber or Lyft, which has many drivers who work full time or more. With Waze, riders will pay only $0.54 per mile, which is the Internal Revenue Service’s reimbursement rates for business drivers.

At least to start, Waze will not charge drivers, but could charge 15 percent later if the service catches on, the Journal reported.

In 2013, Google’s venture capital arm invested $258 million in Uber.

Google Ventures Into Ride-sharing Service

Ride-sharing giant Uber is getting some stiff competition from a former ally, Google.

The search giant is reportedly adding a ride-sharing component to its popular Waze navigation application, according to The Wall Street Journal.

However, unlike Uber and Lyft, Google “wants to persuade regular drivers using its navigation app to pick up people who are heading in the same direction,” according to the report.

According to the report, the new service will be rolled out in several U.S. and Latin American cities in the coming months. The company reportedly had successful trial runs of the service in San Francisco and Israel.

“Can we get the average person on his way to work to pick someone up and drop them off once in a while? That’s the biggest challenge,” Waze CEO Noam Bardin told the newspaper.

Waze rides are going to reportedly cost less than Uber and Lyft, the Journal reports, saying a ride from downtown Oakland to downtown San Francisco would be $4.50. That compares to $10.57 for UberPool and $12.40 for Lyft Line.

The Journal reports Waze driver will also not be like Uber or Lyft, which has many drivers who work full time or more. With Waze, riders will pay only $0.54 per mile, which is the Internal Revenue Service’s reimbursement rates for business drivers.

At least to start, Waze will not charge drivers, but could charge 15 percent later if the service catches on, the Journal reported.

In 2013, Google’s venture capital arm invested $258 million in Uber.