TLDR Daily Update 2020-06-08

Apple patents social distance selfies 📷, SpaceX software AMA 🚀, pilots fight drones 🚁

Big Tech & Startups

Neopets launching open beta for a new mobile site (2 minute read)

Neopets is launching an open beta for its new mobile site. A link to the game is available in the article. It is still in the very early stages of development. Neopets has launched mobile games before, but the franchise has slowly been fading over the past few years. Viacom bought Neopets in 2005 and later sold it to Jumpstart, an educational games company.

Apple granted patent for software that would let you take socially distant group selfies (1 minute read)

Apple has been granted a patent for software that generates synthetic group selfies. The software is likely a method for taking group selfies for social media even during social distancing. Users would be able to invite others to take part in a group selfie and the software would then arrange the images together into a single picture. The resulting picture will be customizable, so users should be able to modify the position of the people in the photo or store the original images separately. Apple first filed for the patent in 2018 and it was just granted at the beginning of June.
Science & Futuristic Technology

Robotic Third Arm Can Smash Through Walls (4 minute read)

Researchers from the Université de Sherbrooke in Canada have created a waist-mounted remote-controlled hydraulic arm that is gentle enough to pick fruit but also powerful enough to punch through a wall. This type of wearable robotic arm is known as a supernumerary robotic arm. It weighs about four kilograms and can lift five kilograms, with a maximum speed of 3.4 meters per second. At the moment, the arm is remotely controlled by a second human, but researchers have suggested adding sensors on the arm so that it can provide more functionality. Pictures and video of the robotic arm are available in the article.

Manned Fighter To Face Autonomous Drone Next Year In Sci-Fi Movie-Like Showdown (8 minute read)

The Air Force has announced a showdown between an artificial intelligence-driven flight control system against a fighter jet with a human pilot planned for July 2021. Details about the design of the unmanned aircraft that will take part in the aerial duel have not been released. Unmanned combat air vehicles have the potential to change aerial warfare as they lower the costs of training and production and are also able to perform some tasks equally well, if not better, than humans. Integrating AI capabilities into manned aircraft could help reduce pilot fatigue and improve decision making.
Programming, Design & Data Science

Hummingbird (GitHub Repo)

Hummingbird can convert trained traditional ML models into tensor computations. It supports a variety of tree-based classifiers and regressors, including Decision Trees, Random Forest, LightGBM, and XGBoost. With Hummingbird, users can benefit from all the current and future optimizations implemented in neural network frameworks, native hardware acceleration, and support for both traditional and neural network models, without having to re-engineer their models.

We are the SpaceX software team, ask us anything! (Reddit Thread)

A few of the SpaceX team members who worked on the software that flew Dragon answer questions from Reddit users. SpaceX writes all of its autonomous software in C++, using only extremely high-quality open source libraries when possible and writing custom libraries when it needs to control code quality. There are many facets to error handling, with multiple levels of sensors and backups to ensure all errors are recorded and handled. The same source on Falcon is used every mission, though the software is updated fairly regularly. Configs change every mission according to variables specific to the launch. More questions and in-depth answers are available in the thread.

Lidar helps uncover an ancient, kilometer-long Mayan structure (3 minute read)

Lidar is becoming increasingly useful in archaeology as it can reveal structures within hours that would've otherwise taken months to discover with other methods. Using lidar, a team from the University of Arizona scanned forests in the Tabasco region of Mexico and found an enormous Mayan structure that was more than 3,000 years old. The lidar produced large-scale, low-resolution images of the area which are available to view in the article. A seven-second video is available showing an aerial view of the site.

The European Space Agency is building its own reusable rocket (2 minute read)

The European Space Agency has announced plans to build its own reusable rocket engine. Last year, the French space agency CNES unveiled the Prometheus engine design. The ESA has now fully funded the project and aims to reduce the cost to produce the engine to a tenth of the cost compared to current options. Manufacturing has already been completed for several parts for the rocket and testing of some of the hardware components will soon begin in Germany. The ESA aims to complete the first combustion chamber model this month and assemble a full demonstration version of the engine for testing by 2021.
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