By Heather Kelly, CNN
Personal 3-D printers may sound like a pricey luxury or a niche product for geeks, but soon they could become a household appliance that saves people thousands of dollars a year.
Researchers at Michigan Technological University conducted a study to find out how much a family might save by printing common objects, such as simple replacement parts or toys, at home instead of buying them in stores or online.
"It was relatively shocking what the return on investment was," said associate professor Joshua Pearce, who led the study. "Realistically, it's in the thousands."
Much of the recent 3-D printer hype has focused on how the technology is going to revolutionize the manufacturing industry or what cool things it can create - human organs, duck feet, see-through hermit crab shells shaped like cities. But it's the small, mundane objects that could have the most immediate impact on wallets. (Especially if you print your own wallet.) FULL POST
By Jason Paur, Wired
There’s an open-source airplane being developed in Canada, and now its designers are looking to double down on the digital trends, turning to crowdsourced funding to finish the project.
The goal of Maker Plane is to develop a small, two-seat airplane that qualifies as a light sport aircraft and is affordable, safe, and easy to fly. But unlike other home-built aircraft, where companies or individuals charge for their plans or kits, Maker Plane will give its design away for free.
The group behind the project consists of pilots and engineers who are designing the airplane, allowing it to be built using the kind of personal manufacturing equipment somebody in the maker community might already have at home or can easily purchase. The idea of a home-built airplane is nothing new. It dates back to the earliest days of flight, after Orville and Wilbur made and flew their own airplanes (and engine), the homemade plane movement — literally — took off.
Today, the home-built movement continues, and this week tens of thousands of pilots and fans of home-built airplanes are descending on the annual Airventure in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
This cross-section shows the wing's design.
In the spirit of the open source and maker movements, the Maker Plane group is including components from many designers and builders outside their circle. As they focus on the design of the airplane (fuselage, wings, etc.), the Maker Plane team helps connect those interested in building their own with other open source components such as an air data computer and radios. They even show you where you can get plans to build your own traffic and collision avoidance system.
The structural parts of the airplane, including the fuselage, will be built from composites. There are many home-built composite airplanes already taking to the skies, so the techniques are well proven. Smaller pieces such as knobs and handles will be made using 3-D printing. And after a year and a half of design, the Maker Plane team has started to build the first prototype. That’s why they’re turning tocrowdsourced funding to help the project along.
The basic specifications of the airplane follow the guidelines of the light sport aircraft regulations. The aviation industry and the Federal Aviation Administration created the LSA category to encourage more people to fly. The airplanes are limited to two seats, a maximum weight of 1,320 pounds, and a top speed of 120 knots (138 mph).
Maker Plane says they expect their design will fall within these requirements and have a range of 400 miles. More ambitious: They hope the cost to build the airplane will be under $15,000, including the engine.
The aviation world is filled with optimistic ideas that don’t always get off the ground, but the Maker Plane is the first attempt at sourcing the entire airplane from the open-source community, which should help keep costs down, assuming you have the skills to build the various components. And if they succeed, Maker Plane hopes to fly the first prototype in 2015.
By Heather Kelly, CNN
Would you let a robot take over as a live-in nurse for your aging parent or grandparent?
In 2050, the elderly will account for 16 percent of the global population. That's 1.5 billion people over the age of 65, according to the Population Reference Bureau. Caring for those seniors - physically, emotionally and mentally - will be an enormous undertaking, and experts say there will be a shortage of professionals trained and willing to take on the job.
"We have to find more resources and have to get new ways of delivering those resources and delivering the quality of care," says Antonio Espingardeiro, an expert in robotics and automation at the University of Salford in Manchester, England, and a member of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society.
Enter the elder-care robot.
Robots have the potential to meet many of the needs of an aging population, according to Espingardeiro. A software engineer, Espingardeiro is finishing his PhD on new types of human and robotic interaction. He has developed a model of elder-care robot, P37 S65, which can monitor senior patients and communicate with doctors while providing basic care and companionship. FULL POST
By Heather Kelly, CNN
At six-foot-two and 330 pounds, this hulking first responder has all the qualities you'd want in the field after a disaster: strength, endurance and calm under pressure. Better yet, it has two sets of hands, 28 hydraulic joints, stereo cameras in its head and an onboard computer.
The ATLAS humanoid robot, which looks vaguely like something from the "Terminator" movies, was created by Boston Dynamics for DARPA, a research arm of the U.S. Department of Defense. It will compete in the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC), a competition that invites engineers to create a remotely controlled robot that can respond to natural or man-made disasters.
The winning robot could be used in situations deemed too dangerous for humans, like the 2011 nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
The DRC is broken up into three challenges. The first was the Virtual Robotics Challenge, in which 26 teams controlled simulated, 3-D robots. Only seven of those teams - including participants from MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory - were chosen to go on to the next stage. They will each get their very own ATLAS for the Robotics Challenge Trials, a real-life obstacle course competition between robots that will take place this December in Florida.
As part of the challenge, the teams will program their humanoid robot to accomplish a range of tasks. ATLAS will need to drive a car, navigate complicated terrain on foot and move rubble in order to enter a building. It will also have to climb stairs and use various tools to do things like turn off valves or break through concrete walls.
ATLAS has modular wrists so that it can swap out hands and attach third-party mitts to better handle specific tasks. The robot's head also has LIDAR to better gather information about the surrounding area.
The robots will need to be able to complete tasks on their own without constant human control, which will be a key feature if they are in situations where communications are spotty. DARPA also wants the final robots to be easily controlled by people who have had minimal amounts of training, so that the technology is accessible to more people on short notice.
The teams whose robots perform the best at the trials later this year will continue to receive funding and compete in the competition's final stage in December 2014. The Robotics Challenge Finals will put the robots through a full disaster scenario that will include eight tasks each robot must complete.
In addition to improving future disaster response, winners of the 27-month competition will receive a $2 million prize.
The ATLAS robots are the result of a $10 million contract with Boston Dynamics, the Massachusetts engineering and robotics-design company. That amount covers eight robots, in-field support and any necessary maintenance.
Editors Note: Dan Selec is the founder and CEO of the nonPareil Institute – a hybrid school and software company in Plano, Texas that teaches adults on the autism spectrum to write and develop apps, video games and iBooks. Watch his full profile this Saturday at 2:30p ET on “The Next List”.
By Kristyn Martin, CNN
Dan Selec has a revolutionary idea: teach adults on the autism spectrum how to code so they can create apps and video games and make a living in the tech industry.
“If you want to know what terror is, find out that your child has a disability,” said Selec. “As a parent we’re all asking the same question: what happens after we’re gone?”
Selec, who has a son on the autism spectrum, wanted to find the answer to that question. “I wanted Caleb to have a chance to live a fulfilled life, not just a life,” said Selec. “He loves technology … it turns out there’s a whole population of this group where, this is their core strength. They’re digital natives.”
Selec, along with his partner Gary Moore, founded the nonPareil Institute in Plano, Texas. NonPareil is a hybrid school-meets-startup tech company. There, he teaches around 120 adults on the spectrum everything they need to know to create apps, video games and iBooks.
“For me, and I think a lot of students, we never expected to make video games,” said Jeremy Gage Farris, a student at nonPareil. “They might be lucky enough to just get a janitor’s job like I had for a few years. And just going from that to this is just a miracle for a large group of people like us.”
While the exact unemployment rate for adults on the autism spectrum is unknown, studies point to it being very low, according to The University of Missouri.
“It’s very limited in the number of job opportunities they have, the pay is very poor if they get paid at all,” said Jim Connell with the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute. “The nonPareil model is very viable for a specific portion of the population.”
Selec wrote and designed software specific to the needs to adults on the autism spectrum to streamline their learning process. It teaches them everything they need to be competitive in the software industry. “When you have gone through all the training and all of the courses you begin to get assignments and campaigns," said Selec. "And campaigns are product that is going to market.”
The nonPareil Institute already has several video games and apps available for purchase on iTunes and on most mobile platform stores. “That’s our vision, to be an innovation factory for approaching the market place and giving our crew sustainable revenue for the future,” said Selec.
Moore says the school's long-term goal for people on the Autism spectrum is more ambitious.
“We want to provide a campus community where they can train, they can work and they can also live,” said Moore. “Just like anybody else, they’re looking for purpose in life… and unfortunately there just are not many places that will give them that opportunity.”
“We want to answer this for every family across the U.S. and maybe even the world,” says Selec.
By Heather Kelly, CNN
While Google, universities and car companies work on perfecting self-driving vehicles, flawed and sometimes sleepy human drivers still fill our roads.
But new technology could help detect when those drivers start to feel tired and possibly prevent dangerous accidents. A research project at the University of Leicester has combined eye-tracking and brain monitoring to calculate when a driver's alertness starts to wane.
Researchers have used the two tracking technologies on their own before, but Dr. Matias Ison, who led this project, said they've found a new way to combine them for more accurate information about a person's state of mind.
"There are a variety of behaviors that are related to sleepiness and distractions," said Dr. Ison. "Some of them, such as blinking more frequently, changing our eye movements’ pattern, or not fixating on the road ahead are well suited to be detected with an eye tracker. However, brain activity changes during sleepiness and low cognitive alertness state can only be detected with an EEG."