University of Michigan opens up its M-Air UAV testing facility to students

Companies and students who want to test an autonomous vehicle at the University of Michigan have the excellent Mcity simulated urban environment. But if you wanted to test a drone, your options were extremely limited — think “at night in a deserted lecture hall.” Not anymore: the school has just opened its M-Air facility, essentially a giant netted playground for UAVs and their humans.

It may not look like much to the untrained eye, and certainly enclosing a space with a net is considerably less labor-intensive than building an entire fake town. But the benefits are undeniable.

Excited students at a school like U-M must frequently come up with ideas for drone control systems, autonomous delivery mechanisms, new stabilization algorithms and so on. Testing them isn’t nearly as simple, though: finding a safe, controlled space and time to do it, getting the necessary approvals and, of course, containing the fallout if anything goes wrong — tasks like these could easily overwhelm a few undergrads.

M-Air serves as a collective space that’s easy to access but built from the ground up (or rather, the air down) for safe and easy UAV testing. It’s 80 by 120 feet and five stories tall, with a covered area that can hold 25 people. There are lights and power, of course, and because it’s fully enclosed it technically counts as “indoor” testing, which is much easier to get approval for. For outdoor tests you need special authorization to ensure you won’t be messing with nearby flight paths.

We can test our system as much as we want without fear of it breaking, without fear of hurting other people,” said grad student Matthew Romano in a U-M video. “It really lets us push the boundaries and allows us to really move quickly on iterating and developing the system and testing our algorithms.”

And because it’s outside, students can even test in the lovely Michigan weather.

“With this facility, we can pursue aggressive educational and research flight projects that involve high risk of fly-away or loss-of-control — and in realistic wind, lighting and sensor conditions,” said U-M aerospace engineering professor Ella Atkins.

I feel for the neighbors, though. That buzzing is going to get annoying.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

Watch Huawei unveil the P20 live right here

Huawei is about to unveil its brand new flagship smartphone — the P20. While many details have already leaked, this is going to be an interesting launch. The conference will begin at 3 PM in Paris, 9 AM in New York, 6 AM in San Francisco.

The company chose to unveil its new device at the magnificent Grand Palais in Paris. This is the first time Huawei chose Paris to launch a major new device. Carriers and retailers in the U.S. have stopped selling Huawei devices, which might be the reason why the press conference is happening in Europe.

Huawei is now the second largest phone manufacturer in the world behind Samsung and just slightly above Apple. The P10 was a great device, so it’s clear that many Android fans will pay attention to today’s launch.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

Google Play audiobooks get Smart Resume, bookmarks and Assistant routines support

Google Play Audiobooks is getting a major update today that adds a number of new features to the service that were sorely missing when it launched earlier this year. None of these are groundbreaking, but they’ll help Google reach feature parity with some of its competitors while injecting a bit of its proprietary smarts into the process, too.

Maybe the most useful new feature in today’s release is Smart Resume. Instead of picking up in the middle of a sentence or even word when your audiobook playback gets interrupted (maybe by Google Maps giving you directions or a friendly passerby who is asking for directions while you are clearly listening to an audiobook). Depending on the length of the interruption, this new feature will smartly rewind to the beginning of the word or sentence to help you stay in the flow.

Also new in this update are the ability to set bookmarks so you can easily go back to your favorite part of a book and the ability to speed up the audio — or slow it down so you can really savor your favorite passage in Ulysses. Both of these features were definitely missing in the first release.

If you’re a regular Google Assistant user and are already making use of the recently launched Routines feature, you’ll be happy to hear that you can now choose to continue your audiobooks when you wake up or start your commute.

And if you have family that’s spread around the world, you’ll be happy to hear that support for Google’s Family Library, which allows you to share Google Play purchases like apps, games, movies, e-books and audiobooks, is now rolling out in 13 new countries: Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Chile, Mexico, Japan (audiobooks only) and South Africa.

All of these new features are now available on iOS and Android.

 


Android – TechCrunch

Apple releases iOS 11.3 with new Animojis

Apple just released an iOS update for your iPhone and iPad. 11.3 introduces a ton of bug fixes but also a bunch of new features. If you forgot about Animjois, today is your lucky day as Apple is adding four new Animojis — a dragon, a bear, a lion and a skull.

But that’s not all. Apple already shared a preview of iOS 11.3 a couple of months ago. There’s a big ARKit update to ARKit 1.5. It can recognize more objects and surfaces.

And iOS 11.3 is also the battery update we’ve all been waiting for. There’s some new info in the settings about the status of your battery. It tells you the overall capacity and if it’s time to change your battery.

You can also choose to disable Apple’s controversial decision to throttle performance with old batteries. Apple says it’s a beta feature for now.

Apple is also introducing a new feature in the Health app. You can now centralize all your health records in the app. It’s only limited to a handful of clinics for now.

Apple is adding customer support conversations to Messages. You can initiate a conversation with a business to order something, book a table and more. Discover, Hilton, Lowe’s and Wells Fargo are already on board. Health Records and Business Chats are only available in the U.S. as a beta for now.

You’ll also see a new privacy icon across the operating system. A new website to export all your data is coming in May as well. Apple needs to add those features to comply with GDPR.

Finally, Apple Music is getting a new video clips section, the App Store Updates tab now shows you the size of each update and more tiny little things. And if you care about security, it’s always a good thing to update to the latest version of iOS. Unfortunately, iOS 11.3 still doesn’t include iMessage in iCloud.

Back up your iPhone or iPad to iCloud or your computer using iTunes before updating. You can then head over to the Settings app, then ‘General’, then ‘Software Update’. macOS, watchOS and tvOS updates are also available today.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

TPCast unveils adapter to enable multiple wireless HTC Vive VR headsets

Late last year, TPCast announced an adapter that cut the HTC Vive cords. The company is back with an enterprise version that delivers 2k content to several HTC Vive units with sub 2ms latency.

Unveiled at Nvidia’s GTC 2019 conference in San Jose, the product is aimed at VR uses cases where multiple people are sharing content across different VR headsets. The company says this includes medical, automotive, real estate, and training.

Like the consumer version, the units strap on the back of HTC Vive headsets and streams the content wirelessly from the connected PC to up to four VR headsets. At launch only the HTC Vive is supported though the company says it intends to support more models by the third quarter of 2018.

The unit, called the TPCAST Business Edition Wireless Adapter, will be available directly from TPCast at first and then available from retail channels. Pricing was not announced but it’s logical that it will cost significantly more than the $ 220 the company charges for the consumer version.

Gadgets – TechCrunch