Festo’s Box [for Techdrive.co]

on April 9, 2015 at 8:35 am

There’s no doubt that robotics are the future.

With how frequently I’m derailed into a hyperactive discussion on the unreal possibilities of the near future, I almost become redundant. But we really are on the cusp of a new age with an unprecedented array of discoveries ushering in the period of the machine.

It’s easy to get involved in the chatter of the autonomous car. Autonomous cars will forever change the way we function as a society. Something that doesn’t get much light but could make just as significant an impact however, are autonomous bugs.



Meet the bionicANT. These mechanical insects are designed not only based on the bodies of ants, but on the intelligence. Swarm intelligence is the idea that multiple devices can come together and work seamlessly in sync to execute more challenging tasks. Much like an ant, the bionicANT is designed to be a single piece programmed as a unit to work with it’s counterparts to perform a task on hand. With a radio transmitter on their uni-body they’re able to speak to each other. Each is equipped with a stereo camera and two sensors allowing them to intuitively be aware of the space around them which they can then use to grab things with their pincers. Their six legs are powered by piezo technology to move and a wireless network to function.

eMotionButterfly and FlexshapeGripper

The eMotionButterfly moves remarkably like the real thing. They use infrared sensors to avoid crashing into objects or each other and can be programmed to follow a direct flight path.

While the FlexshapeGripper uses the same idea behind a chameleon’s tongue to grab objects. Using a rubber reverse suction method to pick things up.


Festo’s robots designed with actual animals and insects in mind are intended to perform labor intense tasks. They hope that by using inspiration from life around us they can create robots that work well but also perform naturally and blend well into our environment.

The German robotics company, although like most other robotic companies, is aiming to change the workforce, is at least doing so in a very delightfully inspirational way.

The Rise of Drones [for Techdrive.co]

on April 12, 2015 at 4:43 pm

Drones are taking over, and we better be ready for it.

Drones are more prominent than ever. It seems like it was just an unbelievable rumor we heard not too long ago being whispered in the streets. That was until Amazon announced that it would be utilizing drones as a new delivery service.

Amazone Drone Delivery

Amazon’s Drone Delivery Service

On April 8th Amazon’s request to begin testing it’s new model of drone in the U.S. was quickly approved by the FAA(Federal Aviation Administration). It’s previous model, which is now outdated and has been improved significantly, had taken 6 months of anxious waiting in uncertainty. This is huge news for Amazon Prime users, because it means that same day shipping by air is just dawning on us.

Drones that herd sheep

Drones in the delivery service aren’t the only areas we can expect them to be surfacing however. A farmer in New Zealand has been using Drones to herd sheep. Michael Thompson is a 22 year old farmer who built a quad-copter that flies and herds his sheep in a fraction of the time that it used to take.

Drones that work for insurance companies

AIG just recently decided it would be a better option to use drones instead of people when inspecting roofs. A drone could fly up and inspect the area avoiding any injury. AIG’s drones are still operated by people from a close distance because requiring approval for an unmanned air vehicle would take awhile via the FAA.

You can pretty much bet on drones becoming standard in the next few years. They’ll be operating around us frequently. This could cause new precautions and new adjustments on people’s parts to get used to the idea of a robot flying above us with a job.

Drones are here to stay and they already have more uses than you’d think. 

Leaks about Gooogle’s Phone Service and New Batteries [for Techdrive.co]

on April 14, 2015 at 10:36 am

Google’s been inching towards a phone service for awhile now.

Google’s Phone Company

March 2nd 2015 Google confirmed that they would be entering the phone market with a “project Nexus for carriers” of sorts. The idea is that Google uses the Nexus phone line as a standard that Android can use to model by. So project Fi, as reported by Android Police, or previously code named Project Nova would be the example for carriers.

This is a great idea on Google’s part. As they’ve done with Fiber, Google is offering a service that is modeled in a way that doesn’t take advantage of the consumer and provides it’s services more closely tailored to the user experience. Fiber has created a ripple of unease for major cable companies by giving people what they actually want.

The unofficial Nexus 6 firmwire image leaked an unfinished version of Project Fi. The name of the app leaked is called Tycho. As you’ve probably noticed by now, Google tends to use multiple code names before launch, but if all of this means anything, it’s likely to suspect that “Nova” refers to the phone service, and “Fi” could be a reference to Fiber.

The APK(application image) was given a teardown by Android Police and inside they found menus to pay your phone bill, evidence of a monthly plan focused on paying per gigabyte of data and even the logo: nexus2cee_ic_launcher1

Google’s carrier service would use open wifi signals well as T-Mobile and Sprint towers and would focus mainly on data packages.

nexus2cee_illo_autopay_160dp  nexus2cee_illo_payment_method_160dp   nexus2cee_illo_upcoming_statement_160dp

In other news, it seems Google doesn’t have enough under it’s belt with how much they have their hands in. Which makes sense when you consider that they named the company based on the idea that they could provide a googol of possibilities(googol is 10x more than a million.). Nonetheless they are working on a new battery possibility on top of everything else.

Google’s New Solid State Battery

Google’s X Labs has openly stated that they’re in works of creating multiple solid state batteries for products such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops. Dr. Ramesh Bhardwaj is leading the project in hopes of outdating Lithium batteries we currently use and replacing them with advanced, much longer lasting solid state ones.

They’ve been studying batteries and brainstorming ideas since early 2012. Google aims to use their new battery on projects that require a long lasting battery life such as their SelfDriving Cars and Google Glass. They even need batteries for their nanoparticle project intended to detect diseases.

Not only would they be longer lasting, but safer to use. Using solid electrodes could mean that they would be able to be placed in people’s bodies for medical reasons, such as implants. They would also be less likely to explode or overheat.

Apple, IBM and Tesla have all attempted to increase the battery’s performance but only improved it mildly.

Google enters two new markets with already promising details and we should be excited to see what comes from it.

Android Auto V. Auto Mate [For TechDrive]

Android is a vast platform and in just the past year it’s spread to an array of platforms including Android Wear, Android Tv and now Android Auto.

Android Auto, unlike most apps on your phone, doesn’t have the goal of keeping a submersed, interactive UI. Instead, it’s quite the opposite. Android Auto intends to keep you focused on the road with as little distraction as possible.

The creative new interface remains somewhat familiar. After connecting your device to compatible cars [see http://www.android.com/auto/ for a list of companies ] it will take over the display in your dashboard.

Android Auto looks much like a blown up simpler version of Google Maps. You can tap the speaker button, or use a compatible button on your steering wheel, to speak. Audio commands such as, “Find me directions to Yosemite National Park.” or “Where can I find the nearest Starbucks?” will trigger a response from the lovely Google Now voice and show a list of results sorted by distance.

On the bottom is a very minimalistic dashboard with five on screen buttons. Maps, Phone, Home, Music and Dashboard. The Music icon also acts as a drop down menu that you can use to get to other apps compatible with the system you have on your phone.

Overall the experience of Auto is smooth, and beautifully designed in Google’s Material structure. It’s easy to use with minimal distraction. Unfortunately Google Now’s voice controls, although work well most of the time, is still a little slow and I found myself focusing just a little too much on making sure everything was working the way it should. Then again, this is the case for all my devices, including Android Wear. Voice controls are the best they’ve ever been but aren’t as smooth as I’d like them to be quite yet.

Third party apps such as Spotify, Pandora and iHeartRadio are available and working with Auto already. They aren’t too much different than the standard UI so that they don’t distract, but have just enough of a unique touch that you really feel like you’re in a new app. And conveniently Auto seems to work really smoothly with the cars functions such as the rear camera.

juwtz5ztnwdlxkh9th6z   Auto Mate is a clone of Android Auto designed to be usable on a tablet or phone for people without displays built into their car. It feels and looks a lot like Android Auto but it’s still in beta and it shows. The app is still a bit buggy and unless you have a phone app on your tablet with data it won’t have a lot of the features you’ll need. The Map button on the Auto Mate UI links you over to the Google Maps app which then directs you with turn by turn navigation. This feature is not the worst part of the clone, but instead quite useful and appreciated. It’s the music button that lacks significant quality. Instead of having a display that shows the album artwork or even a title of who you’re listening to, the audio only is streamed over from the Google Music app. The developer did manage to get the suggested locations nearby and voice controls to work pretty smoothly however. For an app in beta created as a low end alternative, AutoMate is a good option.

Overall Android Auto is a great experience and will be in numerous cars coming out in the next few years. The best part, and the feature that sets it apart form Apple’s rival, CarPlay, is that Auto is stored on your phone and can be used in any car with a display and a USB port. 

Long Beach ePrix Preview [for TechDrive]

Long Beach ePrix Preview

on April 3, 2015 at 6:53 pm

Miami Recap

The fifth race of the Formula E season was in the warmly sunkissed Miami. The energy was wonderful and there was three newcomers Tonio Luizzi, Scott Speed and Loic Duval, who all did wonderful. Duval was even close to getting into the top 10.

Sam Bird was right up front until he lost energy on lap 20 and fell back. He finished the race in spot 8. Bird is an exciting racer with a lot of will, but this time had pushed just a little too hard.
Scott Speed, who’s name suits oh so well, is the only American of the bunch and has shown a really impressive effort. There’s no doubt he could win race 6 with Miami under his belt as experience, Speed has that much more reason to do it right this time.

Prost, who ended up taking home first, later exclaimed between panting of excitement that he was taken by surprise at how strongly Scott Speed kept on his tail.

what does this mean for Long Beach?

Speed can very well take this one with just a little tweaking to his previous effort. He is definitely proving to be a great threat to the rest of the drivers. Prost will have to prove that he can keep consistent and stay at the top. He’s proven his ability to keep high scores per race but can he continue to win?

With the excitement of the last race blending with the anticipation of the next, we’re sure in for a good ride. 


Bird at the Formula E [for TechDrive]

Bird at the Formula E

on April 3, 2015 at 2:00 pm

Bird: “Everyone will know this one [Long Beach track] a bit better,” as quoted by Current-E, “We can understand the tarmac quite well because it’s been run before.” 


Sam Bird is a British driver with an exceptional track record currently driving for Virgin. He debuted in the Formula BMW and came 14th overall for the season, winning second in the Rookie Cup. Ultimately, he came in 4th in the Formula BMW world final in 2005, and 4th in the Formula Renault series in 2006. Since then Bird has participated in the Formula Three Championship in 2007, the GP2 series in 2010 – 2011 and the World Endurance Championship in 2014 where he placed second over all for the GT cars in the GTE Am class. In case that’s not impressive enough, ladies are also swooning over him.

e_racing_car_virginLet’s talk about the machine Bird gets to ride like a spacecraft into another dimension. The single passenger concrete rocket is packing a maximum power of 200kw(270bhp). It has a carbon/aluminum honeycomb chassis, and a Kevlar body structure. Virgin’s machine has a five speed sequential gearbox and a traction battery system with a Rechargeable Energy Storage System. This sculpted piece would be the most amazing ride of your life.

Sam Bird and his partner in speed,  Jaime Alguersuari have taken to youtube and various other networking sites to run their campaign for a fan boost in the race. Not all sports fans agree that a little extra boost in points from the popularity of the driver is relevant to a race, but regardless, Bird and Alguersuari instead have decided to utilize the extra feature and play the game they’ve come to win.

It’s needless to say, the Formula E eprix in Long Beach is hosting a quality team of racers. But in case you can’t take my word for it…

“Looking at that grid, there’s not a single name that you could say is not a top driver,” Bird admires the roster, “I can’t think of another grid, anywhere else, that boasts that many good drivers. It’s a great advertisement for Formula E.”


The Furious Formula E

The Furious Formula E

on April 3, 2015 at 12:30 pm

A weekend of jam-packed racing action is ahead of us.


Formula E is the new FIA eprix and the world’s first electric only racing series. Going on from September 2014 to June 2015 and competing in 10 of the world’s leading cities. 10 teams with 2 drivers each create an exciting circuit racing experience. Formula E’s fully electric cars establish an example for clean energy and sustainability. The race challenges drivers, engineers and mechanics to create technology that’ll last well into the future vehicle market.


Long Beach is the 6th round of the season, right in beautiful sunny south California along the coast. Using the well known Long Beach track would be a comforting advantage for the racers who have been on the circuit for IndyCar many times before, but with a few tweaks making the track shorter and more suitable for the quick and torque prone Spark Renault, adds an edge that may require a safety car to guide and limit the speedsters for safety. With a seven turn track, the tension will stay hot and adrenaline high.

The race takes place on April 4th 2015 marking the half-ish point in an 11 race season. At 2.1km with 7 turns and a start line adjacent to the marina, we’re in for an exciting race.


It Costs $60 Dollars to Hack Your Car [for TechDrive]

It Costs $60 Dollars to Hack Your Car

on April 2, 2015 at 4:39 pm

The CANtact is a Raspberry Pi like computer for hacking cars. 

It’s no surprise that as cars become high tech, they also become easier to hack. This is a reality we’ve come to accept as our world gets digitized. However this doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to prevent hacks. The CANtact’s aim is primarily to strengthen Automobile Manufacturers focus on hack prevention.


The CANtact

Eric Evenchick has created the CANtact in efforts to raise awareness to the public and major car companies about just how easily you can hack a car. By attaching the $60 credit card sized computer to your laptop and the other to a network port under the car’s dashboard the user gains access to the CAN bus which is a collection of connected computers that control everything from the automatic windows, windshield wipers to even the brakes.

What for?

The gadget isn’t intended for any malicious conduct even though it’s remarkably affordable and easy to use. Evenchick’s intentions are to create an open source product that will inspire users to play with the user friendly interface and create hobbyist who are encouraged to expose and help fix a car’s vulnerabilities.car-hacking-4

Even the software is open sourced and easy to use, automated to do much of the work on it’s own. Using Unified Diagnostic Services (CAN protocol that mechanics use to communicate with Electronic Control Units) programmers can write directions with Python’s coding language. Although not much coding exist quite yet for this system, Evenchick is excited to see how providing a platform for young hobbyist can encourage not only preventative hacking tests but codes that could change the way we interact with our cars all together.

But why?

Evenchick’s was inspired by researchers Miller and Valasek’s findings that cars internal dashboards lacked serious protection. Their demonstrations led to Massachusetts’ senator Edward Markey demanding answers from major car companies about the security holes in their systems and ultimately revealing that out of 20 well known automobile companies, only 7 used third party security auditors for their vehicles and even those can be compromised.


The CANtact could potentially be a product that would strengthen the security for cars by educating the public on the inner workings of CAN bus systems.

You can purchase a CANtact at http://cantact.io/ for $59.95, USB and OBD-II cables not included.


How Drivers Will Have to Rethink Their Jobs [for TechDrive.co]

With the world of automobiles getting more aware of itself, it’s become imperative that at some point, the thousands of drivers using driving as a job will have to rethink the way they make themselves valuable to their employers. It’s easy to consider the endless possible negative scenarios that could be born from the era of driverless cars, but if we chose to be active in the transition, I believe, and you should too, that there could be many positives. Self driving cars could open up possibilities we perhaps haven’t even thought of. I could hear the exasperation leaving the mouths of many Americans as they read the next line.

What if I told you, there will be a time when families only have one car?

One car that took the kids to school in the morning then came back and drove Mom to work. What if the car could take your teenager to the local Starbucks to meet up with their friends while you grocery shopped and you knew it would show up in time to pick you up and take you home?  In fact there’s professionals who believe that people won’t own cars at all, but instead will use taxi services as a main source of transportation.

And what does this mean for society?

A world with fewer cars would lower pollution levels. It could free up traffic jams and provide people with extra time to do things they might not have time to do while driving. Like catch up on the book they’ve been waiting to read or prepare themselves for the days work. Although I’ve exhausted this page with questions already, I’ll ask the most important one.

Why couldn’t we still have drivers?

Uber is a really successful startup that if you haven’t heard about by now, you’ve probably been living under a rock. It’s the new generation’s taxi. I’ve spent a significant amount of time in Uber and there’s been plenty of drivers who have developed really neat ways of standing out. A really nice lady the other day had caramel apple lollipops in her cup holder for her guests. Some have water bottles or are adamant about getting you to choose your own tunes and this is the answer to driverless cars.

I asked a few Uber drivers about what they thought on the subject and received various answers. Most responded in the same way. A mixture of mild grief that they would possibly lose Uber as a source of income and acceptance that this is where they saw the world heading.

One driver, Steve replied, “The only chauffeured cars that will stick around might be high-end ones. Where the driver is more than just a driver, but a sort of concierge who caters to the riders every whim. That’s something a driverless car can’t do.”

Drivers would most likely still be needed in cars to be able to hit the emergency button in case of any malfunctions. They’ll need to be well skilled with car maintenance, able to replace tires and quickly fix issues and like with all businesses their focus will turn to great customer service. How can they make the experience unique and enjoyable? They’ll chat with you about the area you’re exploring or maybe set a relaxing mood to allow you to enjoy the ride. Drivers who evolve into a useful tool will ultimately survive.

Whether we realize it or not, we’re losing a sense of human touch. We’re being surrounded by media and living in code. As our lives entwine with the digital we’ll long for a sense of self. We’ll need a warm expression and we’ll realize just how important having a person behind the wheel or maybe even sitting with us will make a huge difference in our day. I urge Uber and Lyft to consider using their drivers in newer more productive ways that could improve the service as opposed to going completely driverless and I’m completely positive there will be companies that utilize the driver in newer more creative ways.

So drivers don’t lose faith. I ask, that instead, we get more creative. We find reasons to add value to our work, and to utilize our new tools to reinvent the world we live in.

original posting:


American Media: Fear and Ratings

American Media: Fear and Ratings

Television relies heavily on it’s viewers; without ratings it’s business does not thrive. Marilyn Boemer, an author for the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic media writes, “ Up to 40% of a stations annual revenue may come from the news stations operations. One additional rating point can mean up to $1 Million annually for a major market station.” (89). This can mean a significant amount of a channel’s ratings relies heavily on the amount of people attentive to the content presented on the News broadcasts. Arguably, the American News blurs the line of what is informative and what is a scheme to provoke fear and an array of other emotions to create a broader more emerged audience.

It was recently that this concept struck the minds of moviegoers with a compelling film by the title Nightcrawler. A St. Andrews student articulately discusses this in the online review. “Produced in a time of real life examples of phone hacking scandals and opaque ethics, the movie is a thematic statement about the degradation of media ethics.” In the film the character played by Jake Gyllenhaal, is a “nightcrawler”, a man who sells freelance footage of crimes, accidents and other trauma to news stations. Now, although films can be over-dramatizations, it’s still significantly powerful in suggesting the following. News broadcasts fear to provoke an emotional investment into their programming.

“In 1993, Dateline NBC, weathered a storm of controversy after broadcasting a story about allegedly fire prone gas  tanks in General motor trucks. On the program, tests for the trucks had been rigged to ensure that they would explode.”    (Sharpe, 1) As reported, Dateline’s pressure for ratings had pushed them to a questionable moral limit. Sharpe addresses   the scandal by discussing the crews stress to present something exciting for viewers in order to keep ratings up and secure their employment. “It is clear that pressure to succeed can push reporters and producers past the point of honest reporting” (1.). NBC issued apologies, fired reporters and the President at the time, Michael Gartner, resigned.

The News does more than just rig stories for ratings, but incepts a paranoia in it’s audience that will overcome them with obsessive revisits for more answers.

The mass media play an important role in the construction of criminality and the criminal justice system. The public’s perception of victims, criminals, deviants, and law enforcement officials is largely determined by their portrayal in the mass media. Research indicates that the majority of public knowledge about crime and justice is derived from the media (Roberts and Doob, 1990; Surette, 1998). Therefore, it is imperative to examine the effects that the mass media have  on attitudes toward crime and justice. (Habermas, 106)

As viewers develop ideas painted for them by the media, their worlds become surrounded by negative stigmas created to make them fear often racially offensive stereotypes of criminals.

They become more likely to stay inside and watch the news with the intentions of staying informed and avoiding the dangers that lurk behind their doors.

It isn’t a popular idea, and a controversial theory for sure, that people are more likely to be satisfied watching a station that emphasizes criminals as a specific demographic, which in most cases can be a young, black or Mexican man who dresses “urban” or “thuggish”. In fact for the first time recently, society has decided to fight back against these stereotypes. Currently in Ferguson, Missouri, people have taken to the streets to protest against cop cruelty. This has become a matter of whether or not it is right that cops can kill an innocent young black man because his demographic is what’s considered “dangerous”. This is the same as another series of events that occurred in Florida, where a young boy by the name of Trayvon Martin was gunned down by a man who said he was protecting himself. The news stations kept the story in favor of  George Zimmerman at first, presenting pictures of Trayvon that could make him look like a troublemaker, but over time it became prevalent that the people did not agree. That people were on the side of Martin, and the stations followed suit, shifting the story towards Zimmerman’s terrible mistake, and eventually a story of racist murder.

As the generations shift, and more people become less reliant on mainstream television, people start to develop stronger opinions on how they feel about news broadcasting; about the system’s portrayal of the people and it’s ability to skew stories into emotional appeals that create feeling that aren’t backed by information, but led by fear.