News Roundup: May 2

Autonomous vehicle producers make major moves, VR takes over abandoned retail spaces, Doctor Who dives into binaural audio, Ready Robotics seeks to offer cheaper robot manufacturing and a robotic drill completes surgery 50 times faster in this week’s news roundup.

Autonomous and connected vehicles

Apple, Tesla ask California to change proposed self-driving car test policy (Reuters)
Auto companies including Apple, Tesla and Waymo have submitted comments as California weighs whether to make changes to autonomous vehicle test driving policy including allowing testing without human drivers in the car. The companies sought to obtain clearer definitions of autonomous vehicles and clearer permit requirements and suggested stricter reporting of self-driving system disengagements where human drivers had to step in. They also urged the state to allow testing of 10,000 pound autonomous vehicles, the resale of non-autonomous cars used in testing and reuse of AV parts. Lyft requested that it not be required to notify local authorities of AV testing and Waymo requested the removal of liability rules making automakers liable regardless of fault for any crash.

Tech Giants, Carmakers Rev Up Lobbying on Autonomous Vehicles (The National Law Journal)
In addition to helping shape California law, autonomous vehicle developers are also seeking to influence policy on a federal level. Waymo, Uber, Lyft, Tesla, General Motors, Ford, Volkswagen and Fiat Chrysler have been pouring money into lobbying efforts for autonomous vehicles as each strive to release their own cars.

Samsung’s self-driving cars let loose onto public roads (Slash Gear)
Samsung’s self-driving cars will soon be tested in South Korea, receiving permission from South Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport to start real-world trials of prototype cars. The first test car will be a Hyundai equipped with new cameras and sensors.

The Biggest Fleet Of Autonomous Cars Ever Will Soon Be Open To The Public (Jalopnik)
Waymo will begin offering a public testing program for hundreds of families in Arizona, saying it plans to give participants daily non-time restricted access to its fleet to go anywhere in an area approximately twice the size of San Francisco. It also announced it will be expanding its AV Chrysler mivivan fleet to 600 vehicles, making it the largest collection of autonomous cars today.

Uber engineer leaves autonomous unit amid lawsuit (Business Insider)
The head of Uber’s Advanced Technologies group and former Google employee Anthony Levandowski is leaving the company as Waymo and Uber head to court on May 3 over allegations Levandowski and other former Google workers took Google’s LiDAR proprietary data and designs and used them in technology for Uber’s AV systems.

VR/AR/MR

VR Startups Create Entertainment Locations In Old Retail Space (Tech Crunch)
As many traditional retailers are shuttering their physical shops, VR theaters and arcades like Virtualities and IMAX have begun to step in and take their place, offering equipment and space for consumers who can’t afford to buy VR equipment of their own.

Ridley Scott’s studio RSA embraces VR, AR and MR film as immersive Alien: Covenant work creeps closer (The Drum)
RSA VR will be making VR, AR and MR content based on Alien: Covenant as 20th Century Fox prepares to release the film on May 18.

HP Moves Into VR and AR With Investment In Venture Reality Fund (Upload)
HP Tech Ventures has become an investor in The VR Fund, its first investment in VR. The VR Fund has invested in a variety of young startups developing infrastructure, tools, platforms, content and apps for VR, AR and MR. The fund will give HP early access to new AR, VR and MR technologies while The VR Fund’s investment portfolio will receive a boost from HP’s diverse product portfolio.

Smart Living

The only way to save the smart home hub is to kill it (CNET)
David Priest postulates that smart hubs are being used as duct tape, unifying smart devices under one platform and giving better automation control than voice assistants. Priest says the best way to keep hubs viable is to integrate them with routers, predicting that consumers will be less willing to buy a one-function device.

There’s a good chance Apple will introduce its Amazon Echo competitor in June, says analyst (CNBC)
Apple’s Siri-powered smart home assistant may be announced in June, potentially competing with Amazon’s new Echo.

Network Security: Hacking Fears Could Scare Consumers Away from Smart-Home Devices (CEPro)
A new quarterly study by Parks Associates’ found of 10,000 U.S. homes surveyed, almost half rank data security and privacy issues as their greatest concerns IoT devices compared to other potential problems. Forty percent of respondents said they had experienced a privacy or security breach with a connected device in the past year, including viruses and malware.

Robotics & drones

This Company Has Created the Swiss Army Knife of Robots (Inc.)
Baltimore Startup Ready Robotics is seeking to provide less cost-prohibitive robot manufacturing, charging $1,500 to $4,000 a month to rent its TaskMate robot to small manufacturers. The TaskMate is an easily programmed robotic arm that comes with grippers, pneumatic air tools and other peripherals that can operate tools including lathes, mills and band saws, which can free workers to focus on more valuable assignments.

Robots hit the streets – and the streets hit back (CNN Money)
As robots are increasingly adapted and become a presence in everyday public life, there’s been a subsequent increase in robots being vandalized and damaged by people.

The Life Robotic: When Autonomous Machines Can Do More Than Just Vacuum (Scientific American)

Rodney Brooks explores the possibilities of human-robot interaction in the home, predicting that for the next couple of decades domestic robots will lack a sense of self, subjective experiences, episodic memory blended into those subjective experiences, or any semblance of consciousness, acting “more insect-like than mammal-like in their behavior”. The better people understand the worlds of their robot, the better they’ll be able to have realistic expectations of what they should be able to do, what they should delegate and entrust to them and what aspects of our privacy they are giving up by having them around, he states.

Here’s What Happens When a Drone Falls On Your Head (Fortune)
A new study by the Federal Aviation Administration and colleges including University of Alabama, University of Kansas and Mississippi State University found that drone head crashes aren’t as dangerous to people as their head being impacted by falling steel shrapnel or wood blocks. However, it found drone propeller blades can slice skin and that a drone’s battery, motor and cargo can raise the risk of injury.

Wearables

ADI: AR, VR, And Wearables Emerge As Travel Industry Disruptors (CMO.com)
A new report by Adobe found that at least eight of the largest hotels have tested some kind of VR experience during the past six months, with most experiences taking the form of programs paired VR devices with consumers’ mobile devices. It also found that social mentions for travel and AR and VR-related experiences have increased 13 percent year over year and social mentions about travel-related wearables also increasing to 44 percent year over year.

Stretchable capacitor is great for wearables (Elektor Magazine)
Nanyang Technological University in Singapore is developing a new type of flexible micro-supercapacitors made from graphene, allowing it o bend with less strain. While its developers are still working to increase its power capacity, they believe it has the potential to enhance clothing and other wearables devices in the future.

Fitbit helps solve murder, involved in alleged explosion and may work with NHS (Wearable.com)
Fitbit data helped reveal a murder portrayed as a home break-in. Another Fitbit allegedly exploded on a woman’s wrist causing second degree burns. It was also recently announced that Fitbit is in talks about partnering with the NHS in England.

IoT and Big Data

15 Cool IoT Security Startups That Are Keeping Connected Devices Safe (CRN)
CRN offers a gallery of startups working to make the IoT a more secure environment.

Khetify’s IoT powered rooftop farm has caught the city dwellers’ fancy (The Economic Times India)
An India startup is seeking to help schools, housing societies, universities and residential areas to turn underutilized rooftop space into food-producing gardens with IoT-enabled drip irrigation systems, allowing gardens to remotely be cared for and assist in water conservation.

A Clever Plan to Secure the Internet of Things Could Still Have Big Drawbacks (Wired)
Cloudflare has begun to offer Orbit, a service that provides a VPN-like connection between IoT devices and the internet. The service, however, would centralize user data and potentially make it accessible to other services that previously couldn’t access it. The centralization could also be potential draw for hackers as well.

Audio

A Sense of Hearing Could Make Cars Safer and More Reliable(MIT Technology Review)
Startup OtoSense is working with major automakers on software to give cars their own sense of hearing to diagnose themselves before problems become more difficult and costly to solve. The technology could also help human-driven and automated vehicles stay safe by listening for emergency sirens or sounds indicating road surface quality.

MIXhalo to reveal new audio technology at Disrupt NY with help from Pharrell and Incubus (Tech Crunch)
Startup MIXhalo has developed a way to distribute audio to a crowd in a way they assert is even better than what the musicians hear on stage, with notable broader applications for the technology. The startup’s first product will be unveiled at Disrupt NY 2017 later this month.

3D audio will make the next ‘Doctor Who’ episode even scarier (Engadget)
Dr. Who’s Saturday episode will offer a special binaural edition online immediately after the episode’s premiere to provide viewers a 3D “surround sound” audio effect. This offering marks another step of progress for binaural audio, which has been receiving increased attention as VR and AR developers seek to use it to create more immersive experiences.

Medical Technology

New robotic drill performs skull surgery 50 times faster (CNN Money)
Researchers from the University of Utah have developed an automated machine that can do a complicated cranial surgery 50 times faster than standard procedures. Conducting a surgery for remove noncancerous tumors in patients with significant hearing loss, the researchers’ machine reduced the surgery time from two hours to two-and-a-half minutes and reduced potential for infection, surgical costs and human error.

Tackling diagnostic medicine with AI, Viz launches a tool to identify strokes (Tech Crunch)
San Francisco startup Viz is working to use artificial intelligence to more efficiently identify stroke victims to provide them faster treatment, hoping to increase the number of stroke victims’ lives saved and decrease medical costs.

New Medical Device: The ‘Star Trek’ Tricorder Comes To Real Life (University Herald)
Final Frontier Medical Devices won the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition. They created a lightweight, non-invasive, handheld device that can identify up to 13 health conditions, receiving $2.5 million for their efforts.

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