À l'occasion du premier anniversaire de la mort de Karl Lagerfeld, l'hôtel de Rome situé à Berlin présentera une exposition dédiée au créateur allemand. Les amateurs d'art et de mode pourront admirer 20 portraits emblématiques du couturier exposés dans le hall prestigieux de cet hôtel 5 étoiles. Les clichés pris en 2002 par le photographe Daniel Biskup présentent un aperçu de la vie de Karl Lagerfeld dans la capitale allemande.
Cet article Un an après sa mort, Berlin rend hommage à Karl Lagerfeld est apparu en premier sur Pepsnews - Le site des news positives.
En ouvrant ce livre j’espérais trouver une dimension spirituelle à l’intuition, mais c’est sous une forme beaucoup plus pragmatique qu’elle est abordée. Car étant médium l’intuition fait partie intégrante de ma vie, et j’aime qu’il y ait un peu de magie quand on aborde ce sujet.
Après un bac scientifique, Lydie Castells a été, pendant 24 ans, chef d’entreprise. En parallèle de ces activités, elle s’est progressivement formée à la numérologie. Elle a eu l’immense privilège d’être la dernière élève du grand numérologue Bernard Créquy, qui lui a livré la richesse de ses multiples travaux. Aujourd’hui, elle pratique la numérologie à temps plein, donne des cours et des conférences, et écrit le fruit de ses recherches.
Son approche innovante de la numérologie tient au fait :
– D’avoir créé l’arbre de vie en numérologie pour concentrer le lecteur sur ses 7 clés de compréhension de lui-même
– De lui donner le moyen d’être en phase avec sa vraie nature, de comprendre comment se recentrer en dessinant son triangle fondamental : outil révolutionnairement simple !
– De donner, grâce à son site internet numerologie-strategique.fr, l’accès à tous les calculs gratuitement
– D’utiliser la Numérologie comme un véritable outil de développement personnel et de la sortir des sciences divinatoires.
Ce qui l’intéresse est d’orienter la personne vers ses solutions et de lui permettre de garder sa capacité de libre arbitre.
Bernard Castells, son mari est médecin et radiologue.
source: JDBN – crédit photo: capture
Je m’appelle Steven KITTIRATH, journaliste indépendant depuis 3 ans.
Il y’a 3 ans, j’ai pris une caméra et je me suis lancé dans cette aventure de filmer des personnalités atypiques. L’ idée transmettre des valeurs positive avec un point commun : Réaliser son rêve.
Je trouvais légitime de donner parole à celles et ceux qui ont accomplis ce merveilleux voyage et qui veulent transmettre.
Depuis, c’est plus de 300 reportages avec des rencontres extraordinaires.
Une quête personnelle qui est devenu un partage collectif.
Comment choisissez-vous vos “personnages” ?
Je fonctionne à l’intuitif. Mes « héros » ont un point commun : une trajectoire de vie originale, une énergie et une grande créativité. Ils appartiennent à des mondes et des domaines opposés, des artistes, des sportifs, des entrepreneurs. Ils ont une envie commune : faire passer un message d’optimisme à la jeune génération.
Pouvez-vous me donner quelques exemples ?
J’ai eu la chance de rencontrer de « vrais » personnages. Avec une certaine notoriété, les reportages se sont enchaînés. Voici quelques noms : Jacques Séguéla (le self made man de la Pub) ? Pierre Hazki (fondateur de Rue89), Colette Maze (pianiste centenaire), Hubert Reeves (Nous sommes des poussières d’étoiles), etc… Roger Dambron (l’inventeur du portrait-robot), votre Papa !
Quelles sont les qualités indispensables pour être réalisateur biographe comme vous ?
Il faut avant tout être curieux de tout, ouvrir les yeux sur tout ce qui est différent, vouloir apprendre de tous.
J’instaure d’abord une relation de confiance. C’est indispensable pour que ces personnages se confient à moi, et qu’ils aient l’assurance que mon but n’est pas de souligner quelques faiblesses, mais bien de mettre en lumière leur originalité, leurs exploits ou actions remarquables.
Il faut surtout une grande capacité de concentration et d’écoute.
Lorsque vous le sujet est une personne très âgée, l’interrogez-vous de la même façon qu’une personne en pleine possession de ses moyens ?
Non, il y a des contraintes supplémentaires. Même si je suis très jeune, je suis sensible à la tragédie de perdre peu à peu ses capacités intellectuelles et physiques. Surtout lorsque j’ai étudié auparavant le passé flamboyant du « héros » de mon reportage, et que je le rencontre, aujourd’hui affaibli et sans défense. Cela me touche sincèrement. Alors je redouble de patience, même si l’élocution est difficile.
À combien estimez-vous le temps passé entre la première rencontre et la mise en ligne de la vidéo sur votre site ?
Cela dépend, car je conduis plusieurs reportages en même temps. Cela est fonction de mes rencontres, les contacts établis… Il faut alors que je jongle entre les projets. Il peut s’écouler quelques semaines, voire six mois avant que la vidéo ne soit finalisée.
Nous sommes heureux de vous présenter notre documentaire PUNCH (en anglais) ou PANACHE (en français)
Basé sur des interviews de plusieurs personnalités de divers horizons avec un seul point commun: REALISER SON REVE.
Réalisé par Steven, journaliste du site www.racinesolaire.com et Mister Puma, cascadeur urbain, le documentaire PUNCH est le fruit de rencontres et quête personnel.
L’idée de transmettre des messages positifs comme: le dépassement de soi, rester intact à travers des épreuves de la vie, la place des femmes, le couple, l’environnement, la maladie font partis des valeurs de notre projet.
Au total, c’est près de 40 personnalités comme Philippe Croizon, homme amputé des 4 membres qui à traversé la Manche à la nage, Hubert Reeves, Astrophysicien, Christine Janin, première femme qui a traversée le pôle Nord sans matériel, ni traîneau, Robert Marchand, cycliste centenaire, Anne-France Dautheville, première femme ayant réalisée le tour du monde en moto et pleins d’autres…qui ont acceptés d’être filmés pour vous encourager à croire en vous et vous lancer à écrire votre Histoire.
Projection d’une avant-première:
Avant de lancer notre projet dans plusieurs festivals, nous allons organiser une avant-première avec tous les intervenants ainsi que leurs proches.
Vous êtes également le bienvenu en fonction de la capacité de la salle.
C’est l’occasion pour vous d’échanger avec eux et nous rencontrer.
Produit par: Racine Solaire et UVW
Réalisation: Steven et Mister Puma
Caméra, Montage: Mister Puma
Voix-off: Simone Hérault
Textes: Ségolène Quenin et Céline Garneri
Retranscription en Français: Mélanie André
Traduction en Anglais: Nathalie Charre
Illustration couverture: Elen Ture
source interview – crédit photo: Racine Solaire – Avec la participation du JDBN
Moët Hennessy arrêtera « fin 2020 » l’utilisation des herbicides dans tous ses vignobles de Champagne, et en 2021 dans ceux de la région de Cognac, a annoncé son PDG Philippe Schaus lors du salon Wine Paris-Vinexpo.
« Fin 2020 en Champagne, nous allons complètement arrêter les herbicides, et nous allons construire un nouveau centre de recherche et développement en Champagne d’une valeur de 20 millions d’euros », a déclaré M. Schaus lors d’un entretien avec l’AFP.
« Pour le cognac, nous arrêterons un an plus tard », a précisé le dirigeant, qui a succédé en 2017 à Christophe Navarre à la tête de la filiale vins et spiritueux du groupe de luxe LVMH.
« Nous remplaçons les herbicides par le désherbage mécanique grâce notamment à des tracteurs électriques et des robots » a-t-il dit.
Le groupe a investi dans une douzaine de tracteurs enjambeurs électriques élaborés par le constructeur champenois Kremer, d’un coût de 200.000 euros l’unité.
D’octobre à mars, pour ne pas tasser les sols détrempés, une partie des vignobles sera désherbée en écopâturage par des moutons, a précisé Stanislas Milcent, directeur de la recherche et développement dans le secteur environnement.
« C’est une étape, pour la vingtaine de maisons du groupe, pour la plupart nées aux 18e et 19e siècles, et qui portent le développement durable dans leurs gènes », a souligné le PDG. Parmi ces maisons figurent en Champagne les marques Dom Perignon, Moët et Chandon, Mercier, Ruinart, Veuve Cliquot et Krug.
Outre en Champagne (nord-est de la France) et dans la région de Cognac (sud-ouest), Moët Hennessy exploite des vignes en Provence (sud-est), en Espagne, en Argentine, dans la Napa Valley aux Etats-Unis, en Chine, en Inde, en Australie et en Nouvelle-Zélande.
A la différence de son concurrent Roederer dont une bonne partie des vignobles champenois sont menés en bio, Moët Hennessy ne se convertit par pour autant au bio, qui interdirait le recours à tous les produits phytosanitaires de synthèse, herbicides, mais aussi insecticides et fongicides.
« Nous n’allons pas chercher les labels, nous cherchons à protéger les sols », commente M. Schaus. « Notre objectif est de faire en sorte que dans 150 ans on fasse encore les meilleurs vins en France. »
Le château du Galoupet à La Londe-les-Maures entre Hyères et Bormes-les-Mimosas, l’un des 18 crus classés de Provence, racheté en 2019 par LVMH, va néanmoins « devenir bio », a-t-il dit. « Le terroir le permet de manière pérenne. »
Interrogé sur l’utilisation des pesticides, M. Schaus a répondu que l’objectif du groupe était d’en mettre « le moins possible », et « là où on peut, de ne pas en mettre du tout », ainsi que de « limiter le plus possible » l’utilisation du cuivre.
Selon la latitude, le climat, « les solutions ne sont pas les mêmes », et « personne n’a encore trouvé la solution parfaite » permettant de se passer complètement d’intrants chimiques, a ajouté M. Schaus.
Le groupe espère que son annonce va faire évoluer l’ensemble de la Champagne et propose d’accompagner les viticulteurs qui s’engagent dans des démarches similaires.
Pour l’instant, à peine plus de 2% des viticulteurs champenois sont en bio.
© AFP – crédit photo: pixabay
Lors d'un concert exceptionnel qui a eu lieu à Toulouse le 12 février dernier, les 2 artistes Bigflo et Oli ont reversé l'intégralité de leur recette au Secours populaire, soit 500.000 euros.
Cet article Les rappeurs Bigflo et Oli offrent 500.000 euros au Secours Populaire est apparu en premier sur Pepsnews - Le site des news positives.
Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):
Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.
Start your robots! Next week DARPA will kick off the Urban Circuit competition, the second of four robotics competitions that are part of its Subterranean Challenge.
We’re going to have a Urban Circuit preview post with all the details on Monday, a Q&A with DARPA SubT program manager Tim Chung on Tuesday, a follow-up with the teams on their preparations on Wednesday, and a post on how to watch the livestream on Thursday.
For now, watch Team Explorer from CMU and Oregon State testing some of their robots ahead of the competition.
In stage two of DARPA’s Subterranean Challenge, a team from Carnegie Mellon University and Oregon State will send robots into the depths of an incomplete nuclear power plant in a search-and-rescue scenario in Elma, Washington. Team Explorer’s machines will scale stairs and search for artifacts in the "Urban Circuit."
[ Team Explorer ]
We could watch these expandifying objects all day.
ExpandFab is a fabrication method for creating expanding objects using foam materials. The printed objects change their shape and volume, which is advantageous for reducing the printing time and transportation costs. For the fabrication of expanding objects, we investigated a basic principle of the expansion rate and developed materials by mixing a foam powder and elastic adhesive. Furthermore, we developed a fabrication method using the foam materials. A user can design expanded objects using our design software and sets the expansion areas on the surface. The software simulates and exports the 3d model into a three-dimensional (3D) printer. The 3D printer prints the expandable object by curing with ultraviolet light. Finally, the user heats the printed objects, and the objects expand to maximum approximately 2.7 times of their original size. ExpandFab allows users to prototype products that expand and morph into various shapes, such as objects changing from one shape to various shapes, and functional prototype with electronic components. In this paper, we describe the basic principle of this technique, implementation of the software and hardware, application examples, limitations and discussions, and future works.
This new robot vacuum from Panasonic can prop itself up to drive over thick rugs and even go over small steps and bumps up to 2.5 centimeters high.
Apparently it does SLAM, though it’s not clear what kind of sensor it’s using. And at 1:05, is that a “follow me” feature?
Cybathlon needs you!
Robert Riener from ETH Zurich tells us that the Cybathlon organizers “still need many volunteers” to help with multiple phases of the event. Learn more about it here.
From 2nd to 3rd ETH Zurich’s CYBATHLON 2020 takes place in May. The CYBATHLON is a unique competition in which people with disabilities measure themselves when completing everyday tasks using the latest technical assistance systems.
Greet and look after international teams in the SWISS Arena in Kloten and help with the competition or with the assembly and dismantling! Are you in?
Register now as a volunteer http://www.cybathlon.com/volunteers
[ CYBATHLON ]
Happy Valentine’s Day from Robotiq!
[ Robotiq ]
In case you missed our story yesterday, Iranian researchers at the University of Tehran have unveiled a new humanoid robot called Surena IV.
[ IEEE Spectrum ]
Great, first those self-healing liquid metal robot tendons, and now this. How soon until T-1000?
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the UT Dallas have introduced a soft, multifunctional composite that remains electrically conductive when stretched and exhibits a number of other desirable properties for soft robotics and stretchable electronics.
[ CMU ]
Hey, it’s not just BotJunkie who likes to hug robots!
Roboy is not only the most human Robot, with it’s muscles and tendons - it’s also the most cuddly! At CIIE in November 2019, Roboy has been hugging more than 2800 people - connecting robots to humans and building relationships that last
[ Roboy ]
In the Dominican Republic, this initiative is using DJI drones to deliver supplies to rural communities.
Traditional methods of delivering medicine to rural communities have not been considered the most efficient solutions. Patients in smaller areas of the Dominican Republic, for example, would often go weeks without receiving the care they needed, increasing mortality rates. A reliable and cost-efficient solution became necessary. Thankfully, drone technology would answer the call. Watch how powerful equipment like the Matrice 600, and a strong collaboration between the local medical staff, Ministry of Health, WeRobotics and the Drone Innovation Center, has led to increased efficiency during important medical deliveries.
[ DJI ]
We’ve already seen some robots helping to fight the coronavirus outbreak. Here are some more.
This one is used for deliveries of food and medication:
[ New China TV ]
“The BOT-chelor” LOL
Who would you pick?
[ Sphero ]
Impressive demo of a real-time SLAM technique developed by SLAMcore, a startup spun out of Imperial College London.
This video was created in real-time running on the CPU of the Jetson TX2. The final map is sub cm accurate and only a few megabytes in size.
[ SLAMcore ]
We heart coffee indeed.
Kawasaki's coffee cobot, duAro, operates an espresso machine, and uses precise movements to pour steamed milk in the shape of a heart.
How do you grasp hollow, deformable objects? Researchers at the Technical University of Munich are on the case.
[ Jingyi Xu ]
Some robots can use the same type of limb to walk and swim. But it would be even better if the robot’s limbs could change their shape to better adapt to different environments. Yale researchers are working on a possible implementation of this idea, inspired by sea turtles.
Most robots operate either exclusively on land or in water. Toward building an amphibious legged robot, we present a morphing limb that can adapt its structure and stiffness for amphibious operation. We draw inspiration for the limb’s design from the morphologies of sea turtle flippers and land-faring tortoise legs. Turtles and tortoises have rigid hulls that can be emulated in amphibious robots to provide a convenient, protected volume for motors, electronics, power supply, and payloads. Each of these animals’ limbs are tailored for locomotion in their respective environments. A sea turtle flipper has a streamlined profile to reduce drag, making it apt for swimming. A land tortoise leg boasts a strong, expanded cross-section conducive to load-bearing. We capture the morphological advantages of both animals’ limbs in our morphing limb via a variable stiffness composite coupled to a pneumatic actuator system that enables on-demand transitions between leg and flipper configurations. We control the degree of stiffness of the limb by varying electrical input to flexible heaters bound to the thermally responsive variable stiffness composite. The proposed morphing amphibious limb design is promising for enabling the next generation of hybrid soft-rigid robots to adapt to unstructured environments.
[ Yale Faboratory ]
Sorting recyclable waste: A job that we should definitely let robots steal from humans.
Recyclable waste sorting is mostly performed by manual labor in dull, dirty and dangerous environments. There are less and less people willing to perform these tasks and more and more recycling to be processed. A task like this is ideal for automation, but the challenge of recognizing and extracting random looking objects in a random stream of waste is very difficult. Newly available Artificial intelligence (AI) now enables these complex applications.
Current systems have limited recognition and extraction technologies that limit the quality of sorted material. Waste Robotics has developed a computer vision system that enables real-time recognition of objects in a random stream while dispatching robot commands to perform efficient and high-quality sorting to enable a circular economy.
[ FANUC ]
We aren’t sure why a flying robot is the best way of doing this task but the drone hitting the target with the rope at 0:20 is pretty cool.
This movie shows the successful test of a TugDrone, developed by Delft Dynamics and KOTUG. The drone delivers the ’heaving’ line from the the tugboat to a vessel. This improves safety on board both the vessel and the tugboat. This innovation supports the credo of KOTUG International: ’Ahead in Towage’.
[ Delft Dynamics ]
We were in Rwanda and Tanzania last year to see how drones are helping to deliver blood and medicine. See our full coverage and 3D videos here.
Three amazing days of #ADF2020 in Kigali has just wrapped up. See the highlights from the first African Drone Forum.
The IEEE Robotics and Automation Society continues to post more conference keynotes to its YouTube channel. This one is from ICRA 2018 by Louis Whitcomb from Johns Hopkins University on “Extreme Robotics: Underwater Robotic Exploration of the Karasik Seamount.”
[ IEEE RAS ]
This is a guest post. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE.
The environmental impact of artificial intelligence (AI) has been a hot topic as of late—and I believe it will be a defining issue for AI this decade. The conversation began with a recent study from the Allen Institute for AI that argued for the prioritization of “Green AI” efforts that focus on the energy efficiency of AI systems.
This study was motivated by the observation that many high-profile advances in AI have staggering carbon footprints. A 2018 blog post from OpenAI revealed that the amount of compute required for the largest AI training runs has increased by 300,000 times since 2012. And while that post didn’t calculate the carbon emissions of such training runs, others have done so. According to a paper by Emma Strubel and colleagues, an average American is responsible for about 36,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year; training and developing one machine translation model that uses a technique called neural architecture search was responsible for an estimated 626,000 tons of CO2.
Unfortunately, these so-called “Red AI” projects may be even worse from an environmental perspective than what’s being reported, as a project’s total cost in time, energy, and money is typically an order of magnitude more than the cost of generating the final reported results.
Moreover, the reality is that some high-profile areas of Red AI—like developing new object-detection models to improve autonomous navigation in complex environments, or learning rich text representations from massive amounts of unstructured web data—will continue to remain off-limits to everyone but the researchers with the most resources (in other words, those working for big tech companies). The sheer size of the datasets and cost of compute required keeps out smaller players.
So what can be done to push Green AI forward? And should we prioritize Green AI at all costs?
Many of today’s Red AI projects are pushing science forward in natural language processing, computer vision, and other important areas of AI. While their carbon costs may be significant today, the potential for positive societal impact is also significant.
As an analogy, consider the Human Genome Project (HGP), which took US $2.7 billion and 13 years to map the human genome. The HGP’s outcome was originally viewed as a mixed bag due to its cost and the dearth of immediate scientific breakthroughs. Now, however, we can map an individual’s genome in a few hours for around $100 using sequencing technology that relies on the main artifact of the HGP (the reference genome). While the HGP lacked in efficiency, it nonetheless helped pave the way for personalized medicine.
Similarly, it’s critical to measure both the input and the output of RedAI projects. Many of the artifacts produced by RedAI experiments (for example, image representations for object recognition, or word embeddings in natural language processing) are enabling rapid advances in a wide range of applications.
Yet regardless of its underlying scientific merits, RedAI isn’t sustainable, due to both environmental concerns and the barriers of entry that it introduces. To continue the analogy, the HGP did succeed in sequencing the human genome, but novel DNA sequencing technologies were required to drastically reduce costs and make genome sequencing broadly accessible. The AI community simply must aim to reduce energy consumption when building deep learning models.
Here are my suggestions for steps that would turn the industry toward Green AI:
Emphasize reproducibility: Reproducibility, and sharing of intermediate artifacts, is crucial to increasing efficiency of AI development. Too often, AI research is published without code, or else researchers find that they can’t reproduce results even with the code. Additionally, researchers can face internal hurdles in making their work open source. These factors are significant drivers of Red AI today, as they can force duplicated efforts and prevent efficient sharing. This situation is changing slowly, as conferences like NeurIPS are now requiring reproducible code submissions along with research papers.
Increase hardware performance: We’re currently witnessing a proliferation of specialized hardware that not only offers better performance on deep learning tasks, but also increased efficiency (performance per watt). The AI community’s demand for GPUs led to Google’s development of TPUs and pushed the entire chip market toward more specialized products. In the next few years we’ll see NVIDIA, Intel, SambaNova, Mythic, Graphcore, Cerebras, and other companies bring more focus to hardware for AI workloads.
Understand deep learning: We know that deep learning works. But although the technique’s roots go back several decades, we as a research community still don’t fully understand how or why it works. Uncovering the underlying science behind deep learning, and formally characterized its strengths and limitations, would help guide the development of more accurate and efficient models.
Democratize deep learning: Pushing the limit on deep learning’s accuracy remains an exciting area of research, but as the saying goes, “perfect is the enemy of good.” Existing models are already accurate enough to be deployed in a wide range of applications. Nearly every industry and scientific domain can benefit from deep learning tools. If many people in many sectors are working on the technology, we’ll be more likely to see surprising innovations in performance and energy efficiency.
Partner more: Most of the world’s largest companies don’t have the talent to build AI efficiently, but their leaders realize that AI and deep learning will be key components of future products and services. Rather than go it alone, companies should look for partnerships with startups, incubators, and universities to jumpstart their AI strategies.
While it’s easy to look at a self-driving car whizzing down a road in Silicon Valley and think that we’ve reached a technological peak, it’s important to understand we’re still in the very early days of AI.
In aviation, the “pioneer age” of flight in the early 1900s was characterized by incredibly important but slow progress coming from disparate projects around the world. Fifty years later, in the “jet age,” the aviation industry had developed a continuous cycle of advancement, making planes bigger, safer, faster, and more fuel efficient. Why? Because fundamental advances in engineering (such as turbine engines) and society (such as the advent of regulatory agencies) provided the necessary building blocks and infrastructure to democratize powered flight.
The 2020s may see incredible advances in AI, but in terms of infrastructure and efficient use of energy we’re still in the pioneer age. As AI research progresses, we must insist that the best platforms, tools, and methodologies for building models are easy to access and reproducible. That will lead to continuous improvements in energy-efficient AI.
Ameet Talwalkar is an assistant professor in the Machine Learning Department at Carnegie Mellon University, and also co-founder and chief scientist at Determined AI. He led the initial development of the MLlib project in Apache Spark, is a co-author of the textbook Foundations of Machine Learning (MIT Press), and created an award-winning edX MOOC on distributed machine learning.
Sandy Ong is an independent science journalist based in Singapore. For IEEE Spectrum, she often writes about the quest for better batteries. Ong also covers stories about health, tech, and the environment in Asia and beyond. Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Newsweek, WiredUK, and other publications. You may have even heard her on BBC Radio 5 Live’s “Up All Night” if you were listening at just the right time. Ong holds a bachelor’s degree in life sciences and a master’s degree in forensic science, and is a graduate of New York University’s Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program.
To keep us connected, our smartphones constantly switch between networks. They jump from cellular networks to public Wi-Fi networks in cafes, to corporate or university Wi-Fi networks at work, and to our own Wi-Fi networks at home. But we rarely have any input into the security and privacy settings of the networks to which we connect. In many cases, it would be tough to even figure out what those settings are.
A team at Northeastern University is developing personal virtual networks to give everyone more control over their online activities and how their information is shared. Those networks would allow a person’s devices to connect to cellular and Wi-Fi networks—but only on their terms.
The personal virtual network (PVN) evolved from the idea that users should be able to specify their own security and privacy controls.
“We're roaming around, we're constantly connecting to other networks or to cell network providers, and they don't let us configure the network in ways that we want,” says David Choffnes, an associate professor of computer science at Northeastern University. “Or you go to an airport Wi-Fi or a cafe Wi-Fi and who knows what they're doing with your network traffic.”
There are ways to protect your privacy in these situations, but they often require consumers to make changes to the device’s software. Choffnes studies Internet services built on top of existing networks. Such services might, for example, check if the network provider is throttling Internet traffic or if an app is sharing a user’s data without permission.
Now, Choffnes wants to make a tool that operates inside the network itself, and allows users to define parameters such as validating Transport Layer Security (TLS) certificates, running a malware scanner, and blocking third-party trackers. In 2018, the National Science Foundation awarded Choffnes a five-year grant to design the new architecture to support PVNs.
A mobile device with a PVN would ask the network provider to create a tunnel from the device to the provider’s servers—and all online activity would occur within that virtual environment. The network operator would use a configuration file stored on the mobile device to create the virtual environment to the user’s specifications on top of the existing network.
When the user moves out of range of that network and connects to another one, the device would set up a new virtual environment on top of the new network, using the same settings. “It’s a virtual network that is yours. It is attached to you. You actually can bring it along with your mobile device,” Choffnes says.
PVNs rely on software-defined-networking (SDN) to create networks on-demand, isolate workloads, and handle load distribution. With software-defined networking, operators define rules to evaluate the type of traffic flowing through the network and to perform specific actions to optimize how that traffic is being routed.
Software-defined networking isn’t a perfect fit for PVNs yet, though, as the network (and underlying hardware) has to be able to allocate resources to individual networks such that the demands of maintaining one PVN doesn’t impact others on the network.
For example, software-defined networking lets operators set up a corporate network with a set of configuration rules that apply to all users. PVNs, on the other hand, sets up a different network for each user, each with their own settings. A single ISP can have millions of simultaneous users—so that’s a lot of potential networks, each with different requirements. SDN isn’t currently designed to handle that kind of scenario.
“Scale problems are always hard problems to solve,” says Kirner. “Sometimes that requires architecting and rethinking things.”
Choffnes and Shuwen Jethro Sun, a PhD student, have spent the past year and a half researching new tools and methods to scale SDN without creating any bandwidth or resource bottlenecks. PVNs can potentially handle tasks such as validating Transport Layer Security certificates, performing packet inspections, and caching website content. But it’s not possible to know beforehand just how much bandwidth any PVN will need, as it depends on what the user wants to do.
“We need to develop new models of PVN workloads and better understand how to dynamically adapt to their changing demands on the network,” Choffnes says. “We need to develop systems that manage this complexity, ensuring that PVNs are deployed correctly and do not harm the host network.”
It’s early days for the personal virtual network but Choffnes says the goal is to get the project to a point where he can approach ISPs such as Comcast about testing on their networks during the next academic year. Customer pilots are still a long way off, as initial testing would be on non-production traffic, in a separate environment.
More funding could potentially speed the time to deployment, originally estimated at five years from the time the NSF grant was awarded in 2018. “We’re in a place where having one or even two more people working on this could take that timeline of five years and bring it down to the three to four [years] range,” Choffnes says.
Either way, PVNs won’t have to be widely adopted by network operators to prove useful. Even if only some providers offer them, users will benefit when they’re on those networks and their devices will still function when they switch away. But deploying PVNs on any network will take time. “It really is going to be an incremental process,” says Choffnes.
For owners of electric vehicles, range anxiety—the fear of running out of power before the next charging station—is real. Car manufacturers, keen to bring EVs to the mass market, have for years sought alternatives that could store more charge than today’s lithium-ion batteries.
One option is lithium-air, and a team of researchers has invented a new type of cathode that they claim can lengthen the life of such batteries. In a study published in Applied Catalysis B: Environmental, the team from South Korea and Thailand describe how they coated nickel cobalt sulfide nanoflakes onto a graphene cathode doped with sulfur. The result: an electrode that boasts both improved electrical conductivity and catalytic activity.
Batteries usually generate electrical energy through a redox reaction. In the case of lithium-air batteries, lithium from the anode gets oxidized while oxygen molecules are reduced at the cathode. The resulting product is lithium peroxide (Li2O2).
The cathode is supposedly where the magic happens. Because oxygen can be supplied continuously from air rather than stored in finite amounts within the cell, lithium-air batteries can theoretically provide an energy density 10 times that of their lithium-ion cousins. And the more lithium peroxide that accumulates on the graphite cathode, the higher the battery’s charge capacity.
Modifying the carbon cathode with sulfur makes it easier for lithium peroxide to stick to it, says Hoster. “The sulfur atoms provide local glue spots, anchoring points for things to stick to,” he says.
Sulfur also provides additional benefits to the battery, says physical chemist Sangaraju Shanmugam from Korea’s Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology, and one of the paper’s co-authors. Because sulfur atoms are much larger in size compared with their carbon counterparts, sulfur-doping the cathode expands the porous carbon lattice structure, increasing its surface area. “When this happens, the electrons can move about better within the graphene and so electrical conductivity is improved,” says Shanmugam.
Coating the cathode surface with nickel cobalt sulfide nanoflakes provides an added boost by increasing catalytic activity. “Sulfur interacts with the metal sites in nickel cobalt sulfide, and there’s a strong synergistic interaction between the graphene surface and nanoflakes,” explains Shanmugam.
The flakes also form a protective layer between the cathode surface and resulting lithium peroxide discharge product, which is highly corrosive. The result is a much improved battery cyclability—just over 1,700 hours, or more than two months—which Shanmugam says is “one of the strongest points” of their invention. The specific discharge capacity is also “ultra high” at nearly 14,200 milliampere hour per gram (mAh/g). A patent is pending in Korea for the new technology.
“The materials they have proposed are very, very interesting...and it looks like they’re the first to bring this to the community,” says Lancaster’s Hoster. But he is cautious about how optimistic the results really are.
The system needs to be tested more robustly, he says. To properly gauge electrocatalytic activity, the researchers should have done a cyclic voltammogram (a type of test where an external voltage is applied and varied to see how battery current changes correspondingly) at high, rather than low, speeds. Furthermore, the discharge experiment they conducted is too shallow (stopping at a specific capacity of 1,000 mAH/g) to be considered a proper stress test, because “you don’t produce much of the side products that cause the battery to fade in the long run,” Hoster says.
He also highlights the battery’s low charging efficiency, which is a measure of how much energy you get compared with the energy you put into charging it. Energy loss can result due to heat production or unwanted side reactions that take place at the electrodes. At roughly 65 percent, it’s 15 to 25 percent lower than what we would expect from lithium-ion batteries. This is one of a number of concerns that continue to plague the use of lithium-air batteries. Others include what to do with the chemically aggressive lithium peroxide byproduct that forms, which requires a high charging voltage to remove, can decompose the electrolyte, and subsequently limit a battery’s cycle life.
The pure lithium anode also poses a problem. Highly reactive, lithium can ignite when exposed to water and other elements. Then there’s the issue of the air itself. While supplying oxygen to batteries works fine in a lab, it isn’t feasible for electric vehicles running on roads. Utilizing air is the goal, but you would first have to remove battery-damaging impurities such as carbon dioxide and water vapor.
These developmental challenges have dampened the enthusiasm for lithium-air batteries in recent years, with companies such as IBM and the U.S.-funded Joint Center for Energy Storage Research abandoning their research in favor of other next-gen battery types. Even the Faraday Institute, a U.K. institution that has poured £65 million into battery research, decided to invest in lithium-sulfur batteries over lithium-air batteries in its last funding round because they thought the former was “also risky but more realistic,” says Hoster.
“It’s been a sobering reality...the lithium-oxygen battery is a bit like what nuclear fusion is in the big technologies,” he says. “There are big potential wins, but there are many loose ends.”
However, because lithium-air batteries have an energy density that is potentially 10 times higher than that of traditional lithium-ion ones, “there’s still a big game to be played,” says Hoster. “But one has to manage expectations.”
What would it take to be as free as a bird—flying above the treetops with the wind in your face and the world far beneath your feet?
For Mariah Cain and Jeff Elkins, the team behind DragonAir Aviation of Panama City Beach, Fla., the answer is a personal flying machine that makes the pilot look like a skier grasping two poles, standing atop an oversized hobby drone. For Stephen Tibbitts, who built the Zero-emissions Electric Vehicle Aircraft (ZEVA) ZERO in Tacoma, Wash., it was a bulbous eight-foot disc in which a pilot lies prone, sped across the sky by eight propellers.
Maybe you’d design something different—like a tiny helicopter, open to the breeze? Or a lounge chair surrounded by a ring of rotors? How about a gondola with two sets of blades at its base? Or your machine might resemble a flying motorcycle, with rotors clustered in front and back.
Those are just some of the machines, many of them conceived by startups, built for a competition started by GoFly, a New York-based tech incubator. It plans to offer a US $1 million grand prize to the winners of a fly-off at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California from 27 to 29 February.
GoFly says more than 850 teams from 103 countries entered; they’re now down to five finalists for the grand prize, plus some 20 other contestants who will compete for additional prizes. There will be multiple winners: $250,000 prizes will go to the smallest and quietest vehicles, and $100,000 will be awarded to the best “disruptor.”
Boeing is the largest corporate sponsor of the competition, and organizations including Pratt & Whitney, Dell Technologies, and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics have also lent funding or expertise. The project is the brainchild of Gwen Lighter, the founder and CEO of GoFly.
“We said to all our teams, ‘What the device looks like and how it works is up to you,’” she said, “which is why there is such a wide range of designs within the GoFly competition.”
GoFly has set some basic requirements: The vehicle must be able to fly 32 kilometers (20 miles) safely at a speed of at least 55.5 kilometers per hour, carry at least 90 kilograms of pilot and equipment, and not exceed a noise maximum of 87 decibels. It can be no longer than 2.5 meters.
One major requirement is that the vehicles be designed for vertical takeoffs and landings, or something close to it—conventional aircraft, which require long runways, need not apply. The flyers can use batteries, gasoline, or aviation fuel. Beyond that—well, the sky is more or less the limit.
DragonAir’s battery-powered Airboard 2.0 won’t fly itself, but Cain, who works both as the company’s president and test pilot, says a newcomer could safely work the controls (there almost are none) with very little practice.
“You strap in your feet, and then you stand up and you pull the trigger with your right hand and that’s the throttle,” she said. “Once you get up in the air, you just lean your body in the direction you want to go, and you’re off. The computers onboard do all the work, so it’s constantly stabilizing itself, with gyroscopes and accelerometers. Basically, it wants to be level all the time.”
ZEVA’s Tibbitts, an electrical engineer by training and an entrepreneur by temperament, says he can imagine a time when personal flyers are ubiquitous, controlled by artificial intelligence and powered by zero-emission batteries or fuel cells. They will fly from building to building, freeing occupants from the limitations of ground vehicles or conventional planes.
“It’s going to be so exciting to expose this to the world,” he said. “I believe this is truly the largest economic paradigm shift in our lifetimes.”
All this may sound like an unlikely revolution—how many times have we been promised flying cars?—but GoFly’s backers say artificial intelligence, lightweight materials, and improved power sources are all reaching critical mass. Together, these technologies can make personal flight more than a pipe dream.
“There has been a convergence of breakthrough technologies that make this truly the first moment that we actually have the ability to make people fly,” said Lighter.
Tibbitts says he believes, eventually, the rise of personal flying vehicles will transform our lives. “It’s going to change everything,” he said. “It’s not going to happen overnight, of course, but we have finally entered the age of the Jetsons. And I think this year is when the world finds out about that.”
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