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The Atlas robot is getting better at chasing you down

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Boston Dynamics’ upright-and-walking-on-two-legs Atlas robot is a slightly terrifying while simultaneously an amazing piece of technology. But during its initial demos the DARPA-funded automaton needed a clear and fairly even path to walk. Now thanks to researchers at the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IMHC), Atlas is ready to go almost everywhere. Just very very slowly.

The researchers at the institute created a new algorithm for Atlas that helps the robot maintain its balance while navigating difficult terrain like the angled cinder blocks in the video. IMHC notes that it employed “fast, dynamics stepping with the use of angular momentum (lunging of the upper body)” to achieve the feat.

But as the video shows, Atlas isn’t exactly sprinting over those blocks. But thanks to the research and new algorithm eventually Atlas–or other giant and slightly scary robot–will be able to navigate into areas that are unsafe for humans without fear that they’ll just fall over if they steps on a rock wrong.

Source: Engadget

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Astro’s Luna Display will turn your iPad’s front camera into a clever button

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Astro’s Luna Display hardware dongle is a dream for anyone who wants their iPad to act as a second screen for their Mac – wirelessly. Now, the company has revealed a clever update that turns the front-facing camera of your iPad into a neat, contextual button that gives you access to a range of features without cluttering up your user interface.

In case you missed it, Luna Display is a small USB dongle that you plug into your Mac, which talks to an app on your iPad to turn it into a second screen for your computer, with no lag and terrific visual fidelity. I’ve tested a prototype, and it really does work as advertised, complete with touch input and support for Apple Pencil.

Now, they’re revealing the Camera Button, which is essentially a way to hide the extra UI features that Astro wanted to add to Luna, aimed at creative pros and power users. To access a tray of menu items that let you adjust screen brightness and alter the display arrangement quickly and easily, you can just place your finger over the front-facing camera on the iPad using the Luna app to quickly call and hide a sidebar menu.

It’s a super cool use of iPad hardware, turning something that isn’t a button into one without requiring any awkward hardware add-ons or Bluetooth accessories. To maintain user privacy, Astro also blurs the image coming in from the camera when it taps into the hardware to ensure anonymity. Also, Luna put the same function into the iPad volume buttons in case you’d rather not use the camera this way.

© 2017, Paul Umoh. All rights reserved.

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It’s just gotten a lot easier to reprint keys from photographs

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If you’re in the business of opening locked doors for business or pleasure, it just got a little easier. Using a parametric file for SCAD, you can easily recreate a Kwikset key with a few keystrokes.

Kwikset is particularly vulnerable because it has only five pins and five positions – 1 being not cut at all and 5 being cut very deeply. This means you can look at an image of a Kwikset key and estimate how deep or shallow a key cut is, then plug in those measurements into this CAD file and print a key in a few minutes. Having physical access to the key makes it even easier. The SCAD file also changes based on the entered values, following the geometry of the keying system precisely.

Dave Pedu used this technique to print a few very basic keys on his Flashforge Creator Pro in ABS. He says he snapped off a few keys while working to build the final working product but he was able to open his lock quickly and easily using the final product. He does warn that new keys might not work as well.

“So, the verdict is – Yes! You can 3D print working copies of real keys. I suspect a new, tight lock might not work as well – mine is worn and it certainly helped,” he wrote.

Remember, friends, don’t post your keys on social media but if you have a Kwikset lock it might behoove you to measure the teeth as a sort of offline, digital backup.

© 2017, Paul Umoh. All rights reserved.

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Samsung’s new connected tags monitor pets or kids for a week on a single charge

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Samsung has something worth your time if you like to keep tabs on kids, pets or other cherished items. The Korea electronics giant just announced Connect Tag, a small internet-enabled device that tracks location and lasts a week between charges.

In other words, this is a similar offering to existing electronic tagging devices from the likes of Tile, the U.S. startup that pulled in $25 million earlier this year and has picked up nearly $60 million from investors to date.

Tile offers more flexibility on form factor but Samsung has gone for the clean white look with the Connect Tag, which measures 4.21 cm x 1.19 cm. The company puts that one-week battery life down to its use of narrowband network technology — a standard that optimizes power usage through more conservative use of data — and it claims its tags are the first of their kind to utilize it.

On the tech side, Samsung is using a combination GPS, Wi-Fi-based positioning and Cell ID to triangulate a device’s location with accuracy. It also works with Samsung’s SmartThings ecosystem, which means you could set up a geofence around your house, for example, to trigger lights or switch on the TV automatically when you (and your tag) return home.

More standard notification options include a location finder Android app, which pulls up the location at the push of a button, and periodic notifications that keep you regularly informed on the location of a child or, say, a pet when you are at the office or elsewhere.

We don’t have a price yet, but the Samsung Connect Tag will go on sale in Korea first before expanding to other countries “in the coming months.”

© 2017, Paul Umoh. All rights reserved.

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