Author: Devin Coldewey

This robot arm’s AI thinks like we do about how to grab something

TECHCRUNCH Robots are great at doing things they’ve been shown how to do, but when presented with a novel problem, such as an unfamiliar shape that needs to be gripped, they tend to choke. AI is helping there in the form of systems like Dex-Net, which uses deep learning to let a robotic arm improvise an effective grip for objects it’s never seen before. The basic idea behind the system is rather like how we figure out how to pick things up. You see an object, understand its shape and compare it to other objects you’ve picked up in...

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Feast your eyes on this 600-DPI e-paper screen

TECHCRUNCH I have to say, I really like e-paper. And it’s come a long way since the crude early Kindles — nowadays you have e-readers that are as high-resolution as the best phones and iPads. And they’re set to get even better if E-Ink’s latest screens make it into a few products, as I hope they do. It’s Display Week in LA, which is exactly what it sounds like: All the display makers get together and admire each other’s displays. This year there’s no doubt a lot of talk around the water cooler about OLED, but E-Ink isn’t letting...

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These flat-pack turtlebots will crawl across minefields for safety’s sake

TECHCRUNCH The threat of minefields is an ongoing and horrifying one, and the duty of clearing them is as difficult as it is dangerous. All the more reason, then, that it should be done by robots! A new type of inexpensive, versatile bot modeled after turtles could be a great tool for this and other jobs. Ben Amor and Dan Dukes of Arizona State University were interested in the problem of how to deploy robots quickly to environments where their means of locomotion isn’t necessarily the best. For instance, if your bot has pointy feet and walks like a...

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Sony revamps its Digital Paper tablet with new screen and interface

TECHCRUNCH Sony’s mammoth 13-inch Digital Paper tablet, essentially a huge Kindle you can write on, is still a pretty rare sight, but I’ve always had a soft spot for it. So I’m glad the company is doubling down on this unique device type and making some significant improvements with a new model. The DPT-RP1 replaces the DPTS1 — catchy names, right? — and makes some changes that its users will certainly appreciate. The screen itself, built with E Ink’s Mobius display tech, has been upped from 1200×1600 to 1650×2200, which should make text considerably clearer (206 DPI — pretty...

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This ultra-twee soft robotic gripper was inspired by Venus flytraps

TECHCRUNCH The problem with tiny robots, if there can really be said to be one, is that you can’t put enough stuff on them. Cameras and motors don’t shrink down very well, meaning if you want your robot to grab something, you’d better come up with a new way to see it and hold onto it. And that’s just what Finnish researchers have done with this bio-inspired, super-small gripper. The researchers, from Tampere University of Technology, designed the gripper along the lines of the Venus flytrap, which waits patiently for something tasty to trigger its grip. In the flytrap,...

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Boeing will build DARPA’s XS-1 experimental spaceplane

TECHCRUNCH You can hear the champagne corks popping here in Seattle as Boeing is awarded the contract to make DARPA’s cool experimental spaceplane. The company was competing with Northrop Grumman and Masten Space Systems to design the craft. The XS-1, as it’s called, would allow for relatively cheap and simple trips to space for launching and testing satellites and all that sort of thing. The goal is to get costs down to as little as $5 million per launch all told, and be able to fly at least 10 times a year. It’s meant to be a fusion of...

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1Password adds a travel mode to frustrate snooping customs agents

TECHCRUNCH If you travel a lot, especially internationally, a new worry being added to the pile is the threat of being forced to unlock your phone for a customs agent. 1Password has a handy solution for this in the form of Travel Mode, which temporarily deauthorizes a device to access your passwords and accounts. It’s pretty simple: before you head out, you bundle the passwords you do want access to into a “vault” (it’s the 1Password terminology) marked “safe for travel.” When you hit the button for travel mode, all the other passwords you’ve saved will be completely removed...

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The FCC’s case against net neutrality rests on a fundamental, deliberate misunderstanding of how the internet works

TECHCRUNCH The FCC has just published the notice of proposed rulemaking that would roll back the 2015 Open Internet Order establishing net neutrality. Their first and primary justification for doing this is a way of defining broadband access that’s so backwards it’s ridiculous. It would be funny if the future of the internet didn’t depend on this incredibly disingenuous maneuvering. After the introductory bloviation and half-told history, the “Restoring Internet Freedom” proposal begins its argument in earnest. The first point they make is regarding the text of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, and how it defines “telecommunications service” (which is...

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