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Tiny claws let drones perch like birds and bats – TechCrunch



Drones are useful in countless ways, but that usefulness is often limited by the time they can stay in the air. Shouldn’t drones be able to take a load off too? With these special claws attached, they can perch or hang with ease, conserving battery power and vastly extending their flight time.

The claws, created by a highly multinational team of researchers I’ll list at the end, are inspired by birds and bats. The team noted that many flying animals have specially adapted feet or claws suited to attaching the creature to its favored surface. Sometimes they sit, sometimes they hang, sometimes they just kind of lean on it and don’t have to flap as hard.

As the researchers write:

In all of these cases, some suitably shaped part of the animal’s foot interacts with a structure in the environment and facilitates that less lift needs to be generated or that power flight can be completely suspended. Our goal is to use the same concept, which is commonly referred to as “perching,” for UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles].

“Perching,” you say? Go on…

We designed a modularized and actuated landing gear framework for rotary-wing UAVs consisting of an actuated gripper module and a set of contact modules that are mounted on the gripper’s fingers.

This modularization substantially increased the range of possible structures that can be exploited for perching and resting as compared with avian-inspired grippers.

Instead of trying to build one complex mechanism, like a pair of articulating feet, the team gave the drones a set of specially shaped 3D-printed static modules and one big gripper.

The drone surveys its surroundings using lidar or some other depth-aware sensor. This lets it characterize surfaces nearby and match those to a library of examples that it knows it can rest on.

Squared-off edges like those on the top right can be rested on as in A, while a pole can be balanced on as in B.

If the drone sees and needs to rest on a pole, it can grab it from above. If it’s a horizontal bar, it can grip it and hang below, flipping up again when necessary. If it’s a ledge, it can use a little cutout to steady itself against the corner, letting it shut off or all its motors. These modules can easily be swapped out or modified depending on the mission.

I have to say the whole thing actually seems to work remarkably well for a prototype. The hard part appears to be the recognition of useful surfaces and the precise positioning required to land on them properly. But it’s useful enough — in professional and military applications especially, one suspects — that it seems likely to be a common feature in a few years.

The paper describing this system was published in the journal Science Robotics. I don’t want to leave anyone out, so it’s by: Kaiyu Hang, Ximin Lyu, Haoran Song, Johannes A. Stork , Aaron M. Dollar, Danica Kragic and Fu Zhang, from Yale, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the University of Hong Kong, and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

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Researchers find four big reasons people become digital hoarders



Hoarding is a behavior that’s difficult to miss — it often involves filling one’s home and other spaces with a huge number of items that end up having a major impact on the hoarder’s life. Less visible is the growing issue of ‘digital hoarding,’ an activity that involves amassing huge amounts of digital content that one may find difficult to part with.

Unlike typical hoarding, digital hoarding is the activity of collecting a large amount of digital data without deleting content over time. This amassing of information may be deliberate, such as for archival purposes, but in other cases may be more passive, with someone merely growing their data over time by failing to regularly delete it.

This can include, for example, downloading huge collections of images with the idea that they may be useful one day; in other cases, someone may never delete their emails, ending up with an inbox containing thousands or tens of thousands of messages that are hard to sort through. According to a new study, digital hoarders can be split up into four different categories.

The four types of digital hoarders fall into one of the following categories: anxiety, disengagement, compliance and collection. Perhaps the basic of the four is the compliance category, which refers primarily to workplaces in which policy or practices result in employees retaining large amounts of digital data, such as old emails and spreadsheets.

While this category isn’t as much of a big deal at the personal level, the researchers point out that it may end up being a problem for companies, particularly if they were to suffer a data breach. Following the compliance category are the collectors — the users who behave in a way that could be defined as hoarding, but without the anxiety, disorganization, or company orders that motivate other types of digital hoarders.

Rounding out the categories are disengaged and anxious digital hoarders, which refers to people who amass large amounts of digital clutter due to being unorganized or worried that deleting data may end up getting rid of something that will be important in the future. The researchers note that companies may be able to reduce digital hoarding by reassuring employees about which information can be safely deleted, but more research is necessary to determine which strategies may help reduce overall digital hoarding behavior.

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New iPhone 6 throttling lawsuit gives Apple fresh headaches in Europe



Apple faces a new class-action lawsuit over iPhone throttling, with iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s owners in Europe seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages over how the Cupertino firm dealt with degrading batteries. The tweak, pushed out in iOS 10.2.1 back in 2017, quietly capped the maximum performance of several older iPhone models, after Apple realized that they could otherwise crash if demanding apps were run.

The problem, it turned out, came down to the natural degradation of lithium-ion batteries. Over time, they’re unable to hold the same level of charge and thus deliver the same peak voltage: if the iPhone’s chipset demanded more power than the older battery could provide, it could crash and reboot.

iOS 10.2.1 fixed that by secretly throttling maximum CPU performance on phones like the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 6s, and iPhone 6s Plus with older batteries. However Apple then faced accusations that it was intentionally limiting how fast those iPhones could run, in the hope of pushing battery replacements or driving upgrades to newer models.

Class-action suits in the US followed, with Apple paying up to $25 per iPhone in an American settlement – though not admitting any actual wrongdoing. However new cases have been filed in Europe: most recently in Italy, TechCrunch reports, but in Belgium and Spain back in December 2020. A fourth suit is expected to be added to the list, as owners in Portugal lend their voices to the complaints.

The Italian class action lawsuit is a familiar one. According to local consumer protection agency Altroconsumo, Apple is guilty of planned obsolescence in how it handled iOS 10.2.1. As with the US case, it argues that Apple’s motivation in making the changes was to seed dissatisfaction with otherwise functional iPhones, and encourage upgrades to newer models.

The lawsuit is seeking 60 million euro ($70m) in compensation, or roughly 60 euro ($70) per iPhone owner enrolled in the case. iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6 Plus, and iPhone 6s Plus owners are invited to participate.

Apple released iOS 11.3 in 2018, with a toggle switch to control what had until then been automatic throttling behavior. Owners could check the current health of their iPhone’s battery, and then choose whether to override the CPU control. The company also offered subsidized iPhone battery replacements for those with impacted devices, bringing the price down to $29 from its usual $79.

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Coca-Cola with Coffee in cans: Different from BLAK



This week Coca-Cola with Coffee in cans launched in stores in a variety of flavors and mixes. This isn’t the first time Coca-Cola tried to launch a coffee mix drink, but it might be the most successful. Thanks to a newly formulated mix of elements and a far, far better branding scheme than with previous releases, the Coca-Cola with Coffee in cans release will likely be in your hand by the end of the month.

The branding is such that you’ll notice the Coca-Cola logo in white in a red circle on the can – not diluted whatsoever by any element that surrounds it. Below the brand you’ll see “with COFFEE” in strong, off-white lettering. Below this rests a photo of a pair of coffee beans.

At the top of each can you’ll see a flavor and a color. There’s a tag that suggests which flavor you’ll get, with a matching color if you’re getting the original (with sugar) version, or black if you’ve picked the ZERO SUGAR version.

Dark Blend will be released in original and Zero Sugar versions, the same with Vanilla. There’ll be one Caramel version that will have no Zero Sugar version – at least on launch day in the USA.

Each can will have 70 calories of drink, or zero calories for the zero sugar variations. Price is as yet unknown – but you’ll likely see a variety of cans available in stores by the end of January, 2021.

NOTE: This is the product announced back in July of 2020. We took a peek at the original plan with cans that more or less stayed the same as they’d planned back then. Cross your fingers they taste as OK as early reviews suggest.

ALSO NOTE: This is different from that time Coca-Cola released Coca-Cola BLAK, circa 2006-2008. That… didn’t taste great.

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