Laser Cannon

The arms race may be escalating quite quickly and intensely, after the public acknowledgment that Russia has developed missiles and laser weapons that are ready for service, Russia posted a video in July 2018 which showcased a laser death weapon, and they have recently announced that it has officially entered service. Here is all you need to know about the Peresvet Combat Laser System, which is essentially a laser cannon, and how Russia plans on using it.

The Peresvet Combat Laser

Just recently, Russia announced that the Peresvet Combat Laser System has officially entered service and now has been permanently installed. The inspiration for the name Peresvet comes from the ancient Russian monk warrior named Alexander Peresvet. The video that Russia released back in July, which openly shows the unveiling of the laser, is said to be able to obliterate targets in a fraction of a second. Not much else is known about the laser cannon itself and thus, many people have speculated that it will not be used to kill people, but will actually be used for defence against enemy missiles and airplanes. It definitely looks like it is straight out of a movie though.

A Boastful Putin

Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia has been boasting about this laser cannon/death ray by saying, “Russia’s capacities for defending itself have multiplied.” Putin also boasted about the fact that laser weaponry, “is not just a concept or a plan any more. It is not even in the early production stages. Since last year, our troops have been armed with laser weapons.” He also taunted those against Russia in the arms race that, “We are one step ahead of our rivals,”

Is This The Start Of A Whole New Arms Race?

The implications of this cannon are far more deadly than they might seem. The death machine of which we do not even know the full details of will probably be used for more than just defence. The US is now threatening to pull out of the INF treaty as they claim the development of this laser cannon violates the treaty. However, Russia is retaliating and saying they are following all the conditions specified in the treaty. Putin also showed his concern over the fact that the New START pact between the US and Russia will expire in 2021 and that the US is not keen on discussing the future of the pact.

Real or Fake?

Some have even speculated that this laser cannon is not all that it is hyped up to be. The speculations stem from the fact that the laser cannon was announced during a press conference that was also hosting the launch of many other overly-hyped weapons. People also claim that Russia has previously lied or not been completely honest about their new technologies and that there is no evidence whether the cannon actually works as it claims to (since the video never showed it firing).

All we can hope for is that Russia and America stay true to their agreement and talk it out before deciding to fire on each other.

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Home Surveillance

If you think that scientific exploration has covered every aspect of our lives, well think again! Traditional home surveillance methods normally include locks and maybe an alarm system and cameras. Well, Alex Pachikov, ex Evernote executive and CEO of Sunflower Labs seems to think there is quite a lot of room for improvement. Here is how the Sunflower system may be innovating the way we secure our homes.

Cute Name, Disturbing Game?

The name for the company (Sunflower Labs) and its products (the Sunflower sensors and the Bee drones) are all inspired by things we find in the garden. That may seem very cute, but their functions, which are autonomous, may be disturbing for some. With all the privacy scandals against big companies such as Apple, Facebook, and Google, some may think it is not wise to leave our home surveillance to autonomous machines.

The Sunflower sensors that are camouflaged as garden lights are built to detect vibrations near the home and can differentiate between the whir of your coffee machine, pets, and footsteps. The ‘Sunflowers’ around all corners of the ground outside the home so that it can create maps and also sense the people and objects present within the space. The kicker, however, is that the sunflower system includes a drone, named the ‘Bee,’ which flies out from its station called the ‘Hive,’ all by itself. The Bee leaves the Hive and flies around the home if any suspicious activity has been discovered, using the Sunflowers that have been installed to establish a pathway. Moreover, it uses the sensors and built-in cameras in order to avoid any object that may come in the way during flight.  It streams live footage on your tablet or phone, which is automatically saved on the cloud system later on. It can be manually deployed if the homeowner gets an alert from the Sunflower sensors and lands. The homeowner will have to press the relevant button in the Sunflower app, signalling the drone to dock all by itself to the Hive, which also works as a wireless charger.

Image: sunflower-labs.com

Who Can Use This?

It is evident that such a sophisticated home surveillance product would not be affordable to the general public. The CEO says that the Sunflower Labs will soon be offering this device on a subscription base to the wealthy homeowners residing in the suburbs of California. It may become affordable for the general public if the costs get subsidized, but for now only the elite can afford this system. This arrangement works for Sunflower Labs, as the Federal Aviation Administration does not allow drones to be flown out in public. Thus, lawn owners in suburban areas are the suitable target audience for this system.

Can It Be Trusted?

With the recent allegations of smart home devices listening to and recording conversations without obtaining permission, hacking of several accounts, and the leak of private information, it may not be the best option to trust technology to maintain our privacy.

Self-Driving Deliveries

Just a decade ago, we never could have imagined the existence of technologically driven services available to us today like Spotify, Uber, Snapchat, Virtual Reality, Instagram, Airbnb and even Google Chrome. And now, they are a part of our everyday life. Being able to easily order clothes, taxis and food using a smartphone has become the norm, and people are spending less time at shopping centres and grocery stores. But for those who really do not want any human interaction, even when receiving their order, are now in luck. Self-driving delivery services are becoming a reality!

What Are Self-Driving Delivery Services And When Will They Be Available?

Many companies have been working on autonomous vehicles for quite a while now. In recent years, certain companies have been working hard to make self-driving delivery services a norm. From Nuro that already have a working model, to Ford that has teamed up with Walmart and Postmates to deliver everyday groceries to customers at affordable prices. Self-delivery services are deliveries that are made using autonomous vehicles. No drivers, just the goods you want. Ford has been testing using a research vehicle that mimics autonomous vehicles to gather more info about customer preferences. Ford has stated that commercial autonomous vehicles will be available by 2021.

The Benefits Offered By Autonomous Vehicles

Besides being able to conveniently get goods delivered to your home, workplace or sent as a gift to someone without the hassles of dealing with a delivery driver, or having to shop for it yourself, there are many potential benefits that autonomous vehicles offer. One such benefit is reduced costs for stores, as they will not have to hire drivers. Another benefit is that it could be potentially safer, as someone who is home alone and is ordering from a store could meet a potential predator when dealing with delivery personnel. Also, for people who have severe social anxiety, they will not have to contact a delivery driver when ordering groceries, or have to go out to do their grocery shopping either. The same goes for those who are suffering from a contagious illness. Autonomous vehicles would lead to less humans driving on the roads, potentially reducing the risk of injury and death due to accidents.

The Potential Dangers Posed By Autonomous Vehicles

Besides the ‘technology becoming smart enough to come alive and kill people’ scenario from terminator coming true, there are some realistic dangers that autonomous vehicles pose. Firstly, they could lead to unemployment with stores opting for self-deliveries rather than hiring deliverymen. It may also lead to excessive social anxiety and laziness, and people will really not need to leave their homes in order to get something, but would rather just avail the services of an AV to get the job done.

Self-driving cars have been a popular subject of conversation for many years, but the fact that now companies have already launched, or are ready to launch, autonomous vehicles just tells us how much technology has advanced, and how much we rely on technology to live our life.

Autonomous Killer Robots

The terminator movies are no longer fictitious work, because the storyline is being followed through in reality. That vision of killer robots taking over the planet due to the artificial intelligence they possess may not completely be coming true. However, machines that have decision-making capabilities with lethal consequences are already being tested in parts of the world. Autonomous killer robots are a real thing and here is why we should all be worried.

Advanced AI In The Hands Of The Superpowers

Just four years ago, Stephen Hawking warned everyone that, ‘the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race…. It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.’ And with the superpowers all investing in autonomous weaponry, it is frightening to think of the consequences that could prevail in the near future. The US Department of Defense already displayed 103 autonomous drones flying over the state of California. Even though they were not armed, they flew without any human input, reaching their destination automatically with the algorithms set. Weaponry with differing degrees of self-sufficiency actually being upgraded and used by those who have a high-tech military, including China, the US, Russia, the UK, Germany, South Korea and Israel. Countries such as China are completely silent regarding their position on LAWs (lethal autonomous weapons), and others are vague, which is quite a frightening thing to think about.

The Unfathomable Dangers of Autonomous Killer Robots

The saying that, ‘Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,’ is effectively becoming less and less true. The dangers that autonomous killer robots pose are terrifying, consider they can quite easily come true. The terminator situation that even Hawking has warned us about where AI becomes self-sufficient and kills everyone is a possibility people dismiss as fiction. Another event that could happen is if the wrong people got hold of these technologies, or if they were hacked, they could be used to obliterate entire areas. World War III has also become quite the possibility, with autonomous killer robots aiding nuclear weaponry to eliminate countries. It could also be used to target innocent people who may be speaking against an agenda. It is completely unfair to use autonomous weapons for security as innocent people could lose their lives, and could not have the chance for a fair trial, or rehabilitation.

Campaigns to Stop Killer Robots

International campaigns such as Campaign to Stop Killer Robots has been urging countries to talk about banning autonomous weapons since 2013. Just by banning two functions involved in autonomous weapons such as automatically selecting targets and using violent techniques can really save the world from the potential horrors of autonomous killer robots, without hampering researchers’ advancement in AI technologies.

It is important to make people aware that killer robots are a very real problem, which has already become possible. Our lives will completely change in unimaginable ways once autonomous killer robots are used by governments for wars and security purposes.

Quantum Computing

Up until now, quantum computers have been merely science fiction, relegated to TV shows and sci-fi novels, and the dreams of scientists and computer geeks the world over. But that could soon change. As our computing technology becomes faster and smaller we are coming ever closer to the elusive quantum computer.

The basic difference between classical computing and quantum computing will be the speed at which the computer is able to solve problems. With classic computers, the general thought is that problems that we can’t solve in any reasonable amount of time with just good old plain human brain power, can be solved relatively quickly. But with quantum computers the size of the problems we will be able to solve will seem astronomical compared to what today’s computers are capable of.

For the average person, a quantum computer may not do much to change their everyday lives, or at least not in the way that most people use computers today. Record keeping, sending emails and social media will likely not be changed much by these amazing new computers, but the way we interact with encrypted data will certainly see some changes. What will change for sure is the way scientists solve major problems, things like how to cure diseases, discovering new medicines, changing the molecular structure of materials like plastic (think of all those water bottles in landfills and what would change if they were biodegradable) and maybe even finding new ways to travel to other planets, or solve major world issues like poverty.

Beyond the question of what we will actually be able to do with a quantum computer is how exactly to build one. The biggest obstacle will likely be how to transport information within the computer. There are two options and to understand either you have to know that qubits (quantum bits) in classic computers can be 1 or 0, whereas in quantum computing the qubits can be both at the same time.

But perhaps the most important thing that quantum computing will bring to our current technological state is the new tech that we will have to create in order to build a quantum computer. The National Science Foundation has announced plans to officially pursue the knowledge necessary to get us there with their new STAQ (Software-Tailored Architecture for Quantum co-design) project. The project will be bringing together scientists, programmers, engineers, and physicists from around the country to get the job done, with a cool $15 million dollar budget and a 5 year set proposal to see the world’s first quantum computer.

The NSF is not the only agency to be on the path to quantum computing though – IBM and Google are both on the bandwagon as well. But the NSF is an academic study, whereas the privatized companies that are making their own way towards quantum computing may have some limitations to what they can delve into and how their quantum computing could be used. Regardless of who builds the first quantum computer, it seems that the future is very close indeed.

Segway Transport

Segway Inc., founded in the US by Dean Kamen in 1999, is synonymous with personal transportation on a level unlike anything we had seen before. When the Segway PT was unveiled in December of 2001, many people claimed it was the wave of the future. This two-wheeled self-balancing personal transport machine allowed for faster-than-walking travel and was marketed to tourists, businessmen, police officers, military and security personnel and warehouse workers.

Despite not reaching sales goals, the companies investors remained positive. In 2006, all Segway PT’s sold since launching were recalled due to a software malfunction that caused the machines to reverse and had the potential for injuring riders. In late 2009, millionaire businessman Jimi Heselden bought the company but then died in a freak accident just a few months later when the Segway he was riding went off a cliff.

In 2015, after some disputes over patent infringement, a Chinese robotics manufacturer, Ninebot, acquired ownership of Segway Inc. and announced that production would be moved from New Hampshire to China. With ownership of these new patents and technology, Ninebot has made it clear that they intend to move Segway into the future.

The newest product to be released as part of Segway’s personal transportation line seems to be geared more towards young adults though, and is reminiscent of the freeline skates that tried to take hold of the skating scene in the early years of the 2000’s.

The company crowdfunded more than 30 times what they needed for research and development (with two weeks to spare in their funding campaign) and is now taking pre-orders on Indiegogo for the skates with hopes to begin shipping in October of this year. Named the Drift W1, these electronic skates feature only one wheel. The platform for your foot to rest on is hinged on this wheel allowing the rider to balance and turn simply by moving the ankle, while keeping the legs free of each other true to more traditional skate forms.
The skates are touted as self-balancing and are aimed at taking over the hoverboard market. Coming in at just under 8 lbs. per skate, the company claims they are lightweight and easy to carry in your backpack or bag. They come with a dual-charger, so you can conveniently charge both skates simultaneously, and claim a 45-minute session is possible per charge. They also come with a $400 price tag.

While it seems the company has been revived by its new owners and is likely to see some better sales with these newer products and better marketing (after all, the original Segway PT only sold some 30,000 units), it seems a bit unclear whether these new e-skates will really be the personal transport of the new generations.

Undoubtedly, they will be on lots of Christmas lists this year, and we are likely to see some younger people zipping around town on them. But until the customer reviews start rolling in, it is unclear if the Segway Drift W1 will really hit the mark for electronic personal transportation this time.