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Itty bitty microdrone inspired by dragonflies (and you can’t have one)

(TECH NEWS) A company has created a microdrone inspired by (and functioning similarly to) dragonflies, but it won’t be on the consumer market soon.

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Great, now I want a Skeeter

How much have you allotted to your dragonfly budget this year? The UK’s Ministry of Defense dropped roughly $1.8 million dollars to fund UK startup Animal Dynamics’ microdrone project dubbed “Skeeter.”

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Animal Dynamics (AnDy) specializes in biometic engineering, and their latest project takes inspiration from dragonflies.

Two years ago, AnDy launched plans to create a microdrone with wings that flap like a dragonfly. By this summer, the startup hopes to launch a flying prototype of their Skeeter drone.

Weighs as much as a pencil

The tiny drone will be less than five inches and weigh about as much as a pencil. As opposed to rotary blade models currently dominating the drone market, Skeeter will utilize a flapping motion. This means more precise maneuverability and potentially lower energy consumption than rotary blade propulsion.

CEO and co-founder Alex Caccia told TechCrunch, “we’re fundamentally interested in developing commercial products from studies and understanding how nature reaches these tricks that allow greater performance and efficiency.”

Technology learning from nature isn’t a new trend. Biomimicry has been around for decades.

In the 1940s Velcro was inspired by the tiny hooks on plant burrs. More recently, e-reader screens light reflecting abilities were based on butterfly wings.

Unlike quad copters, it doesn’t crash in neutral

Insects are a particularly excellent role model for technology since they’ve been around for the last four hundred million years. Since dragonflies have two sets of wings, their flight is more stable.

Likewise, the Skeeter microdrone will offer greater control and stability in flight. Unlike quad copters that crash if they’re in neutral, the dragonfly model can hover and glide for a smooth landing.

Adrian Thomas, Animal Dynamics’ other co-founder, notes this project was made possible in part by the newfound availability of small electronic parts. Access to low-cost sensors and antennae spilling over from the mobile phone market helped move the project forward.

Partly due to the rise in wearables, tiny electronic components are more available than they were in the last three years.

Calm down, you can’t have one

Right now, there are no plans to make these dragonfly microdrones available to the public. Their purpose is strictly for military surveillance, which kind of blows. I don’t know if dragonfly culture supports spying or warfare.

However, it’s worth noting that consumers only got their hands on drones in the first place after the technology trickled down from the military.

Thanks to the massive funds available, military technology is typically well-researched and developed by the time it reaches civilians. While we probably won’t be seeing Amazon employing mechanical dragonflies for delivery purposes, Animal Dynamics envisions their product could have future applications outside of the military.

Caccia thinks the microdrone could be used in precision agriculture once mass production has begun and costs go down. Click To Tweet

Additionally, Animal Dynamics plans to continue researching spin off uses for propeller technology including hydro power, smart farming, and rescue application.

#DragonflyDrone

Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

Tech News

AI’s reading abilities catch up with humans – scary or awesome?

(TECH NEWS) Measured by Stanford University’s reading comprehension test, AI achieves a major milestone and some people fear being replaced, others admire the innovation.

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Going into 2018, I decided not so much to set major resolutions off the bat, but rather set mini goals along the way. One of those mini goals started in November, when I challenged myself to watch 100 new (to me) movies in 365 days.

A few days ago, I hit number 35 which was the award-winning Joaquin Phoenix film, “Her.” Without giving too much away, the plot is set in the near future where a man develops a relationship with a life-like operating system (OS).

During one of their first conversations, the OS states that she read an entire book in under a second. While watching it, I couldn’t help but think that we’re not too far away from that.

Turns out my thought wasn’t far off, as artificial intelligence (AI) developed by Alibaba and Microsoft have out read humans on a Stanford University reading comprehension test.

“This is the first time that a machine has outperformed humans on such a test,” Alibaba said in a statement.

Experts in the field of artificial intelligence at Stanford developed this test to measure and assess the growing reading abilities of computers. The test creates comprehension questions based off of a selection of Wikipedia articles.

Alibaba scored an 82.44, beating humans by a hair as they scored 82.304. The next day, Microsoft’s AI software also beat humans with the score of 82.650.

While this is a monumental feat for technology, it will pose a problem for humans as more jobs will be at risk. This is a continued issue for humans as robots are designed and trained for their jobs (i.e. Amazon).

The technology has already been put to work for the Singles Days shopping extravaganza, as a large numbers of computers were used for customer service queries. It’s suggested that the technology can be used for other customer service outlets, as well as having the ability to give museum tours.

Brands such as Facebook, Tencent, and Samsung have submitted AI models for the Stanford test in the past. “These kinds of tests are certainly useful benchmarks for how far along the AI journey we may be,” said Andrew Pickup, a spokesman for Microsoft. “However, the real benefit of AI is when it is used in harmony with humans,” he added.

AI continues to grow and shows no sign of stopping, and some humans are concerned what this will mean for the future – some fear being replaced, others laud the ability to innovate our world. What do you think?

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Tech News

Practice for coding interviews, live with another human

(CAREER) Looking to practice coding interviews with a real human? Earn yourself a sweet win-win situation with this online solution to acing technical interviews.

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Practicing for interviews with a friend helps prepare you for the real thing. When the time comes, unless y’all seriously slacked off or you got the company totally wrong, you should at least feel comfortable interviewing since you practiced with a pal.

Just about anyone can help you prep for standard interview questions like listing your strengths, weaknesses, and talking about a five-year plan. But when it comes to coding interviews, your friends may not be able to offer as much help if they’re not in the field.

Technical interviews typically include demonstrating not only solid communication, but also CS knowledge, coding, and demonstrable problem solving.

Well, count your blessings and say hello to Pramp, an online platform that helps you practice technical interviews for software engineering roles. Named for the acronym version of “practice makes perfect,” Pramp pairs you with a peer for a live HD video interview practice session.

Personal matching considers experience, education, target companies, practice topics you’d like to cover, preferred programming language, and availability.

You and your peer take turns being the interviewer and interviewee for 30 minutes each. Pramp provides the questions to ask 24 hours prior to the interview, and gives answers as well. There’s even a collaborative real-time code editor to share your work.

Pramp supports twelve programming languages, including C++, Java, and Python. You select multiple programming languages for your interviews.

Once the interviews are over, you provide feedback and rate each other’s performance.

There’s no limit to how many interviews you can participate in, and you can choose your level of anonymity. Pramp will only share what you allow, but if you go the public route, they’ve got a pretty sweet perk…

After a few coding interviews, Pramp assesses your strengths to match you with relevant opportunities. From there, you can schedule a phone screen directly on Pramp with a hiring manager. You don’t even need a resume.

Passing the phone screen gets you an onsite interview with the hiring manager. All that practice sure paid off, huh? You don’t need to install anything to start using Pramp, and mega bonus: it’s is free to use. Check them out now if you’re a prospective employee or employer to get connected with talent.

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Tech News

Upload a pic, this site sizes it for 7 social media sites at once

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Creating the correctly-sized images for each social media platform can take a lot of time and patience. A new app helps to make this process simple.

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A goal that most all of us have is to always be increasing efficiency and productivity. The more that we complete repeated tasks, the more we are able to cut out unnecessary steps and get to the end result faster.

I have found this to be true in terms of social media management. Each platform has their own rules, their own means of posting, and it takes time and attentiveness to get your message across each individual site.

One of the most time consuming aspects of this is the visual component. It’s not only time consuming, but also crucial to have as part of your post as that is what draws an audience’s attention.

The issue with this is that there are different settings for each platform, forcing us to have specially-sized photos for each social media site. This was a problem I ran into a few months back when I was attempting to create a logo for my company to be used for each platform. What looked good on Facebook, wouldn’t translate to LinkedIn, and so on.

Now, I’ve learned of a one-stop-shop to create sizes for each social media site. This was found in the form of Landscape.

Landscape describes itself as “streamlined image resizing for social media.” The app lets you prepare images that meet the aspects for each social media site.

The free app was created by Sprout Social and it’s easy to use. First, you select an image and upload it to Landscape. Then, you choose the social networks that you want the image to be sized for. Finally, you crop the images to their respective sizes and upload them to your pages.

“Landscape is a powerful image resizing tool designed to help social media marketers, content creators and business owners develop a standout presence in an increasingly visual social world,” says Sprout Social.

“Our tool offers social media professionals an efficient way to produce multiple image sizes optimized for social media profiles, messages and campaigns – ultimately giving them more time to focus on what matters most: fostering engagement and authentic conversations through social.”

It’s as simple as that and helps save you time and aggravation.

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