Strapping a Jet Engine To Your Head Is a Deafening Way to Stay Dry in the Rain

Could a Jet Engine Be the Umbrella Alternative We Need?

Watching their entire creative process is as entertaining as the final product. Their first attempts involved 3D-printing an impeller powered by an electric motor used for RC planes that would push air outwards and away from their head when the setup was mounted to a helmet. However, 3D printing is an imperfect process, resulting in unbalanced impellers that vibrated so violently it actually affected Miranda’s vision while the device was strapped to his head.

The eventual solution was to trade the 3D-printed impeller for a pre-built (and perfectly balanced) ducted fan assembly, which is often used to create RC planes with high-power jet engines. Air is sucked in through the ducted fan’s opening atop their head and directed down and outwards through a thin 360-degree exhaust slit. The powerful blast from the ducted fan does exactly what it was designed to do, creating a curtain of air all around Miranda that deflects falling water away (a garden hose was used for testing) but the solution does come with some trade-offs. Not only will everyone within a 10-foot radius of Miranda feel the exhaust and be pelted with deflected rain, but the turbine engine is incredibly loud when running at enough speed to keep the rain away. You’d get to where you were going dry, but instead of dealing with a wet umbrella when you got there, you’d be dealing with ringing in your ears and potential hearing loss.

Adorable, Highly Inbred Land Parrots Are Somehow Genetically Thriving

Hunted by invasive mustelids (which were introduced by humans to cull booming rabbit populations), kākāpō easily could have followed in the footsteps of the similarly ground-bound dodo, but surviving populations of the birds were moved to predator-free islands around New Zealand in the 1980s. Since then, attempts to reduce inbreeding and maintain genetic diversity in the minuscule population have been paramount.

“We show that the single male survivor from the mainland, Richard Henry, has more harmful mutations than Stewart Island birds,” said paper co-author Love Dalén, a researcher at the Centre for Palaeogenetics and the Swedish Museum of Natural History, in a statement. “Therefore, there could be a risk that these harmful mutations spread in future generations.”

The bird up close.

A kākāpō.
Image: Jake Osborne

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Richard Henry the kākāpō was found in Fiordland in southwestern New Zealand, and his genetic diversity and virility were imperative in pulling the birds back from extinction. At the same time, though, Henry’s DNA harbors more harmful mutations than kākāpō from Stewart Island. (Richard Henry is named after a human who devoted much of his life at the turn of the 20th century to saving the species. Henry the human’s work has been resumed by a handful of New Zealand conservationists, many of whom co-authored the paper published today.)

The kākāpō’s genetic success story could be contrasted with that of the Isle Royale wolves, whose population of about 50 in 2011 plummeted to just two in 2016 after a new individual messed with the genetics of the already dangerously inbred group. A study of that situation, published last year in Evolution Letters, indicated that sometimes pushing high genetic diversity too quickly in a group with low genetic diversity can cause the population to collapse.

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It’s also, perhaps, a warning for the kākāpō, as the bird is hardly out of the proverbial woods and, genetic diversity aside, has to worry about the predatory stoats and weasels that prowl its territory. The recent research will help to refine the breeding program approach, Dussex said, and new island populations could be established now that researchers have a better understanding of how all those in the current population relate.

If researchers manage to keep the kākāpō population genetically healthy, it’d be a big win in the battle for the animal’s survival. There are many threats ahead, but the portly green bird has a chance.

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More: Fat Endangered Parrots Finally Boning

This Fleet of Robot Workers Can Lift Heavy Boxes but Still Can’t Write a Blog

Agility Robotics Releases New Video of Bipedal Robot, Digit

Digit has been commercially available and shipping to customers since July 2020. On September 1, Albany, Oregon-based Agility announced that it had raised a total of $28 million in funding thus far, and a website for Digit claims that the product was designed to address “…the mobility limitations of traditional robots, so that machines can work in environments designed for humans.” In the video released on Wednesday, Digit can be seen using autonomous navigation in a warehouse-type environment, using its tiny dinosaur arms to grab boxes and then trot them across the room.

In an interview with Gizmodo, Damion Shelton, CEO of Agility Robotics, said that the brand’s technology was designed to fill in the gaps of a human workforce, not to replace one.

“The suggestion to replace employees doesn’t make sense. What makes sense is leveraging technology to supplement, or augment, a human workforce,” Shelton said. “Doing so does two things: it helps companies meet customer demand, and it frees the human workforce into jobs that require decision making, creativity, and collaboration.”

Do you hear that, robots? Jobs that require “decision making, creativity, and collaboration”—kind of like working in a newsroom—are still just for humans only. And let’s keep it that way because if you guys ever learned how to write blogs, you probably wouldn’t need a salary or health benefits or anything like that. And let’s face it, you probably wouldn’t unionize or complain about big institutional changes or take a vacation either, and I bet management would love that. So just keep carrying your little boxes for now, and if you ever learn how to read we can cross that bridge when we come to it.

Digit is currently available for purchase, with a single unit retailing for $250k.

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Warner Bros. Lets Anyone Be in Its Reminiscence Trailer With a Cool New Deepfake Generator

Warner Bros. Has Launched a Deepfake Campaign for Reminiscence

You can check out the example trailer Protocol made with the generator on YouTube. It’s pretty crazy to see how lifelike the expressions on the deepfake are and mind-blowing that D-ID managed to create that with just one photo.

If this tech looks a little familiar, that’s because this isn’t D-ID’s first eye-catching deepfake tool. The startup made headlines back in February with its “Deep Nostalgia” service, which allowed people to animate old photos of their deceased relatives, developed for the company MyHeritage. The tool was later updated to allow users to choose from a variety of movements and expressions, such as smiles, a compassionate look, and kisses.

Five weeks after Deep Nostalgia’s debut, MyHeritage announced that more than 72 million photos had been animated using the Deep Nostalgia tool. In addition to old family photos and movie trailers, D-ID is also working on partnering with museums to create deepfake videos of artists talking about their work.

Protocol pointed out that what makes D-ID’s AI unique is its ability to work with just one photo. The company’s competitors often need various videos and photos to train their AI solutions to create deepfake videos.

In the future, D-ID wants AI to be able to replace actors, CEO Gil Perry told the outlet. However, the tech isn’t there yet and achieving that goal might take a couple more years.

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“Our long-term vision is to create full productions using AI,” Perry said.

To his credit, Perry also acknowledged one of my worries about deepfake technology. He told Protocol that the company is looking into ways to make sure its deepfakes aren’t used for manipulation and harassment. Only time will tell if the company actually follows through on this.

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Reminiscence hits theaters and HBO Max on August 20.

Earth’s Future Is Lonely for the Robots Left Behind in Sci-Fi Short The Desert

Animated Sci-Fi Short The Desert: Lonely Robots on Earth

According to Short of the Week’s post on the film, Dockery’s influences and inspiration include “the literary dystopias of J.G. Ballard, the concept art of Ralph McQuarrie … and his own broad cynicism of modern A.I. discourse and fandom,” while also noting the piece took three years to make and that director is working on another short that’ll continue the story of The Desert, as well as a TV series in his native Australia.

What’s your interpretation of The Desert—does that beam of light from the starry sky (aliens or some other sort of cosmic creator?) mean that life will be returning to the planet? What’s that creature that appears before the kneeling robot? What are your thoughts on the world presented by The Desert? Share your thoughts below.


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