Shots Fired? New "Yardarm" Device Reports Police Weapon Use And Location In Real-Time

Police violence, no-knock raids, SWAT invasions, traffic stops gone wrong...all sorts of issues seem to arise these days between citizens and those who supposedly "serve and protect."  Weaponry, which has been made available to local police departments on an unprecedented scale, plays a major role in this.  Since America's glorious Constitution isn't about to let guns go out the window for police nor citizens, it's imperative that a middle ground be reached where our taxpayer-endorsed police forces can be held accountable for their firearm actions with official evidence (and the "body cameras" seem to keep mysteriously losing batteries.)  So, meet the Yardarm.

The Yardarm chip, shown in green, is a witness who can't lie.


Currently in development in Silicon Valley, the Yardarm is a startup venture that could start a serious new trend of keeping cops in check.  Installed in the butt of a pistol, the Yardarm's Bluetooth sensor connects to an officer's smartphone, then notifies police dispatchers when and where an officer carries, draws or fires their weapon.  It can even deduce the direction of the discharge, which could be important later in court for all parties involved.  In the officers' aid, it could help alert dispatchers when a cop is under fire but cannot immediately radio their situation or location.

Yardarm's website states their technology is "designed to seamlessly integrate into existing computer aided dispatch (CAD) and real-time crime center (RTCC) solutions", which provide maps for a dispatcher to track progress on. This could enable more accurate data regarding crime-infested areas and ultimately prove safer for everyone.

Unfortunately, there are no current plans to make Yardarms for nightsticks.


Fresh Crops From Water Drops: Spilling The Dirt On MIT's Soil-Free CityFarm

With city populations escalating abundantly, it's a challenge for futuristic farmers to figure out how to feed everyone with fresh ingredients.  Now, researchers at MIT believes they have solved this quandary, using an innovative new system that they call CityFarm.

As reported by nationswell.com, the soil-free CityFarm project uses hydroponic (water flow) and aeroponic (water misting) systems to grow a collection of crops, leaving the price tag and messiness of soil out of the urban equation.  Inventor Caleb Harper constructed a 7' by 30' plastic box in which he uses "pre-made weather" and is able to constantly monitor the plants' development, which is prodigious.  Thanks to the artificial light and carefully-calibrated plant care, CityFarm can grow enough food for 300 people in a single 30-day cycle.

Not only is the farm efficient and bountiful, it also saves resources.  CityFarm's method of growth uses up to 90% less water than conventional methods.  Harper believes eventually this could lead to a 98% reduction in agricultural water usage (making it ideal for water-deprived areas), as well as escalated nutritional value from the lack of pesticides and other soil contaminants.  CityFarm currently grows tomatoes, lettuce, and herbs in their successful style.

Pesky pesticides have nowhere to hide, as the plants' roots are fertilized with nutrients in water.
(Image courtesy tribeawesome.com.)

“No one has proven an economically viable model for these kind of plant environments,” says Harper. “What I’m trying to do is kind of be the Linux for these environments — the person that creates the common language for this new area of food production.”

Harper's plans don't stop at just the idea of the farm being like programming for a computer.  He actually wants to create a program, in conjunction with MIT, that will act as "plant operating system software."  This could be launched at other locations, such as an upcoming new attempt in Detroit, or it might help to regulate CityFarm's new plans to build vertically.  A similar project is already underway in Japan.  According to their website, CityFarm's technology combines their hydroponics/aeroponics with 
"novel environmental, diagnostic and networked sensing, control automation, autonomous delivery and harvest systems, data driven optimization and reductive energy design." Their high tech management along with their high yield of crops could be extremely beneficial for people living in any environment.

The CityFarm website proudly extolls their multifaceted workforce, including "engineers, architects, urban planners, economists and plant scientists." If other cities and towns can adopt CityFarm's "grow it HERE and eat it HERE" mentality, a host of jobs as well as tasty meals will be aiding the new urban infrastructure. Who knows what ideas such a locally-laudable system may spout next?

A serious salad bar is brewing at MIT.
(Image courtesy mitcityfarm.com.)

Re-Up Your Pup: Clone Your Pet And Be Best Friends Forever!

It's a question that's been on humanity's mind since the success of Dolly the sheep.  What if man's best friend (or some genetically-accurate approximation thereof) could stay with him for the duration of the human's longer life?  Now, thanks to cloning, you may be able to have a couple of copies of Fido to follow you through life's long walk.

According to businessweek.com, the Sooam facility in South Korea is the world's only doggie-doubling company, where for $100,000 your precious pooch can live on.  It only requires a somatic cell sample from the original donor dog, which scientists cryogenically freeze while a surrogate dog is prepared for pregnancy.  Immature ovum (oocytes) are flushed from the prospective parent-dog, then the somatic cells are injected into the ennucleated (nucleus-removed) oocytes.  The donor cells and egg are fused by electricity into a new embryo, and then implanted into the surrogate.  Shortly thereafter, your best friend is back!

Fresh piles of wrinkles...it's like reverse plastic surgery!
(Image courtesy nature.com.)

The process, which was perfected by geneticist Dr. Hwang Woo Suk, has been applied over 550 times since Hwang's first successful attempt in 2005.  Specialty dogs like Tibetan mastiffs and capable police dogs are popular pups, but next year the Sooam company will be expanding to help grow other animals like beef cows and pigs.  The process is the same one that was used to create Dolly the sheep in 1996 (as well as a veritable ark of animals since), and the patent for the process is leased to Hwang from the US company ViaGen.
A whole squad of murderdogs can be yours!
(Image courtesy sciencefocus.com.)

The Sooam team is currently able to produce 150-200 cloned critters per year, and has captivated clients from veterinarians to Middle Eastern royalty.  One customer even missed his Catahoula leopard dog Melvin so much that he had two of his doting doggies recreated.  However, it is not just canine companionship that drives the company.  Sooam regenerates dogs for scientific testing as well, creating critters with diabetes or Alzheimer's disease so that testing and research may alleviate these diseases (while operating in the comfortable confines of a well-controlled experiment.)

No cure has yet been found for the common pug.  They're just always going to be goofy like that.
(Image courtesy dogintonpost.com.)

Hwang doesn't want to stop at just a few species, either.  He has been working to clone rare animals like tigers and ibex, and possibly even to reboot extinct creatures like a woolly mammoth (whose frozen cells he believes could be made to gestate in a surrogate elephant.)  And of course, there's the ultimate goal: a handmade human.  “We will keep knocking on the doors,” Hwang says, “not only in South Korea but also in other countries, until we can continue our human stem cell research.”

While the pets are pleasant, there's a world of creatures to concoct.  So how long until we can have disciplined domestic dinosaurs instead of dogs?

Until then, this will have to do.
(Image courtesy amazon.com.)


McRobots: Fast Food To Become Automated?

Some people worry about immigrants taking jobs from citizens.  Others know that the next big threat to employment might not be found in different humans, but similar robots.  That's right, automated androids might be serving you Big Macs in the near future.

This is already a thing in Japan (of course.)

As reported by aei-ideas.org, the time has come for robots to replace humans for repetitive, easily-customizable customer service work.  Ordering by touchscreen isn't just for internet goodies anymore - it'll soon be a fast-food feature.  Can full automation be far behind?  With food service workers currently campaigning for an unlikely $15/hour (when Obama can't even cajole the minimum wage up to $10.10), a company like McDonalds may be inclined to roll with robots from a cost perspective alone.  Robots don't need smoke breaks, bathroom breaks, meals or vacation (to say nothing of lawsuits and strikes.)

They ARE good at organizing...their messages are tough to follow, though.

The Wall Street journal confirmed this, saying, "By the third quarter of next year, McDonald’s also plans to fully roll out new technology in some markets to make it easier for customers to order and pay digitally and to give people the ability to customize their orders, part of what the company terms the “McDonald’s Experience of the Future” initiative." Automating the ordering, if not the production process, will be the first step in the switch. The company has already rolled out "ordering kiosks" in various locations such as Vienna, Austria, according to Forbes.

While McDonald's is (unfortunately) not yet busy hiring MIT to make them a burger-bot Terminator that cooks fries with its laser eyes, many food-prep devices already exist (including for the major food groups of burritos and pizza.)  Can automated Happy Meals be far behind? And what will become of the McD's fry jockeys then? If they all lose their jobs, be sure not to send them to a bar helmed by robot mixologists like Monsieur. Because that could easily spark a neo-Luddite fervor, if not the beginnings of an android apocalypse (okay, food service robots can't fight back, but they can burn your pizza or put pickles on your burger, and that's nearly just as bad, right?)

To be fair, the McBots have been warning us about this since the 1980s.
(Image courtest dailytech.com.)

E-asy Rider: Check Out Harley's "LiveWire" Electric Motorcycle

Motorcycles have traditionally been associated with freedom and rebellion.  But not all rebellions are created the same.  Is it possible for Harley Davidson to convince their tough biker demographic that a new bike can buck the notion of conventional fossil fuel (for a power source similar your cellphone) and still stay cool?  They intend to find out, with their new "LiveWire Project" all-electric motorcycle.

Sharp AND sustainable!
(Image courtesy thedetroitbureau.com.)

According to arstechnica.com, developer Ben Lund explained that Harley wanted to present the LiveWire simply as a newer model that "happens to be electric."  The look, sound, and feel of the past Harleys all had to be taken into account, but so did a new technical element of composition.  Using CAD computer models to design the initial bike before production, other computer software such as Pro Engineer Wildfire and CAM (computer-aided machining) aided the process.

Harley's in-house 3D printers churned out 1:1 scale parts for testing, so that an authentic look and feel for every component could be assessed and duly approved.  While also used for the fabrication of model elements for Harley's internal combustion engine bikes, the 3D prototypes were important tools in deciding what fit best for the new LiveWire venture.

One of Harley's  3D-printed prototype parts.  It is unknown if the computer made motorcycle noises while printing it.
(Image courtesy javelin-tech.com.)


The LiveWire runs thanks to a longitudinally-mounted 74hp AC induction motor, which Lund and his team found superior for its availability, affordability, and high power-to-weight ratio. It's fueled by a 300V lithium-ion battery pack that can allow the bike to achieve speeds of nearly 100 m.p.h.  A "power" or "economy" mode switch lets you regulate your ride.

The pseudo-futuristic design may irk the aesthetic sensibilities of "classic" Harley enthusiasts, who would perhaps appreciate some more chrome or pipes.  As for a Harley's distinctive growl, the classic Harley revving-rumble isn't possible with an electric vehicle.  However, the sound was fine-tuned by the engineering team so that the gearbox emits a turbine-like noise as it roars down the road.  Yes, it's very different, but it's a rebellion you could grow to like.  The LiveWire is currently still a prototype, but it could spark a whole new revolution in riding.

You can care about the environment and still be a badass.
(Image courtesy autoblog.com.)


Fire(fighting) In The Sky: NASA Drones To Patrol For Literal Hotspots

With all of the bad rep they get as military and surveillance machines, we can't be quick to also denounce the drones that might do good work helping people.  NASA is working on a new series of drones that you can think of as your friendly local fire department, not the police force that puts the emphasis on "force."

As reported by wavy.com, the new drones are in development at Langley Research Center, and are intended to be used to find and fight fires (as well as provide help for underfunded local fire departments.)  NASA aerospace engineer Mike Logan, who heads up Langley's unmanned air vehicle lab, explained, “The theory is that we should actually be able to see smoke rising up, or we should be able to see the hot spot with the infrared...They’re going to be doing so many missions that flat out can’t be done now. People can’t afford to do them now because of the expense.”

Fires in rural areas that would often go unpatrolled, or that might naturally occur in the depths of the wilderness, can now be monitored and dealt with before they become a more serious issue for civilization.  The drones are especially useful for this task, as they can fly in storms that other aircraft or humans would have a more difficult time dealing with.

Although the drones only have 20-25 minutes of flight time at 40-50 m.p.h., they could cut significant costs for fire departments and eventually cost very little per launch.  Originally developed as Army target drones, the 15-pound aircraft could save firefighters and citizens a ton of trouble.

These drones don't want pictures of YOU, they're looking for something much hotter.
BTW, that's NASA aerospace engineer Mike Logan, and it seems like his life is awesome.
(Image courtesy fireengineering.com.)



Back To "Back To The Future": Functional Hoverboard Under Kickstarter Development

Maybe you watch the "X-Games" or gnarly GoPro videos and secretly lust for the idea of zipping around a danger-fraught area on a skateboard, but you can't quite dodge that whole "obstacles everywhere" thing.  Maybe you just have a serious jones for future technology.  If either or both of these apply to you, check out the real-life hoverboard currently in development.

As reported by the Independent UK, the hoverboard is similar in premise to its counterpart from the film "Back To The Future", although it is not yet capable of hovering over water (or really, anything that's not a non-ferromagnetic conductor...a.k.a. a flat metal surface is required.)  The hoverboard's creator, Hendo Hover, explained that the floating fun is powered by magnetism in "four disc-shaped engines...these create a special magnetic field which literally pushes against itself, generating the lift which levitates our board off the ground."

DIY UFO enthusiasts approve of the design.
(Image courtesy disclose.tv.)

The boards are self-propelled, although future versions could use the magnetism to implement forward momentum.  Currently, they hover at around one inch off of the ground.

While very cool looking (even...or perhaps especially...because you can only ride it over huge sheets of metal), the hoverboard has its drawbacks.  According to the Telegraph UK, the board's battery only lasts 7 minutes, and this little slice of tomorrow-tech will cost $10,000.  Only ten hoverboards are currently available, but the development team is now on its 18th version of the prototype, and they plan to improve on it further.

Up to a good start.
(Image courtest silverfishlongboarding.com.)

Hendo Hover is currently seeking $250,000 on kickstarter to complete the hoverboards, with some of the money going to areas where it can be safely enjoyed (but be sure to bring your helmets for those all-metal half pipes.)  Hendo's ultimate ideal would be to implement the hover technology for houses and buildings, making them more resistant to the impact of earthquakes.

Could this idea eventually work, or will it just float away like so many other tantalizing visions of the future (we're looking at you, groovy orbiting space-station cities)?  For now, maybe the best recreational floating will be done in a pool.  But it's nice to think that someone is thinking of something fun and functional for the future, not just the usual murderous robots.



Just for fun, here's how the U.S. Air Force tried to pull it off.
(Image courtesy extremetech.com.)