The EHang 184 is certainly a sight to behold.
At first glance it looks like someone simply made an enormous drone — and that’s essentially what it is — and then slapped a cockpit large enough for someone to ride in on top of the chassis. And to top it all off, there’s some stylish gull-wing doors that give it an undeniably cool-yet-crazy look.
Unveiled Wednesday at this year’s Consumer Electronic Show, the 184 is the world’s first fully autonomous electric aerial vehicle, designed to fly a passenger around short distances at a low altitude (think more like a helicopter than a plane) without the need for you to man the controls.
Like its smaller drone counterparts, the 184 uses eight large propellers mounted atop four arms to fly around and hover, though an EHang spokesperson said that it’s technically able to land using only one propeller arm if need be. I’m not quite sure how the physics and balancing of that add up, but the company is sticking to that claim.
All aspects of the flight are handled by a tablet in the vehicle’s cockpit, allowing the passenger to select their destination and sit back while the 184 handles the takeoff, journey, and landing process. Right now, the weight limit is 220 pounds, and there’s a small trunk that can fit a backpack or travel bag. There’s also air conditioning in the cabin.
The aircraft stands about 5 feet tall, weighs 440 pounds, and has a battery life that lasts long enough for a 23-minute ride at a speed of just over 62 miles per hour. The 185 takes off and lands vertically, similar to a helicopter. Recharging takes two hours for a fast charge and four hours for a trickle charge.
EHang says it’s conducted 100 manned test flights with its current prototype, and says its current design is closer to a finalized production model than a concept.
The four propeller arms can fold upwards for storage, and EHang says the 185 folded up takes up approximately the space of a traditional parking spot.
The first question I had was what would happen if the flight control tablet crashed or some technical issue arose mid-flight. An EHang spokesperson assured me that there’s multiple fail-safes in place to take over if there’s a specific failure, and there’s also a flight control center that monitors all of the vehicles in the sky and can intervene if necessary, similar to the flight control centers at airports.
If an obstacle such as a bird is noticed mid-flight, passengers also have the option to tap the screen to enter into a stationary "hover" mode, which can also be used for some sightseeing.
All of this would seemingly depend upon maintaining a connection to flight control, however, and I’m still not sure what would happen if the tablet or vehicle’s cellular connection was spotty or simply dropped altogether.
Even more worrisome is that unlike self-driving cars that allow for a manual override using physical controls, the 184 is only able to be controlled via the tablet within the cockpit — there weren’t any physical controls such as a steering wheel or joystick to be found.
This feels potentially problematic, but EHang assured me that its 24-7 flight control center was fully capable of intervening in the case of an emergency.
In spite of lingering questions regarding the safety of its control scheme, EHang is marketing this as a safety-first vehicle that’s designed to eliminate the need to ride in dangerous aerial vehicles such as helicopters or small planes.
As self-driving cars could potentially drive down the rate of vehicle-related deaths due to human error, EHang hopes to do the same for personal aerial transportation. It’s a good idea and noble goal, but one that also brings up a lot of questions when you think up worst-case scenarios.
In theory, the autonomous aspect of the 185 means that passengers wouldn’t need a special license to ride in it, but EHang recognizes that it’s in "uncharted waters" at this point, and it could still face regulatory hurdles once it’s closer to market.
The 185 feels like a vehicle that’s 10 years ahead of its time, but it’s certainly an intriguing prototype, and its design is striking. With no firm price tag or launch date — EHang representatives mentioned it would cost "hundreds of thousands" — it sounds like you won’t be able to buy or ride a 185 in the next year.
You can see more photos of the EHang 185 below.
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China’s stock market just…can’t
The country’s stocks are falling so fast that they’re panicking investors and tripping automatic levers called "circuit breakers" that shut down the entire market when it’s crashing. Two days ago, after the circuit breakers shut down trading, China closed its stock market early due to a steep decline. It’s a bad sign, but not entirely unprecedented; that’s happened in the United States too
What happened on Thursday, however, might be a first. In all, the market stayed open for only 15 minutes
China’s stock market ceased trading after only a few minutes after the market lost 5% in value so quickly that trading was automatically halted. It’s the second time in just a few days of 2016 trading that its new "circuit breaker" was tripped due to sharp declines. The pause is meant to give the market time to settle and hopefully avoid any panicked selling that would lead to a deeper crash that would cause more financial damage Read more…
from Mashable http://ift.tt/1SCexOp
"I don’t drink milk, and I never will. You asshole."
Those are the immortal words Ian Fraser "Lemmy" Kilmister utters in a new clip, filmed shortly before his death on Dec. 28 and originally intended as part of an advert for Finnish dairy company Valio, and they were improvised by the late Motörhead frontman.
The clip was created by marketing agency Hasan & Partners, who said they heard about his death during post production and altered the video to turn it into a tribute to the frontman. “This was our magical encounter with a great man and we’re honoured to share it with the world,” they said. Read more…
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Video: Rill Causey, Noah Throop
Editors’ note: The video above is SFW … more or less.
I’ve tried a lot of different virtual reality experiences. Some good, some extraordinarily amazing, and some terrible. But mostly good.
Would I merely be a spectator in a room watching people get freaky? Or would I actually be having VR sex?
See also: The best tech of CES 2016
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Link is a marvel – even if you never touch Ableton Live. Grab some iOS gadgets, put them on the same wireless network, and you get rock-solid sync that responds dynamically to any tempo change on any device. But, come on. Love you iPad as you may, you don’t want to play only with apps. Maybe you want a Elektron box or an AIRA TR-8 or an ElecTribe syncing along. A new app, LINK TO MIDI, does just that one thing, easily. You still get dynamic peer-to-peer sync with all your other apps. But by adding LINK TO MIDI, you …
from cdm createdigitalmusic http://ift.tt/1MX8U5Z
Play the ball. Visualize the ball. Be the ball.
Saturday night’s Powerball is estimated to reach a nail-biting, hand-wringing $700 million jackpot the largest lottery prize in U.S. history. Thus, Americans are purchasing lotto tickets in droves, trying their luck at winning the big prize. (Excuse us while we buy a few dozen more.)
While your holding your lucky rabbit’s foot close to your heart might feel like enough for you, here are some other totally serious, not-at-all-made-up ways to increase your chances at winning this weekend Read more…
from Mashable http://ift.tt/1OdHSta
Nothing slows down surfer Bethany Hamilton.
Six months after having her first child, Hamilton, who lost one of her arms in a shark attack in 2003, finally achieved one of her biggest dreams. She surfed one of the biggest waves in Hawaii: the Pe’ahi, also known as "Jaws."
"I quickly realized, wow this is my chance to have my dreams come true, this is it!" Hamilton wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
The gigantic Maui wave rose about 40 feet before breaking. Many surfers consider it almost impossible to ride swells like this. Read more…
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For decades, astronomers have observed the space around black holes for the occasional flare of light, signaling that a cosmic feeding is underway.
In the past, it took highly sophisticated, expensive instruments to witness this exotic, rare black hole behavior — but, no longer.
On Thursday, a large team of more than 70 experts reported that they had observed eruptions from a nearby black hole in visible light — the light we see with our eyes.
It’s the first time that anyone has witnessed flickers of visible light from a black hole, which are very dense objects in space that have a gravitational grip so strong nothing can escape, including light.
While this makes black holes inherently invisible, we can still see the nourishing gas they feed on as it orbits around the black hole. Usually, the gas radiates in high-energy X-rays or gamma-rays, but now the team says it’s possible to see black holes in visible light, as well.
The video below, which compiles images taken On June 23, 2015 from Rochester Institute of Technology’s observatory, shows what a gobbling black hole looks like over the course of 3.5 hours:
"We find that activity in the vicinity of a black hole can be observed in optical light at low luminosity for the first time," Mariko Kimura, who is an astronomer at Kyoto University and lead author of the team’s report published in the journal Nature, told Space.com. "These findings suggest that we can study physical phenomena that occur in the vicinity of the black hole using moderate optical telescopes without high-spec X-ray or gamma-ray telescopes."
All it would take to spot the roiling-hot rumblings of this nearby black hole is a modest 20-cm telescope — that means that the light-gathering component of your telescope, whether it’s a mirror or lens, is 20 centimeters (about 7.8 inches) in diameter. That’s well within the limits of telescopes you can purchase for your backyard.
An unfriendly neighbor
This particular black hole is lurking 7,800 light years from Earth and is 12 times more massive than our sun.
Last June, after 26 years of slumber, it underwent some exciting activity: it began eating, again.
The black hole is just one half of a two-body system called V404 Cygni, and, right now, it’s slurping down strands of gas from its other half, which is a star similar in size to our sun. The last time it had a meal was back in 1989.
What’s going on is that the black hole’s gravitational grip attracts the star’s gas, which falls into orbit around the black hole.
As it makes its way to the mouth of the monster, the gas speeds up, generating extreme heat. And similar to how the heated gas from the sun radiates light, we can see this heated gas in what’s called an accretion disc around the black hole through telescopes.
But accretion discs don’t usually radiate at constant brightness. Instead, they vary in brightness over time, sometimes erupting to tens of times brighter than average.
These changes in brightness, or what astronomers call changes in magnitude, can sometimes occur over the span of a single hour. For this black hole, the team witnessed changes over anywhere from 100 seconds to 150 minutes.
"The observations made on this target were immediately exciting," Bill Goff, who is a member of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) and part of the team led by Kimura, said in an AAVSO press release. "Seeing changes greater than one magnitude [a change in one magnitude is equal to a change of 2.5 times in brightness] in less than an hour … was a wonder to see. I kept imagining how this target must be going through unbelievable eruptive changes."
With the help of V404 Cygni, astronomers are now one step closer to solving some of the greatest mysteries behind black holes, including why they sometimes go decades without feeding and how they start up again.
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