Archive: Science & Tech

November 13th, 2013 | By Contributing Writer | Posted in Art & Society, Business & Economy, Environment & Energy, Science & Tech | 1 Comment

A Greener Future With Self Driving Cars

DJ006-Driverless-Car-Infographic

Infographic by http://www.360financial.com.au/

By Mary Ann Keeling

In case you aren’t yet familiar with self-driving cars, the name pretty much says it all. Imagine phoning a taxi, the car pulls up, but there’s no driver inside. It’s just an empty car, ready to take you to where you need to go. Aside from that example, there are countless benefits to self-driving cars and they’ve actually proven, thus far, to be a lot safer than one might think. Not only that, but this trend has huge potential to help the environment and to take away some of the strain we’re putting on Mother Nature through our automobiles.

Google’s Self Driving Car
Over the past couple of years, Google has had self-driving cars driving around California. Even on the busy streets of Los Angeles, it’s absolutely incredible how safe this car has proven to be, even though it’s an early model. In all the time this Google car spent on the road in LA, a place notorious for gutsy drivers and terrible traffic, the car has only been in one accident. Guess what? When that accident happened, it was one of the rare times when there was a human driving the car. So, the car’s self-driving feature has proven to be safer than when the car has a human driving it. Now, this is just one piece of anecdotal evidence, but with the amount of automobile accidents and injuries that occur each year, even a small % reduction is welcome.

There are, however, some legal issues standing in the way of Google’s self-driving cars. First of all, they’re not getting much help from automakers, who are reluctant. Automakers are more focused on assisted driving, rather than full-on self-driving cars. Other downfalls are that these cars have trouble recognizing traffic cops and their hand gestures, or knowing where the lane markers are on the road when there is snow. If construction is going on, and the routes are different than on their maps, that also poses a set of risks. Needless to say, there are some kinks that need to be ironed out before self-driven automobiles are ready for the mainstream.

When Will These Cars Be Ready?
Currently there are about a dozen self-driving cars on US roads according to Google. Together, they’ve traveled 500.000 miles or more in beta tests. In the next five years they will be available on the market. In new Navigant research it is stated that by 2035 sales of autonomous vehicles will reach more than 95 milion worldwide (per year!). That’s about 75% of all light duty vehicles sold. Nissan has recently stated that they see 2020 as a target for self-driving cars to hit the roads in a major way. Assisted driving cars are already available, for example cars that have features to automatically parallel park for you, making an easy task out of of one of the most dreaded driving maneuvers. A more-optimistic Google has set 2018 as a realistic target, staring they are aiming to have some form of self-driving cars on the roads by 2018, and with their prototype in Los Angeles they’re well on the way.

How Does This Make The World Greener?
Cars driving around still need to be fueled, but the ways in which self-driving cars can pave the road to a greener tomorrow go beyond that. First of all, with fewer accidents there is less of a need for people to buy new cars to replace ones that are beyond repair, therefore less parts going into the scrapyards and landfills. Some parts from wrecked cars are recycled, but for the most part they’re just wasted.

Thanks to vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication systems, autonomous cars and trucks could significantly reduce traffic congestion and traffic accidents. And it’s about time, as no new car safety feature has been introduced since early 2000s and the use of airbags in vehicles.

In the introduction of this article, we talked about the idea of self-driving taxi cabs. If you can fit 5 people into a car, rather than 4, this will mean that in some cases people will only need to order one cab for their group of friends rather than 2, which cuts the emissions for the trip in half. This isn’t a huge deal, but every little bit helps when it comes to making the world a greener place for future generations, right? Also, that’s just one example.

Tesla Throws Their Hat Into The Ring
Finally, here’s the big one. Are you familiar with Tesla Motors? They make, arguably, the coolest electric cars out today. They started off with a luxury roadster, now their current model is a high-end sedan, but in the coming years Tesla will be releasing a car at a price point that’s much more accessible to the average consumer, thus bringing electric cars into the mainstream. That covers the green side of things, but what about self-driving? Well, recently Tesla Motors has announced plans for extensive research to put themselves at the front of the pack in terms of self-driving cars, so the logical conclusion is that the next breed of self-driving cars will also be powered by electricity and take a much smaller toll on the environment. It’s a double-whammy of green!

Final Thoughts On Self-Driving Cars
There are many advantages to self-driving cars, especially when you consider that someone could drive themselves and their friends out for a night on the town, and have the car take them home safely. Also, it should help a great deal for truckers who have to drive long shifts and worry about falling asleep at the wheel. Assisted driving is almost certainly the next step, we expect to see some degree of self-driving vehicles that still require some form of human interaction, but completely self-driving cars don’t seem to be too far away!

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October 18th, 2013 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Art & Society, Science & Tech | Comments Off

Next Up: District 9

FINAL sci-fi_movie_email_v1As you heard last month, we are sponsoring an educated sci-fi film series at  Henry & Oscar’s  in Seattle. Last month we had the pleasure of hearing Brenda Cooper talk about Blade Runner and next week we’re meeting up again to learn more!

On Wednesday, October 23rd listen and learn while acclaimed author and futurist Ramez Naam explains current scientific research and technological applications behind the ideas in the award-winning film District 9.

Click the image on the left to enlarge and read more details about these events. And note, if you RSVP by the day before the film, admission is free!

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October 9th, 2013 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Science & Tech | Comments Off

The Diamond Deep

diamond deep

“What if a woman as strong and as complex as Eva Perón began her life as a robot repair assistant threatened by a powerful peacekeeping force that wants to take all she has from her?  The discovery ship,  Creative Fire, is on its way home from a multi-generational journey. But home is nothing like the crew expected…”

The Diamond Deep is here at last! Brenda Cooper’s latest sci-fi epic is available now on Amazon for your reading or listening pleasure.

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September 13th, 2013 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Art & Society, New at Futurist.com, Science & Tech | Comments Off

Seattle Sci-Fi Film Series

FINAL sci-fi_movie_email_v1

New at Futurist.com! We are sponsoring an educated sci-fi film series at Henry & Oscar’s  in Seattle and you need to be there.  Starting September 25th at 7pm, we will be showing Blade Runner, District 9, and Hunger Games over the next few months. Each film will be hosted by a special guest who will discuss the technology and scientific topics presented in the film. So, if you want to learn the real-world applications and research being done today on the science and tech in your favorite films, come be with us! Click the image on the left to enlarge and read more details about these events. And note, if you RSVP by the day before the film, admission is free!

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July 24th, 2013 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Art & Society, Science & Tech | 1 Comment

Dear Kids, Have It All. Love, Future Toys

istock_000003138127smallKids.  Those extremely wise little Buddhas covered in hair. You may think they can’t grasp basic concepts, but these crafty little beings have somehow convinced us to give them everything they want in the future.

A lot of you have kids now. Even more of you will have them later. And then you’ll have grandkids. And great-grandkids. And with the rate of longevity around here lately, you’ll probably even have great-great-grandkids.  What do all of these kids have in common? They like to play. Oftentimes with toys. The question of the hour is, what will toys of the future look like? Don’t care? You should.  Even if you don’t have kids, at some point during your lifetime you’re probably going to get coerced into buying a toy for a friend’s kid, due to the Law of Social Niceties, so don’t think you can get out of this blog without even giving it a cursory glance.

Kids Will Get Whatever They Want

Word on the street is that the Millennial generation is just a bunch of entitled, self-involved brats (rude). Well, what would you say if these entitled little brats had offspring that could have or be whatever they wanted? That’s what the future of toys has in store for us. With the terrifyingly wide spectrum of 3D-printed toys available, printing whatever their little hearts desire will be a snap. WARNING: For those of you crossing your fingers that your kid is just a little less advanced than all the rest, making it impossible for him to invent his own printable code – get ready to be disappointed. Even if your kid is the slowest kid on the block, a lot of code is already open-sourced, and 8-year-olds are already learning how to code, so they’re going to figure it out somehow.   Plus, we don’t even have to own a 3D printer to design and purchase toys.   The Dreambox is a 3D printing vending machine that allows you to upload your custom design and print with a simple click.

And whatever you don’t print yourself, you’ll buy. Interactive tabletops are fun and multi-functional. One day we might even integrate flexible touch surfaces and interactive holograms to separate these tabletops from giant cellphones, which is what they are now. Toys that are programmable and electrically charged, like robotic blocks, will encourage invention, and things like hover boards, transformer toys, and energy conscious night-lights might also make inspiring toys.

Oh! And don’t forget tech-savvy toddlers will probably need video cameras for their v-blogs, and holographic chess sets to feed their spongy little intellect. I could see things that grow and then dissipate being popular toys as well. Almost like self-destructing Tamagotchis. Physically self-destructing, that is, since Tamagotchis already commit digital suicide when you neglect them. Come to think of it, all digital toys that disappear at some point would be popular for parents, too, as they wouldn’t leave messes behind.

Kids Will Be Whatever They Want

One of the most popular digital toys to come will be virtual reality games. These let kids transform into whatever they want to be, whether it’s a  zombie fighter, or an explorer, or a fantasy character. A lot of ideas for immersive VR games for kids are still in their infancy, but the opportunity to control environments and avatars is already an  exciting prospect for kids testing devices today.

Yes, it’s safe to say future toys will be interactive, customizable, and creative. So, will serving kids a heaping pile of virtual reality diminish their capability to be imaginative on their own? Will kids be able to see a ball of yarn strung up around the house as highly volatile laser beams, A.K.A Tons of Fun? Maybe they won’t. Maybe a pipe cleaner bent into funny shapes just won’t do the trick anymore.  But maybe toys in the future will increase creativity and enhance imagination by opening young minds to a world in which all things are possible.

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