Meet Spencer. This armless automaton will begin a test run in Schiphol Amsterdam Airport at the end of the month, greeting and guiding harried travellers through the transport hub’s famously confusing terminal system. Navigating it is so challenging, in fact, that KLM airlines donated a large part of the project’s funding because so many of its customers were getting lost and missing flights. To ensure that doesn’t happen anymore, Spencer is equipped with laser range-finding eyes and detailed maps of the airport’s interior.
“Navigating an airport is challenging, there is a lot of glass and a constantly changing environment in terms of temporary obstructions, such as parked luggage trolleys and people everywhere,” Achim Lilienthal, project leader at Örebro University which contributed to the research, said in a statement. “Objects that are temporarily permanent so to speak, are the most difficult to work around. We do not know, for instance, how long that luggage trolley will be parked in a particular spot, which makes it harder for the robot to determine its own location. We are working on a general map representation that includes and allows the robot to handle temporarily permanent objects.”
The team has also trained Spencer to understand human behaviors and, to some degree, social mores. For example, the robot will not simply barrel through a crowd of people, but rather sidestep the group. It’s also cognizant enough to occasionally check on the group it’s leading to ensure that nobody’s been left behind. “This technology can be used in all robots intended to interact with humans. Autonomous trucks for example, would be more widely accepted if they functioned better in their interaction with humans,” said Lilienthal.
The first trial run begins November 30th and will last just one week. The research team will then leverage the data they collected from the trial to further improve Spencer’s performance before its official debut next March.
SAN ANTONIO — Time off the court proved beneficial on it for San Antonio Spurs power forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
Having missed the past two games due to a sprained left ankle, Aldridge returned to the starting lineup Wednesday night and contributed 18 points, while Kawhi Leonard racked up a game-high 26 in an 88-83 win over the Dallas Mavericks.
“I felt fresh. My body felt good,” Aldridge said. “I gained energy, fresh legs. Watching the games, I learned my spots a little bit better. So I gained. I didn’t lose anything. I think it’s just about playing every game, and just being more comfortable out there. I think I’m getting more comfortable every game. Tonight, I was myself. I think it’s a process for me. I think tonight I felt better out there.”
Aldridge made that apparent on San Antonio’s first possession of the game when he nailed an 18-foot jumper off a Tony Parker assist. Aldridge shot 47 percent from the field on the night, in addition to pulling down seven rebounds and blocking one shot.
“He did well,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s starting to feel comfortable with what we’re doing.”
Most of the Spurs believe Aldridge hasn’t yet reached full potential in the offense.
“I don’t think he’s playing his best basketball yet. It’s still early in the season, and he’s still trying to get into a flow and learn our plays,” Leonard said. “I feel like he’s gonna get better.”
San Antonio’s starters provided a quick glimpse early on Wednesday night for why pundits continue to keep the Spurs in the championship conversation. The team put its trademark ball movement on offense on display in the first quarter, with seven assists on its first nine buckets, including six straight assisted baskets to start the game.
But San Antonio failed to maintain that productivity on offense, and relied on defense to pull out the victory.
By limiting the Mavericks to 83 points, the Spurs held an opponent to fewer than 90 points for the ninth time this season. The team is 9-0 under those circumstances.
“We just missed shots. That’s gonna happen,” said Parker, who finished with 16 points and eight assists. “Defensively, that’s where we won the game. If the shot’s not gonna fall, we have to play good defense. Holding Dallas to 83 points is pretty good.”
While San Antonio continues to make gradual strides implementing Aldridge with the returners, Popovich called the team’s offense “rickety.”
“It’s not very rhythmic or consistent, but we’re playing hard on defense, and it’s what’s keeping us in games,” Popovich said.
Leonard is doing his part, too. In addition to leading the team in scoring, Leonard contributed eight rebounds, five assists and a pair of steals. Dallas pulled to within one point with 33.9 seconds remaining on a Devin Harris 23-footer.
But on the next trip down, Leonard put the game away with a 3-pointer from 24 feet out with 15.1 seconds remaining.
“He’s coming into his own,” Popovich said. “He’s feeling comfortable being the guy to take shots. We put him in those positions, and he’s performing wonderfully.”
Leonard said San Antonio’s “type of offense usually puts everybody in a good situation.”
But it’s up to the player to capitalize.
“Tonight, I got a chance to make some shots for my team to win the game, and that’s what happened,” Leonard said.
San Antonio (12-3) hits the road on Friday to face the Denver Nuggets.
Raspberry Pi’s new educational micro-computer is its cheapest yet — a pocket-sized device designed to teach kids coding for just $5 (about £3.30 or AU$7).
The Raspberry Pi Zero, unveiled on Thursday, is the latest computer from the British company that has for the last few years made its mission to make computing accessible to every child who wants to learn.
Made in Wales, the new computer features a 1GHz ARM processor, 512MB of RAM, a microSD card slot, a Mini-HDMI socket and Micro-USB sockets. It measures a petite 65 by 30 by 5mm.
Basic computers like those made by Raspberry Pi are seen as being the gateway to coding for children. This year the BBC has created its own educational computer, the MicroBit, with the input of Raspberry Pi and other partners, which it is giving away free to 11-year-olds across the UK. Coding has been on the national curriculum, which requires it to be taught in British schools, for a year now. It’s being widely supported by the tech industry, which sees coding education as an investment in its own future.
Introducing the Pi Zero in a video, the company’s chief executive and creator Eben Upton explained that when he was a youngster he had to drain his bank account to buy a BBC Micro and Commodore Amiga. Upton’s mission with the Raspberry Pi Zero is to ensure that children in 2015 do not face the same barriers to learning about computers that he did when he was young.
Even though the original Raspberry Pi was cheaper than equivalent computers by a factor of five, the price tag still posed a barrier to some people out there, Upton said. The newest Pi is now as cheap as a computer is likely to get — Upton won’t be looking to try and cut the price further.
“We’ve gone from the cost of four lattes to one latte. We’re not going to go below the cost of one latte,” he said. “We really hope this is going to get those last few people in the door and involved in computer programming.”
Raspberry Pi has made tens of thousands of the new Zeros, but expects demand to outstrip supply.
One way of ensuring you get your hands on a Pi Zero is to head to your local newsagent and pick up the December issue of the official Raspberry Pi magazine, MagPi. The issue will be the first ever magazine to bundle a computer as a free gift. “There’s only one thing cooler than a $5 computer and that’s a free computer,” said Upton.
The Czech Republic’s first convicted software pirate has been offered an unexpected way of escaping punishment: log 200,000 video views on YouTube and Facebook or be handed a huge fine. The man in question, who is 30 years old and known only as Jakub F, was originally handed a three-year suspended sentence and asked to forfeit his PC, hard drives and DVD backups after being found guilty of sharing illegal copies of Windows and other copyrighted software on forums over the past eight years.
As he was unable to cover the 5.7 million crowns ($223,709 or £148,314) in damages to software producers, the Business Software Alliance (BSA) helped Jakub F reach an out-of-court settlement with rightsholders that allowed him to pay a smaller fine and make up the rest by creating a video that raises awareness of software piracy. The only potential obstacle is that “The Story of My Piracy” video, which can be found on a dedicated website set up by Jackub, must been seen by 200,000 people or the multi-million crown fine will be enforced.
At the time of writing, the professionally shot video has been viewed 120,000 times on YouTube since it was uploaded on November 22nd. We’ve embedded it below, but unless you have a grasp of Czech, you probably won’t understand most of it. But it still means you can play a part in deciding the pirate’s fate.
“I thought that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I thought that it didn’t hurt the big companies. I didn’t even do it for the money, I did it for fun,” says Jakub on his website (translated by TorrentFreak). “I felt in the warez community that I meant something. I was convinced that I was too small a fish for someone to get to me. But eventually, they got me. Even for me, the investigators came to work.”
SAN ANTONIO — Gregg Popovich has no problem with awkward silence. He does not offer empty praise. So the legendary San Antonio Spurs coach’s pregame response to a question about how Dirk Nowitzki’s game has changed over the years can’t be classified as just kind coachspeak.
“Not much. He looks the same to me,” Popovich said. “He’s a remarkable player, competitor. Fierce competitor, class act, special guy.”
Just in case you didn’t believe him, the proof was in Pop’s game plan Wednesday night. It was essentially to dare anyone not named Dirk to shoot.
It worked, allowing the league’s stingiest defensive team to pull out an 88-83 victory over the Dallas Mavericks, who put up a valiant effort in their third game in four nights but finished the tough road trip without a win.
There have been some changes to Nowitzki’s game — such as his ability to create off the dribble, which he admits has declined — but the burden on him remains the same. The Mavs have tried and failed for four offseasons to make him their second-best player.
Nowitzki doesn’t have the luxury of Tim Duncan, his fellow all-time great and longtime rival, who at 39 can be a complementary piece after San Antonio signed perennial All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and developed small forward Kawhi Leonard into an emerging superstar. Duncan can have a solid two-point game in a win like he did Wednesday, rebounding and protecting the rim while Aldridge and Leonard combined to score 44 points.
The Mavs need Nowitzki to perform at an All-Star level, which he has during Dallas’ somewhat surprising 9-7 start, proving he’s still one of the league’s most lethally efficient shooters at the ripe old age of 37. In his 18th season, Nowitzki is still the man for the Mavs and the focal point for opposing defenses.
It’s not much fun to be the focal point for the Spurs’ defense, which limited Nowitzki to 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting. San Antonio double-teamed Nowitzki when he posted up, forcing him to pass. They barely gave him room to breathe on pick-and-rolls, gladly giving the Mavs guards good looks to keep the big German from getting in a groove.
And the Mavs failed miserably to make the Spurs pay for their plan. According to SportVu data, Dallas made only 10 of 40 uncontested shots in the loss. Point guard Deron Williams was the biggest offender, missing all eight of his uncontested looks during a 4-of-16 shooting night, including a 20-footer that would have tied the score with 1 minute, 44 seconds remaining.
“I think if I hit a couple more shots, they might have to play things differently,” Williams said, willing to shoulder much of the blame for the loss.
Nowitzki, however, isn’t so sure that Williams knocking down a few jumpers would force teams to significantly alter their defensive schemes.
“The way I’ve been shooting it, they’ll probably still live with somebody else shooting it, obviously,” Nowitzki said.
That might come across as cocky — although it was said in matter-of-fact fashion — but it’s true. Nowitzki is off to a historically hot start, shooting 52.7 percent from the floor, 51.0 percent from 3-point range and 90.2 percent from the free-throw line.
The Mavs, as a whole, are disappointed with their shooting, particularly from the perimeter. A team that expected to be among the elite shooting squads ranks in the bottom half of the league in 3-point percentage (32.0) despite all the open looks created by the attention that Nowitzki commands.
“We believe that we’re a better shooting team from the outside than we were last year,” Nowitzki said. “We’ve got to keep stepping into the ones that are there and take them with confidence.”
The hope is that Chandler Parsons and Wesley Matthews, who are both coming off of major surgeries and have yet to find their 3-point stroke, can take some of the pressure off of Nowitzki as their health and conditioning continue to improve and they work their way into a rhythm. But there’s no doubt about who is the Mavs’ most potent offensive weapon.
But Dallas would likely get diminishing returns by riding Nowitzki too much. He feels good physically now, as evidenced by his back-to-back double-doubles, but he fears wearing down if the Mavs just pound the ball to him in the post. And the days of dumping the ball to him above the elbow and letting Dirk go to work off the dribble are pretty much done.
At this point in his career, Nowitzki prefers to get his shots in the flow of the offense. If he doesn’t have a good look, he’ll move the ball and trust his teammates.
“We’ve still got to find ways to get him the ball regardless,” Williams said.
The problem is every coach they face will try to come up with ways to prevent that from happening. Same as it has always been.
Lenovo currently stands as the world’s fourth biggest smartphone manufacturer, but it hopes to climb up the ladder by simplifying its product range.
Until now, the electronics giant has been selling handsets under three brands — Motorola, Vibe and Lemon. Now, it’s cutting out its Vibe brand of middle-to-high-end phones, Chen Xudong, president of Lenovo’s Mobile Business Group, reportedly told Tech QQ.
According to the publication, Lenovo will now be selling mid-tier and premium devices under the world-renowned Motorola brand, which it bought off Google for $2.91 billion in October of 2014. The Moto smartphones will be priced between 1,500 yuan ($235, AU$325, £155) and 5,000 yuan ($780, AU$1,080, £520), while the Lemon series will consist of more budget handsets that are sold for as low as 600 yuan ($95, AU$130, £60), the report stated. It also appears Lemon will be inheriting some of Vibe’s hardware, with the line consisting of a cheaper K series and the midrange X line, the latter of which may follow phones like the Vibe X2.
Lenovo, however, denied the news, with its Mobile Business Group’s director of marketing, Sridhar Ramaswamy, telling CNET: “We created VIBE as a smartphone brand and we are committed to developing it. We do not have any plans to phase out the VIBE brand, and it will remain.”
The company’s reported move to solidify its product range comes at a time when the growth of the Chinese smartphone market — currently the world’s largest — is slowing down. In August, IDC predicted that China is expected to slow to a crawl. In 2014, 32.3 percent of all smartphones produced globally were shipped to China, and by 2019, with the rise of markets like India and Africa, that number is expected to drop to 23.1 percent.
While the laptop maker has a limited presence in the US smartphone market, its smartphones do particularly well in countries like South Asia and especially in India, where it currently stands as the fourth biggest smartphone maker, according to Counterpoint Research. The research film also reported the Chinese company to be the world’s fourth biggest smartphone maker during quarter three.
“China clearly remains a very important market,” says Ryan Reith, program director with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, though he added that “the focus will be more on exports than consumption as domestic growth slows significantly.”
To further bolster its position in the global market, Xudong also told the Economic Times that Lenovo intends to ramp up smartphone production India significantly next year. The multinational hopes to manufacture 10 million phones in India, the exec said.