Power

Tesla's Household Battery: Costs, Prices, and Tradeoffs 287

Posted by timothy
from the stick-it-on-the-wall dept.
Technologist Ramez Naam (hat tip to Tyler Cowen's "Marginal Revolution" blog) has taken a look at the economics of Tesla's new wall-mounted household battery system, and concludes that it's "almost there," at least for many places in the world -- and seems to already make sense in some. From his analysis: For some parts of the US with time-of-use plans, this battery is right on the edge of being profitable. From a solar storage perspective, for most of the US, where Net Metering exists, this battery isn’t quite cheap enough. But it’s in the right ballpark. And that means a lot. Net Metering plans in the US are filling up. California’s may be full by the end of 2016 or 2017, modulo additional legal changes. That would severely impact the economics of solar. But the Tesla battery hedges against that. In the absence of Net Metering, in an expensive electricity state with lots of sun, the battery would allow solar owners to save power for the evening or night-time hours in a cost effective way. And with another factor of 2 price reduction, it would be a slam dunk economically for solar storage anywhere Net Metering was full, where rates were pushed down excessively, or where such laws didn’t exist. That is also a policy tool in debates with utilities. If they see Net Metering reductions as a tool to slow rooftop solar, they’ll be forced to confront the fact that solar owners with cheap batteries are less dependent on Net Metering. ... And the cost of batteries is plunging fast. Tesla will get that 2x price reduction within 3-5 years, if not faster.
Programming

Bill Gates Owes His Career To Steven Spielberg's Dad; You May, Too 166

Posted by timothy
from the our-fathers'-fathers'-fathers dept.
theodp writes: On the 51st birthday of the BASIC programing language, GE Reports decided it was finally time to give-credit-where-credit-was-long-overdue, reporting that Arnold Spielberg, the 98-year-old father of Hollywood director Steven Spielberg, helped revolutionize computing when he designed the GE-225 mainframe computer. The machine allowed a team of Dartmouth University students and researchers to develop BASIC, which quickly spread and ushered in the era of personal computers. BASIC helped kickstart many computing careers, include those of Bill Gates and Paul Allen, as well as Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.
Robotics

Robots In 2020: Lending a Helping Hand To Humans (And Each Other) 45

Posted by timothy
from the never-show-them-weakness dept.
Lashdots writes: In the next five years, robots won't kill us (or drive our cars). But they will get better at helping us do routine tasks—and at helping each other too. Those are some of the predictions Fast Company gleaned from some of the robotics firms on its "most innovative" list, including Anki Robotics, robot-based genetic testing startup Counsyl, and Lockheed Martin, which has demonstrated a pair of unmanned aerial vehicles that work together to fight fires. I'm just waiting for drones that will simultaneously cut my lawn and deter burglars.
Games

Game:ref's Hardware Solution To Cheating In eSports 63

Posted by Soulskill
from the anti-cheating-baseball-bats dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Cheating is a real problem in today's most popular online multiplayer games, and not just on public servers. Some of the world's top Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players have been banned by Valve's Anti-Cheat System (VACS) in recent months too, bringing a nascent eSport into disrepute. But one gamer is taking a different approach, creating a hardware solution called Game:ref to tackle the problem. Simple in design — Game:ref, which the creator hopes to fund on Kickstarter soon, compares on screen movement with your inputs — but powerful in potential, the device has the potential to catch out illegal macro users both on and offline. It's already attracting interest in the top flight too.

"I've had some people from [eSports teams] Complexity, SK Gaming, and a few high-profile streamers reach out. I would say everyone seems onboard with making online PC gaming a more enjoyable experience," says inventor David Titarenco, a former Counter-Strike pro himself. "After all, most cheating on consoles has been eradicated, why should PC be so far behind?"
Power

Tesla Announces Home Battery System 505

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-plans-for-a-1.21-gigawatt-model dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Early this morning, Elon Musk finally revealed Tesla's plans for the home: battery systems designed to store up to 10 kWh of power. The company is leveraging the battery technology they've developed for their electric cars to enable more people to switch to renewable power for their homes. There will be two models of the battery. The 10 kWh version will cost $3,500, and the 7 kWh version will cost $3,000. They can deliver power at a continuous rate of 2kW, with peaks up to 3 kW. Crucially, the batteries will be warrantied for 10 years. Musk thinks the market for home batteries will expand to at least two billion, eventually. But even a much smaller uptake for now will validate the creation of Tesla's "gigafactory."

"The gigafactory is the recipient of the largest incentive package ever given by Nevada at $1.3 billion, which followed a hotly contested tax incentive bidding war between various states to land the Tesla battery plant. For the investment to pay off, Tesla needs to convince hundreds of thousands of consumers per year to buy its cars and battery products, with the gigafactory serving as a cornerstone to the company's sales strategy. ... An early gigafactory rendering released by Tesla stated that the plant will have an annual battery pack output of 50 gigawatt hours — the bulk of which will go toward batteries for cars with most of the remainder to be allocated for stationary batteries, according to figures mentioned by Tesla's chief technology JB Straubel last year. The gigafactory's sheer scope makes other battery products a possibility as well."
Windows

Microsoft Announces Windows Holographic Platform 99

Posted by timothy
from the so-it's-an-illusion dept.
An anonymous reader writes: At its Build 2015 developer conference [Wednesday], Microsoft announced the Windows Holographic Platform. In short, the company will let developers turn Windows 10 apps into holograms for HoloLens. On stage, Microsoft showed a Windows video app that you can simply control with your voice: Just say "follow me" and the video app moves along as you walk around a room. "Every single universal Windows app has these capabilities," said Alex Kipman, technical fellow for the operating system group at Microsoft. Apps can look like little windows, or they can be more than that. The demo included a photos app, a browser, Skype, a holographic Start Menu, and even a dog on the floor.
Bug

Tattoos Found To Interfere With Apple Watch Sensors 396

Posted by timothy
from the clashing-hipsterisms dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A number of early Apple Watch adopters have complained that their tattoos cause interference with many of the new product's key features. According to multiple tattooed sources, inked wrists and hands can disrupt communication with the wearable's sensors installed in the underside of the device leading to malfunction. Owners of Apple Watch have taken to social media to voice their frustration using the hashtag #tattoogate and sharing their disappointment over the newly discovered Apple flaw. One user reported that the Watch's lock system did not disable as it should when the device was placed on a decorated area of skin – forcing those affected to constantly enter their security pins. A further source suggested that notification alerts would fail to 'ping' as they are supposed to, and that heart rate monitoring differed significantly between tattooed and non-tattooed wrist readings.
Businesses

Oculus Rift-Based System Brings True Immersion To Telepresence Robots 34

Posted by samzenpus
from the from-the-comfort-of-your-own-home dept.
An anonymous reader writes: University of Pennsylvania researchers have built an Oculus Rift-based telepresence system that attempts to bring true immersion to remotely operated robots. The system, called DORA (Dexterous Observational Roving Automaton), precisely tracks the motion of your head and then duplicates those motions on a mobile robot moving around at a remote location. Video from the robot's cameras is transmitted to the Oculus headset. One of the creators said that while using the system you "feel like you are transported somewhere else in the real world."
Robotics

Fetch Robotics Unveils Warehouse Robots 49

Posted by samzenpus
from the lift-bots dept.
gthuang88 writes: Warehouse automation has become a big business, with Amazon's Kiva robots leading the way. Now a startup called Fetch Robotics is rolling out a pair of new robots that can pick boxes off of shelves, pass them to each other, and carry the goods to a shipping station. Fetch, led by Willow Garage veteran Melonee Wise, is competing with companies like Amazon's Kiva Systems, Rethink Robotics, and Harvest Automation to develop dexterous, mobile robots for retail, distribution, and manufacturing.
Displays

Half-Life 2 Writer on VR Games: We're At Pong Level, Only Scratching the Surface 125

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-wait-until-we-get-to-pitfall-level-VR dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Valve's Chet Faliszek has been in the video game industry for a long time, and his writing has been instrumental for games like Half-life 2, Portal, and Left 4 Dead. Valve is now developing a virtual reality headset, and Faliszek was on hand at a VR-centric conference where he spoke about how the technology is coming along. He said, "None of us know what the hell we are doing. We're still just scratching the surface of VR. We still haven't found out what VR is, and that's fine. We've been making movies in pretty much the same way for 100 years, TV for 60 years and videogames for 40. VR has only really been [in development] for about a year, so we're at Pong level." One of the obstacles holding VR devices back right now is getting the hardware up to snuff. Faliszek says, "There's one thing you can't do and that's make people sick. It has to run at 90 frames per second. Any lower and people feel sick. Telling people they will be ok 'Once you get your VR legs' is a wholly wrong idea. If people need to get used to it then that's failure."
Cellphones

Meet the Firmware Lead For Google's Project Ara Modular Smartphone (Video) 25

Posted by Roblimo
from the build-it-one-piece-at-a-time dept.
According to Wikipedia, 'Project Ara is the codename for an initiative that aims to develop an open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones.' Google is the sponsor, and the project seems to be moving faster than some people expect it to. There's a Project Ara website, of course, a GitHub repository, a Facebook page, even an Ara subreddit. During his conversation with Timothy Lord, Ara firmware project lead (and spokesman) Marti Bolivar said it won't be long before prototype Ara modular phones start user testing. Meanwhile, if you want to see what Marti and his coworkers have been up to lately, besides this interview, you can read a transcription of his talk (including slides) from the January Project Ara Developers Conference in Singapore.
Robotics

Researchers Mount Cyberattacks Against Surgery Robot 55

Posted by Soulskill
from the backseat-aortic-bypass dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A group of researchers from University of Washington have tested the security of a teleoperated robotic surgery system created by their colleagues, and have found it severely lacking. "Teleoperated surgical robots will be expected to use a combination of existing publicly available networks and temporary ad-hoc wireless and satellite networks to send video, audio and other sensory information between surgeons and remote robots. It is envisioned these systems will be used to provide immediate medical relief in under-developed rural terrains, areas of natural and human-caused disasters, and in battlefield scenarios," the researchers noted, and asked: "But what if these robotic systems are attacked and compromised?"
Power

Why Our Antiquated Power Grid Needs Battery Storage 329

Posted by Soulskill
from the investing-in-wires-is-boring-but-necessary dept.
Lucas123 writes: Last year, renewable energy sources accounted for half of new installed electric-generation capacity (natural gas units made up most of the remainder). As more photovoltaic panels are installed on rooftops around the nation, an antiquated power grid is being overburdened by a bidirectional load its was never engineered to handle. The Hawaiian Electric Company, for example, said it's struggling with electricity "backflow" that could destabilize its system. Batteries for distributed renewable power has the potential to mitigate the load on the national grid by allowing a redistribution of power during peak hours. Because of this, Tesla, which is expected to announce batteries for homes and utilities on Thursday, and others are targeting a market estimated to be worth $1.2B by 2019. Along with taking up some of the load during peak load, battery capacity can be used when power isn't being generated by renewable systems, such as at night and during inclement weather. That also reduces grid demand.
Education

Imagination To Release Open MIPS Design To Academia 63

Posted by samzenpus
from the some-strings-attached dept.
DeviceGuru writes: Imagination Technologies has developed a Linux-ready academic version of its 32-bit MIPS architecture MicroAptiv processor design, and is giving it away free to universities for use in computer research and education. As the MIPSfpga name suggests, the production-quality RTL (register transfer level) design abstraction is intended to run on industry standard FPGAs. Although MIPSfpga is available as a fully visible RTL design, MIPSfpga is not fully open source, according to the announcement from Robert Owen, Manager of Imagination's University Programme. Academic users can use and modify MIPSfpga as they wish, but cannot build it into silicon. "If you modify it, you must talk to us first if you wish to patent the changes," writes Owen.
Robotics

Robots Step Into the Backbreaking Agricultural Work That Immigrants Won't Do 285

Posted by samzenpus
from the they-took-our-jobs dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Ilan Brat reports at the WSJ that technological advances are making it possible for robots to handle the backbreaking job of gently plucking ripe strawberries from below deep-green leaves, just as the shrinking supply of available fruit pickers has made the technology more financially attractive. "It's no longer a problem of how much does a strawberry harvester cost," says Juan Bravo, inventor of Agrobot, the picking machine. "Now it's about how much does it cost to leave a field unpicked, and that's a lot more expensive." The Agrobot costs about $100,000 and Bravo has a second, larger prototype in development. Other devices similarly are starting to assume delicate tasks in different parts of the fresh-produce industry, from planting vegetable seedlings to harvesting lettuce to transplanting roses. While farmers of corn and other commodity crops replaced most of their workers decades ago with giant combines, growers of produce and plants have largely stuck with human pickers—partly to avoid maladroit machines marring the blemish-free appearance of items that consumers see on store shelves. With workers in short supply, "the only way to get more out of the sunshine we have is to elevate the technology," says Soren Bjorn.

American farmers have in recent years resorted to bringing hundreds of thousands of workers in from Mexico on costly, temporary visas for such work. But the decades-old system needs to be replaced because "we don't have the unlimited labor supply we once did," says Rick Antle. "Americans themselves don't seem willing to take the harder farming jobs," says Charles Trauger, who has a farm in Nebraska. "Nobody's taking them. People want to live in the city instead of the farm. Hispanics who usually do that work are going to higher paying jobs in packing plants and other industrial areas." The labor shortage spurred Tanimura & Antle Fresh Foods, one of the country's largest vegetable farmers, to buy a Spanish startup called Plant Tape, whose system transplants vegetable seedlings from greenhouse to field using strips of biodegradable material fed through a tractor-pulled planting device. "This is the least desirable job in the entire company," says Becky Drumright. With machines, "there are no complaints whatsoever. The robots don't have workers' compensation, they don't take breaks."
Input Devices

Linux 4.1 Bringing Many Changes, But No KDBUS 232

Posted by samzenpus
from the latest-and-greatest dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The first release candidate of Linux 4.1 is now available. Linus noted, "The merge window is pretty normal in terms of what got merged too. Just eyeballing the size, it looks like this is going to fit right in — while 4.0 was a bit smaller than usual, 4.1 seems to be smack dab in the middle of the normal range for the last couple of years." There are numerous new features in Linux 4.1, like Xbox One controller force feedback support, better Wacom tablet support, Intel Atom SoC performance improvements, Radeon DisplayPort MST support, EXT4 file-system encryption, ChromeOS Lightbar support, and ACPI for 64-bit ARM, among other additions. However, KDBUS wasn't accepted for Linux 4.1.
Printer

The World of 3D Portraiture 61

Posted by samzenpus
from the it-looks-just-like-me dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with this BBC story about the niche market of 3D printed "selfie" models. By now we're familiar with tales of 3D-printed marvels, from guns to duck prosthetics. But when I traveled to a physics conference in March, I wasn't expecting to end up with a full colour printout of myself. However, at a small stall that popped up on Industry Day at the American Physical Society's March meeting — that is precisely the service that was being offered. I stepped on to a little rotating platform, tried to stand still for a few awkward minutes while a camera scanned me up and down, and then filled out a form. A few weeks later, a box has arrived in the post. Somewhere inside it, my two-inch twin is waiting for me to overcome my trepidation and show him the light of day. But I'm in no hurry; it all seems a bit... odd. The box sits on my desk for several days. Even though getting 'printed' puts me in the illustrious company of Barack Obama and Richard III, I'm unsure about my decision. What, I wonder, does someone do with a small selfie in statue form? Where does this business find its customers?
Robotics

Tiny Robots Climb Walls Carrying More Than 100 Times Their Weight 19

Posted by samzenpus
from the carrying-a-heavy-load dept.
schwit1 writes: Mighty things come in small packages. The little robots in this video can haul things that weigh over 100 times more than themselves. The super-strong bots — built by mechanical engineers at Stanford — will be presented next month at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Seattle, Washington. The secret is in the adhesives on the robots' feet. Their design is inspired by geckos, which have climbing skills that are legendary in the animal kingdom. The adhesives are covered in minute rubber spikes that grip firmly onto the wall as the robot climbs. When pressure is applied, the spikes bend, increasing their surface area and thus their stickiness. When the robot picks its foot back up, the spikes straighten out again and detach easily.
Displays

Oculus Rift: 2015 Launch Unlikely, But Not Impossible 74

Posted by Soulskill
from the is-the-future-here-yet dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Earlier this week during Facebook's 2015 Q1 earnings call, the company seemed to suggest that a 2015 Oculus Rift release date was unlikely. At least, that's what a report about the call from Gamasutra indicated, saying, "It doesn't sound like Oculus will ship the consumer version of its Oculus Rift VR headset this year, or at least not in very large quantities." However, an equity analyst has chimed in to say that the language used during the call shouldn't be interpreted colloquially, concluding that "...there is no information here that rules out Oculus shipping in 2015."
Patents

Vizio, Destroyer of Patent Trolls 104

Posted by Soulskill
from the best-defense-is-a-strong-offense dept.
An anonymous reader writes: We read about a lot of patent troll cases. Some are successful and some are not, but many such cases are decided before ever going to court. It's how the patent troll operates — they know exactly how high litigation costs are. Even without a legal leg to stand on, they can ask for settlements that make better financial sense for the target to accept, rather than dumping just as much money into attorney's fees for an uncertain outcome. Fortunately, some companies fight back. TV-maker Vizio is one of these, and they've successfully defended against 16 different patent trolls, some with multiple claims. In addition, they're going on the offensive, trying to wrest legal fees from the plaintiffs for their spurious claims. "For the first time, it stands a real chance, in a case where it spent more than $1 million to win. Two recent Supreme Court decisions make it easier for victorious defendants to collect fees in patent cases. The TV maker is up against a storied patent plaintiffs' firm, Chicago-based Niro, Haller & Niro, that has fought for Oplus tooth and nail. ... For Vizio, the company feels that it's on the verge of getting vindication for a long-standing policy of not backing down to patent trolls."