Finally, Researchers Teach Goldfish How to Drive a Car and Avoid Obstacles

In long-awaited news, Israeli researchers at Ben-Gurion University have successfully taught goldfish how to steer a vehicle in order to reach a target and receive a treat, using a specially designed FOV (fish-operated vehicle). The future, ladies, and gentlemen – we’re finally here.

The FOV is outfitted with a LiDAR (light detection and ranging) system that uses lasers to determine the fish’s location inside the tank, and the vehicle’s location on land, with the vehicle moving in the direction in which the fish swims. The researchers say that after just a few days of training, fish were able to consistently navigate the vehicle to the target, regardless of starting point and obstacles such as walls, or the presence of false targets. You know, maybe we haven’t been giving goldfish the intellectual credit they deserve.

Obviously, the goldfish’s real target is the nearest pond, and there’s no doubt in my mind once it finally gets its driver’s license that’s exactly where it’ll be headed. If only it’d been riding shotgun the time I accidentally drove into that pond I could have saved it the trouble of taking an in-car driving test!

[via The Washington Post]

Navdy Heads-up Navigation System Review

Unless you have a late model car with a factory heads-up display, the Navdy is definitely a device worth considering. It adds a heads-up display to any car, and is capable of displaying navigation and other useful information without you having to take your eyes off the road.

I’ve been testing the Navdy for a while now, and the fine folks at Navdy have been very patient with me. Originally, I had planned to use the nav system in my company car since I drive a lot to places I don’t know how to get to for my day job. The catch was that my company uses a fleet management solution that plugs into the OBD-II port in my work car.

That very same port is the only place that Navdy’s HUD can draw power and other information it needs from the car. That meant using it in my work car was out. I moved it over to my wife’s car, and my weekend ride, a 2013 Nissan Juke, and all worked without issue.

Getting the Navdy setup in the Juke was a bit challenging for me. The car has a unique dash and the short mount was too short, the medium mount was slightly too short for me, and the tall mount was entirely too tall for me. It could well just be that my favored driving position, which is very upright and close to the wheel, doesn’t lend itself well to the mounts in that car. I didn’t have that issue when I had it in my work car, a 2014 Chevy Sonic. The low mount was perfect in that car.

I went with the medium mount in the Juke, and didn’t have any issues with vibration when driving, even on the potholed Colorado streets and highways. I love the way the maps are more in your line of sight with the Navdy rather than to my left or right like they are with my normal GPS device. I also like the brightness of the Navdy screen. It was easy to see no matter the sunlight outside. This is a big deal with all the bright, direct sunlight that Colorado has year round.

The Navdy system relies on your mobile phone for connectivity, but it stores internal maps provided by Google. This is a very big deal if you plan to navigate in areas where cellular coverage is spotty. For instance, I live right outside of Colorado Springs, Colorado and if you drive 5 miles into the foothills, any hope of cellular coverage is gone. With its internal maps, I can keep going without any issues. I also like that since the Navdy connects to my OBD port, it knows when I need fuel, and will route me to nearby gas stations, without stopping routing for other trips you have underway. I also love the fact that the app that provides the maps is updated for free for life, unlike car and GPS manufacturers who like to charge for map updates.

In addition to directions, the Navdy app can also display text messages and notifications, as well as work as a heads-up speedometer. It’s controlled using simple hand gestures, which are easy to use and work well the first time, so you aren’t in your car waving like an idiot at drivers around you. I like that you can control your music directly from the Navdy device, as well as answer and end phone calls all with gestures. That means you don’t need to move your eyes of the road. Navigating menus on the Navdy is very easy thanks to a handy little rotary dial that attaches to the bottom of your steering wheel. The dial is dead simple, and doesn’t get in the way during normal driving.

I did have a couple of issues in use with the Navdy. The biggest was audio, with the audio for turn-by-turn directions coming from the phone’s tiny speaker it was impossible in my noisy car to hear the directions if the radio was on. I’m assuming this wouldn’t be an issue if you’re listening to media via Bluetooth or an AUX jack on your car’s stereo, but that won’t work if you’re listening to the radio like I like to do.

I often drive with earbuds in my ears and listen to audio books. That was out of the question with my phones meager volume for turn by turn directions. I’ll admit to using a cheap, basic phone that has crappy audio. If you are using a better phone, this might not be an issue at all.

The biggest issue for me that kept me from using the Navdy as I wanted was the GPS dongle that my company required me to keep in my OBD-II port. I won’t be the only person that runs into that issue. We had a dongle in that port from our car insurance company in the Juke, so I had to temporarily pull that out. I would love to see Navdy integrate an OBD-II dongle on the Navdy that has passthrough for connecting a second dongle. I used to have a ECU programmer that had a passthrough connector and that would be perfect with the Navdy.

All in all, I really loved the Navdy device and found it much better than my Garmin I use on a normal basis. The Navdy is cool, easy to install, and will get you where you are going. Just be sure your OBD-II port is free and can listen to your phone’s audio via your car stereo, and you will love it too. The Navdy retails for $499(USD), and is available now.

Hands-Free Car Navigation Will Be a Lot Easier with This Device

We all know that texting and driving is dangerous, but navigating with your smartphone in hand can be just as distracting. The ARMOR-X One-Lock Air Vent Car Mount makes it really easy for you to navigate safely. It’s 48% off right now, at just $12.99 (USD).

The ARMOR-X One-Lock Air Vent Car Mount attaches conveniently to your car’s air vent, so it doesn’t obstruct your dashboard. You can rotate your smartphone 360 degrees to properly orient your screen, and you don’t have to worry about taking your phone case off – the device is compatible with all smartphones, even those with cases on. It’ll make navigation a whole lot easier and safer for you and your passengers.

Don’t hold your smartphone in your hand while driving. Make the safe choice and get ARMOR-X One-Lock Air Vent Car Mount for only $12.99 at the Technabob Shop.

Digital Weasley Clock: Muggle Magic

Back in 2009, we checked out a real-world version of the Weasley’s locating clock. Redditor tbornottb3 recently made his take on the time– er spacepiece, but instead of mechanical hands he used an LED strip.

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The clock is powered by the Particle Photon, which gets data from the smartphones of tbornottb3 and his relatives via the powerful app If This Then That. Instead of hands and numbers, the clock dial has six locations and one letter for each family member under each location.

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Here’s tbornottb3’s build log:

Weasley Clock

I find it funny that we don’t have real hoverboards but we have working versions of magical items.

[via Reddit via Engadget]

Miniature Autonomous Blimp is No Airhead

Instructables employee DJ aka Aleator777 – the genius behind the Apple II and retro phone watches – recently promoted the Intel Edison by creating the Miniature Autonomous Blimp. This brainy balloon can stay afloat and avoid obstacles on its own.

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It may not look like much, but this blimp is a high tech toy. Aside from Intel’s dev board, it also has a LIDAR sensor, an IR sensor, a laser-cut wooden frame, carbon fiber tubes and 3D printed brackets. DJ wrote an Arduino sketch that tells the Edison to use data from the sensors to detect and avoid obstacles in front and below the blimp.

Float to DJ’s Instructables page for his full build guide.

World’s Largest Model Railway Captured by Google’s Tiniest Street View Vehicles

Located in Hamburg, Germany, Miniatur Wunderland is the world’s largest model railway, occupying nearly 14,000 sq.ft. and inhabited by more than 200,000 Lilliputian citizens. Now we can check out its sights and details at our leisure, thanks to Google’s first ever mini-Street View.

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Google partnered with interactive maps specialist Unilabs to create tiny camera-toting vehicles that roamed around Miniatur Wunderland’s roads and tracks. The Street View car above is just a model made to mark the attraction’s documentation. Here’s what the actual mini-Street View vehicles look like:

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Here’s the result:

Pack your miniature bags and head to Google Maps for a full tour.

[via Google via Laughing Squid]

Ehang 184 Drone is Designed to Ferry Humans: Optimus Prime Air

While Amazon is figuring out how to airdrop Three Wolf Moon t-shirts, Chinese drone maker Ehang has its sights on a much bigger goal: delivering people. Behold: the Ehang 184, a “low-altitude aerial autonomous vehicle.”

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Ehang’s CEO Huazhi Hu was motivated to develop a passenger drone after two of his friends passed away in separate aircraft crashes. The 184 is the result of the company’s more than four years of research and development.

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The octocopter is mainly made of carbon fiber and aluminum alloy. It weighs 440lb., has a maximum capacity of 220lb. and uses eight 106kW motors to fly.

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The 184 has a maximum speed of about 60mph, a flight time of up to 23 minutes, and controls that are very similar to its tinier counterparts. Inside it is a touchscreen controller that lets the passenger do only three things: set a flight path, take off and land. Ehang thinks there should be remote control centers that can take over the 184 and land it safely if things go awry.

You can skip to 3:50 in the video below to see it fly:

While the demo video is a bit sketchy – note the cut between the passenger going in and the 184 flying – Ehang claims it has successfully flown the octocopter over 100 times at low altitude, including several runs with a passenger inside. In fact, Ehang hopes to start selling the 184 this year for $200,000 to $300,000 (USD). But it’s also aware that the 184 might be grounded by regulations or lack thereof (assuming it actually works to begin with). So we went from not having hoverboards to potentially having flying robo-taxis? That escalated quickly.


Using Sound Localization for Navigation: Over Hear!

Voice-guided navigation makes it a lot easier for drivers to follow directions for map applications. But a group of Electrical & Computer Engineering students from Cornell University have come up with a more intuitive solution. They created a hat-mounted navigation device that guides you by producing sound that appears to come from the direction of your destination.

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Abdurrahman Husnein, Sophia Yan and Vance Hancock’s goofy-looking device is managed by a Microchip PIC32 controller. A GPS module determines the user’s location while a digital compass figures out the orientation of the user’s head. The destination can be input and selected with the help of a TFT display.

The students’ program makes it so the generated tone would sound the same on both ears if you’re on the right direction. To indicate a change in direction, the program decreases and delays the sound going to the “wrong” ear, making it seem like the sound is coming from the direction you’re supposed to go. If you go in the complete opposite direction, the sound will switch to a higher pitch.

In the students’ tests, their map-gical hat was able to successfully guide four people, none of whom were told of the intended destination. Its simple sound is intuitive and can be understood regardless of the user’s language. That said, the device is far from perfect. It doesn’t take paths or obstacles into account, which means a blind person can’t use it. It also doesn’t tell you when you’ve arrived at your destination, but it is a student project after all. Overall I think Abdurrahman, Sophia and Vance did a great job. You can read their full paper on Cornell’s website.

[via Hack A Day]

Walking Robot Has Drone Scout: Banjo-Kazooiebot

A couple of weeks ago we checked out ETH Zurich Autonomous Systems Lab’s walking robot that had a drone launching pad. That combos nicely with one of the Lab’s latest projects: a similar pair working together to navigate unknown terrain.

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The hexacopter drone has a camera that lets it scout ahead, making an elevation map of its surroundings as well as noting landmarks. Its companion walking robot uses that data to plan its path on the fly. It also has sensors to keep its balance and avoid obstacles.

Now all they need is a robot Mumbo Jumbo that can mod them into different forms as needed. As long as they have enough tokens to pay him.

[via Ubergizmo]

RePhone DIY Cellphone Kit: Your Call

If you want to make your own cellphone, you can source the parts yourself, or you can support Seeed Studio’s RePhone, a ready to assemble kit.

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The heart of the RePhone kit is the MediaTek MT2502A (pdf) system-on-a-chip, which gives you GSM, GPRS and Bluetooth connectivity in a stamp-sized form. There’s also a variant of the core module that adds 3G connectivity.

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When it launches, the RePhone system will have eight optional modules that connect to the core module via Seeed’s Arduino-compatible Xadow board, which is powered by an ATmega32u4.

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The basic RePhone Kit comes with a flat-pack cardboard case for your DIY phone, but of course you’re free to make a custom case for it. You can also just get the core module(s) to add cellular communication to your projects.

Pledge at least $12 (USD) on Kickstarter to get the GSM core module as a reward. The 3G module is given out as a reward for pledging at least $29, while the RePhone kits are given out for $39 and higher pledges.

[via Gadgetify]