Category Archives: Tech

BMW i3 batteries provide energy storage for UK wind farm

The UK is now home to one of the largest energy storage projects using EV batteries. Vattenfall has connected a total of 500 BMW i3 batteries to the Pen y Cymoedd onshore wind farm in Wales, creating the biggest co-located installation in the UK. The…

What we’re playing: A new Atari Lynx game in 2018

This week on IRL, we're taking a break from the norm. It's a poorly kept secret that our managing editor, James Trew, has an Atari Lynx fetish. At last count, he owned seven of the things, not to mention every game ever made for them. But while Atari…

Ariane chief seems frustrated with SpaceX for driving down launch costs

Enlarge / The Ariane 5 rocket launches in April, 2018. (credit: Ariane Group)

The France-based Ariane Group is the primary contractor for the Ariane 5 launch vehicle, and it has also begun developing the Ariane 6 rocket. The firm has a reliable record—indeed, NASA chose the Ariane 5 booster to fly its multi-billion dollar James Webb Space Telescope—but it also faces an uncertain future in an increasingly competitive launch market.

Like Russia and the US-based United Launch Alliance, the Ariane Group faces pricing pressure from SpaceX, which offers launch prices as low as $62 million for its Falcon 9 rocket. It has specifically developed the Ariane 6 rocket to compete with the Falcon 9 booster.

But there are a couple of problems with this. Despite efforts to cut costs, the two variants of the Ariane 6 will still cost at least 25 percent more than SpaceX’s present-day prices. Moreover, the Ariane 6 will not fly until 2020 at the earliest, by which time Falcon 9 could offer significantly cheaper prices on used Falcon 9 boosters if it needed to. (The Ariane 6 rocket is entirely expendable).

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The ASUS Z370-I Gaming Review: Mini-Me Mega Motherboard

The ASUS ROG Strix Z370-I Gaming is one of the major Mini-ITX options for Intel's latest Coffee Lake processors. ASUS has a good history of building substantial Mini-ITX offerings, particularly with the ROG Impact line, however it is the Z-series mainstream Mini-ITX models that are the more cost effective option. For this generation, ASUS is combining dual M.2 slots, USB 3.1, EMI shielded audio and Wi-Fi on this small square platform. In this review we put it through its paces.

 

Inside the animal internet

Halfway across the world, a goat is shivering. You know this because you've hooked her up to an accelerometer, which can measure tiny changes in her body movements. You also know the goat's heart rate, body temperature, how much energy she's using, w…

Apple cracks down on CallKit-enabled apps in China’s App Store

Enlarge (credit: ymgerman / Getty Images News)

A new group of apps in China’s App Store is facing scrutiny from Apple. According to a report from 9to5Mac, the iPhone maker is curtailing apps with CallKit framework due to a “newly enforced regulation” from the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. Apple started sending notices to developers whose apps use the CallKit framework, notifying them that CallKit functionality isn’t allowed in China due to the new regulations. Developers reportedly have two options: remove CallKit framework from their apps, or remove their apps from China’s App Store entirely.

Apple introduced CallKit with iOS 10. It allows developers to build calling services into related applications, but it doesn’t actually make calls. CallKit provides the interface, allowing the application to have a more native look, while developers can use a VoIP system on the back-end to handle making the calls.

The Chinese government frowns upon VoIP services, since they can allow users to bypass surveillance measures that the government has put in place. It’s believed that Skype was removed from the App Store for a similar reason last year. The popular Chinese chat app WeChat supported Apple’s CallKit briefly, but the functionality was removed shortly after implementation.

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MegaBots’ Eagle Prime was born to smash anything in its path

Enlarge / Meet Eagle Prime, your new robotic overlord. (credit: Chris Schodt)

OAKLAND, Calif.—As far as mass entertainment goes, giant robots smashing each other should be a sure bet. Turns out, there’s a lot of kinks to work out first.

On Sunday, MegaBots, a Hayward, Calif.-based company (approximately 19 miles south of Oakland) that builds these robo-gladiators, held its second live event. It was an experiment of sorts. Instead of a robo-battle, it was more of a droid demolition derby, with MegaBots flagship mech Eagle Prime smashing appliances, a piano, and for the grand finale, a Chevy Astro van.

Chris Schodt

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Huawei’s MateBook X Pro arrives in the US

Huawei may be the subject of plenty of public scrutiny from America's security services, but the company still has a bundle of laptops to sell. Fresh from launches across rest of the world, Huawei is now bringing its newest MateBook X Pro to the US f…

Microsoft buys AI company to improve Cortana’s conversational skills

Microsoft has acquired a natural language AI firm called Semantic Machines to help Cortana and other bots carry on natural conversations, it announced. The tech "uses the power of machine learning to enable users to discover, access and interact with…

Intel’s Mobileye wants to dominate driverless cars—but there’s a problem

Enlarge / Amnon Shashua, co-founder and CTO of Mobileye. (credit: Arielinson / Wikimedia)

Mobileye, the Israeli self-driving technology company Intel acquired last year, announced on Thursday that it would begin testing up to 100 cars on the roads of Jerusalem. But in a demonstration with Israeli television journalists, the company’s demonstration car blew through a red light.

Mobileye is a global leader in selling driver-assistance technology to automakers. With this week’s announcement, Mobileye hoped to signal that it wasn’t going to be left behind as the world shifts to fully self-driving vehicles. But the red-light blunder suggests that the company’s technology may be significantly behind industry leaders like Waymo.

While most companies working on full self-driving technology have made heavy use of lidar sensors, Mobileye is testing cars that rely exclusively on cameras for navigation. Mobileye isn’t necessarily planning to ship self-driving technology that works that way. Instead, testing a camera-only system is part of the company’s unorthodox approach for verifying the safety of its technology stack. That strategy was first outlined in an October white paper, and Mobileye CTO Amnon Shashua elaborated on that strategy in a Thursday blog post.

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