US Army considers using augmented reality for mission planning

The US Army is pondering the use of augmented reality to assist with mission planning, with a research project currently underway to determine what benefits the technology could bring.

The research, which is currently being undertaken by members of the Cognitive Science Team at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC), involves soldiers learning a mock mission route using a 3D model of a city. AR could prove a better tool than the traditional 2D maps soldiers currently use for mission planning.

“Our goal is to evaluate mobile AR as a promising candidate technology to improve mission-planning operations,” explained NSRDEC research psychologist Aaron Gardony.

“Soldiers are members of a team, but they are also multi-faceted individuals with unique preferences and aptitudes. For example, some may easily visualize three-dimensional environments from two-dimensional maps, but others may learn better using 3D imagery.”

Soldier or not, while some people can easily translate 2D renderings into 3D, for many it’s a challenge to visualise a flat plan as a fully fleshed out space, which is why AR could be very beneficial to day-to-day Army operations.

“In contrast to the one-size-fits-all approach 2D representations provide, we believe AR-based mission planning using interactive 3D maps and models could allow individuals to tailor their planning experience to their own preferences and those of their team members,” explained Gardony.

“Doing so could improve cognitive performance at both the individual and group level, leading to improved mission-planning outcomes and, ultimately, enhanced mission effectiveness.”

When viewing the model in AR, the soldiers can pan, rotate and zoom the city view, allowing them to ‘see’ the route in the manner that best suits them.

Images courtesy of Aaron Gardony, NSRDEC Cognitive Science Team, via the US Army

The researchers are trialling AR by tasking soldiers with learning the urban route before walking the real-life version from memory.

It is hoped that the researchers will be able to quantify any benefits that AR provides, and so make a case for the technology becoming officially adopted by the US Army for use in real-world missions.

“This study takes a novel step in evaluating AR for mission planning/route learning,” said Gardony.

“Positive results could provide a basis for future fielding of these technologies to improve mission planning and justify future research examining its impacts in other military contexts.”

Researchers believe modified CRISPR could be used without editing DNA

Researchers from the US' Salk Institute have used CRISPR as a switch that turns genes on and off and allows harmful mutant genes to be disabled without affecting the structure of their DNA. Until this development gene editing using CRISPR carried the risk of causing unintended effects.

Source: Gizmodo

Nissan to trial robo-taxis in Japan next year

The carmaker Nissan is is partnering with Japanese software company DeNA to test self-driving taxis on Japanese roads from March next year. The free trials will be held over a two-week period in March in Yokohama, and Nissan believes the service could be officially launched in Japan in the early 2020s.

Source: BBC

Apparently, gaming can save your brain

Research participants who played 3D platforming games like the iconic Super Mario 64 had more gray matter in their hippocampus after playing, That part of the brain transforms short-term memories into long-term ones and maintains the spatial memory that helps us navigate the world around us.

Source: Inverse

San Francisco votes to restrict delivery robots

San Francisco officials have voted to restrict where delivery robots can go in the city, amid concerns about the safety of pedestrians, particularly elderly people and children. Start-ups will now have to get permits to use such bots, which will be restricted to less crowded urban areas.

Source: BBC

Steam stops accepting Bitcoin

When Valve first started accepting Bitcoin in April 2016 it was trading around $450 per coin. Today, with Bitcoin surging past $12,000 per coin, Valve has announced that "Steam will no longer support Bitcoin as a payment method on our platform due to high fees and volatility in the value of Bitcoin."

Source: Ars Technica

The maker of Budweiser beer reserves 40 Tesla electric trucks

Budweiser beer maker Anheuser-Busch has reserved 40 Tesla all-electric Semi trucks as it seeks to reduce fuel costs and vehicle emissions. The reservation is one of the largest publicly announced orders Tesla has received, while production of the trucks is scheduled to begin by 2019.

Source: Reuters

The UK government is launching a fintech competition to help renters get on the property ladder

The UK government is offering £2 million to fintech developers who come up with a tool that lets renters record and share their payment data.

The Rent Recognition Challenge, which was first announced as part of the chancellors’ autumn budget, will task developers with finding a way to record payment data from Britain’s 11 million renters in a bid to improve their credit scores and ultimately help them to get a mortgage.

“Most lenders and Credit Reference Agencies are unable to take rental data into account, because they don’t have access to it.

“The Rent Recognition Challenge will challenge firms to develop an innovative solution to this problem and help to restore the dream of home ownership for a new generation,” said the economic secretary to HM Treasury, Stephen Barclay.

Economic secretary to HM Treasury, Stephen Barclay. Image courtesy of Chris McAndrew

The competition will provide an initial round of grant funding to six promising proposals to help turn their ideas into workable products.

A panel of leading figures from the Fintech sector will then whittle the six down to just a handful of teams who will receive further funding and support to bring their ideas to market.

“People’s monthly rent is often their biggest expense, so it makes sense for it to be recognised when applying for a mortgage. Without a good credit score, getting a mortgage can be a real struggle.”

Image courtesy of Jeff Djevdet

The government’s attempt to help more people out of private renting arrangements and into home ownership comes after Scottish Widows published a report that warned tomorrow’s pensioners will have to find huge amounts of money to pay ever-escalating rents to private landlords.

Scottish Widows projected one in eight retirees will be renting by 2032, which works out to three times the number renting today. It also said there is a £43bn gap between the income and savings people have now and what the rent bill will be in retirement.

Speaking to the Guardian, Dan Wilson Craw of campaign group Generation Rent said: “The common perception is that retirees either own their home outright or have a council tenancy, so the government will be in for a nasty shock as more of us retire and continue to rent from a private landlord.

“Many renters relying on pensions will qualify for housing benefit which will put greater strain on the public finances.”

The Rent Recognition Challenge will open to applications early in the New Year, and development will conclude in October 2018.