Parrot’s new ‘follow me’ feature keeps drone eyes on you

Parrot has launched a new ‘follow me’ in-app feature for its drones that makes use of visual tracking to allow the Parrot Bebop 2 to follow you everywhere, keeping you in frame for all those times you absolutely need to have footage as you scale a mountain.

The new feature is used from within the FreeFlight Pro app and combines the new visual tracking with your smartphone’s GPS and barometer.

Your smartphone handles all of the positioning, though you may lose some of the accuracy if your phone is without a barometer for vertical tracking, while the visual tracking supposedly mimics the human eye with algorithms to better differentiate between user and environment.

Images courtesy of Parrot

Images courtesy of Parrot

The feature provides two different modes of operation: auto follow and auto framing. The auto follow mode is essentially designed for getting the perfect footage of you whether you’re walking, running or climbing a mountain. Once you’ve set the flight altitude, distance from subject and video angle, you’re ready to go and the drone will follow along with you centrally framed.

Within the auto follow mode itself there are multiple functionalities that allow you to customise the shot to get the perfect shot. Perfect Side allows you to set a shooting angle that the Bebop 2 will follow by determining your position in regards to the angle, while Magic Dronies offers the choice of several pre-programmed movements including a 360 degree orbit around you or a ten metre high parabola over the subject.

The second mode, auto framing, is about turning you into a drone film director.

Using the advanced visual tracking algorithms, the Bebop 2 drone consistently keeps its target at centre of frame. The mode has you piloting the drone while its camera works without intervention to adjust the drone’s camera and keep your subject perfectly framed.

dditionally, while managing a stationary flight the drone will readjust on its axis and readjust its camera angle to follow the subject and maintain the framing.

Across both modes of operation the intention seems to be to open up the range of drone filming and give users the ability to film from perspectives that would otherwise be unavailable. The follow me feature seems to sort of act as a third-person Go Pro, giving pilots the chance to film themselves at their most eventful without having to strap a camera to themselves.

The ‘follow me’ feature is currently available for iOS within the FreeFlight Pro application as an in-app purchase for £14.99 after a 15 day trial period. The Android version will be made available in December.

Robot takes first steps towards building artificial lifeforms

A robot equipped with sophisticated AI has successfully simulated the creation of artificial lifeforms, in a key first step towards the eventual goal of creating true artificial life.

The robot, which was developed by scientists at the University of Glasgow, was able to model the creation of artificial lifeforms using unstable oil-in-water droplets. These droplets effectively played the role of living cells, demonstrating the potential of future research to develop living cells based on building blocks that cannot be found in nature.

Significantly, the robot also successfully predicted their properties before they were created, even though this could not be achieved using conventional physical models.

The robot, which was designed by Glasgow University’s Regius Chair of Chemistry, Professor Lee Cronin, is driven by machine learning and the principles of evolution.

It has been developed to autonomously create oil-in-water droplets with a host of different chemical makeups and then use image recognition to assess their behaviour.

Using this information, the robot was able to engineer droplets to have different properties­. Those which were found to be desirable could then be recreated at any time, using a specific digital code.

“This work is exciting as it shows that we are able to use machine learning and a novel robotic platform to understand the system in ways that cannot be done using conventional laboratory methods, including the discovery of ‘swarm’ like group behaviour of the droplets, akin to flocking birds,” said Cronin.

“Achieving lifelike behaviours such as this are important in our mission to make new lifeforms, and these droplets may be considered ‘protocells’ – simplified models of living cells.”

One of the oil droplets created by the robot

The research, which is published today in the journal PNAS, is one of several research projects being undertaken by Cronin and his team within the field of artificial lifeforms.

While the overarching goal is moving towards the creation of lifeforms using new and unprecedented building blocks, the research may also have more immediate potential applications.

The team believes that their work could also have applications in several practical areas, including the development of new methods for drug delivery or even innovative materials with functional properties.

Mac spyware stole millions of user images

A criminal case brought against a man from Ohio, US has shed more light on a piece of Mac malware, dubbed Fruitfly, that was used to surreptitiously turn on cameras and microphones, take and download screenshots, log keystrokes, and steal tax and medical records, photographs, internet searches, and bank transactions from users.

Source: Ars Technica

Drone swarm attack strikes Russian military bases

Russia's Ministry of Defence claims its forces in Syria were attacked a week ago by a swarm of home-made drones. According to Russia's MoD Russian forces at the Khmeimim air base and Tartus naval facility "successfully warded off a terrorist attack with massive application of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)"

Source: Science Alert

Las Vegas strip club employs robot strippers

A Las Vegas strip club has flown in robot strippers from London to 'perform' at the club during CES. Sapphire Las Vegas strip club managing partner Peter Feinstein said that he employed the robots because the demographics of CES have changed and the traditional female strippers aren’t enough to lure a crowd to the club anymore.

Source: Daily Beast

GM to make driverless cars without steering wheels or pedals by 2019

General Motors has announced it plans to mass-produce self-driving cars without traditional controls like steering wheels and pedals by 2019. “It’s a pretty exciting moment in the history of the path to wide scale [autonomous vehicle] deployment and having the first production car with no driver controls,” GM President Dan Ammann told The Verge.

Source: The Verge

Russia-linked hackers "Fancy Bears" target the IOC

Following Russia's ban from the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics, the Russia-linked hacking group "Fancy Bears" has published a set of apparently stolen emails, which purportedly belong to officials from the International Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic Committee, and third-party groups associated with the organisations.

Source: Wired

Scientists discover ice cliffs on Mars

Using images provided by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists have described how steep cliffs, up to 100 meters tall, made of what appears to be nearly pure ice indicate that large deposits of ice may also be located in nearby underground deposits. The discovery has been described as “very exciting” for potential human bases.

Source: Science Mag