DJI presents vision of the urban future with drone-friendly skybridge

DJI, the world’s largest small drone company, has commissioned plans for a futuristic skybridge from which its employees will be able to observe and pilot drones.

The plans are some of the first to include drone operation and observation in the urban infrastructure, and offer a glimpse of what architecture designed for a drone-filled world could look like.

Designed by architecture studio Preliminary Research Office, the pedestrian bridge is designed to connect the two skyscrapers that will serve as its new headquarters in Shenzhen, China. The two-storey skybridge will connect one skyscraper on its 28th floor, and the other on its 28th and 29th floors.

Made from a series of intersecting cones, the structure features drone observation spaces over two different floors, a viewing deck providing views of the surrounding city and a number of meeting spaces.

Located immediately north of Hong Kong, Shenzhen is a major hub for hardware development and manufacturing, and has been home to DJI since its founding in 2006.

The dramatic growth of the company, fuelled in part by the success of its consumer-friendly Phantom line, as well as the more commercially targeted Inspire range, has required it to move to for larger premises in recent years. The release of these rendering and supporting plans from Preliminary Research Office suggests that that expansion is now going further.

In addition, it indicates that DJI is keen to have its own outdoor space to demonstrate and potentially test new drones, which are surprisingly rare sight in the Chinese city, despite it being known as the Silicon Valley of China.

Images courtesy of Preliminary Research Office via ArchDaily

As drones become more widespread both as a consumer product for entertainment purposes and as a commercial tool for activities including photography, surveillance and building inspections, they are likely to become more common sight in cities where they are allowed to fly. This will require the creation of suitable launching, landing and piloting spaces, with this design providing one of the first depictions of what such spaces could look like.

It could also add to the growing body of work associated with the development of delivery drones, which in developed nations look set to be pioneered by companies including Amazon. While considerable work has been undertaken to develop drones fit for the task, comparatively little has been done to develop supporting infrastructure and architecture.

Neither DJI nor Preliminary Research Office have provided any timeline for the skybridge as yet, however assuming the company likes the design, we could see the project realised within a relatively short timescale.

In the face of a collapsing market, Acer goes once more unto the smartwatch breach

Despite the fact that smartwatches are generally seeing their sales plummet, Acer has decided to release a new product into the collapsing market. Taking “an elegant approach to fitness”, the Leap Ware smartwatch seems to be fairly standard fare, using an array of fitness-tracking sensors in combination with an app to keep tabs on all of the various statistics the sensors provide.

“As the pace of modern lifestyles become ever more hectic, people demand technology that can keep them on track and motivated to pursue their goals,” said MH Wang, general manager of Smart Device Products in Acer’s IT Products Business.

“The new Acer Leap Ware is designed to act as a virtual coach to help people go, track, and share, sending them reminders and alerts when they need them the most.”

Acer obviously has to promote its product but the above statement seems somewhat bizarrely unaware of the fact that not only is the company offering pretty much the exact same thing every other smartwatch does, but is are doing so in a market that is dying a fairly nasty death. With big names like Pebble going under, and Fitbit’s stock having been on a steady decline, the persistence in putting out new products is a bold move.

In October 2016, the BBC wrote about a new report by market analysts IDC that showed amartwatch shipments declined by 51.6% year-on-year. The Apple Watch held its place as the market leader, but shipped only a quarter of the units it had sold in the same period (July-September) of 2015. And of the five leading brands, only Garmin showed growth with that growth still being underpinned by low figures.

“It has become evident that, at present, smartwatches are not for everyone,” said Jitesh Ubrani from IDC. “Having a clear purpose and use case is paramount, hence many vendors are focusing on fitness due to its simplicity.”

Images courtesy of Acer

It was pointed out by experts that the period examined was before new versions were released, but there is still a clear lack in significant consumer appetite. The market has largely survived off the fitness aspects, with other products largely falling by the wayside as the novelty wears off. And Acer itself hasn’t exactly been the premium forerunner.

The Leap Ware watch certainly seems a perfectly fine entry into the marketplace. It’s got “diverse fitness tracking features thanks to an array of sensors with advanced algorithms” and supposedly has a battery life of three to five days so you don’t miss out on logging those all-important stats. My watch only tells the time and date. It also has a battery life of ten years.

There is a reasonable chance that initial sales for the Leap Ware may be strong, being all shiny and new as it is. There’s also a very good chance they will quickly plummet as Acer discovers what consumers are desperately trying to tell them: people don’t want smartwatches anymore.

For more information and discussion of the collapse of wearable technology, check out the latest issue of Factor magazine.

Premature lambs kept alive in artificial wombs

Extremely premature lambs have been kept alive in a artificial womb. The fluid-filled plastic bag reproduces the environment of the womb and replaces the function of the placenta. The scientists responsible believe the device could be used for premature babies within the next three years.

Source: New Scientist

British engineer is using recycled plastic to build stronger roads

British engineer Toby McCartney has devised an innovative process that replaces much of the crude oil-based asphalt in pavement with pellets of plastic, made from recyclable bottles. The result is a street that’s 60% stronger than traditional roads, ten times longer-lasting as well as the obvious environmental benefits.

Source: Curbed

Elon Musk’s giant tunnel boring machine arrives at SpaceX

In February, Musk was looking at purchasing a used Herrenknecht boring machine: about 26 feet in diameter, about 400 feet long, and weighing about 1,200 tons. It’s not clear if this is the same machine, but one just arrived at SpaceX’s headquarters and can now be found in the parking lot.

Source: Electrek

Surgeon claims brain transplants are just three years away

A pioneering Italian surgeon has claimed people who have had their brains cryogenically frozen could be 'woken up' within three years. The claim is being made by professor Sergio Canavero who also claims he can carry out the first human head transplant within 10 months before he begins trials on brain transplants.

Source: The Telegraph

Facebook 'observed propaganda efforts' by governments

Facebook has revealed in a new report that it observed attempts to spread propaganda on its site, apparently orchestrated by governments or organised parties. The firm has seen "false news, disinformation, or networks of fake accounts aimed at manipulating public opinion", it said.

Source: BBC

Ex-head of Google China predicts AI will take half of all jobs in a decade

The ex-head of Google China, Kai-Fu Lee, has said that AI will be bigger than all previous tech innovations put together. "These are things that are superhuman, and we think this will be in every industry, will probably replace 50% of human jobs, create a huge amount of wealth for mankind and wipe out poverty," said Lee.

Source: CNBC