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Microsoft releases quantum computing development kit preview

At the Microsoft Ignite Conference in September, Microsoft let it be known it was going to be a player in the future of quantum computing, and today the company took another step toward that goal when it released a preview of its quantum computing development kit. The kit includes all of the pieces a developer needs to get started including a Q# language and compiler, a Q# library, a local quantum computing simulator, a quantum trace simulator and a Visual Studio extension. This is a preview, so it’s aimed at early adopters who want to understand what it takes to develop programs for quantum computers, which operate very differently from classical ones. Put in simple terms, with a classical computer, a bit can only exist in a binary state of on or off, whereas with quantum programs a qubit (the quantum equivalent of a bit) can exist in multiple states at the same time. This could open the door to programs that simply couldn’t have existed before.

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Google Maps will soon tell you when it’s time to get off your train or bus

Google is about to launch a small but useful update to Google Maps that will give you live guidance and interactive real-time notifications during your journey. The idea here is to give you real-time updates while you are on your transit journey. These updates will appear in the Google Maps app and, maybe most importantly, on your Android lock screen. To get started, you search for your transit directions in Google Maps as usual. So far, so good. What’s new here is that you’ll soon be able to tap a “start” button at the bottom the screen with the details about your transit journey and then get live updates as you walk or ride on your local buses and trains. Our understanding is that Google Maps will even remind you to get off your bus or train when you get close to your stop. That’s definitely useful when you’re traveling somewhere new (or sleepy).

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Wandelbots wants to reinvent the way we program robots

Wandelbots has accomplished a lot for a startup that was founded officially only two weeks ago – the German company focuses on solving a key problem in robotics, using wearable technology and over two years of experience researching and designing adaptive software systems. So what does Wandelbots actually do? Its first product is a sensor-laden suit that a person can wear to demonstrate actions so that a robot can then replicate what they do. Basically, it’s a system through which robots can “learn” what they need to without requiring that the person “teaching” them be an experienced robotics programmer. Other projects have also employed vision-based systems to capture movement and teach it to other robots. But Wandelbots makes use of information related by embedded 9-axis sensors within the suits, which transmit magnometer, orientation and plenty of other data to the computer system to model the operator’s behavior.

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Google is officially 100% sun and wind powered – 3.0 gigawatts worth

Google is officially off-setting 100% of its energy usage with either wind or solar power. The company signed contracts on three wind power plants in recent days to bring them over 3GW of production capacity. Google’s energy infrastructure investments have totaled over $3.5 billion globally, with about two-thirds being in the US. Per an announcement made via Twitter and the LinkedIn page of Sam Arons, Google’s Senior Lead, Energy & Infrastructure at Google: 535 MW more wind brings Google over 3 GW worldwide — 2*98 MW with Avangrid in South Dakota, 200 MW with EDF in Iowa, and 138.6 MW with GRDA in Oklahoma — cementing Google as the largest corporate purchaser of renewables on the planet @ 100% renewable in 2017! Citing a cost decrease of 60%-80% in wind and solar as the driving factor, Google has been investing heavily in renewables. They first signed an agreement in 2010 to purchase all of the production per year from a 114MW wind farm in Iowa. As of November of 2016, they’d participated in 20 renewable energy projects. The company announced that they’d break 100% renewable back in December of 2016.

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Apple launched a study to look for irregular heart rhythms on the Apple Watch

Apple and Stanford have teamed up for a new heart health study. Using a new Apple Watch app and the Apple Watch’s built-in sensor, researchers will work to identify irregular heart rhythms and notify users who may be experiencing atrial fibrillation (AFib). AFib is the most common type of irregular heartbeat and can lead to heart failure or even stroke if left unchecked. The condition affects an estimated 3 million Americans (though some think those numbers may be higher) and approximately 33.5 million people around the world (or .5 percent of the world’s population). Though the Watch can’t diagnose any conditions just yet, it is perfectly positioned to detect an irregular heart beat and alert those with a serious condition who may want to check it out further with a medical professional. That’s because, unlike some other heart rate checkers, it stays on the person most of the time and the Watch’s sensor flashes its LED green lights hundreds of times per second to detect the amount of blood flowing through the wrist and thus capture any abnormal heart behavior.

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'Holy Grail' for batteries: Solid-state magnesium battery a big step closer

Scientists have discovered the fastest magnesium-ion solid-state conductor, a major step towards making solid-state magnesium-ion batteries that are both energy dense and safe.

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Digitally printed cyanobacteria can power small electronic devices

Researchers have used a simple inkjet printer to print a "bio-ink" of cyanobacteria onto a conductive surface, creating a biophotovoltaic cell. Unlike conventional photovoltaic cells that operate only when exposed to light, the cyanobacteria can generate an electric current both in the dark and in response to light. The researchers expect that the cell may serve as an environmentally friendly power supply for low-power devices such as biosensors, and can even be scaled up to print a bioenergy wallpaper. The scientists, at Imperial College London and University of Cambridge, have published a paper on the new biophotovoltaic cell in a recent issue of Nature Communications. "Our biophotovoltaic device is biodegradable and in the future could serve as a disposable solar panel and battery that can decompose in our composts or gardens," coauthor Marin Sawa at University of Arts London and Imperial College London told Phys.org. "Cheap, accessible, environmentally friendly, biodegradable batteries without any heavy metals and plastics—this is what we and our environment really need but don't have just yet, and our work has shown that it is possible to have that."

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Costa Rica Runs Entirely on Renewable Energy for 300 Days

Costa Rica has charted another clean energy accolade. So far this year, the Central American country has run on 300 days of 100 percent power generation from renewable energy sources, according to the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE), which cited figures from the National Center for Energy Control. With six weeks left of 2017 to go, Costa Rica could easily surpass 300 days. This impressive feat bests its 2015 record of 299 days of 100 percent renewable production. The country went 271 days using only renewable energy production in 2016.

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Uber orders 24,000 SUVs from Volvo to build a fleet of self-driving taxis

Volvo Cars Corp., the Swedish auto giant, today revealed that Uber Technologies Inc. has placed a landmark order for up to 24,000 SUVs in a bid to build a fleet of self-driving taxis. The deal is reportedly valued at approximately $1.4 billion and will see the vehicles delivered over a period of three years starting from 2019. They’re set to be based on Volvo’s XC90 series, a midsize SUV that sells at a starting price of around $50,000 in dealerships. It’s the same model that Uber has been using to pilot its autonomous driving technology in Pittsburgh. Under the deal, Volvo will tailor the XC90s for the ride-hailing giant. Specifically, the SUVs are set to ship with automated braking and steering mechanisms designed to remove the need for a safety driver. This customization should reduce the amount of time that Uber needs to install its autonomous navigation system, which could help speed up the rollout.

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The Hydroponic, Robotic Future of Farming in Greenhouses

WHEN YOU THINK of automation, you probably think of the assembly line, a dramatic dance of robot arms with nary a human laborer in sight. But that’s child’s play. The grandest, most disruptive automation revolution has played out in agriculture. First with horses and plows, and eventually with burly combines—technologies that have made farming exponentially cheaper and more productive. Just consider that in 1790, farmers made up 90 percent of the US workforce. In 2012, it was 1.5 percent, yet America still eats. Here in 2017, the automation revolution in agriculture is poised to take on a whole new life—thanks to robots. In a nondescript office park in Silicon Valley, a startup called Iron Ox is taking the first steps toward roboticizing greenhouse farming, which has so far stubbornly resisted automation. In the very near future, then, the salad on your table may come from the hand of a robot. Unlike a lot of indoor farming operations, Iron Ox isn’t joining the booming movement of LED-powered grow houses. It’s still very much interested in harnessing the energy of the sun (free energy!). So it’s invading the greenhouse instead. “The problem up until today is that greenhouse production costs around twice as much to grow a head of lettuce as the outdoor farm,” says Brandon Alexander, CEO of Iron Ox. “And one reason is there's no there's no tractors or anything indoors.”
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