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How Do Delivery Robots Work? How They Safely Deliver Your Packages

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A distant future involving robotic package deliveries is now very much a reality. Advances in robotics, GPS tracking, automation, and navigation now mean you might not find a delivery person at your door with your package.

You might find a delivery robot instead.

With semi-autonomous robots beginning to enter the world, here’s a look at how delivery robots work.

What Is a Delivery Robot?

A delivery robot is an automated robot that brings your delivery directly to your door. These robots aren’t walking and talking humanoids; rather, these robots are cute delivery containers on six wheels, resembling giant (but friendly-looking!) bugs.

As with other delivery services, you make your purchases through an app with vendors based on your location. The robot trundles to the vendor—whether for shopping, food, drinks, or otherwise—and then it makes its way to your home.

How Does a Delivery Robot Work?

The primary example of delivery robots in action comes from Starship Technologies, a company based out of San Francisco with engineering facilities in Estonia and Finland. Starship Technologies is the brainchild of Skype co-founders Janus Friis and Anti Heinla, and they are currently the largest “last mile” delivery robot company around.

So, how does an autonomous delivery robot make a delivery?

The robots have a cargo capacity of around 9kg, can travel at a maximum speed of 4 mph, weigh around 25kg, and cost over $5,000 to manufacture. The delivery robot uses many of the same features as an autonomous car: 10 cameras for 360-degree vision, several ultrasonic sensors, GPS navigation, measurement units, gyroscopes, and much more.

How Do Delivery Robots Navigate?

The route between a vendor and a delivery point might look A-to-B if you plug the locations into a navigation app… but there are extra considerations for a delivery robot, including sidewalks, crossings, driveways, humans, animals, vehicles, and so on.

Starship’s robots calculate a route based upon the shortest distance and satellite imagery detailing the route. Each feature on the route (crossings, driveways, etc.) receives a time calculation, which the robot factors into route selection and delivery time.

Over time, the robots build a collaborative memory of an area, creating a wireframe map of constant features (buildings, crossings, statues, pathways, etc.) and ensuring that future journeys through the area are faster. The collaborative area-building makes navigation easier for every robot in the vicinity, with all units contributing to building out the local map.

But navigation isn’t always smooth sailing. Aside from regular navigational dilemmas, a malfunctioning robot comes with its own problems. For example, a Starship robot in Milton Keynes malfunctioned—and drove straight into a canal.

Does Anyone Control the Delivery Robot?

While the Starship Technology robots are autonomous, they are not disconnected from their operators. If a robot comes up against a significant challenge, such as a particularly massive curb (they can climb up and over regular sidewalk curbs), a human operator can take control and find a solution.

But for the most part, the robots are designed to take everything into account, focusing strongly on the sidewalk. Delivery robots sharing the same routes as pedestrians has all the potential for irritation.

All these potential issues are all considered, but the robots must learn the correct way to interact with humans. How many times have you faced the awkward situation of walking at a similar pace to someone just ahead of you? Do you speed up to pass, then continue walking faster? Do you slow down to give them time to move further ahead? Is your destination close enough so that you don’t need to overtake?

The delivery robots are learning how to solve these problems, as well as countless others.

If you want to get involved with robotics, check out these DIY robotic arm kits.

How Do You Order Take-Out From a Robot?

Starship’s robotic delivery team are currently operating in several US cities but in limited geographic areas. For example, you can order via Starship at Arizona State University, in Fairfax City, Virginia, or Modesto, California—but only in a limited area. The images below show the delivery areas for those respective locations:

If the vendor you want to order from and your delivery address are with the bounds of the robot, you can order from the Starship Delivery app. The app displays a list of vendors you can make an order with. You place your order, and a local delivery robot makes its way to the vendor to pick up your order. The robot then trundles to your front door. You track the delivery robot using an app, as well as unlock the secure cargo compartment, too.

The Starship Technologies delivery service costs $1.99 per delivery.

For vendors, the reality is slightly different. The delivery robots are cute and get the job done, but Starship’s terms of partnership can take up to a 20% cut per delivery, after a free month’s trial of the service.

Delivery Robots and COVID-19

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic provided a new and interesting dynamic for Starship Technologies and its delivery robots. With huge numbers of people entering lockdown at differing times and with many people attempting to self-isolate and socially distance from the general public, the delivery robots present a perfect non-human delivery system.

In Milton Keynes, UK, the demand for robot deliveries rose significantly during the early stages of the UK COVID-19 lockdown. The US cities and university campuses also saw similar demand for robotic, almost zero-human interaction deliveries. For those on at-risk lists due to pre-existing conditions or healthcare workers struggling to purchase groceries after a long shift, robotic deliveries are a vital lifeline.

Does Amazon Have Delivery Robots?

Starship Technologies was the first company to use delivery robots as its core delivery method. Recognizing that last-mile delivery is a phenomenally large market is a masterstroke. But the world’s largest online marketplace, Amazon, isn’t far behind.

Amazon Scout is another six-wheeled robot that moves across sidewalks and crossings at walking pace, but this one brings your Amazon delivery directly to your door. Scout is currently available to Amazon customers in the area near Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle, as well as Irving, California, with recent trial expansions to Atlanta, Georgia and Franklin, Tennessee.

Delivery Robots Are Coming to Your Home

A friendly delivery robot bringing curry to your door is charming and is a reality for millions of people. The rollout of delivery robots won’t be overnight, and there are significant challenges for the delivery robotics sector, as well as rural communities.

If you like the sound of robots, check out these robots that’ll do your chores!

Image Credit: JHVEPhoto/Shutterstock

Read the full article: How Do Delivery Robots Work? How They Safely Deliver Your Packages



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California looks to eliminate gas guzzlers—but legal hurdles abound

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California governor Gavin Newsom made a bold attempt today to eliminate sales of new gas-guzzling cars and trucks, marking a critical step in the state’s quest to become carbon neutral by 2045. But the effort to clean up the state’s largest source of climate emissions is almost certain to face serious legal challenges, particularly if President Donald Trump is reelected in November.

Newsom issued an executive order that directs state agencies, including the California Air Resources Board, to develop regulations with the “goal” of ensuring that all new passenger cars and trucks sold in the state are zero-emissions vehicles by 2035. That pretty much limits future sales to electric vehicles (EVs) powered by batteries or hydrogen fuel cells. Most new medium- and heavy-duty vehicles would need to be emissions free by 2045.

These shifts could be accomplished through restrictions on internal-combustion-engine vehicles, or through subsidies or other policy instruments that tighten or become more generous, over time. If those rules are enacted, it would be one of the most aggressive state climate policies on the books, with major implications for the auto industry.

The roughly 2 million new vehicles sold in the state each year would eventually all be EVs, providing a huge boost to the still nascent vehicle category.

“California policy, especially automotive policy, has cascading effects across the US and even internationally, just because of the scale of our market,” says Alissa Kendall, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Davis.

Indeed, the order would mean more auto companies would produce more EV lines, scaling up manufacturing and driving down costs. The growing market would, in turn, create greater incentives to build out the charging or hydrogen-fueling infrastructure necessary to support a broader transition to cleaner vehicles.

The move also could make a big dent in transportation emissions. Passenger and heavy-duty vehicles together account for more than 35% of the state’s climate pollution, which has proved an especially tricky share to reduce in a sprawling state of car-loving residents (indeed, California’s vehicle emissions have been ticking up). 

But Newsom’s executive order only goes so far. It doesn’t address planes, trains, or ships, and it could take another couple of decades for residents to stop driving all the gas-powered vehicles already on the road.

Whether the rules go into effect at all, and to what degree, will depend on many variables, including what legal grounds the Air Resources Board uses to justify the policies, says Danny Cullenward, a lecturer at Stanford’s law school who focuses on environmental policy.

One likely route is for the board to base the new regulations on tailpipe emissions standards, which California has used in the past to force automakers to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles, nudging national standards forward. But that approach may require a new waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency allowing the state to exceed the federal government’s vehicle emissions rules under the Clean Air Act, the source of an already heated battle between the state and the Trump administration.

Last year, Trump announced he would revoke the earlier waiver that allowed California to set tighter standards, prompting the state and New York to sue. So whether California can pursue this route could depend on how courts view the issue and who is in the White House come late January.

It’s very likely that the automotive industry will challenge the rules no matter how the state goes about drafting them. And the outcome of those cases could depend on which court it lands in—and perhaps, eventually, who is sitting on the Supreme Court.

But whatever legal hurdles they may face, California and other states need to rapidly cut auto emissions to have any hope of combating the rising threat of climate change, says Dave Weiskopf, a senior policy advisor with NextGen Policy in Sacramento.

“This is what science requires, and it’s the next logical step for state policy,” he says.

Update: This story was updated to clarify that the order wouldn’t necessarily achieve its goals through a ban on internal-combustion-engine vehicles.



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Community Testing Suggests Bias in Twitter’s Cropping Algorithm

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With social media and online services are now huge parts of daily life to the point that our entire world is being shaped by algorithms. Arcane in their workings, they are responsible for the content we see and the adverts we’re shown. Just as importantly, they decide what is hidden from view as well.

Important: Much of this post discusses the performance of a live website algorithm. Some of the links in this post may not perform as reported if viewed at a later date. 

The initial Zoom problem that brought Twitter’s issues to light.

Recently, [Colin Madland] posted some screenshots of a Zoom meeting to Twitter, pointing out how Zoom’s background detection algorithm had improperly erased the head of a colleague with darker skin. In doing so, [Colin] noticed a strange effect — although the screenshot he submitted shows both of their faces, Twitter would always crop the image to show just his light-skinned face, no matter the image orientation. The Twitter community raced to explore the problem, and the fallout was swift.

Intentions != Results

An example pair of source images posted to Twitter, featuring two faces in alternate orientations.

Twitter users began to iterate on the problem, testing over and over again with different images. Stock photo models were used, as well as newsreaders, and images of Lenny and Carl from the Simpsons,  In the majority of cases, Twitter’s algorithm cropped images to focus on the lighter-skinned face in a photo. In perhaps the most ridiculous example, the algorithm cropped to a black comedian pretending to be white over a normal image of the same comedian.

The result – Twitter’s algorithm crops on the white face, regardless of orientation.

Many experiments were undertaken, controlling for factors such as differing backgrounds, clothing, or image sharpness. Regardless, the effect persisted, leading Twitter to speak officially on the issue. A spokesperson for the company stated “Our team did test for bias before shipping the model and did not find evidence of racial or gender bias in our testing. But it’s clear from these examples that we’ve got more analysis to do. We’ll continue to share what we learn, what actions we take, and will open source our analysis so others can review and replicate.”

There’s little evidence to suggest that such a bias was purposely coded into the cropping algorithm; certainly, Twitter doesn’t publically mention any such intent in their blog post on the technology back in 2018. Regardless of this fact, the problem does exist, with negative consequences for those impacted. While a simple image crop may not sound like much, it has the effect of reducing the visibility of affected people and excluding them from online spaces. The problem has been highlighted before, too. In this set of images of a group of AI commentators from January of 2019, the Twitter image crop focused on men’s faces, and women’s chests. The dual standard is particularly damaging in professional contexts, where women and people of color may find themselves seemingly objectified, or cut out entirely, thanks to the machinations of a mysterious algorithm.

The problem remained consistent in many community tests, involving newsreaders, cartoons, and even golden and black labradors.

Former employees, like [Ferenc Huszár], have also spoken on the issue — particularly about the testing process the product went through prior to launch. It suggests that testing was done to explore this issue, with regards to bias on race and gender. Similarly, [Zehan Wang], currently an engineering lead for Twitter, has stated that these issues were investigated as far back as 2017 without any major bias found.

It’s a difficult problem to parse, as the algorithm is, for all intents and purposes, a black box. Twitter users are obviously unable to observe the source code that governs the algorithm’s behaviour, and thus testing on the live site is the only viable way for anyone outside of the company to research the issue. Much of this has been done ad-hoc, with selection bias likely playing a role. Those looking for a problem will be sure to find one, and more likely to ignore evidence that counters this assumption.

Efforts are being made to investigate the issue more scientifically, using many studio-shot sample images to attempt to find a bias. However, even these efforts have come under criticism – namely, that using an source image set designed for machine learning and shot in perfect studio lighting against a white background is not realistically representative of real images that users post to Twitter.

Some users attempted to put the cause down to issues of contrast, saturation, or similar reasons. Whether or not this is a potential cause is inconclusive. Regardless, if your algorithm will only recognise people of color if they’re digitally retouched, you have a problem.

Twitter’s algorithm isn’t the first technology to be accused of racial bias; from soap dispensers to healthcare, these problems have been seen before. Fundamentally though, if Twitter is to solve the problem to anyone’s satisfaction, more work is needed. A much wider battery of tests, featuring a broad sampling of real-world images, needs to be undertaken, and the methodology and results shared with the public. Anything less than this, and it’s unlikely that Twitter will be able to convince the wider userbase that its software isn’t failing minorities. Given that there are gains to be made in understanding machine learning systems, we expect research will continue at a rapid pace to solve the issue.



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Anti-Piracy Group Seeks Owners Of YTS, Pirate Bay And Others

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The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) is attempting to uncover the owners of pirate sites like YTS, Pirate Bay, Tamilrockers, and several others.

For that purpose, ACE previously filed a DMCA subpoena that requires Cloudflare to unveil operators of several pirate sites. According to the latest report from Torrent Freak, a total of 46 high profile pirate websites have been named by the anti-piracy coalition.

ACE is an anti-piracy organization that crackdowns on the operators of pirate websites. Some of its members include Amazon, Netflix, Disney, and Paramount Pictures. The latest targets of this crackdown are pirate sites using Cloudflare. For the uninitiated, Cloudflare is a content delivery network (CDN) service provider used by millions of websites globally.

In the first half of 2020, Cloudflare received 31 such requests, concerning 83 accounts, most of which were related to adult sites.

The current subpoena targets 46 pirate websites, including some big fish like Pirate Bay, YTS, 1337x, 123Movies, and more. Once in action, it’ll force Cloudflare to reveal the IP addresses, emails, names, physical addresses, phone numbers, and payment methods of the people operating these websites.

Here is the list of domains that ACE wants to gather information on —

  • yts.mx
  • pelisplus.me
  • 1337x.to F
  • seasonvar.ru
  • cuevana3.io
  • kinogo.by
  • thepiratebay.org
  • lordfilm.cx
  • swatchseries.to
  • eztv.io
  • 123movies.la
  • megadede.com
  • sorozatbarat.online
  • cinecalidad.is
  • limetorrents.info
  • cinecalidad.to
  • kimcartoon.to F
  • tamilrockers.ws
  • cima4u.io
  • fullhdfilmizlesene.co
  • yggtorrent.si
  • time2watch.io
  • online-filmek.me
  • lordfilms-s.pw
  • extremedown.video
  • streamkiste.tv
  • dontorrent.org
  • kinozal.tv
  • fanserial.net
  • 5movies.to
  • altadefinizione.group
  • cpasmieux.org
  • primewire.li
  • primewire.ag
  • primewire.vc
  • series9.to
  • europixhd.io
  • oxtorrent.pw
  • pirateproxy.voto
  • rarbgmirror.org
  • rlsbb.ru
  • gnula.se
  • rarbgproxied.org
  • seriespapaya.nu
  • tirexo.com
  • cb01.events
  • kinox.to
  • filmstoon.pro
  • descargasdd.net

Earlier in August, it was reported that torrent giant YTS had revealed user data with a law firm. This led to the users receiving letters from the law firm, asking them to pay around $1,000 for using the pirate site or be named in a lawsuit for piracy.

Recently, ACE has set out on a crusade to banish pirate websites. While there has been no significant action from the group in the past few years, 2020 is seeing increasing activity in reporting and controlling piracy.

The post Anti-Piracy Group Seeks Owners Of YTS, Pirate Bay And Others appeared first on Fossbytes.



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