Truck + Helo = Multicopter!

Truck and helicopter:  two great methods of transport that, for the first time, can be even greater - together.  That's the idea behind the Black Knight Transformer, a new aircraft/vehicle designed by Advanced Tactical Systems, Inc.

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According to, the Black Knight is a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) "multicopter", which began development in 2010 and completed successful flight tests in March of 2014.  The largest multicopter in the world, the Transformer is capable of lifting off with 4,400 lbs of cargo.  This is a major benefit to military investors who are interested in having adaptable means of transporting wounded troops to safety from battle zones, and the Transformer has both the power and dexterity to accomplish exactly this.

With the flight tests proving its ability to fly autonomously, the Transformer could not only rescue troops without endangering human pilots, but could also make large cargo deliveries to embattled areas.  However, daring pilots can still take the controls and fly the Transformer manually, all while knowing they're in a well-designed craft.  According to Advanced Tactics' website, the U.S. Army Aeroflightdynamics Directorate and NASA Ames contributed research to the Transformer's development.

Advanced Tactics indeed.
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Plans are already in motion to make the Transformer technology applicable on a smaller scale, such as the Panther two-man unit that could fit inside a larger aircraft (like an Osprey) for easier deployments in faraway areas.  Requiring minimal training to fly, the Panther could transport two special operations soldiers (plus their gear) quickly and with multi-terrain adaptability.

As for specs, the Transformer tops off at 70 m.p.h., and can fly up to 10,000 ft.  Oh, and one more totally awesome feature:  the ground drivetrain can be removed and replaced with a boat hull, should a mission demand it.  So basically, our soldiers are going to be a little safer ANYWHERE thanks to the Transformer.  Ramble (and float, and fly) on!

"It's a bird!  It's a plane!  It's a truck!  It's a Transformer!"
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Wake Up And Smell The Wifi-Enabled Coffee: New Sleep-Tracking Mattress Cover Offers Sleep Stats, "Smart" Wakeups

During the hours that you're awake, it's likely that your smartphone isn't far from your reach, enabling you to control and understand various elements of your surroundings as efficiently as possible.  But what about the hours when you're asleep?  Now, a new "smart bed" is able to technologically improve your snooze time.

According to the Independent UK, the new Luna device is a cover that fits any full size, queen, king, or California King mattress.  When Luna senses that you are falling asleep, it can remotely lower the lights and warm the room temperature.  Upon sensing you stirring from sleep, Luna can raise the lights again, and, should you be the owner of a "smart" coffee pot, it can trigger the device to start brewing (a serious plus for those who can barely manage to drag themselves out of bed in the morning.)

It'll make you coffee, but you have to add the hair of the dog on your own.
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Compatible with wifi-enabled devices that operate via Nest, Philips Hue, Lockitron, Emberlight and Beep, the Luna team are happy to help integrate it with other contraptions. Perhaps it can even run you a bath, microwave some oatmeal, or warm up your car as future household smart devices become more ubiquitous.

Still, it's already quite a useful piece of upholstery.  Luna even features "dual zone temperature" - the ability to warm or cool each side of the bed to the user's preference.  No more fights over the thermostat!  Not to mention, its sleep phase and biometric sensors can monitor your heart rate, breathing and more, so that Luna knows exactly the best moment to wake you up (making your overall day more pleasant, hopefully.)  Your overall sleep data can be integrated with wellness platforms like Apple Health Kit or Google Fit.

Too cool + too hot = just right!
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Currently being promoted via an indiegogo campaign, the Luna is for sale for $199 during the fundraising phase.  It will hit the market for $249 this August.  Controlled via an iPhone or Android app, the Luna will put all of your worries about a bad night's sleep to rest.

"Hey baby, wanna come back to my place and track our sleep stats?  Or maybe our lack-of-sleep stats?"
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The Safest Secrets In The World: Swiss Systems Allow For Super-Secure Data Storage

As privacy concerns escalate in our ever-observed lives, steps are now being taken to ensure that precious data can be held as securely as gold or other valuables.  Switzerland, a nation known for its strict privacy in the banking business, is at the forefront of this mission.

According to, Switzerland has some 61 data-banking centers that deal in information storage.  During the last five years, over a billion dollars have been invested by folks looking to keep their most important information safe from anyone else.

Even their pocketknife USB has a fingerprint scanner and major encryption technology.
No, seriously.
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The investments in data storage are surging despite Switzerland's ever-eroding laws concerning banking privacy. Due to the formerly overabundant nature of banking privacy in the nation, it was known as a haven for shady dealings to be neatly numbered and accounted for, without oversight from pesky things like the law. Although that's now changing, the element of the pervasive privacy is now being well applied to data security.

Franz Grueter, the managing director of the data storage firm, explained, "Clients need confidence, discretion, reliability and stability. These have been the country's hallmarks forever." He also noted that, "Data storage is the new Eldorado for Switzerland. It's a real boom." ( has posted 30% annual growth since its inception in 1995.)

Though Switzerland is Europe's fifth-largest data hub, it wants to be known as the nation that takes data security the most seriously. In Switzerland, personal data is legally classified as a "precious good" that requires a judge-issued order before it can be observed by any outsiders. Thus, digital assets, in the form of proprietary secrets, intellectual property, invention schematics, sensitive plans, or other critical data can be safely stashed with the Swiss.

Even email services established in Switzerland are more secure.
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One such information cache, known as Deltalis, is situated in an underground Cold War-era bunker that's protected by biometric scanners, armed guards, and four-ton steel doors that were built to thwart a nuclear attack. Its exact location is not publicly known, and critical IT developments will be handled only by those who act in strict accordance with Swiss law. As far as privacy goes in the modern world, this is as safe as safe can be.

With leaks everywhere from government to Hollywood to personal cell phones occurring, it's good to know that somewhere, secrecy is being taken seriously. One big leak, from renowned whistleblower Edward Snowden, hinted that international spies had their eye on cracking into the Swiss system. They'll have to be the best in the world to make the attempt, though...digitally, physically, and legally, the Swiss have more layers of data protection in place than useful tools on one of their pocketknives.

Your weirdest nudies are safe here.
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Have This Funny Japanese Robot Excrete You An Igloo

If you're currently living somewhere snowy (especially you, northeastern United States...stay safe), you might be having a difficult day thanks to weather-related logistics.  Namely, how crazy it is trying to navigate large amounts of snow when they suddenly appear in your roads and driveways.

Japan (of course) has invented a strange but useful vehicle to handle this problem in an efficient manner.  According to, the Yuki-taro robot uses GPS and cameras to self-navigate as a cute little snowplow.  Designed to help Japan's elderly so that they don't become shut-ins during snowstorms, Yuki-taro is currently a prototype that will eventually be sold for some 1 million yen ($9000) apiece to aid municipalities.

This is the future.  Don't laugh, Yuki-taro will neatly stack snow even after nuclear winter.
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The self-guided snowplowing isn't the best part, though.  Yuki-taro, um, "creates" bricks of snow as it works, allowing for neatly piled excretions to be used for homemade igloos or stashable summer cooling elements.  Yes, Yuki-taro basically rolls around town looking cute and pooping out snow-bricks.  Your snowfort will have some serious architectural support with Yuki-taro around.

And yes, since it's Japan, they might even make them look like Pokemon or Hello Kitty.  Next up:  Cthulu-tentacled lawn sprinkler?

Well, at least you don't have to shovel.
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Get Your Recording Groove On For Free With New "Pro Tools First" App

Are you a rocker?  Do you rock out?  Or, for that matter, do you sing opera, hit jazz, bust rhymes, yodel, or otherwise create music?  If so, you've probably recorded or wanted to record your craft so it can be immortalized and shared worldwide.  Now, the most famous program in the business is going to help you do that...for free.

Live out your craziest rock 'n roll dreams...ok, except the app can't really help with the alien part.
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For fifteen years now, Avid's Pro Tools software has been the industry standard for digitally creating and altering recorded music.  With the ability to layer tracks with precision and add countless effects to a composition, it is a valuable (but pricey) means of making a masterpiece.  Now, according to, Avid will be unveiling Pro Tools First, a free app that is a scaled-down version of their professional program.

The main differences between Pro Tools First and the regular Pro Tools is the capability for literally hundreds of tracks to be layered together in the same composition.  This essentially means that in the full version of Pro Tools, you could individually record an entire orchestra and chorus with each musician on their own track, then seamlessly blend them using the software.  Pro Tools First offers the capacity for 16 mono/stereo audio tracks, 16 MIDI tracks and 16 Instruments tracks for a maximum of 48 tracks, and 21 audio plug-in effects - all of which would be completely satisfying for many types of projects.

You don't want to worry about all this.  Just worry about the basics, and your song not being awful.
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A detailed analysis of the comparisons and contrasts between the versions of Pro Tools can be found here on Avid's website.  While there is no score editor or video playback in the app version, such amenabilities as Elastic Time and Elastic Pitch are there to help you tune up your timing and tone.

A very useful feature of both Pro Tools and Pro Tools First is the ability to share your work with other artists, producers and engineers via cloud computing.  This enables a production to be worked on remotely, where updates to the work or wholly new sonic attempts can flow freely.  While space for such projects is limited on Pro Tools First (you get room for three songs), this could theoretically help to keep you on task.

Sign up to be notified when Pro Tools First drops...soon, you could be a superstar!  Or at least give yourself an objective viewpoint on how your shower singing and karaoke jams really sound...

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Space Station Sunday: Robot Handshakes, Tropical Cyclones, And Soon, Songs From Space

Good evening, space fans!  Welcome back to the wonderful world-above-world of the International Space Station.

After the successful arrival of a SpaceX Dragon capsule to the station, the astronauts busied themselves with transferring cargo and initiating time-sensitive scientific experiments contained therein.  However, for this mission, not all of the cargo made it INSIDE the station.  According to, in a first-ever robotic handoff, NASA controllers at the Johnson Spaceflight Center in Houston used the Dextre (Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator) robotic arm to remove the CATS (Cloud Aerosol Transport System) experiment from the Dragon.

The CATS, a multi-satellite array designed to monitor atmospheric pollutants, was then robotically high-fived over to controllers from the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA), who used their own space-based robotic arm (the Japanese Experiment Module Remote Manipulator System) to install the CATS system on the exterior of the ISS's Japanese module, the Kibo.

And the CATS in the Kibo with the silver spoon...
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CATS will track everything from clouds to volcanic plumes, as well as contaminants both natural and artificial in the sky. Cloud and aerosol properties will be assessed down to 355, 532, and 1064 nanometer wavelengths.

Speaking of clouds, ESA astronaut Samathan Cristoforetti captured some amazing images of Tropical Cyclone Bansi, a storm over the Indian Ocean which peaked with winds of up to 150 miles per hour.

That bright spot is lightning, or the laser pointer of an angry god.
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Astronaut Cristoforetti tweeted the images to great response from her followers.  Follow @AstroSamantha for more!

In other news, Astronaut Scott Kelly was lauded at America's State of the Union address last Tuesday.  Kelly, a special guest seated near the First Lady, will be headed to the ISS in March along with cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko to undergo the first one-year space stay ever attempted.  President Obama enthused that the Kelly/Kornienko mission would be part of a greater plan to eventually push on to colonize Mars.  As reported, Obama said, "I want Americans to win the race for the kind of discoveries that unleash new jobs ... pushing out into the solar system, not just to visit, but to stay."

Kelly is a particularly interesting choice for the long-term space experiment, as his twin brother Mark - also a fellow astronaut and Navy SEAL - will have his medical data constantly compared with his brother's (Mark will remain on Earth for the duration of the experiment.)  This will allow an unprecedented control-and-test element to the experiment on how spaceflight affects human physiology over the long term.

His brother Mark has a mustache, so scientists can be sure they didn't switch places to cause shenanigans.
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Kelly isn't the only interesting visitor the ISS will be entertaining.  According to, singer Sarah Brightman, 54, plans to ship up to the ISS in early September, for the purpose of becoming the first-ever entertainer in space.  Brightman, who is footing the $50-million-odd bill on her own, was inspired by the Apollo moon landings to make her high-flying effort.  

She may also be looking for love...this is one of her album covers.
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Regarding the day-to-day operations of the ISS, NASA reported that things went as per routine this week.  Commander Butch Wilmore installed new parts for the Combustion Integrated Rack (used to test the various ways things can burn in microgravity.)  Astronaut Terry Virts offered ocular and echocardiogram data for further assessment of human physiological issues in space, while Astronaut Cristoforetti worked on the Magvector study, which analyzes how a space-based electrical conductor interacts with the Earth's magnetic fields (don't worry, that had nothing to do with all the lightning photos.)

That's what was up on the ISS this week!  Join us next time for more orbital this space!

Tropical Cyclone Bansi at the bottom of the world...NOT the Magvector acting up.  Or so they say.
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3D Printing The One-Of-A-Kind: New 3D-Printing "Teleporter" Destroys And Redeploys

It's kind of like teleportation...except a little more destructive.

According to, scientists have discovered a way to use "destructive scanning" and 3D printing to make objects rematerialize someplace else.  The process involves milling down (shaving away layers of) an inanimate object so that a 3D printer can make a scan of each layer.  Then, the printer sends the imagery from each scanned layer over an encrypted connection to another 3D printer.  The second printer then reconstitutes the item.

Slash it up, then beam it up, Scotty!
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The device is powered by a regular 3D printer, 3-axis milling machine, camera, and encryption microcontroller, reports.  A Raspberry Pi provides the brains, while an Arduino works the milling.

The system, called "Scotty" in homage to Enterprise engineer from "Star Trek", is considered useful in its destructive protocol, due to the fact that it enables security by only allowing one copy of an object to exist at any given point.  This could be important for future online vendors who can assure that once purchased, only one copy of an item will be available to the client.

It'll make 3D-printed art forgery a pretty bad idea.
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The encryption elements being developed for Scotty will hopefully combat homemade mass-production, ensuring the scanned files are difficult or impossible to pirate.  Copying your newest set of 3D printed flatware won't be as easy as copying a CD.

While it'll still be some time before full-scale teleportation comes into public use, it's somewhat comforting to know that even if we can replicate complex items via 3D printing, they still can't always match the originals.

Some one-of-a-kind items should remain so, in their original form.
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