5 Crazy/Cool Things That Happened This Week (May 19th, 2017)

by Srikar Kalvakolanu

Fitbits for Cows, Data-over-Audio, and Respectful Drones

It’s time to take a look at some of my favorite, weird things that happened in the world of technology this week. As always, you can check out previous week’s editions in my This Week In Tech column. Let’s get started!

1. Nano-Drone Blimp Responds to Gestures, Knows When to Keep Its Distance

Drones are a pretty divisive topic. Some people love them because of their ability to fly around, take photos and videos, and sometimes even spy. Others hate them because they can be a nuisance, and sometimes encroach on personal space. So, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have created a drone with sensors that maintain an appropriate distance to humans. The drone is apparently able to respond to gesture controls based on a small camera and can even sense facial expressions. So, now when a drone comes by, you can do the same thing you do with an annoying co-worker—give them a nice scowl and hope it goes away. What a respectful drone!

2. Emotion Reading Technology Claims to Spot Criminals Before They Act

This isn’t great news for people who don’t like the whole Big Brother concept, but NTechLab has created a tool that can be placed in cameras that can identify people in a crowd that seem angry, stressed, or nervous. The software allows for the tracking of identity, age, gender, and emotional state. The company claims that the accuracy rate is 94% and can even identify people who it has previously seen before. The company is currently working to bring the technology to CCTV cameras in Moscow.

3. “Fitbits” for Cows: The Latest Precision Dairy Cattle Monitoring Technology

This might not be the latest trend in agriculture, but cow monitoring is a really hot space. This new technology evaluates cows constantly to monitor activity, feeding time, lying time, mounting activity, real-time location, reticulorumen pH, rumination time, and body temperature through wearable technology. Basically, your cow has stats that you can track and use in order to determine the best ways to help your cattle farm achieve its goals. It can help determine things like if a cow needs to be quarantined due to sickness. This has big implications for safety and even overall milk production. On a grander scale, this helps to quantify and bring meaningful information to farmers and sellers of livestock to have a more metricized basis of a transaction. The Y Combinator W17 Class had a firm with a very similar concept called Cowlar. It’s really cool for nerds like me to see everything have stats on it.

4. Delta to Test Facial-Recognition Tech on New Self-Service Bag Drop

I have a particularly nasty habit of not wanting to talk to people in certain places and one of those places is in airports. There is just something about travel in general that makes me enjoy being in my own thoughts. And now I can thank Delta for making my dreams that much closer to reality. Delta is installing a new technology that scans the faces of travelers and allows them to check in bags without having to talk to a person at the desk. The technology scans your face and matches it up to your passport and then allows you to check in your bags. The bags are then automatically ticketed and put onto the conveyor belt for sorting to your destination. The system will first come to Minnesota’s airport (Delta’s second busiest hub) and then expand from there. Now if only a robot took my drink order on the plane!

5. Lisnr’s Data-Over-Audio Technology Aims to Replace QR Code Scanning, NFC

Lisnr has created something called Smart Tone where it wants to send data and information over audio waves rather than over NFC or QR codes. The issue with QR codes and NFC is that the technology is often outdated or extremely limited in what it can do. Lisnr can transmit a ton of different data like messages, images, URLs, or anything else. It can even allow for two-way communication to facilitate payments and other such technologies. The awesome part of the technology is that it’s inaudible for 98% of the population and only sounds like white noise for those who can hear it. While this technology exists with Google Nearby and Chirp, Lisnr claims it can transmit at a 5-to-10x faster clip than its nearest competitor.