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With the possible exception of Tom Cruise, learning to fly a helicopter demands months of classroom, simulator, and in-air training. The controls feature all the logic of Bop It: Twist one hand, move the other to the left. Push one foot, then the other. Watch the instruments, but don’t forget to look at the horizon. I once spent a full day working with Airbus’ top instructors, and by the end couldn’t even keep the chopper in level flight. I was nowhere near pulling off a low hover, a move that looks simple but requires extraordinary coordination and concentration.
But last month, a group from the US Army, including one person who’d never even been in a helicopter, flew a Sikorsky S-76B helicopter up and over a small watching crowd in Fort Eustis, Virginia, hovered over an adjoining field, dropped down, adjusted their position to dodge another vehicle, then safely landed. And they did it all after as little as 45 minutes of training.
“It’s pretty neat to see the transformation from ‘I have no idea what this system does’ to ‘I can now control this system,’” says Sikorsky helicopter pilot Mark Ward, who put the newbies through their minimalist training. “This is not to say that they’re combat-ready, hardened, ready to go. But it is a testament to the ease with which they can now adapt to a nonlogical control system like a helicopter,” he says.
It’s not like these people are aeronautical savants (no offense) or leather-clad Carrie-Anne Mosses. But computers are key, as given away by the retro blocky graphic on the chopper: “Matrix Technology.” This, as you may have guessed, is no ordinary helicopter. It’s controlled by a hand-held tablet that lets wannabe pilots fly about using familiar gestures and movements, like they would to play a game or fly a quadcopter drone.
Matrix Technology is the name of Sikorsky’s program for rotorcraft that minimize, or even eliminate, the role of the human pilot. It’s part Darpa’s Alias program (that’s the Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System). Just as some automakers are approaching self-driving cars with gradually more capable driver assistance tech, the idea here is that making a chopper easier to fly is a step toward letting a computer take control.
Instead of learning the steps of the complicated throttle and pedal dance, the human onboard controls the flight using a tablet and a couple of joystick-like controllers called interceptors. The tablet is used for inputting mission changes, like changing the destination. The interceptors are for more immediate inputs, like a push to the right or a quick climb. But unlike in conventional flight, adjusting any of these controls leads to an input into the computer controlling the flight, requesting a change, rather than a direct movement of a flight control surface. This is fully fly-by-wire, under the control of an algorithm.
“It allows the onboard crew members to rapidly communicate their intent to the autonomy system, which kind of becomes like a copilot,” says Igor Cherepinsky, director of Sikorsky’s autonomy program. The human gives orders, the computer executes them.
Although Sikorsky put the humans in the helicopter for this demo, the system could work just as efficiently as a kind of remote control, says Cherepinsky, with the human on the ground below holding the tablet, or in a remote center, dialing in and supervising. Those applications could be useful for first responders like firefighters, who could direct aircraft over forest blazes from a safe distance.
For the military, automating more aspects of flight could help make missions safer. “Really, we want the pilot’s eyes and mind on the fight rather than holding an altitude,” says Graham Drozeski, the Darpa program manager for Alias. For Darpa, Sikorsky is now integrating its system into a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, for more mission-driven demonstrations next year.
In the civilian world, increased autonomy, and smarter helicopters in particular, could be a useful stepping stone on the way to fully autonomous air taxis, whisking commuters from building top to building top in Dallas and LA by 2023— if Uber has its way. At the same time, startups like SkyRyse are betting that helicopters with sensors and smarts will show that air trips can be cheaper, quicker to dispatch, and ultimately more useful than they are now. Even before they become fully autonomous, which could take years of technological and regulatory overhauls, they would lower the bar for human pilots.
Sikorsky’s system is all about augmenting the human, at least for now, Cherepinsky says. “We are all marching toward the holy grail of pushing one button on the screen saying ‘get me here,‘ point A to point B.”
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Look, we won’t waste your time here. There are more important things going on in the world. But if you use any of Google’s G Suite products, you’ll be glad you read this.
You know how every time you want to create a new Google doc or spreadsheet, you have to go into Google Drive, and then click New, and the click on what kind of file you need, and the whole time you’re just thinking about all the other, better things you could be doing with the six seconds it takes to click those clicks? Good news: You don’t have to do that anymore. Instead, just type in doc.new, or sheet.new, or slide.new, or form.new if you’re an edge case, or whatever. And behold! A new file will unfold before you.
It’s not just those! Variants also work, like sheets.new or spreadsheets.new. And yes, it’s a very small advance. But these days, even the little wins are worth celebrating.
There’s no real magic to this; Google’s just taking advantage of the “.new” top level domain registry, which it has operated since 2014 through its Charleston Road Registry subsidiary. (A TLD is the part of the URL that comes after the dot.) In its application at the time, the company said potential uses “may include but are not limited to applications such as media (tv show.new, author name.new) and marketing campaigns (cheerios.new, shampoo.new).”
“The .new gTLD will provide a new mechanism whereby businesses and individuals can differentiate their content by signifying that their offerings are ‘new,’” the application later continues. A little on the nose, but useful!
In one sense, using .new as a shortcut for G Suite files also serves as something of an advertisement; the company said in a very brief blog post that it plans to open up its fancy TLD to everyone next year. Which is to say, as useful as the Google Docs shortcut is, brace yourself for the shampoo ad sites to come.
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NEW YORK (Reuters) – After researching digital currencies for work last year, personal finance writer J.R. Duren hopped on his own crypto-rollercoaster.
Duren bought $ 5 worth of litecoin in November, and eventually purchased $ 400 more, mostly with his credit card. In just a few months, he experienced a rally, a crash and a recovery, with the adrenaline highs and lows that come along.
“At first, I was freaking out,” Duren said about watching his portfolio plunge 40 percent at one point. “The precipitous drop came as a shock.”
The 39-year-old Floridian is part of the new class of crypto-investors who do not necessarily think bitcoin will replace the U.S. dollar, or that blockchain will revolutionize modern finance or that dentists should have their own currency.
Dubbed by longtime crypto-investors as “the noobs”– online lingo for “newbies” – they are ordinary investors hopping onto the latest trend, often with little understanding of how cryptocurrencies work or why they exist.
“There has been a big shift in the type of investors we have seen in crypto over the past year,” said Angela Walch, a fellow at the UCL Centre for Blockchain Technologies. “It’s shifted from a small group of techies to average Joes. I overhear conversations about cryptocurrencies everywhere, in coffee shops and airports.”
Walch and other experts cited parallels to the late-1990s, when retail investors jumped into stocks like Pets.com, a short-lived online seller of pet supplies, only to watch their wealth evaporate when the dot-com bubble burst.
Bitcoin is the best-known virtual currency but there are now more than 1,500 to choose from, according to market data website CoinMarketCap, ranging from popular coins like ether and ripple to obscure coins like dentacoin, the one intended for dentists.
Exactly how many “noobs” bought into the craze last year is unclear because each transaction is pseudonymous, meaning it is linked to a unique digital address, and few exchanges collect or share detailed information about their users.
A variety of consumer-friendly websites have made investing much easier, and online forums are now filled with posts from ordinary retail investors who were rarely spotted on the cryptocurrency pages of social news hub Reddit before.
Reuters interviewed eight people who recently made their first foray into digital currency investing. Many were motivated by a fear of missing out on profits during what seemed like a never-ending rally last year.
One bitcoin was worth almost $ 20,000 in December, up around 1,900 percent from the start of 2017. As of Friday afternoon it was worth about $ 10,000 after having fallen as much as 70 percent from its peak. Other coins made even bigger gains and experienced equally dizzying drops over that time frame.
“There was that two-month period last year where all the virtual currencies kept going and up and I had a couple of friends that had invested and they had made five-figure returns,” said Michael Brown, a research analyst in New Jersey, who said he bought around $ 1,000 worth of ether in December.
“I got swept by the media frenzy,” he said. “You never hear stories of people losing money.”
In the weeks after Brown invested, his holdings soared as much as 75 percent and tumbled as much as 59 percent.
BUY AND “HODL”
Investors who got into bitcoin before its 2013 crash like to refer to themselves as “OGs,” short for “original gangsters.” They tend to shrug off the recent downturn, arguing that cryptocurrencies will be worth much more in the future.
“As crashes go, this is one of the biggest,” said Xavier Levenfiche, who first invested in cryptocurrencies in 2011. “But, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a hiccup on the road to greatness.”
Spooked by the sudden fall but not willing to book a loss, many investors are embracing a mantra known as “HODL.” The term stems from a misspelled post on an online forum during the cryptocurrency crash in 2013, when a user wrote he was “hodling” his bitcoin, instead of “holding.”
Mike Gnitecki, for instance, bought one bitcoin at around $ 18,000 in December and was sitting on a 43 percent decline as of Friday, waiting for a recovery.
“I view it as having been a fun side investment similar to a gamble,” said Gnitecki, a paramedic from Texas. “Clearly I lost some money on this particular gamble.”
Duren, the personal finance writer, is also holding onto his litecoin for now, though he regrets having spent $ 33 on credit card and exchange fees for a $ 405 investment.
Some retail investors who went big into cryptocurrencies for the first time during the rally last year remain positive.
Didi Taihuttu announced in October that he and his family had sold everything they owned — including their business, home, cars and toys — to move to a “digital nomad” camp in Thailand.
In an interview, Taihuttu said he has no regrets. The crypto-day-trader’s portfolio is in the black, and he predicts one bitcoin will be worth between $ 30,000 and $ 50,000 by year-end.
His backup plan is to write a book and perhaps make a movie about his family’s experience.
“We are not it in it to become bitcoin millionaires,” Taihuttu said.
Reporting by Anna Irrera; Editing by Steve Orlofsky; Editing by Lauren Tara LaCapra
Life as we once knew it drastically changed in the mid-90s. The Internet’s popularity was on the rise, and many savvy businesses and companies saw the potential of a hyper-connected, digital world. This lead to the dot-com bubble–a sharp rise, and fall, in stock prices that was fueled by investments in Internet-based companies.
While we’ve moved far past the early stages of Internet start-ups and e-commerce companies, digital is continuing to change our everyday lives–from how we work, live, and play to the future of money itself. Interest in cryptocurrency, similar to the frenzy we saw in the early days of the dot-com bubble, is reaching a crescendo–yet many experts are already predicting its demise.
Warren Buffet has gone on the record saying that crypto will come to a bad ending. Jamie Dimon, J.P. Morgan’s CEO, called Bitcoin a fraud before later admitting that he regretted making that statement.
Meanwhile, other big-name investors and companies are going out of their way to invest in crypto–from Richard Branson to Microsoft .
But are the naysayers right? Are we headed toward a catastrophic implosion of dot-com level proportions?
Yes, the crypto market is volatile. There are too many unknowns to be certain, but if we look at the histories of companies like Amazon, eBay, Priceline, and Shutterfly, then maybe we can gain some clarity.
These e-commerce companies were born during the dot-com era, and they weathered the storm and emerged as some of the most successful and stable companies in history. The dot-com crash didn’t destroy the concept of e-commerce or the fact that consumers want to buy airline tickets, antiques, or pet food online–there was simply a gold rush in the early development stages. Once the dust settled, however, the strong survived.
Don’t call it a comeback
In the end, the dot-com bubble was a movement. Smart investors saw the future of digital-based commerce and, as they invested, the movement snowballed into madness. Many of the companies that popped up during that time were run by people who were in over their heads, or they didn’t have the technology to keep up with the demand. When the crash happened, it thinned the herd.
Mona El Isa, the chief executive and co-founder of Melonport, summed this notion up at a recent TechCrunch conference when she said, “The dot-com bubble was messy, but if we look at some of the largest companies that exist today they are a result of the dot-com bubble and they are part of our everyday lives.”
Which leads us back to what we’re seeing with cryptocurrency today. Even if this bubble bursts, the concept of digital currency will not go away. It may wipe out 90% of today’s existing startup currencies, but the strong will survive. Companies, like Kodak, who try to create a currency without providing real customer value may see efforts go to waste. And this will pave the way for the Amazon of cryptocurrency to make its mark on the world.
To further the power of this movement, it’s important to remember that cryptocurrency isn’t a company. It doesn’t have shareholders. It isn’t VC-backed. Which means this movement extends beyond any other economic bubble we’ve seen–it’s happening in an arena that’s removed from the stock markets. So, when, and if, the bubble bursts, it won’t go quietly into that good night. The parameters may change drastically from what we are seeing today, but digital currency–in one form or another–is the future.
How to invest in a movement
So, if cryptocurrency is the future–how do you invest? From a business standpoint, it’s important to look at crypto through a risk-management lens. Business leaders and board members should be learning everything they can about this new trend so they can determine how, where, and why it might affect or fit into the business. Is there a way to offer customers value through cryptocurrency? Is the time right to execute? Is there a long-term strategy in place that will take advantage of the crypto movement when the stormy waters calm down?
These are the types of questions you need to consider. Do what’s best for your business and what’s best for your customer. As with any digital movement, you need to be aware of the trends and aware of how it could change your business. This is the only way to defend your company from possible disruption.
For anyone who is considering investing in cryptocurrency, it’s important to remember that this is a long-term movement. Our world is becoming increasingly smaller and more reliant on digital means–currency transformation is inevitable.
It’s the smart investors who understand that this isn’t a fragile economic trend. Digital currency will continue to adapt and change over the next few years–and the companies and entrepreneurs who pay close attention now will have the best chance at deftly navigating the troubled waters.
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You’re looking at a Critical Skills Operator with U.S. Marine Corps as he learns how to uses a torch to cut through a metal door. That’s just part of a list of techniques including “mechanical, ballistic, thermal and explosive” methods that the soldiers uses to overcome walls, fences and anything else that gets in their way. They don’t take “no” for an answer at the door.