The dystopian future you’ve been expecting is here now, at least if you live in New York City, which unveiled a trio of technology solutions to the city’s crime woes this week. Surprisingly, the least terrifying one is “DigiDog,” which seems to be more or less an off-the-shelf Spot robot from Boston Dynamics. DigiDog’s job is to de-escalate hostage negotiation situations, and unarmed though it may be, we suspect that the mission will fail spectacularly if either the hostage or hostage-taker has seen Black Mirror. Also likely to terrify the public is the totally-not-a-Dalek-looking K5 Autonomous Security Robot, which is apparently already wandering around Times Square using AI and other buzzwords to snitch on people. And finally, there’s StarChase, which is based on an AR-15 lower receiver and shoots GPS trackers that stick to cars so they can be tracked remotely. We’re not sure about that last one either; besides the fact that it looks like a grenade launcher, the GPS tracker isn’t exactly covert. Plus it’s only attached with adhesive, so it seems easy enough to pop it off the target vehicle and throw it in a sewer, or even attach it to another car.
Have you ever wondered how Uber sets its prices? We haven’t, because we’ve never used a ridesharing service, but apparently, some reporters in Belgium with that very question did an informal experiment and found that it may have something to do with the battery charge level on your phone. They used two different smartphones to hail a ride from their office to the center of Brussels. The phone with 84% charge got a price of €16.60, while the phone with only 12% remaining was quoted €15.56. The experiment has obvious flaws, like an n of 1 and the fact that they used two different phones rather than the same phone at different charge states. And Uber denies that they take battery charge into account when determining a ride price. But we have to admit it seems like using battery state as a proxy for user desperation seems pretty smart, so we’d like to see more work done on this.
In more dystopic news, the mayor of an Australian city may become the first person to sue ChatGPT for defamation. Brian Hood, newly elected mayor of the enchantingly named Hepburn Shire, discovered that constituents were being told by the chatbot that he had been embroiled in a foreign bribery scandal in the early 2000s and naming him the guilty party. The first part was true, insofar as he was the whistleblower in the cases, and was never charged with anything. His lawyers have sent a takedown notice to OpenAI but haven’t heard back, so there may be a precedent-setting lawsuit in the offing.
Sad news for anyone who cut their engineering teeth on Meccano as the last factory dedicated to making the construction toy is getting ready to close its doors. The Calais plant, which has been making Meccano for more than 40 years, is being closed in 2024 due to — what else — supply chain issues and the rising cost of materials. While the plant closure will impact the 51 people who work there, it’s not the end of the line for the Meccano brand, since the toy will continue to be made under contract by factories in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. But it is sad to see the decline of a brand like this, especially when it helped launch so many engineering careers.
Ever wish there was a Google Earth for Mars? We’ve got you covered.
And finally, if you’re looking for a quick way to get up to speed on KiCad 7, you could do worse than this 13-minute introductory video. It’s not exactly for EDA beginners, but if you’re coming over from Eagle or some other platform and have the basic vocabulary, these five steps will get you going. Sadly, though, you still won’t know for sure how to pronounce “KiCad” after the video.