NASA Just Flew an Autonomous Space Shuttle… And Other News You May Have Missed

Rounding up IT and advanced tech-related news impacting government and industry.

And it worked! On Saturday, the space agency flew Dream Chaser, Sierra Nevada Corp.'s spacecraft, from 12,500 feet and it lasted a minute — but it was the first successful test flight of a mini, new-generation space shuttle.

The fully autonomous vehicle was dropped from a helicopter over the Mojave Desert in California and glided to the Edwards Air Force Base, thanks to its wings that let it land on a runway.

According to Mark Sirangelo, the head of Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Space Systems Division, the flight was successful because it met all the company’s goals; the spacecraft flew itself from the drop to a safe landing, it was a full flight and there were no issues. The company is contracted to fly Dream Chaser to the International Space Station by 2020. The Washington Post

Artificial Intelligence

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AI Can Now be Your Personal Stylist

Or rather, what can’t artificial intelligence do? FashionAI, developed by Alibaba’s retail-focused research team, helps people virtually shop while they are physically shopping. It was introduced Nov. 11 in China as a poster-sized screen on the wall in fitting rooms. It scans the item of clothing the shopper is holding by a tiny sensor embedded in the garment, and provides matching items on the screen the shopper can flip through — just like online shopping. And when the shopper finds something he or she likes, a button on the screen calls a store clerk to bring it. In other words, FashionAI is your new personal stylist.

The system uses deep learning, and it has already learned to recognize hundreds of millions of clothing, tastes of designers and fashion experts on Alibaba’s shopping sites. It’s customized for every store and generates dozens of outfit matches from inventory items.

Ultimately, the company hopes it can “reinvent retail using artificial intelligence,” and bring people back into the stores. MIT Technology Review

Tech that Can Change Our Lives

There are five major areas where tech companies build things that can actually impact our day-to-day lives, according to The New York Times: AI health care, conversational computing, mind control, the flying car, and the quantum computer. AI’s revolutionary role in health care stems from a complex algorithm deep neural network and machine learning to identify signs of disease and illness in medical scans. Eventually, this will streamline, and lead to, accelerated drug discovery and other aspects of health care.

And just like Amazon Echo-type devices, neural networks will eventually produce machines truly conversational, that can understand complex English sentences. Using electroencephalography to measure electrical brain activity, companies are also exploring systems that will one day “let people type with their minds five times faster than they can with a smartphone keyboard.”

The creation of flying cars is already happening, and Google, IBM and Intel are investing significantly  in quantum computing to do things like streamline financial markets and solve traffic problems. The New York Times

Tampa’s Goal to Become a Smart City

The Florida city plans to launch pilot testing for a connected vehicle technology research project in 2018. The project is part of the Tampa Connected Vehicle Pilot, one of three connected vehicle system implementation efforts in the U.S. funded through grants from the Transportation Department. The others are in New York City and Wyoming, and they have different goals.

But Tampa is the only city in the effort letting local residents drive their own cars.

The project will outfit 1,600 privately owned vehicles with technology to communicate with the road and other cars, pushing and receiving warnings and alerts about road conditions and speed limit changes. It’s also connecting 10 buses to communicate with traffic signals to keep them on schedule, and 10 streetcars will use the tech to detect if another car is about to cross in their lane. There will be an app for 500 pedestrian testers participating, too, sending walk alerts at intersections. TechCrunch

Your Doctor Will Soon Know if You Took Your Pill

Thanks to Abilify MyCite, the first digital pill officially approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The specific drug treats schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression, and it contains a tiny ingestible sensor (the size of a grain of sand) that communicates with a patch worn by the patient. The patch then sends that medication data to a smartphone app, which patients can upload to a database for their doctors to see.

The sensor is made with silicon, copper and magnesium, and an electrical signal is activated when the sensor hits stomach acid. The patch is worn on the left rib cage and gets the signal minutes after the pill is ingested. Information like the time the pill was taken and dosage is transmitted to the app over Bluetooth.

But that’s not all: The pill also records activity levels, sleeping patterns, steps taken and heart rate. The Verge

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