Digital Down Low: January 27th
Scientists turn dragonflies into tiny cyborg drones
- According to Mashable, one company has decided the ideal tiny drone should take its cues from the natural world of insects — specifically the dragonfly. When Draper, an independent biomedical solutions lab, set out to make its own mini-fliers, it cut out the middleman. It got some of the insects and outfitted them with cutting-edge navigation, synthetic biology and neurotechnology systems to create a swarm of cyborg dragonfly drones.
- The tiny hybrids are part of an internal R&D project at Draper called, appropriately, DragonflEye. The tech is all miniaturized in a tiny pack, which is fitted onto the insects’ midsections. The system, which was developed in part with Howard Hughes Medical Institute, sends guidance commands to neurons inside the dragonfly nerve cord that are associated with navigation. It essentially takes control of the dragonfly’s flight path, giving the Draper team the ability to guide the insect wherever they want it to go.
- The tech has a wide range of potential applications outside of just controlling a dragonfly’s flight path — along with the obvious surveillance and intelligence uses, the tech behind the drones might someday be applied to the world of (human) medicine. More immediately, the same type of tiny drone design could be put to use on another flying insect: bees. Seven species of bees were added to the endangered species list last year, even while bee pollination alone provides over $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year in the United States, according to a 2014 White House memorandum. By putting the DragonflEye’s tech on honeybees, researchers could gain more insight on the insects and help to manage the population.
Snapchat Spectacles case melts while charging
- According to Tech Crunch, one owner of Snap Inc’s Spectacles camera-glasses had a similar experience. They tell TechCrunch that after charging the Spectacles case for a half-hour, they returned to find “the internals melted”, and provided us with this photographic evidence. The owner, who wished not to be named, wrote that you can see “the big button and LEDs…all that is now a wired mash.”
- Our source says the Spectacles were bought in mid-December from the New York City Spectacles pop-up store. They’d charged the case and glasses many times without an issue using the included special cable connected to a laptop, battery pack, or Apple iPhone charger. But this time, when they connected the Spectacles case to the same Apple 5W wall charging brick, the owner wrote, “About a half hour later, I got a burning smell. Looked at the case, and it had melted the internals. The case was very hot when I went to touch it.”
- Snap Inc. snapped into action upon hearing about the problem, offering to hand-deliver the owner a new pair and take the new one back for investigation. The owner says the company has done a good job handling support. Now the question is what the results of Snap Inc’s pending investigation will be, and whether the US Consumer Product Safety Commission will get involved.
Facebook updates News Feed algorithm to focus on video completion rates
- According to Marketing Land, Facebook is constantly refining the user experience for the benefit of both content creators and consumers. Today, Facebook shared some information regarding changes made to the way videos are ranked in the News Feed, specifically addressing the value it gives to how much a video is watched so that users can find the best possible videos on the social network.
- Various signals are evaluated to determine prominence, including live video status and engagement based on length of time watched, as a metric known as “percent completion.” A video that is watched at least halfway identifies the content as “compelling.” A longer video with this weight metric also indicates a bigger commitment; so longer videos may not necessarily be penalized in the News Feed as they may have been before.
- The goal of this update is to announce that Facebook acknowledges that long videos shouldn’t necessarily get the shaft: if there is still a lot of engagement on the video, it clearly means it has significance. But that is predicated upon engagement. By creating a longer video, Facebook isn’t going to give the video prominence by default. It still needs to pass this “percent completion” weight metric. This change isn’t going to happen immediately; Facebook reports it’s rolling out in the next few weeks. In the meantime, publishers can learn about their video performance through their video insights under their Page’s Page Analytics tab to prepare for the upcoming changes. They also don’t have to worry about an ideal video length; that all depends on the content.