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Robots Might Build Our Houses on Mars

Would you like to go to Mars?

Where once that was a question for science- fiction books and movies, today it’s a very real possibility. NASA, the US space agency, expects to send people to the Red Planet in 20 to 25 years. Some private companies think they can do it even sooner.

So forget about fictional little green Martians invading Earth. In the not-too-distant future, you could be packing for a trip to our solar system next-door neighbour – a voyage that, with current technology, would take about eight months each way.

Think of the frequent-flier miles! At its closest, in August 2003, Mars was “just” 34.8 million miles from Earth. On average, though, it’s about 140 million miles away. The distance varies because both planets are constantly moving.

After travelling all that way, you’re probably going to want to stay awhile. NASA is working on two plans. One would have you and your fellow astronauts remain on Mars for a few weeks. The other plan has you staying for more than a year.

In either case, where will you live in that desertlike environment? And what will you eat? In addition to the planet’s thin atmosphere, its rocky, sandy surface lacks liquid water and endures weeks-long dust storms, so growing food outdoors is a dream decades away at best.

These are among the millions of questions that scientists and engineers are tackling. And they’re seeking ideas from all of us.

The 3D-printed Habitat Challenge is a five-year competition hosted by NASA and its partners to design housing for deep-space exploration, including trips to Mars.

Basically, the pros want to see what the rest of us can come up with to build reusable shelters from recyclables and materials found on site.

mars home nasa zopherus 2 Mars

The habitat from AI-SpaceFactory has a social hub – featuring a lab and a kitchen
Photo Credit: AI-SpaceFactory

The competition, with $3.15 million (roughly Rs. 22.8 crores) in prize money, is in its third and final phase and will end in the spring.

“It’s been eye-opening to learn from people outside NASA their concept of what a house on Mars would look like,” said Monsi Roman, program manager for this and similar NASA competitions at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. “It’s amazing what people can come up with when they’re not constrained by money, time and other limits.”

NASA’s goal, she said, is to have its experts look at an entry and think: “Yeah, that makes 100 percent sense. How can we not have thought about that before?”

For the competition’s final phase, entrants are building virtual or reduced-scale models of their habitats. Each must be able to house four astronauts for one year and include space for cooking, sleeping and recreation in addition to a work area. Some plans include an indoor garden. All must offer protection from harmful radiation levels much higher than on Earth.

The heart of the challenge is that the habitat must be ready for use before any astronauts arrive on Mars. Robots will go first and collect local materials to create a mixture called Martian concrete. One or more 3D printers sent with the robots will use that concrete and other materials to build the habitat.

Entries have come in various shapes and sizes. Team Zopherus from Arkansas won the first stage with a habitat that looks like the head of a Minion covered in brown rocks (without the goggles). A multi-legged landing vehicle moves like a giant spider and sends out buglike rover robots to collect stuff.

Mississippi’s Kahn-Yates team took third place with a sleek, shell-like design intended to lessen the effects of dust storms and let in more sunlight on a planet where the average temperature is minus-81 degrees!

AI SpaceFactory of New York came in second with a candy-barrel design that builds up, not out, which the team says will make 3D-printing easier. It’s plain on the outside, and its futuristic interior has a bright “skyroom” on the top level. It’s so awesome that one Earthling who viewed it online said, “We need that … here.”

© The Washington Post 2018

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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Apple Considering TV Streaming Dongle to Counter Chromecast, Fire TV Stick: Report

With a view of kick off its content streaming service for the masses, Apple reportedly has plans to launch an affordable dongle. The dongle, which is likely to sit alongside the existing Apple TV, would compete against Amazon’s Fire TV Stick and Google’s Chromecast. The Cupertino giant notably launched the fifth generation Apple TV that dubbed Apple TV 4K in September last year to enable high-end viewing experience. The latest model supports 2160p playback as well as works with standards such as HDR10 and Dolby Vision.

The low-priced streaming dongle has been a part of internal discussions at Apple, reports The Information, citing people familiar with the development. The dongle is speculated to set the pitch for the upcoming video streaming service that is likely to take on contenders such as Amazon Prime Video and Netflix. Earlier this year, it was also reported that Apple could bring a subscription bundle to provide original TV shows, music service, and news content under one roof – somewhere similar to how Amazon drives its subscription-based Prime service that includes Prime Video, Prime Music, Prime Reading, and Prime Now among other key services.

So far, Apple TV is available as the lone streaming device by Apple. While the latest Apple TV model ticks all the boxes – be it 4K video streaming or support for HDR10, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos, it carries a starting price tag of Rs. 17,430 ($179 in the US) that is far expensive over the Chromecast and Fire TV Stick. Amazon even recently brought the Fire TV Stick 4K that comes at Rs. 4,999 ($49.99 in the US). This highlights the need for a low-cost Apple dongle.

The new dongle could help Apple widen its presence in the market of streaming media players. As per a recent report by Parks Associates, the ownership of streaming media players has grown from about six percent of US broadband households in 2010 to 40 percent at the beginning of 2018. The report also mentioned the Apple TV leads on the avenues of gaming and ease of finding something new to watch and purchasing new content. Data startup Thinknum also reported that Apple TV has now been the second most selling 4K streaming device in the US after Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K. This is despite the fact that the Fire TV Stick 4K is significantly lower than the Apple TV 4K.

Apple is also planning to bring a dedicated app for smart TVs that would work for its original content. The company is rumoured to have plans to spend $1 billion (roughly Rs. 7,100 crores) for its original shows. The content is expected to be available for free for viewers who own Apple devices.

In the recent past, Apple has signed some production deals to kick off the development of its content streaming service. The company also brought celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey on board to make a model competing with Amazon, Netflix, and other streaming services.

We need to wait for sometime to see what Apple is cooking up behind the scenes. Meanwhile, it is safe to take the report around the streaming dongle with a pinch of salt.

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Realme 2 Pro, Realme 1 Bootloaders to Be Unlocked in Q1 2019, Realme Accessories Coming to India Soon

Realme 2 Pro, Realme 1 Bootloaders to Be Unlocked in Q1 2019, Realme Accessories Coming to India Soon

Realme will unlock bootloader of the Realme 2 Pro by January 15, 2019

Realme, a spinoff brand from Oppo, has taken the Indian market by storm with its affordable offerings including the Realme 1, Realme C1, Realme 2, and Realme 2 Pro. The phone maker has now announced that it will unlock the bootloader of the Realme 2 Pro by January 15, 2019. Even the Realme 1 will have its bootloader unlocked and kernel source released in the first quarter of 2019 itself. Other than that, the Realme 2 Pro is confirmed to get support for slow motion video recording in the first quarter next year. This feature will expectedly be made available via an OTA update on the smartphone. Realme mobile accessories are also said to launch in India before the end of this year.

Apart from the Realme 2 Pro, the company’s CEO Madhav Sheth took to Twitter to announce that “other Realme devices are being taken into consideration” for the slow motion video feature. In a video posted on his account, Sheth claimed that Realme mobile accessories, starting with Realme-branded earphones, will be unveiled in India before the end of this year. He also said that the new software UI, which is already being experienced by Realme 1 beta users, will roll out to all other Realme phones by the end of this year.

Ever since the launch of the Realme 1, the phone maker has been particularly swift in rolling out latest updates, Android security patches, and new features to its entire lineup. Just this week, the Realme 2 Pro received its latest software update which brought optimisations for selfie camera quality, optimisations for reminders, and the latest November 2018 Android security patch to the smartphone. The Realme 2 and Realme C1 already have the latest November security patch, and are expected to get ColorOS 5.2 soon.

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Xiaomi Mi TV 4S 75-Inch With 4K Display, HDR Support Launched

Xiaomi has expanded its smart TV portfolio with the launch of a 75-inch variant of the Mi TV 4S in China. The new variant will go on sale in the country from November 23, and its key highlights are the large display, sleek design, 4K screen, HDR support, and more. To recall, the Mi TV 4S already has 43-inch and 55-inch variants launched in the market, and now it’s making available another option for customers who prefer really big screens. Even the Mi TV 4 series introduced a 75-inch option recently in the market.

The Mi TV 4S 75-inch variant is priced at CNY 7,999 (roughly Rs.82,100), and will be made available on Xiaomi Mall and Mi Home Stores in China. To recall, the 43-inch model of the Mi TV 4S was launched earlier in May, and it has been priced at CNY 1,799 (roughly Rs. 19,100) and comes with a 4K Ultra HD display that has an 8ms response time, 60Hz refresh rate, and 178-degree viewing angle. There is a quad-core processor under the hood, paired with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage. The 55-inch variant got a curved display, 2GB of RAM, and 8GB inbuilt storage, and came with a price tag of CNY 3,299 (roughly Rs. 35,100).

Coming back to the Mi TV 4S, the television supports a 4K LCD display panel with narrow bezels and HDR support, and is built with aerospace-grade aluminium, brushed metal, and silver-grey metal finishes. It is powered by the 64-bit A53 quad-core processor, paired with 2GB RAM and just 8GB internal storage. Internal storage on the 75-inch Mi TV 4 was at 32GB. As mentioned, the TV supports HDR, and has Bluetooth, DTS-HD and Dolby audio, and Wi-Fi connectivity options as well.

Just like the other two variants, this 75-inch Mi TV 4S also runs on Xiaomi’s own PatchWall UI and it also brings along AI-based voice recognition. The remote also comes with a designated button to activate the voice assistant to operate the TV with easy voice commands. The device can be purchased after November 23 from the company’s official website.

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