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‘Carpentry Compiler’ turns 3D models to instructions on how to build them

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Even to an experienced carpenter, it may not be obvious what the best way is to build a structure they’ve designed. A new digital tool, Carpentry Compiler, provides a way forward, converting the shapes of the structure to a step-by-step guide on how to produce them. It could help your next carpentry project get off the screen and into the shop.

“If you think of both design and fabrication as programs, you can use methods from programming languages to solve problems in carpentry, which is really cool,” said project lead Adriana Schulz from the University of Washington’s computer science department, in a news release.

It sounds a bit detached from the sawdust and sweat of hands-on woodworking, but they don’t say “measure twice, cut once” for nothing. Carpentry is a cerebral process more than a physical one, and smart, efficient solutions tend to replace ones that are merely well made.

What Carpentry Compiler does is codify the rules that govern design and carpentry, for example what materials are available, what tools can do, and so on, and use those to create a solution (in terms of cuts and joins) to a problem (how to turn boards into a treehouse).

Users design in a familiar 3D model interface, as many already do, creating the desired structure out of various shapes that they can modify, divide, pierce, attach, and so on. The program then takes those shapes and determines the best way to create them from your existing stock, with the tools you have — which you can select from a list.

Need to make the roof of your treehouse but only have 2x4s? It’ll provide a recipe with that restriction. Got some plywood sheets? It’ll use those, and the leftovers contribute to the base so there’s less waste. By evaluating lots and lots of variations on how this might be accomplished, the program arrives at what it believes are the best options, and presents multiple solutions.

“If you want to make a bookcase, it will give you multiple plans to make it,” said Schulz. “One might use less material. Another one might be more precise because it uses a more precise tool. And a third one is faster, but it uses more material. All these plans make the same bookcase, but they are not identical in terms of cost. These are examples of tradeoffs that a designer could explore.”

A 24-inch 2×4 gets cut at 16 inches at a 30-degree angle.

That’s really the same kind of thing that goes on inside a woodworker’s brain: I could use that fresh sheet to make this part, and it would be easy, or I could cut those shapes from either corner and it would leave room in the middle, but that’ll be kind of a pain… That sort of thing. It can also optimize for spatial elements, if for example you wanted to pack the parts in a box, or for cost if you wanted to shave a few bucks off the project.

Eventually the user is provided with a set of instructions specific to their set of tools. And the carpenters themselves act as the “processor,” executing operations, like “cut at this angle,” on real-world materials. In Carpenter Compiler, computer programs you!

The team presented their work at SIGGRAPH Asia last month. You can read more about the project (and learn how you can try it yourself) at its webpage.

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Vivo beats Samsung for 2nd spot in Indian smartphone market

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Samsung, which once led the smartphone market in India, slid to the third position in the quarter that ended in December even as the South Korean giant continues to make major bets on the rare handset market that is still growing.

According to research firm Counterpoint, Chinese firm Vivo surpassed Samsung to become the second biggest smartphone vendor in India in Q4 2019. Xiaomi, with command over 27% of the market, maintained its top stop in the nation for the 10th consecutive quarter.

Vivo’s annual smartphone shipment grew 76% in 2019. The Chinese firm’s aggressive positioning of budget $100 to $150 S series of smartphones in the brick and mortar market and acceptance of e-commerce sales helped it beat Samsung, said Counterpoint analysts. Vivo’s market share jumped 132% between Q4 of 2018 and Q4 of 2019, according to the research firm.

Realme, which spun out of Chinese smartphone maker Oppo, claimed the fifth spot. Oppo assumed the fourth. Realme has taken the Indian market by a storm. The two-year-old firm has replicated Xiaomi’s playbook in the country and so far focused on selling aggressively low-cost Android smartphones online.

The report, released late Friday (local time), also states that India, with 158 million smartphone shipments in 2019, took over the U.S. in annual smartphone shipment for the first time.

India, which was already the world’s second largest smartphone market for total handset install base, is now also the second largest smartphone market for annual shipment of smartphones in a year.

Tarun Pathak, a senior analyst at Counterpoint, told TechCrunch that about 150 million to 155 million smartphone units were shipped in the U.S. in 2019.

More to follow…

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Sonos clarifies how unsupported devices will be treated

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Smart speaker manufacturer Sonos clarified its stance when it comes to old devices that are no longer supported. The company faced some criticisms after its original announcement. Sonos now says that you’ll be able to create two separate Sonos systems so that your newer devices stay up to date.

If you use a Zone Player, Connect, first-generation Play:5, CR200, Bridge or pre-2015 Connect:Amp, Sonos is still going to drop support for those devices. According to the company, those devices have reached their technical limits when it comes to memory and processing power.

While nothing lasts forever, it’s still a shame that speakers that work perfectly fine are going to get worse over time. For instance, if Spotify and Apple Music update their application programming interface in the future, your devices could stop working with those services altogether.

But the announcement felt even more insulting as the company originally said that your entire ecosystem of Sonos devices would stop receiving updates so that all your devices remain on the same firmware version. Even if you just bought a Sonos One, it would stop receiving updates if there’s an old speaker on your network.

“We are working on a way to split your system so that modern products work together and get the latest features, while legacy products work together and remain in their current state,” the company writes.

It’s not ideal, but the company is no longer holding your Sonos system back. Sonos also clarifies that old devices will still receive security updates and bug fixes — but there won’t be any new feature.

I still think Sonos should add a computing card slot to its devices. This way, you wouldn’t have to replace speakers altogether. You could get a new computing card with more memory and faster processors and swap your existing card. Modularity is going to be essential if tech companies want to adopt a more environmental-friendly stance.

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Emergency on Mars as Nasa loses control of the Curiosity Rover exploration robot

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Curiosity has been operational on Mars since August 2012
Curiosity has been operational on Mars since August 2012 (Image: Nasa)

Nasa engineers dramatically lost control of the Curiosity Rover as it underwent a safety check, the space agency has revealed.

The car-sized machine is currently exploring a crater called Gale and carrying out experiments including tests designed to sniff out signs of life.

But it ‘froze’ in the middle of a safety procedure in which it analysed local surroundings so it can avoid damaging collisions.

Dawn Sumner, a planetary geologist at the University of California, wrote: ‘Knowing where our bodies are helps us move through the world. We know if we are standing or sitting, if our arms are out or by our sides (or for some people, not there at all). This body awareness is essential for staying safe.

‘Rovers also need to know where their bodies are relative to their surroundings. Curiosity stores its body attitude in memory, things like the orientation of each joint.

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‘It also stores its knowledge of the environment, things like how steep the slope is, where the big rocks are, and where the bedrock sticks out in a dangerous way.

‘Curiosity evaluates this information before any motor is activated to make sure the movement can be executed safely.

‘When the answer is no – or even maybe not – Curiosity stops without turning the motor. This conservative approach helps keep Curiosity from hitting its arm on rocks, driving over something dangerous, or pointing an unprotected camera at the sun.’

Unfortunately, the rover ‘lost its orientation’ during this procedure.

‘Curiosity stopped moving, freezing in place until its knowledge of its orientation can be recovered,’  Sumner added.

‘Curiosity kept sending us information, so we know what happened and can develop a recovery plan.

Nasa is now working to make sure Curiosity lives to fight another day.

Sumner continued: ‘The engineers on the team built a plan to inform Curiosity of its attitude and to confirm what happened. We want Curiosity to recover its ability to make its safety checks, and we also want to know if there is anything we can do to prevent a similar problem in the future.

‘This approach helps keep our rover safe.’

An illustration of the oasis on Mars, which has now dried up (Image: Nasa)
An illustration of the oasis on Mars, which has now dried up (Image: Nasa)

Last year, Curiosity found a mysterious ‘oasis’ on the surface of Mars, raising hopes that evidence of life may also one day be found on the Red Planet.

The  Rover discovered traces of ‘shallow, salty ponds that went through episodes of overflow and drying’.

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It made the astonishing find within Gale Crater, a 100-mile-wide dry lakebed, using a tool which allows it to zap Martian rocks with a laser to work out their chemical make-up.

The discovery is more proof that Mars was once able to support life – but is not quite the smoking gun which proves extraterrestrial organisms thrived on the now-barren planet.

‘We’ve learned over the years of Curiosity’s traverse across Gale Crater that Mars’ climate was habitable once, long ago,’ said Roger Wiens, the principal investigator of the ChemCam instrument at Los Alamos National Laboratory and co-author of a paper on the research.

‘What these new findings show is that the climate on Mars was not as stable as we thought it was.

‘There were very wet periods and very dry periods.’

Currently, Mars is a ‘freezing desert’, but it was once wetter and therefore more hospitable.

Analysis of the rocks in the desiccated oasis suggest its rocks dried out completely at times but were soaked at others, indicating huge ‘fluctuations in the Martian climate’.

Gale Crater was formed in a massive impact and was eventually filled with sediment.

Over the aeons, the wind carved out a large hill which has been named Mount Sharp, which Curiosity is currently climbing up.

‘We went to Gale Crater because it preserves this unique record of a changing Mars,” said lead author William Rapin of Caltech.

‘Understanding when and how the planet’s climate started evolving is a piece of another puzzle: When and how long was Mars capable of supporting microbial life at the surface?’

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Source: Metro News

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