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Residents of Nyatike, Migori County to benefit from telemedicine technology

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MIT CSAIL’s radars map hidden features to help driverless cars navigate snowy terrain

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Inclement weather — particularly rain and snow — threaten to stop autonomous vehicles in their tracks. That’s because precipitation covers cameras critical to the cars’ self-awareness and tricks sensors into perceiving obstacles that aren’t there. Plus, bad weather has a tendency to obscure road signage and structures that normally serve as navigational landmarks.

Fortunately, researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and Lincoln Laboratory are on the case. In a paper that will be published in the journal IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters later this month and presented in May at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), they describe a system that uses ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to send very high frequency (VHF) electromagnetic pulses underground to measure an area’s combination of pipes, roots, rocks, dirt, and other features. The GPR builds a basemap that an onboard computer correlates, contributing to a three-dimensional GPS-tagged subterranean database.

According to paper lead author and CSAIL Ph.D. student Teddy Ort, it’s the first time developers of self-driving systems have employed ground-penetrating radar, which has previously been used in fields like construction planning, landmine detection, and lunar exploration. “If you or I grabbed a shovel and dug it into the ground, all we’re going to see is a bunch of dirt,” he said. “But [localizing ground-penetrating radar] can quantify the specific elements there and compare that to the map it’s already created so that it knows exactly where it is, without needing cameras or lasers.”

MIT CSAIL ground-penetrating radar

Above: A labeled schematic of the GPR sensor.

Image Credit: MIT CSAIL

The researchers found that on a closed country road in snowy conditions the navigation system’s average margin of error was about an inch in snowy conditions compared to in clear weather. The GPR had a bit more trouble with rainy conditions — the precipitation caused more water to soak into the ground, leading to a disparity between the original readings and the current conditions —  but it was off by only an average of 5.5 inches. More impressively, over a six-month testing period, the team never had to take the wheel.

Ort and coauthors note that the approach wouldn’t work entirely on its own since it can’t detect things aboveground. Also, the GPR data sets are currently difficult to stitch together because of aboveground factors like multi-lane roads and intersections, and the current hardware is too bulky and wide to fit into most commercial vehicles.

MIT CSAIL ground-penetrating radar

Above: MIT CSAIL’s car in the snow from the front.

Image Credit: MIT CSAIL

But they say that the GPR could easily be extended to highways and other high-speed areas and that its ability to localize in bad weather means it could possibly be coupled with existing approaches, like cameras and lidar. Another advantage? The system’s underground maps tend to hold up better over time than maps created using vision or lidar, since the features of an aboveground map are much more likely to change. As an added bonus, they take up roughly 20% less space than the traditional 2D sensor maps that many companies use for their cars.

MIT spinout WaveSense, which came out of stealth in August 2018, is already working to commercialize the system. It’s using a version that Lincoln Labs researchers demonstrated could guide an SUV centimeters within a lane on a road freshly coated with snow. This system was first developed for military vehicles in regions with poor or nonexistent road markings.

“Our work demonstrates that this approach is actually a practical way to help self-driving cars navigate poor weather without actually having to be able to ‘see’ in the traditional sense using laser scanners or cameras,” said senior author and MIT professor Daniela Rus.



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Drug dealer loses $58M in Bitcoin after landlord accidentally throws codes out

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gettyimages-887657568

Bitcoin is currently worth over $9,700.


Dan Kitwood/Getty

Between 2011 and 2012, 49-year-old Clifton Collins bought 6,000 Bitcoin using money he earned from growing and selling weed, reports The Irish Times. At the time, the cryptocurrency’s price varied between $4 and $6. Today it stands at over $9,700. But Collins isn’t enjoying any euphoria for the windfall — because his landlord threw out his Bitcoin codes.

The Irish Times reports that Collins was arrested in 2017 for growing and selling weed, and was subsequently hit with a five-year prison sentence. Following this, his landlord sent many of Collins’ possessions to a local dump during the process of clearing out Collins’ room. One such item was a fishing rod case, which housed a pice of A4 paper with €53.6 million ($58 million) in Bitcoin codes printed onto it.

Cryptocurrency is bought through so-called cryptowallets. Once you buy Bitcoin, the cryptowallet issues you a code that’s needed to access it. Anyone who gets that code can access and potentially steal the cryptocurrency, so buyers are usually encouraged to hide their codes somewhere safe.

In 2017, Collins spread his 6,000 Bitcoin across 12 accounts in order to guard against losing his crypto-fortune, according to the Times. He printed out the codes to his Bitcoin stash on a piece of A4 paper, the same paper he stuffed into the aforementioned fishing rod case.

The past few years have seen others lose digital fortunes even greater than Collins’ $58 million. A man in the UK accidentally threw out a hard drive storing $127 million-worth of Bitcoin codes. Gerald Cotten, owner of a Canadian cryptocurrency exchange, died of Crohn’s Disease complications in December 2018, leaving behind $190 million in cryptocurrency for which he had the only password.

In what’s likely little consolation, Collins wouldn’t have been able to cash in his Bitcoin even if the paper hadn’t been lost to the dump. Ireland’s Criminal Asset Bureau seized the cryptocurrency, on the grounds that its purchase was funded by illicit activity, reports The Irish Times.



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Amazon in Holocaust row about ‘Hunters’ series, anti-Semitic books

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WARSAW (Reuters) – The Auschwitz Memorial criticized Amazon on Sunday for fictitious depictions of the Holocaust in its Prime series “Hunters” and for selling books of Nazi propaganda.

Seventy-five years after the liberation of the Nazi German Auschwitz death camp by Soviet troops, world leaders and activists have called for action against rising anti-Semitism.

“Hunters”, released on Friday and starring Al Pacino, features a team of Nazi hunters in 1970s New York who discover that hundreds of escaped Nazis are living in the United States.

However, the series has faced accusations of bad taste, particularly for depicting fictional atrocities in Nazi death camps, such as a game of human chess in which people are killed when a piece is taken.

“Inventing a fake game of human chess for @huntersonprime is not only dangerous foolishness & caricature. It also welcomes future deniers,” the Auschwitz Memorial tweeted.

“We honor the victims by preserving factual accuracy.”

The Auschwitz Memorial is responsible for preserving the Nazi German death camp in southern Poland, where more than 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, perished in gas chambers or from starvation, cold and disease.

The Memorial also criticized Amazon for selling anti-Semitic books.

On Friday, the Memorial retweeted a letter from the Holocaust Educational Trust to Amazon asking that anti-Semitic children’s books by Nazi Julius Streicher, who was executed for crimes against humanity, be removed from sale.

“When you decide to make a profit on selling vicious antisemitic Nazi propaganda published without any critical comment or context, you need to remember that those words led not only to the #Holocaust but also many other hate crimes,” the Auschwitz Memorial tweeted on Sunday.

“As a bookseller, we are mindful of book censorship throughout history, and we do not take this lightly. We believe that providing access to written speech is important, including books that some may find objectionable,” an Amazon spokesman said in a comment emailed to Reuters. Amazon said it would comment on “Hunters” later.

FILE PHOTO: Cast members Al Pacino and Logan Lerman pose at a premiere for the television series “Hunters” in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 19, 2020. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

In December, Amazon withdrew from sale products decorated with images of Auschwitz, including Christmas decorations, after the Memorial complained.

Separately, prosecutors launched an investigation into a primary school in the town of Labunie, which staged a reenactment of Auschwitz with children dressed as prisoners being gassed, local media reported.

The school is accused of promoting fascism in the performance in December. It could not immediately be reached for comment.

Reporting by Alan Charlish; Additional reporting by Anna Koper; Editing by Giles Elgood

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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