Boeing will give $2 million to anyone who can build a functional jetpack

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We live in a world where formerly unattainable futuristic touchstones like “flying cars” and autonomous vehicles are being treated with straight-faced sincerity by some of the biggest companies in world. So I guess it was only a matter of time before we had to start taking jetpacks seriously, too.

A new two-year, $2 million global competition called the Go Fly Prize was introduced today at an aerospace industry conference in Texas with the goal of producing “an easy-to-use, personal flying device.” The organizers of the contest, which is being sponsored by aerospace giant Boeing, say they want to incentivize teams of students, engineers, and inventors to develop a vertical take-off and landing device (or one that is nearly VTOL) that is safe, quiet, ultra-compact, and capable of carrying a single person 20 miles or more without refueling or recharging. In other words, a jetpack that can be “used by anyone, anywhere,” Go Fly’s organizers say.

Jetpacks aren’t a completely fanciful idea, with daredevils demonstrating amazing aeronautical feats in the US and across the world. But the idea that jetpacks have commercial applications or that personal flying devices will solve our transportation and infrastructure challenges is completely ludicrous.

But don’t tell Gwen Lighter, a self-described “serial entrepreneur” who has been shopping her idea of a global competition for over two years to various stakeholders before landing Boeing as a “grand sponsor.” With the backing of the second largest aerospace manufacturer in the world, Lighter is now able to take her brainchild mainstream, officially unveiling the Go Fly Prize at the SAE 2017 AeroTech Congress and Exhibition in Fort Worth, Texas.

“What we are really talking about is making people fly,” Lighter told me last week. “There is no dream that is more universally shared than that of soaring through the skies. It unites us all.”

Lighter said that a number of innovations in the world of transportation have made the idea of a personal flying device less ridiculous than it seems. She cited autonomous vehicles, improved battery technology, 3D printing, and lightweight drones as some of the advances that could converge to make jetpacks a reality. “Now is the first moment in history where something like these personal flying devices can be built,” she said.

According to Go Fly, the prize money​ ​will​ ​be​ ​awarded​ ​in​ ​three​ ​phases:​ ​Phase​ ​I​ ​will​ ​include​ ​ten​ ​$20,000​ ​prizes​ ​awarded​ ​based​ ​on written​ ​technical​ ​specifications;​ ​Phase​ ​II​ ​will​ ​include​ ​four​ ​$50,000​ ​prizes​ ​awarded​ ​to​ ​teams​ ​with​ ​the​ ​best​ ​prototypes and​ ​revised​ specs;​ ​and​ ​Phase​ ​III​ ​will​ ​award $1 million to​ ​the​ ​Grand​ ​Prize​ ​Winner ​at​ ​the​ ​Final​ ​Fly-Off​ ​in​ ​the fall​ ​of​ ​2019.​ ​The​ ​final​ ​Fly-Off​ ​will​ ​be​ ​judged​ ​by​ ​a​ ​team​ ​of​ ​experts​ ​from​ ​Boeing​ ​and​ ​other​ ​leading​ ​organizations.

The image of ordinary people blasting around like James Bond in Thunderball (or The Rocketeer for you ‘90s kids) is equal parts thrilling and terrifying. Asked how jetpacks could be anything other than a technological curiosity, Lighter noted that more people are moving to densely populated urban centers at a time when our transportation infrastructure is buckling under the strain. It’s an argument frequently echoed by supporters of other outlandish transportation ideas like flying cars and hyperloops: all options need to be on the table when it comes to moving people around in the future.

But when you analyze the statements of the Go Fly Prize’s sponsors and supporters, the overarching message is about inspiring the future generation of aerospace engineers, rather than strapping a miniature helicopter to grandma’s back and watching her get dizzy. Boeing’s chief technology officer Greg Hyslop said the competition “aligns with our company’s goals of inspiring people across the globe and changing the world through aerospace innovation.”

Mike Hirschberg, executive director of the American Helicopter Society and an adviser to Go Fly, told me that the goal of the contest was not to build and sell jetpacks like accessories, but rather inspire students and would-be engineers to get involved in VTOL.

“I don’t think Boeing wants to put into production small personal flying devices,” Hirschberg told me. “There’s no market for it. It’s not the product itself, it’s the inspiration to students. Really it’s about inspiring the next generation of aerospace engineers, scientists, and technicians so they don’t all go to Google.”

To be sure, there are jetpacks that exist outside the pages of Popular Science. A pair of daredevil Frenchmen, Yves Rossy and Vince Reffet, have been chasing 747s and buzzing above the Burj Khalifa and the Grand Canyon in their jetpacks for several years now. Dubai, a city obsessed with all things glossy and futuristic, has an order out for 20 jetpacks for its firefighters. A company called Jetpack Aviation flew its prototype beyond the stern, disapproving stare of Lady Liberty in 2015. And Google founder Larry Page is aiming to have a consumer model of his weird, lake-skimming Kitty Hawk Flyer available by the end of this year.

Any of these types of flying devices would qualify for entry in the Go Fly Prize, Lighter said. Jetpack, flying car, and hoverbikes will all be considered if submitted. And if the contest’s parameters for a winning entry sound vague, it’s by design. “So right now, the technology that we are asking people to build doesn’t exist,” she said. “We are about catalyzing the creation of the new technology.”

 

 

EU to conclude Google antitrust cases in next few months

A man holds his smartphone which displays the Google home page, in this picture illustration taken in Bordeaux, Southwestern France, August 22, 2016. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

A man holds his smartphone which displays the Google home page, in this picture illustration taken in Bordeaux, Southwestern France, August 22, 2016. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

By Foo Yun Chee | OXFORD, ENGLAND

EU antitrust regulators will rule in the “next few months” whether Alphabet’s Google abused its dominance of internet searches and other areas, a senior European Commission official said on Monday, an outcome that could lead to a hefty fine.

The world’s most popular internet search engine has been in the Commission’s crosshairs since 2010 over the promotion of its own shopping service in internet searches at the expense of the services of rivals.

The EU competition enforcer opened a second front against Google last year as it charged the company with using its dominant Android mobile operating system to squeeze out rivals.

It has since leveled a third charge, that of blocking rivals in online search advertising. This relates to Google’s “AdSense for Search” platform, in which Google acts as an intermediary for websites such as online retailers, telecoms operators or newspapers. These searches produce results that include search ads.

“In the next few months, we will reach a decision on the Google cases, Google search, AdSense and to me the most interesting is Android,” Tommaso Valletti, the Commission’s chief competition economist, told a conference organized by the University of Oxford Centre for Competition Law and Policy.

The Commission has already warned Google that it would be fined if found guilty of breaching EU antitrust rules. Sanctions could reach 10 percent of annual global turnover for each case.

Alphabet made consolidated revenues of around $90 billion in 2016.

Google has in the past rejected the accusations, saying that its innovations had increased choice for European consumers and promoted competition.

It made three unsuccessful attempts to settle the internet search case without any finding of wrongdoing and sanctions with European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager’s predecessor, Joaquin Almunia.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Mark Potter)

Use Your Phone as a Digital Magnifying Glass

The Magnifier tool in iOS 10 can make fine print easier to read. (Credit: The New York Times)
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The App Store has several programs that borrow the iPhone’s camera and use it to display a magnified view of objects in front of the device, but the current iOS 10 system software comes with its own Magnifier function. This tool is part of Apple’s suite of Accessibility features.

To use the Magnifier on an iOS 10 device, open the Settings icon and select General. On the General settings screen, choose Accessibility and then Magnifier. On the next screen, tap the button to the On position. Press the Home button to return to the iPhone’s main screen.

Now, when you want to read the fine print on the page or need to get a close-up look at something, press the iPhone’s Home button three times quickly. This triple-click action (also known as the Accessibility Shortcut) brings up the Magnifier and any other preconfigured functions geared toward users with impaired vision, hearing or motor skills.

When you have the Magnifier open in a dark restaurant, tap the lightning bolt icon on the screen to turn on the iPhone’s flash for a steady stream of bright light. Tap the Filters icon to change the color cast on the screen. You can zoom in by dragging the slider on the screen and tap the padlock icon to lock the camera’s focus.

If you want to freeze the frame, tap the round camera shutter button. Once the frame is frozen, you can zoom to the part you want to see better. Press your finger on the screen and select Save Image if you want to keep a copy in your Camera Roll. Tap the shutter button to unfreeze the frame, and press the Home button to leave the Magnifier.

The iOS Accessibility settings have a Zoom feature for making things larger on the iPhone screen itself. For Android users, Google includes a similar feature, and Microsoft’s software for its Windows Phones has a Magnifier too.

U.S. top court tightens patent suit rules in blow to ‘patent trolls’

 

The application icons of Facebook, Twitter and Google are displayed on an iPhone next to an earphone set in this illustration photo taken in Berlin, June 17, 2013.  REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski

The application icons of Facebook, Twitter and Google are displayed on an iPhone next to an earphone set in this illustration photo taken in Berlin, June 17, 2013. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski

By Andrew Chung | WASHINGTON

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday tightened rules for where patent lawsuits can be filed in a decision that may make it harder for so-called patent “trolls” to launch sometimes dodgy patent cases in friendly courts, a major irritant for high-tech giants like Apple and Alphabet Inc’s Google.

The justices sided 8-0 with beverage flavoring company TC Heartland LLC in its legal battle with food and beverage company Kraft Heinz Co, ruling that patent infringement suits can be filed only in courts located in the jurisdiction where the targeted company is incorporated. Justice Neil Gorsuch did not participate in the decision.

The decision overturned a ruling last year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, a Washington-based patent court, that said patent suits are fair game anywhere a defendant company’s products are sold.

Individuals and companies that generate revenue by suing over patents instead of making products have been dubbed “patent trolls.”

The ruling is likely to lessen the steady flow of patent litigation filed in a single federal court district in rural East Texas because of its reputation for having rules and juries that favor plaintiffs bringing infringement suits.

The dispute began when Heartland, a subsidiary of Heartland Consumer Products Holdings, sought to transfer a patent infringement suit Kraft filed against it in Delaware federal court to Heartland’s home base in Indiana.

Heartland said it has no presence in Delaware and 98 percent of its sales are outside of that state, but the appeals court denied the transfer last year.

Even though the lawsuit was not filed in Texas, the arguments in the case touched on the peculiar fact that the bulk of patent litigation in the United States flows to the Eastern District of Texas, far from the centers of technology and innovation in the United States.

More than 40 percent of all patent lawsuits are filed in East Texas. Of those, 90 percent are brought by “patent trolls,” according to a study published in a Stanford Law School journal.

Limiting patent lawsuits to where a defendant company is incorporated would potentially make it harder to get to trial or score lucrative jury verdicts.

The Federal Circuit denied the transfer by relying on one of its precedents from 1990, which loosened the geographic limits on patent cases. Heartland urged the Supreme Court to overturn that decision, arguing that the high court’s own precedent from 1957 held that patent suits are governed by a specific law allowing suits only where defendants are incorporated.

On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed with Heartland. Writing the opinion for the court, Justice Clarence Thomas said that, contrary to the Federal Circuit’s rationale, the U.S. Congress did not change the rules over where patent suits may be filed since the 1957 decision.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)

TechFarms’ Graduate MSI Wins $10,000 in Florida’s Most Lucrative Business Plan Competition

Panama City Beach, FL, April 14, 2017 – TechFarms is pleased to announce that Mine Survival, Inc., a graduate of the technology incubator, has been awarded first place in the veteran category of the 2017 Innovation Awards. 

Designed to reward startups that demonstrate clear paths to profitability and local job creation, the Innovation Awards provide cash prizes to businesses located in or willing to relocate to Northwest Florida. This year saw a marked increase in submissions, with a total of 61 organizations entering, including companies from as far away as Colorado, New York and New Jersey. The competition was divided into four categories: student, veteran, pre-revenue and post-revenue. Just three entries in each category were selected as finalists.

At the two-day event in Pensacola Beach on April 12-13, finalists gave presentations before a panel of experts, and were then subjected to “Shark Tank”-style questioning by the judges. Rob Moran, president of MSI, presented his company’s emergency escape vest which provides coal miners with an emergency oxygen supply. In describing the experience, Moran says, “I was excited going into it, and only a little bit nervous.” He added, “I want to thank TechFarms – especially Steve Millaway – for all the assistance leading up to this event.” He also expressed appreciation to Innovation Coast for providing the opportunity to enter the competition.

Incorporated in 2014, MSI entered the TechFarms incubator to jump-start their development. The professional services, mentoring and other resources provided helped MSI to become a thriving, independent company, now employing five full-time staff. The $10,000 prize money, Moran says, will be dedicated to research and development of their second product.

About MSI: Mine Survival, Inc., based in Panama City Beach, is the premier manufacturer of cutting-edge surface rebreathers, devices designed to be used by miners in the event of a mine collapse or other emergency. More information is available at MineSurvival.com.

(RE) START BUSINESS EXPO

(Panama City, FL), November 1, 2016 – TechFarms, LLC, a technology and business incubator in Panama City Beach, in partnership with Panhandle Strategic Alliance, a local business-to-business networking group, is hosting the first annual (Re) Start Expo – Tuesday, November 1, 2016, from 4pm- 7pm. This FREE Expo will take place at 7506 Holley Circle, PCB, FL. 32408. If you are looking to start your own business or your existing business needs to be (Re) juvenated, the (Re) Start Expo is for you!

Laura Nelson, Operations Manager at TechFarms & owner of A-List Accounting, a participating vendor, commented, “The idea is to help those future entrepreneurs and existing businesses who may need (Re) juvenation with marketing, accounting, legal, IT, to name a few.”

Net proceeds from vendor participation benefit Girls, Inc. of Bay County, FL. a non-profit organization who provides mentors and educational programs to empower young girls to reach their personal and professional goals.

About TechFarms.
TechFarms’ mission is to help create more private sector technology companies for Northwest Florida. In the process, we’ll be creating more jobs, growing our workforce, and making our communities more attractive to larger tech companies that will bring even more jobs. Our goals are to expand the tech culture and entrepreneurial ecosystems in Bay County and Northwest Florida, to connect entrepreneurs to resources, mentors, and each other, so they can launch new products & services, and provide resources for entrepreneurs and startup companies, including capital investments, market analysis, mentors, networking events, tools for product development and shared work space.