Tech Innovation

Whatever happened to HaLow, tidal lagoons and the Segway Robot?

Dean Evans Technology Writer Twitter

We covered a wide spectrum of technology stories on IQ during 2016, ranging from new wireless standards to AI software that can beat humans at their own games. But what happened next? What became of HaLow Wi-Fi, the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon and the Segway Robot? Read on and find out.

HaLow was announced back in January, an 802.11ah specification with greater range and lower power consumption, designed for Internet of Things devices.

Unfortunately, the Wi-Fi Alliance doesn’t plan to start certifying HaLow devices until 2018, which might give the next generation of Bluetooth technology the opportunity to jump ahead of it. Bluetooth 5, due to roll out in 2017, will double its wireless throughput to 2Mbps and offer four times the range.

Google DeepMind plays StarCraft II

After Google’s DeepMind AlphaGo AI beat a human champion at the ancient game of Go, we wondered what was next? It turns out that StarCraft II will be DeepMind’s next challenge as Google and Blizzard “open up StarCraft II to AI and Machine Learning researchers around the world.”

StarCraft 2
StarCraft offers layers of complexity and any AI must adapt to a changing battlefield.

Why StarCraft II? Because “players must send units to scout unseen areas in order to gain information about their opponent, and then remember that information over a long period of time. This makes for an even more complex challenge as the environment becomes partially observable – an interesting contrast to perfect information games such as Chess or Go.”

Tidal power

In Wales, The £1 billion, 320MW Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay project could become the world’s first man-made, energy-generating lagoon. But since we first wrote about it in February 2016, the project has been delayed.

Swansea Bay tidal lagoon
Tidal power could provide electricity for over 155,000 homes in Wales.

Before the UK government can give it the green light, the lagoon requires a marine licence from Natural Resources Wales (NRW). The problem, as reported by Wales Online, is that NRW estimate “21% of salmon and 25% of sea trout could be killed every year as they migrate to and from local rivers.” Discussions are ongoing.

3D printing a house for £40

Remember the Big Delta Wasp? It’s one of the world’s biggest 3D printers, standing 12 metres (40 feet) high. Designed to work with natural resources like clay and mud, the Big Delta sits at the heart of an eco-village in Massa Lombarda, near Ravenna in Italy. By now it should have 3D-printed a mud house.

The Big Delta is a giant 3D printer extruding a shelter layer by layer.

And it has. Almost. The team at WASP (World’s Advanced Saving Project) has managed to print around 60 centimetres per day, using a combination of soil, straw and lime. By the end of August, the walls were almost three metres high, five metres in diameter, using 40 tons of material. Amazingly, the cost of construction is only 48 Euros (£40).

“When the work starts again,” say the Big Delta team, “we will raise the wall [up to] 4 meters, then we’ll create the door and build the roof.”

The R2-D2 you can ride

All of which brings us to the Segway Robot. This RealSense-equipped, AI-enhanced Ninebot Mini Pro scooter was unveiled at CES 2016 and it made another appearance at IDF 2016 in August. It’s still in the prototype phase, but Segway has now opened up the SDKs for the robot, offering third-party developers the chance to code applications for it.

Although we won’t see a consumer version until 2017, the Segway Robot remains an intriguing blend of personal transport device and robotic assistant. “Imagine a connected helper like Amazon’s Echo that can actually follow you around your house,” said Engadget. On that basis, we’re sold.

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