The Morning After: NASA gets its first sample of Mars

And Singapore readies its robots.


Singapore is well known for its tough laws (and penalties for flouting them). Now it has a new ally in the fight against chewing gum, littering and bigger misdemeanors. The country has started testing a robot named Xavier. Over the next three weeks, Xavier robots will monitor the crowds of Singapore’s Toa Payoh Central to look for what the nation's authorities describe as "undesirable social behaviors" — including any group of people. The country’s current COVID-19 safety measure forbids congregations of more than five people.

Singapore Xavier robot
Singapore Home Team Science and Technology Agency

To gauge the crowds, Xavier models have cameras that create 360-degree views. They're also capable of capturing images in dim lighting using IR and low-light cameras. An AI system also analyzes video captured for anything that may require human officers' response. The robot has sensors to avoid both stationary and moving objects — and, for the love of robots, let’s hope there aren’t any water features around.

— Mat Smith

Volkswagen's ID.Life is an urban EV arriving 2025

The front-drive hatch will slot in below VW's ID.3.

The ID.Life concept is a front-wheel-drive EV aimed at city dwellers, announced by VW at IAA Mobility 2021 in Munich. The small crossover shares the MEB platform and battery with the ID.3, and VW plans to launch it in Europe — not the US — by 2025.

Like other EVs we're seeing in Munich, the ID.Life concept is meant to show how VW can create more sustainable vehicles. It uses wood chips as a natural coloring agent in the clear-coat paint, and the air chamber textile for the roof is 100 percent recycled PET bottles. Other materials include wood in the dashboard and ArtVelours Eco seats, along with natural rubber, bio-oil and rice husks in the tires.

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'Microsoft Flight Simulator' ‘Top Gun’ expansion delayed to May 2022

It'll arrive alongside 'Top Gun: Maverick,' which Paramount pushed back once again.

Top Gun: Maverick was supposed to finally arrive in theaters in November, but Paramount has pushed back the release date again, and the sequel is now set to arrive another six months later, on May 27th, due to COVID-19. This decision has also affected the planned Top Gun expansion for Microsoft Flight Simulator, as Asobo Studio delayed that, too.

The studio wrote in a brief blog post: "As we have previously announced, the Top Gun: Maverick expansion for Microsoft Flight Simulator for Windows 10 PC, Steam, Xbox Series X/S and Xbox Game Pass will be released alongside the movie.”

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NASA says the Mars Perseverance rover has collected its first sample

The mission to get it back to Earth will be a little more challenging.

NASA successfully samples Perseverance core

After initially struggling to capture a rock sample, NASA has confirmed that the Perseverance rover has collected a pencil-width core of rust-colored rock. It’s now safely inside the rover’s sample tube, ready to be processed and sent back to Earth.

NASA thought it had nabbed the first sample last month, but a subsequent check showed the sample tube empty. NASA eventually determined that the sample was too powdery to be collected. "The hardware performed as commanded, but the rock did not cooperate this time," engineers quipped.

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BMW's 'recyclable' i Vision Circular Concept EV has a weird crystal interface

It's the company's dream of sustainable vehicles in 2040.

BMW's 'recyclable' i Vision Circular Concept EV has a weird crystal interface

It can’t be a transport show without some bizarre concept vehicles. It’s BMW’s turn, and it’s another vision of more sustainable car production materials and methods. BMW avoided using composite materials and bonded connections to make the EV easier to break down at the end of its life. Rather, it's built mostly with recycled aluminum and uses quick-release fasteners, press studs and cords, so recyclers can take it apart easily. BMW claims it’s 100 percent recyclable.

Then there’s the V-shaped dashboard, which you can see above. The central part is a 3D-printed crystal sculpture that uses lighting to simulate the vehicle "thinking," according to BMW. Ah, of course.

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