Also, check out IRL Shooter's impressive new MKII zombie-killing gear.
By Jason Imms on December 6, 2013 at 11:44 am
Welcome to the Friday Tech Roundup! Contained herein is your weekly dose of some of the best tech news from across the Internet, rounded up for your edification and entertainment. Read on for all the details of Toshiba’s planned acquisition of OCZ, Amazon’s futuristic drone-based delivery system, and the upcoming reversible USB 3.0 connector.
Amazon Prime Air to deliver via UAV within 30 minutes
In a recent 60 minutes segment on the current state of Amazon fulfilment centres, CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled the company’s plans for a new delivery paradigm that feels a whole lot like the future. Amazon Prime Air is in the prototype phase, and aims to use unmanned aerial vehicles to deliver packages in less than 30 minutes, to customers that live within a 10 mile radius of a fulfilment centre. According to Bezos, 86% of orders from Amazon meet the requirements necessary for delivery via UAV, namely that they weigh less than five pounds, and fit within the delivery bins carried by the drones. Bezos clarifies that this technology is still in the R&D phase due to the obvious safety requirements involved in such a venture. Given that the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is not scheduled to make a decision on legalising commercial drone use standards in the US until September 2015, Bezos is realistic about expected timelines for the service, giving only a non-committal answer of “…but could it be four or five years? I think so.”
Meanwhile, Australian startup Flirtey is partnering with textbook rental service Zookal to use UAVs for deliveries in much the same way as Amazon, albeit with a limited product offering. Flirtey’s primary advantage is the head-start allowed by the fact that the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority already allows the use of unmanned aircraft systems through little more than the completion of a licence application form.
Toshiba to acquire OCZ SSD business
Since last week’s announcement of the closure of OCZ, the vultures have been circling. This week brings the announcement that Toshiba has agreed to take over the embattled company’s SSD client, enterprise, and software divisions, in a move that will allow Toshiba to be counted amongst the small number of companies that own both the controller intellectual property and the NAND memory supply chain. OCZ CEO Ralph Schmitt stated via press release that NAND supply chain constraints were a key in OCZ’s inability to maintain contractual profitability, “if our bid is successful, the combination of our leading NAND technology with OCZ’s SSD expertise will allow us to further strengthen Toshiba’s SSD business.” Toshiba’s bid is expected to be accepted within approximately 60 days.
Skyjack turns Parrot drones into willing slaves
In other UAV news, well-known hacker Samy Kamkar is at it again, this time releasing designs for a tool known as Skyjack, capable of hijacking in-flight Parrot drones and slaving them to a new host. Skyjack uses little more than a Raspberry Pi, a pair of wireless transmitters, and a USB battery pack to undertake its dark work, and when attached to a drone under the control of the user, could be used to repurpose drones for any purpose. Take a detailed look at Skyjack in Samy’s video below.
Next Generation USB cables to include reversible connectors
For many, the 50% success rate on blind attempts to plug in a USB cable is too low. Finally, the USB 3.0 Promoter Group has stated in a press release that the upcoming Type-C connector will be reversible — “Users will no longer need to be concerned with plug orientation/cable direction, making it easier to plug in.” The group also announced that the Type-C connector will be similar in size to the existing USB 2.0 Micro-B connector, as seen on many smartphones. The Type-C connector will not be compatible with existing plugs and receptacles, and will necessitate the production of “passive new-to-existing cables and adaptors to allow users to use their existing products.” It isn’t clear whether it is expected that the Type-C connector will replace the current Type-A connectors in use for most desktop-scale electronics, but if it does we can look forward to a future free of cable orientation anxiety.
IRL Shooter Mark II gear is here and aimed squarely at realism
The live-action zombie apocalypse-themed shooting gallery IRL Shooter, has acquired new gear with which to shoot at actors dressed up as horrible monsters, and one new piece of kit designed to let them get their own back. The MKII M4, based on the real M4A1 Carbine design, has “the same form, fit, and function as the real thing,” and includes bright muzzle flash, noises, and recoil, and requires the user to physically eject and replace the magazine to reload. The second piece of gear, The Pain Belt, is an optional extra for players 18 years and over. We reached out to Drew Hobbs from IRL Shooter to get some info on how The Pain Belt works. “Players can decide the level of pain that they wish to take and will be able to ‘test’ the setting before they go into the live mission,” he said via email. “We have full control of The Pain Belt and can remotely control the Belt, should a player be a cry baby bitch about it.”
The Pain Belt was designed to deal with a limitation that was fed back to the game’s organisers. When zombies approach, they deal damage to players within a certain radius. Apparently the fact that their attacks were “nothing physical [they] really hurt the immersion and threat levels of the previous game.” The Pain Belt ‘hurts’ the player by delivering a small, localised electric shock when the player is taking damage. Despite the fact that players are required to sign a liability waiver, the device was “developed not to cause serious injury,” though Hobbs clarifies that it despite being safe according to medical parameters, it “does carry some risk,” thus necessitating the waiver. IRL Shooter will be raising funds and selling tickets for its upcoming Sydney Patient 0 event via Pozible, starting on Monday December 16.