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With an overhand throw like he’s lofting a grenade, a soldier hurls a robot. It lands, all four oversized wheels absorbing the shock, and immediately the little machine is rolling around, ready to scout underneath cars and around corners before the soldiers get there. This is the SIGYN Mk1 Recon System, a throwable robot marketed at militaries and police forces and announced earlier this month.

Throwable robots are niche machines with niche applications, promising a feature no other tool can deliver the same way. In a demonstration video produced by Sky-Hero, the Belgium-based company that makes the SIGYN throwable robot, the vehicle can be released from a backpack, remotely controlled under a car, tossed like a grenade, tumble down stairs, drive over netting, and even continue to operate after being driven directly over by a car. 

The robot’s four wheels are just under 4 inches in diameter, and the whole machine is just 7 inches wide and almost 8 inches long. That’s a compact body, and the compactness is the point. This is a machine that can be carried and can navigate through and under various obstacles, like gates or barricades, and it can be thrown through windows or around corners. Each face of the robot has a small camera gently angled upwards, and sensors in the bot allow it to automatically select the camera on the side the robot is driving. The cameras can see in daylight or darkness, and the robot has LED lights to better illuminate objects in its field of vision if necessary.

[Related: A New Generation of Throwbots is Ready to Be Flung Into Battle]

Aardvark Tactical is the North American distributor for the SIGYN, and accessories for the robot are made by Project7 Armor. Borrowing language that would be perfectly in place in a Silicon Valley pitch deck, Aardvark Tactical’s announcement described the robot as part of “an easy-to-use, intelligent recon ecosystem that revolutionizes mission safety.” Also in that system is the Loki quadcopter and a handheld controller. The controller can manage and share information from up to four robots at a time, including a mix of quadcopters and ground machines. With four robots in action at once, Aardvark says, team members hooked up to the same control station can “choose between and watch any of the four device feeds from the new Tactical Wrist Viewer, regardless of which device is currently being controlled.”

[Related: Meet the ‘Spy Stone,’ a Russian robot disguised as a rock]

While the SIGYN is a new throwable robot, the category saw a bit of a boom in the early 2010s. Robots like iRobot’s FirstLook and Recon Robotics’ Scout were sold as tools for forces fighting in Afghanistan, where the fact that they could be thrown would give soldiers and Marines a better angle in buildings during patrols. These robots, much like the SIGYN, were marketed to police and militaries alike, as the specific obligations of urban conflict can warrant a gameras-first approach to identifying people before going in shooting.

The category even features the spherical Explorer, probably the most grenade-like of the thrown robots. Essentially a ball of cameras that could transmit video, the Explorer was a tool for placing eyes inside one room, without the option to drive into another if the first room was empty.

While that earlier generation of throwbots sometimes won lucrative contracts, both the technology and the market for thrown cameras on wheels has likely improved since the mid-2010s. If enough police forces and military customers can see utility in sending a camera to scout before bringing in people, the SIGYN throwable robot might become a recurring tool in the arsenal of urban warfare.

Watch a video of it below:

This post has been updated to clarify the description of the company that makes the robot.

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How To Recycle Almost Anything

How to Recycle Almost Anything BU and Goodwill team up for Earth Day

Green image: sustainability@bu, which carries out BU’s sustainability program, is teaming up with Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries for today’s Earth Day.

Lounging on GSU Plaza takes on new meaning today.

To help celebrate Earth Day 2010, sustainability@bu, which carries out BU’s sustainability program, is teaming up with Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries to create a faux living room, complete with couches, carpeting, tables, and chairs — all used — in the middle of GSU Plaza.

“It’s a way to show people walking by that these items can be found at Goodwill and not only at a department store,” says Susan Chaityn Lebovits, communications specialist for sustainability@bu.

It’s also a way to encourage BU students to bring their unwanted clothing and shoes, as well as household goods, linens, and small appliances, to one of the many Goodwill bins that will be placed in or near dorms, as part of the University’s end-of-the-year used goods drive, which will run from Saturday, April 24, to Commencement Sunday, May 16.

Last year, the University worked with the Big Brother Big Sister Foundation, gathering almost seven tons of clothing from students — not a bad haul for a drive organized in just eight weeks.

“The students were incredibly receptive to the program,” says Woodrow Freese, assistant director of residential life. “The sheer volume of clothing that we turned over to Big Brother Big Sister was mind-boggling.”

Still, Freese and Dennis Carlberg, director of sustainability@bu, did a campus tour after students moved out and saw dumpsters overflowing with fans, desks, TVs, and other small appliances — all functional items that could have been diverted from a landfill. This year’s effort promises to avoid such waste, with help from Goodwill, which happens to have been founded by alum Edgar J. Helms (STH 1893, Hon.’40).

Students are encouraged to contribute clothing and many household goods, including coffee pots, plates, silverware, irons, picture frames, rugs, fans, lamps, linens, and towels. But, says Freese, everything does not go: Goodwill will not accept books, plants, food, beds, mini grills, toiletries, or large furniture items.

James Harder, Goodwill’s director of communications, says bins will be emptied daily, and, if necessary, two or three times a day. Donations will be weighed, he says, and the final tally relayed to University officials.

As with all Goodwill donations, items go to a distribution center, where they’re divvied among 11 stores statewide and sold at very low prices. Harder says proceeds fund job training and placement programs, services for the disabled, and urban youth programs.

So far, BU is the only university working with Goodwill in an end of school year move-out drive. But if things go well, says Harder, Goodwill will attempt to expand the partnership to other universities.

Collection bins will be located on GSU Plaza alongside the Earth Day display on Thursday, April 22. From Saturday, April 24, to Sunday, May 16, students can put their donated goods in bins at a number of locations around campus: at GSU Link, at Claflin, Sleeper, and Rich Halls, 1019 Commonwealth Ave., 10 Buick St., 33 Harry Agganis Way, Warren Towers, The Towers, Danielsen Hall, Myles Standish Hall, 518 Park Dr., and 575 Commonwealth Ave. More information will be sent to students in their end-of-the-year closing packets.

Leslie Friday can be reached at [email protected]; follow her on Twitter at @lesliefriday.

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Oneplus Watch Review: Don’T Settle For This One

OnePlus Watch

See price at Amazon



About this OnePlus Watch review: I used the OnePlus Watch for five days running software version W301GB_11_B.33. The OnePlus Watch review unit was provided to Android Authority by OnePlus India.

What you need to know about the OnePlus Watch

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

OnePlus Watch: $159/£149/€159/Rs. 14,999

OnePlus Watch (Cobalt Edition): Price to be announced

Does the OnePlus Watch look good?

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

I’d be putting it mildly if I said OnePlus is playing it safe with the OnePlus Watch design. You’ve seen this design a thousand times. At the core of it, it’s really just a round display with a bezel around it. It’s a functional look, but I couldn’t help but think how similar it looks to some of Amazfit’s watches.

The star of the show is the 1.39-inch AMOLED display that has a 2.5D curved glass on top. It’s bright enough to be easily viewed outdoors, and the ambient light sensor does a great job at turning down the brightness indoors.

How smart is the OnePlus Watch?

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The OnePlus Watch isn’t much of a smartwatch at all. In fact, for all practical purposes, it’s really just a fitness watch with some “smart” features tacked on. I’ll admit, this wasn’t really something I expected from OnePlus, but it makes sense given its choice to opt for an RTOS software platform instead of Google’s ailing Wear OS.

How is the health and fitness tracking?

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Fitness tracking is at the core of the OnePlus Watch, and the company has tossed in enough sensors to make sure it can excel at the job. It does all the basics like step tracking, daily caloric burn, distance tracking, and heart rate monitoring just fine.

I found step tracking to be accurate and in line with my Fitbit Ionic. No issues there. The same is true for calorie burn. I also found the OnePlus Watch to be exceptionally good at heart rate monitoring and blood oxygen saturation monitoring.

Outdoor running

Indoor running

Fat burn run

Outdoor cycling

Indoor cycling

Outdoor walk


Elliptical trainer

Rowing machine






Freestyle training

Additionally, the OnePlus Watch has built-in GPS support for outdoor workouts. I couldn’t really take it out for a run on my preferred running path given the prevailing circumstances, but a long walk with the outdoor walk setting gave me some keen insights.

The OnePlus Watch does an excellent job at latching on to GPS signals.

For one, the OnePlus Watch does an incredible job at latching on to GPS signals. This has usually been a pain point for me with many fitness wearables. Chalk it down to poor antenna positioning or a high-density urban environment, but my Fitbit can take up to 10 minutes to get a good signal. The OnePlus Watch barely took 10 seconds. Moreover, it held on to the signal over the entirety of my workouts.

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The step accuracy was more or less in line with the data recorded by my Fitbit Ionic. The watch captures essential data like distance, heart rate, step counts, estimated calorie burn, and cadence. You’ll even get heart rate zone reports directly on the watch itself. Additionally, a neat feature is the ability to see workout records where you can go back and take a look at previous workouts for reference.

Related: The best running watches you can buy

On a brief run around the block, the OnePlus Watch did an excellent job of holding on to the GPS signal despite tall apartments on all sides. The cadence sensors picked up on nuances like me slowing down to avoid a pothole. Heart rate measurement, too, was in line with my current completely out-of-shape self. I don’t have a chest-mounted heart rate monitor to compare the watch with, but a spot check against a Fitbit Ionic showed very similar heart rate values. It’s definitely good enough to give you an overview of your fitness levels.

As a life-long insomniac, better data on my sleep has been a revelation. It’s not a life-changing difference, but I’ve taken steps to maximize the quality of the limited sleep that I do get. The OnePlus Watch was spot-on in recognizing exactly when I went to bed and when I woke up. The granular analysis of my sleep cycles was in line with my Fitbit once again. Moreover, it tallied up very well with how I was feeling the next morning.

How’s the OnePlus Health app?

The Achilles heel of the OnePlus wearable ecosystem has to be the OnePlus Health app. This was the case with the OnePlus Band, and it’s the same story here.

The app is too basic. It’s divided into three tabs: Health, Fitness, and Manage. The Health tab pulls up an overview of fitness data and lets you dive into individual sections for more information. The default tabs let you view the average heart rate, last night’s sleep, SpO2 value, stress, and workout logs.

The Manage section of the app is where you can change the watch faces on the OnePlus Watch. Additional device settings include the ability to add music to the onboard storage. You can even shoot over 30 contacts for quick access as well as set daily workout goals.

My biggest gripe with the app is its inability to connect with most third-party services bar Google Fit. Now, Google Fit is fine — even if it is a little rudimentary for hardcore health nuts —  but as someone who has been using Strava for years, I need my data to be exportable, and there is no way around that here. This is further compounded by the fact that food tracking is a major part of fitness tracking. I use MyFitnessPal to manage my daily macros, and the inability to integrate that data with the OnePlus Health app was frustrating.

OnePlus Watch review: The verdict

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

OnePlus is charging far too much money for its glorified fitness tracker.

I do like what’s here. The design is inoffensive, battery life is solid, and there’s scope for excellent fitness tracking. However, the app is severely lacking in functionality. Be it better data analysis or the ability to integrate into broader ecosystems, the app feels unfinished. It removes a lot of the appeal of the OnePlus Watch as a fitness tracking aid. There’s also the fact the majority of the fitness tracking functionality is yet to come.

The OnePlus Watch isn’t a bad fitness wearable, but it’s not up there with the very best.

Sure, it isn’t competing against the Galaxy Watches and Apple Watches of the world, but even as a regular fitness wearable, it’s nowhere near ready to go up against established options. More so when you could just as well buy a Fitbit or Garmin with equally good or better tracking and a software ecosystem that is leagues ahead.

The OnePlus Watch isn’t a bad fitness watch, but you’re paying just a bit too much for the OnePlus brand. In a sea of established alternatives, I’m really not sure it’s a premium worth paying for.

Robot, Of Thee I Sing

Three-time U.S. Poet Laureate and CAS Professor of English Robert Pinsky penned the libretto for an animatronic opera from MIT’s Tod Machover. Watch a clip of Death and the Powers above. Pinsky photo by Vernon Doucette

This time, on the other end of the line was avant-garde composer Tod Machover, a professor of music and media at the MIT Media Lab, a renowned center which studies the human-machine relationship. “I knew Tod slightly, appreciated his music,” recalls Pinsky, three-time U.S. poet laureate and a professor of English at the College of Arts & Sciences. Machover had been commissioned by patrons in Monaco to write an unusual opera prominently driven by technology.

Would Pinsky write the libretto?

“In a poem, you can let your imagination run free without it entailing a lot of people figuring out how to put it on a stage, to sing to it,” he says. “The opera involves practical consequences involving many people.”

Pinsky periodically met with Machover, along with the opera’s creative team and MIT students at the institute’s Media Lab in Cambridge, where they brainstormed ideas; the pair also regularly back-and-forthed by email. The collaboration proved fruitful: a one-act opera called Death and the Powers, a never-before-seen production featuring an animatronic set and a chorus of singing robots, or “OperaBots,” that frame a narrative exploring life beyond humanity. Alex McDowell, production designer for the 2002 Steven Spielberg (Hon.’09) movie Minority Report, created the machines.

“Robert is so fluent with words and ideas that it was always a great pleasure to explore possible story ideas, precedents and background material, underlying themes, always moving swiftly from rich historical references to today’s news to popular culture and back,” Machover says. “Robert knows everything.”

The story, which Pinsky cowrote with writer-director Randy Weiner, centers around a “gajillionaire” inventor named Simon Powers, who creates a new form of existence where his essential qualities—memories, desires, ability to communicate with loved ones and to influence businesses—are preserved after death. In short, he translates himself into a “system.” Once Powers makes his final exit, the stage becomes robotic, his persona manifested through objects such as a musical chandelier and giant bookcases with lights that move to the music.

“I have been constantly delighted by what a pleasure it is to set Robert’s words—so intelligent and clear and sonorous—to music,” Machover says. “Robert’s rhythms and descriptions are not quite the same as mine, so his words have pushed me to new places. Their crispness and lack of sentimentality have sharpened my music, I think. Of course, words become something quite different when they are merged with music, both less and more of how they were originally conceived.”

Pinsky will join Machover in Monte Carlo this week to attend the September 24 world premiere of Death and the Powers. Prince Albert II, the city-state’s ruler and honorary patron of the project, will attend the gala opening. The show debuts in Boston next spring. Audiences can expect nothing short of spectacle.

“We had an absolutely great designer,” Pinsky says. “With Tod, director Diane Paulus, choreographer Karole Armitage, and some great singers, that’s a very impressive team. Which makes me feel very lucky.”

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Listen to Robert Pinsky discuss and read from his libretto Death and the Powers. Clip courtesy of Poetry Magazine. Audio recorded by the Poetry Foundation. Audio editing by Amy Laskowski.

Caleb Daniloff can be reached at [email protected].

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Fyi: How Do Mosquitoes Survive Rainstorms?

The secret to a mosquito’s survival during a rainstorm isn’t due to any fancy maneuvers or midair acrobatics. It is a combination of their low mass, hydrophobic wings, and go-with-the-flow mentality, according to David Hu, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Hu has researched mosquitoes’ flight behavior in rainy conditions to better understand the limits of micro-airborne vehicles (MAVs). These tiny robot airplanes can be as small as an insect, so understanding how mosquitoes survive collisions with raindrops can help scientist develop more reliable MAVs.

Understanding how mosquitoes survive collisions with raindrops can help scientist develop more reliable MAVs.”There is still a question of how to build these things and once you build them what their limits are,” Hu says. A mosquito can provide some solutions to these limits—providing ideas for how MAVs can be better adapted to in-air collisions.

A raindrop falls from the sky at about 10 miles per hour. When it hits a solid surface at this speed, it rapidly decelerates by 100 percent and generates a force that is about 10,000 times the weight of a mosquito—enough to kill it, Hu says.

But a mosquito is very lightweight, so a raindrop only decelerates by 2 to 20 percent when it collides with the insect in midair, creating a force of about 50 to 300 mosquito weights—still a significant force, but because of the mosquito’s extremely strong exoskeleton, not enough to kill on impact, Hu says. “It is like you take a down feather out of your jacket and put it right on top of the mosquito,” Hu says.

It’s easy to imagine that a swipe of a feather won’t harm a mosquito, but how does a mosquito handle the force of a raindrop? One of two things happens: If the raindrop hits the mosquito’s legs or wings, the mosquito gets knocked off balance and spins in the air as the raindrop slips off of its water resistant extremities. The mosquito recalibrates and is back on track in about one-hundredth of a second.

The mosquito is back on track in about one-hundredth of a second. If a raindrop directly hits a mosquito’s body, the impact is much greater. Instead of spinning in midair, the raindrop grabs hold of the mosquito, rapidly accelerating it downward. It’s like walking down the street, then a bus going 10,000 miles per hour hits you and carries you along with it.

The mosquito hitches a ride on the raindrop at super speed for about 5 to 10 centimeters and then it does something unexpected—it peels away from the raindrop and continues on its flight path.

This process would be like if that unfortunate guy who got hit by the bus happened to be covered in newspapers, Hu says. As he and the bus collide, his newspaper limbs begin to flap in the wind. Because the mosquito’s long legs and wings extend past the perimeter of the drop, they generate wind and torques that free the mosquito, Hu says.

Mosquitoes are the ultimate tai chi masters: they don’t resist the force. Throughout all this turmoil, you’d think the mosquitoes would alter their behavior to avoid raindrops. Yeah, they can survive the impact forces, but it can’t be comfortable to hurtle toward the earth on the back of speeding raindrops. You’d be wrong.

“I call the mosquitoes the ultimate tai chi masters because they don’t resist the force at all,” Hu says. Instead, the mosquito just goes along for the ride despite the jet-speed acceleration.

But this carefree attitude may work against the mosquitoes when they are flying too close to the ground. If the mosquito is 10 centimeters or fewer from the ground and gets a direct body hit from a raindrop, it doesn’t have enough time to peel off. Instead, it gets smashed into the ground. Game over for the tai chi master.

This story was produced in partnership with Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. For more FYIs, go here.

Five Tools To Survive The Apocalypse

Filter out ammonia, chlorine or swirling toxic dust. The Advantage respirator gives a snug fit in seconds, using a harness that tightens two head-straps with a single clip. Its facepiece comes in three sizes to protect all types of people. Advantage 420 Half Mask Respirator $40; chúng tôi may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›

Swine flu, nuclear tests, global warming—signs of impending doom abound. Should the unthinkable happen, the smart survivalist has two options: flee the planet or, for those of us who aren’t Richard Branson, stock up on gear that will meet your basic needs during Armageddon. If the world doesn’t end, you can always take your new gadgets camping.


Filter out ammonia, chlorine or swirling toxic dust. The Advantage respirator gives a snug fit in seconds, using a harness that tightens two head-straps with a single clip. Its facepiece comes in three sizes to protect all types of people. Advantage 420 Half Mask Respirator $40; chúng tôi

Food and Shelter

The latest Leatherman packs bigger, stronger pliers, plus 18 more tools to build your house and skin your dinner. A new locking mechanism causes dull-edged tools to pop out together but knives to stay safely in place until you pull them. Leatherman Super Tool 300 $84; chúng tôi


The ultraviolet light built into this 32-ounce bottle zaps waterborne bacteria, viruses and protozoa in 80 seconds. If you can’t stand still while it’s working, grab the leakproof container and run. A rechargeable battery hides inside the lid. CamelBak All Clear UV Water Purification System $130 (winter); chúng tôi


Grid down? Plug in with the solar-powered SN-3 flashlight. While its bright LEDs shine, a universal jack charges your other electronic gear. An hour of sun provides 15 to 40 minutes of gadget use. SunNight Solar BoGo SN-3 $50; chúng tôi

Human Contact

This phone lets you talk even when the cell network fails, because its built-in walkie-talkie can radio similar phones within six miles. A full keyboard makes it easy to search your phonebook for an emergency contact. Motorola Clutch i465 $130 plus service; chúng tôi

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