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Where’s my robot lawn mower? Roomba-maker now has an answer

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Wheres my robot lawn mower Roomba-maker now has an answer

BEDFORD, Mass. (AP) — Robot vacuums have now been around long enough that you might watch one bump around a living room and think, why isn’t there a robot that could mow my lawn? Turns out, it’s not for lack of trying.

For more than a decade, iRobot, the company behind the Roomba vacuumbot, has been working — and working — on robotic lawn mowers. Now it finally has something to show for the effort, though it’s come at a cost.

“Honestly, this robot drove me insane,” said iRobot CEO Colin Angle after showing off Terra, the company’s long-awaited first lawn mower. “It has been an obsession.”

The flat square autonomous grass-cutter that Angle’s company is unveiling Wednesday resulted from a protracted engineering struggle that included dead-end experiments and a conflict with radio astronomers.

Angle and his colleagues have been fielding the question, “So, when are you going to mow my lawn?” since the company starting selling Roombas in 2002. But teaching a robot to navigate a typical American yard without destroying its flowerbeds was harder than it first seemed. “There was a lot of despair and frustration on the journey,” Angle said.

Engineers threw every technology and mechanical design they could at the secret project, which they hid behind tall, opaque fences abutting a freeway just outside iRobot’s Massachusetts headquarters. The test lawn included a picnic table and other obstacles.

The first problem was helping the robot identify its location so it wouldn’t get lost and miss spots. Satellite-based GPS technology didn’t do the trick; it was too “finicky” because interference from tree branches or nearby houses could render it useless, Angle said.

Also ineffective was the sophisticated computer vision that powers the latest Roombas. The technology didn’t work well outside because camera lenses can get blocked by leaves or dirt, and its machine-learning algorithms get confused as the mower bumps up and down. Laser range-finders and ground-based beacons presented different challenges.

The company made so many attempts that several early lawnbot prototypes can be spotted in the 2008 heist film “21.” They make their appearance in a scene where Angle plays a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announcing the winner of a robotics competition. The current Terra looks nothing like those prototypes.

“We had given up,” Angle said of the project. “We probably gave up twice.”

Ultimately, though, financial pressure on the robot maker to diversify its product lineup raised the stakes. (After spinning off its defense robotics division in 2016, iRobot is almost exclusively a seller of vacuums. The main exception is the Braava robotic mop, which accounts for a fraction of total revenue.)

Robotic lawn mowers also started to proliferate in Europe, where they’re now a roughly $300 million industry. Those robo-mowers, however, require homeowners to set up a perimeter of boundary wires to keep the machines in a confined area.

Angle said that works well in Germany, where backyards are typically small, flat and rectangular, but not in the meandering lawns of the United States. American lawn culture also sets a higher bar for what a cut should look like: straight, back-and-forth lines are prized, he said.

The company finally found its answer in a radio technology based on “ultra-wide” bandwidths that would guide the mowers with the help of beacons situated around the lawn, combined with the map-making memory that iRobot already uses for its vacuums. But that idea ran afoul of astronomers who said the radio signals could interfere with their studies of interstellar chemistry.

IRobot eventually won permission from the Federal Communication Commission to use ultra-wide bandwidth for wireless robotic lawn mowers — though not before Harvey Liszt, spectrum manager for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, argued to the FCC that “there is already a competitive market for robotic lawn mowers using wire loops, which has somehow failed to stanch the stream of ghastly accidents and spilt gasoline that iRobot associates with the mundane practice of lawn-mowing.”

The quiet, electric-power mower sports twin mulching blades that are meant to work slowly on a lawn — instead of the typical once-a-week cut with a push mower, it can maneuver around a lawn daily or a few times a week — and returns to its station when complete. Users can schedule the machine with a phone app; if it runs down on juice while moving, it will return to its dock to recharge, then resume where it left off.

The robot will first launch in Germany, where iRobot hopes to capitalize on an existing market where perimeter-based models made by Husqvarna, Bosch and other firms are already popular. The mowers will go on sale in the U.S. in 2020 after an invite-only beta launch later this year.

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Guns and Crime

Authorities: Los Angeles deputy lied about sniper assault

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Authorities Los Angeles deputy lied about sniper assault

NOQ Commentary:

Lies told against police are rampant. It’s imperative that law enforcement maintains as much credibility as possible, especially among their own. Time, credibility, and manpower was wasted over a strange and clearly unnecessary ploy by a sick individual.

Mistakes happen and the wrong people can be given positions of power. It happens in every organization, including law enforcement. But we can’t let the idiocy of the few taint the selfless dedication of the many.

Story:

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles County deputy lied when he said he was shot in the shoulder while standing in a sheriff’s station parking lot last week and will face a criminal investigation, authorities said.

“The reported sniper assault was fabricated” by Deputy Angel Reinosa, Assistant Sheriff Robin Limon said at a news conference late Saturday.

Reinosa, 21, made a frantic radio call Wednesday claiming he’d been shot by someone in a nearby building as he walked to his car outside the Lancaster station, prompting a huge police response. Deputies set up a perimeter and SWAT officers went door-to-door inside a sprawling building complex to search for the shooter.

At the time, investigators believed Reinosa’s bulletproof vest saved his life but that a bullet grazed him. A department statement the next day said a single round hit the top of Reinosa’s shoulder, damaging his uniform shirt but failing to penetrate his flesh.

But no bullets were recovered from the scene and detectives saw “no visible injuries,” Capt. Kent Wegener said Saturday night.

Much of the young deputy’s statement “was self-serving and didn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Wegener said. “There were many things that didn’t add up.”

Reinosa eventually admitted making up the story and using a knife to cut the two holes in his shirt, Wegener said.

Reinosa has been relieved of his duties and could face charges for filing a false report about a crime, officials said. He didn’t explain his motive for the fabrication, Wegener said.

Reinosa had been with the LA County Sheriff’s Department for a year and joined the Lancaster station in May for patrol training.

Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday he had been informed by sheriff’s officials that Reinosa had been struggling in his first year in the field — a probationary training period that all deputies must complete before becoming full-fledged deputies. Sheriff’s officials wouldn’t immediately confirm that account.

“He was not advancing through the training program at an adequate pace,” Parris told the newspaper. “There had been a lot of attention on him.”

Parris declined to elaborate further on Reinosa’s performance but said the deputy was scheduled to be transferred from the Lancaster station and speculated that he had been unhappy about the pending move.

The mayor visited Reinosa in the hospital and then gave a press conference on the incident Wednesday night detailing the ongoing investigation.

Parris said he was “embarrassed” after learning Saturday evening that the whole ordeal was a hoax.

“At the same time, I’m grateful we don’t have a sniper running around,” the mayor told the newspaper. “And I’m really proud of how the Sheriff’s Department handled it. There was no attempt to cover it up.”

Deputies searched through the night for the sniper inside the block-long, four-story structure with many windows that overlook the sheriff’s facility in downtown Lancaster, a desert city of about 160,000 people north of Los Angeles.

Tactical teams worked their way through the building, evacuating some people and having others shelter in place, officials said.

Deputies cleared other nearby buildings, including a library. Authorities urged residents to avoid the neighborhood.

Metrolink train service was halted in the area.

The search was called off Thursday and authorities said the shooter was still at large.

“Our deputies responded to a cry for help and did exactly what they have been trained to do to protect our civilian staff, residents and community,” said a department statement Sunday. “Our community and other first responder partners worked side by side with us to move quickly, effectively and efficiently. There is no shame in that.”

The statement concluded: “The actions of one individual are not indicative of who Lancaster Sheriff’s Station Deputies are.”

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Democrats

Desperate Beto O’Rourke repeats lie that Trump called KKK members ‘very fine people’

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Desperate Beto ORourke repeats lie that Trump called KKK members very fine people

A popular technique used by Nazis before and during WWII was to tell a big lie often and loudly. Their theory was if you tell the same lie over and over again, eventually it would be accepted as the truth. It’s ironic that Democrats like Beto O’Rourke are invoking this Nazi technique to tie President Trump to the KKK. It’s also quite sad as the once-high-flying progressive hero has fallen so far that he must rely on controversy just to stay relevant. His poll numbers are that bad.

His latest attempt to play the race card against anything and everyone who doesn’t agree with him has him repeating the tired old lie that has been perpetuated by mainstream media and propped up by social media. But even worse is the fact that some search engines are keeping stories accepting the false claims ranked higher than the fact check stories that debunk the claim.

Once and for all, President Trump did not call KKK members “very fine people.” During the Charlottsville protests, white supremacists were present. But also included in the crowd on the right were average citizens who were upset about the take down of American historical monuments. As the President noted and as has been verified by independent sources, these “very fine people” were among the white supremacists. It’s possible to support a goal but not hold the ideology of others who support the same goal. Just because I don’t want monuments taken down doesn’t mean I’m a white supremacist. I’m not even white.

Here is what the President actually said, with the extremely important last portion of his statement conveniently omitted from all progressive media reports. They took him out of context so blatantly and heinously because they NEED the people to believe he’s racist. Emphasis and bracketed notes have been added, since progressive media and Beto O’Rourke clearly lack reading comprehension skills.

“You had some very bad people in that group [referring to neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and KKK members]. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name… I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and white nationalists because they should be condemned totally.”

A plain-text reading of the President’s statement make O’Rourke’s recent Tweet either the product of his own stupidity or an unambiguous bald-face lie.

There are millions of Americans who disagree with President Trump over policies. There are some people who aren’t happy with his results so far. Both of these are open for proper discourse in the form of criticism, praise, or debate. But let’s try to keep the lies to a minimum. I understand the race card is all the Democrats have left, but they should try harder to make plans that work (or embrace the GOP’s plans that are already working) instead of stooping to name-calling and promoting false narratives.

There are only two possibilities. Either Beto O’Rourke is extremely unintelligent, lacking in basic reading comprehension skills, or he is a blatant liar so desperate for attention that he’ll say anything for a headline. He needs to be pitied.

We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.

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Media

CNN hits rock bottom as highest rated show ranks 27th in cable news rankings

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CNN hits rock bottom as highest rated show ranks 27th in cable news rankings

The business of promoting Democrats and bashing on President Trump, also known as progressive legacy media, has achieved new levels of failure for CNN. Their highest rated show on cable news rankings was Cuomo Prime Time. It ranked 27th.

Also included on CNN’s resume of shame is the fact that the bottom 12 of the 52 shows rated belonged to them.

Fox News lead the way with eight of the top ten. MSNBC scored the #4 ranking with The Rachel Maddow Show and #6 with The Last Word with Larry O’Donnell. For Fox News, Hannity, Tucker Carlson Tonight, and The Five were #1, #2, and #3 respectively.

The President chimed in on CNN’s continued woes:

What makes this funnier is Cuomo’s show is CNN’s top rated, but only because of time slot. He still has half the audience of Maddow, whose audience is lower than Hannity’s. Even CNN’s one bright spot is an epic failure.

We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.

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