Leading the News
Apple Is Working On Augmented-Reality Headset, Sources Say.
Bloomberg News (11/8, Gurman) reports that Apple “aims to have technology ready for an augmented-reality headset in 2019 and could ship a product as early as 2020.” According to sources familiar with the matter, the headset will have its own display, a new chip, and a new operating system – internally designated “rOS” for “reality operating system.” While Apple hasn’t finalized how to control the headset and launch apps, it is “investigating touch panels, voice-activation via Siri and head gestures.” The development timeline is reportedly very aggressive but could change.
Mashable (11/8, Wong) reports that “Apple is looking into using its expert knowledge in designing custom silicon to create a more power-efficient chip for the headset,” which “could be similar to the integrated system used on the Apple Watch.” CNBC (11/8) reports that the headset may work similarly to AR applications already available for the new iPhones, which “allow users to peek through the display to see information – such as games or even digital furniture – placed within the real world.” The AR device “is part of several new gadgets being crafted under the T288 code name.”
Ars Technica (11/8, Axon) says the team of “several hundred engineers” is led by former Dolby Labs engineering head Mike Rockwell. This team already produced the ARKit, which “takes care of a lot of the heavy lifting for third-party developers who want to make AR apps.” TechCrunch (11/8, Etherington) reports that the company also will release a new version of ARKit next year, which “will pave the way for developers to begin building experiences that could target this device.” TechCrunch adds, “Apple recently made its most recent Macs compatible with external GPUs and the HTC Vive for the purposes of developing VR content, so this seems like one motivating factor” to develop an AR headset.
The Daily Mail (11/8, Prigg) reports that Apple “engineers are prototyping applications from mapping to virtual meeting rooms and 360-degree video playback using HTC Vive headsets.” Additionally, a “special development kit similar to Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s Daydream using as iPhone as a screen is also being made, although it is believed it will only be used internally to develop apps for the new glasses.”
CNET News (11/8, Grunin) says that Apple’s plan for the headset “sounds like” the Windows Mixed Reality approach, “albeit one that has all the smarts in the headset and doesn’t require a phone or connection to a computer.” CNET adds that the headset’s independence is “probably one reason it won’t be out for several years,” because “no one’s been able to manage the feat yet with satisfactory performance.” Fortune (11/8, Reisinger) says that with competitors’ AR headsets already on the market, such as Microsoft’s HoloLens, it may seem like Apple is “far behind” by waiting until 2020 to release its version. However, Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an interview last month he wasn’t worried about “being first,” and instead wants Apple “to be the best.”
Alumnus Pledges $2 Million For University Of New Hampshire Engineering Scholarships.
The AP (11/8) reports University of New Hampshire alumnus Bob Winot “has pledged more than $2 million of his estate to students at the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, ensuring that several students will receive free tuition every year.” The scholarship could “benefit as many as four students a year.” The AP reports that Winot “worked a 40-hour week at the General Electric plant in Somersworth as part of its apprenticeship program. The six-year pathway to a degree meant that students in engineering disciplines could work full time at GE for the first three years of college in exchange for a salary plus tuition, books and a place to live.”
Zenith Education To Close All But Three Former Corinthian Campuses.
Inside Higher Ed (11/8) reports that Zenith Education Group “announced Wednesday that it will halt new student enrollments and teach-out 21” former Corinthian Colleges Inc. campuses, leaving only three to continue operating. The article details the financial investment that Zenith has made in keeping the schools open and describes Corinthian’s transformation from a multi-billion dollar leader in the for-profit sector to a collapsed entity.
BuzzFeed (11/8) reports that the nonprofit Zenith “stepped in to save the campuses of the collapsed for-profit giant Corinthian Colleges,” but is now “all but ending its sprawling $500 million attempt to turn around what was once the country’s most troubled for-profit college chain.” The firm “said Wednesday it would keep just three schools open, in Georgia, Texas, and Florida, winding down operations at the rest of its former Everest and Wyotech College campuses in what it called, in a press release, ‘a new phase in delivering on [a] mission of helping students succeed.’” The Wall Street Journal (11/8, Korn, Subscription Publication) also reports.
Wall Street Fighting CFPB’s Deal Over Defaulted Student Loans.
Bloomberg News (11/8, Nasiripour) reports that “a maelstrom of banks, insurers, debt collectors, and hedge funds enveloped” the CFPB “when it tried to settle allegations of shoddy collection practices on billions of dollars in student loans,” and “a novel settlement proposal between the regulator” and Florida-based Vantage Capital Group, which controls the National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts, “meant to clear up the matter has Wall Street warning of expensive consequences for future student borrowers.” The opponents “posit three main reasons for being against the deal” – they say “their substantial financial interests (which cumulatively total about $2 billion) weren’t taken into account,” the “roughly $19 million in immediate payments would come out of their pockets (and they’d be further harmed while the trusts halt collection on their loans pending the audit),” and the settlement “is part of a long-running effort by Vantage to enrich itself at everyone else’s expense, various objectors to the deal alleged in court filings.”
Research and Development
Texas Governor Announces Grants To Attract Texas A&M Researchers.
The Houston Chronicle (11/8, Ward) reports Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday that “two noted national researchers in engineering and medicine will join the faculty at Texas A&M University with the award of a total of $6 million in funding from the Governor’s University Research Initiative.” The paper reports that M. Cynthia Hipwell, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and Dr. Roderic Ivan Pettigrew, also a member of the National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Medicine, “will receive stipends from the special fund established to draw nationally recognized researchers to Texas universities.”
NSF Recommends Continued Operations At Green Bank Observatory.
The Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail (11/8) reports that after a year-long study, the National Science Foundation is recommending that the Green Bank Observatory in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, continue to be operated “much as it does now.” The piece explains that the environmental impact study “examined a wide variety of future management possibilities for the pioneering radio-astronomy center, ranging from restoring full NSF financial support to mothballing or even razing the site.”
University of Alabama Added To UCAR Research Consortium.
The Birmingham (AL) Business Journal (11/8, Subscription Publication) reports that the University of Alabama “is one of the newest members of” the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, “a national organization focused on research and training in the atmospheric and Earth system sciences.” UCAR, the piece reports, is “a consortium of 117 colleges and universities across North America sponsored by the National Science Foundation.”
Researchers Develop Flexible Photonic Devices.
Nanowerk (11/8) reports on research from a group of institutions led by MIT that “developed a method for making photonic devices – similar to electronic devices but based on light rather than electricity – that can bend and stretch without damage.” The story says the devices “could be attached to the skin or implanted in the body, flexing easily with the natural tissue” thanks to “a specialized kind of glass called chalcogenide.”
University Of Manchester Scientists Develop Graphene Membranes.
Nanowerk (11/8) reports on research out of the University of Manchester on “Capacitive pressure sensing with suspended graphene–polymer heterostructure membranes ” where researchers “fabricated highly miniaturised pressure sensors using graphene membranes which can detect minute changes in pressure with high sensitivity, over a wide range of operating pressures.”
Lockheed, Northrop Grumman Might Lay Off Employees After Losing Missile Defense Contract.
The Colorado Springs (CO) Gazette (11/8, Heilman) reports Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. sent letters to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment earlier this month stating that they could cut jobs after losing $4.6 billion Integrated Research & Development for Enterprise Solutions contract with the Missile Defense Agency. Northrop stated in its letter than even though “the exact number of layoffs is still in flux,” it is “likely that 50 or more employees will be laid off during the 60-day period” beginning January 4. Meanwhile, Lockheed said in its letter that the lost contract impacts 79 of its employees. However, Lockheed spokeswoman Suzanne Smith said the company is “working to place people in other contracts.”
Ford Finalizes Alliance With China’s Zotye On Electric Vehicles.
Bloomberg News (11/8) reports that Ford Motor Company announced Wednesday “it’s finalized an alliance with China’s Anhui Zotye Automobile Co. to manufacture and sell a full line of electric vehicles,” adding that “the companies will invest 5 billion yuan ($756 million) to develop the cars they’ll sell under a new brand unique to the Chinese market.” Ford’s top Asia executive Peter Fleet “is meeting with Trump and China’s president, Xi Jinping, in Beijing on Thursday.” Bloomberg adds, “The news comes as Ford looks to accelerate its push into battery-powered cars and self-driving vehicles under new Chief Executive Officer Jim Hackett,” and “Thursday’s meeting will be the first public outreach to Trump since Hackett replaced previous Ford CEO Mark Fields, who met several times with the president.” Ford and Zotye “plan to build a new manufacturing facility in Zhejiang province as part of the 50-50 joint venture.” CNBC (11/8) reports that the deal “adds to rising investment by global automakers in China’s growing electric vehicle industry,” and points out that “Zotye already has its own electric vehicle business and said sales in the first 10 months of this year were up 14 percent over a year earlier, at 22,500.” Reuters (11/8, Shen) quotes Peter Fleet saying, “Zotye Ford will introduce a new brand family of small all-electric vehicles. We will be exploring innovative vehicle connectivity and mobility service solutions for a new generation of young city-dwelling Chinese customers.” The AP (11/8) reports that “sales of pure-electric and gasoline-electric hybrids in China rose 50 percent last year over 2015 to 336,000 vehicles, or 40 percent of global demand. US sales totaled 159,620,” and “Ford said it expects China’s market for all-electrics and hybrids to grow to annual sales of 6 million by 2025.”
Europe Calls For Cutting Car Emissions By A Third.
The New York Times (11/8, Ewing, Subscription Publication) reports vehicles in Europe would have to reduce carbon dioxide emissions “by almost a third by 2030” under proposals unveiled Wednesday by regulators in Brussels, who were “immediately criticized for not doing enough to combat global warming and for succumbing to pressure from Germany and its powerful auto lobby.” The proposals by the European Commission would “force automakers to cut vehicle carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2030 compared to 2021 levels, and to achieve half of the cuts by 2025.” Critics of the proposal argued that “failing to set more ambitious targets could make European companies vulnerable to faster moving competitors like Tesla or emerging automakers in China.”
The AP (11/8, Charlton) reports car companies that fail to meet those targets “face substantial fines of 95 euros ($110) per excess gram of carbon dioxide – per car.” Automakers “that manage to equip at least 30 percent of their new cars with electric or other low-emission engines by 2030 will be given credits toward their carbon tally.”
The Wall Street Journal (11/8, Peker, Boston, Subscription Publication) characterizes the proposals as a compromise between fast-moving change and safeguarding a 100-year-old industry.
Engineering and Public Policy
Driverless Vehicles Face Uncharted Ethics.
The Guardsman (11/8, Muniz, Johnson) reports that “[d]riverless car manufacturers are eager to make their technology a reality,” yet releasing the vehicles presents new ethical and technical questions. The Guardsman states that “Secretary Elaine L. Chao, from the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), is positive that the government is making the right move by allowing driverless car manufacturers to continue progressing.” Chao said, “The future of this new technology is so full of promise. It’s a future where vehicles increasingly help drivers avoid crashes. It’s a future where the time spent commuting is dramatically reduced, and where millions more – including the elderly and people with disabilities–gain access to the freedom of the open road. It’s a future where highway fatalities and injuries are significantly reduced.” However, some at the Center for Automotive Research (CARS) “brought up issues involving ethics and vehicle cybersecurity.”
Bipartisan Support Shown For Making Grid More Resilient.
In an article titled “Summer Of Storms Tests Energy Resilience” Roll Call (11/8, Nawaguna) reports some US lawmakers are “stepping up calls for a more resilient electricity grid that can withstand extreme weather events like strong winds and flooding” and the “calls are coming not just from Democrats, but from Republicans who have typically shied away from addressing climate change effects.” Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso has signaled that “many Republicans and Democrats who have visited Puerto Rico are in agreement about building a stronger grid there.” Barrasso said, “It seems like the real challenge is electricity and trying to [rebuild] an electricity power plant that is stable, which has not been the case prior to this.”
US House Approves Bill To Expand Hydropower.
The AP (11/8) reports the US House of Representatives has approved legislation “aimed at expanding hydroelectric power, an action supporters said would boost a clean source of renewable energy but opponents denounced as a giveaway to large power companies.” The bill “would define hydropower as a renewable energy source and streamline the way projects are licensed, with primary authority granted to a single federal agency.” Legislators “approved the bill Wednesday, 257-166.”
Research: Pre-K Teachers Less Likely To Teach Science If They Lack Grounding.
The Hechinger Report (11/8) reports on research from Michigan State University showing that “whether or not preschool teachers offer science lessons and activities in their classrooms depends largely on how comfortable they are in the topic.” The study’s lead author, Michigan State associate professor of human development and family studies Hope Gerde, said that “teachers in the study ‘were very nervous that they were going to teach science inaccurately to children.’” The study found that this “did not hold true for reading and math, even though the teachers interviewed were least likely to be confident in math.”
Delaware CTE Program Expands To 9,000 Students.
The Wilmington (DE) News Journal (11/8) reports that Delaware’s Delaware Pathways CTE program “has grown from 27 students to 9,000” over the past four years, “prompting experts to call the First State a national leader in career and technical education.” The program “is designed to prepare students for the workforce across a wide range of industry sectors, including finance, healthcare, hospitality management, computer science, manufacturing, biomedical science and engineering.”
Also in the News
Unicorn Tech Firm Launched In Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Venture Beat (11/6) reports that Ann Arbor, Michigan-based startup Duo Security was valued at $1.17 billion last month, making it “the first unicorn company in Ann Arbor, and its $70 million series D the largest round of venture capital raised by any company in Michigan history.” The firm “creates a two-factor authentication app for enterprise companies.” The article focuses on what the valuation means for the city, noting that it “has a natural advantage in the University of Michigan,” whose “engineering program has been consistently named one of the top programs in the country.”
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• AT&T Enjoys Engineer Loyalty, Still Sees Talent Challenges Amid Transformation.
• House Republicans Reduce Number Of Colleges Targeted For Tax On Endowment Income.
• AI Experts Call For Ban On Autonomous Weapons.
• NY Times Contributor Discusses Trip To Tesla’s Gigafactory.
• Oklahoma City Pushes Towards Autonomous Streetcars.
• Wisconsin District Receives “STEMMY” Award.