The University of Essex has secured £600,000 in funding to develop radiation-resistant robots for use in nuclear facilities.
The cash injection, which will be directed to the British university’s School of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, came from the National Centre for Nuclear Robotics (NCNR).
The University of Essex said it intends to use the funding to develop computer vision systems intended for use in nuclear power plants. It also plans to develop methods to increase the longevity of sensors and control systems used in radioactive environments.
“So far, we have experimentally investigated how sensors and associated chips and software deteriorate with radiation exposure, and have developed new ways of modelling this degradation to predict sensor performance at different radiation dose rates, which is extremely important for building future systems,” said team lead Professor Klaus McDonald-Maier in a statement.
Computer hardware typically fares poorly in areas flooded with ionising radiation. The effects vary from transient glitches and errors (for example, an ion changing the electrical state on a transistor causing a bit to flip) to long-term cumulative damage that results in physically degraded electrical components.
To lessen this, computer systems that enter radioactive environments are “hardened” to increase their lifespan and mitigate the risk of single-event error (SEE) glitches.
For example, NASA used the BAE RAD 750 processor on the Mars Perseverance rover. This chip, a licensed clone of the IBM PowerPC 750 processor best known for its use on the iMac G3, was designed to withstand up to 100 cumulative kilorads of ionising radiation.
In the documentation, BAE also claimed it can adapt to SEE glitches at a loss of just 1 per cent of the chip’s processing power.
“Although our focus has been on the nuclear domain, our research has developed fundamental robotics, embedded systems and AI capabilities that are applicable across other extreme areas such as offshore environments, in space and mining,” added Professor McDonald-Maier. “With additional applications possible, such as bomb disposal, firefighting and rescue robotics, this research will remain relevant for decades to come.”
Founded in 2017 with an endowment of £42m, the NCNR is led by the University of Birmingham and includes members from academia, industry, and investment capital.
The project aims to fund robotics research in five key areas: decommissioning, UAV-based monitoring, waste handling, characterisation (detecting the levels and types of radiation at a facility), and remotely operated underwater vehicles. ®
Pic As Apple and Qualcomm push for more Arm adoption in the notebook space, we have come across a photo of what could become one of the world’s first laptops to use the open-source RISC-V instruction set architecture.
In an interview with The Register, Calista Redmond, CEO of RISC-V International, signaled we will see a RISC-V laptop revealed sometime this year as the ISA’s governing body works to garner more financial and development support from large companies.
It turns out Philipp Tomsich, chair of RISC-V International’s software committee, dangled a photo of what could likely be the laptop in question earlier this month in front of RISC-V Week attendees in Paris.
A slide from the RISC-V Week event in Paris teasing a potential RISC-V laptop coming in 2022 … Click to enlarge.
Tomsich teased the device at the end of a talk with Mark Himelstein, CTO of RISC-V International, about the software optimization work needed to mature the RISC-V ecosystem.
“The big question that everybody is asking themselves, and the one where I’m wondering, Mark, if we’ll be able to pull this off: will we see the first RISC-V laptop announced this year?” Tomsich said as he showed a picture of a black, brandless laptop that had a large question mark over it.
Tomsich then hinted at the potential specs of the laptop:
Tomsich shared the photo of the mystery PC while promoting a few milestones for RISC-V, including the March launch of the first portable RISC-V computer, modeled after Kyocera’s classic TRS-80 Model 100 “slab” computer from 1983. Tomsich also hailed Alibaba Cloud for getting Android 12 to work on its own RISC-V silicon, and RISC-V compiler support for Java through OpenJDK.
What could the RISC-V laptop be for?
We were able to extract the image of the mystery laptop from the slide to get a slightly closer look:
A photo of what could be a RISC-V laptop, as shown at the RISC-V Week event in Paris. Click to enlarge.
Unfortunately, there’s not much we can discern from this photo. The device itself looks fairly rough, pretty much a prototype, which means the laptop is likely being used for development and testing purposes.
However, there was one interesting detail that caught our attention: the bottle in the top-left corner of the photo. We learned from a quick Google search that this is a water bottle brand in China called Ganten.
Now, normally we wouldn’t care much about seeing a bottle of water, but we do know that, as of last summer, the Institute of Software at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ISCAS) was planning to build 2,000 RISC-V laptops by the end of 2022 as China looks to reduce its reliance on foreign tech giants like Arm and Intel amid ongoing tensions with Western countries.
Does this mean the mystery laptop is being developed by ISCAS? It’s too soon to say. There could be other RISC-V laptop developments in China, though the ISCAS project is the only one in the country El Reg knows of so far.
The only other public RISC-V laptop development we’re aware of is one in Russia, which is expected to have homegrown RISC-V laptop chips ready for devices by 2025, according to a report from last year. The country is now cut off from Arm and Intel due to its invasion of Ukraine, so RISC-V is probably its best option now due to the ISA’s borderless nature.
As for RISC-V laptops popping up elsewhere in the world, we shouldn’t expect commercial products for a while – though if you know of any, or can identify the machine above, please do let us know. We’re also more than aware of the RISC-V boards out there for developers.
Patrick Little, the CEO of RISC-V chip designer SiFive, told us earlier this year he doesn’t think system-on-chips using the company’s CPU blueprints will find their way into PCs until roughly late 2025.
There’s also the fact that much work is needed for the RISC-V ISA to provide the same level of software support and cross-platform stability that x86 and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Arm, provide for PCs now. ®
The new facility will create jobs for engineers, mechanics and support staff as Ryanair seeks to expand its fleet to more than 600 aircraft over the next four years.
Ryanair is opening its first heavy maintenance facility in Ireland at Shannon Airport, which the airline said will lead to 200 “high-skill” jobs in the region.
The airline said it will invest €10m into the “state-of-the-art” facility, leased from Shannon Group. This will support the maintenance of Ryanair’s fleet, which it is looking to expand to more than 600 aircraft over the next four years.
Jobs to be created at the maintenance facility include licensed engineers, mechanics and support staff.
“Ryanair creates opportunities for highly skilled engineering jobs, with our industry-leading rosters and the youngest fleet in Europe,” Ryanair director of operations Neal McMahon said. “Shannon is an ideal location with opportunities to attract, train and employ local talent to support this new facility.”
Ryanair has operated from Shannon Airport since 1986, opening a base at the airport in 2005. It has carried more than 17m customers to and from the airport to date.
The airline said the investment is a mark of its commitment to both Ireland and the mid-west region.
Shannon Group CEO Mary Considine added that it represents a “vote of confidence” by Ryanair in the future of the airport.
“Having Ryanair at hangar 5, one of 10 fully occupied hangars on our Shannon campus, is another significant boost for the region, creating high-quality jobs for local aviation specialists,” Considine said. “The resulting jobs and investment are also consistent with our strategic plan to increase economic growth and retain skills and talent in the region.”
Ryanair carries around 154m passengers every year on more more than 2,400 daily flights from 82 bases, with its fleet of roughly 470 aircraft. The airline said it has a headcount of more than 19,000 skilled aviation professionals globally.
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Older TikTok users are using the online platform, regarded as the virtual playground of teenagers, to defy ageist stereotypes of elderly people as technophobic and frail.
Research has found increasing numbers of accounts belonging to users aged 60 and older with millions of followers. Using the platform to showcase their energy and vibrancy, these TikTok elders are rewriting expectations around how older people should behave both on and off social media.
“These TikTok elders have become successful content creators in a powerful counter-cultural phenomenon in which older persons actually contest the stereotypes of old age by embracing or even celebrating their aged status,” said Dr Reuben Ng, the author of the paper Not Too Old for TikTok: How Older Adults are Reframing Ageing, and an assistant professor at Yale University.
Interestingly, said Ng, most TikTok elders are women who “fiercely resist common stereotypes of older women as passive, mild-mannered and weak, instead opting to present themselves as fierce or even foul-mouthed,” he said.
The immense reach that these older TikTok users have means they have the potential to transform negative age stereotypes that proliferate on social media.
“There is considerable evidence that ageist stereotypes preponderate among the young on social media,” said Ng. These prejudices reached an all-time high during the Covid pandemic, during which the deadly virus was labelled a “Boomer remover”.
“The strength of anti-age prejudices means the participation of older adults in social media is vital in ensuring that such ageist ideas are not left unchallenged,” said Ng, whose paper is to be published in the Gerontologist journal.
The paper looked at 1,382 videos posted by TikTok users who were aged 60 or older and had between 100,000 and 5.3 million followers. In total, their videos, all of which explicitly discussed their age, had been viewed more than 3.5bn times.
Ng found that 71% of these videos – including those from accounts such as grandadjoe1933, who has 5.3 million followers, and dolly_broadway, who has 2.4 million followers – were used to defy age stereotypes. A recurring motif was the “glamma”, a portmanteau combining “glamorous” and “grandma”, with videos including those of a 70-year-old woman joyfully parading around the streets in a midriff-bearing top.
Almost one in five of the videos analysed made light of age-related vulnerabilities, and one in 10 called out ageism among both younger people and their own contemporaries. Other videos positioned older users as superior to younger people. “I may be 86 but I can still drink more than you lightweights” says one clip. “I may be 86 but I can still twerk better than you,” says another, showing an octogenarian leaping up from a fall down the stairs with a twerk.
Analysis by the Pew Research Centre has found a remarkable uptake of technology by older Americans during recent years: in 2000, 14% of people aged 65-plus were internet users; in 2019, it was 73%. Only half of adults owned smartphones in 2014, 81% of those aged 60 to 69 have them today.
Emma Twyning, the director of communications at the Centre for Ageing Better said: “We need to see much more diverse portrayals if we are to truly shift attitudes and cast off negative perceptions of growing older. Social media is the perfect platform to do this and to call out ageism more generally.”
Stuart Lewis, the chief executive of Rest Less, said TikTok was the ideal platform for midlife influencers to take to the stage and defy ageist stereotypes. “Creators are encouraged to be original, raw and unedited – making it the ideal soapbox on which to stand if you want a space to debunk stereotypes and be your uncensored self,” he said.
Prof Fiona Gillison, from the Healthy Later Living Network at the University of Bath, who is leading work on challenging stereotypes about ageing, said the study was important. But she added: “There is a balance to be struck in challenging stereotypes about ageing while also accepting that it is OK to want different things from younger people as we grow older, and accepting that our interests and abilities may change.”
Ultimately, she said, people need to “take the stigma out of needing adjustments as we age while also challenging assumptions that can accompany these. For example that having a hearing aid somehow implies that we are ‘fragile’ or ‘infirm’ in other ways.”
The older users showcasing their energy and vibrancy
The 88-year-old Staffordshire man is TikTok’s wealthiest “granfluencer”, his videos apparently earning him about £134,000 a year. Grandad Joe has won 5.4 million followers and 156.7 million likes for videos including one of him giggling after his youngest granddaughter gives his grown-up daughter “attitude just like she gave me [when she was younger]”.
92-year-old Grandmother Droniak went viral, reaching 4.2 million followers, after laying down rules for her funeral including “Cry, but not too much,” “Bertha isn’t invited” and “Get drunk afterwards”.
Grandmaann2 lures viewers to her account with the strapline “I’m old so follow before I die”. Two million people couldn’t resist, and to date they have given her lip-syncs and comedy skits 63.5m likes.
Jenny Krupa, 87, has won 2 million followers and 93m likes since a 2019 video accidentally posted by her grandson, Skylar Krupa, titled “Perks of being old” reached 1,000 views in about 15 minutes.
The latest video for her 1 million followers shows 89-year-old Dolores Paolino dressing up in a Marilyn Monroe-type dress and telling Kim Kardashian she looks better in it than her.
Other videos show the grandmother from south Philadelphia wearing sequined jumpsuits and swigging from a bottle on her birthday, and pushing ice-cream cones into her grandchildren’s face.