Click gets behind the wheel of some pretty smart cars. Plus, take a trip to the end of the century, to a world of space elevators and robot overlords.
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OK, engine off.
-No. Engine off.
-CAR REVS UP
RADIO STARTS PLAYING
This week, Click gets behind the wheel of some pretty smart cars,
but are we ready to trust them and take our hands off the wheel
and our eyes off the road?
If that's not futuristic enough for you, we'll also take a trip
to the end of the century,
to a world of space elevators and robot overlords.
Then we head to the stars with a guide to taking space snaps
on your smartphone.
All that, plus the latest tech news
and the very best of the web in Webscape.
Welcome to Click. I'm Spencer Kelly.
Welcome to the back roads of Nevada.
We stayed on in Las Vegas
after last week's Consumer Electronics Show
to bring you something hi-tech,
but also high-speed.
Cars are crammed with technology,
from intelligent engine management systems to traction control,
to in-car entertainment systems
capable of shattering glass, as well as your eardrums.
But now automotive augmentation is moving beyond horsepower
and miles per gallon.
Vehicles are hitting the road which can download apps,
mainly for things like entertainment
and weather updates,
some direct to the car,
some with the help of a smartphone.
As seems to be the case with just about everything
we use these days, the goal is to make cars smarter.
The two biggest smartphone operating systems,
Apple's iOS and Google's Android,
were both born in the United States
and both are now attempting
to embed themselves in the ultimate mobile device - the car.
Yep, few places in the world are as car crazy as the USA,
but this suspicious hitchhiker could probably talk vehicles
for the entire length of Route 66.
I've decided to pick up Marc Cieslak.
For those of us that can't afford a chauffeur,
which is pretty much everybody,
the concept of a car that can drive itself
is perhaps the ultimate expression of automotive laziness.
From the US military to search giant Google,
to motor manufacturers themselves,
the development of autonomous automobiles
has shifted into the next gear.
But before taking to the open road,
motor manufacturers are starting small.
Parking aids like audible sensors and rear-facing cameras
are commonplace in many high-end modern motors.
Taking this a step further, a host of manufacturers
have self-parking cars on the drawing board.
Audi's effort combines a variety of different kit.
This testbed car is loaded with ultrasonic sensors,
forward-facing radar and a laser!
More radar at the rear,
to let it know what's going on behind it
and at its sides.
There's cameras in the wing mirror and in the windshield.
All of these sensors and the data that they collect is combined
to give the vehicle a complete picture of what's going on around it.
These allow the car to measure its distance from other objects
to help it park itself.
The driver kicks off the whole process
with a swipe of a smartphone screen.
The development of the system is moving at a rapid pace.
Last year, the computing kit required to process this manoeuvre
filled the boot of a car.
Today, it slips easily above a wheel arch.
But self-parking is merely the hors d'oeuvre whetting our appetite
for the main course - a car which drives itself on the open road.
Like this example created last year by a team at Oxford University,
and Google's autonomous auto which, by 2012,
had clocked up over 300,000 self-driven road miles.
Audi's making use of similar technology it uses for self-parking
in what it's calling Piloted Driving.
On the highway just outside Las Vegas,
this car is driving itself.
His hands are off the wheel completely!
This is really, really weird!
We've had autonomous vehicles on the programme before,
but this particular vehicle is rather special
because it's driving all by itself in traffic.
Albeit with a little help from the local Highway Patrol.
The police escort is purely a precautionary measure.
While this car is capable of driving itself, the Piloted Driving system
has really been designed to take some of the tedium
out of driving in heavy traffic.
A wide variety of different sensors are at work here.
Radar, laser, ultrasound, all of them being brought together
and the information processed incredibly quickly to allow
the vehicle to know where it is and, most importantly, how to react.
The system's so smart, it's undergone
a Department of Motor Vehicles driving test.
This is perhaps the first car that I've driven in
that has its very own driving licence as well.
While the car is happy to take care of itself,
it does make some demands of its non-driving driver.
My driver is simulating being asleep.
He's closed his eyes and the car continues to drive itself.
But you hear that alarm... BEEPING
That's the car recognising that the driver appears to be asleep.
There are infrared cameras inside the cabin
which are using facial recognition software
when they recognise - because the eyes are closed -
that the driver's dropped off, they sound an alarm and wake him up.
So while the car will drive itself,
you have to ensure that you're awake while you're behind the wheel.
The engineers behind this vehicle estimate it will take
about two years to iron out the wrinkles in the technology.
Convincing lawmakers, however, that cars that drive themselves
are ready for our roads may take a little bit longer.
There goes Marc Cieslak.
Self-driving cars are edging ever closer
and as much as they need to understand the road ahead,
they also need to communicate
with each other and with cars whose drivers
are still good old-fashioned flesh and blood.
Here's Richard Taylor.
Our vehicles may be smarter,
but today, an automobile's existence
is a somewhat solitary affair.
Of the billions of cars plying the roads,
not a single one talks directly to another.
But as they become more internet connected, that's all set to change.
Right now, in-car Wi-Fi hot spots
serve drivers and passengers
their infotainment fix.
A few years down the road,
a modified version of Wi-Fi
could be broadcasting potentially life-saving information to vehicles
several hundred metres away.
This is the world of vehicle-to-vehicle communication,
a kind of early-warning system
that car makers are coordinating efforts around
in order to help motorists make more informed decisions.
Today, systems use sensors and cameras to help drivers
avoid rear-end collisions,
but these radar systems are limited to what they can actually
physically see in their line of sight.
By contrast, V2V equipped cars would broadcast 360-degree awareness
about speed, position and direction of travel,
including over obstacles and other vehicles.
There are many scenarios where this could be invaluable.
For example, when you're approaching an intersection,
you'd get an alert letting you know
there's a car about to cross your path.
We're heading towards a green light here.
What we don't know is that another driver, very irresponsibly,
is just about to run a red and come straight across our line.
Now, let's just see what happens.
Ordinarily, we would have gone
straight into the side of that vehicle,
but with the V2V system, because it can see around us
and through obstructions, has alerted us,
and I felt very definite vibration,
as well as the visual and audio cues.
Unlike today's warning systems, V2V doesn't go further.
For example, with automatic adaptive braking.
It also requires a critical mass of cars to be equipped
in order to be effective. And drivers, of course,
need to respond effectively.
Even then, significant challenges remain.
Some of the major ones right now are making sure that all the systems
talk to each other, so that different vehicles
from different manufacturers understand the messages
that are being sent back and forth.
We also need to make sure that those messages are trustworthy
while, at the same time, respecting privacy
to make sure that the information is anonymous.
Ah, the age-old problem of having interoperable systems.
Brilliant! Richard Taylor there.
'While I go for a little ego-boosting cruise in this thing,
'let's catch up with the latest tech news.'
American internet service providers may now be able to prioritise
certain content on their networks,
after a US federal appeals court
rejected rules designed to protect
a principle known as 'net neutrality'.
Until now, ISPs legally
had to provide equal internet access
and bandwidth for all types of content,
so they couldn't charge more to access data-heavy services
like Netflix, for example.
Advocates of net neutrality have said the decision
threatens innovation and free speech on the open internet.
Google has splashed out 3.2 billion
on home appliances company Nest.
It's an outfit that makes a smart thermostat
that learns your routine and adjusts temperatures automatically.
This gives Google a firm footing in
the so-called Internet of Things,
which has long been promised
to make our homes smarter
and more efficient.
Choosing a tablet is no small feat these days.
Will you go for the pencil-thin iPad,
the productive Surface, or something
from the smorgasbord
of Android slabs on the market?
Well, why not make your own instead?
Built from scratch in under two weeks,
the so-called PiPad
runs on a tiny Raspberry Pi computer.
It has six hours of battery
and sports a Baltic birchwood body.
Michael Castor, the creator of the pad,
doesn't plan on making another yet,
so if you want one,
better get your Pi out.
If you're the type of person who's worried
that your phone calls are being monitored
by shadowy Big Brother types,
prepare yourself for
the arrival of the Blackphone.
The mysterious device,
which is indeed black,
will run a security-orientated
version of Android called Private OS.
Those behind the phone
claim it will allow users
to make and receive secure phone calls,
exchange texts, and transfer
and store files,
without compromising your security.
The phone is expected to be unveiled
at the Mobile World Congress
in Barcelona next month.
Last week, at CES, we looked at the gadgets
that might be invading our lives in the next couple of years.
What about a bit further down the line?
Say, 70 or 80 years into the future?
We spoke to futurologist Ian Pearson -
yes, that really is his job title - to get his view
on what life might be like near the end of the 21st Century.
I'll give you a clue, it's a bit different.
I'm Ian Pearson. I'm with a company called Futurizon
and I'm a futurologist.
Your day really starts when your consciousness
starts appearing in the early morning.
Sometimes, that's a dream, so we already know how to start
breaking into people's dreams.
We can detect that you're in a dream state,
if you've got active contact lenses under your eyelids,
so we could put video images into your dreams
that would enhance them.
We could link them to your girlfriend's dreams
and we can make them much more fun.
We could link your dreams to somebody else's dreams
and you can interactively dream.
Eventually, it's time for you to wake up
and we can do that gently, you can deal with your e-mails
and watch the morning news before you bother opening your eyes,
because you've got the contact lenses in.
You're not going to see the real world very much anyway.
You're going to see a filtered, personalised view of the real world.
In fact, that's part of what the city's going to look like.
You might have a plain concrete building, but when you look at it,
you're seeing a spectacular video overlay on that,
which makes it look like a really cool building.
You will experience it through your senses,
it's just that your senses will be augmented.
They'll be made an awful lot better.
So when you're looking at someone, you're not dehumanising them.
What you're doing is, you're adding...
They'll have a digital bubble around them
which tells them, what is this person's hobbies?
What are they interested in?
What kind of art do they like? What sort of person are they?
So you'd see a lot more of that person, rather than a lot less.
I see future transport very much as self-driving pods.
We're all familiar with that concept from science fiction,
but most pods are still streamlined.
There's no reason why you'd make them streamlined
because if the cars are self-driving,
they can drive literally a millimetre apart or even in contact.
They can meet up with the car in front.
There's no wind resistance because there's no gap in-between the cars
for them to get any.
You might as well make small cubes with comfortable seats inside.
They are totally self-driving.
You can get in and say, take me to Number 5 Bloggs Street,
and the car takes you there.
You don't need to worry about where it is.
The Sat Nav would all be voice controlled
and it knows your diary anyway.
So looking at the future city, we'll be using things like
carbon nanotubes to go right up to 30 kilometres tall
for space ports in 2075-2080.
By 100 years from now, we might be going 500-600 kilometres tall,
which is 1,000 times higher than the Shard.
Those are the physics limits,
about 500-600 kilometres tall.
Those are ridiculously high buildings,
that's above the Hubble telescope, for example.
By the end of this century, we'll probably have a space elevator,
one of Arthur C Clarke's concepts,
where you have a big rock in space, with a big rope coming down
to the Earth's surface.
You use that as a high-speed lift shaft to get things into orbit.
A lot of people, when they're thinking about the future,
they watch science-fiction films and see a very gloomy,
very dystopian view of the future where the machines
all rise up against us. The good news is that engineers
have known about this for a very long time.
That's why we've got the sci-fi films.
These are very understood concepts, so they're already in hand,
we know how to defend against those scenarios.
The future will not be us fighting against big armies of machines
because we know, pretty much, how to keep them on our side.
A glimpse of the future there from futurologist Ian Pearson.
And you heard it here first - robots will not take over the world!
Right until the point that they do.
The desert really does look stunning at sunset.
In fact, after dark, this is one of the best places
to view the night sky too. No light pollution, see.
In actual fact, did you know you can get a pretty good picture
of the stars using just a camera phone?
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to get a great shot.
You just need to learn a little astrophotography.
That's exactly what LJ Rich did
when she boldly went and took a one-day course.
As the great Douglas Adams once wrote, space is big...
I'm going to add, it's also very photogenic.
It's a familiar situation - there you are on a beautiful clear night,
and there are millions of stars.
If only there was some way of recording that forever!
Mark Thompson is an astronomer by trade.
Predictably, he's got a lot of kit dedicated to astrophotography -
taking pictures of the stars.
-Hi, how are you doing?
-Good, thanks. How are you?
So, Mark, I've taken a few shots with this compact camera.
To be honest, the results aren't that great,
so I'm hoping you're going to be able to help.
You've got to get the basics right.
We need a dark sky and we need it to be clear.
Thankfully, we've got both of these.
Something else you're going to need is a tripod.
You can get it for ten quid and they hold a camera really steady.
With something like that,
you can start to get some wonderful pictures.
'So, get a tripod, wrap up warm, and you'll be happy to know,
'it's actually easy to take some good-looking pictures straightaway.'
With objects like the moon, which are quite bright,
you can stick the camera on a tripod and point and click,
it's as simple as that.
You can even add a bit of foreground to make it look quite dramatic.
'To take your own photograph of the moon, put the camera in manual mode
'and try the following settings.
'Set your aperture, or F-stop, wide. F-4 is a good start.
'Set your exposure to something like 1/250th of a second.
'And try the ISO, or sensitivity of the camera, at around 400.'
To get a bit closer to the stars, you could pick up a telescope like this
for under £200.
With a steady hand and a bit of patience,
there are some pretty good shots to be had, even with your mobile phone.
Once you've found the moon through the telescope,
line up the smartphone just so.
It might be a bit fiddly.
Press the screen to help your screen focus and snap away.
'If you have a DSLR camera, you can buy an adapter.'
We're just turning the telescope into a whopping great zoom lens.
Just push the button.
-There we go.
-And hopefully... Look at that!
-It's the moon, right there.
It's not just the moon you can capture.
These images were all taken by members of the public,
using a DSLR attached to a telescope.
These pictures were taken with a DSLR, or a compact camera,
but getting into astrophotography can be done
without spending too much on kit.
In fact, a simple webcam can produce some truly astonishing results.
One of the problems of taking pictures from the Earth is that
we're looking through the atmosphere,
which makes the picture jump around quite a lot.
Webcams allow you to take video footage,
so we can take all the individual frames of that video,
add them all together with free software,
-and come out with a wonderfully sharp picture.
Well, free software, that sounds like something
I could easily get my head around! Let's see if I can get this to work.
The technique is called image stacking.
I'm using a programme called RegiStax on a Windows machine.
There are others programmes available,
like DeepSkyStacker and StarStaX.
The software analyses each frame of video
and the resulting combined image is pretty good.
It's even possible in this image to see Jupiter's Great Red Spot,
a massive storm, three times the size of the Earth.
Astrophotography is not just the preserve of NASA or Jodrell Bank.
By combining a few simple pieces of technology,
we can all take some beautiful pictures of the night sky.
Why not give it a try?
LJ Rich, with Stargazing LIVE's Mark Thompson.
And if you're interested, there are many more videos to help you
hone your astrophotography skills, at the website...
OK, next up, it's Kate Russell, with Webscape.
# There's a note
# Underneath your front door... #
From celestial stars to pop stars now.
A good music video can really bring a track to life.
And with technology making
the creative process so much more accessible,
pretty much anyone can have a go.
Genero.tv lets you play the role of music video maker
by pitching your idea to bands willing to pay
anything from 1,000 and upwards, if they like what you create.
# ..And I never will... #
From stop motion animation to arthouse film
and everything in-between.
Just browse through the projects on offer, download the track
and get stuck in.
Even if you're not interested in becoming a film-maker,
this is a great place to explore and discover new music.
Bands can also sign up to set a budget and a brief.
This has to be about the most affordable way
to get a stunning accompaniment for your music.
# ..For me. #
A good understanding of money has never been more important,
but it can be a tough subject for us adults to grasp, let alone our kids.
# Money, money, money, money
# Money... #
A UK bank has launched a new programme aimed at making
this learning process a lot more fun.
Kids aged seven to 11 can sign up for the Pocket Money programme
to access games, quizzes and fun features
that hardly feel like learning to be smart about money.
You don't need to be a customer of the bank, or based in the UK,
although currencies and other regional aspects
are skewed towards a UK audience.
The lessons are fun and engaging for everyone though,
equipping children with a valuable life skill that they'll benefit from
well into adulthood.
There is also a portal for teachers,
helping you devise fun and engaging lesson plans
for your primary-age students.
All the material is free to download and use in class,
so it's good for your own budget,
as well as helping your pupils
learn about theirs.
# Red, red wine... #
Another thing we adults tend to worry about,
which wine goes best with fish?
Vivino is free for iOS and Android, with older versions still available
for Windows Phone and BlackBerry handsets.
It lets you photograph the label of any bottle,
which it then scans and searches the database for information
already in the system.
# ..It's up to you... #
Once scanned, you can store a record of the bottle in your phone's memory,
perfect for those times when your own memory isn't working quite so well
after discovering a particularly quaffable vintage of Pinot Noir.
Next time you're looking for a tasty tipple,
all the notes are right in your hands. Perfect!
Whatever your favoured tipple, always remember to drink responsibly.
Thanks, Kate. Kate's links are available at our website...
If you'd like to get in touch about anything you've seen today,
please do on the e-mail address.
We live on Twitter, Google Plus and Facebook too.
That's it from the deserts of Nevada.
It's time for me to get back to the car...
..which I parked...
by a bush.
Over here, I think.
Click gets behind the wheel of some pretty smart cars. Plus, take a trip to the end of the century, to a world of space elevators and robot overlords. And a guide to taking space snaps with your camera or phone.