Our 2019 Children’s Books of the Year stand out from an increasingly troubling crowd
Building a spacecraft is not a job for mass production. Aerospace workers painstakingly assemble each spacecraft one at a time, traditionally following thousand-plus-page technical manuals. But Lockheed Martin—the prime contractor building NASA’s next generation Orion spacecraft—is ditching the paper manuals and equipping its technicians with augmented reality (AR) headsets.
The Microsoft Hololens headsets allow workers to view their section of the spacecraft overlaid with holographic models based on the engineering design drawings. The models display parts and labels right on top of the partially assembled spacecraft, to include detailed instructions for tasks such as torquing bolts positioned right over the relevant holes.
Technicians have embraced the new technology, but the current generation of AR headsets is still too bulky to wear for more than about three hours at a time.
“At the start of the day, I put on the device to get accustomed to what we will be doing in the morning,” spacecraft technician Decker Jory told MIT Technology Review. Jory and his team take the headsets off when they are ready to start drilling.
Lockheed expanded its use of augmented reality after tests showed that technicians needed much less time to familiarize themselves with new tasks as well as correctly execute processes such as drilling holes and twisting fasteners.
Only 2.5 percent of all water on earth is fresh water, and access to safe drinking water is a real problem for much of the world’s population.
On Oct. 22, XPRIZE—a nonprofit that holds worldwide competitions to solve grand challenges—announced the winner of its Water Abundance competition’s grand prize of $1.5 million. The Skysource/Skywater Alliance beat 97 other teams from 27 countries with its deployable, high-volume water generator.
The generator can extract a minimum of 2,000 liters (528 gallons) of water per day using only renewable energy sources and at a cost of no more than 2 cents per liter.
The company’s patented distillation process condenses water out of the surrounding air using refrigeration techniques and then treats it with ozone and carbon filtration to improve taste and remove harmful micro-organisms. Any fuel, including solar or biofuels, can power the generator. —M.C.
A font to remember
Researchers in Australia have created a new typeface designed to help people remember more of what they read. Typographic design specialists and psychologists from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, collaborated in creating a font called Sans Forgetica.
Unlike more conventional fonts such as Times New Roman, the characters in Sans Forgetica have certain elements removed, making them slightly more difficult to read. This learning principle, known as “desirable difficulty,” causes a reader to put in a bit more effort, leading to better memory retention.
Readers often glance over normal fonts and don’t remember what they read, said professor Janneke Blijlevens, founding member of RMIT’s Behavioral Business Lab. But if a font is too different, the brain can’t process and retain it. “Sans Forgetica lies at a sweet spot where just enough obstruction has been added to create that memory retention,” Blijlevens said.
The Australian team tested various fonts with a range of obstructions on 400 university students in both laboratory and online settings to determine which ones best improved memory retention. Sans Forgetica departed just enough from standard typeface design principles to remain legible and aid memory retention.
Sans Forgetica is available as a free download at sansforgetica.rmit. —M.C.