Mount Everest Conquered by Virtual Reality, plus the Buzz on Google AI Projects and the World’s Smallest Drone

Posted on May 29, 2016

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Project 360 Everest marks a milestone in virtual mountaineering, Google bets big on machine learning and RC Insane launches the world’s smallest drone.

Equipment test: Lakpa Sherpa (left) and Pemba Rinji Sherpa - mountain guides and experienced mountaineers. Both have summited Mount Everest several times. But this is the first time they carried a 360° camera rig. After the successful camera test, the customary Buddhist Puja ceremony took place, where the Sherpa climbers ask the divine Mount Everest for clear passage. (PHOTOPRESS/Mammut)

Equipment test: Lakpa Sherpa (left) and Pemba Rinji Sherpa – mountain guides and experienced mountaineers successfully test the 360-degree camera, prior to the customary Buddhist Puja ceremony asking the divine Mount Everest for clear passage. (PHOTOPRESS/Mammut)

Mountain specialists Mammut achieved a huge coup in virtual reality filming by taking a 360-degree camera to the peak of Mount Everest. Two Nepalese mountain guides – Lakpa Sherpa and Pemba Rinji Sherpa – supported by two Sherpa colleagues, were the first to document the whole south route to the summit, for trekking and mountaineering equipment company Mammut’s ‘#project360’.

Photographer and multimedia producer Matthias Taugwalder was technical producer for the Swiss company’s lofty project, beginning work two years ago. Dry run for the Everest climb was #project360’s filmed ascent of the Eiger north face, another first. “We developed a special camera system with a backpack and a cube of six Go Pro cameras that record 360 images and videos in regular intervals,” said Taugwalder. “Since then we have captured more than 40 routes in the Alps and worldwide and now Mount Everest is the highlight of this project.”

Mammut said the Sherpas were the only appropriate candidates for filming on Everest and chose Lakpa Sherpa as lead guide due to his experience as a professional mountain guide, instructor and founding member of the Nepal National Mountain Guides Association. “I feel lucky to join this great project because it shows both beauty and dangers of climbing Mount Everest,” said Lakpa. “Now everybody can enjoy the mountain with the 360° images and videos.”

Climbing Quartet

The four Sherpas climbed from Basecamp at 5,380 metres altitude to the summit at 8,848 meters through the constantly moving Khumbu Icefall, the Western Cwm (notorious for its changeable weather conditions), through the steep, icy Lhotse Face, and reaching the summit by passing the technical cruxes of Yellow Band, Geneva Spur and the infamous Hillary Step.

Lakpa Sherpa, Pemba Rinji Sherpa, Kusang Sherpa and Ang Kaji Sherpa became the first mountaineers to capture the whole route to the summit of Mount Everest with a 360° camera rig, all of which is now viewable online at #project360 Mammut.

 

Google Takes Machine Learning to 100 Projects

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has outlined the company’s long term commitment to machine learning and artificial intelligence in a shareholder letter. The company owns AI computer DeepMind, the first in history to beat a top-ranked human player at the ancient game Go, and is looking to compete head to head with Facebook, Apple, IBM, Microsoft and Amazon in machine learning.

“This is another important step toward creating artificial intelligence that can help us in everything from accomplishing our daily tasks and travels, to eventually tackling even bigger challenges like climate change and cancer diagnosis,” said Pichai.

DeepMind was acquired in 2014 and is now focused mostly in the healthcare sector, including an NHS application that aims to alert doctors and nurses of patients at risk of kidney failure. But Google is working on more than 100 projects and is also open sourcing some of its APIs, already allowing developers to work with TensorFlow (the power behind its translation services and photo analytics).

 

RC Insane's BuzzBee drone, about the same size as a watch face.

RC Insane’s BuzzBee drone, about the same size as a watch face.

RC Insane and the World’s Smallest Drone

Drone maker RC Insane has launched what it says is the world’s smallest drone, BuzzBee a 30mm x 30mm x 20mm quad-copter than is compact enough to fit inside its own controller

BuzzBee is roughly the size of a watch face and would make an ideal gift or toy, for indoor flyers in the home or office. Battery life is a bijou 5-8 minutes, but RC’s power-packed design for BuzzBee includes fancy features such as the ability to do 360 degree flips and tricks, built-in LED lights for night flights and a ‘headless mode’ (that means backwards and forwards remain constant even after BuzzBee rotates) for easy piloting.

This nippy little drone works up to 25m from the pilot and comes with four spare blades in case of damage. Compact pricing on release means you can pick it up now for £29.99 from www.rcinsane.com

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