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Gun Maker Unveils Human Cattle Catcher

It's a large people plow. Also, pacemakers get a hack patch, and robots walk (roll) among us.

Pacemaker Patch Prevents Fatal Hacks

On Tuesday, the FDA issued an advisory that said 465,000 people in the U.S. need a firmware upgrade to their hearts. Patients who received RF-enabled St. Jude Medical implantable pacemakers are at risk for potentially fatal hacks.

Now that pacemakers are upgraded and maintained remotely, the radio frequency that is used for such procedures can be hijacked by a hacker within radio range.

Two weeks ago, the FDA approved a firmware update that will reduce a patient's risk by forcing any device that tries to communicate with the pacemaker to prove that it has the appropriate authorization.

That means that the nearly half-million patients, in the U.S. alone, will require an in-person visit for the update, which should take about three minutes to complete. The pacemaker will operate in backup mode during the update, but still maintain its essential features.

The FDA warned that the update could cause a malfunction. While it is very unlikely, the update could wipe out the device's settings, or could “cause a complete loss of device functionality.” 

The pacemakers are now owned by Abbott, which completed its acquisition of St. Jude Medical in January 2017. 

Robots Adapt to Pedestrians

MIT engineers have developed an autonomous robot with "socially aware navigation" that is likely better at navigating hallways than insufferable smartphone zombies. Basically, the engineers taught it to walk through crowded hallways by following typical human behavioral patterns.

The robot uses a suite of sensors, cameras, and lidar for obstacle detection using computer vision. The engineers developed a new algorithm, the Socially Acceptable Collision Avoidance with Deep Reinforcement Learning algorithm, which helps the robot move to its goal with consideration for fellow pedestrians.

The algorithm could be particularly powerful as autonomous robots play a larger role in modern society. Next, the engineers are working on figuring out crowds. While it may be easy to dodge a single person, a crowd of people operates with an entirely different dynamic.

Gun Maker Unveils Human Cattle Catcher

The maker of the Kalashnikov assault rifle has created a crowd control vehicle that looks like a big people plow.

According to a report from the Associated Press, the firearm manufacturer has developed the Shchit (Shield) anti-riot vehicle that essentially looks like a garbage truck with a flat cattle catcher on the front. The steel shield on the front is extendable, and the slots in the shield can be used to fire projectiles or, if you prefer, the onboard water cannon.

The Russian company introduced the new vehicle last week, and it could be used by the country's new National Guard.

This is Engineering By Design with David Mantey.

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