New sensor system detects gunshots, can automatically lock down a school

An electrical engineer in Richland, Washington’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has designed a system that can help keep schools safe from gun violence. Jim Skorpik, who has previously developed sensors meant to detect a missile’s readiness for combat, has now applied his expertise to keeping children safe. His sensor technology has now been licensed by EAGL Technology out of Albuquerque, which has installed and tested the new sensors at Hermosa Elementary School in Artesia, New Mexico.

When paired with a security system, Skorpik’s sensor is able to alert authorities, turn a camera to the scene where shots were heard, set off the alarm, and lock doors. Although the gunshot detectors themselves are about the size of a pack of gum, their diminutive size does not detract from their potentially life-saving abilities.

As Scott Simer, the facilities manager for the Artesia school district, told NPR, the wireless, battery-powered sensors are capable of differentiating between gunshots and other loud noises — say, a dropped textbook or even a firecracker. And this isn’t just theoretical — Simer has put the sensors to the test. “We set off some M-80 firecrackers in the school,” he said. “[The sensors] didn’t pick ’em up.”

“It’s sad that we’re in a society where we have to have stuff like this,” he added. “And that we are testing stuff like this in a school. But the reality is, it happens.”

It’s been a reality for Skorpik for the last few years. The technologist was inspired to create the sensors after three of his grandchildren experienced a gun lockdown of their own. “The youngest one, she was like in kindergarten, and she came home pretty emotional,” Skorpik told NPR. “She was in the gym and the teacher was covering the kids with gym mats.”

But hopefully, with this new technology, Skorpik can help alleviate some of these fears. The good thing about the system is that it is fully automatic. There’s no need for human intervention in order to activate the alarms or send the school into lockdown. That means that teachers and other personnel can focus on moving kids to safe areas, rather than trying to call 911 and attempting to secure their rooms and the building. And because the sensors are small, they don’t draw unnecessary attention from children.

EAGL says that it has seen an increase in inquiries about the system since February’s Parkland tragedy, and as for Artesia Public Schools, the district has plans to add the detectors in six more schools before classes begin in the fall of 2018.

Computing

Laptop displays are notorious for draining batteries. Intel may have a solution

Intel has leveraged smartphone display technology and a handful of other innovations to create Low Power Display Technology (LPDT) panels that cut display power use in half.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (March 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Product Review

The Division 2 brings the most fun we've ever had to Washington, D.C.

After spending 30 hours with The Division 2, it’s clear that Ubisoft has improved on the original in almost every way. The world is richly detailed, the story missions are wonderful, gunplay and enemy design are great, and the open world…
Mobile

Samsung commits to improving the Galaxy S10’s ultrasonic fingerprint sensor

The Galaxy S10 has a new ultrasonic fingerprint sensor under the screen, and while it's better than other examples, people have experienced problems. Samsung has committed to making further accuracy improvements over time.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Desk lamps take on a new task by converting their light to power

What if we could charge devices using light from indoor sources like desk lamps? A group of scientists working on a technology called organic photovoltaics (OPVs) aim to do just that.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-generated text is supercharging fake news. This is how we fight back

A new A.I. tool is reportedly able to spot passages of text written by algorithm. Here's why similar systems might prove essential in a world of fake news created by smart machines.
Emerging Tech

Body surrogate robot helps people with motor impairments care for themselves

A team from Georgia Tech has come up with an assistant robot to help people who have severe motor impairments to perform tasks like shaving, brushing their hair, or drinking water.
Emerging Tech

New Hubble image displays dazzling Messier 28 globular cluster

Messier 28 is a group of stars in the constellation of Sagittarius, located 18,000 light-years from our planet. Thousands of stars are packed tightly together in this sparkling image.
Emerging Tech

Cosmic dust bunnies: Scientists find unexpected ring around Mercury

A pair of scientists searching for a dust-free region near the Sun have made an unexpected discovery: a vast cosmic dust ring millions of miles wide around the tiny planet Mercury.
Emerging Tech

Take a dip in the Lagoon Nebula in first image from SPECULOOS instrument

The European Southern Observatory has released the first image collected by their new SPECULOOS instrument, and it's a stunning portrait of the Lagoon Nebula, a swirling cloud of dust and gas where new stars are born.
Emerging Tech

Robot assistants from Toyota and Panasonic gear up for the Tokyo Olympics

Japan plans to use the 2020 Olympics to showcase a range of its advanced technologies. Toyota and Panasonic are already getting in on the act, recently unveiling several robotic designs that they intend to deploy at the event.
Emerging Tech

Racing to catch a flight? Robot valet at French airport will park your car

Hate searching for parking at the airport when you need to catch a plane? Startup Stanley Robotics recently unveiled a new outdoor automated robotic valet system. Here's how it works.
Business

Bags with brains: Smart luggage and gadgets are making travel smoother

The bag you use to tote your stuff can affect the experience of any trip. In response, suitcases are wising up, and there are now options for smart luggage with scales, tracking, and more. Here are our favorite pieces.