The family that stays together, designs award-winning military vehicles together

darpaThose looking for stories about how the Internet can bring people together and enrich their lives, here’s one that’s a bit out of the ordinary. Sure, there are long lost twins that reunite over the Web, or adopted kids searching for their biological parents. But this is a heartwarming story of how one man, his father, and their friend used the Internet to collaboratively design the drive train and control systems for an armored vehicle which won them a million dollars. You didn’t see that one coming, did you?

The trio consist of Eric Nees, father James, and friend Brian Eckerly, who responded to a request from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). As part of its Fast Adaptible Next-Generation Ground (FANG) vehicle contest – which sought to speed up the concept-to-prototype cycle through crowdsourcing and collaborative development – the three formed a team called Team Ground Systems and created a solution that garnered the highest scores for design threshold and manufacturing practicality in FANG’s first round. The win that netted the team a $1 million prize.

Each of the team members have some level of engineering background. Eric works for a defense contractor in California, while his father spent more than two decades working for the Air Force as a research engineer, and currently works as a project manager in the Air Force Research Laboratory; Eckerly graduated from Ohio State University with a bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering – but only Eric had any background in automotive systems, putting him in the driver’s seat for this project. “There’s jargon that wasn’t necessarily accessible to people not familiar with automotive systems in this project,” Eric told to Ars Technica about the win.

While both Neeses worked together to design the system itself, Eckerly worked on simulations to see how successful the designs would be. “We had to run a lot of simulations and collect data from them,” he explained. “I was good at trying a lot of different combinations, collecting the data, and then providing the results back to my teammates on what was working well and what wasn’t.”

Discussing the collaborative nature of their work – and of the contest as a whole – Eric Nees said that that was a lot of value in Web design space. “It doesn’t take a lot of searching to see how this sort of crowdsourcing of design and integrated development environments have changed a lot of industries,” he said. Despite the differing amounts of work each member put in, Nees said that there was only one way that their prize haul could be fairly distributed: “A simple three-way split.”

Cars

Roborace wants human drivers and machines to work together

Roborace believes the future of racing is autonomous, but it's keeping human drivers in the picture for now. For its first race season, Roborace will use a car called DevBot 2.0 that can be driven by humans or machines.
Gaming

These are the best Xbox One games available right now

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From 'Cuphead' to 'Halo 5,' the best Xbox One games offer something for everyone.
Computing

Will Chrome remain our favorite web browser with the arrival of newest version?

Choosing a web browser for surfing the web can be tough with all the great options available. Here we pit the latest versions of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Edge, and Vivaldi against one another to find the best browsers for most users.
Computing

Having enough RAM is important, but stick to these guidelines to save some money

Although not quite as exciting as processors and graphics cards, RAM is one of the most important parts of your PC. Not having enough can hurt performance. So, how much RAM do you need?
Emerging Tech

This fully autonomous $400 drone folds like a book, follows you like a paparrazzo

Having a drone that could follow you everywhere while taking high-quality images without crashing has been a flight of fantasy. With ZeroZero's Hover 2, not only can you have a fully autonomous 4K selfie drone, you can have it for $400.
Emerging Tech

These Alexa-stuffed retro phones don’t listen until you take them off the hook

Looking for an Amazon Echo with a cool vintage touch? Los Angeles-based Grain Design is taking old, non-working antique phones and transforming them into amazing Alexa smart speakers.
Smart Home

This alarm clock uses targeted light and sound to wake you, but not your partner

The Wake v2 isn't like your typical bedside alarm. Instead, it wakes you by shining a soft light directly into your face, thereby not disturbing the person sharing a bed with you. Pretty smart, huh?
Emerging Tech

Believe it or not, this fire-proof exoskeleton isn’t designed for space marines

A company called Levitate Technologies has developed a fire-resistant upper body exoskeleton that’s capable of lowering exertion levels by up to 80 percent when you carry out manual work.
Emerging Tech

Intel’s new ‘neural network on a stick’ aims to unchain A.I. from the internet

To kick off its first developer conference in Beijing, Intel unveiled the second generation of its Neural Compute Stick -- a device that promises to democratize the development of computer vision A.I. applications.
Emerging Tech

Frogs regrow ‘paddle-like’ limbs when placed in a bioreactor

Frogs have partially regrown amputated limbs thanks to a bioreactor at Tufts University. By jump-starting tissue repair, the bioreactor helped the amphibians regenerate a bigger, more complete appendages than they usually do.
Emerging Tech

Prepare for liftoff: Here are all the important upcoming SpaceX rocket launches

From ISS resupply missions to a host of communication and scientific satellite launches, SpaceX has a busy year ahead. Here's a rundown of some of the company's most important missions slated for the next year.
Emerging Tech

China says it has developed a quantum radar that can see stealth aircraft

Chinese defense giant China Electronics Technology Group Corporation claims that it has developed a quantum radar that's able to detect even the stealthiest of stealth aircraft. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Glass orb packs all the constellations in the night sky into fancy desk ornament

Ever wanted to know more about the star constellations? A stunning new Kickstarter campaign, taking the form of a fancy desk ornament that re-creates the night sky in a glass orb, aims to help.
Emerging Tech

Stronger than steel, thinner than paper, graphene could be the future of tech

Since its discovery, graphene has set the research world on fire. What exactly is it, though, and what could it mean for the future of tech? Here's everything you need to know about what could be the next supermaterial to take center stage.