Amazon conquers college, Apple soaks up solar, and creepy robot dogs.

Amazon U

Amazon begins working closely with universities. In February, they opened their first-ever staffed college store for pick-up and drop-off at Purdue University. This is a game-changer for the college textbook market. Students can now use the purdue.amazon.com version of the website to find books assigned to their classes. And ordered items can be picked up directly at the on-campus store. Plans to expand this service already exist with UC Davis and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Apple goes green

Last week, Apple announced their massive data center in Arizona, which includes a 70-megawatt solar farm. And this week, Tim Cook announced another $850 million investment in a solar farm in Monterey, California. Cook mentioned, “We’re doing this because it’s right to do.”

From a financial one as well as an environmental one. Apple is expecting “significant savings” as a return on their investment.

Creepy robot dogs

Boston Dynamics shows off the newest addition of their robot family: a “dog” called Spot. The first minute of their recently released video shows how the dog hops through office corridors, goes up concrete stairs and rocky hills, and even keeps his balance after being kicked by a human (what are they trying to say?).

Impressive, but we’ve seen all this before in previous versions of the dog bot. But at around minute 1:20 of the video, things get a little creepy: two Spots trekking up a hill repeatedly collide into each other, then straighten out and walk in parallel, turning together once they reach the top of the hill. It looks like the kind of swarm behavior we see in many creatures in the Animal Kingdom.

Iain Couzin, a Princeton biologist and expert in the study of collective animal behavior calls this almost a social interaction. “No matter how primitive, there’s no doubt that these interactions could enhance the decision-making capabilities of such robots when they must make their own, autonomous, decisions in an uncertain world.”

Let’s hope that this robotic decision-making stays friendly.

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