Pretty soon flying machines, smart robots and self-driving cars won’t be something we only see in the movies. We are already seeing autonomous cars on the roads, drones overhead, and robots doing human tasks. It is just the beginning of an autonomous, smart world, and it will be here sooner than we think, according to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Companies like Google, Uber, Tesla, Toyota, Ford and BMW have already announced ambitious efforts to develop self-driving vehicles. Cars already have semi-autonomous technology in them such as automatic brakes and the ability to self-park, while Google and Uber have begun testing self-driving cars in the real world. In the drone industry, companies like Amazon and Flirtey are already practicing autonomous drone delivery services while drones such as DJI, Precisionhawk, and GoPro offer autonomous capabilities onboard. The reason autonomous technology is gaining so much interest lately is because the technology has reached a point where it is now affordable to apply it to solutions like cars and drones, according to Paul Kostek, IEEE senior member and technical project manager for the Center for Research in Education and Simulation Technologies (CREST) at the University of Washington. Before, the sensors that provide autonomous capabilities like radar, sonar, LiDAR, and computing and data fusion capabilities were too expensive to become mainstream. “It is really about the technology becoming affordable,” said Kostek. “Putting expensive technology like that in a system would obviously start to drive up the pricing where only a limited number of people are going to be able to afford it.” The technology has advanced gradually over the years to a point where companies can now start offering it broadly, according to Kostek. But it isn’t only about offering new, innovative, differentiating and affordable features; it’s about offering a new way of working and living, according to Richard Baraniuk, IEEE fellow and engineering professor at Rice University. “The advantage of autonomous navigation is that you could radically lower the costs and availability of doing all kinds of different useful tasks,” he said. Drones will be able to make the agriculture industry more efficient, fly over urban environments to deliver packages, provide medical aid, and create a new business model for industries. Driverless cars will be able to transform transportation, provide rides to people who can no longer drive, offer an easier commute, free up real estate spaces such as parking lots, and improve the trucking industry so it is easier and cheaper to distribute goods around the country, according to Baraniuk.Kostek adds that there is a beneficial safety aspect to these technologies such as eliminating distracted drivers from the road, and allowing workers to replace dangerous tasks with autonomous drones. However, despite all the advances that have been made, the technology still has a long way to go before we end up in a world where cars are picking us up and dropping us off, or drones are flying around without human intervention. The drone industry and car industry will work together to bring autonomous technologies to market, but they will also have to deal with their own specific challenges along the way. “There is a host of common technologies that need to be developed in order to enable both drones and driverless cars, among them being different kinds of sensors such as camera systems, radars, and ultrasound capabilities that will help a vehicle understand where it is in space and what is around it,” said Baraniuk, adding that a lot of work is being done to extract information from these sensors, and those machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms will be shared across a whole host of different autonomous technologies.In order to be truly autonomous, Baraniuk says there needs to be a good understanding of the environment so cars and drones don’t crash into buildings, objects or people. Other challenges include advancing the navigation technology, and having sensors work really well in bad weather conditions. According to Kostek, the drone industry is already a little bit ahead of the self-driving industry with its research into sense and avoid technology and beyond-line-of-sight operations. Once the drone industry achieves success with sense and avoid technology, we will see it be applied to driverless cars to ensure they don’t have a problem identifying if there is something in front of it. It won’t be until these solutions can provide 100% accuracy that they will be able to truly operate without human intervention, Kostek explained. “You never really want to tell the public that 99 out of 100 times you are going to land safely because there will be a 100th time that won’t happen. That is not acceptable,” he said. “Driverless cars are going to have that same problem of developing reliability to say 100 out of 100 times you drive out, you will not hit anybody or you will not be in a serious accident.” On the regulatory side of things, the drone industry in the U.S. has to work with the Federal Aviation Administration to figure out how to manage these systems, certify someone who is a commercial drone operator, designate a space for UAV operations, and integrate drones in the flight path and operations of local airports, according to Baraniuk.The regulatory landscape will be a bit different for cars because they involve people and need to operate in very congested and constrained environments. The industry will need to figure out how a car will protect its driver as well as pedestrians that are in the way, Kostek explained. In spite of all these challenges, Baraniuk believes the future of autonomous drones will be here sooner than we think. Kostek, on the other hand, believes it will be another 10-20 years before autonomous cars and cars will drive together, and become truly autonomous from a safety factor. “The thing that is slowing down the deployment of these systems is the careful process of the regulatory environment, making sure that these systems are safe as they can be before they are allowed to just operate autonomously,” said Baraniuk.
It is a relatively common misconception that people in the Middle Ages did not bathe regularly, if at all. However, baths and bathing were, in fact, quite common during the medieval period. The Middle Ages, or Medieval period, spans roughly between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance (roughly 476 – 1450 AD). The early Middle Ages are sometimes referred to as the Dark Ages. During this era, society was split up into roughly four parts: nobles, non-nobles, clergy, and non-Christians. During the later Middle Ages, the working class and middle class were added into the group of non-nobles.Each section of society practiced bathing habits and personal cleanliness at different levels as well. Naturally, manual laborers and the poorest members of society were at the lower end of the hygiene scale.Knight bathing after a fight, from the Manesse Codex, c. 1300.Without access to large tubs in which to immerse themselves, or perhaps even fuel to heat water (it was needed for essentials, like cooking and staying warm), bathing was largely limited to the summer months, when a refreshing dip in a pond or stream would do the trick after a hot day in the fields. Nonetheless, they likely practiced a regular wash down of sorts, even with cold water or a damp cloth.The Romans had built several public bathhouses throughout their empire, including the famous one in the eponymous town of Bath, England. Many of these survived, at least in part, and several more were established, which the general public in the Middle Ages could use to get clean. In Southward alone, across the Thames from London, one had the choice of 18 different hot baths.Roman Baths at Bath, England, made use of natural hot springs to fill the pool. Photo by Diego Delso CC BY-SA 4.0However, since bathhouses also had a reputation for being less than respectful, they were often condemned by the church, which had a strong hold over the daily lives of all members of medieval society. That did not stop them from being used altogether, however.In the church itself, the rules and practices varied greatly, with some monastic orders supporting regular washing and others not so much. For example, the monks of Westminster Abbey were only required to bathe four times a year – Christmas, Easter, June and September – although it is likely that these were the only obligatory days, as the monastery did employ a bath-attendant whose services were used regularly, according to records. According to the rule of St. Caesarius, from the beginning of the 6th century, nuns and monks were expected to bathe regularly.Bathing depicted c. 1400. Those who could afford a personal bath would use a wooden tub that was filled using jugs of hot water brought by attendants.This included washing ones face and hands, as well as brushing one’s hair, and keeping teeth “picked, cleansed, and brushed.” The church did not approve of “excessive” bathing, however.For those in the medieval Holy Lands, bathing traditions came from those of Greece, Rome, Egypt and Arabia. Public bathhouses included hot rooms for sweating and steaming, and cold rooms for washing off. Massages with scented oils were not uncommon either.Surprising Origins Of Popular English PhrasesCrusaders adopted these practices happily, and even built their own baths, including those at the Hospitaller and Templar headquarters in Jerusalem, as well as on Mount Zion at Atlit, and several others. Turkish-style bath houses remain a popular attraction today, even in cities outside of Turkey, such as Budapest.Nobles could afford a private bath, and it would often take the form of a large wooden bathtub, sometimes with a curtain around it, or a tent-like cloth over top. Servants would fill it with jug after jug of hot water, and sometimes scent the water with herbs and flowers.Hammam Sultan Mir Ahmad. Author: Philipp Bock, CC BY-SA 2.0Records from the Middle Ages indicate that some kings really enjoyed their baths. According to BBC, King John traveled with his bathtub and tub attendant. And Edward III had taps of hot and cold water for his bathtub in Westminster Palace.And as recorded by his biographer, Einhard, King Charlemagne “would invite not only his sons to bathe with him, but his nobles and friends as well, and occasionally even a crowd of attendants and bodyguards, so that sometimes a hundred men or more would be in the water together.”Man and bathhouse attendants c. 1389.While the often-portrayed view of the filthy, medieval person may not be entirely true, it certainly wasn’t easy to have a regular bath in the Middle Ages, and hot water was definitely not as convenient as today.Read another story from us: The strange trendy Victorians used to accessorize with live insect jewelryNonetheless, the people in the Middle Ages appreciated personal hygiene at least on some level, and tried to attain it as best that resources would allow. Whether by simply keeping their hands and face relatively clean, as well as their clothing, medieval people were not afraid of bathing, nor was it considered a sin. It just was not as simple as turning a tap.Patricia Grimshaw is a self-professed museum nerd, with an equal interest in both medieval and military history. She received a BA (Hons) from Queen’s University in Medieval History, and an MA in War Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada, and completed a Master of Museum Studies at the University of Toronto before beginning her museum career.