Kelsey D. Atherton for Popular Science: Flying machines are hard secrets to keep. By their very nature, they soar into the heavens, above the heads of those below. America's military tends to keep its secret planes secret by only flying them in vast swathes of empty desert, until they’re ready for public debut.
But that’s not really an option for Amazon, which is testing delivery drones in the United Kingdom (while it attempts to weave its way through U.S. regulations). So where, exactly, are Amazon drones flying?
A field eight miles south of Cambridge named “Worsted Lodge.” No, really.
In a thorough photo-essay at Business Insider, reporter Sam Shead pinpoints and explores the site and the field, until turned away by a security guard. Cont'd...
Cecilia Laschi for IEEE Spectrum: The sun was sparkling on the Mediterranean Sea on the afternoon when a graduate student from my lab tossed our prize robot into the water for the first time. I watched nervously as our electronic creation sank beneath the waves. But the bot didn’t falter: When we gave it the command to swim, it filled its expandable mantle with water, then jetted out the fluid to shoot forward. When we ordered it to crawl, it stiffened its eight floppy arms in sequence to push itself along the sandy bottom and over scattered rocks. And when we instructed it to explore a tight space beneath the dock, the robot inserted its soft body into the narrow gap without difficulty.
As a professor at the BioRobotics Institute at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, in Pisa, Italy, I lead a team investigating soft robotics. This relatively new field of research has the potential to upend our ideas about what robots are capable of and where they can be useful. I chose to build robots that mimic the form of the octopus for two reasons. First, because they’re well suited to demonstrate the many advantages that come when a machine can flex and squish as needed. Also, it’s an excellent engineering challenge: An octopus with eight wiggly arms, which must work together in the face of complex hydrodynamic forces, is very difficult to design and control. Cont'd...
Evan Ackerman for IEEE Spectrum: Last year at the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals, NASA announced a new challenge for humanoid robots: the Space Robotics Challenge (SRC), which will “prepare robots for the journey to Mars.” Just like the DRC, the first stage of the SRC will consist of a virtual challenge, run in the Gazebo simulator, followed up by a physical challenge using NASA’s R5 Valkyrie robots.
As of yesterday, NASA has opened registration for the SRC, and we’ll take a look at the format of the competition, the challenges that teams will need to complete, and what they can take home for winning. Cont'd...
Source - Sky News: An insect-sized spy drone with four flapping wings and four legs is set to become Britain's latest weapon in the war on terror.
The Dragonfly drone fits in the palm of a hand and has four flapping wings and four legs.
It can fly through the air with great agility, allowing it to penetrate buildings through open windows, and perch on surfaces to eavesdrop.
It can detect incoming objects and buildings, meaning it can avoid obstacles at high speeds.
It is one of a number of pieces of kit being developed by the Ministry of Defence as part of an innovation drive. Cont'd...
Caitlin Ju for The Stanford Daily: Stanford researchers in the Computational Vision and Geometry Lab have designed an autonomously navigating robot prototype that they say understands implicit social conventions and human behavior. Named “Jackrabbot” after the swift but cautious jackrabbit, the visually intelligent and socially amicable robot is able to maneuver crowds and pedestrian spaces.
A white ball on wheels, the Jackrabbot is built on a Segway system and contains a computing unit and multiple sensors that acquire a 3-D structure of the surrounding environment. 360-degree cameras and GPS also enhance the robot’s navigation and detection capabilities.
To interact smoothly in public settings, the robot has to know how to avoid someone in a natural way, how to yield the right-of-way and how to leave personal space, among other skills. Cont'd...
From Gizmag: Researchers at Siemens have created a new prototype electric motor specifically designed for aircraft that weighs in at just 50 kg (110 lb) and is claimed to produce about 260 kW (348 hp) at just 2,500 RPM. With a quoted power five times greater than any comparable powerplant, the new motor promises enough grunt to get aircraft with take-off weights of up to 1,800 kg (2 ton) off the ground...
... As a result, the new aircraft electric drive system achieves a claimed weight-to-performance ratio of 5 kW per kilogram. This ratio is an exceptional figure – especially if compared to similarly powerful industrial electric motors used in heavy machinery that produce less than 1 kW per kilogram, or even to more efficient electric motors for vehicles that generate around 2 kW per kilogram... (full article)
ABIGAIL BEALL FOR MAILONLINE: Many people spend their childhood peering up into the vast expanse of the sky, dreaming of growing up to become an astronaut. But these dreams could be dashed as the idea of people venturing into space will one day become a distant memory, according to a report published today. Robots will eventually have enough capabilities to replace humans and other animals on space missions, experts have said. Many missions involving humans in space are dangerous and expensive. But for years robots have been sent to places humans could not venture, like the rovers venturing to the edges of our solar system. According to European Space Agency (Esa) Astronaut Roberto Vittori, who launched a paper on space robotics and autonomous systems, robots can help carry out these dangerous missions. Cont'd...
JG Randall for The National Interest: Things tend to happen in threes. An unlikely triumvirate on the surface, it would appear that Asimov’s laws on robotics and the UN Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) will outflank the Third Offset—the nation’s search for its next silver bullet in war fighting is robotics—knowing that many nations will agree on moral grounds. These nations will reject Asimov based on semantics, and though the debate might be perceived as strictly academic, or even rhetorical, it is worth discussing for the sake of a good cautionary tale. Because, whether we like it or not, killer bots are coming to a theater of operation near you.
Before we get deep in the weeds, let’s get some clarity. First, let’s outline Asimov’s robotic laws. The Three Laws of Robotics are a set of rules devised by the science fiction author Isaac Asimov. They were introduced in his 1942 short story “Runaround,” although they had been foreshadowed in earlier stories. Cont'd...
Thomas Claburn for InformationWeek: Among programmers, there's a principle called DRY, which stands for "Don't repeat yourself." It's an attempt to avoid writing code that duplicates the function of other code.
DRY embodies the same resistance to needless repetition as the more common idiom, "Don't reinvent the wheel."
Among those making robots, a group that includes software and hardware engineers attempts to adhere to these principles, as can be seen in designs that borrow from nature, from the evolved forms of life on Earth.
Biomimicry and bioinspired design provide a way to avoid reinventing the wheel. The biological systems of living things have been honed through eons of Darwinian user testing.
Borrowing aspects of animal physiology isn't the only option or necessarily the best option for robot designers. For some purposes, something new may be necessary. For others, biomechanically systems can't be easily duplicated. Cont'd...
CADE METZ for WIRED: HANNS TAPPEINER TYPES a few lines of code into his laptop and hits “return.” A tiny robot sits beside the laptop, looking like one of those anthropomorphic automobiles that show up in Pixar’s Cars movies. Almost instantly, it wakes up, rolls down the table, and counts to four. This is Cozmo—an artificially intelligent toy robot unveiled late last month by San Francisco startup Anki—and Tappeiner, one of the company’s founders, is programming the little automaton to do new things.
The programs are simple—he also teaches Cozmo to stack blocks—but they’re supposed to be simple. Tappeiner is using Anki’s newly unveiled software development kit—an SDK, in coder parlance—that he says even the greenest of coders can use to tweak the behavior of the toy robot. And that’s a big deal, at least according to Anki. The company claims the SDK is the first of its kind: a kit that lets anyone program such an intelligent robot, a robot that recognizes faces and navigates new environments and even mimics emotions. With the kit, Tappeiner says, “we’re trying to advance the field of robotics.” He compares the move to Apple letting people build apps for the iPhone. Cont'd...
From All About Circuits: Google ATAP is bringing touchless interfaces to the market using a miniaturized radar chip no bigger than a dime. This is Project Soli.
Soli’s radar sensor is a marvel in many respects. For one thing, it solves a long-lived issue when it comes to gesture-recognition technology. Previous forays into the topic yielded almost-answers such as stereo cameras (which have difficulty understanding the overlap of fingers, e.g.) and capacitive touch sensing(which struggles to interpret motion in a 3D context).
Google ATAP’s answer is radar.
Radar is capable of interpreting objects’ position and motion even through other objects, making it perfect for developing a sensor that can be embedded in different kinds of devices like smartphones... (full article)
Yuri Kageyama for News Factor: The U.S. robotics expert tapped to head Toyota's Silicon Valley research company says the $1 billion investment by the giant Japanese automaker will start showing results within five years.
Gill Pratt [pictured above] told reporters that the Toyota Research Institute is also looking ahead into the distant future when there will be cars that anyone, including children and the elderly, can ride in on their own, as well as robots that help out in homes.
Pratt, a former program manager at the U.S. military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, joined Toyota Motor Corp. first as a technical adviser when it set up its artificial intelligence research effort at Stanford University and MIT.
He said safety features will be the first types of AI applications to appear in Toyota vehicles. Such features are already offered on some models now being sold, such as sensors that help cars brake or warn drivers before a possible crash, and cars that drive themselves automatically into parking spaces or on certain roads.
"I expect something to come out during those five years," Pratt told reporters recently at Toyota's Tokyo office of the timeframe seen for the investment. Cont'd...
From MIT News: Video-trained system from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab could help robots understand how objects interact with the world. Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have demonstrated an algorithm that has effectively learned how to predict sound: When shown a silent video clip of an object being hit, the algorithm can produce a sound for the hit that is realistic enough to fool human viewers.
This “Turing Test for sound” represents much more than just a clever computer trick: Researchers envision future versions of similar algorithms being used to automatically produce sound effects for movies and TV shows, as well as to help robots better understand objects’ properties... (full article)(full paper)
Spencer Soper & Shannon Pettypiece for Bloomberg: Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is working with a robotics company to develop a shopping cart that helps customers find items on their lists and saves them from pushing a heavy cart through a sprawling store and parking lot, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Such carts are an emerging opportunity for robotics companies as brick-and-mortar stores look for innovative ways to match the convenience of Amazon.com Inc. and other online retailers, said Wendy Roberts, founder and chief executive officer of Five Elements Robotics.
Roberts, who spoke Tuesday on a robotics panel at the Bloomberg Technology Conference 2016, said her company was working with the “world’s largest retailer” on such a shopping cart.
That retailer is Wal-Mart, which is evaluating a prototype in its lab and giving feedback to the New Jersey robotics company, a person familiar said. Wal-Mart spokesman Ravi Jariwala said he couldn’t immediately comment on the robotic shopping cart. Cont'd...
Graham Templeton for ExtremeTech: Google’s artificial intelligence researchers are starting to have to code around their own code, writing patches that limit a robot’s abilities so that it continues to develop down the path desired by the researchers — not by the robot itself. It’s the beginning of a long-term trend in robotics and AI in general: once we’ve put in all this work to increase the insight of an artificial intelligence, how can we make sure that insight will only be applied in the ways we would like?
That’s why researchers from Google’s DeepMind and the Future of Humanity Institute have published a paper outlining a software “killswitch” they claim can stop those instances of learning that could make an AI less useful — or, in the future, less safe. It’s really less a killswitch than a blind spot, removing from the AI the ability to learn the wrong lessons. Cont'd...
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